Monday, December 31, 2007

Audubon


There was a film clip on the website Raw Story that caught my attention.

The clip is about the noticeable decline in bird populations across North America.

Taking a look at the Audubon Society website confirms the plight.

When you match this plight to the simultaneous decline in the honey bee population i.e. 'colony collapse disorder', the alarm becomes clearer.

The answer and action needed is simultaneously obvious and complicated.

Land usage needs to be undertaken with a distinct sensitivity to the environment. On the other hand, how do you change the behaviors of societies that are rapidly growing and continue to build and expand on new land.

They say that the economy is upper most in the minds of people regarding the upcoming 2008 elections. The war in Iraq is falling from people's minds.

Its the environment, stupid.

Audubon: Impacts on Birds & Wildlife: Fact Sheets
In large parts of the U.S., over half of our songbird species are in decline. Scientists say habitat destruction, caused by rapid human population growth, is partly to blame.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Hallelujah

Rufus sings Cohen

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Bedeviling

I read this article and all I can say is, story of my life - left out of the loop.

I had no idea Satanism was so big. Where have I been?

Pope's exorcist squads will wage war on Satan
The Pope has ordered his bishops to set up exorcism squads to tackle the rise of Satanism.

...You have to hunt high and low for a properly trained exorcist.
Uh oh, neocons are in trouble now.

Jaw Dropper

I saw this at Crooks and Liars (An outstanding website).

Yeats

Had I the heavens' embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

William Butler Yeats

Nuke Rejection

Foiled Again: The Defeat of the Latest Bush Administration Plan for New Nuclear Weapons by Lawrence S. Wittner
Advocates of a U.S. nuclear weapons buildup received a significant setback on December 16, when Congressional negotiators agreed on an omnibus spending bill that omitted funding for development of a new nuclear weapon championed by the Bush administration: the Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW)...

Crunch

New home sales hit 12-year low
Sales of new homes, plunging to their lowest level in more than 12 years, were weaker than forecast last month - leaving the market glutted with unsold homes and pointing to more trouble ahead for the battered housing market.
Other than reading articles on the state of the economy, I have no particular expertise in evaluating economic trends.

However, as a worker in the construction business for the past 23 years, I have seen the trend where housing declines a few times before. Generally those periods have been tight and money woes were greater. Employment opportunities were tighter, and the mood of the country was conservative with respect to money, in the sub elite classes. Housing and construction seem to be on the leading edge of the economy. When they struggle, the rest of the iceberg follows.

The worst period in my recollection was in 1990, the first shock and awe period. Money to invest in home projects was not there. People were afraid to invest even in home repairs. This present period does not seem quite at that level. How it will flesh out over time is a different matter.

Personally, I try to simplify, reduce and eliminate debt, save a little more, generally live small, and broaden my interests.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Hook


I'm reading 'Hooked - Buddhist writings on greed, desire, and the urge to consume.' Its a little something for the holidays.

The book is a collection of essays written by various writers.

This excerpt from the essay 'Practicing Generosity in a Consumer World' is a straight forward take on a very obvious problem that not all, but many face simply by trying to live and work in our complex society.
"Consumerism is the current dominant form of capitalism, a system that biases capital over labor and money values over other values. Thus is biases the things that make money over things that make meaning, happiness, wisdom, compassion, and other virtues. In our world, consumerism is more than an economic system, more than political economy. It increasingly functions as substitute religion, debased, shallow, and unable to liberate. As the dominant value system, way of thinking, and way of life, consumerism has a powerful influence even on those of us who struggle against its seductive tentacles..."
Many have locked horns with this for years. Some give away large swaths of their lives to one or the other, money or meaning.

Everybody tries to find the right balance. Its a lifelong trick.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Top Twenty

The top 20 oil exporters (Note: this is not the same as the top 20 oil producers)

The numbers are in bbl/day which is barrels per day (in exports). Also, I've looked at other charts and there are variations in the numbers, so its not etched in stone.
1 Saudi Arabia 7,920,000
2 Russia 6,110,000
3 Norway 3,466,000
4 United Arab Emirates 2,500,000
5 Iran 2,500,000
6 Venezuela 2,100,000
7 Kuwait 1,970,000
8 Mexico 1,863,000
9 United Kingdom 1,498,000
10 Iraq 1,490,000
11 Netherlands 1,418,000
12 Canada 1,370,000
13 Kazakhstan 890,000
14 Oman 721,000
15 Korea, South 630,100
16 Australia 523,400
17 Indonesia 518,100
18 Italy 456,600
19 Belgium 450,000
20 China 427,800
What is the USA's oil usage per day?

20,730,000 bbl/day Source

More than half of the USA's oil used per day is imported. 1994 was the telling year. From that point on, the USA imported more than half the oil it uses.

Bhutto Assassinated

From CNN: Benazir Bhutto assassinated

This is a big deal and huge tragedy. The implications are wide and deep, not something that is going to go away soon.

Many political thinkers regard Pakistan as the most volatile and dangerous country on the planet. Instability in Pakistan is a potential mess.

Pakistan is well armed with nuclear weapons. Pakistan has also been in the center of a massive scandal with one of its main nuclear scientists implicated in nuclear deals with other volatile countries, very shady, very greedy, and hugely dangerous.

Pakistan is on the precipice between democracy and dictatorship, and this assassination would seemingly push it towards the latter.

This area of the world is hotter and a little more on fire.

Bradbury Rejection

High marks go to our elected Senators for not accepting the recess appointments of Bush.

Webb opens, closes vacant Senate session
Talks had just broken down with the White House on a deal that would have allowed the president to make dozens of those appointments if he agreed not to appoint one controversial official, Steven Bradbury, as the permanent head of the influential Office of Legal Counsel at the Justice Department.
Who is Steven Bradbury? Why would the Senate stay in session through the holidays just to keep Bush from appointing him in recess?
Bradbury served as a Law Clerk for The Honorable Clarence Thomas, Supreme Court of the United States (1992-1993) and for The Honorable James L. Buckley, U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (1990-1991). He was also an Attorney Advisor, Office of Legal Counsel, U.S. Department of Justice (1991-1992). Source
Also
...Throughout 2006, Bradbury argued forcefully that the Supreme Court's rejection of the administration's military tribunals in terrorism cases was incorrectly decided. He argued that Geneva Conventions language barring "humiliating and degrading treatment" was hopelessly vague, and subject to "uncertain and unpredictable application." He was a leading advocate of the Military Commissions Act of 2006, which revoked habeas corpus for terrorism detainees. He authored an opinion immunizing ex-White House counsel Harriet Miers from testifying in the U.S. attorneys investigation. And, most infamously, he apparently authored secret memoranda reauthorizing torture techniques, including waterboarding. Source
Now its clearer. Bradbury is one of the authors of waterboarding is like a swimming lesson.

Bradbury is in the its ok to torture camp which is the Bush administration's policy.

The Senate is working to undo the legacy of a presidency which has brought back torture and has dismissed the 600 year old Western civilization achievement of habeus corpus.

Extremely Unpopular War


As 2007 Ends, Most Americans Oppose Iraq War
...68 per cent of respondents oppose the U.S. war in Iraq, and 69 per cent call for a withdrawal of all or some U.S. troops from the country.

In addition, 59 per cent of respondents believe neither side is winning the war, 28 per cent think the U.S. and its allies are emerging victorious, and 11 per cent say the insurgents in Iraq are ahead.
I can't recall seeing this last figure in a poll on Iraq; "...11 per cent say the insurgents in Iraq are ahead."

This is going beyond do you want the troops to stay or to come home. One in ten now believe we are losing to the insurgents. From a hawk's point of view this is even worse than simply being opposed to the war's continuation.

Yet on Wednesday the 26th, Bush signed a spending bill that pays for the war well into 2008.

Red State X-Mas

Two of the finest political humorists in the business. These guys figured it out.

Jackie and Dunlop offer up Christmas.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Loyalty and Stagnation

A quick and non inclusive look at the harsh costs that Bush's need for loyalty within his adminstration have produced.

From September 17, 2006: Ties to GOP Trumped Know-How Among Staff Sent to Rebuild Iraq
After the fall of Saddam Hussein's government in April 2003, the opportunity to participate in the U.S.-led effort to reconstruct Iraq attracted all manner of Americans...before they could go to Baghdad, they had to get past Jim O'Beirne's office in the Pentagon.

To pass muster with O'Beirne...applicants didn't need to be experts in the Middle East or in post-conflict reconstruction. What seemed most important was loyalty to the Bush administration.

O'Beirne's staff posed blunt questions to some candidates about domestic politics: Did you vote for George W. Bush in 2000? Do you support the way the president is fighting the war on terror? Two people who sought jobs with the U.S. occupation authority said they were even asked their views on Roe v. Wade .
Applicants to rebuild Iraq did not need to possess knowledge of the Middle East, (This would include the language, customs, and understanding of the deeply seated religions) or post-conflict reconstruction technical ability (working with pollutants, contaminants, depleted uranium?).

They did not need to know anything about the area they were going to work in, and they did not need to possess knowledge or technical expertise on the work they were going to perform. They needed to be lock step with Bush policies including Bush's views on abortion. (Is something radically wrong when someone's views on abortion are regarded as a qualification in rebuilding a country.)

What are the possibilities that anything of any value or quality would actually be accomplished given this missing set of requirements?

From March 13, 2007: ‘Loyalty’ to Bush and Gonzales Was Factor in Prosecutors’ Firings, E-Mail Shows
In rating the prosecutors, Mr. Sampson factored in whether they “exhibited loyalty to the president and attorney general,” according to documents released by the Justice Department.
Here is a radical idea on how the system of politics could be. The idea has to do with incorporating and valuing people with differing approaches.
What would it be like if our political chambers were based on the principles of empathizing? It is dangerous because it would mean a revolution in how we choose our politicians, how our political chambers govern, and how our politicians think and behave. We have never given such an alternative political process a chance. Might it be better and safer than what we currently have? Since empathy is about keeping in mind the thoughts and feelings of other people (not just your own), and being sensitive to another person's thoughts and feelings (not just riding rough-shod over them), it is clearly incompatible with notions of "doing battle with the opposition" and "defeating the opposition" in order to win and hold on to power. source
This is something to explore and develop. Bush comes in and works to eliminate anyone who does not agree with him. Along the way, he places people into elite positions of power not because they have competence but because they are loyal. Think Katrina and the response. This is the opposite of empathy, this is conquering.

Bush would prefer someone who is loyal verses someone who is capable, knowledgeable, or inspiring.

Look at the failures in Iraq, look at the failures with Katrina, look at the Bush failures in world diplomacy, look at the complete stagnation in the overall atmosphere in the United States over the past 7 soon to be 8 years, all these things point to a lack of exciting, capable, innovative, and simply personable or inspiring people bringing forth quality solutions and energy.

We are stagnant with Bush. He has single handedly reduced the excitement in the essential structures of the country.

This is the real tragedy of the Bush administration.

We need significantly better politicians. We need to get back to being inspired by our leaders. We need to jump over the Bush administration, even now, we need to do it mentally. We need to get way past this tragic and brutal period in America and find all that is positive and rich with possibility.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

For You from The Senate


Considering some of the ultra right wing recess appointments Bush has made in the past with a Republican Senate, this is one of the better presents that the government has given to all of us in some time.

US Senate stays in session to block Bush
The US Senate is holding special one man sessions throughout Christmas and the New Year to prevent President George W. Bush from making appointments without the approval of the Democratic majority.
Recall that one of Bush's most questionable recess appointees was John Bolton. So unpopular and extreme is John Bolton that he was not going to be confirmed for the position of American Ambassador to the U.N. even with a Republican majority in the Senate back in 2005. The only way Bush could get Bolton in, was with a recess appointment.

More Marimba Please

This is American ingenuity at its best: a man - a humble mallet player, then a vision - a band with scads of women in evening dresses playing marimbas along with a truly inspired bass player, and finally the product - a weird blending of boogie woogie and slapstick film score music.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Turkey, Iraq, the PKK


Turkey in fresh Iraq air strikes
Turkey has launched fresh air strikes against Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq, the Turkish military says.

Fighter planes attacked positions held by the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in a 35-minute raid, according to a statement on the army's website.
Who are the PKK?

Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK)
The PKK’s goal has been to establish an independent Kurdish state in southeast Turkey, northern Iraq, and parts of Iran and Syria.
Roots of the Kurdish struggle run deep
The PKK is as much of a threat to Iran as it is to Turkey. In February, the London Sunday Telegraph wrote that the US was funding ethnic separatist groups (non-Persian, which make up nearly 40% of Iran's 70 million) inside Iran to create trouble for the Iranian regime. This was backed by several editorials written by investigative reporter Seymour Hersh in The New Yorker, claiming that the US plans to weaken the Islamic Republic through separatist movements operating from within Iranian territory against the Tehran government. These include Kurds, Azeris and Ahwaz Arabs.

This won't break the Tehran regime, they believe, but might exert enough pressure on Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to abandon his nuclear program. One of the many factions receiving external support to apply pressure on the mullahs of Tehran is the PKK. Last year, Iran launched operations into Iraqi territory to track down members of the PKK operating on the Iranian-Iraqi border, arresting 40 Kurdish rebels.
Recapping is tricky.

There is the understanding that the US is trying to destabilize Iran by supporting ethnic separatist groups in the region and the PKK fall into that category.

Yet the PKK also want part of Turkey, Turkey being the long time ally of the US.

Do you see the screwy conflict. We are both supporting a group, The PKK, that is messing with Iran, yet that same group, The PKK, is messing with Turkey. So we are also working to prevent the group from going into Turkey by allowing Turkey to bomb them.

The US is both supporting the PKK and giving the go ahead to Turkey to bomb them. Who invents this stuff?

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Lighten


More commonly held myths found to lack scientific proof.

From the BBC: 'Medical myths' exposed as untrue
They found no evidence supporting the need to drink eight glasses of water a day. (tea, juice, etc it all counts)

The belief that we only use 10% of our brains appears to be completely untrue. (Excluding certain politicians)

Again, expert opinion is that reading in dim light does not damage your eyes.

Finally, eating turkey - and the tryptophan amino acid it contains - does not make people especially drowsy. (Overeating a huge meal will make you tired - more frequent smaller meals)
I love this stuff because we go through our lives stuck or constrained with notions that have little or no basis in fact. Every so often a few more get slain.

One wonders exactly how much information that we get has credibility. Probably a good idea to check your sources and maintain a healthy dose of skepticism.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

The Children of Iraq

From the BBC: Iraq children 'paying high price'
Two million children in Iraq are facing threats including poor nutrition, lack of education, disease and violence, the UN children's agency, Unicef, has said.
The population of Iraq is 27,499,638 (July 2007 est.) Source - the CIA

Winter Solstice


Saturday, December 22, 2007, 1:08 A.M. EST, marks the solstice, the beginning of winter in the Northern Hemisphere and summer in the Southern Hemisphere.

Slowly, little by little, the days will begin to get longer and longer, as the light begins to return.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Congress - We Ethnically Cleansed Baghdad

Radioactive Head

Bush says nuclear energy 'best' for greenhouse gases
US President George W. Bush said Thursday that nuclear power represents the "best solution" to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and stressed he was serious about fighting climate change.

Bush said he told Nobel peace laureate and former vice president Al Gore that he takes the issue of greenhouse emissions "seriously" and that his administration was "developing a strategy that will deal with it."
This is an utter outrage, the sort that only this particularly unqualified president so frequently makes.

Nukes are if the not the worst source for power then lets say a smidge away from being the worst.

Where does one start when listing the reasons why nuclear power is so bad.

They pose intense health risks for all those living near them. They occasionally melt down and splatter nuclear particles over vast areas of continents. There is no decent way to manage the residue of the spent fuel. People are even concerned when the residue passes through their communities on the way to some dubious dumping ground. Nobody wants the dumping ground near them as the residue is radioactive for ages to come. Nobody wants one of these things in their community. The list is endless, nukes are a dinosaur, a mess.

What is this president thinking? Can only be one thing, its going to transfer wealth from the middle classes to a few of the rich.

Least of the Worst


Giuliani plummets in NBC/Journal poll
Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani has fallen 13 points since November and is now tied with Mitt Romney nationally in the race for the Republican presidential nomination, according to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released on Wednesday.
They say work for the best but prepare for the worst.
With this in mind, we might want to consider that we may very well have a new Republican president in 2009. Think about it. Voting machines that are easy to reprogram, a spineless Democratic party that is about as timid as a three legged lamb and ready to crumble at the lightest pressure, and a very pro Republican big business media - all these things add up to the possibility of another voting scandal that would bring in the next unelected president. They've done it before and they want to do it again.

The two scariest Republicans right now in my opinion are Huckabee and Giuliani. The others are scary as well, but these two are the scariest. The fall from democracy would continue at its present unabated pace with either of these two.

Huckabee is the X-tian, no separation of state and church candidate. When its all supposed to be X-tian, then everybody else is out of step.
"When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross." - Sinclair Lewis
Giuliani is the pro neoconservative, security, and war candidate. With neocons as his foreign policy advisors, Giuliani is all about axis of evil, World War IV, and a lock down surveillance society.
...Giuliani has enthusiastically endorsed virtually every one of the most controversial Bush/Cheney assertions of presidential power. He wants to keep Guantanamo open and mocks concerns over the use of torture, even derisively comparing sleep deprivation to the strain of his own campaign. He not only defends Bush’s warrantless surveillance, but does not recognize the legitimacy of any concerns relating to unchecked government power. source
Considering that Bush is arguably the worst president in US history, you would assume that the country would not be looking at a new Republican president. Alas, the country is as well informed as a throw rug. Many would be just as happy to see a Bush clone. In America one plus one equals any number you want.

Religion Meets Torture


From the Washington Post Hard-liners for Jesus
As Christians across the world prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus, it's a fitting moment to contemplate the mountain of moral, and mortal, hypocrisy that is our Christianized Republican Party.

...if Bush can conform his advocacy of preemptive war with Jesus's Sermon on the Mount admonition to turn the other cheek, he's a more creative theologian than we have given him credit for. Likewise his support of torture, which he highlighted again this month when he threatened to veto House-passed legislation that would explicitly ban waterboarding.

It's not just Bush whose catechism is a merry mix of torture and piety. Virtually the entire Republican House delegation opposed the ban on waterboarding.
It is a fair question. How do you square torture with religion? Since you think torture is fine, then what is it that makes you different from your hated enemy, the Islamofascists? Apparently these guys think there is a civil and moral form of torture.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Cover and Uncover


White House denies misleading in CIA video feud
Hayden said the recordings, made in 2002, were destroyed to protect the identities of CIA agents, but the news outraged lawmakers and human rights groups who charge that the agency may be covering up possible torture.
Recapping

CIA tapes that may (let's get real here) show agents torturing suspects are destroyed.

More graphic evidence of torture (recall Abu Ghraib) would not be desirable for the present administration.

The head of the CIA is claiming that the tapes were destroyed to protect the identities of agents.

Valerie Plame was outed by the administration because she was married to Joe Wilson.

Wilson embarrassed the Bush administration by showing that their claims that Iraq had a nuclear weapons program were utterly false.

CIA tortures = protect the identity of agents and destroy the evidence.

Bush lies = out the identity of an agent and blame it on Libby then pardon Libby.

Pilger on Iraq

John Pilger's November 2007 article on Iraq, which I found at Z Magazine, lists and categorizes the destruction of Iraq on several levels, all as a result of shock and awe. The figures and numbers are startling and the depth of this tragedy becomes clearer.

No Remembrance, No Remorse For The Fallen Of Iraq
...Opinion Research Business, has extrapolated a figure of 1.2 million deaths in Iraq. Thus, the scale of death caused by the British and US governments may well have surpassed that of the Rwanda genocide, making it the biggest single act of mass murder of the late 20th century and the 21st century.

A petroleum "law" will allow, in effect, foreign oil companies to approve their own contracts over Iraq's vast energy resources. This will complete the greatest theft since Hitler stripped his European conquests.

In July, Oxfam reported that 43 per cent of Iraqis were living in "absolute poverty". Under the occupation, malnutrition rates among children have spiralled to 28 per cent. A secret Defence Intelligence Agency document, "Iraq Water Treatment Vulnerabilities", reveals that the civilian water supply was deliberately targeted.

The refugee crisis has now overtaken that of Darfur as the most catastrophic on earth. Half of Iraq's doctors have gone, along with engineers and teachers. The most literate society in the Middle East is being dismantled, piece by piece.

That sectarian violence is the product of a vicious divide-and-conquer policy is beyond doubt.

...the US repeatedly bombed Iraq from Diego Garcia, but at "Camp Justice", on the island, "al-Qaeda suspects" are "rendered" and "tortured", according to the Washington Post. Now the US Air Force is rushing to upgrade hangar facilities on the island so that stealth bombers can carry 14-tonne "bunker busting" bombs in an attack on Iran.

Cool and Clear


Listening to my local NPR station recently, I heard a water expert discuss some facts about water, its availability, usage, etc.

He said that we are currently using water worldwide at a rate that is four times greater than how it is being replenished. Yes, that can't continue without some serious attention.

Here are some web sights and a few facts on drinking water.

UN Highlights World Water Crisis
Despite the fact that 75 percent of the Earth's surface is covered by water, only 2.5 percent of it is fresh water, and three-quarters of that is locked up in glaciers and permanent snow cover. Only 0.3 percent of the water is surface water, found in rivers and lakes. The rest is buried deep in the ground.
Water Facts
Less than 1% of the world's fresh water (or about 0.007% of all water on earth) is readily accessible for direct human use.

The average American individual uses 100 to 176 gallons of water at home each day. The average African family uses about 5 gallons of water each day.

At any given time, half of the world’s hospital beds are occupied by patients suffering from a water-related disease.
Water questions and answers
Q: How important is ground water?

A: Ground water, which is in aquifers below the surface of the Earth, is one of the Nation's most important natural resources. Ground water is the source of about 37 percent of the water that county and city water departments supply to households and businesses (public supply). It provides drinking water for more than 90 percent of the rural population who do not get their water delivered to them from a county/city water department or private water company. Even some major cities, such as San Antonio, Texas, rely solely on ground water for all their needs. About 42 percent of the water used for irrigation comes from ground water. Withdrawals of ground water are expected to rise as the population increases and available sites for surface reservoirs become more limited.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Kathy Griffin

Afghanistan

Here is what Bush said about Afghanistan back in February 2007:
"...the Taliban have been driven from power, al Qaeda has been driven from its camps, and Afghanistan is free. That's why I say we have made remarkable progress. Afghanistan has a democratically-elected President, named Hamid Karzai. I respect him. I appreciate his courage. Afghanistan has a National Assembly chosen by the Afghan people in free elections." Source
Appearing recently in the NY Times is this article which portrays the situation in Afghanistan as somewhat bleak and deteriorating:
...the effort in Afghanistan has begun to drift, at best, officials said.

“Now we have significant issues with certain areas producing opium and the Taliban coming back in certain parts of the country, as well.”

“I have a real concern that given our preoccupation in Iraq, we’ve not devoted sufficient troops and funding to Afghanistan to ensure success in that mission,” Mr. Skelton said. “Afghanistan has been the forgotten war.”
Source
This is all polite language for "falling apart" or "going to hell in a hand basket."

Recapping, in Afghanistan there is the re-arising of the Taliban, a loss of control by American and coalition forces, and the re-arising of the opium business.

Where is the great success and freedom the Mr. Bush has been proclaiming over the past several years? Its not in Afghanistan.

Impeach Cheney 2


I am reposting this from a few days ago because the petition is gaining momentum.

Sign the petition: Congressman Wexler calls for Cheney impeachment hearings

After you sign it, send the address out on your e-mail list.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Homelessness in Australia, Canada, and USA

The BBC article below on homelessness in Australia is very recent. I was curious to get some numbers about homelessness in Canada and the USA and compare them all.

I reviewed several articles with numbers on the homeless in the USA and they are not all consistent.

The article on the homeless in America is from the Wall Street Journal and my suspicion is that the numbers are light. Why would a newspaper that is pro-Bush put out numbers that would make the administration appear bad especially in light of Katrina and a less than booming economy.

Still it is informative to compare the countries. If the numbers are perhaps even an average on the homeless, then homelessness in Canada is staggering when placed in proportion to the numbers in the USA and the USA has nothing to brag about either.


Hard life for Australia's homeless
Charities estimate there are more than 100,000 homeless people in Australia with indigenous people the hardest hit.

This transient population includes families with small children and divorced women as well as those suffering addiction and mental illness.
Australia's population is 21,161,000.

Homelessness 'chronic' in Canada: study
Canada's homeless population is somewhere between 200,000 and 300,000 people, while another 1.7 million residents struggle with "housing affordability issues," says an analysis of the latest research on shelter.
Canada's population is 33,128,000.

Homeless in America
Usually male and enduring some impairment—mental illness, drug or alcohol addiction, disease—those who've lived on the streets for more than a year ("the chronics") make up about 10% of the two million or so Americans regarded as homeless.
Population of the USA is 302,000,000.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Call for President Bush

From the NYT: Wider Spying Fuels Aid Plan for Telecom Industry
“What he saw,” said Bruce Afran, a New Jersey lawyer representing the plaintiffs along with Carl Mayer, “was decisive evidence that within two weeks of taking office, the Bush administration was planning a comprehensive effort of spying on Americans’ phone usage.”

Basra


From the Guardian Unlimited: UK has left behind murder and chaos, says Basra police chief
The full scale of the chaos left behind by British forces in Basra was revealed yesterday as the city's police chief described a province in the grip of well-armed militias strong enough to overpower security forces and brutal enough to behead women considered not sufficiently Islamic.

As British forces finally handed over security in Basra province, marking the end of 4½ years of control in southern Iraq, Major General Jalil Khalaf, the new police commander, said the occupation had left him with a situation close to mayhem. "They left me militia, they left me gangsters, and they left me all the troubles in the world,"...
Hey wait a minute! This doesn't conform to all the good news coming out of Iraq - you know, stability, peace, democracy, increased oil production.

Not to worry, the Guardian Unlimited is a British paper. This news will never make it past page 45 of the local paper.

Iraq to Iran

When you read articles like this over time, there is the assumed understanding that where there is smoke there is fire. You take the information with a grain of salt and in the era of the Bush administration one means ten or one hundred.

From the Seattle Times: U.S. boosts presence along Iranian border
Located four miles from the Iranian border near the Iraqi town of Badrah, Patrol Base Shocker has been home to 240 soldiers and contractors, including 55 U.S. troops, a handful of Department of Homeland Security officers and a contingent of soldiers from the Eastern European nation of Georgia since the base became operational in mid-November.

Containing Iran "is now clearly part of our mission," Lynch said in an interview during a tour of the base. "Our mission here [in Iraq] is threefold: It's Sunni extremists, Shiite extremists and Iranian influence."

Om on the Range


The light is almost at its least. Pretty soon the days start getting longer little by little.

This poem by William Carlos Williams is not a particularly happy poem, but it is a beautiful and tender poem. It has a spiritual quality and it is a provocative poem in the sense that it provokes contemplation, if you want it.
'These'

are the desolate, dark weeks
when nature in its barrenness
equals the stupidity of man.

The year plunges into night
and the heart plunges
lower than night

to an empty, windswept place
without sun, stars or moon
but a peculiar light as of thought

that spins a dark fire-
whirling upon itself until,
in the cold, it kindles

to make a man aware of nothing
that he knows, not loneliness
itself-Not a ghost but

would be embraced-emptiness,
despair-(They
whine and whistle) among

the flashes and booms of war;
houses of whose rooms
the cold is greater than can be thought,

the people gone that we loved,
the beds lying empty, the couches
damp, the chairs unused-

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Who is in Charge

From the AP wires: Israel: US report on Iran may spark war
"The American misconception concerning Iran's nuclear weapons is liable to lead to a regional Yom Kippur where Israel will be among the countries that are threatened,"..."Something went wrong in the American blueprint for analyzing the severity of the Iranian nuclear threat."

Israel will work to change the American intelligence agencies' view of Iran, said Dichter, a former chief of Israel's Shin Bet secret service agency.
The neoconservatives, the right wing Republican hawks, and the right wing Israeli hawks, all coming out in overt contempt for the recent N.I.E. which states that Iran stopped its nuclear weapons program in 2003.

There is no surprise here. What is unique in this article is the allegation that the report will spark a war. The keyword is report.

This is similar to the George W. Bush allegation that merely having the knowledge to make a nuclear weapon is cause enough to go to war. The keyword here is the knowledge alone.

Had these world leaders somehow managed to become doctors, one would enter the hospital with a fever and as a precautionary measure leave with numerous organ transplants.

Crunch

Excellent article from Z Net on the state of the economy. Weisbrot gets at the sub prime mortgage issue in straightforward terms. Recommended for the economic systems challenged:

Housing Crash Still Weighs on the Economy by Mark Weisbrot
House prices year-over-year are only down about five percent from their peak in July 2006. That is bad - the worst since the Great Depression -- but most likely just a first installment on what's to come, given the unprecedented price explosion of the last decade. The price declines will further constrain consumer spending, which accounts for about 70 percent of the economy. Remember that this current economic recovery, now six years old, has been driven primarily by consumers borrowing on the rising value of their homes, and spending this cash. The big increase in residential construction, as well as the real estate and related sectors, also kicked in. All of these factors - plus the credit crunch - are now working in reverse.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Blink 182

"All the Small Things"

Good pop, self deprecating values, who can resist....
(BTW Blink is no more. Internal disagreement split the group. They have become +44 and Angels & Airwaves.)

Help

From the BBC: US Senate passes Iraq funds bill
The US Senate has authorised more spending for the Iraq war, without tying the bill to a timetable for troop withdrawal - a key Democratic demand.

Impeach Cheney

No Means Yes


From the BBC: US House limits CIA interrogation
The US House of Representatives has approved a bill that would ban the CIA from using harsh interrogation techniques such as simulated drowning.

The measure would require intelligence agencies to follow the rules adopted by the US Army, which forbid such methods, and to abide by the Geneva Conventions.

President George Bush has threatened to veto the bill if the Senate passes it.
Certainly the last line is the most disturbing.

We have heard Bush on numerous occasions deny that the US tortures anybody. For example:
"I can say that any interrogations have been legal and that they have been fully briefed to the United States Congress," said White House spokeswoman Dana Perino.

"I am saying that the United States does not torture."
source
Then why would Bush need to veto a new decisive law to ban its usage?

It is unfortunate that the US has to endure another 13 months of this.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Summation


Reading the news becomes more interesting when you place stories side by side and create a wider context. Most articles lack context. So you can read about a particular event or news item and it appears isolated and not connected to any other story.

These two articles appeared on the same day within hours of each other. Is there a connection...

Gore: US Blocking Climate Talks Progress
Nobel laureate Al Gore accused the United States on Thursday of blocking progress at the U.N. climate conference, and European nations threatened to boycott U.S.-led climate talks next month unless Washington compromises on emissions reductions.

My own country, the United States, is principally responsible for obstructing progress here in Bali," said Gore, who flew to Bali from Oslo, Norway, where he received the Nobel Peace Prize for helping alert the world to the danger of climate change.
Is there a connection to the next article.

Senate Republicans Block Energy Bill
Senate Republicans blocked a broad energy bill Thursday because it included billions of dollars in new taxes on the biggest oil companies.

Democratic leaders fell one vote short, 59-40, in getting the 60 votes needed to overcome a GOP filibuster. Democrats said they would strip the taxes from the legislation to move the bill forward.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Senator Kit Bond: Waterboarding = Swimming

The Republican Senator from Missouri equates waterboarding to swimming. We hear he also equates the firing squad to making popcorn.

The Pope on Global Warning


The Pope condemns the climate change prophets of doom
The leader of more than a billion Roman Catholics suggested that fears over man-made emissions melting the ice caps and causing a wave of unprecedented disasters were nothing more than scare-mongering.

...it was vital that the international community based its policies on science rather than the dogma of the environmentalist movement.
In my opinion divinity trumps science and dogma. The Pope also said:
...to further the cause of world peace it was sensible for nations to "choose the path of dialogue rather than the path of unilateral decisions" in how to cooperate responsibly on conserving the planet...
Slap on the wrist for you know who.

Oily Stuff


The majority of Americans are more concerned with the state of the economy than the war in Iraq, or so we are told.

Of course there is a link between wars and economies but that large understanding is elusive and overly complex for many.

A war with Iran will cause even more economic deterioration for the general Amerian population excepting the wealthy and war profiteering classes of which Bush and company are staunch members. With this in mind, why is opposition to a war with Iran not at a feverish and frantic rate. This gets back to point number two - "Of course there is a link between wars and economies but that large understanding is elusive and overly complex for many."

From the BBC: Oil price raises US trade deficit
Rising prices for imported oil meant that the US trade deficit widened by more than expected in October.

Oil prices hitting $95 a barrel at the end of October were enough to offset the effect of the weaker dollar, which makes US exports more competitive.
A weak dollar, rising oil prices, increasing trade deficit, failing mortgage industry, a continuing drain of America's resources into Iraq, yet President Bush and Vice President Cheney believe that the situation is ripe for war with Iran.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

In 5 Years

From the AP: Ominous Arctic Melt Worries Experts
Greenland's ice sheet melted nearly 19 billion tons more than the previous high mark, and the volume of Arctic sea ice at summer's end was half what it was just four years earlier...

...the Arctic Ocean could be nearly ice-free at the end of summer by 2012...

Conyers Again


Conyers, Poe Request Justice Department Info on Halliburton Rape Cover-Up
Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers and Rep. Ted Poe sent a letter today to the Justice Department requesting information on the status of a Department inquiry into the alleged rape of a 22-year-old female Halliburton/KBR employee in Baghdad.
Recent events are so disturbing that that they require time to sort through. This is a particularly troubling allegation and if true, throws even more darkness on the entire Iraq tragedy.

On the positive side, Conyers seems to gravitate towards the most difficult situations and in this light appears as an outstanding Congressman.

Too Much Violence

OK I am just not digging all this violence on the part of the middle and high school kids.

Having been on the crap end of it personally, having gotten mugged and beat up last month by a gang of teens, this stuff is sticking out a little too prominently into the otherwise mess that our culture, check that, society is.

From the BBC: US students hurt in bus shooting
Two students were critically injured and four others hurt when they came under fire as they left a school bus in Las Vegas, US police say.

The six were all either middle or high school students and were shot just before 1400 (2200 GMT), the Associated Press news agency reports.
Going on out a limb here, but I'm thinking families are missing in action and whoever is raising these kids is also m.i.a.

War


A few articles and resources on how the 'war on terrorism' is proceeding.

From April 15, 2005: Bush Administration Eliminating 19-year-old International Terrorism Report
The State Department decided to stop publishing an annual report on international terrorism after the government's top terrorism center concluded that there were more terrorist attacks in 2004 than in any year since 1985, the first year the publication covered.

From CNN April 30, 2007: Report: Global terrorism up more than 25 percent
Iraq's sectarian warfare fueled a sharp increase in global terrorism in 2006, the U.S. State Department reported Monday.

The total number of terrorist attacks was up more than 25 percent from the previous year, according to the State Department's annual report on global terrorism.

A government funded resource: Patterns of Global Terrorism

From December 11, 2007: Dozens killed in Algeria bombings
At least 62 people have died in two bomb blasts in the Algerian capital, Algiers, officials have said.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Bush? Gingrich? Libby? Wolfowitz?

Rapid acceleration in human evolution described
Human evolution has been moving at breakneck speed in the past several thousand years, far from plodding along as some scientists had thought, researchers said on Monday.
It must be that the highly evolved also have an distinct aversion to political service.

The Darkest Side of Halliburton

Dick Cheney is the former CEO of Halliburton. Halliburton receives billions in no bid contracts from Bush and Cheney. Halliburton is now based in tax free U.A.E. where it is not required to pay taxes back into America. Now they bring you -

Victim: Gang-Rape Cover-Up by U.S., Halliburton/KBR
A Houston, Texas woman says she was gang-raped by Halliburton/KBR coworkers in Baghdad, and the company and the U.S. government are covering up the incident.

Note Sense


US orchestra to make N Korea trip
New York's Philharmonic Orchestra is to make a historic trip to North Korea in February, it has announced.

It will play in the capital, Pyongyang, on 26 February, said orchestra president Zarin Mehta - who added a formal announcement is due on Tuesday
Kudos, this is the type of diplomacy that in the long run is actually worthwhile and valuable.

A performance of this nature brings people closer together. In that atmosphere, ideas can be communicated and communication itself can occur without the force of war or threats.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Refreshing the Call to War

Some who are still calling for war with Iran.

From the Gulf News: Iran 'duped' CIA over nuclear programme
British spy chiefs have grave doubts that Iran has mothballed its nuclear weapons programme, as a US intelligence report claimed last week, and believe the CIA has been hookwinked by Tehran, The Sunday Telegraph can reveal.

But British intelligence is concerned that
US spy chiefs were so determined to avoid giving President George Bush a reason to go to war that they got it wrong this time.
We see the echoing of the same sentiments of the neoconservatives Bolton and Podhoretz last week.

Pohoretz wrote in June of 2007 -
...The same thing is true of Iran. As the currently main center of the Islamofascist ideology against which we have been fighting since 9/11, and as (according to the State Department’s latest annual report on the subject) the main sponsor of the terrorism that is Islamofascism’s weapon of choice, Iran too is a front in World War IV. Moreover, its effort to build a nuclear arsenal makes it the potentially most dangerous one of all. source
Here is US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates speaking on December 8, 2007 -
"There can be little doubt that their destabilising foreign policies are a threat to the interests of the United States, to the interests of every country in the Middle East, and to the interests of all countries within the range of the ballistic missiles Iran is developing," Gates said in his keynote address to the participants at The Manama Dialogue.

...Iran could resume its nuclear weapons programme "at a whim or a moment's notice" despite a new intelligence finding that Tehran halted a secret programme in 2003.
source
It will be interesting to see what if any effect the recent N.I.E. on Iran will have on the content and rhetoric heard from the right in the media in the upcoming weeks. There is already a renewed call for war. Attacking the credibility and motives of the N.I.E. writers is the present action among the pro war people.

Not On Tape

From the NYT: Inquiry Begins Into Destruction of Tapes
The Justice Department and the Central Intelligence Agency’s internal watchdog on Saturday began a joint preliminary inquiry into the spy agency’s destruction of hundreds of hours of videotapes showing interrogations of top operatives of Al Qaeda.

Officials have acknowledged that the destruction of evidence like videotaped interrogations could raise questions about whether the C.I.A. was seeking to hide evidence of coercion...
If you are an upstanding patriotic American working for an intelligence outfit like the C.I.A., then why would you want to have tapes of your interrogations destroyed?

Are you not an upstanding patriotic American? Did you do something that you fear could harm yourself or others? Did you decide to take a matter that is outside of the realm of your power and make an illegal decision? Were you coerced by a higher up to take that action?

Generosity Gene


From the BBC: Generosity 'may be in the genes'
The gene AVPR1a plays a key role in allowing a hormone called arginine vasopressin to act on brain cells.

Vasopressin, in turn, has been implicated in social bonding.

The researchers found greater altruism in players in which a key section of the gene, called its promoter, was longer.

The promoter is the region that determines how active a gene is. In this case a longer promoter makes the gene more active.
I would be curious to know if there is someone that never performed a generous act in their lifetime, not even once.

Even a compliment could be an expression of generosity, waiting an instant so you don't hit someone with your car.

Its something to think about.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Olbermann on Bush

I must admit I was somewhat surprised to see this level of intense criticism of Bush in the MSM. If you have not seen this clip, take a look and judge for yourself.

Disappointment Indeed

From the 'Jerusalem Post' - 'US report ended attack option on Iran'
Time reported that Israel's leaders were surprised and disappointed by the American report, understanding that it considerably lessened the likelihood of an American strike on Iran, an action Israel hoped the US would take if sanctions failed to stop the Iranian nuclear program.
The news revolves around the recently released N.I.E. that states Iran ended it nuclear weapons program in 2003.

Israeli Leaders are disappointed that a war with Iran with America at the helm is not imminent.

We need to question the presence of a basic sanity prevailing in the world when the reality that there is no need for an imminent war brings disappointment.

When a basic human sanity is present, the notion of war is revolting.

Steele On Iraq

The surge is a sideshow. Only total US pullout can succeed
(concerning the return of refugees) When I talked to families in a muddy bus station on the outskirts of Damascus last week as they set off home, I found only Shias. "Of course Sunnis are afraid to go. The buses are provided by the Shia-led Iraqi government and Iraqi police will check them at the border," an Iraqi Sunni told me later....

(concerning less attacks) ...As I was told by a senior resistance spokesman in Damascus, many nationalist groups have reduced their attacks in western Baghdad and parts of Anbar province while regrouping and retraining.

(regarding hostility towards Americans) ...While criticising al-Qaida's attacks on civilians, every Anbar respondent supported attacks on US forces: 70% wanted them to leave immediately, a higher figure than in a March poll before the "surge".

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Stockhausen Dies


German composer Stockhausen dies
German composer Karlheinz Stockhausen has died at the age of 79.

He also appeared on the cover of The Beatles' Sergeant Pepper album - with Paul McCartney one of his numerous fans in the world of rock and pop.

Musicians such as Miles Davis, Frank Zappa and Bjork have cited him as an influence
.
If you studied music in the university, at some point you studied Stockhausen.

El Despertar

Oct 17 Statement

From the White House website.
Q But you definitively believe Iran wants to build a nuclear weapon?

THE PRESIDENT: I think so long -- until they suspend and/or make it clear that they -- that their statements aren't real, yeah, I believe they want to have the capacity, the knowledge, in order to make a nuclear weapon. And I know it's in the world's interest to prevent them from doing so. I believe that the Iranian -- if Iran had a nuclear weapon, it would be a dangerous threat to world peace.

But this -- we got a leader in Iran who has announced that he wants to destroy Israel. So I've told people that if you're interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing them from have the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon...
Parsing the President's statement:

"I think so long -- until they suspend and/or make it clear that they -- that their statements aren't real, yeah,..."
- Certainly a section where the President is talking but the meaning is less than precise. Initially he says yes to the direct question followed immediately by a softening of that answer. He is trying to properly temper his statement based on his knowledge of the N.I.E. and the adjustment is not clear. The part about 'that their statements aren't real' is especially tricky. What 'statements' is he referring to.

"..., yeah, I believe they want to have the capacity, the knowledge, in order to make a nuclear weapon." - There is a big difference between having the capacity to do something, and having the knowledge to do something. Knowledge is an aspect of capacity but capacity requires more than knowledge. It requires physical material. So initially he says capacity then refrains and calls it knowledge. The knowledge to make a nuclear weapon is available to almost anyone who wants to find it. As I have mentioned, the plans for a nuclear bomb were published in a late 1970's issue of 'Progressive Magazine'. So the knowledge is practically universally available. To imagine that the academic community in every country does not have this knowledge is fantasy. This aspect of the statement implies fear, but a fear based on a universal knowledge. This is impractical.

"And I know it's in the world's interest to prevent them from doing so. I believe that the Iranian -- if Iran had a nuclear weapon, it would be a dangerous threat to world peace." - The consensus is that President Bush made this statement with complete knowledge of the most recent N.I.E. stating that Iran suspended its nuclear bomb ambitions in 2003. In this light he is making an accusation fully aware that there is no present danger. He tries to mollify the fear implied in his statement with the word 'if.'

"But this -- we got a leader in Iran who has announced that he wants to destroy Israel. So I've told people that if you're interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing them from have the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon..." - Here the President reiterates the knowledge point. The Iranians already have the knowledge to make nuclear weapon. This would be standard information at any academic setting. The notion that knowledge alone can somehow be removed or eliminated is impractical and fantastic excepting annihilation.

Juan Cole on the 'Surge'

You might have trouble with this link.

Why Bush's troop surge won't save Iraq

The link may take you to a Salon commercial, if it does, click on enter Salon.
What the recent publicity about the "success" of the troop surge has ignored is this: The Bush administration has downplayed the collapsing political situation in Iraq by directing the public's attention to fluctuating numbers of civilians killed. While there have been some relative gains in security recently, even there the picture remains dubious. The Iraqi ministry of health, long known for cooking the books, says that a few hundred Iraqis were killed in political violence in November. However, independent observers such as Iraq Body Count cite a much higher number -- some 1,100 civilians killed in Iraq in November. They reported that bombings and assassinations accounted for 63 persons on Saturday, the first day of December, alone.

Indeed, the "good news" of a lull in violence is relative at best. In fact, Iraq's overall death rate makes it among the worst civil conflicts in the world...

Not Worth the Cost

Bush loses ground with military families
A majority disapprove of the president's handling of the war in Iraq and are more in line with the views of the general public.

Nearly six out of every 10 military families disapprove of Bush's job performance and the way he has run the war, rating him only slightly better than the general population does.

And among those families with soldiers, sailors and Marines who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan, 60% say that the war in Iraq was not worth the cost, the same result as all adults surveyed.
There is no need to comment on the content and substance of this article and the results of the research.

It is important to simply recall that we allegedly live in a democracy. In our form of democracy, allegedly, the majority wins.

Anyone who makes references to democracy and simultaneously does not adhere to the rule of majority wins, destroys democracy.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Matching Rhetoric with History


Romney vows to defend all faiths
But Mr Romney also criticised those who called for the removal from public life of "any acknowledgement of (a Christian) God".
Romney goes before the nation and gives a speech intended to make himself appear as upstanding and square with religion (Christianity).

He's saying I'm religious, my religion is like your religion (Christian), I'm at peace with it, you can count on me to not attempt to outlaw your religion or persecute you because of your religious affiliation or exclude you from governmental faith based initiatives.

Simultaneously he also alludes to God (capital G) with the presumption that religions that embrace God form the entirety of spirituality (Christianity), which it does not. This is also understood to be the norm in American politics and society from the point of view of main stream media news culture.

Is there any other religious community (Christians) that cares about any of this? In this light, who is Romney directing his speech to.
"If I am fortunate to become your president, I will serve no one religion, no one group, no one cause, and no one interest," he said.
Romney is stating that after he is elected he will be a non partisan president. Certainly a first from the point of view of the last 55 years, my perspective on the matter.

Romney supported the 'surge' in troops for Iraq. source

Can one be non partisan and yet advance the escalation of a war unpopular with the majority of the country. The corporate interests in maintaining a war with Iraq are high.

Romney is anti-abortion source

Romney will be non partisan ("no one group, no one cause, and no one interest") and yet ultimately wants to remove Roe versus Wade.

Absinthe


Legendary Liquor (Absinthe) Coming To Bay Area Store Shelves
An Alameda distillery has been given the green light by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau to sell its version of absinthe...

The drink has been banned for nearly a century because of its 120-proof potency, and fears about its herbal ingredients.

Vincent Van Gough reportedly sliced off his ear while drinking it, and legend has it, the drink turned normal people into homicidal maniacs.
At 120 proof, a teaspoonful of Absinthe will lay me out. (Although the newest incarnation is 60 proof) But will I try it? Oh hell yes.

Painting is Degas' 'The Absinthe Drinker'

BWV 1006

There something exquisitely noble as in the enduring nobility of mankind, in the music of Bach.

Its been an intense couple of days with the underlying disappointment once again on maximum display regarding the nature and intent of the Presidential administration and all its supporters. Without blinking an eyelash, they pull out the same deceptive tricks in order to go to war. I need a respite! I bet you do as well. We're not going to let them push us into a war again. Give Bush, Cheney, Bolton, and Giuliani guns and let them go fight it out themselves.

Bach, J.S. Partita No. 3 in E, BWV 1006

Thursday, December 06, 2007

UN Priority


UN Chief Says Climate His Top Priority
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Wednesday his No. 1 priority is persuading the world—and most problematically, its biggest polluter, the United States—to agree to new controls on global- warming gases before the end of 2009.

Ban did not hesitate when asked to name the biggest obstacle to a new treaty.

"U.S. absence has been the most serious one, in fact," he said.
It is admirable to see that the concern about climate change as a result of global warming is such a high priority with the Secretary-General of the U.N.

Simultaneously it is distressing to see that the USA consistently lags way behind on this issue.

Innovation in the face of a great challenge at one time was a paramount characteristic of America. That innovation is now dormant and the overall picture is handicapped by a government that has little to no regard for green energy creation.

Credibility?


Dems seeking answers about report on Iran
Congressional Democrats are capitalizing on the latest intelligence estimate on Iran’s nuclear weapons development to question President Bush’s credibility amid an angry stalemate with the White House over funding government operations and the war in Iraq.
The key word is credibility. We are not aware that there is a Bush credibilty issue.

You have to actually do credible things to be known as having credibility.

Photo: "liar, liar, pants on fire"

Bush, NIE, IAEA

President Bush has responded to the N.I.E. report that states Iran had discontinued its nuclear weapons plans in 2003: Bush urges Tehran to come clean
US President George W Bush has said that Iran should reveal the full extent of its nuclear programme, or risk further international isolation.

"They can come clean with the international community about the scope of their nuclear activities, and fully accept the longstanding offer to suspend their enrichment programme and come to the table and negotiate.
Bush gives the same rhetoric that has characterized his pre N.I.E. statements.

The reporting on the N.I.E. itself, has been pretty universal and relatively straight froward: NIE Report: Iran Halted Nuclear Weapons Program Years Ago
In a stunning reversal of Bush administration conventional wisdom, a new assessment by U.S. intelligence agencies concludes Iran shelved its nuclear weapons program over four years ago.

"We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program," reads a declassified version of the National Intelligence Estimate key findings.
You can find information from the IAEA - International Atomic Energy Agency - right at the UN website: UN News Service
Iran has been very cooperative according to Mohamed El Baradei, the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency. Mr. El Baradei says much of what the Iranians have said about their nuclear program matches IAEA investigations. However, the IAEA chief urged Iran to cooperate further.

Personal Decision

An interesting development for Mexico.

From the BBC: Mexico terminally ill law passed
Mexico City lawmakers have approved a measure to allow terminally ill patients to refuse treatment.

The local assembly voted unanimously in favour of the bill enabling patients living in the city to suspend treatment if it only prolongs life.

Family members of terminally ill people who are paralysed but can express themselves can also sign the order if two witnesses are present.
There are laws that cover everyone in a complete blanket way.

There are laws that concern only people within smaller groupings like cities and towns as opposed to the entire country.

Then there are laws that allow people to make significant decisions within the context and confines of themselves and/or their families. The right to an abortion is also that type of law. No one is forced to undertake the procedure. At best careful decision making and understanding go into the process.

It would appear that this Mexican law is of the latter personal type. Death is like that. The state does not need to legislate how one chooses to pass away particularly when it surrounds or includes life support.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Walter Cronkite on Iraq


Our Troops Must Leave Iraq by Walter Cronkite and David Krieger
The Bush administration has attempted to forestall ending the war by putting in more troops, but more troops will not solve the problem. We have lost the hearts and minds of most of the Iraqi people, and victory no longer seems to be even a remote possibility. It is time to end our occupation of Iraq, and bring our troops home.

Audacity without Limit

Follow the trail -
1. Podhoretz is a founding father of the neoconservatives.
2. Podhoretz is big on war in Iraq
3. Podhoretz is big on war with Iran.
4. Podhoretz is on Bush's short list of the highly regarded.
5. Podhoretz is the foreign policy advisor to Rudy Giuliani.
6. The new N.I.E. states that Iran stopped its development of a nuclear weapon in 2003.
7. The new N.I.E. takes the wind out of the sails of the Bush/Cheney bellicose intentions with Iran.
8. Now what happens?
9. Podhoretz claims that the new N.I.E. is an attack on Bush by a cabal in the CIA!!!!!
10. Help!

Dark Suspicions about the NIE by Norman Podhoretz
But I entertain an even darker suspicion. It is that the intelligence community, which has for some years now been leaking material calculated to undermine George W. Bush, is doing it again. This time the purpose is to head off the possibility that the President may order air strikes on the Iranian nuclear installations...
In the face of definitive evidence, the neocons respond with audacity, conflict, misdirection, and contempt for anything other than their own ideological beliefs. Does this sound familiar? Is there any president in recent history that might also take this same stance.

Suspicion alone is clearly enough of a reason to go to war. We are not talking about a tug of war, we are talking about thousands and thousands of deaths and strife beyond belief. Call it what it is, unconscionable hubris.

One more thing - what exactly were those leaks that were calculated to undermine George W. Bush? Don't tell me that its Iraq had no WMD? That's not a leak. That's the way it is and was.

Bush on the N.I.E.

From CNN: Bush: Nuke-less Iran remains dangerous
"Iran was dangerous, Iran is dangerous and Iran will be dangerous if they have the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon," Bush said, pointing out that Tehran continues to try to enrich uranium for civilian purposes and therefore develop technology that could be used for a weapon.
Assuming President Bush is correct, there is one aspect of this statement that is outstanding.

"...if they have the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon."

The question that very simply comes to mind is - How do you remove the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon?

Does this mean that the scientists, engineers, universities, students, books, and all manner of people and things that contain information and knowledge on how to build a nuclear weapon, must be eliminated? How do you go about erasing knowledge from the scientific community?

Also how do you prevent knowledge from returning to the scientific community of any country for that matter, if in fact all knowledge has previously been removed.

Can we assume that 10, 50, 100, or 1,000 years from now that the knowledge to build a nuclear weapon can somehow be contained and kept from certain parts of the world?

Recall that back in the late 70s, Progressive magazine actually published the plans for how to build a nuke. That was 30 years ago, and the information was available to anyone including non scientists.

It occurs that one way to contain nuclear weapon development is through a vastly cooperative diplomatic and enduring positive process. I suspect that isolationism, threats, and impending war talk won't do the trick over the long haul.

No doubt you can bomb a country's nuclear facilities, but then what happens. Do you go about having a regular bombing maintenance program to remove suspicious buildings every 5 years or so?

A little help here, we're just not making much sense of the statement.

There is however one unfortunate interpretation. That would be the creation of an excuse, a 'reason to bomb' as it were.

Gitmo Treatment


A Washington Post article on the recently leaked memo/manual on how to treat Gitmo Detainees.

Now Online, a Guide to Detainee Treatment
The manual discusses the facility's "behavior management plan" for the first two weeks after a detainee's arrival, when he has no access to the International Committee of the Red Cross or a chaplain: "The purpose of the Behavior Management Plan is to enhance and exploit the disorientation and disorganization felt by a newly arrived detainee in the interrogation process," the manual says. "It concentrates on isolating the detainee and fostering dependence of the detainee on his interrogator."
Changes in Guantanamo Bay SOP manual (2003-2004) (The memo/manual itself)

Its hard to read this stuff, but its necessary. This is what we have.

Artwork by Banksy