2006/03/31

Iraq - There's Got To Be A Better Reason

We've heard all the justifications: We're spreading liberty and democracy in the Middle East; We're there to keep America safe; Saddam was a murderous dictator who would have attacked the United States...eventually, etc., etc... And as the lies mount, everyone gets more jaded and Bush's poll numbers drop like a one of Cheney's duck-hunting buddies.

But I think that we can do better for our President. What's the real reason we're still in Iraq? Oil, military bases, Halliburton's stock price? Blognonymous wants to know. (And I always do these things on Friday's anyway.)

Kvatch's opinion? Read on...

"Poppy told me that if I finished what he started, he'd buy me a new company. I hope it's Chevron!"

DoJ Muscles More Than Search Engines

At first it looked like the DoJ was just going after records from the major search engines--Yahoo, Google, MSN, AOL, et al--but Information Week reports that actually the list was much more extensive. In all 34 companies had their records subpoenaed -
...companies subpoenaed by the Department of Justice includes: 711Net (Mayberry USA), American Family Online, AOL, AT&T, Authentium, BellSouth, Cablevision, Charter Communications, Comcast Cable Company, Computer Associates, ContentWatch, Cox Communications, EarthLink, Google, Internet4Families, LookSmart, McAfee, MSN, Qwest, RuleSpace, S4F (Advance Internet Management), SafeBrowse, SBC Communications, Secure Computing Corp., Security Software Systems, SoftForYou, Solid Oak Software, SurfControl, Symantec, Time Warner, Tucows (Mayberry USA), United Online, Verizon, and Yahoo.
Notice anything interesting about that list? Like the presence of many of the major firewall and security software vendors, such as McAfee, S4F, SafeBrowse, Secure Computing Corp., SurfControl, and Symantec.

These companies don't provide search or connectivity and consequently shouldn't have logs that the DoJ could use to bolster their COPA defense. But personal firewall software does monitor Internet traffic and sometimes provides browser privacy protection. Virus software does scan the contents of your files. So here's the conundrum: If your security software isn't tattling on you--reporting back to the "mothership", so to speak--why is the DoJ muscling the vendors? What do they hope to find?

Looks to me like the DoJ is interested in more than the "anonymized" surfing habits of people looking for kiddie porn on the Internet.

2006/03/30

Weak-ass Reform Gets The Big Thumbs Up in the Senate

A day after Jack Abramoff got 6 years, in what will no doubt be a series of sentences for the disgraced lobbyist, the Senate proved that it has little interest in serious lobbying reform. Though the legislation does include some reporting requirements--largely placing the spotlight on lobbyists rather than on members of Congress--the most stringent provision, curbing fundraising by lobbyists, was left out as was the creation of an independent Ethics Office.

But even more interesting than what was left out of the bill, was the broad margin by which this piece of subterfuge was passed. Only 8 Senators, 3 Democrats and 5 Republicans, voted no: Coburn (R-OK), DeMint (R-SC), Feingold (D-WI), Graham (R-SC), Inhofe (R-OK), Kerry (D-MA), McCain (R-AZ), Obama (D-IL).

Now it's on to the House, where an even weaker bill is already under discussion.

Weapons of Mass Unconventionality

In a March 27th article on newly released Iraqi documents that might contain evidence of al Qaeda links, the NY Times makes a subtle change in wording when referring to weapons of mass destruction. They say (emphasis added) -
American intelligence agencies and presidential commissions long ago concluded that Saddam Hussein had no unconventional weapons and no substantive ties to Al Qaeda before the 2003 invasion.
The term unconventional weapon is not uncommon, especially in the last three years, but it usually refers to novel uses of explosives and unusual delivery systems.

Nuclear weapons can hardly be considered unconventional. They've been around for 60 years; Almost a dozen countries, with more to come, can be considered nuclear-armed states; The US alone has over 12,000 deployed warheads (down from a high of over 30,000). Likewise, to hear the administration tell it, countries the world over are cranking out biological and chemical agents--there again, hardly unconventional.

So what's with this semantic shift? Is the Times just getting sloppy? Is the administration using new language--rhetorically softening us up for a broader definition the circumstances necessary for a preemptive US strike?

Launching stinky wheels of Brie from a catapult might be considered "unconventional". Weapons of mass destruction...no so much. I'd say something "unconventional" is going on here...

Thanks to Graeme Anfinson at HNDBUITB for the inspiration and for his excellent analysis of how the right are using these same documents to bolster arguments and connections that the administration currently disavows.

2006/03/29

BART Melts Down!

I'm a little late reading all of your thoughtful comments due to the fact that Bay Area Rapid Transit MELTED DOWN this evening! Yes indeed, at 5:27 PM a supposed computer glitch halted every single train in the BART system for over 90 minutes. At one point the situation looked so dire that BART operators started manually moving trains into the closest stations to offload passengers who where then told to seek alternate means of transportation.

But your author, having long ago eschewed fishy gills in favor of amphibian lungs, decided to cool his heels over in Oakland for a few hours rather than attempt to swim back to San Francisco. However, I'd venture that this was no glitch. A system as critical as BART must have "hot" backups for all of their computers, and if they don't their administrators should be fired.

Nope, methinks something else was going on.

(Obligatory California, Oakland, San Francisco, San Jose keywords to try and get leftyblogs filter to trip and include this post. sigh...)

Preparing for the Midterms, Democrats Resort To...Understatement?

From the Washington Post -
Democratic leaders in Congress are gathering the ammunition to win back the House and Senate this year. They have crafted an upbeat, patriotic (and also somewhat vapid) slogan: "America Can Do Better." And they are beginning to roll out the pieces of a low-key 2006 version of Newt Gingrich's "Contract With America..."
This is what I've been waiting for? The galvanizing, revolutionary slogan--the bold approach? This is all you've got?! Gott im Himmel!

Stupid, lazy, tepid, worthless, spineless cowards! The Republicans are doing permanent damage to checks and balances in our government. They're busy dismantling the Constitution. They're robbing you of the fruits of your labor. They're robbing your children of their future, and this is all you can come up with?

Damn right America can do better. We'd do better with a trained chimp occupying the White House, but that's saying exactly nothing!

I want to cry.

Who needs ethics? Not the Senate apparently.

After December's revelations that Senator Majority Leader Frist alters the language of bills after they leave conference committee but before they are voted on, it should come as no surprise to learn that Senators insert fictional debates into the Congressional Record. In the case of a bill on restricting the rights of military detainees, that's exactly what happened. WaPo reports on a lengthy exchange between Lindsey Graham (R SC) and Jon Kyl (R AZ) that -
...never occurred. Instead, the debate -- which runs 15 pages and brims with conversational flourishes -- was inserted into the Congressional Record minutes before the Senate gave final approval to the legislation.
With shenanigans like these, it's no wonder Senators rejected a proposal to create an independent Ethics Office. Guess you don't need a panel to examine your ethics when you don't have any to start with.

Next up: The Senate dissolves its Ethics Committee as irrelevant.

Kvatch Kalled It - Senate Quashes Felonies for Good Samaritans

File this under, "tooting my own horn". Back in January's satirical post on punishing people who assist illegal immigrants as felons, I predicted in the comments that the Senate would quash that particular provision, and voila! They did.

Now let's see if this actually holds up in the conference committee... if Condi actually becomes Vice President... and if GMU can manage to eek out a victory over the Florida Gators in this weekend's final four game.

And how about the rest of you prognosticators? Want to stare into your crystal balls? I swear I'll print any predictions you get right.

2006/03/28

Plagiarism - The MSM's Great Dodge

I've been resisting this because plagiarism is an area where I have a axe to grind, but with this excellent article by Larisa Alexandrovna at Huffington Post, I can't resist any longer.

Here's the short of it: The MSM has adopted the same sense of entitlement that pervades society today, and the way they express this is by refusing to cite sources that they consider disreputable--alternative news, bloggers, and the like. One recent example of this is the A.P.'s willful plagiarism of a Raw Story article on covert changes to clearance rules for gays. Even after the A.P. was pointedly shown the source of their information, they still refused to cite because, as Huffington Post notes, the A.P. does not credit blogs.

But--as anyone who has taken an introductory journalism class knows; anyone who has ever written an academic paper knows; anyone who has committed facts to print is supposed to know--the reputation of the source is irrelevant, and the decision is not in the hands of the writer/reporter. You cite your sources. You give credit where credit is due, and you do it because to fail to do so is plagiarism, pure and simple. Again quoting Ms. Alexandrovna, the A. P. seems to feel that the work of the alternative media, "is good enough for us to steal but not credible enough to cite."

Any news organization that fails to cite appropriately, the A. P. included, deserves to have it's reputation dragged through the mud. And why? For being a bunch of worthless tools who've apparently forgotten, or who are willing to ignore, the most basic standards we apply to research and reporting.

Democratic Sinkhole - An Election Year Plot


New York, f-A-ke. P. -

Republican National Committee chairman Ken Mehlman declared Brooklyn's SUV swallowing sinkhole to be part of the Democrat's agenda for America.
The Democratic party wants to strike fear into the heart of patriotic Americans--right-thinking people who just want to help out their Iraqi brothers and sisters by using as much oil as possible. It demonstrates the bankruptcy of their whole plan and is just another reason we must not allow them to take control of Congress.

Impeachment talk. Weakening national security. Big sinkholes under your Hummer...all part of their evil agenda.

Cheney = Agnew

The Raw Story and The Washington Note are both reporting that Karl Rove is cooperating with special prosecutor Fitzgerald. Seems Rove's providing access to missing and supposedly deleted records that implicate the Veep in the Plamegate scandal.

If this is really the case, there's a good chance the Vice President Buckshot will have to resign and then...I'm placing my bet on Condi.

HT to Mikevotes of BatCotE for staying on top of this one.

2006/03/27

The Kommandos Advance on Union Square

San Francisco, f-A-ke. P. -

In a daring dawn raid, elements of Kvatch's Kommandos were seen advancing on San Francisco's Union Square. Witnesses described the intrepid soldiers moving in from the West and getting to the square's northern entrance before being turned back by kollaborators of the Kowboy Koward of Krawford.

R.I.P. Stanislaw Lem

Stanislaw Lem has passed away in his native Poland at the age of 84.

Though many people have never heard of Lem--probably because he never wrote in English--he was considered to be the finest science fiction writer's of the 20th century. Mortal Engines, his collection of short stories on feeling machines, is one of my favorites.

He will be greatly missed.

A Taste of GOP Midterm Election Strategy

Generik of The Generik Brand sent me a copy of a fund-raising missive that is going out to the G.O.P. faithful. Take a look for yourself because if this email is any indication, what Democrats can expect from the G.O.P. in the run-up to the midterms will make the "swift-boating" of John Kerry and John Murtha look tame.

First and most obviously, it appears that Republicans are going to call into question the patriotism of not only the Democratic leadership but Democrats in general. Second, they will exaggerate Democratic support for censure and outright lie to their base about what constitutes an impeachable offense. Third and finally, they'll jump right on to the "anything to win the war on terror" bandwagon. In other words, they're going to make this election about a single issue, impeachment.

Democrats better get ready to fight fire with fire, or we're going to get clobbered while trying to keep the tone of the debate elevated. Since, the Republicans have embraced law-breaking and subversion of the Constitution as virtues, they should have their faces rubbed in it by the Democrats.

Reid, Pelosi...are you paying attention?

2006/03/26

Iraqi Civil War by the Numbers

Like a child caught lying, that when pressed stubbornly insists on repeating the same lie, President Neuman reiterated that Iraq is not in a state of civil war. But, by almost any objective measure, the numbers simply don't add up.

Let's take two examples of acknowledged civil wars from the 20th century: One of the longest running, the Guatemalan Civil War and one of the bloodiest, the Bosnian secession from Yugoslavia.

In the former, the Guatemalan army and a mixture of military and civilian governments conducted a 35 year campaign against leftist guerrillas fighting on behalf of the indigenous Mayan majority. At the end of the war in 1996, estimates had 150,000 dead (mostly civilians) and 50,000 missing. Taken together that puts the number of casualties at about 5700 per year.

In the latter, the fall of Yugoslavia's communist regime led to the country's breakup with Croatia leaving first and Bosnia attempting to leave in February of 1992. In the ensuing conflict, started by Serbia ostensibly to protect Bosnia's Serb minority, 250,000 Serbs, Croats, and Muslims lost their lives before the fighting ceased in December of 1995. In other words, 5400+ casualties per month!

Now lets look at Iraq. In the three years of Bu$hCo's war, almost 40,000 civilians have lost their lives (official estimates) or as many as 180,000 (unofficial estimates). If we assume that only 1/4 of these lives were due to sectarian violence, and that a state of civil war has only existed for the last 6 months, the casualty rate is somewhere between 270+ per month (approaching Guatemala's rate) and 1250 per month! Now consider these additional items:
It seems pretty clear that Iraq is in a state of civil war, and the Bush administration, along with their congressional yes-men and political apologists, are simply full of shit for denying it.

2006/03/25

March Madness Squared

I'm not much of a team sports kind-o-frog. Though to the extent that I'll watch anything, it's usually basketball (or rugby...but that's for another post). Pro-ball? A bit, but for me college ball is where it's at--going all the way back to my days at University of Texas where women's basketball games were about all a non-Greek undergraduate could get tickets to...and the UT Women were good!

So it gives me no end of pride to observe that not one, but both of my Alma Matars are playing to get into the final four. UT--no surprise there--and George Mason, which never played in an NCAA tournament until this year.

I can't believe that I'm going to say this, but I hope George Mason makes it to the final four to play Texas...and beats 'em! :-)

2006/03/24

Kvatch's Kommandos Storm Bay Area Public Transit

Breaking news -

Early this morning two companies of Kvatch's Kommandos stormed San Francisco's Municipal Railway (MUNI) and the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system. Seeking enemy sympathizers, the intrepid soldiers could been seen taking up positions in the downtown San Francisco area.

Thanks to Jay of Lassiter Space for the idea and to Tom Hilton of If I Ran The Zoo for recruiting the troops.

2006/03/23

From Condi's Mouth To Bush's Ear

Sometimes Condoleezza Rice hits the nail right on the head. Read this tidbit from the Asia Times Online (emphasis added by yours truly) -
The same day, while on a visit to Australia, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice expressed concern over the "centralization of power in the Kremlin White House" and spoke about the danger that "by its very existence, a presidency that is strong without countervailing institutions can be subverted, can subvert democracy".

Rice, speaking to a town-hall audience in Sydney, saw "a very difficult and shaky path" right now for Russian American democracy, and expressed the hope that the Russian American people "will find their voice to demand accountable, transparent institutions and to demand the ability to organize themselves to petition their government and, if necessary, to change their government".
Tip-o-the-Hat to Leslie of In an Alternate Universe for finding this.

UK Quietly Does Away With Parliament

While Bu$hCo breaks the law under the auspices of war powers, attaches his own interpretation to new laws, or instructs his agencies to simply ignore the law, Tony Blair's Labour party quietly plots to make Parliament irrelevant.

News sources in the in the UK have been reporting on the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill, which would, in The Guardian's words, "...rip the heart out of parliamentary democracy" by giving government ministers the power to make law without submitting anything to the legislature. And interestingly this is not the first time such a bill has been introduced. This one comes on the heels of the 2004's Civil Contingencies Act, another bill that expanded ministerial power at the expense of Parliament.

Scary stuff. Though the opposition parties are starting to challenge Labour over their attempted power grab.

2006/03/22

Surprise - California and New York Have The Worst Air Quality

Now there's a shocker. That the two most populous states have the worst air quality is not news to long suffering California and New York residents, but it is worth noting that over the last two decades industrial giants have conspired with government agencies to keep it that way. In fact they've even made things worse. Consider these facts:
Can we expect things to improve? Probably not while industries believe that the government will stand by, or better yet help them behind the scenes, while they press the case for profits at the expense of air quality.

Puerto Rico Is Second Class? What About The District?

This is an interesting tidbit. Seems a group of Puerto Rican's consider themselves to be inferior US citizens and are willing to sue to get that changed, but yesterday they lost their appeal when the Supreme Court refused to hear their case.

Here's a couple of thoughts. First, if Puerto Rican's really want to have "first-class" citizenship then perhaps they should vote to become a state, something they haven't managed in two recent plebiscite's (1993 and 1998). Second, before we waste any more time on Puerto Rico, we should enfranchise the residents of the District of Columbia!

Nuff said.

IRS Prepares The Mother Of All Privacy Violations

It's a dangerous world out there. Fraudsters, identity thieves, data aggregators all pose a risk to you and your financial health. But now, as if having to shred practically everything that comes into your mailbox weren't enough, the IRS is planning to unzip your financial fly for you. The Philadelphia Inquirer notes -
The IRS is quietly moving to loosen the once-inviolable privacy of federal income-tax returns. If it succeeds, accountants and other tax-return preparers will be able to sell information from individual returns - or even entire returns - to marketers and data brokers.
Your entire return!? Is the IRS f*cking insane?! There are a lot of ways to get your identity stolen, but this has to be the biggest potential giveaway the would-be identity thief ever conceived. Think about it for a second. Not only does your return contain ever important piece of personal data that matters--including your SSN--it can also contain: 1) Your bank account numbers (in case your used direct transfers for your refund or payment); 2) Credit-card numbers (You know you can pay with a credit-card right?); 3) Enough financial information to give a data aggregator a wet dream.

And do we think that the IRS will draft rules sufficient to keep those returns safe and sanitized? WE DO NOT! In fact, what they'll probably do is draft a bunch of rules that the Quickens, H&R Blocks, and Kiplingers will blithely ignore in their rush to mine this vein of gold.

I've got nothing left to say. This is so F*CKING brain-dead, the mind boggles.

2006/03/21

Banned For Your Own Good

Everybody wants to ban something. Anti-choice forces want to ban abortion, and some zealots want to take it one step further and ban contraceptives. Legislators and religious leaders want to ban pornography. Concerned parents want to ban books, movies, music. Recently arrived Americans want to shut the door and ban new immigration. Tea-totalers want to ban drinking. City dwellers want to ban cars in densely populated urban cores. Manufacturing workers and techies want to ban outsourcing. We're unified by our desire to stop somebody from doing something and in our belief that it's for the best.

Personally, I want to ban smoking--Not confine it to the spaces in front of buildings; Not sequester it in the home or the restaurant or the bar; But ban it outright! Breathing is enough of a challenge without having to inhale the toxic second-hand smoke of some burning-f*cking-weed. Pipes? Cigars? Get rid of 'em as well. Don't like it? Tough! I'm not taking a poll here. This is the power of the benevolent dictator. So deal with it. You'll live longer.

So now...all you do-gooders...what would you ban?

Future Headlines - 2008 Powerball Election

Powerball ElectionToday the federal government announced the merging of the multi-state Powerball Lottery with the 2008 Presidential election. One lucky voter will win $35,000,000!

Voter participation soars!


(Thanks to Fashiongirl for the inspiration.)

2006/03/20

Integrity In Gambling Over Integrity In Elections

I've blogged before on the mounting evidence of election rigging in the US, but the question remains: Why are voters willing to put up with this? Why don't we demand safeguards for our most important obligation? Are we ignorant of the problem? Do we simply not care? Do we believe that it can't happen here?

Well, regardless of the answer, an interesting comparison by University of Pennsylvania professor, Steve Freeman demonstrates that our priorities are screwed up. Take a look...

XXX - The Internet's Scarlet Letters

Senate Democrats Mark Pryor and Max Baucus have introduced the Cyber Safety for Kids Act of 2006, another in a long line of bills that would try to keep kids away from Internet porn. This bill though, is novel because it proposes to create an .xxx top-level domain, and, setting aside the utter impossibility of deciding what content would be forced to don the scarlet letters, the act is also interesting because it's language is so general. Ars Technica notes that -
Within six months after the TLD's creation, all commercial websites that offer "material that is harmful to minors" as their "primary business" would have to move their content to a .xxx domain.
So the questions is: What constitutes content that is "harmful to minors"? Would legislators use this to block...say...violent online games, objectionable music, The Catcher In The Rye?

As with the ill-fated attempt to create the .kids domain, a place where online predators could be guaranteed to find their young targets, a .xxx domain would put a big neon sign on content saying, "Here be porn!" So instead of protecting kids from the evil stuff, this bill would give them a roadmap (at least in the United States, since the act would not be binding for overseas porn purveyors).

This sounds to me like election year moralizing. I wonder if Mr. Pryor and Mr. Baucus are up for reelection.

2006/03/19

"Frack" Enters the Vernacular

OK, I'll admit it. I love Battlestar Galactica. So much in fact that I create blog posts in honor of it. I love the characters, the stories, the visuals, and I'm not alone. Apparently we BG lovers are a pretty influential group, because--FRACKIN' A-- the language of BG is entering the vernacular.

Salon had a piece this morning that used the word "mind-frack", and the Washington Times preprinted a UPI story with "Fracking" in the title. So I guess "frack" is an acceptable substitute for "fuck" when you think that the latter might be inappropriate. I've heard "FRACK!" on the streets. Haven't heard "frack you" yet, but I'm sure it's coming.

Here's the thing though, BG is a fracking TV show, and "frack" is a made-up word. Think maybe we need to pull the fracking head!

2006/03/18

Ban RU-486? Hell no! Ban pregnancy...and Denny's.

7 deaths in 5 years. 7! Not a hundred or a thousand but 7, and with the two most recent, the uproar over RU-486 has reignited. Opponents of the so-called "morning-after pill" are calling for it's removal from the market.

But the statistics simply don't back up the opponent's arguments. As Binky points out in an excellent post at Bloodless Coup, if the goal is to mitigate women's health risks, then pregnancy should be first to go. Or...if you're interested reducing deaths per instance of usage, then we should probably do away with Viagra before we get rid of RU-486. And finally, if the goal is to reduce deaths per unit time, then I'd recommend banning eating in Denny's since 4 people have died over 3 days in 3 separate shooting incidents at Denny's restaurants in Southern California.

No matter how you slice it, the opponents of RU-486 don't have a leg to stand on.


2006/03/17

Bu$hCo's EPA Ordered To Enforce The Clean Air Act

Here's a scintilla of good news on a Friday afternoon. In a 3 to 0 decision, a federal appeals court ruled against the EPA's selective enforcement of Clean Air Act provisions requiring power plants to install pollution controls when they make changes that increase their emissions.

The history of this issue goes back to 2003 when Bu$hCo caved to the energy industry and created an exemption to the fairly strict language of the Clean Air Act. That exemption allowed power generators to avoid the pollution controlling upgrades by changing the standard from the amount of increased emissions to the dollar cost of the upgrades.

But the 3 judge appeals panel ruled that the "plain" language of the Clean Air Act requires a stricter interpretation. And here's the most delicious aspect of the ruling: The panel included Janice Rogers Brown, the former Associate Justice of the California Supreme Court and as objectionable a jurist as one can find.

The plaintiffs in the case were a coalition of environmental groups along with 12 states including New York and California, leaders in the fight for stricter pollution and emissions controls. I've long been a proponent of states taking the lead in the fight to avoid environmental catastrophe.

Glad this battle was won.

Republicans - New Dealers for the New Century

So it's all over the news that the Senate raised the debt ceiling yesterday to $9 trillion. What doesn't get reported much, is that Congress had no choice. With a projected deficit for 2006 of over $350 billion, and the old limit already exceeded, the Senate had to act to preserve the confidence of American creditors. Basically, they made sure the US government didn't go bankrupt, a prelude to a world-wide financial meltdown. But this still doesn't mean that Republicans are good stewards of the economy. Here are some facts:

Number of times Bu$hCo has had to to have the ceiling raised : 3
Total amount of the increase: $3 Trillion
Percentage debt ceiling increase during Bu$hCo: 50%
Years until the cap is reached using current deficit levels: 2
Years remaining until Bush leaves office: 2
Projected deficits for 2006 and 2007: 350 to 400 billion dollars
Deficits as a percentage of the yearly budget: 11%
Your portion of the national debt: $30,000
Administration in office during the three biggest deficit years in history: Bu$hCo (2001), Bu$hCo (2003), Bu$hCo (2004)

And just in case you thought that Republicans were losing their taste for unbridled spending: Less than an hour after the Senate raised the debt ceiling the House passed another $100B in "off-budget" spending for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and for relief along the hurricane-ravaged Gulf Coast.

Blognonymous' "plain-language" budget analogy:

Imagine that your get into a bind and need to borrow 10% of your gross annual income in order to make ends meet, and let's further assume that you do that on your credit-card. If you need say...$40,000 a year to get by, then you're borrowing $4000. Do this every year for during Bu$hCo's first term and pretty soon you've reached your limit, just for your debt. In other words, you can't buy anything. All you can do is pay down what you owe. So what do you do? You ask the Greater Asia Credit-Card Company to raise your limit which they gladly do, and you keep on acquiring debt at the same rate.

So what happens on the day that they decide not to raise your limit? In US government terms, this is the day that our creditors in Asia loose their taste for backing government Treasury paper. Think about it.

2006/03/16

Two New Fronts In The War On Homosexuals

This morning Blognonymous is saddened to report that the war on homosexuals in the United States appears to be escalating.

Windspike at the Educational Whisper has some excellent coverage of Bu$hCo's clandestine attempt to "re-exclude" gays and lesbians from jobs that require a government security clearance.

This is an issue that has some personal relevance for me since, years ago when I carried a clearance, I remember that being gay was a basis for disqualification. I cheered the change in policy in the '90s and am saddened to see us go backwards on this issue.

It's also come to our attention that, after Catholic Charities of Boston retreated on their policy of placing a small number of adopted children with gay couples, numerous states including Nebraska, Arkansas, Missouri, and New Hampshire are considering joining Florida, Mississippi, and Utah in banning gay adoptions.

Now this is an evil bit of legislating that states should really avoid. Consider that the basis for such a ban is an "inappropriate environment for child-rearing", but that the only practical way to enforce it is to also ban adoptions by single parent's or domestic partners. Why? Well gays can't marry anywhere but in Massachusetts and Hawaii as it is. So the only way for them to adopt in most states is a single parent or domestic partner adoption and in neither case is the question "...are you a homosexual?" relevant. If we intend to suddenly make that question relevant, then we must also be prepared to classify homosexuals as strangers to US law. Moreover, once such a ban is in place, it's a short, pernicious intellectual hop to a ban on homosexuals raising children period, even children conceived by gay or lesbian couples.

Though I wouldn't claim that these injustices are as tragic as slavery in the US, I would point out that denying a class of people equal protection under the law, or worse explicitly legislating away their rights, is exactly the kind of unjust tactics that kept blacks subjugated in South for a century after the Emancipation Proclamation.

2006/03/15

Has your power company fleeced you today?

OK, I live in California. Meaning that after living through the 2000-2001 energy crisis; Having been through months of rolling blackouts; Having been screwed to the wall by the energy traders; Having been screwed to the wall--again--by FERC, it would be hard to get more blood from this stone. And yet here come the electric utilities with another scheme to line their pockets at the expense of the ratepayers.

The N.Y. Times reports -
Many electric utility companies across the nation are collecting billions of dollars from their customers for corporate income taxes, then keeping the money rather than sending it to the government.
In this scheme, the utilities use losses from their subsidiaries to offset the taxes that they'd ordinarily pay--the problem being that those taxes are typically charged back to the customers, and so the utilities just pocket the cash. Sneaky huh?

Sort of reminds me of how PG&E's parent company cut the utility loose to go bankrupt, while they kept their coffers full and even moved money to their own accounts as they prepared PG&E for Chapter 11.

What does the future hold for Condoleezza Rice?

A smart diplomat named C. Rice
With a president to entice,
Was the most servile sheep
And soon replaced the Veep.
On her rise to an office quite nice.


In honor of Blognonymous new compadre The Poetry Man. Check him out.

Responses in verse from:

The Poetry Man
Snave (the limerick master)
Windspike
Yours Truly
Enigma4Ever
And Snave again!

The Prying FBI Peeks At Pacifists

The ACLU's Freedom of Information Act requests against the FBI are paying dividends in the form of memos that detail the Bureau's surveillance and infiltartion of, "a left-wing organization advocating, among many political causes, pacifism." Pacifism? Say it isn't so! How un-American can you get. Certainly worthy of scrutiny in an "ongoing terrorism probe," because after all they were..."handing out leaflets".

The organization in question is the Thomas Merton Center for Peace and Justice of Pittsburgh, PA, and they are the latest in a long string of antiwar protesters, environmental groups, and religious organizations that have been monitored by the FBI's anti-terrorism investigators. Raw Story notes that over 150 FOIA requests have been filed on behalf of the targeted organizations.

Well, at Blognonymous we say, "Money well spent". After all, we can't have pacifists running around this great country--might lead to more serious offenses like disagreeing with Bu$hCo.


2006/03/14

Google's Gotta Give It Up

If you'll recall Yahoo, MSN, and AOL already caved to the Justice Department's request for millions of search records. Only Google said no.

Well...so much for that. U.S. District Judge, James Ware of the 9th Circuit (based in San Francisco) just ordered Google to turn over the records that DoJ wants in order to bolster its arguments in defense of the Child Online Protection Act.

I said it before, and I'll say it again: Clear those caches! Delete those cookies! Dump those search histories! Alberto is coming for ya porkchop!

[Update 2006/03/14 5:00pm]

Looks like it may not be as bad as first thought. The DoJ has submitted a "modified" request that only asks for 50,000 randomly selected records rather than the million, or so, that were originally requested. Nevertheless, it's unfortunate that Ware caved in at all, as the government's case seems weak.

For Credit-Card Applications Only Shredding Will do

Do you tear up your credit-card applications, as recommended by banks like Chase? Worse, just throw them away? Well then, take a gander at a guy who literally tore up a credit-card application, taped it together, filled it out, and got himself a new line-o-credit.

Seems nothing but the shredder is good enough.

Admit It...Bloggers Are Sexy

You always knew it to be true but didn't want to admit it to yourself...you read blogs because you find bloggers to be witty, intelligent, and desirable. Well, studies now prove that blogs are sexy, and bloggers are more interesting than their non-blogging brethren.

So read Blognonymous folks. It will turn you into a googly-eyed, fly-catching, news-slinging, sexy beast in no time.

(And this is a lesson in desperately trying to come up with something for the East Coast readers before you hit the sack. Thanks to the Democratic Daily for the assistance.)

2006/03/13

McClellan Is A Lying Tool

But then, of course, we knew that.

From Reuters -
I think it does raise the question, how do you fight and win the war on terrorism? And if Democrats want to argue that we shouldn't be listening to al Qaeda communications, it's their right and we welcome the debate. We are a nation at war.
Glenn Greenwald has pointed out, with his usual stunning clarity, that no Democrat has advocated anything of the sort. In fact, McClellan's not even addressing the issue, but of course the MSM, not even Reuters, will point that out.

The Right to Rant Shall Not Be Abridged

When McCain-Feingold passed there was a hidden trap for bloggers buried inside, and recently the Federal Election Commission was placed under a court order to extend the act to the Internet, springing the trap. It amounts to this: Bloggers would be treated no differently than political campaigns. We'd have our links regulated. We would have to disclose contributions. And we'd have to be mindful of hundreds of pages of confusing federal regulations when we write anything political. But there is an effort to exempt bloggers called the Online Freedom of Speech Act spearheaded by...ahem...house Republicans. (Ouch! My fingers are bleeding!)

Opponents of the reform plan (mostly Democrats...OUCH!), point out that not extending McCain-Feingold would invite scads of "corrupt" activity, and they're probably right. Though it's unfortunate that our Democratic representatives give us no credit for the zeal with which we'd probably go about exposing our own. Moreover, I see another problem if the reform proposal fails to pass. Imagine motivated political operatives using FEC regulations to shut down bloggers en mass--regardless of political content (or lack thereof)--based merely on the threat that bloggers might say something they don't like.

If a lawsuit comes, would you keep on blogging and risk your's and your family's financial well-being. Nope, and I wouldn't either. I think we need to support Vernon Ehlers (R. MI), chair of the House Administration Committee on this one and back the reform legislation. (OUCH! Son-of-a-b*tch!)

2006/03/12

Bring The Army Men Home

Jay at Lassiter Space has cooked up a pretty good war protest. He suggests that everyone take those little plastic army men that most of us played with as kids and attach tiny masking-tape banners to their bases that say, "Bring me home." Then leave them anywhere...everywhere; mass-transit; groceries; pharmacies; offices; wherever.

I like it!

Happy Birthday To Me

Happy birthday to me
My blogging's for free
I hope you'll indulge me
And read this short scree


Kvatch Has Left The Building

(I figure, on your birthday, you should get to be shamelessly self-indulgent.)

K.

Kvatch Has Left The Building

Have you ever heard the line, "I’m saving that for my old age"? Or how about, "...everything in moderation"?

As I get older, I'm starting to experience regrets: The things I didn't do that are getting more difficult to contemplate with age (I've never climbed a mountain); The places I haven't been and which now seem daunting (I've travelled to many countries but have never in Asia); The friends who've left my life (I'm barely on speaking terms with a number of conservative "ex-friends"); The second career I'd planned but that now probably won't ever take off (I wrote SciFi for many years but could never get anything published).

All these things are starting to add up, and I'm fighting it, but other priorities are intruding. Nevertheless, I boggle at anyone who wants to save something for their old age. And, to the extent that it doesn't needlessly shorten one's life, I can't grok the notion of doing anything in moderation.

So, even though it's getting harder every year, I still desperately want to get to the end and think, I’ve done it all; Tasted it all; Travelled everywhere; Loved with every fibre of my being; Mattered. I’m bored! I'm ready for what's next. And shortly thereafter a great booming voice from the sky will say, "KVATCH HAS LEFT THE BUILDING!".

2006/03/11

So Called "Culture of Life" Hypocrites Speak

In response to a statement of Feb. 28th, in which 55 Catholic Democrats publicly requested room to disagree with the church on the issue of abortion, three top leaders of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops scolded the lawmakers, saying:
While it is always necessary to work to reduce the number of abortions . . . Catholic teaching calls all Catholics to work actively to restrain, restrict and bring an end to the destruction of unborn human life...
But what do these charlatans have to say to Republican lawmakers, with their unwavering support of the death penalty? Nothing. Have Senators Murkowski (AK), Martinez (FL), Brownback (KS), Bunning (KY), Vitter (LA), Collins (ME), Sununu and Domenici (NM), DeWine and Voinovich (OH), and Santorum (PA)--Republicans and Catholics all--ever been denied communion? Nope, and I dare say they never will. But we all remember the 2004 presidential campaign, when the Vatican and activist US bishops politicized the sacraments in order to bludgeon John Kerry. So apparently the so-called "culture of life" isn't worth discussing, in public at least, unless it can be used as tool to embarrass Democrats.

And we used to worry about whether or not John Kennedy would be under the Pope's influence.

Justice Terminated - Milosevic Dead

The fat tyrant died in his bed apparently of natural causes.

I'm trying to recall if a despot has ever been brought to justice in my lifetime. Pol Pot? No. Pinochet? Nope. Milosevic. No. Saddam? Well...not yet.

2006/03/10

Cylons Attack America!

President Bush, congress, and the entire cabinet are eliminated.

Karl Rove Assumes the Presidency

President Rove and BodyguardPresident Rove Reassures the American People

(In honor of the Battlestar Galactica, 2nd Season Finale tonight on SciFi.
Thanks to Michael Miller @ Informed Dissent for the inspiration.)

Rumsfeld on an Iraqi Civil War - The Week's Dumbest Quote

Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld gets the coveted Blognonymous Dumbest Quote of the Week Award.
The plan is to prevent a civil war, and to the extent one were to occur, to have the... Iraqi security forces deal with it to the extent they're able to,"
But...Mr. Rumsfeld, Mr. Rumsfeld?!

Yes Kvatch...

What do we intend to do about the fact that the combatents will be the Iraqi security forces?

Duh!

Dubai Ports World, The Harriet Miers of Shipping

So many juicy tidbits today.

Dubai Ports World has pulled out of the deal to run six of the US's container facilities. Check. We all know that. Halliburton has been mentioned as a possible replacement. Whoa, huh?!

The conspiracist in me encourages you to think about this in light of how the Miers/Alito circus was orchestrated.

2006/03/09

Covering Illegal Wiretapping, The NYT Proves It Can't Be Trusted

I won't waste your time this evening covering the Senate Intelligence Committee's deal to retroactively sanction illegal wiretapping. If you need the nuts and bolts, you can check out the "other" NY Times article. Nope, I want to point out that in the same edition, posted after the article above, the Times confuses the issue with a bunch of psychobabble about how the Republicans are "rebelling" against the President.
...Republicans in the Senate are wrestling with how hard to press the White House for more authority over Mr. Bush's eavesdropping program, seeking a middle ground between Democratic calls for an investigation of the program and White House demands to keep hands off.
No they bloody well aren't rebelling. In fact, all the Republican's did was drop to their knees "Monica-style" and say, "Please, Mr. President, how may we service you"! And there's no goddamned "middle-ground" here. The Senate retroactively sanctioned ILLEGAL acts; broadened the window of opportunity for surveilling the innocent by an order of magnitude; And did away with probably cause requirements by allowing congressional oversight to be trumped solely by the Attorney General's word!

What more could the Senate have given away? What greater disservice could the Times do it's readers by suggesting otherwise, and why is the NYT running interference for the Senate?

The Department of Homeland Faith

f-A-ke. P. -

Responding to congressional and media criticism that the administration, and specifically the Department of Homeland Security, have been ineffective in responding to disasters, President Bush today announced the creation of the Department of Homeland Faith. A melding of the Department of Homeland Security with numerous faith-based initiatives, the new organization will be tasked with praying that everything will turn out all right.

Department of Homeland FaithHomeland Faith Department With Its New Emblem (under construction)

"This new department will assure the American people that my administration is lookin' out for them. In fact, whenever danger threatens, whether it's an evil terrorist like Bin Laden or a hurricane like Katrina, our citizens can be sure that someone inside DHF will be praying," the President said.

Though it isn't yet clear who will lead this new department, Press Secretary Scott McClellan remarked that Pat Robertson was, "...pretty high up on the A-list".

2006/03/08

Flag Burning Amendment

Senate Majority Leader Frist wants to trot out the old war horse of a Flag Burning Amendment, and at Blognonymous we say, "Hell yes!" Few things are more important than burning the flag, and if Bu$hCo stays in power much longer we'll have so many more reasons.

The right of Americans to burn their flag--as an expression of free speech, to provide light during blackouts so that little children can read their bibles, to heat their double-wides during oil embargos instead of using propane, and to provide a beacon for FEMA rescue helicopters during floods--shall not be abridged.


Thanks to Stacy at Cafe Politico for the inspiration.

Brokeback Prairie

f-A-ke. P. -

Brokeback PrairieAs the furor over South Dakota's abortion ban continues to escalate, tens of thousands of young women announced their intention to leave the state in protest. Cars full of single women were seen streaming across the South Dakota-Minnesota border, and though no one can yet predict what effect this will have on South Dakota's single men, the phrase, "You know I ain't queer," was overheard in a number of bars in Sioux Falls.

Governor Mike Rounds, who signed the legislation on Monday, when asked for to comment on the exodus replied that it might become necessary to close the borders to prevent the, "flower of South Dakotan womanhood from leaving".

In related news, the European Union announced that South Dakotan women could apply for residency as refugees fleeing servitude and religious persecution.

########

So, all kidding asisde, it seems to me that on International Women's Day we ought to be thinking about how the blogsphere could help women who want to flee what is essentially breeder's bondage in South Dakota. Would it be possible to set up a something like a fund for women who want to get out? Could state governments (blue-state s presumably) be encouraged to set up programs to help women get back on their feet in new homes? There's got to be something...

2006/03/07

Cheney Is All A Matter of Perspective

A new CBS poll reported in the Washington Post reveals that Vice President Buckshot has an 18% approval rating. That means that Cheney is less popular than Michael Jackson--who may soon have his very own fatwa for putting on makeup in women's restrooms in Dubai. He's less popular than another shimmering example of his office, Spiro Agnew, who had to leave office in disgrace for bribery and tax evasion. Cheney's even less popular than Joseph Stalin, a man who murdered 20 million of his own citizens.

But the Veep should take heart. He's more popular than Paris Hilton, a woman who by all accounts, is a waste of genetic material.

No Line Item Veto For Bush, Please!

In a cynical attempt to rehabilitate Republicans as the party of fiscal conservatism, Bu$hCo has proposed that the President be given the power of the line item veto.

Setting aside the fact the line item veto is usually struck down as an unconstitutional violation of the separation of powers and is an infringement on congress' authority to determine budgets (as it was in 1996, the last time this came up); Setting aside the very real concerns about how a man like Bush would use the line item veto--think wholesale punishment of blue-staters; Setting aside the fact that the G.O.P. could justifiably change their name to Grand Old Pork (I mean they have passed budgets containing the three biggest deficits in history); Republicans may want to consider a slightly simpler solution...

How about Bu$hCo propose a freakin' balanced budget for a change! Duh!

2006/03/06

South Dakota - Chaining Women To Their Rapists...For Life!

I wish like hell I could find a flaw in this line of reasoning, but I can't.

When the South Dakota legislature passed HB1086, the now infamous Roe v. Wade challenging anti-choice bill, it had the opportunity to add a clause that would immediately terminate the parental rights of a rapist upon conviction. They did not do that! In fact, the killed it in committee by a vote of 11 to 0.

So now, a woman who is unable (lack of availability), unwilling (think Catholic), or prevented (remember we're talking SD here) to use emergency contraception after a rape will face a monstrous choice. Either she accepts that she'll be tethered to her attacker until her child reaches adulthood, and possibly longer. Or she gives up the child...TO HER ATTACKER.

The residents of South Dakota should be ashamed of themselves and their legislature, but I somehow doubt that they are. As for female South Dakotans...leave! What other choice do you have?

Thanks to Mikevotes at BaTCoTE for telling it like it is.

The Secret Life of George Clooney

From the f-A-ke. P. -

Actor George Clooney was denied a Best Director Oscar at last night's Academy Awards when it was discovered that he is, in fact, Kahled Meshaal the leader of Hamas.

Government sources, speaking on the condition of anonymity admitted to putting pressure on the Academy, "Uhh...yeah. We told 'em we'd break der fingahs if they gave du Oscar to Clooney."

When reminded at this morning's White House press briefing that Clooney did receive an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, spokesperson Stephen McClellan replied, "Well, you know we won't comment on the ongoing investigation of those lefty kooks in Hollywood, but just let me say that this was part of a coordinated plan to ensure that American values are upheld by the entertainment industry. Just look at how successful we were with Brokeback Mountain. I saw Crash, and let me tell you, it sucked."

(Thanks to The Register for the inspiration.)

Back To the Future of Telecom

In the beginning there was Ma Bell, and monopoly was on the face of Telecom. And the Justice Department said, "Let there be competition." And there was competition...but not apparently anymore.

After 22 years of grappling and merging, AT&T has announced plans to acquire BellSouth, and with that the 7 Baby Bells that were born in 1984 will be reduced to three mega-telecoms. Though no one is expecting the deal to be scuttled by regulators, at least not in this administration, we may want to step back and consider what this will mean for consumers.

After the merger there will be three giants but really only two that matter in terms of their reach and number of subscribers, Verizon and AT&T. Qwest is still around but at 1/5 the size of the new AT&T will probably be swallowed itself before long further reducing the competitive landscape.

William Smith, the soon-to-be-former CTO of BellSouth, and Edward Whitacre of AT&T/SBC are the two biggest proponents of the "pay-for-performance" Internet, and BellSouth has been implementing this for months. With the new lobbying strength of this telco behemoth, does anyone really believe that lawmakers will resist a move away from the "content neutral" Internet?

Who is the real competition for AT&T? Not Verizon and certainly not Qwest. It's the cable giants, Comcast and Time-Warner, and these companies should be alarmed because the mega-telcos have been pushing the government to support buildouts of "cable-like" services with little or no regulatory oversight.

So no matter how you slice it, this merger looks like just another attempt to fortify the big telcos against smaller more innovative players, and consumers will probably be the losers.

2006/03/05

A Huge Thank You To Abi and Lily!

OK...I was on vacation last week, though you may not have noticed because Abi and Lily did such a wonderful job of keeping things hopping around here while I was gone. So I just wanted to take this opportunity to thank them both for all their efforts.

You both were great! Thanks for all the excellent blogging.

As for the rest of you, get thee over to Lose the Noose and Update America and consume all of that great material straight from the source. :-)

ExxonMobil Says, "Peak Oil Is Fiction"

In Friday's NY Times, and presumably in other prominent papers around the country, ExxonMobil placed an advertisement that is designed to call into question the public's perception of "peak oil," the point at which oil production starts to decline as we exhaust the supply.

I've included a link to the PDF here and will use excerpts below, but let's start with the basic fact. This is a piece of propaganda, filled with distortions and omissions, that has a single purpose: To convince people that we can, and should, continue to use oil as our primary energy source as wantonly as we do today.
Contrary to the theory, oil production shows no signs of a peak... Oil is a finite resource, but because it is so incredibly large, a peak will not occur this year, next year, or for decades to come.
Well this is true as far as it goes, but what they fail to mention is that demand is escalating far ahead the discovery of new sources. So sure, the peak may not come for decades, but so what! 20 years? 50 years? It's irrelevant because affecting a full transition away from oil in the time remaining may not be possible unless we start now.
As a large scale, broad-based transportation fuel, oil currently has no equal. Demand for it is increasing to support economic growth worldwide. Thankfully, there is enough potential supply to meet this demand.
Though they are correct in stating that oil, in this limited context, has no equal, they ignore three critical indictments. First, using oil is not the problem. How we use oil, by pumping it individually into our gas-tanks, is the problem. Second, with the exception of coal, no fossil fuel is more damaging to the environment than oil. So a fuel that costs twice as much to produce for the same energy output but with half the emissions, might be a better choice in order to help us avoid environmental catastrophe. Third, the last sentence is quite simply disingenuous bullshit. Big Oil routinely includes economically infeasible sources such as Canada's tar sands as a "potential" supply. Finally, notice the scary implication: Oil is necessary to sustain worldwide economic growth.

So why would Big Oil embark on a campaign to discredit "peak oil" theorists. Well, consider the source. ExxonMobil, of all the major suppliers, has the smallest reserves and infrastructure devoted to natural gas, the most likely "bridge energy" that we'd use while transitioning to something new. Thus, ExxonMobil will push oil use even if it means pumping and processing every last drop. But don't let yourself be fooled. The reality of "peak oil" is undeniable. In your lifetime? Maybe not, but then certainly in your children's, and in the meantime if we let Big Oil pull the wool over eyes, we may fail to make the preparations that are necessary to transition the world to a new energy infrastructure.

(Updated 2006/03/05, 12:07 pm)

In the comments for this post Helen Wheels provides a reference to an interesting article on the subject of Iceland's going "fossil-free". Though a similar approach probably not practical for the US in the short term, it demonstrates the type of commitment that we could learn from. Conversely, in German where wind provides a significant and growing share of nation's energy needs, the tide may be turning against renewables.

Pax Bonobo

When people say war is inevitable, they often point to aspects of the natural world to bolster their argument that violence and war is a genetic tendency. They decry the futility of going against our instincts of rage and domination. They liken the evolutionary path of humans to a primal plane where domination and violent conquest reign supreme. But what if evidence suggested that people have in fact evolved to acquire skills for peace and cooperation, versus war and domination for the acquisition of resources? How might that change the way we look at our prospects for peace? Perhaps our language, emotional expressions, complex interactions, and cognitive apparatus can be considered in the context of the PEACEFUL human, versus the warmongering? When researchers study 'ape' behaviors, they point to some of the uglier traits and draw parallels to humans. But they rarely mention the group known as the bonobo, who are just as similar to humans genetically and yet do NOT possess these chronically violent tendencies. What might we learn from that? When we make jokes about our smirking chimp preznit, we might take pause and consider the idea that perhaps the individual that takes a myopic view of problem solving, a limited view of diplomacy- is simply exhibiting traits of a less evolved gene pool? Might we be observing a person who does not have the ability to identify multiple approaches, who can only view problems from a more 'primitive' type of intellect? Peacethought is more advanced than violence, it takes little imagination to hatch a plan where you take what you want from another by force. And it takes an absence of conscience to rationalize this as the only way. We have to consider that we have advanced thinking for a reason...WELCOME BACK KVATCH. Thanks for letting me use your digs.

2006/03/04

Corportocracy

Though the level of sleaze and avarice in corporate America seems to have reached new heights, little can be done about it until the our government decides to stop being the willing partner of a Corportocracy.

Could the Enron or Worldcom implosions have happened without a compliant Securities and Exchange Commission, willing to turn a blind eye to invented financial statements that were essentially fiction drafted for public consumption?

Or perhaps it's true, as conservatives suggest, that the California's energy crisis was the result of a faulty de-regulation plan. When in fact, the traders that gamed the energy delivery systems were assisted by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission when it refused to enforce it's own price capping rules and then, after California ratepayers had been bilked out of 100's of millions of dollars, refused requests for critical evidence in CA's attempt to recoup the losses in court.

And when it comes to human lives, the record is no better. Why do American mining interests refuse take the kinds of steps to protect their workers that Canadian companies have taken? Because they know that regardless of the scale of the disaster, the fines will never be more than an annoyance--that the Dept. of Labor has no stomach for enforcing it's own rules and even when they do, Bu$hCo will step in to reduce the pain.

Whether it's abdication of responsibility (SEC), covering for corporate wrongdoing (FERC), or refusing to enforce the few public protecting statutes that do exist (DoL), it is clear that our government is a willing participant in corporate excesses--A situation that is manifestly worse for the Americans than in the 19th century when the worst that could be expected was governmental indifference.

2006/03/02

WMD Found in Iraq

That's the good news. The bad news is we're the ones who used it.

Depleted uranium munitions were used extensively in the Gulf War back in 1991 — about 320 tons worth. Despite evidence that DU poses a serious contamination risk and remains radioactive in the environment virtually forever, DU shells were later used in Kosovo and Afghanistan.

In our second go-round with Iraq, we used the WMD yet again:

An expert report warning that the long-term health of Iraq’s civilian population would be endangered by British and US depleted uranium (DU) weapons has been kept secret.

The study by three leading radiation scientists cautioned that children and adults could contract cancer after breathing in dust containing DU, which is radioactive and chemically toxic. But it was blocked from publication by the World Health Organisation (WHO), which employed the main author, Dr Keith Baverstock, as a senior radiation advisor. He alleges that it was deliberately suppressed, though this is denied by WHO.

Baverstock also believes that if the study had been published when it was completed in 2001, there would have been more pressure on the US and UK to limit their use of DU weapons [during the 2003 invasion of Iraq], and to clean up afterwards.

Hundreds of thousands of DU shells were fired by coalition tanks and planes during the conflict, and there has been no comprehensive decontamination.

So let's see — we invaded Iraq to prevent it from using WMDs that it turned out it didn't have, and to help us obliterate their army, we used our own WMD on them.

How can Americans sleep at night?

Apparently, with no problem whatsoever. The government just placed a multi-million-dollar order for thousands more rounds of the WMD, from weapons manufacturer Alliant Techsystems. Alliant likes to brag about the weapon's "outstanding accuracy and lethality."

Here's something else Alliant can be proud of:

Depleted uranium remains radioactive for 4.5 billion years. The byproduct of manufacturing nuclear weapons or reactors, the rounds contaminate water and soil. Along some highways in Iraq where the weapon was used during in the first Gulf War, radiation levels register 1,000 times normal background radiation levels. Cancer levels in Iraq are attributed to the shells

I have a better slogan for Alliant's DU shells — The weapon that keeps on killing.

Eat Your Toxic Veggies, Kids! Or No Toxic Dessert!

As with many issues, people on different sides talk about the positive aspects of their position but spend less effort on reasonably defending against constructive criticisms. Their posturing becomes more about image and winning the debate than considering the spectrum of challenges and opportunities. This is evident when people ask why opponents of genetically modified foods take exception to solving global hunger. It puts us in the ridiculous position of defending our desire to address hunger instead of putting THEM in the position of defending questionable agripolicy with dubious consequences. Instead of talking about the health implications, it becomes all about the liberal conspiracy to hate technology.
Now WE say that the practice of approving questionable products without adequate testing is a failure of regulating bodies to consider public health over industry profits. We cry foul because we know that the research is not extensive, the conclusions not based on long term considerations. The safety not even remotely guaranteed. AND we know that like many things, these caution-scrapping remedies have a way of biting vulnerable people in the ass. (children in poor nations)
So if we look at crops such as corn, engineered to resist common pests, we hear about the decrease in the use of pesticides and how this constitutes a positive step especially because we know these chemicals are harmful despite their widespread use. But what they leave out is the punch line of the joke: that many targeted pests are not dissuaded, causing agribusiness to apply chemicals NAYWAY and worse… the pests become resistant to the process and require EVEN MORE toxic pesticides long term. How does THAT make sense, Monsanto?

2006/03/01

Shut Up and Shoot

The latest voices to be heard calling for us to get the hell out of Iraq belong to the US troops serving there.

According to a Zogby poll:

  • 72% want US troops out of the country within a year.

  • Of the 72%, 22% want our troops out within the next six months, and 29% want withdrawal "immediately."

  • 42% are unsure of the purpose of their mission.

  • Just 23% called for our troops to remain "as long as they are needed."

That the young men and women fighting in Iraq are not the blind, unquestioning loyalists that the Bush administration portrays them as is encouraging. This is not:

The poll also shows that...85 percent believe a major reason they were sent into war was "to retaliate for Saddam’s role in the Sept. 11 attacks."

Some have charged that the administration is totally incompetent. Not true. They are masters at misleading people into believing that black is white and down is up.