Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A loud, collective angry howl

I have a lot of respect for Bob Herbert. Today, his column in the New York Times is entitled "Add Up the Damage" and here's part of what it says:

When Mr. Bush officially takes his leave in three weeks (in reality, he checked out long ago), most Americans will be content to sigh good riddance. I disagree. I don't think he should be allowed to slip quietly out of town. There should be a great hue and cry - a loud, collective angry howl, demonstrations with signs and bullhorns and fiery speeches - over the damage he's done to this country.

This is the man who gave us the war in Iraq and Guantánamo and torture and rendition; who turned the Clinton economy and the budget surplus into fool's gold; who dithered while New Orleans drowned; who trampled our civil liberties at home and ruined our reputation abroad; who let Dick Cheney run hog wild and thought Brownie was doing a heckuva job.

The Bush administration specialized in deceit. How else could you get the public (and a feckless Congress) to go along with an invasion of Iraq as an absolutely essential response to the Sept. 11 attacks, when Iraq had had nothing to do with the Sept. 11 attacks?

Exploiting the public's understandable fears, Mr. Bush made it sound as if Iraq was about to nuke us: "We cannot wait," he said, "for the final proof - the smoking gun that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud."

He then set the blaze that has continued to rage for nearly six years, consuming more than 4,000 American lives and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. (A car bomb over the weekend killed two dozen more Iraqis, many of them religious pilgrims.) The financial cost to the U.S. will eventually reach $3 trillion or more, according to the Nobel laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz.

Three trillion. I can't even begin to imagine just how much that really is.

Please, do go read the rest of it. It's an excellent summary of what the last eight years has been like.

Monday, December 29, 2008

About those purity pledges

None of this is the slightest bit surprising:

Teenagers who pledge to remain virgins until marriage are just as likely to have premarital sex as those who do not promise abstinence and are significantly less likely to use condoms and other forms of birth control when they do, according to a study released today.

The new analysis of data from a large federal survey found that more than half of youths became sexually active before marriage regardless of whether they had taken a "virginity pledge," but that the percentage who took precautions against pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases was 10 points lower for pledgers than for non-pledgers.
...
"This study again raises the issue of why the federal government is continuing to invest in abstinence-only programs," said Sarah Brown of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. "What have we gained if we only encourage young people to delay sex until they are older, but then when they do become sexually active -- and most do well before marriage -- they don't protect themselves or their partners?"

James Wagoner of the advocacy group Advocates for Youth agreed: "The Democratic Congress needs to get its head out of the sand and get real about sex education in America."

Okay, folks. Your tax dollars and mine are going to fund programs that simply don't work. All so that certain self-righteous people can tell certain other people what not to do with their genitals. Good grief.

The current bloodbath

The title alone is worth sending you to the article called "Leaders Lie, Civilians Die, and Lessons of History are Ignored" by Robert Fisk, one of the political writers I most admire. Here are a few lines:

We've got so used to the carnage of the Middle East that we don't care any more - providing we don't offend the Israelis. It's not clear how many of the Gaza dead are civilians, but the response of the Bush administration, not to mention the pusillanimous reaction of Gordon Brown, reaffirm for Arabs what they have known for decades: however they struggle against their antagonists, the West will take Israel's side. As usual, the bloodbath was the fault of the Arabs - who, as we all know, only understand force.
...
Quite a lot of the dead this weekend appear to have been Hamas members, but what is it supposed to solve? Is Hamas going to say: "Wow, this blitz is awesome - we'd better recognise the state of Israel, fall in line with the Palestinian Authority, lay down our weapons and pray we are taken prisoner and locked up indefinitely and support a new American 'peace process' in the Middle East!" Is that what the Israelis and the Americans and Gordon Brown think Hamas is going to do?
...
Yes, Israel deserves security. But these bloodbaths will not bring it. Not since 1948 have air raids protected Israel. Israel has bombed Lebanon thousands of times since 1975 and not one has eliminated "terrorism".

You know, this stuff is really painfully obvious. It makes me think there's another motivation altogether for continuing the violence. I'm not sure what it is but it's not about ending terrorism.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

CNN Quickvote of the day

Well, I don't imagine this will surprise anyone:

Do you believe that despite U.S. President George W. Bush's low approval ratings, the policies of his administration will be vindicated by history?

Yes - 30%

No - 70%

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Friday, December 26, 2008

Friday cat blogging!

Her Majesty's Christmas address

Do remember that this annual address is the one speech always written by the Queen herself:

Bad news on the recycling front

Oh dear, dear, dear:

Sonoco Recycling, which processes bottles, cans, jars and papers collected from Raleigh homes, sent a truckload of metal cans two weeks ago to a smelting plant in Pennsylvania.

As recently as August, the load would have been worth about $7,500. Not now, though. Instead of receiving payment, Sonoco had to pay the shipping to get the plant to accept the cans.

"It cost us $240 in freight, and I was giving it away," said Jim Foster, plant manager of Sonoco's materials recovery facility in Southeast Raleigh. "There is no way to win right now."

People are still putting their bins of recyclables out on curbs. But the recyclable materials market, which was booming only a few months ago, has dropped sharply, along with the worldwide economy, creating a backlog of materials at processing plants.

This is quite distressing. I just picked up an aluminum can while I was out walking my dog a little while ago and put it in my recycling bin. I'll keep doing this, of course and I hope everyone will but this turn of events is not helping matters much, is it?

Harold Pinter (1930 - 2008)

Harold Pinter

As I'm sure you know, the playwright Harold Pinter died on Wednesday. Common Dreams has published his Nobel Prize lecture of 2005. Please read it. No excerpt can do it justice but I'll just give you this to whet your appetite:

Everyone knows what happened in the Soviet Union and throughout Eastern Europe during the post-war period: the systematic brutality, the widespread atrocities, the ruthless suppression of independent thought. All this has been fully documented and verified.

But my contention here is that the US crimes in the same period have only been superficially recorded, let alone documented, let alone acknowledged, let alone recognized as crimes at all. I believe this must be addressed and that the truth has considerable bearing on where the world stands now. Although constrained, to a certain extent, by the existence of the Soviet Union, the United States' actions throughout the world made it clear that it had concluded it had carte blanche to do what it liked.

Direct invasion of a sovereign state has never in fact been America's favored method. In the main, it has preferred what it has described as 'low intensity conflict'. Low intensity conflict means that thousands of people die but slower than if you dropped a bomb on them in one fell swoop. It means that you infect the heart of the country, that you establish a malignant growth and watch the gangrene bloom. When the populace has been subdued - or beaten to death - the same thing - and your own friends, the military and the great corporations, sit comfortably in power, you go before the camera and say that democracy has prevailed. This was a commonplace in US foreign policy in the years to which I refer.

The tragedy of Nicaragua was a highly significant case. I choose to offer it here as a potent example of America's view of its role in the world, both then and now.

You may not know the rest of this story - the accurate version, that is. You may only know what the Reagan administration insisted was the truth. But I beg you to click through and avail yourself of this eloquent summary. And let us do what we can to expose this truth to other Americans. (The rest of the world already knows, to our shame.)

Medicare Part "E"

Frank Ford just sent me a terrific article entitled "Establish Medicare Part 'E' for All Americans Under the Age of 65: Keep It Simple President-Elect Obama". Really, the title says it all but here's how the actual article gets started:

In Canada, the universal health care system is simply called medicare -- and that's what it should be in the U.S. And instead of the 1342-page proposal Hillary Clinton put together that was a politically jerry-rigged, confusing plan -- or the Obama proposal that would leave insurance companies pretty much intact (whose goal is to make money by reducing care as much as possible) -- it would be the simplest and boldest political move to simply propose to Congress this sentence to become law: "All Americans under the age of 65 will be covered by Medicare Part 'E.'"

Simplicity is often the most audacious and successful strategy. Since Medicare for seniors became the law in 1965 as part of Lyndon Johnson's "Great Society," it has become the government program most embraced by Americans. Any Republican or Democrat who would dare run against Medicare risks a landslide defeat at the polls in any statewide or national election.

You can't tinker with a broken, for-profit medical insurance system and make it work.

The Republicans are scared to death that if all Americans were covered by Medicare (with the health insurance companies shoved to the sidelines of supplemental insurance), it would lead to a new confidence in government. In fact, we could be wrong, but we don't know of any government that adopted single-payer medical care and then rolled it back. That is because even when it is flawed, it is wildly popular. Just do a poll among seniors in South Florida. Even Republicans on the West Coast of the Sunshine State love Medicare, as they -- ironically -- denounce "socialized" medicine!

Makes sense to me. A lot of sense. There's something truly immoral - on a demonic level - with a system of "for profit" health care. By definition that means the institution's first responsibility is to the stock holders rather than to the patient.

Think about it.

UPDATE: Here's a comment to the original article that I think deserves attention:

Fix Part D by allowing the government to bargain for drug prices like the VA does and then add Part E. That has my vote. Neither will happen as long as Congress gets its marching orders from Pharma and the insurance companies so I am not holding my breath.

I definitely agree.

A truly worthy cause

Did you know that Wikipedia is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization? (Isn't it nice that there are no ads on the site? Let's keep it that way!)

I just made a donation because I can honestly say that its existence has immeasurably enriched my life.

If you'd like to donate (even a little bit helps) you can do so beginning here:

Wikipedia Affiliate Button

Amen.



This is my wish for us all. And for all the world. May it be so one day. May it be so.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Poor Shirley

Now this is really touching:

I stopped believing in Santa Claus when my mother took me to see him in a department store, and he asked for my autograph.

-- Shirley Temple

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

One of my favorite Christmas carols ever



"Riu, Riu, Chiu" represents the sound of the nightingale.

Here's the translation of the carol:

Ríu, ríu, chíu
The river bank protects it,
As God kept the wolf from the lamb.

The rabid wolf tried to bite her,
But God Almightly knew how to defend her,
He wished to create her impervious to sin,
Nor was this maid to embody original sin.

Ríu, ríu, chíu
The river bank protects it,
As God kept the wolf from the lamb.

He comes to give life to the dead,
He comes to redeem the fall of man;
This Child is the light of day,
He is the very Lamb Saint John prophecied.

Ríu, ríu, chíu
The river bank protects it,
As God kept the wolf from the lamb.

A thousand singing herons I saw passing,
Flying overhead, sounding a thousand voices,
Exhulting, "Glory be in the heavens, and peace on earth,
For Jesus has been born."

Ríu, ríu, chíu
The river bank protects it,
As God kept the wolf from the lamb.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Obama's pastor problem

Economics

I so agree with the title of this Arianna Huffington article: Laissez-faire Capitalism Should Be as Dead as Soviet Communism. Here's how it gets started:

The collapse of Communism as a political system sounded the death knell for Marxism as an ideology. But while laissez-faire capitalism has been a monumental failure in practice, and soundly defeated at the polls, the ideology is still alive and kicking.

The only place you can find an American Marxist these days is teaching a college linguistic theory class. But you can find all manner of free market fundamentalists still on the Senate floor or in Governor's mansions or showing up on TV trying to peddle the deregulation snake oil.

And here's something from the Comments section that I thought made a lot of sense:

I would like to see ongoing articles directly refuting the arguments of the think-tanks who got us here. They have been knocked off balance by recent events and must not be allowed to regain their footing. The American Enterprise Institute, The Heritage Foundation, and The CATO Institute are among those who have been adding credibility to Market Fundamentalist ideology for years. They must be publicly challenged, in a way that ordinary people can understand.

Regulation is nothing more than a steering wheel. Market Fundamentalists would have us believe, in essence, that steering wheels keep cars from going forward. Following their logic, one should simple start the car, put it in drive and then jump in the back seat.

Of course, predictably, cars without steering wheels usually end up in the ditch.

We, as a society, realize that theft and murder are damaging to the common good and so we make them illegal. Unfettered greed by the powerful is also damaging to the common good and also causes death and destitution. So what's the problem for making that illegal too?

Monday, December 22, 2008

Connell Cancelled 2 Flights on Sabotage Suspicion



Now. The highly respected magazine, The Nation, published the following before Paul Wellstone's plane went down:

Paul Wellstone is a hunted man. Minnesota's senior senator is not just another Democrat on White House political czar Karl Rove's target list, in an election year when the Senate balance of power could be decided by the voters of a single state. Rather, getting rid of Wellstone is a passion for Rove, Dick Cheney, George W. Bush and the special-interest lobbies that fund the most sophisticated political operation ever assembled by a presidential administration. "There are people in the White House who wake up in the morning thinking about how they will defeat Paul Wellstone," a senior Republican aide confides. "This one is political and personal for them."

Just sayin'....

Showing a little respect

Whether or not you adhere to a religious belief system I want to recommend an article entitled "How to Get on an Atheist's Good Side". For the life of me, I have never been able to understand how any religious person would think an atheist could be persuaded to become religious through insults and contempt. Here are some excerpts:

And especially in small rural towns, anti-atheist bigotry can turn truly ugly. Being an out atheist means risking ostracism and worse. Out atheist teenagers have been kicked out of public school programs, and then kicked out of public school. Out atheists have been the targets of vandalism and death threats. Even believers can be targeted with anti- atheist ostracism, threats, and vandalism, if they're perceived as being atheists because of their stance on separation of church and state (such as the anti- intelligent- design activists in Dover, Pennsylvania).

And I'm just talking about the U.S., where atheists are, at least in theory, guaranteed equal protection and freedom of non-religion under the 1st and 14th amendments. I'm not even talking about overt theocracies, where denying the existence of God will earn you a death sentence.
...
If you are a Christian in the United States, then -- when it comes to this particular area of the "privilege/ marginalization" palette -- your Christianity puts you squarely in the "privileged mainstream" category. Christians are in the clear majority in the United States, and they are in the clear mainstream of politics and culture. You're not being thrown to the lions anymore. You haven't been thrown to the lions for almost 2,000 years. You are in the group that is running the show.

It really, really annoys me when fundamentalist Christians insist that they're being persecuted in this country just because they're not allowed to proselytize in public schools or because someone wishes them a happy holiday instead of a merry Christmas.

C.S. Lewis once said something to the effect that he had more in common with an honest atheist than with a self-righteous, unthinking Christian --- and I agree.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Mike Connell's death

David Cogswell makes the following point:

Suspicious Circumstances -- Whenever a person who is a key figure in political events is killed, there is a great hush, a blanket of discouragement upon any speculation or attempt to find a political significance in the circumstances of the death. All such deaths in plane crashes of significant politicial figures whose existence was a threat to certain interests, are just assumed to be random happenings. But this death of Mike Connell, the Rove-Bush computer handyman, only a month and a half after he testified in Ohio about allegations of voting maching rigging is certainly very worthy of close scrutiny.
...
A July 24 story in
Brad Blog said that Connell's lawyer sent a letter to Attorney General Mukasey requesting protection for Connell because Rove was threatening him if he did not take the fall for the vote fraud case in Ohio. This is very serious, very hot stuff and very close to Rove, which means close to Bush, and you don't mess with these guys unless you are very well protected. Even the Libby prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald stopped short when his investigation reached Cheney. There is so much hanging on this case that it looks like if Connell had not died in a plane crash they would have had to murder him or risk the collapse of the Bush crime empire.

It's from Headblast and it's the posting entitled Winter Solstice, December 21, 2008.

Look, we would have no difficulty suspecting political foul play if it happened in any other country. Do we really so believe in American exceptionalism that we consider our own politicians to be too virtuous to engage in offing those whom they consider a genuine threat?

Science back in favor - thank God

This is from President-elect Obama's address today:

“The truth is that promoting science isn’t just about providing resources—it’s about protecting free and open inquiry,” President-elect Obama said. “It’s about ensuring that facts and evidence are never twisted or obscured by politics or ideology. It’s about listening to what our scientists have to say, even when it’s inconvenient—especially when it’s inconvenient. Because the highest purpose of science is the search for knowledge, truth and a greater understanding of the world around us."

This is a relief. The war on science that has been waged for the last eight years may have already doomed us as a species. If there's any hope for us after all, that needs to change immediately.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Friday cat blogging!

What we need, what we don't need

It would really be a good idea to ponder the following, I think:

A "news anchor" said the other day, speaking of the sinking economy, it has gotten so bad that "people are only buying what they need."

Let that sink in. It is so bad that people are only buying what they need.

The world that collapsed was built on people buying things they didn't need. Then throwing them away and buying more.

That delusion is shredded into tatters and blows away in the wind ... this is a moment of clarity, in which like any recovering addict we can see that such a world was insane.

The above is an excerpt from an article called "The Betrayal of The Commons" by Richard Thieme.

Holiday hilarity!



I may have posted this last year - can't remember. Whatever. It's worth a repeat if I did!!!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

One more on the shoe throwing!

This is my favorite one so far, I think, and I've seen a lot of cartoon on this event!

Rick Warren and Obama

Like many people, I was dismayed to learn that Obama has asked Rick Warren to give the invocation at the Inauguration next month. Here's something published in The Guardian about that:

If nothing else, Rick Warren is a miracle worker in the realm of public relations. He is a man who compares legal abortion to the Holocaust and gay marriage to incest and pedophilia. He believes that Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and other non-Christians are going to spend eternity burning in hell. He doesn't believe in evolution. He recently dismissed the social gospel - the late 19th- and early 20th-century Protestant movement that led a religious crusade against poverty and inequality - as "Marxism in Christian clothing". Yet thanks to his amiable attitude and jocular tone, he has managed to create a popular image for himself as a moderate, even progressive force in American life, a reasonable, compassionate alternative to the punitive, sex-obsessed inquisitors of the religious right. And Barack Obama, who should know better, has helped him do it.

Yesterday brought the news that
Warren would be giving the invocation at Obama's inauguration. For Warren, this is a bit of a coup, since he seems to aspire to be the country's unofficial national pastor, a role once occupied by Billy Graham. He already played an unprecedented role in the 2008 presidential election when he conducted
back-to-back interviews with John McCain and Obama, which essentially made him the moderator, and his church the stage, for the first joint event of the campaign season. By participating in that exercise, Obama lent Warren undeserved legitimacy as a kind of national moral arbiter.
...
One doesn't expect Obama to surround himself only with spiritual advisers that meet some liberal litmus test. It is savvy to try and co-opt Warren, who seems to love proximity to power and who might otherwise be a strong critic. Nevertheless, further elevating this terribly powerful man necessarily comes at the expense of gay people, secularists, religious minorities and feminists. Rick Warren is a deeply polarizing figure, and has said things far more offensive than anything that ever passed the lips of Jeremiah Wright. He has every right to preach as he pleases and to build his fortune, but he does not belong at the center of American civic life, and Obama shouldn't put him there.

Personally I think it's pandering. And I don't like it one little bit.

In case you didn't already know this

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Gifts to the Earth

I want to call your attention to an article entitled "9 Christmas Gifts You Can Give to Your Mother ... Earth". It's very, very sensible. Here's what part of it says:

1. Stay Home

One of the best things you can do for the planet is fix up your own nest with holiday cheer and enjoy the festivities with loved ones near by. Airline travel is one of the biggest parts of our carbon footprint, and buses, cars and trains have big impacts as well.
...
Our leisure travel by car alone accounts for over 9 billion gallons of fuel and 90 millions tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) each year. Air travel tacks on 140-plus million tons more of CO2. That's a huge amount of CO2 emissions -- taken together it represents more than the entire annual emissions of countries like Venezuela or the Netherlands!

There are eight more suggestions. They're good.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Choosing the military

This is from Tulsa Peace Fellowship's counter-recruitment update/digest for mid-December 2008:

'I figure if I do another five or 10 years in the Army, the economy will turn around and I can get a truck-driving job.' ~Alex Stewart, from Grand Rapids, Mich., formerly a welder in civilian life

fact: Roughly 208,000 men and women left the military in 2007.

fact: Only about 30 percent of enlisted soldiers hold a bachelor's degree.

As a nation, we ought to be thoroughly ashamed of our "poverty draft". Bring back the real draft so that all socio-economic groups end up serving in the military. That will put a stop to unnecessary wars more quickly than anything else.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Oh, this is so rich.

Outstanding snark:

If America were an apartment, I don't think President Bush would get his security deposit back.

- Zing!

Hat tip to Lisa at All Hat No Cattle

About that shoe thrower

This is from the New York Times:

An Iraqi journalist who hurled his shoes at President Bush and called him a dog became a huge celebrity in the Arab world and beyond on Monday, with many supporters exalting him for what they called a courageous act in the face of American arrogance about the war.

In Sadr City, the sprawling Baghdad suburb that has seen some of the most intense fighting between insurgents and American soldiers since the 2003 invasion, thousands of people marched in his defense. In Syria, he was hailed as a hero. In Libya, he was given an award for courage.

Mr. Zaidi, a correspondent for an independent Iraqi television station, Al-Baghdadia, remained in Iraqi custody on Monday. While he has not been formally charged, Iraqi officials said he faced up to seven years in prison if convicted of committing an act of aggression against a visiting head of state.

Hitting someone with a shoe is a deep insult in the Arab world, signifying that the person being struck is as low as the dirt underneath the sole of a shoe. Compounding the insult were Mr. Zaidi’s words as he hurled his footwear at President Bush: “This is a gift from the Iraqis; this is the farewell kiss, you dog!” While calling someone a dog is never polite, among Arabs, who traditionally consider dogs unclean, the words were an even stronger slight.

NPR this morning said that the shoes were "tossed" at Bush. Nonsense. I saw the video. They were hurled.

Pawnbrokers

Now this is really sad:

There are as many as 15,000 pawnbrokers across the United States. As the U.S. recession deepens, pawnbrokers -- long seen as a lender of last resort -- are noting a rise in business.

No national body keeps statistics for the sector, but proprietors across the spectrum say they are thriving as home foreclosures spiral and bank credit remains scarce.

"Business is good," Mo Money owner Eric Baker said. The store, which makes loans on anything from a motor home to guns to lawnmowers and jewelry, says turnover is up by around 20 percent over a year ago on a broader range of clients.

Bush has so much to answer for. Except, of course, that he never will. But history will have the last word. That we can count on. (Not to mention karma...)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Republican resentment of unions


Now you might want to read an article called "Killing the Auto Bailout" and subtitled "A Dagger in the Heart of Organized Labor".

Peace

I'm watching a documentary about Thomas Merton right now. Here's something he said that has always stuck me as terribly important:

If you love peace, then hate injustice, hate tyranny, hate greed--but hate these things in yourself, not in another.

-- Thomas Merton

"Disaster for our health"

Please go read the short opinion piece published in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution entitled "There Is A Cure" by Oliver Fein. Here's how it gets started:

The report last week that the U.S. economy lost nearly 2 million jobs this year, and 533,000 jobs in November alone, sent shudders through our nation's households. That's the biggest one-month plunge in jobs in 34 years. "Horrendous" was how one economist put it, while others said the number of unemployed, and underemployed, could easily double over the next year.

These job losses spell disaster for our health. Millions of people are losing their employer-sponsored health insurance, joining the 46 million who already lack coverage. Millions more are finding it harder to pay their co-pays and deductibles and are scrimping on their medications and doctor visits. Many go without care, risking their health and often their very lives.

In short, affordable health care has never been more urgently needed. Yet most of the health reform proposals coming out of Washington these days won't get us there.

Go read the rest of the article to see why. (Hint: It has to do with the insurance companies.)

"On such a winter's day..."

Just a little nostalgia, folks, for those of a certain age:

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Republican union-busting


Here's the clincher:

When Reagan came into office we were the largest exporter of manufactured goods and the largest importer of raw materials on the planet. And the largest creditor. More people owed us money than anybody else in the world. Now just twenty eight years later we're the largest importer of finished goods, manufactured goods, exporter of raw materials which is kind of the definition of a third world nation and we're the most in debt of any country in the world. This is the absolute consequence of Reaganomics.

--Thom Hartmann

Friday, December 12, 2008

Friday cat blogging!

This totally cracked me up! Enjoy:

Timely Top Ten

Hey, this was only a matter of time - and not much time at that:

Top Ten Messages Left On Rod Blagojevich ’s Answering Machine:

10. “For 10 grand can you make me Pope?”
9. “Hello, is this the Blog-o-bloga-a-da-go-bl-vipivh residence?”
8. “Hi, it’s O.J. Wanna be cellmates?
7. “Oh, I’m sorry, I think I have the wrong Blagojevich.”
6. “Hi, it’s Larry Craig — did I hear something about a Senator’s seat being available?”
5. “I’m calling about your Senate seat on Craigslist. Want to trade for a futon?”
4. “Hey, it’s Cheney. Damn, even I think you’re sleazy.”
3. “You really Blagojevich’d your political career.”
2. “I’m guessing you didn’t spend the bribe money on that haircut.”
1. “It’s Sarah Palin. Thanks for replacing me as the country’s most embarrassing governor.”

I just love that number 1!!!!!

I found it here.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Quote of the week

From Sojourners:

It was worth it. It was not only for us, it was for everybody nationwide, because they can do the same thing.

- Heriberto Barriga, a nine-year employee of Republic Windows & Doors, where a six-day protest by employees was ended with an agreement to accommodate workers' demands. Workers had argued they were owed the pay after the company shut down their plant last Friday on only three days' notice, rather than the two months' notice required by federal law.
~~~
It is so encouraging to see workers claiming their power again and doing so collectively. It is also terribly sad that they lost their jobs in the first place.

The cost of focusing on money and power

I got this in an email today:

This focus on money and power may do wonders in the marketplace, but it creates a tremendous crisis in our society. People who have spent all day learning how to sell themselves and to manipulate others are in no position to form lasting friendships or intimate relationships... Many Americans hunger for a different kind of society -- one based on principles of caring, ethical and spiritual sensitivity, and communal solidarity. Their need for meaning is just as intense as their need for economic security.

- Michael Lerner

I have admired Rabbi Michael Lerner for many years now. He is the editor of Tikkun, a progressive Jewish and interfaith magazine.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Obama: "The time for denial is over."

This is so reassuring:

President-elect Barack Obama met with former vice president Al Gore in Chicago on Tuesday to discuss climate change, declaring after the meeting, "The time for denial is over."

The meeting, also attended by Vice President-elect Joe Biden, came as Obama prepares to nominate his administration's top environmental officials -- decisions that could come as soon as this week.

"All three of us are in agreement that the time for delay is over," Obama told reporters as he sat between Gore and Biden at the transition headquarters after the meeting.

"We all believe what the scientists have been telling us for years now," Obama said, "that this is a matter of urgency and national security, and it has to be dealt with in a serious way. That is what I intend my administration to do."

Let's hope Obama is able to do enough and that it's not too late.

Eco gift wrapping

My goodness, this is cool:


Furoshiki gift wrapping from RecycleNow on Vimeo

You can find more thorough instructions for this right here.

(Sent to me by Paul Rogers.)

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Gay-bashing in Oklahoma

I just learned about this on Firedoglake:

Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett is eyeing the governor's mansion for the 2010 race, and he's busy making allies on far right. Among his backroom buddies: Steve Kern, pastor of the Olivet Baptist Church and husband of State representative Sally Kern.

According to
Gossipboy.com, in a bid to court conservatives, the duo seem to be teaming up to rid the state library system of all gay and lesbian materials, as well as those their church-based philosophies find objectionable.

Oh goodness. How depressing. Well, that's Oklahoma, for you. (Don't I know it; I live here.)

Bush's new neighborhood

Monday, December 08, 2008

Elegant cynicism

Oh my. This is really good:

O.J. Simpson was sent to prison for armed robbery Friday. Thirty-two years ago, O.J. was voted Most Admired Man in America. It stood as the biggest mistake in judgment Americans ever made right up to the day George W. Bush was sworn in as president.

- Argus Hamilton

Oh, the snark.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

No kidding...

"Why did we take so long?"

Father Clyde Glandon sent me this:

Negotiations happen not between friends, negotiations happen between enemies. And a surprising thing does seem to take place, at least it did in South Africa, enemies began to find that they can actually become friends, or at least collaborators for the common good. They come together and then actually they ask themselves, “Why did we take so long to get to this point? Why did so many people have to die?”

-- Desmond Tutu

Why, indeed?

Infamy?

Charlotte Alexandre sent me an article from Truthout today entitled "Remember Pearl Harbor" and subtitled "'Pre-emptive' war, then and now." We really need to think about its thesis. Here's part of what it says:

Sixty years after Pearl Harbor, the administration of G. W. Bush has made "preemption" an official part of U.S. policy. According to this so-called "Bush Doctrine," the United States claims the right to use military force whenever it determines that its security or economic interests may be threatened by another nation in the future. The Bush National Security Strategy of 2002 states that "The greater the threat, the greater is the risk of inaction - and the more compelling the case for taking anticipatory action to defend ourselves, even if uncertainty remains as to the time and place of the enemy's attack. To forestall or prevent such hostile acts by our adversaries, the United States will, if necessary, act preemptively." In other words, if it is to our advantage, we will strike first - begin a war - when we see a potential threat.

That is exactly what the Japanese did in 1941, when the United States posed a huge threat to their leaders' conception of Japan's national interests. With bases reaching across the Pacific, the U.S. Navy, in particular, was potentially a major obstacle to Japanese expansion in China and Southeast Asia. Moreover, the United States had imposed an embargo on oil and steel shipments to Japan, a nation that depended on imports and had oil reserves sufficient for only about two years. By November 1941, negotiations to resolve or defuse these issues had stalled. Japanese military planners, by then in control of their country's government, saw armed conflict with the United States as inevitable, and disabling U.S. naval power in the Pacific seemed essential for achieving their goals. They judged that a high-risk, high-gain surprise attack would give Japan its best chance for success. That is, they chose preemption.

After the war, the United States and its allies did not accept Japanese or German claims that their preemptive acts had been legitimate. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson was the chief allied prosecutor of major Axis war criminals. In August 1945 Jackson wrote: "We must make it clear to the Germans that the wrong for which their fallen leaders are on trial is not that they lost the war, but that they started it... Our position is that no grievances or policies will justify resort to aggressive war. It is utterly renounced and condemned as an instrument of policy." During the next few years, officials and military officers of both Germany and Japan were tried and convicted for planning and carrying out aggression by their countries' armed forces. There was no exception for "preemptive war," although some of the accused tried to use that concept in their defense.

How can we possibly justify having started a war? And having done so, how can we ever again say that December 7, 1941 is a day that will live in infamy without also saying the same of March 20, 2003?

Saturday, December 06, 2008

The law of unintended consequences

I found myself looking for a article on the web about unintended consequences to create a link on one of my other blogs, Meditation Matters, and I found one that I think is quite excellent. It is called "Exploring the law of unintended consequences" and is subtitled "DRM and asbestos curtains meet the Shah of Iran".

Here's how it kicks off:

Back in the 1970s, long before the revolution that would eventually topple him from power, the Shah of Iran was one of America's best friends (he was a dictator who brutally repressed his people, but he was anti-communist, and that made him OK in our book). Wanting to help out a good friend, the United States government agreed to sell Iran the very same intaglio presses used to print American currency so that the Shah could print his own high quality money for his country. Soon enough, the Shah was the proud owner of some of the best money printing machines in the world, and beautiful Iranian Rials proceeded to flow off the presses.

Really, I do recommend that you click through on the title above and see how the story unfolds. G.W. Bush, of course, with his reliance on his gut feelings and strong belief in black and white thinking, has had no respect for this principle at all. Let's hope that Obama gets it.

Today is St. Nicholas Day!


He is the patron saint of giving, isn't he?

Here's something I found (that is listed as a reflection on St. Nicholas) that speaks to our "normal" selfish-centeredness:

What keeps you from giving now? Isn't the poor person there? Aren't your own warehouses full? Isn't the reward promised? The command is clear: the hungry person is dying now, the naked person is freezing now, the person in debt is beaten now-and you want to wait until tomorrow? "I'm not doing any harm," you say. "I just want to keep what I own, that's all." You own! You are like someone who sits down in a theater and keeps everyone else away, saying that what is there for everyone's use is your own. . . . If everyone took only what they needed and gave the rest to those in need, there would be no such thing as rich and poor. After all, didn't you come into life naked, and won't you return naked to the earth?

The bread in your cupboard belongs to the hungry person; the coat hanging unused in your closet belongs to the person who needs it; the shoes rotting in your closet belong to the person with no shoes; the money which you put in the bank belongs to the poor. You do wrong to everyone you could help, but fail to help.

I know. This is quite contrary to the ordinary American way of looking at things. But it's powerfully inspiring. (I'm going to sort through my closet and give whatever shoes I'm not wearing to Good Will right away!)

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Transition approval polls


I found the above graphic on MyDD. The person who posted it said the following:

These numbers are just stunning, and serve as further proof that Barack Obama will enter the White House with a greater mandate than any newly elected President in a very long time. While I certainly do not expect this spread to hold indefinitely, or even necessarily for the duration of Obama's first 100 days in office, this level of support gives Obama the juice to hit the ground running on January 20.

I do think this is quite encouraging.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Obama firing all Bush-appointed ambassadors

I must say, this news is very reassuring:

The incoming Obama administration has notified all politically-appointed ambassadors that they must vacate their posts as of Jan. 20, the day President-elect Barack Obama takes the oath of office, a State Department official said.
...
Political ambassadors sometimes are permitted to stay on briefly during a new administration, but the sweeping nature of the directive suggests that Obama has little interest in retaining any of Bush's ambassadorial appointees.

Our image abroad has suffered hugely under Bush. Time for that to be repaired.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Wounded deer attacks hunter who shot him

And good for him, too. Serves the hunter right. (And don't have at me about deer overpopulation and all the rest of it. If we didn't kill off the wolves and the coyotes, we wouldn't have this problem.)

Forty-nine-year-old Randy Goodman said he thought two well-placed shots with his .270-caliber rifle had killed the buck on Nov. 19. Goodman said the deer looked dead to him, but seconds later the nine-point, 240-pound animal came to life.

The buck rose up, knocked Goodman down and attacked him with his antlers in what the veteran hunter called "15 seconds of hell." The deer ran a short distance and went down, and died after Goodman fired two more shots.

Soon Goodman started feeling dizzy and noticed his vest was soaked in blood.

So he reached his truck and drove to a hospital, where he received seven staples in his scalp and was treated for a slight concussion and bruises.

Okay. It was hell for you, Mr. Goodman. Ever thought of what it must have been like for the deer?

(The orginal article is right here.)

Choices

So true. But do we know these things as a nation, as a people?

To live is to choose. But to choose well, you must know who you are and what you stand for, where you want to go and why you want to get there.

- Kofi Annan

Monday, December 01, 2008

CNN Quickvote of the day

Kind of an obvious question for today! :-)

Do you think Hillary Clinton will make a good secretary of state?

Yes - 79%

No - 21%

And, I agree with the majority here. She will.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

A dearth of acorns

Once again I'm indebted to John Aravosis at AMERICAblog for bringing this to everybody's attention. It's very, very disturbing:

The idea seemed too crazy to Rod Simmons, a measured, careful field botanist. Naturalists in Arlington County couldn't find any acorns. None. No hickory nuts, either. Then he went out to look for himself. He came up with nothing. Nothing crunched underfoot. Nothing hit him on the head.

Then calls started coming in about crazy squirrels. Starving, skinny squirrels eating garbage, inhaling bird feed, greedily demolishing pumpkins. Squirrels boldly scampering into the road. And a lot more calls about squirrel roadkill.

But Simmons really got spooked when he was teaching a class on identifying oak and hickory trees late last month. For 2 1/2 miles, Simmons and other naturalists hiked through Northern Virginia oak and hickory forests. They sifted through leaves on the ground, dug in the dirt and peered into the tree canopies. Nothing.

"I'm used to seeing so many acorns around and out in the field, it's something I just didn't believe," he said. "But this is not just not a good year for oaks. It's a zero year. There's zero production. I've never seen anything like this before."

The article is from the Washington Post and it's right here.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Friday, November 28, 2008

Friday cat blogging!

Black Friday

Oh this is just sickening:

A Wal-Mart worker died after being trampled when hundreds of shoppers smashed through the doors of a Long Island store Friday morning, police and witnesses said.

The 34-year-old employee, a temporary maintenance worker, tried to hold back the unruly crowds just after the Valley Stream store opened at 5 a.m.

Witnesses said the surging throngs of shoppers knocked the man down. He fell and was stepped on. As he gasped for air, shoppers ran over and around him.

"He was bum-rushed by 200 people," said Jimmy Overby, 43, a co-worker. "They took the doors off the hinges. He was trampled and killed in front of me. They took me down too...I literally had to fight people off my back."

The unidentified victim was rushed to an area hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 6:03 a.m., police said.

It certainly points up the value of movements like Buy Nothing Day.

UPDATE: Here's a comment about the same event that I found on Dependable Renegade:

All else aside, the behavior of the shoppers is directly connected to a situation Walmart carefully engineered, with limited supplies and time constraints connected to some very significant special discounts. They create an atmosphere of severe competition between their customers, a disproportionate number of whom are likely to behave poorly under such conditions -- then they act surprised the doorbuster busts doors and flattens temps.

I hope some crackerjack lawyer gets hold of the point and runs with it.

Family values

Oh my. I just had to nick this from John Aravosis over at AMERICAblog:

Obama's example could have society-altering effects, especially in the African American community. By his example, he telegraphs the following messages: Being smart is good; education is good; being a good father is essential. Being an egghead is cool.

Conservatives insist, correctly, that culture matters. Many liberals think so, too, by the way. Why, some liberals even stay married their entire lives to the same person and raise children to do the same.

You want Ward Cleaver? Meet Barack Obama. Michelle is June Cleaver with a law degree. Family values don't get more traditional than those of the Obamas, who ooze marital bliss and whose adorable daughters make feminist cynics want to bake cookies and learn to smock.

Though we may perish of boredom, the Obamas may do more to elevate the American family than all the pro-marriage initiatives conceived by those who claim to speak for the deity.

It was actually written by conservative Kathleen Parker in the Washington Post.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The food banks need our help


Please, please, please give to your local food bank. Here's what's happening:

Long lines, empty shelves and Thanksgiving chickens are just a few symptoms of the economic downturn's effect on food banks and community pantries across the country.

People are turning to charitable organizations for their Thanksgiving meal this year in record numbers, while donations have dropped significantly and funding has been slashed.

Here in Tulsa I donate at Akin's - a health food store. For every dollar donated, the food bank can make approximately $9.00 worth of food available to needy families. Do find a place in your community where it's easy to donate.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Playing for Change: Stand By Me



Don't stop this too soon; it just keeps getting better!

Description: The Ben E. King classic by musicians around the world adding their part to the song as it travelled the globe.

Here's the transcript of a Bill Moyers segment on the "Playing for Change" project.

Monday, November 24, 2008

GOP operative now has regrets

Well, regret is pretty cheap at this point, pal. Didn't you know at the time that what you were doing was wrong?

As a self-admitted hit man for the GOP, Stone has had a hand in everything from Nixon's dirty tricks to Eliot Spitzer's resignation to spreading discredited rumors of a Michelle Obama “whitey” tape during the 2008 Democratic primaries.
...
The capstone of Stone’s career, at least in terms of results, was the “Brooks Brothers riot” of the 2000 election recount. This was when a Stone-led squad of pro-Bush protestors stormed the Miami-Dade County election board, stopping the recount and advancing then-Governor George W. Bush one step closer to the White House. Though he is quick to rebut GOP operatives who seek to minimize his role in the recount, Stone lately has been having second thoughts about what happened in Florida.

"There have been many times I've regretted it,” Stone told me over pizza at Grand Central Station. “When I look at those double-page New York Times spreads of all the individual pictures of people who have been killed [in Iraq], I got to think, 'Maybe there wouldn't have been a war if I hadn't gone to Miami-Dade. Maybe there hadn't have been, in my view, an unjustified war if Bush hadn't become president.' It's very disturbing to me."

Now here's the most sickening part:

Nor does Stone regret dirty politicking. Stone still offers his services as a no-holds-barred strategist to domestic and foreign politicians alike, and claims his client list is full.

Why can't we make that kind of thing illegal?

You can read the entire article right here.

FYI

Something that concerns me

Frank Ford sent me an article from The Nation by Christopher Hayes that contained the following paragraph:

Not a single, solitary, actual dyed-in-the-wool progressive has, as far as I can tell, even been mentioned for a position in the new administration. Not one. Remember this is the movement that was right about Iraq, right about wage stagnation and inequality, right about financial deregulation, right about global warming and right about healthcare. And I don't just mean in that in a sectarian way. I mean to say that the emerging establishment consensus on all of these issues came from the left. There's tons of things the left is right about that aren't even close to mainstream (taking a hatchet to the national security state and ending the prison industrial complex to name just two), but hopefully we're moving there.

I just think it's a hoot that Obama's detractors have repeatedly called him a "socialist", that's all.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Well, isn't this a relief?

I found it on Think Progress:

On the Chris Matthews Show today, Matthews argued that one of the major differences between President Bush and President-elect Barack Obama is the fact that Obama is intellectually curious.

Here's the specific posting.

Sunday uplift blogging

In case you missed this on 60 Minutes tonight. Please watch! You won't regret it.


Watch CBS Videos Online

Friday, November 21, 2008

Friday cat blogging!


Here's a description of the photo: "Portrait of a female feral cat (Felis silvestris f. catus), made in a public park at Livorno, Italy. The left ear has a cut as a sign that the cat was sterilized by a veterinarian in a cat population control program (left female, right male)."

Isn't she lovely? By the way, I completely support the trap/neuter/release approach to helping feral cats and have participated in it myself. You can donate to many organizations to assist in this effort but here's a particularly good one: Alley Cat Allies. They have been rated a four-star charity (the highest possible) by Charity Navigator, America’s premier independent charity evaluator.

The press

Just because Obama has been elected doesn't change the reality of today's corporate news organizations:

The framers of our nation never imagined what could happen if big government, big publishing, and big broadcasters ever saw eye to eye in putting the public's need for news second to their own interests—and to the ideology of market economics. The greatest moments in the history of the press came not when journalists made common cause with the state but when they stood fearlessly independent of it.

-- Bill Moyers

Silly humor

Here's a joke that was sent out on today's Prarie Home Companion email. The math geek in me really likes it!

Q: Have you heard my new statistics joke?

A: Probably.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Obama Portrait


Isn't this simply lovely? I found it on Democratic Underground and you can see a larger version of it here. The artist, Mimi Tabby, is making signed prints of it available for $40 plus shipping. I really recommend that you explore the rest of her blog. She does incredibly beautiful stuff.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

I do love the Guardian

They've published an article entitled "The Apology Bush Owes Dan Rather" . Here's part of what it says:

As George Bush shuffles off to a long absence that is not only with leave but with a heartfelt global sentiment that it is long overdue, he leaves behind a lot of unfinished business. One wonders whether, just in case, he will smuggle in a pardon for himself for his technical desertion and very definite absence without leave from the Texas Air National Guard.

What is really in order is some sort of pardon and apology to Dan Rather, who CBS's cowardly management squeezed from 60 Minutes for telling the truth about Bush's war record.
...
The investigation carefully did not consider the veracity of the charges against Bush, simply the provenance of the scrap of paper, but by the time it was over, many people who should have known better assumed that the story of Bush's desertion was refuted.

In fact, the evidence was compelling. Many others, myself included in my book,
Deserter, had proved that George Bush joined the Texas Air National Guard with nepotistic backing in order to avoid service in Vietnam, a war that he agreed with. And then he went missing and failed to fulfill the terms of his service, an offence for which other less well-connected people were going to prison or being drafted to the jungle.

Let us consider the sins of Rather. Firstly, he admitted openly what everyone knew – that anchormen are performers not journalists. Secondly, 60 Minutes pandered to the television need for a McGuffin to wave around. However, it is still not proven that
the memo under consideration was a forgery. What has been proven beyond doubt was that the information in it was accurate. The very secretary who said that she had not typed that particular piece of paper attested that she had typed exactly that same message.

I so agree with this. That whole episode made me purely sick. I hope Rather wins his suit against CBS.

Funny!!!


Paul Rogers sent me this. Thanks, Paul!

Cheney and Gonzales


By now it has undoubtedly come to your attention that Cheney and Gonzales were indicted in Texas yesterday by a grand jury. Here's what the BBC says about it:

The indictment says Mr Cheney - who has invested $85m (£56m) in a company that holds shares in for-profit prisons - conspired to block an investigation.

The indictment has not been seen by a judge, who could dismiss it.
...
The three-page indictment also alleges that former US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales "used his position...to stop the investigations as to the wrong doings."

The grand jury wrote that it made its decision "with great sadness," but said they had no other choice but to indict Mr Cheney and Mr Gonzales "because we love our country."

Well, let's see where this goes. I must say, it doesn't surprise me.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Oh, I just love this!

This was on today's edition of All Hat No Cattle. Well done, Lisa!!!

Hate radio on the rampage

Can you believe this man? Here's something Michael Savage said:

I'm as good an expert as any. I have found in my life that most of the Ph.D. experts on children are either gay or crazy and were never married. Or if they were married, they either tried to kill their wife or were in rehab for a few years, and then came out and went into psychotherapy to find out why they killed, or attempted to kill. And then they washed it all away, and suddenly they're experts on childrearing.

You can read more about it on Media Matters right here.