Monday, December 31, 2007
I'm not going to attempt a "year in review", but instead look at a few of the years "events" that will haunt the new year.
Iraq, the mess that keeps on messing, is still with us. While the right wing is ending the year crowing "Iraq is getting better", the question is "better than what?". Saddam was hung, and there was a lot more crowing. And bombing. And shooting. 2.5 million people have been displaced, and roughly a million killed. True, car bombings dropped to an average of around 10 a day, compared to an average of 30 a day earlier in the year, but "less deadly" is still deadly. And more American troops died in Iraq in 2007 than in any previous year. Shrub's cheerleaders started the year with the mantra "Iraq is worse, so we must stay" and ended the year with "Iraq is better, so we must stay". My profound prediction for 2008: a lot of people are going to die in Iraq for no good reason.
Another feature of 2007 was the mass marketing of the new threat, Iran. "Iran is getting nukes", "Iran is behind the violence in Iraq", and "Iran's president wants to destroy Israel" were all parts of the media narrative. Never mind the facts, just know that Iran is really, really bad. By the end of the year, we learned that Iran has no nuke program. Iran's involvement in Iraq is fairly complex, but the reality is they're next door neighbors, the Prime Minister of Iraq has close ties with Iran, and the Iranians really want a stable Iraq on their border. But you'll never hear that from the American media. Most Americans don't have a clue about life in Iran. A few months ago, when the "Iranian threat" rhetoric was at its highest, I was in a discussion with some folks about Iran. None knew what language was spoken in Iran. All were amazed that there was the internet in Iran. One person told me "they all live in tents in the desert" and "their all primitives". He was truly amazed when I showed him pictures of Tehran and a wide variety of Iranian web sites. Most Americans would be surprised to learn that there are Christians and Jews in the Iranian parliament (and my Christmas Eve post of Christmas in Iran blew a few right wing minds). On a positive note, the rhetoric on Iran has toned down as the year comes to an end. For 2008, I don't think that America will attack Iran. This isn't because shrub and the Cheney don't want to, but because both Russia and China have quietly offered to aid Iran, and America can't afford to cross Russia and China.
2007 saw the return from hiatus of Osama bin Laden, and his tapes continue to be international hits (to shrubs credibility). Conspiracy theories abound, but the simple fact that he still exists proves that shrubs "war on terror" is a lie. He's winning his war.
On a related note, Afghanistan is still a disaster and Pakistan is deteriorating into chaos. In Afghanistan, our man Hamid Karzai is barely the mayor of Kabul while the rest of the country is under the control of warlords and opium cartels. America failed to learn the lessons from the Soviet occupation, and without a major change of plan will continue to slowly bleed away. Far more troubling for the long term is the chaos in Pakistan. The big news was the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, a courageous but flawed women who America hoped would be our savior. But Pakistan has been a powder keg awaiting a spark. When Pervez Musharraf cracked down on judges and lawyers, the fuse was lit. Pakistan is a complex country, with an industrial based middle class, lawless mountain regions controlled by warlords, a Taliban Islamic fundamentalist faction, and real, live nuclear weapons. The military and the ISI may currently be under Musharraf's tentative control, but that could change in a heartbeat. Because Pakistan is an "ally in the war on terror", we've given them billions of dollars in military aid, which they promptly pointed at India. Oh, and they may have Osama (I'm not 100% convinced; there are reasons to suspect he may have moved to Tajikistan). No prediction here, but watch Pakistan closely; this could end up the worst failure of shrub's international fiasco's.
On the domestic front, 2007 will be the year where the American economy became untenable. The news focused on the sub-prime mortgage debacle, but the roots of the problem are much deeper. Years of deficit spending by the government and the populace have been propped up by falsely inflating the value of the dollar beyond its intrinsic worth. Throw in rising oil prices and corrupt corporate practices, a lack of investment in infrastructure, and an increased dependence on foreign investment, and a lot of very big chickens are coming home to roost. Prediction: we're in for a very bad year. The only question is how bad.
2007 also began with the new hope of a Democratic led congress. That hope faded quickly, as a combination of Republican obstructionism and Democratic capitulation resulted in a continuation of "business as usual". While a few positive steps were attempted, not much was accomplished.
But in my mind, one bad thing in 2007 eclipsed them all. In 2007, America tacitly embraced torture. Shrub destroyed our international moral standing in one move. For the first time in my lifetime, America no longer strived to be "the shining beacon on the hill". While it's true that "American exceptianalism" was more of an ideal than a reality (we're far from perfect), every prior administration could exercise the moral authority to stand up to atrocities in the world. By admitting that America will engage in torture, shrub has debased everything that America used to stand for. I'm not sure that I can find the words to express my outrage, but it breaks my heart every time I think "we used to be better than this. We tried to be the good guys". I will never forgive shrub for destroying the American ideal.
Well, that's a depressing end of the year note. I'll try to make my next post more positive, with hope for the New Year.
Added: I wrote this before I read todays New York Times. Lead editorial:
"There are too many moments these days when we cannot recognize our country."
The New York Times lead editorial today echoes what millions of Americans must be
feeling as this awful year comes to a close. It was a year of self recognition, when Americans finally realized America can no longer pretend to be a moral beacon. It is a sickening discovery.
I guess I'm not the only one.
Sunday, December 30, 2007
I think they're wrong.
This election cycle has a very different dynamic that the traditional blowhards appear to be ignoring: the schedule.
In previous election cycles, the primaries and caucuses stretch out over months, and early momentum was the deciding factor. But the schedule has changed, with 20 primaries on February 5th. This creates a very different dynamic, where any lead from Iowa or New Hampshire can be overcome (this is true for both parties). The "main" candidates merely need to survive the early states with a semblence of credibility to focus on the larger states of their choice on "mega-super-Tuesday", where the nominations are truly at stake. Money will certainly be a factor, but the application choices of that money could be a deciding factor. The candidates who do the best job of targeting their strong states could end up in the lead.
I'm not going to attempt to predict who the new dynamic favors, but I'm tired of the beltway pundits trying to declare the winner after the first inning (or quarter, depending on your choice of sports metaphor). Looking at all the polls, what stands out to me is not who leads which poll, but that in each party no candidate has a clear lead. Which means that a majority of voters in each party will be making a second choice as the field narrows. That is where it will get interesting. The delegate split after Feb. 5th will either reveal a clear nominee for each party, or if it's still close a scramble during the later primaries.
As I said, I'm not going to predict who this favors. But I will predict that the vast majority of beltway pundits will be proven wrong. Not that they'll admit it.
With less than a week to go before the Iowa caucuses, 61% of likely voters agreed with the statement, “If one more stupid pollster asks me one more retarded question I swear I will go postal on his ass, I am not kidding.”
Saturday, December 29, 2007
Since I left my lucrative career as an opera singer and part-time porn star, I've been busy as a foreign policy consultant to Dick Cheney, and we've achieved some amazingly positive results in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iraq. I hope to feature my latest symphony on "American Idol", but my mistress, Condaleeza, thinks it would be better to perform it at our church (Westboro Baptist) first.
Oh, and I refuse to "tag" anybody; but feel free to act like a Republican candidate if you want to.
The holy grail of renewable energy came a step closer yesterday as thousands of mass-produced wafer-thin solar cells printed on aluminium film rolled off a production line in California, heralding what British scientists called "a revolution" in generating electricity.
The solar panels produced by a Silicon Valley start-up company, Nanosolar, are radically different from the kind that European consumers are increasingly buying to generate power from their own roofs. Printed like a newspaper directly on to aluminium foil, they are flexible, light and, if you believe the company, expected to make it as cheap to produce electricity from sunlight as from coal.
Yesterday Nanosolar said its order books were full until mid-2009 and that a second factory would soon open in Germany where demand for solar power has rocketed. Britain was unlikely to benefit from the technology for some years because other countries paid better money for renewable electricity, it added.
One of my complaints about the most recent energy bill was that it didn't include any funding for solar or wind power, while spending billions on coal, oil, and ethanol from corn. While I'm glad to see a company like this, we need a much larger scale program to actually meet America's energy needs and address global warming.
Still, it's a start.
Friday, December 28, 2007
I found myself in a discussion about "why there are so many problems" in the Middle East and southwest Asia. So I pointed to maps:
Notice where the Kurdish lands cross with the European drawn maps. This is where the problem starts.
But with the new emphasis on Pakistan, I thought this map was the best example:
When you are asked "why are there so many problems?" you can look at the maps.
CRAWFORD, Texas (Reuters) - President George W. Bush intends to veto defense legislation after Iraq objected to a provision that could freeze its assets in the United States if Americans sue the country, the White House said on Friday.
Iraqi officials raised their concerns with U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker about 10 days ago and when administration officials took a closer look at the provision they agreed that it could pose "grave financial risk" for Iraq, tying up assets needed for reconstruction, the White House said.
Iraq also discussed with the United States the possibility of pulling its assets, about $20 billion to $30 billion, out of U.S. institutions if the defense policy bill became law, a senior administration official said on condition of anonymity.
Congressional Democratic leaders House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the administration should have raised its objections earlier.
"It is unfortunate that the president will not sign this critical legislation," they said in a statement. "Instead, we understand that the president is bowing to the demands of the Iraqi government, which is threatening to withdraw billions of dollars invested in U.S. banks if this bill is signed."
The White House said it became more acutely aware of the potential consequences for Iraq and its relations with the United States after Baghdad raised its concerns.
WTF? Does this mean that Iraq can now tell shrub what to do? Can they tell us to leave Iraq? (please). The bill included a pay raise for troops, so maybe shrub was just looking for an excuse:
The broad defense policy bill also authorizes a pay raise for U.S. troops, expands the size of the Army and sets conditions on the Bush administration's plan to build a missile defense system in Europe.
Either way, this is one of the strangest political moves I've ever seen.
Added: Pelosi and Reid respond:
“Despite the Administration’s earlier support for the Department of Defense authorization bill, it appears that President Bush plans to veto this legislation, which is crucial to our armed forces and their families.
“The Defense bill passed both houses of Congress by overwhelming bipartisan margins and addresses urgent national security priorities, including a 3.5 percent pay raise for our troops and Wounded Warriors legislation to remedy our veterans’ health care system. It is unfortunate that the President will not sign this critical legislation.
“Instead, we understand that the President is bowing to the demands of the Iraqi government, which is threatening to withdraw billions of dollars invested in U.S. banks if this bill is signed.
Will they ever learn? If shrub is given a choice between our troops or rich cronies, he always sticks with the cronies.
We're seeing a major spike in traffic, thanks to monkeyfister, so I thought I'd give all you new visitors a nice picture to look at. Rafting the lower Grand Canyon this past spring. Thank you all for stopping by, and please feel free to hang out as long as you like.
Wow! monkeyfister has chosen this blog for "this year's Golden Monkeyfist Award", more specifically "The Amber Brew (with excellent head) Award". Here's what the award is for:
These awards are given to recognize smaller, unsung bloggers who are giving there all to stop the lies of the Right Wing Machine-- thus the graphic of the fist choking the Flying "Morans!" Monkey in mid-flight. These people are DOING IT-- Locally, on a small scale, within their communities, no budget, and one-on-one. And they are succeeding. This is my way of recognizing them, and their efforts. For every awarded person, I am sure that there are thousands more yet unsung. To them I can only say that I hope your time will come. Let me know of you.
I am truly flattered. Just take a look at some of the other winners: Mahablog, WTF Is It Now?, The Newshoggers, , Pax Americana, Down With Tyranny, Whiskey Fire, and Blue Girl, Red State among others. That is some very heady company.
I must express my gratitude to monkeyfister, who was one of the first to comment here, I think the first to link to us, and is a constant source of inspiration, encouragement, and support. He's one of the best friends that I haven't met yet.
When I began this blog back in January, I joked that I was seeking "fame, fortune, and awards." Well, this is our second award (along with a "thinking blogger"), so now I just need the "fame" and "fortune" (OK, I'll take "fortune" first. "Fame" is harder to spend).
Now for the best part of the award: I get to nominate three small blogs for the "Au Peer" award, and I need your help. There are a whole bunch of you who I think deserve the honor, so I would like your opinion/help to narrow it down to only three. Please give me your input in the comments, and thanks.
Thursday, December 27, 2007
Russia is to supply Iran with a new and lethal anti-aircraft system capable of shooting down American or Israeli fighter jets in the event of any strike on Iran's nuclear facilities.
Iran yesterday confirmed that Russia had agreed to deliver the S-300 air defence system, a move that is likely to irk the Bush administration and gives further proof of Russia and Iran's deepening strategic partnership.
The S-300 had a range far superior to that of the US Patriot system, experts said. It could also shoot down cruise and ballistic missiles, they added.
"It's a formidable system. It really gives a new dimension to Iran's anti-aircraft defences," said one Russian defence expert, who declined to be named.
"It's purely a defensive system. But it's very effective. It's much better than the US system. It has good radar. It can shoot down low-flying cruise missiles, though with some difficulty."
The sale follows Russian president Vladimir Putin's visit to Iran in October to attend a meeting of Caspian Sea nations, the first trip by a Russian head of state to Tehran since Stalin attended a 1943 summit with Churchill and Roosevelt.
Putin has made clear his opposition to the US hardline stance on Iran, and has defended Iran's right to pursue a peaceful nuclear programme.
This will make the Cheney's plan for precision air strikes a lot more difficult. Every time I've posted about a possible attack on Iran, I've expressed my hope that the wiser heads would be able to prevent it. Now the Russians have put up a very large roadblock. The top military brass has been opposed to attacking Iran, and will be much more reluctant to attack in the face of upgraded air defense. Maybe, just maybe, the Cheney can be stopped.
As news of her death spread, angry supporters took to the streets in the northwestern city of Peshawar as well other areas, chanting slogans against Musharraf. In Rawalpindi, Bhutto's supporters burned election posters from the ruling party and attacked police, who fled the scene.
In Karachi, shop owners quickly closed their businesses as supporters from Bhutto's party burned tires on the roads.
Nawaz Sharif, another former premier and opposition leader, arrived at the
hospital and sat silently next to Bhutto's body.
"Benazir Bhutto was also my sister, and I will be with you to take the revenge for
her death," he said. "Don't feel alone. I am with you. We will take the revenge on the rulers."
Pakistan's ISI has its tentacles in a lot of places, including ties to Al-Qaeda. Nawaz Sharif was targeted earlier in the day. And while there may be no parallel, my paranoid side is remembering the assassination of Ahmed Shah Massoud two days before 9/11. I've got a really bad feeling about whatever follows this assassination.
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
No new enforcement mechanisms for congressional ethics;
Ted Stevens still sitting on Senate Appropriations;
Senate Ethics Committee looking into Sen. Craig, but not Sen. Vitter;
Millions of missing White House emails still unaccounted for;
Rep. Murtha’s abuse of the earmarking process remains unchecked;
Lurita Doan remains chief of GSA despite illegal conduct;
White House covering up its role in the firings of the U.S. Attorneys;
No Child Left Behind funds directed to Bush fundraisers who provide inadequate reading materials for kids;
Court decision regarding search of Jefferson’s office limits ability of DOJ to investigate other corrupt lawmakers; and
FEMA knowingly let Katrina victims live in hazardous trailers
I'm not sure that I agree with all of the list, but it's a good start.
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.
With the bang of a gavel, Democratic Senator Jim Webb declared the first session open on Sunday morning before closing it seconds later, without any of his colleagues present in the hall.
Good for them. As aggravating as the senate can be, at least they're stopping one travesty.
Investigators trying to determine how a tiger escaped its zoo enclosure on Christmas Day — killing one man and mauling two others — plan a thorough sweep of the zoo grounds Wednesday to look for clues.
Authorities do not believe more people were attacked, but they want to inspect the area in the daylight. Zoo officials are still uncertain how long the tiger, which last year badly mauled a zookeeper, was loose before being shot dead.
The three men who were attacked Tuesday while visiting the zoo were in their 20s, police spokesman Steve Mannina said. The attack occurred just after the 5 p.m. closing time, on the east end of the 125-acre grounds.
Growing up in San Francisco, we often went to the zoo on Christmas. The thought of any of the animals getting loose never crossed our minds.
I find this story tragic both for the people and for the tiger. Even as a child, I was troubled about the very concept of "zoos." It upset me to see such noble animals in cages. Now, the big question is how did this Tiger get loose?
The approximately 300-pound female did not leave through an open door, Jenkins said. But he could not explain how it escaped — the tiger's enclosure is surrounded by a 15-foot-wide moat and 20-foot-high walls.
"There was no way out through the door," Jenkins said. "The animal appears to have climbed or otherwise leapt out of the enclosure."
Something smells fishy. I find it unlikely that the Tiger was able to climb out of the enclosure, or she would have done it before now. But somehow she got loose, leading to a tragic end for both man and beast.
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
Monday, December 24, 2007
A beautiful gallery of photos of Christmas in Iran is here:
We can also deduce from such things as Christmas trees being sold on Tehran sidewalks and big Merry Christmas signs hanging in Tehran stores that while American aggression in Iraq may have had the tragic "blowback" effect of driving out 90% of all Christians who once lived there, Muslim tolerance towards Christians is still alive and well in Iran.
Yes, there are christians celebrating Christmas in Iran. If you are spending the holidays with any "bomb Iran" wingnut relatives, you may want to show them this.
Added: found via Libby at http://cernigsnewshog.blogspot.com/
Deck us all with Boston Charlie,
Walla Walla, Wash., an' Kalamazoo!
Nora's freezin' on the trolley,
Swaller dollar cauliflower alley-garoo!
Don't we know archaic barrel,
Lullaby Lilla boy, Louisville Lou?
Trolley Molly don't love Harold,
Boola boola Pensacoola hullabaloo!
Bark us all bow-wows of folly,
Polly wolly cracker n' too-da-loo!
Hunky Dory's pop is lolly gaggin' on the wagon,
Willy, folly go through!
Donkey Bonny brays a carol,
Antelope Cantaloup, 'lope with you!
Chollie's collie barks at Barrow,
Harum scarum five alarum bung-a-loo!
Walt Kelly was a genius. I can only wonder what he would satirize today.
Sunday, December 23, 2007
Hope you and yours are enjoying the seasons bounty. Be sure to give out an extra hug for no specific reason. It's one of the nice extras that come with the Christmas season.
Saturday, December 22, 2007
Last night, a friend and I were talking about the mess that is the media's political coverage. One of the narratives that we both hated is "the candidate you'd most like to have a beer with" paradigm, but I thought I had the best answer. If asked, the candidate I would most like to have a beer with?
He's mormon, and mormons don't drink, so I get both beers.
Friday, December 21, 2007
My campaign is generating tremendous grass roots support from concerned citizens across the country. With wage earners and laborers digging into their pockets to donate $15-$50 during tough economic times and a holiday season. The fact is, the people need a voice in Congress. My goal is to be that voice. My only agenda is to do what is best for the Country and the District. My agenda, however, does not appear to be in line with the plans of Democratic party insiders who have "anointed" an "insider" candidate for the seat. The "anointed" candidate was a state legislator who apparently "paid her dues to the Party." I invite readers to review this former state legislator's record and compare it to my accomplishments as a private attorney. She quit mid-term to run for Congress. She has yet to provide any substantive positions on important issues -- her people are "working on her policy statements." I have clear positions posted on my website. If there is an issue not addressed call or email me and I will address it.
Even without substance, however, the Party's heir apparent has raised approximately $400,000. My goal is not to bad mouth or demean my opponent. Indeed, she appears to be very pleasant. I do, however, question the very fundamentals of our Party and our processes. These times call for candidates with vision, as well as the ability and willingness to oppose the status quo. Yet we elect good fund raisers, not leaders. We complain when our elected officials pander to deep pockets. Both the Republican and the Democratic parties understand this lapse in our collective sanity and take full advantage of it to promote their own. Whether out of some misguided sense of loyalty or simply political sinecure, make no mistake, they do have "their own."
We are mired in an unjust war of our own making with no concerted effort to
implement an exit strategy. As a nation, we are borrowing money from Saudi Arabia so we can buy oil from, for example, Saudi Arabia. We are faced with a national health care crises -- we don't have coverage. Our population is aging without adequate savings at the same time we have floundering Social Security and Medicare systems. Our government is rife with corruption -- already infamous for selling off essential government functions on a no bid contract basis. We do not have adequate infrastructure or services in place to meet the needs of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Our elected officials continue to talk about global warming as if it is a political issue, rather than a scientific fact. We even have a viable Presidential candidate who rejects the theory of evolution. The list goes on. The system is broken. We need people to fix it, not to be part of it.
The question is, "Do the political insiders have a strangle hold on power?" The answer is, "Only if we let them." The problems facing our country are too important to hand off to political machines whose wheels are greased by cronyism. We need leaders with vision and the ability to stand up for what is right in the face of overwhelming odds. That is what I have to offer. Help me bring democracy back to the Democratic party. If you have read all the way through this message -- Thank you. I invite you to Google me, "Howard Shanker". Even better, check out my website at www.Shanker2008.com . Please contact me with your suggestions and thoughts. I have a proven track record of standing up against the federal government and big corporate interests to protect communities, families, the environment, and the freedoms we all hold dear. Help me give the people a voice that doesn't march in
lock step with party politics as usual. I hope you all have a good holiday season.
I have made no secret of my support of Howard, as I see him as a refreshingly honest candidate who will represent the people, has honest principles, and expresses strong, intelligent positions on the most important issues. I'm looking forward to some serious grassroots campaigning in the coming year.
Long before there was a Christmas, humans celebrated the winter solstice. Agrarian people were in touch with, and controlled by, the natural cycles of the earth. For those in the Northern hemisphere, the longest night and shortest day of the year meant that Winter had achieved its depth and now began the slow wait for spring. Across cultures, festivals were common to celebrate the returning light. The best food and drink, stored from the fall harvest, were brought out to share with family and friends as the tribes saw the light begin to defeat the darkness.
Sometime in the 4th century, Christians began to celebrate the birth of Christ at this time (even though most biblical scholars agree that Christ was actually born in the spring) as an opposition to the Roman feast of Saturnalia (which looks like it was a hell of a lot of fun. I could get into that kind of partying). Not to disparage Christmas, but the urge to celebrate the winter solstice is an instinctive part of the cycle of life on this planet. We are of this earth, and, thanks to a tilted axis, subject to its seasons.
The Winter Solstice is unique among days of the year — the time of the longest night and the shortest day. The dark triumphs but only briefly. For the Solstice is also a turning point. From now on (until the Summer Solstice, at any rate), the nights grow shorter and the days grow longer, the dark wanes and the Sun waxes in power. From the dark womb of the night, the light is born.
Many of the customs associated with the Winter Solstice (and therefore with other midwinter festivals such as St Lucy’s Day, Saturnalia, Hanukkah, New Years and Twelfth Night) derive from stories of a mighty battle between the dark and the light, which is won, naturally, by the light. Other traditions record this as the time a savior (the Sun-Child) is born to a virgin mother.
Happy Winter Solstice to you all. Let's celebrate the coming of the light.
Thursday, December 20, 2007
The Lakota Indians, the tribe of legendary warriors Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse, have declared their independence from the United States Wednesday.
The Lakota Indians, who gave the world legendary warriors Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse, have withdrawn from treaties with the United States, leaders said Wednesday.
"We are no longer citizens of the United States of America and all those who live in the five-state area that encompasses our country are free to join us," long-time Indian rights activist Russell Means told a handful of reporters and a delegation from the Bolivian embassy, gathered in a church in a run-down neighborhood of Washington for a news conference.
A delegation of Lakota leaders delivered a message to the State Department on Monday, announcing they were unilaterally withdrawing from treaties they signed with the federal government of the United States, some of them more than 150 years old.
They also visited the Bolivian, Chilean, South African and Venezuelan embassies, and will continue on their diplomatic mission and take it overseas in the coming weeks and months, they told the news conference.
Lakota country includes parts of the states of Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana and Wyoming.
The new country would issue its own passports and driving licences, and living there would be tax-free -- provided residents renounce their US citizenship, Means said.
The treaties signed with the United States are merely "worthless words on worthless paper," the Lakota freedom activists say on their website.
The treaties have been "repeatedly violated in order to steal our culture, our land and our ability to maintain our way of life," the reborn freedom movement says.
One duck moved into place in September, when the United Nations adopted a non-binding declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples -- despite opposition from the United States, which said it clashed with its own laws.
"We have 33 treaties with the United States that they have not lived by. They continue to take our land, our water, our children," Phyllis Young, who helped organize the first international conference on indigenous rights in Geneva in 1977, told the news conference.
The US "annexation" of native American land has resulted in once proud tribes such as the Lakota becoming mere "facsimiles of white people," said Means.
Oppression at the hands of the US government has taken its toll on the Lakota, whose men have one of the shortest life expectancies -- less than 44 years -- in the world.
I wonder if they will be recognized by the UN (or the American Media), but I'm willing to bet Hugo Chavez will recognize them. Any other predictions?
Update: Means does not appear to have the authority within the Lakota tribe to make such a declaration official, so he may just be blowing smoke for publicity.
Uhm, I remember my teenage years.
I remember how much we thought about sex, and sometimes actually achieved sex. At least we had been taught about birth control, not that it guaranteed that we would use it. So, some teenage girls got pregnant, leading to marriage, abortion, adoption, or young motherhood. Society survived. The same was true for my parents generation, my grand-parents generation, and, I suspect my great-grandparents generation (my great-grandmother got married at 15, and gave birth to my grandfather 5 months later).
Over at PoliTits, Dcup has written a great piece about talking about sex with her children. It's quite funny, but also incredibly wise. In a sane society, this would be how teen sex is addressed.
The decision immediately provoked a heated debate over its scientific basis and whether political pressure was applied by the automobile industry to help it escape the proposed California regulations. Officials from the states and numerous environmental groups vowed to sue to overturn the edict.
This really is just a stalling game, as the states will most likely, based on precedent, win in the federal courts.
The 17 states — including New York, New Jersey and Connecticut — had waited two years for the Bush administration to issue a ruling on an application to set stricter air quality standards than those adopted by the federal government. The decision, technically known as a Clean Air Act waiver, was the first time California was refused permission to impose its own pollution rules; the federal government had previously granted the state more than 50 waivers.
The emissions standards California proposed in 2004 — but never approved by the federal government — would have forced automakers to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent in new cars and light trucks by 2016, with the cutbacks to begin in 2009 models.
The California attorney general, Edmund G. Brown Jr., called the decision “absurd.” He said the decision ignored a long history of waivers granted California to deal with its special topographical, climate and transportation circumstances, which require tougher air quality standards than those set nationally.
Mr. Brown noted that federal courts in California and Vermont upheld the California standards this year against challenges by the auto industry.
Way back when 'ol Dick Nixon created the "Environmental Protection Agency", he was actually thinking about the "environment." It was among the few good things Nixon ever did. But St. Ronnie and shrub have turned it into the "Corporate Protection Agency." The states are going to win this one after a long court battle, but the corporations will gain time to continue profiting off of pollution. Why do the right thing for the planet when there is money to be made?
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
WASHINGTON—The Republican Senate minority today filibustered an omnibus budget bill, setting a modern-day record for blocking the most legislation during a congressional session. A new report released today by the Campaign for America's Future details the 62 times conservatives have used the filibuster to block legislation (or force modification of bills) in the first session of the 110th Congress. In just the first year of this two-year Congress, their use of the filibuster in the Senate topped the previous record, reached during the entire 107th Congress.
The new report outlines every bill filibustered, vetoed or threatened to be vetoed by President Bush. Conservatives filibustered bills to end the occupation of Iraq, provide soldiers in Iraq rest time equal to their deployments, support renewable energy and grant residents of the District of Columbia representation in Congress. Today's record-breaker involved a $516 billion budget package passed by the House to fund the federal government in 2008. The conservative minority demanded $20 billion additional funding for the war and opposed House language to bring troops home, and threatened a filibuster to prevent the bill from getting an up or down vote.
"In just one session, a minority in Congress has prevented a mind-blowing 62 pieces of legislation from going to the floor for an up or down vote," said Campaign for America's Future co-director Roger Hickey. "Our report shows how over and over again, the uncompromising minority has thwarted the will of majorities in Congress and of the American people, holding the Senate floor hostage to a radical right-wing agenda."
Even pieces of legislation that have made it past the Senate filibuster blockade have been obstructed by President Bush. Last week the President vetoed for the second time a popular bill that would expand health coverage for 10 million American children. According to the Campaign for America's Future report, Bush has threatened to veto 84 bills and has vetoed six as of December 17. In contrast, during the period when the Republicans were in the congressional majority, Bush went the longest time without vetoing a bill since President Arthur Garfield.
Eric Lotke, Campaign for America's Future research director and lead author of the new report, calls the obstruction a "deliberate strategy." He observes that the congressional Republicans block legislation, then blame the Democrats for getting nothing done. "It's like mugging the postman and then complaining that the mail isn't delivered on time."
And they still have another year of this session to expand on that record. We'll see many more episodes where shrub stamps his feet and demands that congress give him everything he wants, and the loyal thugs will filibuster any useful legislation. When democrats attempt to do the "peoples business", they will be blocked and then blamed. Then the media will tell us "congress isn't getting anything done."
The GOP (Gross Obstructionist Perverts) in action.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The House on Tuesday approved an energy bill to increase the fuel efficiency of U.S. cars and trucks for the first time since 1975, boost production of renewable motor fuels like ethanol and cut energy use in light bulbs and appliances.
The Senate approved the same bill last week and President Bush will sign the measure into law Wednesday, the White House said.
To win the backing of Bush and many Republican lawmakers, Democratic congressional leaders had to drop from the bill provisions that would have imposed about $13 billion in taxes on big oil and gas companies and required utilities to generate 15 percent of their electricity from renewable energy sources like wind and solar power.
With global warming and high oil prices ahead, this feeble effort is disappointing at best. The country desperately needs more wind and solar power, and alternative fuels that are not made from foodstocks. This bill fails to address either.
So all the congress-critters and shrub will smile, pat each other on the back, and congratulate each other for having done "something" about energy. Even though the "something" is only slightly better than "nothing."
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
I haven't posted any weird critters lately (except the Coconut Crab), so here's a giant rat from Indonesia:
JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) -- Researchers in a remote jungle in Indonesia have discovered a giant rat and a tiny possum that are apparently new to science, underscoring the stunning biodiversity of the Southeast Asian nation, scientists said Monday.
Unearthing new species of mammals in the 21st century is considered very rare. The discoveries by a team of American and Indonesian scientists are being studied further to confirm their status.
The animals were found in the Foja mountains rainforest in eastern Papua province in a June expedition, said U.S.-based Conservation International, which organized the trip along with the Indonesian Institute of Science.
"The giant rat is about five times the size of a typical city rat," said Kristofer Helgen, a scientist with the Smithsonian Institution in Washington. "With no fear of humans, it apparently came into the camp several times during the trip."
Pretty cool for a rat.
We learned this week that the CIA destroyed tapes of American officials committing torture. The American people deserve to know whether laws were violated and whether the President was directly involved in illegal activities. Torture is a black and white moral issue. A failure to act decisively in this case will be an unacceptable failure of leadership.
Torture is un-American, it violates international law, and it is wrong. And when I am President, I will make sure that those who are responsible for torture are held accountable for their actions.
When I have secured the release of people held in captivity overseas, I have seen the fear in the eyes of captured men and women, and I have spoken with their scared families. To them, the Geneva Convention is not "quaint" or outdated; it is the bedrock institution guaranteeing that no one -- no matter how powerful -- is above the law.
And yet, in the thirteen months since winning back the House and Senate, Democrats in Congress have done too little to force this administration to stop torturing.
Perhaps one reason that Bush and Cheney have been so comfortable with torture is that they feel they will never be held accountable for their actions.
Indeed, despite consistently stating that they can't accomplish anything because they lack a filibuster-proof majority, Senate Democrats failed even to block an Attorney General who equivocated on torture.
They have taken no action on the International Criminal Court.
They have failed to appoint a Special Prosecutor to provide for high-level accountability.
They failed to restore habeas corpus.
They have done nothing to enforce the Constitution or any of our laws against torture.
This must change. If Congress won't act, then our next President must.
The next President must be clearly and unequivocally committed to changing our country's stand on torture, and that is exactly what I pledge to do. Strong leaders are not afraid to be held accountable, nor are they afraid to hold others accountable for acts that we all know are wrong.
As soon I am inaugurated, I will order investigations to find out who is responsible for torture -- those who allowed it, those who sanctioned it, and those who carried it out. We can and will find out who is responsible.
Richardson's chances of winning are extremely slim, but he's right on so many issues. With the media circus focusing on Clinton/Obama trivia, this statement by Richardson will not get the notice it deserves. But I, for one, will say "Bravo, Bill."
Monday, December 17, 2007
I felt old.
These days, I work in a catering business for to earn a livin. If you didn't know this- sorry to shock ya'll- only persons of fair-to-middling or extraordinary wealth can afford to call a caterer. So everything has to be presented extra goddamn mutherfuckin fancy. That's my job. Specially this time of year-"The Holidays"- when lawyers, doctors, museum fatcats and the like loosen their purse-strings a bit to throw catered parties.
The answer is no. Absolutely not, if you were wondering if maybe there is some pecuniary trickle-down avalanche of prosperity for me. But this isn't really the topic I want to discuss here.
It is that the millionaires always request more than they and their guests can consume. 90% of the time, I tell ya. And because it must be unseemly, during some event involving white linen tablecloths and a crystal goblet containing a splash of the finest gewurtztramener.(sorry I'm a beer-drinker) for one to say aloud-"May I have a doggy bag" for this whatever the fuck it may be, could be salmon flown in from Peru, consequently, barques of what we so steadfastly send out, return, sailing elegantly into soup-pots as it can.
I carved 4 turkeys this week, transmogrified 5 styrofoam cases-"baby coffins"- of salmon into steaks that went with cilantro-macadamia butter or some other OOVY GROOVY FOOFOO CRAP. Hmm, yep it's been a long week. Yesterday we sent out a veggie lasagne dinner with garlic bread and stuff . It was a 30-banger, we were told. 5 persons showed up.
But y'now, you know, I know, methinks, well over half this planet's population will never experience the variety and immensities of the food I work with everyday. Or its ghastly, ghastly wastefulness .
Say you had my job, m'kay, and all this perfectly sound food comes back. You might wonder how long the line at the mission is, just down the road, or maybe you have a friend, or friends you know are not eating so well. So you might be considered a conscious philanthropist if you take all this food home or whatever. But here is yer boss- ie- the fella who pays you to create too much bourgeoisie viddles- and he thinks he pays you well (dumbass) and you know he kinda wants to be your buddy kind of (which creeps you out a little) but he is actually a pretty decent (dumbass) guy. So, could you shovel leftovers into your backpack before his very gaze? Then he thinks yer not able to get by on what he pays you. Not to mention, being an employee in a commercial kitchen and slipping out the back with a pillowcase of grub is always everywhere considered nefarious at best.
So December in Affluent America is a lucrative time for the owners of catering businesses, when whose kitchen garbage cans it takes two grown men to lift.
Saturday, December 15, 2007
Woke up this morning and it was 8 degrees outside. Heat is a wonderful thing, and thanks to the wonders of modern appliances I don't have to build and huddle by a fire to stay warm. The snow from earlier this week isn't going away anytime soon.
The snow allowed our local ski resort open back on Thursday, and now the town is full of tourists from Phoenix with their SUV's. This is good for local business, and a constant annoyance to the local population. The flatlanders driving habits don't translate well to icy mountain roads.
This is the first time in the past few years that the ski resort has been able to open on time. We've been in a drought, so all precipitation is welcome. Even when it brings tourists with it.
I don't ski or snowboard anymore. My knee stopped me about 10 years ago. I like snow, but I have personal issues with ice. Ice can be nasty, vicious stuff. Snow is democratic, pretty, soft, and fluffy. Ice is republican, hard, cold, and constantly trying to throw you to the ground.
I think I'll just stay inside with my heater.
Friday, December 14, 2007
This is the view on my front porch tonight. I dedicate it to all my friends in California, Florida, Costa Rica, and the Caymen Islands (you know who you are). It's cold enough to raise Slobdivinian Iceworms here, but nobody wants to.
Time to hide in my nice warm cave.
The House yesterday voted to pass a bill that would prohibit the CIA and
other intelligence agencies, as well as the military, from using "waterboarding" and other torture techniques on anyone held in detention by our government. The bill would also require all detainees held in US custody to be treated in accordance with the Geneva Conventions, eliminating the hair splitting distinctions made by the Bush administration's legal team to justify ignoring our obligations under those treaties. The vote was 222 to 199 in favor (yes, that means some Democrats -- in this case numbering ten -- voted against an explicit ban on torture). Nonetheless, it's a empty gesture since, as anyone could have predicted, Bush has already stated he will veto the bill, known as the "Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008" (HR 2082) if it ever comes before him for his signature.
The bill now goes to the Senate where I predict that the provisions banning torture and requiring compliance with the Geneva Conventions will be stripped out or watered down, because I just don't think there are enough Senators, Democrats or Republicans, who will want to vote for a measure that will be portrayed as "coddling" terrorists. And should those provisions somehow be approved, President "I'm the Commander Codpiece in Chief" Bush will follow through on his veto threat.
The black eye from the destroyed torture tapes was bad, but it could have been healed by an aggressive investigation and a strong refutation of the use of "waterboarding" and any technique that is torture under international law.
Maybe I'm old fashioned, but I remember when America was better that this. It was very simple: torture is wrong, period. I remember times when an American president could stand up and condemn another country for human rights abuses, and the rest of the world listened with respect. Now, other countries will sneer at our condemnation as rank hypocrisy.
There is only one way to restore America's prestige, and that is to immediately impeach the president and vice-president. It's not likely to happen, which I find appalling. We have an administration that is saying "we torture. we will continue to torture. we will not follow international law or our own constitution." If that isn't grounds for impeachment, then what is?
Yeah, I know.
Added: President Jimmy Carter agrees with me:
"Our country for the first time in my life time has abandoned the basic
principle of human rights. We've said that the Geneva conventions do not apply to those people in Abu Ghraib prison and Guantánamo, and we've said we can torture prisoners and deprive them of an
accusation of a crime. But you can make your own definition of human rights and say we don't violate them, and you can make your own definition of torture and say we don't violate them." -- Jimmy Carter, caught telling the truth again, Link
I cannot believe that this is now a question.
Every now and then, your average celebrity - or, in the case of today's news, your average drug-enhanced baseball legend - just needs to disappear for a while. The "so-and-so entered rehab this morning" method has been particularly popular of late, counting among its proponents such figures as Mark Foley and Ted Haggard.
Time will tell if today's headline-makers will choose the same option.
Occasionally, though, a scandal is simply so big, so utterly interwoven into the primal fabric of a nation, so completely relevant to the daily lives of 300 million citizens, that none of the usual remedies will do. Surely, baseball players being caught on steroids in December of 2007 is such a case. And, in this instance, the only way to salvage a celebrity's career - and bring comfort into the hearts of all the nation's citizens - is to effect a complete and total media blackout.
Her suggestions for specific players:If none of these work, I would suggest that the accused players become advocates for alternative energy as a way to address global warming. The media will then completely ignore them.
Thursday, December 13, 2007
While I plan to go outside and watch some of it, tonight's forcast is for it to be 12 degrees. So I doubt that I'll stay out very long.
The Geminid Meteors are usually the most satisfying of all the annual showers, even surpassing the
famous Perseids of August.
Studies of past find the "Gems" have a reputation for being rich both in slow, bright, graceful meteors and fireballs as well as faint meteors, with relatively fewer objects of medium brightness.
Generally speaking, depending on your location, Gemini begins to come up above the east-northeast horizon right around the time evening twilight is coming to an end. So you might catch sight of a few early Geminids as soon as the sky gets dark.
There is a fair chance of perhaps catching sight of some "Earth-grazing" meteors. Earth grazers are long, bright shooting stars that streak overhead from a point near to even just below the horizon. Such meteors are so distinctive because they follow long paths nearly parallel to our atmosphere.
The Geminids begin to appear noticeably more numerous in the hours after 10 p.m. local time, because the shower's radiant is already fairly high in the eastern sky by then. The best views, however, come around 2 a.m., when their radiant point will be passing very nearly overhead.
Added: Went out, saw a few, got cold, went back inside. Yeah, I'm a bit of a wimp when it comes to cold.
Dec 13 (Reuters) - Some key points made in former Sen. George Mitchell's report on the use of performance-enhancing drugs in Major League Baseball, released on Thursday.
* There was widespread use of illegal steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs by Major League Baseball players for more than a decade, in violation of federal law and baseball policy.
* Players from all 30 teams were found to use drugs at some time in their careers.
* Baseball's response to drug use by its players was "slow to develop and initially ineffective."
* Report recommends a year-round, unannounced drug testing program that should be administered by an independent authority.
It's been clear to those of us who watch that this has been going on for a long time. In the past couple of decades players have grown and records have fallen at an unnatural pace. But now the truth is out.
Baseball has overcome scandals and strikes before, and I believe that baseball can overcome this, but a lot of work will need to be done to restore integrity.
added: The list of names in the report is here: http://sports.yahoo.com/mlb/news?slug=ys-mitchellnames121307&prov=yhoo&type=lgns
Richardson's campaign announced today that Luis Tiant, the portly pitcher with the whirling-dervish delivery, will be the guest of honor at a "Mi Familia Con Richardson" Posada Celebration in Manchester on Sunday evening.
"Governor Richardson has earned my respect," Tiant, known at "El Tiante" and for his stellar performance in the 1975 playoffs, said in a statement issued by the New Mexico governor's campaign. "Bill Richardson’s experience, vision and record of delivering in the clutch make him the best qualified candidate for president."Richardson said he was thrilled to have Tiant's support.
"For a guy who dreamed of becoming a professional baseball player as a kid, to have the active support of a real Red Sox legend like Luis Tiant is truly an honor," he said in the statement. "Luis and I share an affinity for Red Sox baseball and maybe the occasional cigar."
Any baseball fan old enough to remember the '75 series knows Tiant. While the Sox lost, Luis pitched with the heart of a lion. His whirling-dervish windup is indelibly imprinted on my memory, and he played with class and style that earned the respect he received. His endorsement should move Richardson up at least 2 points in the polls.
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
A magazine published by the American Bar Association on Wednesday named former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales its Lawyer of the Year for 2007 — mostly for creating so much controversial news.
Truly, truly bizarre. By that standard, Barry Bonds would be "sportsman of the year."
President Bush on Wednesday was ready to veto legislation that passed with bipartisan support to dramatically expand government-provided health insurance for children.
It would be Bush's seventh veto in seven years. Bush vetoed an earlier version of the health insurance program.
The bill passed the Democratic-controlled Senate by a veto-proof margin, but the same was not true in the House. Even after the bill was approved, negotiations continued on a compromise version.
A major point of contention with the White House was Bush's demand that nearly all poor children eligible for the program be found and enrolled before those in slightly higher-income families could be covered.
Bush also has opposed using an increased tobacco tax to fund the program expansion. The bill includes a 61-cent rise on a package of cigarettes.
The replacement measure was designed to meet Republican objections to the first bill. But it was little changed.
It would increase funding for the State Children's Health Insurance Program by $35 billion over five years, in order to add an estimated 4 million people to an existing program that provides insurance coverage for children from families who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but cannot afford private insurance. The joint federal-state program currently provides benefits to roughly 6 million people, mostly children.
Bush's veto in early October of a similar bill was narrowly upheld by the House.
Here's hoping that congress can find the spine to override, what with an election year ahead.