31 December 2008

Passive Houses

The NY Times has an interesting article about "passive houses" that are warm without heating. This is the sort of thinking we now need.

23 December 2008

River road becomes a river

The transformation of a city street into a river after a water main collapsed is the sort of thing we can expect to see as the U.S. infrastructure crumbles as the result of the last decades of wars and give-aways to the wealthy. Or perhaps we should attribute this to the naming of a street "River Road."

22 December 2008

Why the crash?

John Walsh has a good article titled The Root Cause of the Crisis of 2008 at Counterpunch.

20 December 2008

Hilda Solis

Amidst all of the unsound choices Obama has made for his cabinet, there's at least one bright spot--his recent choice of California Rep. Hilda Solis as labor secretary. The daughter of blue collar Hispanic immigrants, she has worked tirelessly in California to promote a raise in the minimum wage and push for environmental justice legislation. She's also a pro-choice Catholic. Her voting record thus far looks principled and consistent, and displays strong main street values.

18 December 2008

Is the U.S. a Christian nation?

Amid the cacophony of those who claim that the U.S. is a "Christian nation," it's interesting to reflect on the fact that according to U.S. law (since 1797), "the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion." The statement couldn't be clearer.

Reflections on a true sole man

I agree with Marc McDonald that many of us share the sentiments of Muntadhar al-Zeidi, who recently tossed his shoes at Bush. It's disappointing that Bush has been allowed to leave office without an impeachment hearing and a jail sentence even after so much deception has come to light. The U.S. would have been much better off if it had been given a six-month history lesson on recent events through media scrutiny of a drawn-out impeachment hearing.

11 December 2008

A few questions for Obama

Dashiell has a few questions for Obama:

I watched the unveiling of Barack Obama’s “national security team,” and I have some questions for him. Why is there not a single person on the team who opposed the invasion of Iraq in 2003? I’m not suggesting that every person you appoint should have been right about the war, but I think it’s reasonable to expect at least one non-hawk appointee. One of your main selling points in the campaign was that you were opposed to this war. I don’t see why your appointments shouldn’t reflect that position in some way. Why should we put up with having Bush appointee Robert Gates continue at Defense? As an old crony of Reagan spook William Casey, he was deeply involved in Iran-Contra and other dirty covert operations. Under Gates, the corruption and looting by war contractors in Iraq has not abated. He continues to push for massive budget increases at Defense, which does not represent any change from the past.

Dashiel certainly has this right. Gates has been described by a former boss as someone who would sell his own mother if it got him moved him an inch up the bureacratic ladder. Why in the world is he being retained?

And what about all the Rumsfeld parasites still on the Pentagon staff? Do they stay too? Really, sir, are we supposed to believe that you can’t find anyone better than this Bush toady to run Defense? If there was one chance to show courage and determination in appointments, it would be the Pentagon. All this signals is more of the same. I consider any person who worked for Bush-Cheney as already morally compromised.

Absolutely. Any so-called intelligence or information from these clowns is automatically suspect. Why are they being kept?

Speaking of the Pentagon, will you take a good hard look at cutting the Defense budget? I realize that it’s considered politically dangerous to do so, but I don’t think it’s a coincidence that we happen to be having an economic meltdown after throwing away our resources on an illegal war. The war industry is in fact a drag on the economy—we can have a strong defense without having to waste billions of dollars making weapons manufacturers filthy rich. Moderate cuts in the Defense budget, including clamping down on the massive waste and fraud, will be needed if we’re going to restore the economy. If we can’t challenge this sacred cow, all the economic stimulus packages in the world aren’t going to do the trick.

I disagree. I don't think that moderate cuts are what's called for. We need drastic cuts. The Pentagon's budget is obscene. The U.S. military is not designed to keep America safe, but to promote corporate interests abroad. For the average tax payer, it's an enormous waste of money.

What about Blackwater and the other private mercenary forces that are a stain on our honor and a threat to freedom? Will you please cancel their contracts? Will there be accountability for the crimes and corrupt practices of KBR and other Iraq War contractors who have been looting billions from our Treasury? You have nominated Janet Napolitano to run Homeland Security. This is a huge department created as part of Bush’s so-called “War on Terror.” Are you planning on continuing this so-called “war” which by definition can never end? Do you support the Patriot Act, one of the key items in Bush’s attack on the Bill of Rights? Do you plan to continue the illegal NSA spying “program” which uses the pretense of “terrorist surveillance” to violate the rights of our own citizens? Why is it called “Homeland Security” anyway? This is colonialist language that implies that we have other lands to administer—couldn’t we just call it domestic security?

We definitely need to hire a few linguist to tackle the semantic jungle created by the Shrubian administration and Fox propaganda news. We need to stop all this talk about patriotric troops protecting the fatherland and this bizarre dichotomy between imperial designs and "isolationism."

You have said that you oppose the shameful use of torture by the Bush-Cheney regime, and that torture will end under your administration. Will you also end the so-called “renditions” in which human beings are kidnapped and sent to other countries who then torture these prisoners? Will you end secret prisons and indefinite detention without charges? Will you call for the repeal of the Military Commissions Act, which denies the age-old right of habeas corpus and violates the Bill of Rights? Will there be any accountability for the crimes against humanity committed by the Bush administration? Will there be investigations into the unlawful actions of these people? If not, doesn’t that send the message that future Presidents can fail to uphold their oaths of office without fear of any consequences? How does sweeping these crimes under the rug help this country to change for the better? I noticed that there was no nomination for CIA director. Does that mean that Bush appointee Michael Hayden, who has supported all the illegal and immoral foreign policy doctrines of the Bush-Cheney regime, is staying on at CIA? Isn’t it time for thorough reform of the CIA, NSA, and other intelligence agencies, especially following a period when a covert agent’s identity was exposed for political reasons by the administration, with minimal consequences? I hear you talking about the danger of Iran getting a nuclear weapon. Could we also talk about the danger of any country at all having a nuclear weapon? How can we tell other countries not to get nukes when we’re not doing anything to reduce our own? Are we supposed to think that somehow we have the moral right and the inherent ability to wield these weapons, but other countries don’t? Will you lead by example and create a plan for gradual de-escalation of our nuclear arsenal, thereby lending legitimacy to our professed concerns about proliferation? I haven’t heard you or Hillary Clinton questioning any of the policies of the Israeli government. Why should criticizing these policies be taboo and equated with hating Israel or being antisemitic? We can criticize the Mexican government’s policies without being accused of hating Mexicans, can’t we? Are you willing to admit that the Palestinians have rights too? This endless conflict in the West Bank and Gaza doesn’t make me feel safer—it makes everybody less safe, in fact. What do you plan to do to help Israel and the Palestinians make peace? American politicians have been talking about supporting freedom and democracy for as long as I can remember. Why, then, do we pump arms and money into repressive authoritarian governments such as Egypt, Indonesia, or Uzbekistan? Will you end funding of such regimes? We still hear anti-Cuban rhetoric every election cycle. Yet we continue to treat China, a totalitarian government, as a favored nation. Will you challenge China on its numerous violations of human rights? Will you open dialogue with Cuba?

In other words, will we have a foreign policy that isn't completely hypocritical?

The Bush administration expressed constant contempt for the United Nations. Will your administration recommit to the principles of international law and cooperation? Will you accept the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court, or will you continue the Bush policy of defying the court, the Geneva Conventions, and other international standards of human rights and responsibilities? The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund have contributed to the drastic poverty and debt of the developing world by using so-called “neoliberal” economic policies to maintain the power and privileges of rich countries and international corporations. Would you consider policies of debt forgiveness for the Third World in order to free poor countries from burdens unfairly placed on their people by corrupt leaders? Would you oppose the predatory economic strategies of international corporations that are impoverishing millions in Latin America, Africa, and Asia? I expect the answers to a lot of these questions are going to be “no.” I know that there are great political constraints on a President in this country. Some are theorizing that you are bringing the establishment under your tent so that you can govern with less disruption than previous Democratic presidents. You’ve proven yourself to be a brilliant politician, which is a definite plus if you really want to create change. Nevertheless, I think these questions need to be asked, because change has to involve the challenging of preconceptions. And the level of disintegration we are witnessing today, socially and economically, makes this even more vital. You talk about unity, and I appreciate the sentiment, but you know, there are powerful groups who don’t want anything more than a cosmetic change, if that. And they aren’t giving up without a fight. If you just give in to these interests without confronting them, I think that there won’t be a significant enough change. This is true in every area of policy, but since I’m focusing on national security in this case, I will say that we need to make peace our priority, first and foremost. That means shifting away from our war-based social and economic structures. That means letting go of the illusion that we can be the world’s policeman. That means ending the madness of trying to exploit the world’s resources and people for the exclusive benefit of the U.S. and the international corporate classes. That means coming to our senses and recognizing our country as a republic, a nation among nations, and not an empire or superpower.

The Obama presidency will be interesting no matter what happens. If we end up in the same place at the end of his time in office, we'll have confirmed that substantive change is simply impossible within the current system.

10 December 2008

Et tu, Joe?

Joe the wannabe plumber is writing a tome, promising to share his rugged down-to-earth insights on the political process with all of us dimwitted workin' folk who don't even make a quarter million a year. In case you haven't heard, McCain's now out and Palin in. There's something marvelously appropriate about a plumber endorsing the Republican far right. This is a comics' goldmine, just screaming out for sarcastic humor.

In other crucially important news, Larry Craig's lawyer defends our right to free speech, arguing that restroom foot-tapping is what the Constitutional framers had in mind. What would Joe have to say about all this?

7 December 2008

Here's an amazing factoid

Barry Ritholtz, author of "Bailout Nation," claims that the bailout has cost more than Marshall Plan, Louisiana Purchase, moonshot, S&L bailout, Korean War, New Deal, the Iraq war, the Vietnam war, and NASA's lifetime budget combined. In fact, the bailout is said to be almost double (over 7.6 trillion):

  • Marshall Plan: Cost: $12.7 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $115.3 billion
  • Louisiana Purchase: Cost: $15 million, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $217 billion
  • Race to the Moon: Cost: $36.4 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $237 billion
  • S&L Crisis: Cost: $153 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $256 billion
  • Korean War: Cost: $54 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $454 billion
  • The New Deal: Cost: $32 billion (Est), Inflation Adjusted Cost: $500 billion (Est)
  • Invasion of Iraq: Cost: $551 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $597 billion (Note: This is actually a bit low once delayed costs are completely factored in.)
  • Vietnam War: Cost: $111 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $698 billion
  • NASA: Cost: $416.7 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $851.2 billion

TOTAL: $3.92 trillion

Some debate this, saying that much of the money will be paid back. We'll see. I'm assuming that there's a reason why U.S. and foreign investors aren't rushing in to buy all of this bad debt.

6 December 2008

Caroline Kennedy

I personally don't think we need yet another political dynasty. As I've said before, if this is what the sheeple really want, we could save some time and effort by bringing back royalty and aristocratic titles.

3 December 2008

Newman's de maaan

I came across a brilliant comedy routine on the unlikely subject of "the history of oil" by Robert Newman. Anyone who can laugh-and make me laugh-about these subjects deserves the highest award for highbrow comedy. I'm also quite impressed with the Google video site. I've already sworn off ever buying a cable connection, but if a few more of such sites were around, I might swear off Netflix as well. And no, the picture isn't Newman in drag. I just had to fit this photo in somewhere!