Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Army Widens Probe On Fort Bragg Barracks Conditions

To update Eli's post about appalling conditions at Fort Bragg:

Army widens probe after finding bad conditions at Fort Bragg

Robert Burns, AP:

Army officials said Tuesday they are inspecting every barracks building worldwide to see whether plumbing and other problems revealed at Fort Bragg, N.C., last week are widespread.

Brig. Gen. Dennis Rogers, who is responsible for maintaining barracks throughout the Army, told reporters at the Pentagon that most inspections were done last weekend but he had not seen final results.

While not providing specifics about problems discovered during the weekend inspections, Rogers indicated some deficiencies were corrected. In cases where extensive repairs are deemed necessary, the soldiers in that housing would be moved elsewhere until the fixes are completed, he added.

Rogers said it was too soon to know whether the Fort Bragg problem was an isolated incident. He acknowledged the revelations from a video shot by the father of an 82nd Airborne Division soldier showing poor conditions such as mold inside the barracks, peeling interior paint and a bathroom drain plugged with sewage.

The soldier's father, Ed Frawley, said he was disgusted by the conditions that greeted his son and the rest of his 82nd Airborne unit that returned on April 7-8 after a 15-month tour of duty in Afghanistan.

"We let our soldiers down, and that's not like us," Rogers told reporters. "We let our soldiers down. That's not how we want America's sons and daughters to live. There's no good excuse for what happened."

He said the problems in that building have been fixed and that a final paint job is in the works. It is one of 24 barracks at Fort Bragg that were built in the 1950s and are scheduled for demolition by 2013. The barracks singled out by Frawley had been remodeled in April 2006, Rogers said.

Rogers said the Army's standard procedure is to inspect a barracks building to verify that it meets Army standards before it is occupied by soldiers returning from an overseas deployment. For reasons he was unable to explain, that apparently did not happen in the Fort Bragg incident.

Ed Frawley's video.

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Monday, April 28, 2008

Soldiers return to live in an appalling barracks at Fort Bragg

It seems year after year after year we keep hearing these kinds of stories about how our government treats our soldiers.

We've seen the extremes of fiscal conservatism applied to the military, at least to the men and women on the ground by this administration. We've seen how they tried to cut combat pay not long after the war began in Iraq. We've seen cuts in veterans services. We've seen how soldiers were forced to buy their own body armor while hundreds of billions were wasted on fat defense contracts buying more sophisticated long-range bombers and other equipment that is of little use in the kind of guerilla war we are now fighting. We've seen how little our soldiers are actually paid, and yet forced to stay in by 'stop-loss' programs. We've seen how much effort has gone into making it difficult for soldiers who have become disabled in Iraq and Afghanistan to apply for and get disability payments. We've seen the deplorable conditions that existed at Walter Reed Army hospital.

And through it all, the phrase 'support the troops' has been bandied about by this administration as a buzzword for 'support the President's foreign policy,' while the above situations make it clear that they have no concept for what 'support the troops' actually means.

So I'm almost not surprised at the video that's surfaced on U-tube, shot by the father of a soldier from the 82nd Airborne unit of the barracks the unit was housed in at Fort Bragg.

According to the local paper

RALEIGH --A video shot by the father of an 82nd Airborne Division soldier that shows poor conditions such as mold in a barracks at Fort Bragg near Fayetteville has gotten attention from a U.S. senator and high-ranking Army officials.

Ed Frawley, a dog breeder from Menomonie, Wis., posted the narrated video on YouTube.com last week after traveling to North Carolina to welcome his son, Sgt. Jeff Frawley, home from a 15-month tour in Afghanistan.

The video shows peeling paint, mold, a bathroom drain plugged with what appears to be sewage and a broken room door lock, conditions that Frawley described as disgusting and embarrassing.

"The instant you walk through the front door, you know you are in a building that should be condemned," he said.

The army's excuse is that the unit returned three weeks ahead of schedule. What kind of excuse is that? That's an excuse for not doing anything about the mold or about the feces that apparently has been backing up into the shower stall? What exactly was the maintenance crew doing that was more important than making sure our own troops had better conditions to return to than what you'd find in a Baghdad slum?

What's more, is this is five years into the Iraq war (and six and a half into the Afghan war.) You'd think by now the army could have figured out that these kinds of things happening are not good for our troops and taken steps to stop them from happening.

It's too bad that the American soldier doesn't have any lobbyists on Capitol Hill or at the White House, like all those fat defense contractors that get most of what's in the military budget.

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Saturday, April 26, 2008

Pentagon Temporarily Suspends Propaganda

Pentagon halts feeding of information to retired officers while issue is reviewed

Stars And Stripes:

The Defense Department has temporarily stopped feeding information to retired military officers pending a review of the issue, said Robert Hastings, principal deputy assistant secretary of Defense for public affairs.

The New York Times first reported on Sunday that the Defense Department was giving information to retired officers serving as pundits for various media organizations in order to garner favorable media coverage.

Some of these retired officers saw their access to key decision-makers as possible business opportunities for the defense contractors they represent, according to the newspaper. The story also alleged that the officers who did not repeat the Bush administration's official line were denied further access to information.
— — —

Hastings said he is concerned about allegations that the Defense Department's relationship with the retired military analysts was improper.

"Following the allegations, the story that is printed in the New York Times, I directed my staff to halt, to suspend the activities that may be ongoing with retired military analysts to give me time to review the situation," Hastings said in an interview with Stripes on Friday.
— — —

On Thursday, U.S. Rep. Ike Skelton, D-Mo., said in a speech that he was angered by the allegations raised in the New York Times' story.

"There is nothing inherently wrong with providing information to the public and the press," Skelton said. "But there is a problem if the Pentagon is providing special access to retired officers and then basically using them as pawns to spout the administration's talking points of the day."

Skelton, who is chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said he was also disturbed by the ties between the military officers and defense firms.

"It hurts me to my core to think that there are those from the ranks of our retired officers who have decided to cash in and essentially prostitute themselves on the basis of their previous positions within the Department of Defense," he said.

Message Machine:
Behind TV Analysts, Pentagon’s Hidden Hand

NYT, April 20, 2008:

To the public, these men are members of a familiar fraternity, presented tens of thousands of times on television and radio as “military analysts” whose long service has equipped them to give authoritative and unfettered judgments about the most pressing issues of the post-Sept. 11 world.

Hidden behind that appearance of objectivity, though, is a Pentagon information apparatus that has used those analysts in a campaign to generate favorable news coverage of the administration’s wartime performance, an examination by The New York Times has found.

The effort, which began with the buildup to the Iraq war and continues to this day, has sought to exploit ideological and military allegiances, and also a powerful financial dynamic: Most of the analysts have ties to military contractors vested in the very war policies they are asked to assess on air.
— — —

Records and interviews show how the Bush administration has used its control over access and information in an effort to transform the analysts into a kind of media Trojan horse — an instrument intended to shape terrorism coverage from inside the major TV and radio networks.
— — —

In turn, members of this group have echoed administration talking points, sometimes even when they suspected the information was false or inflated. Some analysts acknowledge they suppressed doubts because they feared jeopardizing their access.

A few expressed regret for participating in what they regarded as an effort to dupe the American public with propaganda dressed as independent military analysis.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Get Over It?

60 Minutes:
Scalia On Bush v. Gore 2000: “Get Over It”

Scalia video at Crooks and Liars:

This is an insult to America and the planet. The death and destruction that George Bush and his regime have unleashed since his selection will take decades, perhaps generations to repair and Scalia has the nerve to say something like this? Our Constitution is being shredded, our military is broken and bogged down in two failing military conflicts that have left hundreds of thousands dead, our economy is in the tank with more Americans on food stamps and lacking health insurance than at any time in modern history, and we’re supposed to get over it? No, Justice Scalia, we will not get over it — at least not any time soon.

Bush v. Gore will never be over

Last Chance For Democracy Café:

I see that Justice Antonin Scalia has once again been kind enough to advise us to get over Bush v. Gore. Fat chance.

I’ve got a better idea: how about, Justice Scalia, you face up to the fact that the disgrace of that decision — the raw partisan abuse of power — will stain you and the other four justices who made up the majority for as long as the history of this era is recorded.

Now, you get over that.

* * * * *

I’m sure you’re familiar with the old expression, popular both in retail merchandizing and neoconservative empire building, “If you break it, you own it.”

Well, you and your colleagues broke American democracy in December of 2000: Now you own George W. Bush.

As the people who put him into power, his legacy is your legacy.

You own it lock, stock and barrel.

You own the War in Iraq.

You own the foreign policy that’s left America hated throughout the world.

You own the incompetence of allowing Osama bin Laden to escape by refocusing our armed forces from Afghanistan to Iraq.

You own the corruption of the multi-billion dollar boondoggle no-bid contracts handed out like candy to Bush’s political friends.

You own the torture.

You own the ballooning national debt.

You own the lies.

You own the practice of using the Sept. 11 attacks for political gain.

You own Karl Rove.

You own the near complete disregard for our natural environment.

You own the dirty tricks.

You own the degradation of our civil liberties.

You own the slander directed against anyone who dares oppose Bush.

You own the failure to even try to address Global Warming, potentially the single greatest threat ever to confront humanity.

You own the tax giveaways to the super rich.

You own the outing a CIA operative, potentially placing everyone she’s ever worked with into danger, merely to score a little cheap political revenge.

You own the practice of filling up regulatory boards and commissions with industry insiders.

You own the near dictatorship level obsession with governmental secrecy.

You own the growing economic inequality in America.

You own the failure to even try to address America’s broken healthcare system.

You own the playing politics with stem cell research.

And you own the far right extremists Bush is appointing to the federal bench.

You own the betrayal of New Orleans.

You own the junking of the American economy.

You own the corruption.

All of this, and so much more, belongs to you now.

Yeah. You try and get over that.

The shortage of food

Today, volume discount chains Sam's Club and Costco announced that they will begin limiting the amount of rice that people can buy.

This is just one manifestation of a problem that is sweeping the world: a global food shortage. In many countries where rice is a staple of the diet for millions of people, the price has spiraled to the point that there are literally riots in the streets as people cannot afford the food they need to survive on. But it is more than just rice. The price of nearly every kind of food has increased. Even here in America, as the recession deepens and increases the demand on food banks, many food banks are having trouble getting enough food to keep up with the demand.

There are a lot of reasons for this. The most obvious one is that production of food hasn't been sufficient to meet the demand. Bad weather is one factor, as storms and drought in many parts of the world have destroyed some crops (though as we enter a period of global climate change, it would be hasty to assume that the bad weather is limited to this year-- there is also a good chance that it represents the new 'normal.')

The cost of energy is also a factor. Except for food grown right where it is consumed, food must be transported from one point to another. But with energy costs up across the board, those costs get translated to the supermarket. We can see this here in the United States, as diesel costs for trucks are now well over four dollars per gallon, and the price to the stores which receive their cargo, and eventually to the consumers who buy it, has to rise in order to cover the increased transportation cost.

One reason that is cited, but I'm not sure accurately, is the production of bio-fuels. It is certainly true that every acre of agricultural land that is used to make cleaner burning fuels is not used to grow food. But as I just alluded to there is a cost to not making cleaner fuels as well. Further, I would argue that to blame biofuels misses the most fundamental reason for the food crisis: poor use of land.

Right now our government pays subsidies to farmers to not grow certain crops in order to keep the price up. Well, it is certainly up right now (for all kinds of food) so it may be time to end those subsidies and let the farmers grow and sell as much as they can.

But even that is dwarfed by a much more daunting problem: the overreliance in the western diet on meat. It is true that some marginal land is not suitable for growing crops and grazing is about the only practical agricultural use. But most food animals are fed grain that was produced in fields that could just as easily grow food to feed people. It is true that the food animals are eventually slaughtered for meat, but in fact it takes about sixteen pounds of grain to produce one pound of meat.

I confess, that I love eating meat. But the truth of the matter is that every time I eat a single quarter pound hamburger, it is using up as much as four pounds of food which could easily feed a family for a day.

I'm not proposing radical solutions such as quit growing biofuels or having the Government force everyone to stop eating meat but we do need to consider what impact these things have on the food supply and how we can make sure that there is an adequate food supply to everyone in the world, and that may require some changes in our own lifestyle.

Or we could ignore it, and in time the rationing of rice at these stores could expand to other stores and to other products as food becomes scarcer and more expensive, while in the meantime hunger and rioting spread across the third world.

Let's consider alternative policies that boost food production.

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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

In order to promote unity I've deleted a post.

I wrote a post highly critical of Hillary Clinton based on a personal experience I had four years ago. It disturbed a longtime contributor to this board (and Hillary supporter) enough that she asked to be removed as a contributor.

While I still hold the opinions I expressed, and people who want to read the post can do so here, I decided to remove it from this blog, recognizing that in the fall we will all have to unite behind the nominee, whoever it is (i.e. that half a party is certainly a losing party).

It might also be worth noting that last October I wrote a post stating flatly that if Hillary Clinton is the nominee then I would support her even though I disagree with much of what she has done in the Senate.

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Monday, April 21, 2008

We Are All Children Of Planet Earth

We Are The World

Pavarotti and Friends:

There comes a time when we heed a certain call
When the world must come together as one
There are people dying
And it’s time to lend a hand to life
The greatest gift of all…

Realize that a change can only come
When we stand together as one.

Celebrate Earth Day

Do something.


Saturday, April 19, 2008

Earth Day 2008

"Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on, or by imbeciles who really mean it."
~ Mark Twain

"To waste, to destroy, our natural resources, to skin and exhaust the land instead of using it so as to increase it's usefulness, will result in undermining in the days of our children the very prosperity which we ought by right to hand down to them amplified and developed."
~ Theodore Roosevelt

"It is horrifying that we have to fight our own government to save the environment."
~ Ansel Adams

Water and air, the two essential fluids on which all life depends, have become global garbage cans."
~ Jacques Cousteau

"We won't have a society if we destroy the environment."
~ Margaret Mead

"The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom."
~ Isaac Asimov

"I really wonder what gives us the right to wreck this poor planet of ours."
~ Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

"The earth we abuse and the living things we kill will, in the end, take their revenge; for in exploiting their presence we are diminishing our future."
~ Marya Mannes

"I think the environment should be put in the category of our national security. Defense of our resources is just as important as defense abroad. Otherwise, what is there to defend?"
~ Robert Redford

"The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe, the less taste we shall have for destruction."
~ Rachel Carson

"The future will be green, or not at all. This truth lies at the heart of humankind's most pressing challenge: to learn to live in harmony with the Earth on a genuinely sustainable basis."
~ Sir Jonathon Porritt

"This is the first age that's ever paid much attention to the future, which is a little ironic since we may not have one."
~ Arthur C. Clarke

"The earth is what we all have in common."
~ Wendell Barry

"The obscure we see eventually. The completely obvious, it seems, takes longer."
~ Edward R. Murrow

"Look. This is your world! You can't not look. There is no other world. This is your world; it is your feast. You inherited this; you inherited these eyeballs; you inherited this world of color. Look at the greatness of the whole thing. Look! Don't hesitate - look! Open your eyes. Don't blink, and look, look - look further."
~ Chogyan Trungpa

"If and When were planted, and Nothing grew."
~ Author Unknown

Do something.


Thursday, April 17, 2008

Corporate Air Polluters

Top Corporate Air Polluters Named

World Wire:

Researchers at the Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) at the University of Massachusetts today released the Toxic 100, an updated list of the top corporate air polluters in the United States.

“The Toxic 100 informs consumers and shareholders which large corporations release the most toxic pollutants into our air,” said James K. Boyce, director of PERI's environment program. “We measure not just how many pounds of pollutants are released, but which are the most toxic and how many people are at risk. People have a right to know about toxic hazards to which they are exposed. Legislators need to understand the effects of pollution on their constituents.”

The Toxic 100 index is based on air releases of hundreds of chemicals from industrial facilities across the United States. The rankings take into account not only the quantity of releases, but also the relative toxicity of chemicals, nearby populations, and transport factors such as prevailing winds and height of smokestacks.

Users of the web-based list can view the details behind each company’s Toxic Score, including the names and locations of individual facilities owned by the corporation, the specific chemicals emitted by those facilities, their toxicities, and their contributions to the company's overall score.

A new feature of the website is a look-up tool that allows users to access detailed information on all 7,000 companies with facilities in the EPA database as well as the Toxic 100 list of top polluters.

The Toxic 100 index tackles all three problems by using the most recent Risk-Screening Environmental Indicators (RSEI) data developed by the EPA. In addition to the TRI data, the RSEI data include toxicity weights and the number of people at risk. PERI researchers added up facility-by-facility RSEI data released by the EPA to construct corporate rankings.

“In making this information available, we are building on the achievements of the right-to-know movement,” Boyce explains. “Our goal is to engender public participation in environmental decision-making, and to help residents translate the right to know into the right to clean air.”

More information: PERI's Corporate Toxic Information Project.

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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

One World

Brooke Medicine Eagle:

"There is hope if people will begin to awaken that spiritual part of themselves, that heartfelt knowledge that we are caretakers of this planet."


Monday, April 14, 2008

Quoting Carl

Personally, I would be delighted if there were a life after death, especially if it permitted me to continue to learn about this world and others, if it gave me a chance to discover how history turns out.

For most of human history we have searched for our place in the cosmos. Who are we? What are we? We find that we inhabit an insignificant planet of a hum-drum star lost in a galaxy tucked away in some forgotten corner of a universe in which there are far more galaxies than people. This perspective is a courageous continuation of our penchant for constructing and testing mental models of the skies; the Sun as a red-hot stone, the stars as a celestial flame, the Galaxy as the backbone of night.

Human history can be viewed as a slowly dawning awareness that we are members of a larger group. Initially our loyalties were to ourselves and our immediate family, next, to bands of wandering hunter-gatherers, then to tribes, small settlements, city-states, nations. We have broadened the circle of those we love. We have now organized what are modestly described as super-powers, which include groups of people from divergent ethnic and cultural backgrounds working in some sense together — surely a humanizing and character building experience. If we are to survive, our loyalties must be broadened further, to include the whole human community, the entire planet Earth. Many of those who run the nations will find this idea unpleasant. They will fear the loss of power. We will hear much about treason and disloyalty. Rich nation-states will have to share their wealth with poor ones. But the choice, as H. G. Wells once said in a different context, is clearly the universe or nothing.

I worry that … pseudo-science and superstition will seem year by year more tempting, the siren song of unreason more sonorous and attractive. Where have we heard it before? Whenever our ethnic or national prejudices are aroused, in times of scarcity, during challenges to national self-esteem or nerve, when we agonize about our diminished cosmic place and purpose, or when fanaticism is bubbling up around us — then, habits of thought familiar from ages past reach for the controls. The candle flame gutters. Its little pool of light trembles. Darkness gathers. The demons begin to stir.

We have also arranged things so that almost no one understands science and technology. This is a prescription for disaster. We might get away with it for a while, but sooner or later this combustible mixture of ignorance and power is going to blow up in our faces.

Widespread intellectual and moral docility may be convenient for leaders in the short term, but it is suicidal for nations in the long term. One of the criteria for national leadership should therefore be a talent for understanding, encouraging, and making constructive use of vigorous criticism.

If we can't think for ourselves, if we're unwilling to question authority, then we're just putty in the hands of those in power. But if the citizens are educated and form their own opinions, then those in power work for us. In every country, we should be teaching our children the scientific method and the reasons for a Bill of Rights. With it comes a certain decency, humility and community spirit. In the demon-haunted world that we inhabit by virtue of being human, this may be all that stands between us and the enveloping darkness.

It's better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.

The choice is with us still, but the civilization now in jeopardy is all humanity. As the ancient myth makers knew, we are children equally of the earth and the sky. In our tenure of this planet we've accumulated dangerous evolutionary baggage — propensities for aggression and ritual, submission to leaders, hostility to outsiders — all of which puts our survival in some doubt. But we've also acquired compassion for others, love for our children and desire to learn from history and experience, and a great soaring passionate intelligence — the clear tools for our continued survival and prosperity. Which aspects of our nature will prevail is uncertain, particularly when our visions and prospects are bound to one small part of the small planet Earth. But up there in the cosmos, an inescapable perspective awaits. National boundaries are not evident when we view the Earth from space. Fanatic ethnic or religious or national identifications are a little difficult to support when we see our planet as a fragile blue crescent fading to become an inconspicuous point of light against the bastion and citadel of the stars. There are not yet obvious signs of extraterrestrial intelligence, and this makes us wonder whether civilizations like ours rush inevitably headlong to self-destruction. I dream about it, and sometimes they're bad dreams.

The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.

Our species needs, and deserves, a citizenry with minds wide awake and a basic understanding of how the world works.

The nature of life on Earth and the search for life elsewhere are two sides of the same question: the search for who we are.

We have heard the rationales offered by the nuclear superpowers. We know who speaks for the nations. But who speaks for the human species? Who speaks for Earth?

If we long for our planet to be important, there is something we can do about it. We make our world significant by the courage of our questions and by the depth of our answers.

Anything else you're interested in is not going to happen if you can't breathe the air and drink the water. Don't sit this one out. Do something.

~ Carl Sagan ~
(1934 - 1996)

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Sunday, April 13, 2008

Food vs. Biofuels

From Environment News Service:

British Prime Minister Urges G8 to Help the Hungry:

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has called upon the Group of Eight, G8, to press international institutions such as the World Bank to take action on a growing crisis in global food prices, which have increased by an estimated 55 percent since June. […]

Food prices have risen sharply leading to food riots in several countries. Increased wealth and growing populations in developing countries contribute to steadily increasing global demand for grains, for food and animal feed, aggravated by rapidly increasing biofuel production," Brown wrote.

"Meanwhile, recent crop failures in major producing countries are reminders of the expected consequences of climate change, as the frequency and severity of extreme weather events increase in years to come," he wrote. "And the World Food Programme has highlighted that the increase in food prices will accentuate the food needs for the world's poorest people."

Angry Food Riots Are the New Face of Hunger:

Warning that spiralling food prices are leading to increased poverty and unrest, several senior United Nations officials are calling for urgent measures to tackle the global crisis, which is causing the most suffering among the world's poor.

The World Food Programme's deputy executive director is warning of a "new face of hunger" that will require the combined efforts of governments, the private sector, and humanitarian organizations to overcome.

"Food prices are now rising at rates that few of us can ever have seen before in our lifetimes," John Powell told the Dubai International Humanitarian Aid and Development Conference, DIHAD, a three day event that opened Tuesday at the Dubai International Convention Centre. […]

"World food prices have risen 45 percent in the last nine months and there are serious shortages of rice, wheat and maize," Dr. Jacques Diouf said today.

Director-General of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, FAO, Diouf was addressing the first Global Agro-Industries Forum in New Delhi, India.

A combination of factors, including reduced production due to climate change, historically low levels of stocks, higher consumption of meat and dairy products in emerging economies, increased demand for biofuels production and the higher cost of energy and transport have led to surges in food prices, he said.

Corn-Ethanol Crops Will Widen Gulf of Mexico Dead Zone:

The U.S. demand for corn-based ethanol will add to nutrient pollution in the Gulf of Mexico and expand the annual low oxygen "dead zone" that kills fish and other aquatic life, a computer model run by an international team of scientists shows.

In the first study of its kind, lead author Simon Donner of the University of British Columbia and Chris Kucharik of the University of Wisconsin-Madison modeled the effects of biofuel production on nutrient pollution in an aquatic system.

The researchers looked at the estimated amounts of land and fertilizer needed to meet future production goals for corn-based ethanol. […]

Not all of those billions of gallons of biofuels will be ethanol made from corn. An estimated 21 billion gallons will come from advanced biofuels, which can be produced using a variety of new feedstocks and technologies. Of this, roughly 16 billion gallons is expected to be from cellulosic biofuels, derived from plant sources such as trees, grasses and agricultural waste.

Still, Donner and Kucharik say their findings suggest that nitrogen loading from the Mississippi River into the Gulf of Mexico would increase by 10 to 19 percent, expanding the dead zone, which each summer already covers more than 7,722 square miles - an area equivalent to the size of New Jersey.

"This result confirms our suspicion that there's a significant tradeoff to the expanded production of ethanol from corn grain," says Kucharik, a scientist with the UW-Madison Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies. "It also shows that we need to continue considering our options for other biofuel feedstocks. And when we do, we need to keep the greater impacts on ecosystems in mind."

Tackle Environmental Problems Now or Pay More Later:

Solving four major environmental problems - climate change, biodiversity loss, water scarcity, and the health impacts of pollution and toxics - is both achievable and affordable, finds a new report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, OECD, which includes 30 countries committed to democracy and the market economy.

Biofuels Could Add to Climate Concerns:

Clearing vast tracts of land for biofuels production would hinder, rather than help, the effort to slow global warming, according to two new studies released Thursday. Both studies warn that converting native ecosystems into biofuel cropland would result in major emissions of carbon dioxide, negating the environmental benefits of using biofuels rather than conventional fossil fuels.

New Global Forest Agreement Depends on Local Support:

High oil prices, the need for secure energy supplies and concerns over climate change have led to a new interest in bioenergy that could affect forests because forests occupy land which could be used for crops producing liquid biofuels. […]

"Despite the apparent benefits of biofuels, caution should be exercised when planning and implementing large-scale liquid bio-fuel projects," said Wulf Killmann, director of FAO's Forest Products and Industries Division.

"Governments should ensure that there are no serious negative impacts on the environment and society," he said.

Agro-fuel crops might expand into forests, generating land use conflicts and increasing deforestation, with implications for biological diversity, climate change and water.

The FAO called upon countries to develop their wood energy sectors in line with sustainable forest management concepts and to introduce safeguards for the production of liquid biofuels to avoid unwanted negative impacts on the environment and local populations.

U.S. Water Under Pressure as Ethanol Production Soars:

If U.S. ethanol production continues to rise, the effect on water quality could be considerable and water supply problems could develop, says a new report today from the National Academy of Sciences' National Research Council.

Increased pressure on local aquifers used to grow and refine corn into ethanol, high levels of nitrogen in groundwater from pesticides and fertilizers, and runoff pollution in streams and rivers are a few of the potential impacts, said the committee that wrote the report. […]

Water demands for drinking, industry, and such uses as hydropower, fish habitat, and recreation could compete with and constrain the use of water for biofuel crops in some regions.

Growing biofuel crops requiring additional irrigation in areas with limited water supplies is a major concern, the report warns. […]

The quality of groundwater, rivers, and coastal and offshore waters could be impacted by increased fertilizer and pesticide use for biofuels, the report says.

High levels of nitrogen in stream flows are a major cause of low-oxygen or "hypoxic" regions, commonly known as "dead zones," which are lethal for most living creatures and cover broad areas of the Gulf of Mexico, Chesapeake Bay, and other regions.

Earth's Vital Signs Faltering Under Burden of Human Pressure:

The world’s growing dependence on fossil fuels is fueling ecological destruction across the planet and threatening humanity’s future, according to a new study of trends released Wednesday by the Worldwatch Institute called "Vital Signs 2006-2007." The report paints a grim picture of the planet’s vital signs and warns that dramatic changes in the global economy are needed to fend off ecological, economic and social catastrophes.

“It is becoming ever more apparent that human society has a rapidly shrinking window of time to alter its path,” said Eric Assadourian, lead author of the study.

The Earth’s ecosystems and much of humanity are suffering from “business as usual,” Assadourian said, despite global economic indicators that convey a sense of rising prosperity and production. […]

Global economic numbers also fail to illustrate the living conditions for many on the planet and hide the increasing disparity between the rich and the poor.

“Many still live without the barest essentials,” Assadourian told reporters via conference call. “At what point where booming economic trends are no longer a sign of prosperity?”

The scope of the world’s poverty is severe – almost half of humanity lives on less than $2 a day.

The report notes that more than 1 billion people lack access to safe water and 2.5 billion people do not have access to decent sanitation facilities. […]

Unsustainable consumption patterns are straining the planet’s natural resources, the report said, and current trends offer little hope for improving the lives of the vast majority of the world’s population, which is estimated to grow to 8.9 billion by 2050. […]

The world chopped down 36 million hectares of forested areas between 2000 and 2005, Assadourian said, an area “bigger than the entire country of Italy.”

Supermarkets and Service Stations Now Competing for Grain:

Cars, not people, will claim most of the increase in world grain consumption this year. The U.S. Department of Agriculture projects that world grain use will grow by 20 million tons in 2006. Of this, 14 million tons will be used to produce fuel for cars in the United States, leaving only six million tons to satisfy the world’s growing food needs.

In agricultural terms, the world appetite for automotive fuel is insatiable. The grain required to fill a 25 gallon SUV gas tank with ethanol will feed one person for a year. The grain to fill the tank every two weeks over a year will feed 26 people.

Investors are jumping on the highly profitable biofuel bandwagon so fast that hardly a day goes by without another ethanol distillery or biodiesel refinery being announced somewhere in the world. The amount of corn used in U.S. ethanol distilleries has tripled in five years, jumping from 18 million tons in 2001 to an estimated 55 million tons from the 2006 crop.

In some U.S. Corn Belt states, ethanol distilleries are taking over the corn supply. In Iowa, a staggering 55 ethanol plants are operating or have been proposed. Iowa State University economist Bob Wisner observes that if all these plants are built, they would use virtually all the corn grown in Iowa. In South Dakota, a top 10 corn-growing state, ethanol distilleries are already claiming over half of the corn harvest.

With so many distilleries being built, livestock and poultry producers fear there may not be enough corn to produce meat, milk, and eggs. And since the United States supplies 70 percent of world corn exports, corn-importing countries are worried about their supply.

Food as a Human Right:

"If our planet produces enough food to feed its entire population, why do 854 million people still go to sleep on an empty stomach?"

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Converting Food Into Fuel

IMF Head Warns About Food Prices

Associated Press

The head of the International Monetary Fund warned Saturday that if food prices remain high, there will be dire consequences for people in many developing countries, especially in Africa.

Dominique Strauss-Kahn added that the problem could also create trade imbalances that would affect major advanced economies, "so it is not only a humanitarian question."

With governments in Haiti, Egypt and the Philippines among others already facing social unrest because of rising food prices and shortages, Strauss-Kahn said that if the price spike continues, "Thousands, hundreds of thousands of people will be starving. Children will be suffering from malnutrition, with consequences for all their lives."

Earlier Saturday, Germany's development minister, who is attending the World Bank's meeting Sunday, called for greater regulation of the global biofuels market to prevent its expansion from driving up food prices.

"It is unacceptable for the export of agrofuels to pose a threat to the supply situation of the very people already living in poverty," Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul said in a statement.

She said the world needs new rules that balance goals, including climate change mitigation, food security and social development.

The development group Oxfam, a frequent IMF critic, said rich countries are largely responsible for the food crisis because they have been cutting aid to developing countries and encouraging biofuel production, which the IMF says is responsible for almost half the increase in the demand for food crops.

"Rich countries' demand for biofuel is driving up food prices and is a big part of the problem," said Elizabeth Stuart, an Oxfam policy adviser. "Meanwhile, by cutting aid levels, they are doing precious little to be part of the solution."

Strauss-Kahn spoke at a news conference after a daylong meeting of the steering committee of the 185-nation IMF, which dealt with the unfolding global financial crisis that has affected economies around the world.

In its communique, the committee noted "that a number of developing countries, especially low income countries, face a sharp rise in food and energy prices, which have a particularly strong impact on the poorest segments of the population."

The committee urged the IMF to work closely with its sister institution, the World Bank, and other organizations to provide developing countries with financial support and policy advice.

The Washington-based IMF and World Bank were established 64 years ago to, respectively, regulate the global economy and provide aid to poor countries to reduce poverty.

Why Ethanol Production Will Drive World Food Prices Even Higher in 2008

Environment News Service:

We are witnessing the beginning of one of the great tragedies of history. The United States, in a misguided effort to reduce its oil insecurity by converting grain into fuel for cars, is generating global food insecurity on a scale never seen before.

* * * * *

The World Bank reports that for each 1 percent rise in food prices, caloric intake among the poor drops 0.5 percent. Millions of those living on the lower rungs of the global economic ladder, people who are barely hanging on, will lose their grip and begin to fall off.

* * * * *

There is much to be concerned about on the food front. We enter this new crop year with the lowest grain stocks on record, the highest grain prices ever, the prospect of a smaller U.S. grain harvest as several million acres of land that shifted from soybeans to corn last year go back to soybeans, the need to feed an additional 70 million people, and U.S. distillers wanting 33 million more tons of grain to supply the new ethanol distilleries coming online this year. Corn futures prices for December 2008 delivery are higher than those for March, suggesting that market analysts see even tighter supplies after the next harvest.

Whereas previous dramatic rises in world grain prices were weather-induced, this one is policy-induced and can be dealt with by policy adjustments. The crop fuels program that currently satisfies scarcely 3 percent of U.S. gasoline needs is simply not worth the human suffering and political chaos it is causing. If the entire U.S. grain harvest were converted into ethanol, it would satisfy scarcely 18 percent of our automotive fuel needs.

The irony is that U.S. taxpayers, by subsidizing the conversion of grain into ethanol, are in effect financing a rise in their own food prices. It is time to end the subsidy for converting food into fuel and to do it quickly before the deteriorating world food situation spirals out of control.

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Friday, April 11, 2008

Tim Tagaris Speaks Out

Lamont's Internet Director Speaks Out
On Getting Cleared Of Lieberman Hack Attack

Greg Sargent:

As you may have heard by now, a Federal probe has concluded that Ned Lamont's campaign did not bring down Joe Lieberman's campaign Web site with a hack attack, as the Lieberman camp charged on Election Day 2006.

What really happened was that the Lieberman camp's server failed.

This is vindication for Lamont's Internet director, Tim Tagaris.

So I checked in with Tagaris, who as you might expect had a few things to say about this.

"The sad thing is, Lieberman himself repeated the charge all day in an attempt to discredit his opponents and drive down Ned's primary vote," Tagaris instant messages to me. "It was broadcast on every cable news channel, and papers from The New York Times to the Hartford Courant wrote about it."

"And he got away with it -- who cares what's reported today," Tagaris continues. "He won the election based on a pattern of lies loudly repeated and dutifully stenographed."

"Now maybe someone will run an investigation into Joe Lieberman's repeated claim that no one wants to end the war more than he does," Tagaris concludes.

It'll be interesting to see if all the cable and print outlets that went nuts over the Lieberman campaign's accusations that day will take note of the fact that the Lamont campaign -- and Tagaris -- have now been cleared.


Thursday, April 10, 2008

Lieberman Crashed Own Site

Case Closed on Lieberman's Website

Scout Finch, KOS:

It's official. Joe Lieberman and his 2006 campaign staff were either incompetent, dishonest, or both. Atrios has the story.

The Last Honest Man

Those of us who were in Connecticut that day know that Connecticut media was pretty much wall to wall "LAMONT CAMPAIGN HACKED THE LIEBERMAN CAMPAIGN WEB SITE" the entire day of the primary.

A federal investigation has concluded that U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman's 2006 re-election campaign was to blame for the crash of its Web site the day before Connecticut's heated Aug. 8 Democratic primary.

The FBI office in New Haven found no evidence supporting the Lieberman campaign's allegations that supporters of primary challenger Ned Lamont of Greenwich were to blame for the Web site crash.

On the day of the 2006 primary, Joe Lieberman's website came crashing down. Lieberman and his mouthpieces spent the day running around to all the media that would listen, claiming that their site had been hacked by Lamont supporters or other "extremist leftwing elements". Sadly, the media was all too eager to buy into the narrative and they relentlessly pushed the idea that "dirty campaign tactics" by bloggers simply had to be at the root of it.

The problem was, even at the time, it was crystal clear that this was sheer incompetence by the Lieberman camp. Kos pointed to it that very same day:

But now I have the definitive answer as to why Lieberman's site went down.

They are paying $15/month for hosting at a place called MyHostCamp, with a bandwidth limit of 10GB. MyHostCamp is currently down, along with all their clients.

Here's the deal -- you get what you pay for. My hosting bill is now over $7K per month. A smaller site doesn't need that much bandwidth, but if you're paying $15 because your $12 million campaign is too freakin' cheap to pay for quality hosting, then don't go blaming your opponent when your shitty service goes out.

For their part, the Lamont campaign has offered its technical expertise to get Lieberman's site back up (which could be done in an hour by a competent sysadmin), and has added a link to the googlecached version of Lieberman's site at the top of their blog.

Turns out that federal investigators came to the same conclusion in October 2006 after Lieberman's camp demanded a full investigation.

Not Guilty

Ben Smith, Politico:

One of the stranger episodes of the Lieberman-Lamont primary in 2006 was the Lieberman campaign's charge that supporters of his rival (whose web guy, Tim Tagaris, is above) "attacked" Lieberman's website.

Anyway, the FBI has finally gotten to the bottom of it, in case you were wondering. The verdict: Not guilty.

Lieberman Lies Again:
Crashed His Own Website, Blamed Bloggers

Jane Hamsher, FDL:

I started transcribing this video from Lamont/Lieberman primary day 2006 but frankly I'm just too pissed to do it. Although the FBI investigation in to the incident was concluded in 2006, due to the perseverance of the Stamford Advocate the results were revealed today, and found what we all know to be true at the time -- no blogger hacked into Joe's website.

Joe Lieberman crashed his own website.

But that didn't matter. Joe needed a way to own the news cycle, and gave it to himself by flapping his lying weasel lips all day long for the benefit of the cameras. And they let him. Over and over again.

* * * * *

Anyone who reported on this and doesn't want to give the same amount of time to re-evaluating this embarrassment, and what it reflects about our media system that this kind of thing could happen, should find themselves another profession.


Wednesday, April 09, 2008

McSame Old McSame

There he goes, again:

McCain Confuses al Qaeda in Iraq with Shi’ites. Again.

Nicole Belle, Crooks and Liars:

I can't figure out if he's doing this because he's too stupid to learn and educate himself or if he buys into the Rovian theory that if you stubbornly keep repeating something over and over that eventually, it's accepted as the truth. Either way, is that the kind of Commander-in-Chief we need after Bush?

* * * * *

It’s really embarrassing that the guy who has built his whole campaign over staying in Iraq doesn’t understand the players at all. Of course the media will never point this out, but it’s ridiculous that he has made the same gaffe over and over again and can still be considered credible on National Security.

Confusion: McCain Still Trying to Figure out al Qaeda

Brandon Friedman, VetVoice:

While questioning General David Petraeus today, foreign policy bumbler John McCain again became confused over whether al Qaeda was a Sunni or Shia organization. You would think somebody could sit this guy down for five minutes and explain the differences to him.

* * * * *

Of course, Senator McCain has a long history of bewilderment when it comes to this type of stuff. See here, here, and here, and here for examples.

Did McCain get confused about al Qaeda again?

Carpetbagger Report:

I’ve watched the exchange a few times, and I keep coming to the same conclusion: by rhetorically asking if al Qaeda is a Shiite sect, McCain was once again demonstrating that he’s confused about the terrorist group’s religious background. He added, “Or Sunnis or anybody else,” not to necessarily to clarify, but to cover his bases — he figures al Qaeda has to be affiliated with an Islamic tradition, even if he doesn’t know which one.

Ilan Goldenberg added, “McCain did genuinely mix up Sunnis and Shi’a again…. Now, I know that there is a bit of gotcha going on here. But this man claims that his greatest qualification for the Presidency is that he understands foreign policy. But the differences between Sunni and Shi’a matter. They matter a lot! And this nasty habit of mixing it up just seriously needs to stop.”

Indeed, I’d say it’s the “nasty habit” that makes this morning’s mix-up especially interesting. If McCain had consistently demonstrated a firm grasp of events in the Middle East, it’d be easier to overlook confusion over whether al Qaeda is Sunni or Shi’ia.

Question For McCain

Eli, Firedoglake:

Well, based on what I've read of Crocker and Petraeus's Senate testimony, it appears that the official BushCo/Republican party line is that Teh Surge is making progress, but not so much progress that we could start bringing all the troops home. We're winning against al Qaeda in Iraq, but they're still the big bad boogeyman (along with their BFFs in Iran), and Iraq is still the central front in the War On Terror.

Now, to my uninformed eye it appears that al Qaeda is a minor player in Iraq, and the only thing standing between Iraq and all-out civil war is not Teh Surge, but Teh Ceasefire (which is showing some cracks, to put it mildly) - but what do I know, I'm just a dirty unserious hippie.

So here's my question which I would like to see the media ask McCain, Bush, and any other Republicans who just happen to accidentally stumble in front of their cameras and tape recorders: What, exactly, would have to happen for you to declare that Iraq is a lost cause, or simply not worth the loss of money and lives?

For most Americans, the Iraqupation passed the Threshold Of Fail years ago, yet the members of the Endless War Party continue to insist that things are going well, we just need to be patient to let Teh Surge work its healing magic, and the media needs to stop occasionally telling us that Iraq is not yet the peaceful liberal ponyocracy that Dubya promised. The McBushies claim that any apparent setbacks are really illusions, or successes, or proof of Iran and/or al-Qaeda's desperation and scariness.

So what will it take, guys?

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Tuesday, April 08, 2008

McMore Of McSame

John McCain - The Warmonger:

Schultz on McCain: 'The man's a warmonger'

We Got Ed:

Schultz told CNN host John Roberts, "Labeling a candidate is not being disrespectful."

Schultz said, "McCain's policies fit the description, there's no question about that. ... John McCain has no end game in Iraq. ... (He) is saber rattling with Iran. ... The man is a warmonger."

Radio host Ed Schultz calls McCain "Warmonger":

McCain’s Speech On Progress In Iraq Interrupted
By News Of Mortars Hitting The Green Zone

Watch the video at Think Progress:

Today, [April 7, 2007] Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) spoke to the Veterans of Foreign Wars, making the case for the “unmistakable progress” in Iraq.

A telling moment in his remarks came when he was arguing why President Bush’s surge “dramatically turned around the situation in Iraq.” Just as he reached this point in his speech, MSNBC cut away to report on escalating violence in Iraq:

McCAIN: Faced with the prospect of defeat, we had two fundamental choices. We could retreat from Iraq and accept the horrible consequences of our defeat. Or we could change strategies and try to turn things around. It was, I believe, a critical moment in our nation’s history, and a time of testing for our nation’s political leadership.

In the year that has passed, our nation showed its strength —

MSNBC: And speaking of Iraq, we do have breaking news out of Iraq, where at least four mortars have been fired into the heavily-fortified Green Zone today. It’s unclear at this time if there are casualties or any major damage. Now the news comes just a day after five U.S. soldiers were killed in Iraq. Two, again, inside that Green Zone.

More Time for More of the Same?

NYT Editorial:

Fifteen months ago, President Bush acknowledged that violence in Iraq had gotten so out of control that he needed to send 20,000 more troops into the war zone. Improved security, he argued, would allow Iraqi Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds the space to reach political compromises and develop a shared vision of the future so they and their country could move forward.

* * * * *

But what has not happened over the last 15 months is far more important.

The Iraqi military is still not able to fight its own battles, even with American backup. Iraqi politics are deeply riven. Parliament has not passed a law on sharing oil wealth or rules for provincial elections. And far too much of the country is under the control of ethnic militias — some currently in the pay of the United States (although for how long is anybody’s guess) and some sworn to kill as many of their own countrymen and as many Americans as they can.

Consider the events of the last few days.

* * * * *

Meanwhile, the toll in lives and treasure mounts. The Times reported on Sunday that repeated battlefield tours have so debilitated American troops that Army leaders fear for their mental health.

Among the questions General Petraeus needs to answer is when will the Iraqi Army be ready to fight? How — after all of the American training and effort — does he explain the 1,000 defections in Basra? And why should Americans believe that his strategy deserves more time or has a real chance of success?

Need suggestions for items to send to our troops?


Sunday, April 06, 2008

N.I.E. or L.I.E.?

Bush refuses to release National Intelligence Estimate

Rachel Maddow on Countdown, with Jon Soltz, chairman votevets.org:


Chiefs of Staff: Change Course, Face Draft, or Lose Army

Questions for General Petraeus

Neo-Con Media Twisting Facts to Paint Rosy Picture in Iraq

Pentagon Spending Through the Roof

Two New Reports Prove: Our Deployment Cycles Are A Recipe For Disaster

No More Troop Cuts in Iraq Until New Administration

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Rev, Annotated

From Red Letter Rev:

R and I have been rapt watching John Adams. That should be required viewing for every junior high student.

Yes, it took a great deal of thought, negotiation, and an huge amount of courage to stand up to tyranny in the face of being shot for simply demanding dignity, fairness and equality. Most folks out walking around have no idea what the Founders and Framers went through and that is a shame on our educational system and a shame on any responsible citizen.

It was very interesting how they tried to end slavery, but were forced to put up with it to first gain independence from Britain. They did hope to take the issue up and end the shameful practice once and for all, but it took another 87 years and a horrible war to bring the promise of liberty and justice "for all" to a hobbling start. But it was a start to fulfilling the dreams of the Framers. Another 150 years later than that, and we're still in the struggle for liberty and justice "for all".

If the righties ever bothered to read and understand the Constitution (just like they don't read the Bible they love to beat people with), they would never be righties. Anyone who reads the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution would very quickly understand that both were created by, even carefully crafted (if you will) by liberals.

Liberals liberated this country from England. Liberals ended slavery. Liberals are still fighting for liberty and justice "for all". Liberals gave us the 5-day work-week, are guardians and stewards of the air, water and national resouces and natural treasures. Liberals made sure that (according to the Constitution) we have a right to redress in a court of law.

Reliably, the right-wingers have fought in favor of rights only for the rich and pampered, in favor of slavery (they're still not letting go), in favor of removing every right the Constitution guarantees. They fight to squander our natural resources for the profit of the very, very few, the rich and pampered. They actively work to suppress the voices of the poor, the disadvantaged.

Jesus only gave two commandments. The second being deemed equal to the first is to love one another. I firmly believe He'll have some mighty, mighty tough and personal questions to ask the wingnuts when they knock on the Pearly Gates.

Maybe it's because of the way I was raised (to love my country because of its marvellous Constitution), or maybe because of my military service (I promised [Quakers don't swear] to "protect, uphold and defend" it) or maybe because it's the correct, moral and only defensible position for a loyal, patriotic citizen to take. I've said it before and I'll keep repeating it until it takes hold: The Constitution is the one and singular document that makes America "America". If that is destroyed, then America itself is destroyed and something less, free, less righteous and, well, less, will take its place upon this soil.

You'll only find educated people aware of what the Constitution really means amongst the center to left. The right wingers don't read it, don't care what's in it: give them a mouthful of slogans to chant and a flag to wave and they'll happily (and stupidly) throw their rights and country away.

That's as good as treason and I regard them as I would any enemy of my beloved country.

You know how passionate I am about protecting the Constitution and the promises of freedom in it. Better men than I have said, "Until everybody is free, ain't nobody free" and that's the G'd's honest truth. It's more than just the concept and practices of a free society. The righties totally miss the point. Sadly, it's completely understandable, since they have no notion of empathy, compassion or anything outside their own personal wants, demands and desires, and screw everyone else.

The point the Framers were making, the point for which the Founders fought, endured hardships we can't imagine today, even died for, was that human beings deserve their own dignity and suchness. It is that rich tapestry that makes for a healthy society. Homogenization and regimentation always, always throughout history are the destroyers of nations.

Just because a few selfish folks wanted everything all their way and no way else. Every regimented state has failed, and the erosion on our nation is visible to the entire world.

It grieves me as much as losing a parent would, to see my beloved country sicken, wane and begin to die. The Constitution is mother to every citizen and like a mother, every patriotic citizen should protect, love and defend it.

It boils down to a very simple question: Do we support the Constitution and the rule of American law, or do we continue to allow the U.S. to slide into a third-world dictatorship?

We are on the verge of completely losing our citizenship and with it, our country, our freedoms and our way of life. There's but scant time to turn the Bush/neoKKKon mess around and become a constitutional democracy again.

Or not. It's up to us.
We Are The Ones We Have Been Waiting For

So What Are You Going To Do About It?


Updated and cross posted here.


Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Shame On The Media

No Shame, No Blame -- Media Refuse to Face Up to Role in Iraq Disaster

Greg Mitchell:

In the thousands of articles and television reports in recent days surrounding the fifth anniversary of the start of the war in Iraq -- and the grim milestone of 4,000 U.S. troops dead there -- nearly every important aspect was probed, and fingers were pointed: at Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Bremer or Dick Cheney, at stubborn Republicans or weak-willed Democrats, and at many others. But conspicuously absent as a subject in the media analysis and reassessment were... the media.

It's as if the war had been planned, launched, and continued for more than half a decade with hardly any major media slips or tragic omissions. The media, with months to plan for the five-year commemoration, were ready to take stock of everything but themselves. By and large, when they did review their role, it was to showcase some of the undeniably terrific reporting, photography, and videography that have emerged from the war zone.

A frank assessment of the overall media performance, from the "run-up" to the "surge," was nearly non-existent. That's not only shameful and revealing -- it's a real missed opportunity, since there is so much to be learned from it by current and future generations of journalists.

Yes, the fateful media mistakes and misreporting of Iraqi WMD before the war has been covered in the past, although with few apologies.
* * * * *
What about the reluctance of editorial pages and pundits to propose, even tentatively, a real change in course in Iraq, as month after month and then year after year passed? Almost four years went by before a leading newspaper called for the beginning of even a very slow, phased withdrawal. What do they think of that delay now? Why do the many columnists who were so wrong about the war fail to come clean about their mistakes?

And just in recent months: Why are there so few reporters covering the war now? Are budgetary excuses and blaming readers for not being very interested anymore really valid? Or do readers take their cues from the (increasingly disinterested) media?
* * * * *
As I have often indicated, there has been an ample amount of truly heroic journalism from the war zone and tough-minded probing into the causes and conduct of the war here at home. But the media's current failure to examine some of the questions above only adds to the black mark they have received for past miscues and errors in judgment related to this catastrophic war.

[Greg Mitchell is the author of So Wrong for So Long: How the Press, the Pundits - and the President - Failed on Iraq.]

Tuesday, April 01, 2008


HUD Head Evicted?

HUD Head Jackson: "…Ethics? What ethics? And incompetence and corruption has got nothing to do with it!"

Loyalty Over Merits: During a speech on April 28, 2006, Jackson recounted a conversation he had with a prospective contractor who had a “heck of a proposal.” This contractor, however, told Jackson, “I don’t like President Bush.” Jackson subsequently refused to award the man the contract. A former HUD assistant secretary confirmed that Jackson told agency employees to “consider presidential supporters when you are considering the selected candidates for discretionary contracts.”

Political Retaliation: In 2006, Jackson allegedly demanded that the Philadelphia Housing Authority (PHA) “transfer a $2 million public property” at a “substantial discount” to Kenny Gamble, a developer, former soul-music songwriter, and friend of Jackson’s. When PHA director Carl Greene refused, Jackson and his aides called Philadelphia’s mayor and “followed up with ‘menacing’ threats about the property and other housing programs in at least a dozen letters and phone calls over an 11-month period.”

Yep. Another Corrupt Bush Crony.

Jackson: "Oops... pardon me. Gotta go spend more time with my family. See ya."

Mr. Jackson is just the latest in a long line of Bush appointees who has resigned to go spend more time with his family. He may need that time, as the DOJ is investigating him for giving out contracts to friends. Yes, the culture of corruption is alive and well and living in the Bush Administration still.

Mr. Jackson said that he had worked hard to keep families in their homes, to revitalize public housing and to preserve affordable housing.

Top Ten List Of Crazy Statements by John McSame

We just don't need more of this McCrap.

John McCain has been saying a lot of downright nutty things lately. You've probably come across some of them, such as his admitted lack of knowledge about economics or his excitement at the prospect of remaining in Greater Mesopotamia for the next ten decades. [snip]

Glad trusty Joe Lieberman was there to explain to the man of "experience," a man who wants to lead the free world, that Sunnis (Al Qaeda) and Shia (Iran) not only don't work together but are in direct conflict.

It’s Official: Lieberman Is the New Zell Miller

"Ohh… ooh! Johnny McSame, please pick me… I'll be your BFF! (*nasally whine*) Pick me, pick me! Please, oh please!"


He is not just condemning his party’s position on Iraq, or praising McCain, his long-time friend. He is condemning in sweeping language the very core identity of the Democratic Party as weak and extremist. This is a tried and true Republican theme, which traditionally has more to do with scaring independent voters than with actual reasoned debate of the issues. It is not hard to remember another Democratic exile, Georgia Sen. Zell Miller, making a similar argument at the 2004 Republican Convention. [snip]

The message: The once noble Democratic Party has been taken over by peaceniks and radicals, who are weakening the country and threatening our security. Nearly two years after being rejected by his lifelong party in the Connecticut primary, it appears that Lieberman has only begun his effort to exact revenge. Look for him in September on a Twin Cities stage.

Save the Country. Save the Planet.

How different things could have been these last seven years.

Two contrasting stories on CBS' 60 Minutes illustrated for the hundredth time why selecting the right person for President matters. In 2000, the American people made the right choice in voting for Al Gore over George Bush, but five conservative justices of the Supreme Court overruled the people and instead installed perhaps the most lawless regime in American history. We have paid a huge price for the Court's lawless dishonesty. [snip]

Had we had an honest Supreme Court, we would have had a very different man as President. However he might have responded to 9/11, it is certain Al Gore would never have invaded Iraq and equally certain he would never have destroyed the Constitution's Bill of Rights through illegal spying on Americans, nor would he have trampled on statutes and treaties outlawing abuse of prisoners and torture for the sake of a mindless "global war on terror." But our nation would have been leading a global effort to deal with the threat of climate change.

Church Deacon Arrested For Anti-War T-Shirt?

Wuh? A Constitutional right for freedom of speech? First Amendment? Hah. You don't need no stinking free speech. Or a right to peaceably assemble, or to petition the Government for a redress of grievances

He's 80, but he was wearing the wrong tee shirt. One must never wear the wrong tee shirt. That's just unacceptable.

The fools are still on parade.

And it's April. Sigh.

Presidents and prime ministers will lie their countries into war -- but why do We the People keep buying it?

Do something!

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