31 October 2007

The Politics of Withdrawal

There are always people who find reasons to oppose any war while others have never seen a war they didn't like. These two groups are unlikely to change their mind so the fence-sitters become the key demographic that decide, in any conflict, when enough is enough and it's time to end the latest crusade. Only two things are going to make these people want to leave Iraq: concern over body bags or money.

Money: The costs of this war will be huge--we're talking a trillion or two by the time the last bills come in (many of these decades in the future). Last winter, the estimates said that the total cost would soon pass that of Vietnam (in adjusted dollar values). Only counting what we've spent so far, the money could have bought:
  • Over 4 million housing units. (Imagine getting a free lottery tickets for yourself and each of your family members with a 1 in 100 chance of winning a free house.)
  • Over 8 million school teachers for a year.
  • 61.5 million children's costs to attend Head Start (Does the U.S. even have this many kids? Spread out over time, this would probably fund the program for at least a decade, don't you think?)
  • Insurance for almost 30 million kids for the next ten years (In other words, we could give free health care to all kids up to a fairly advanced age for the next decade.)
  • 22.5 million scholarships. (I'd estimate that everyone entering college next year, undergraduates in 4-year schools and graduate students, could be given a scholarship.)
If we take into consideration the true longterm costs (treating injured soldiers, etc.), we'd need to multiple all the above figures 2-4 times.

In a clever move, the Bush administration has funded the war completely through borrowing so the problem has been passed down to our children and grandchildren to deal with. Since most Americans can't imagine time existing beyond the football game on Monday night, money probably won't be a factor unless people start making the connection between the war and their pocketbooks, which could happen if the country enters recession.

Body Bags: John Mueller, an expert on wartime public opinion, has noted (see his previous Foreign Affairs article) that the Iraq War has had abysmal support from the beginning so a much smaller number of fence sitters need to see the light for this debacle to finally be over. Mueller points out, however, that these things tend to drag on painfully for years long after the public has grown disillusioned. Disapproval of Shrub's War had reached Tet Offensive levels in early 2005; yet Congress (a new Democratic Congress!) still somehow supports this mess. Of course, there's a great deal of oil underfoot so big money is going to keep funding the politicians who support the war until the very end. The reduction in U.S. casualties will make it hard for the advocates of withdrawal to get much traction on the issue (the fence-sitters don't seem to be concerned in the least about Iraqi casualties). Barring some spectacular offensive (that the fractured Iraqi groups don't seem to be up to), I don't see withdrawal on the horizon. The U.S. political machinery is solidly in support of the war--in spite of U.S. opinion, a fact that speaks volumes about the sad state of American democracy.

29 October 2007

Trinity University's 15-lateral Win

This is the first and last time you'll see a post on football here where I normally swerve away from spectator sports and Hollywood trivia but this is just too good to resist: a 15-lateral touchdown on the last play of the game. (Were some of these guys former rugby players by any chance?)

28 October 2007

Land and oceans soaking up less CO2

This, if it turns out to be true, is terrible news:

International scientists found that inefficiency in the use of fossil fuels increased levels of CO2 by 17%. The other 18% came from a decline in the natural ability of land and oceans to soak up CO2 from the atmosphere. About half of emissions from human activity are absorbed by natural "sinks" but the efficiency of these sinks has fallen, the study suggests. . . .

. . . The weakening of the Earth's ability to cope with greenhouse gases is thought to be a result of changing wind patterns over seas and droughts on land. "The decline in global sink efficiency suggests that stabilisation of atmospheric CO2 is even more difficult to achieve than previously thought," said report co-author Dr Corinne Le Quere of the British Antarctic Survey.

25 October 2007

Ralph Nader on why Dems won't impeach Bush

Numerous communities have passed resolutions to impeach Bush but when they presented the information to a Democratic congressman, he said that if the Dems were to try impeaching Bush, Bush would attack Iran and declare martial law to cancel the 2008 elections. Is this why we haven't had impeachment proceedings? It's a chilling thought but I agree with those who say that it can happen here.

Finding ways to pass the dull autumn days in Congress

When I saw this, I at first thought it was a spoof. Our representatives evidently can't find anything to do with their time (with only trivial events to deal with like Californian cities burning and oil-rich countries imploding) and must fill their days passing resolutions in support of a hate-radio host.


Mr. KINGSTON submitted the following resolution
RESOLUTION

Commending Rush Hudson Limbaugh III for his ongoing public support of American troops serving both here and abroad. Recognizing Mr. Limbaugh for his relentless efforts to build and maintain troop morale through worldwide radio broadcasts and personal visits to conflict regions.

Whereas the need to show support for American troops serving and fighting both here and abroad during a time of global conflict has never been greater, with the need to communicate an uplifting message of encouragement to American soldiers eternally important, in addition to the morale-boosting value of personal visits to region by highly-regarded individuals;

Whereas daily radio broadcasts reaching tens of millions of civilians and soldiers both in America and abroad by way of the Armed Forces Radio Network are conducted five days a week by Rush Hudson Limbaugh III;

Whereas Mr. Limbaugh has consistently used his broadcast time to praise American troops and support them during their ongoing efforts to secure peace in a troubled world;

. . . and yada yada yada

24 October 2007

Ignorance is bliss

WaPo (A10) has a story today about how the Bush administration "edited" testimony that the CDC (Center for Disease Control) was to give to the Senate, reducing a 14-page document to four (six pages were ultimately presented to the Senate committee). Evidently, Bush and his fellow scientists didn't want any global warming news to slip out and upset the public. Doesn't it give you this warm and fuzzy feeling to see our compassionately conservative great leader looking out for us, making sure that we don't get exposed to any frightening facts that might keep us up at night?

23 October 2007

Surviving a Simian Attack

Make it stop! Make it stop! has some very useful advice on how to stop monkey attacks (I guess the deputy mayor of New Delhi was recently done in by our primate enemies):

    Safety Tips - How to Survive a Monkey Attack

  • If you are holding a snack, throw it in their direction, and they'll stop bothering you.
  • If you don't have any food, hold out your open palms to show you're not carrying a tasty treat or back away from the monkeys without showing fear.
  • Don't make eye contact or smile with your teeth showing—in the nonhuman primate world, these are almost always signs of aggression.


Make it stop! then translates this advice to the American environment:

Perhaps using this wisdom . . . we can find ways to survive our own government. So, the next time you find yourself surrounded by a group of neo-cons, remember these safety tips:
  • If you are holding a copy of the Bill of Rights, destroy it and they'll stop bothering you.
  • If you don't have a record of your rights, hold out your open palms to show you're willing to be spied on, tortured or "redacted" and back away from the neo-cons without showing fear. They already have your addresses & phone numbers.
  • Don't make eye contact or smile with your teeth showing—in the nonhuman neo-con world, these are certainly signs of aggression, but don't worry, they'll probably attack you no matter what. I'd suggest sending the monkeys after them, but not even monkeys can stomach neo-con.

21 October 2007

On the Commons

Today, I happened to come across On the Commons, a very insightful and well-written blog that juxtaposes current environmental issues with related economic concerns. I'd especially recommend the recent article "The harsh economics of green-collar jobs." Also worth reading is a 2005 article titled "The illusory self-made man." An excerpt:

It always irritates me to see the Michael Eisners and Ken Lays and George W. Bushes portray themselves as "self-made men" — Ayn Rand superheroes of the capitalist order. Individual initiative matters in creating wealth, of course, but some of the most critical ingredients are social investments -- schools, colleges, government R&D, small business assistance, the courts, the stock market, regulatory agencies, and much more. These are precisely the factors that the "I did it all myself" storyline denies. Moguls claim all responsibility for their success while denigrating government taxation as a form of theft and social spending as waste. How gratifying, then, to come across a report that tackles the bogus, self-congratulatory myth of the self-made man. "I Didn't Do It Alone: Society's Contribution to Individual Wealth and Success," takes on the "great man theory of wealth creation" by letting more than a dozen entrepreneurs, CEOs and investors confess that their personal talent was only partly responsible, and that it takes a village to make a millionaire.

20 October 2007

Around the internets

The Quiet Road has an interesting post on carbon emissions trading on the global level. Precision blogging talks about wind belts (a new way to tap wind power). 22 over 7 offers us two new high-resolution pictures of the Earth which were recently put out by NASA. On the lighter side of things, the Wisdom Weasel informs us that "Georgia has hired a member of 1970s pop group Boney M, famous for songs like Daddy Cool and Rasputin, in its fight for control of breakaway South Ossetia" (Where do people find these nuggets!)

19 October 2007

Neanderthals

Scientists have discovered that Neanderthals had a copy of the FOXP2 gene similar to that of homo sapiens. This is big news since it pushes back a key genetic link to language abilities to a period in which Neanderthals and humans had a common ancestor. Other research now shows that Neanderthals spread as far as southern Siberia.

18 October 2007

Into the Wild: The movie

I saw Into the Wild last week. For those not familiar with the story, it's an account of Christopher McCandless, a young idealistic kid who gave everything he had to charity and then headed across the U.S., but eventually died in the Alaskan wilderness. Having read the book, I was impressed by how much the movie followed the actual story without too many embellishments. On the down side, the directors spent a little too much time dwelling on McCandless's conflict with his father. Aside from that minor blemish, the film is excellent with great acting and a lot of very realistic footage. It's good to see a story of a person who doesn't value money above all else. I also liked how the movie showed some very unconventional platonic friendships between McCandless and an older woman, a young girl, and an elderly man.

Assassination attempt

A couple dozen 108 people were killed in an attempted assassination of Bhutto upon her return to Pakistan. It'll be interesting to see if Pakistan can keep from descending into chaos.

17 October 2007

Leupp article

Gary Leupp has a good response to a Marine's letter (about "islamofascism") in a recent article in Counter Punch.

16 October 2007

Our man in the Netherlands

Roland Arnall who heads Ameriquest (and was a major contributor to the Bush campaign) was appointed by Bush as Ambassador in the Netherlands even after it was discovered that his company has been heavily involved in the shenanigans leading up to the current housing mortgage crisis. As they say, money talks.

15 October 2007

An interesting question

While there's some wiggle-room for debate, it seems that the Blackwater mercenaries are, according to the laws of war, "unlawful combatants." Is it then legal for any state entity that meets them on a battlefield to whisk them away to secret detainment facilities and then torture them? Are they protected under international treaties?

13 October 2007

A return to Zepellin travel anyone?


The BBC and Gazpachot have interesting articles on the possibility of a return to the use of Zepellins. Although they'd slow travel down to a much more leisurely pace, the idea is interesting since they'd make air travel a bit more like boat travel with ample space and the possibility of enjoying the scenery. They're evidently safe, economical, and eco-friendly as well.

12 October 2007

The blogosphere weighs in on Gore

Gore and the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have won the Noble Peace Prize. This is good news, albeit news that will provoke the ire of the flat-earth the-market-solves-everything crowd. While much of the right dismisses Gore's documentary An Inconvenient Truth as complete fantasy (I doubt that few have actually watched it), it's probably the most well-argued, evidence-based documentary ever made. So what are some of our flat-earth brethren saying about award:

Ted West the Naked Conservative suggests (through the example of the Iraq War) that liberals will bring on global warming by talking about it. Some have mistakenly attributed this logical form to Aristotle but it actually comes from Tommy, a small boy who closed his eyes when caught with his hand in the cookie jar, knowing that his mother and the rest of the world would simply disappear the second he stopped thinking of them.

And They Call Me an Engineer and Considerettes are flabbergasted that Gore gets a peace prize for his work which (he claims) doesn't seem to have anything to do with peace. Hmmm. If we have India, which will soon be the most populous nation, running short of water due to glacial melt, other countries like Canada possible benefitting from greatly expanded habitable territories, Africa, the poorest area in the world, turning into a large desert, and a world cut up into different nations which each have politicians concerned solely with what benefits their own country (and those are the good politicians, most are more concerned about how to benefit the corporation that gave them money or the tribe that supports them), how is this not related to peace?

And from the round-earth side?

Progressive Involvement makes a sort of "Pascal's Wager" that if we bet on science (versus talk-show hosts and corporate spokesmen?) at least we'll start turning to cleaner energy sources and realligning or economy for long-term sustainability.

The Middle Earth Press Room and many other blogs have lamented the fact that Gore is not (at least, not yet) running. I would definitely vote for Gore over the current list of candidates (although I do like Kucinich and Edwards).

11 October 2007

Chinese food imports

I was listening to the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigation as it held a hearing on food safety and imported foods. The report, prepared by committee staffers who visited Chinese plants and Beijing's inspection and quarantine (CIQ) office in August, recommends that FDA limit Chinese food imports to companies bearing the Chinese government's CIQ certificate. I can't believe that the FDA still doesn't acknowledge the certificates. As one person asked, even if we wanted to demand more stringent requirements, it seems like we'd want to take advantage of the regulatory mechanisms at the Chinese end. There have been incidents of products not being exported as food but then being imported as food since no one on the U.S. side asks for the Chinese papers. In this case, it's hard to see what the FDA's motivation is. Is it patronizing U.S. companies that want to go to China so that they can export sub-standard (=dangerous!) food back to the U.S.?

10 October 2007

2013 + ?

Obama can't say whether U.S. combat troops will be out of Iraq by the end of his first term since "it can’t be done to bring troops out in three to six months." Evidently, Obama doesn't plan on remaining in office very long. At a recent talk, a person in the crowd held up a big sign with 2013 on it. Even with the Dems in office, U.S. forces will be in Iraq long after that. So if you have kids who don't really understand what the war is about (hint . . . hint . . . black gooey stuff), no worries mate! Your kids will probably get their own chance to experience the war first hand as the U.S. continues its war in revenge for . . . (what did Iraq do to us again?) . . . for something. WE gotta go get THEM, as they say. I know, I know--it's my patriotic duty to remember the causes of the war. Don't get mad at me for my absentmindedness--this war started quite a few years ago after all. I vaguely recall some mean guy who had somehow taken over Iraq in a CIA-backed coup who had unilaterally attacked a neighboring country (was it Iran?) while backed by the U.S. It was something about that. And um something at the U.N. about his creating football stadium-sized missile launchers that the inspection team couldn't get to before they were dismantled because the mean Iraqis wouldn't let their helicopters fly on Fridays (so the story goes). By 2013, I'm sure we can get rid of the current lot of phoney soldiers and get some real soldiers in there who will properly police the markets of Baghdad and chase the remaining handful of Iraqis into exile.

9 October 2007

Bin Laden: the urban version

A Pakistani intelligence chief claims that Osama bin Laden might be in a city instead of in a cave. I find this entirely plausible. In fact, I think he's currently driving a taxi in New York, trying to earn money for his terrorist efforts against the U.S. in the hills of Pakistan.

8 October 2007

The start of the end of the start of the end

Talks have started regarding the possibility of announcing the start of talks leading to an announcing of the end of hostilities between North and South Korea. It's been over 5 decades since the war ended. This should all be over in about another 5 decades.

Lessons from the rise of Rudy

Giuliani's rise to power, if successful, will have some powerful lessons:

1. The Christian right is quickly running out of steam.
2. Much of the Christian right can be bought off just by promising to be a belligerent leader. When given the choice between saving unborn babies or killing born babies, most of the Christian right will choose the latter. Ezekiel, after all, was always a more interesting read than the Sermon on the Mount.
3. The Democrats, might talk like a Republican, walk like a Republican, and vote like a Republican, but they ain't Republicans, damn it.
4. Most conservatives, being true blooded Americans, suffer from severe attention deficit disorder and can't remember what their candidate was doing three months ago, let alone a couple years back. So Rudy doesn't have much to worry about in terms of consistency. Go to a few church services, be seen at a few barbecues bemoaning the pernicious influences of Mexican housekeepers and the need to install laser guns at the border, and the whole American sheeple will fall start bleeting at your feet.

7 October 2007

Celebrating Hitler Day

It's simply unfathomable to me that there are still people in the U.S. who celebrate Columbus Day. Current historical accounts tell us that Columbus and his small band of mass murderers initiated a genocide that resulted in the deaths of millions--an amazing feat considering the fact that Columbus and his band lacked the modern weapons and bureaucracy of the Nazis or the Khmer Rouge. These were people who were running swords through children and women they came across for entertainment. According to journals from the time, sexual abuse of children was commonplace and accepted. The average American's inability to separate fact from wishful fantasy when examining such a key figure history is a sad testament to our abilities to critically and accurately judge our own history. This is essentially the equivalent of Germans celebrating the great feats of Hitler during a "National Hitler Day."

6 October 2007

Craig survives bout with Restless Leg Syndrome

Senator Craig of wide-stanced family-values fame, after hearing pleas from Leno and other comedians, has decided to remain in office.

5 October 2007

Whining savages & our impending sinification

Yesterday, I ended up hearing a Michael Savage rant about how the Chinese hackers were going to disable all the U.S. computers (even those on aircraft carriers and nuclear subs, evidently) and launch a first-strike. Wow! I now know which end of the dial I need to turn to for entertainment. I'm wondering at this point if the whole theme wasn't stolen from the plot of one of those old teen thrillers (was it "War Games") where the teenage hacker ends up starting a nuclear war. To assauge doubters like myself, Michael had some self-proclaimed expert assure us that Michael's scenario was "completely possible."

On a lighter note (hmmm, does it get any lighter than that?), I ventured over to Wikipedia to look at the entry for Michael Savage. It turns out his real name is Weiner (much more appropriate, don't you think) and that he's a Jew from the Bronx who did homeopathy, alternative medicine, and sang the praises of marijuana, and once worked for Timothy Leary (of kool-aid experiment fame). He was also apparently great buddies with Ginsberg (the openly gay, beat poet), who Michael was constantly pestering (it appears that Michael wanted nude pictures to take home). Is it just me, or is there something wrong with this picture? When Mr. Whiner, er Savage, wanted to leave his little corner of liberal academia for a cushy radio spot, did he suddenly have a conversion after finding out that conservative hate radio paid more?

I guess that this is the kind of individual that capitalism needs: People who see a growing need and rush to fill it. On the other hand, I hope we don't see another Larry Craig sort of meltdown with Michael "sodomizing" (Savage's favorite word) some fellow family values conservative in a Berkeley bathroom. Michael's hatred of homosexuals, after all, borders on the obsessive--there are some major Freudian forces at work there. Hopefully, Michael can keep up the "savage" facade. Our true-believing Republican brethren can only withstand so much, after all.

4 October 2007

Oooh! Condemn me! Condemn me!

I'm completely against the latest resolution against Rush Limbaugh's statement. Rush and Ann Coulter are essentially media whores who make a living by constantly generating controversy by pushing people's buttons. As far as I can tell, none of them have the slightest bit of expertise in anything beyond media manipulation. If we're going to engage with their ideas, we may as well start issuing resolutions condemning the wayward opinions of my barber. On the other hand, condemnation implies a certain modicum of respect--something neither of these crackpots deserve. When I go past the delusional drug user in the park spouting emotion-filled nonsense, I don't urge the local city board to issue a fatwa. Rush, a drug-using hatefilled blowhard deserves pity perhaps, and derision, not condemnation.

The Sky's Still Falling

Mugsy's Rapsheet has a great post on our Chicken Little friends in the Republican Party.

3 October 2007

The geography of innocence, flesh on the bone

War has always been a very lucrative business but as the recent Blackwater debacle shows, the sale of "flesh on the bone" has reached new heights under Bush. Reflecting on recent hearings, I'm not sure which was more depressing, the sight of general Betrayus (oops! I hope Swerve Left doesn't get a Senate censure!) reading the president's report full of doctored statistics or the sight of Congressmen grilling Blackwater execs because they weren't following some non-existent rule book.

In the end, it's ridiculous to call up the mercenaries and gun-runners and ask them why their actions are aimed more at corporate profits than moral objectives. They're mercenaries! These are the same guys who just weeks ago were running around Columbia fighting for a rightwing government militia in cahoots with drug cartels. You probably won't find Ethics 101 anywhere on their resumes. We should bite the bullet and add little TMs after the Iraq War and the other McWars that are on the horizon. Perhaps we can pay these people by the pounds of burnt flesh they bring in each day.

Isn't it odd that U.S. soldiers are being convicted of murder while these private contractors, who are raking in much more money, can get drunk and kill someone and after coughing up a mere 15 grand in compensation, not even get arrested. I guess we're all equal under the law but some are more equal than others.

I don't know what our corporate-funded politicians have to say about this. Edwards has said that he'd "reduce" the number of defense contractors. One can hardly blame our leaders for remaining tightlipped. Who wants to mess with these goodfellas? As the Spin Zone points out, Erik Prince, when not off running the later McWar, also tries his hand at activities such as vote-fixing.

1 October 2007

Phony Soldiers

Army of Dude has an excellent response to Rush Limbaugh who recently called all soldiers who opposed the war "phony soldiers."

The right of genocidal maniacs to bear arms

I have ambiguous feelings about the gun issue and am open to the argument that people should have the right to have guns. But I find the NRA positions to be little more than propaganda for the gun manufacturing lobby, with no connection to the concerns of the average American. As a case in point, a group of nations has recently called for a global treaty to limit the international gun trade. This makes sense: there are very good (and obvious) reasons why we should be trying to curb the flow of weapons to certain corners of the world. Yet the NRA is adamantly against the idea that anything might get in the way of weapons sales. How cynical can these people get?