Friday, March 30, 2007

The Italian Job--Revisited

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) has requested that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice appear and testify at a hearing of the House Oversight & Government Reform Committee on April 18th. Previous requests for information have been ignored according to the March 3o, 2007 letter to the Secretary. One subject of the request for testimony is the bogus Niger yellowcake connection used by the regime as one of its justifications for attacking Iraq. Its a good place to start the unravelling of lies, Henry. Bravo!

Thanks to Raw Story for posting the letter on its site.

A Note of Appreciation

The ol' chief has been busier than a one legged rooster at egg laying time. But I am taking time to post my appreciation of the votes to eventually end the occupation of Iraq. (even King Abdullah calls it an "illegal occupation") Senator Reid thanked 100,000 supporters of ending the debacle and said the votes could not have been won without our input. He has my thanks for lining up the votes to express the people's will. Its the way democracy is supposed to work. Democratic leaders should not give in to the inevitable barrage of nonsensical rhetoric from the regime castigating them as unpatriotic meddlers and troop haters. The ball is definitely in President Windrip's court. A bill with a time line for withdrawal should come out of conference committee shortly. Go ahead veto it, Mr. President.
Weekend Update: The Pentagon has more pots of money that it can count. Some creative accounting will keep the war machine cranking along until June, 2007 according to the Congressional Research Service. The Army has $52.6 billion in loose change. War funding could conceivably continue for two more months into July without supplemental appropriations if Congress approves reprogramming requests. Chief Windrip will veto the supplemental appropriation containing the withdrawal language. He is counting on Congress to back down in the face of a barrage of sentimental clap trap about the troops. Simply take them out of harm's way for pity's sake. Another example of the dishonesty and mendacity surrounding this so-called war against terror is the deal not to squeal cut by the Australian adventurer incarcerated at Guantanamo. The military hearing panel recommended seven years imprisonment for his training with Al Qaeda. He got nine months in Australia as part of a secret plea bargain in which he agreed not to talk about torture of detainees. But the truth is already out, Muhammad. Abd al-Nashiri, a Yemeni "high value" detainee said at his hearing that he lied about his involvement in the USS Cole attack because he wanted to "make the people happy". Al Nashiri said he had been tortured since he was arrested five years ago. I do not think taxpayer's money is well spent for this absurd political theatre. We would be a lot safer installing cargo inspection equipment and personnel at all of our seaports. If we still want to be "the land of the free, home of the brave" its time to call the Charlatan's bluff, Columbia.

Monday, March 26, 2007

District of Bizarro IX: The Usual Traitors

Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has told us he will be counting on his stalwart crypto-Republican double agents, Ben Nelson (D-NE) and Joe Lieberman(?-CT), to defeat a timetable being attached to the Senate's defense appropriation bill. I absolutely do not understand why the Democratic party and its Senate leadership continues to tolerate the sabotage conducted by these disloyal Senators. If their confused constituents want to keep electing them, that is their constitutional right. But the Senators should be made to run as Independents if they will not join the GOP (Go ahead Joe, join the GOP so we can reduce the confusion). If their votes are responsible for continuing the war on Iraq, the DSCC should refuse to provide any funds for their re-election campaigns. The blood will be on their hands. Assuming Gordon Smith (R-OR) realizes the intensity of anti-war sentiment in Oregon and votes for an end game, Majority Leader Reid still needs two more votes to avoid a tie for Darth Cheney to break.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Dialogue with Hillary V

Hillary is whining again. In Nevada she blamed the American people for not having national health care. In response to questions about not having a specific plan for legislation, she said, "We will all have plans. What we need is a movement". Senator, that is the typical ploy of a Washington insider: when you do not have a clue, blame somebody else. Only 70% of the American people want national health care and they have wanted it for two decades or more. They do not have it because no national politician has been willing to take on the corporate interests that control our nation's politics and build the political coalition in Washington to pass a bill. There are bills pending in Congress right now for national health insurance. But because corporate plutocrats control not only the political agenda, but the means of mass communications, not many Americans now about them. You don't have a plan Senator, but Dennis Kucinich does and so does John Edwards. They are not blaming America. Check your image on the big screen, Senator. It needs adjusting.

Friday, March 23, 2007

White Man's Country--Renamed

You may recall my post of March 7th in which I told you of a canyon in southern Oregon inappropriately named "Greaser Canyon". I brought this misnomer to the attention of a member of the Geographic Place Names Board and a regular columnist of items historically Oregon for the Oregonian newspaper. At the time of the post I had not received a reply to my question about the origin of the name and my suggestion that it be changed to something more appropriate to the realities of modern Oregon.

I now have a kind reply. As with most things these days, there is good news and bad news. The bad news is not only is there a Greaser Canyon, but a Greaser Basin, Greaser Ridge, Greaser Lake and Greaser Ridge. A few man made features are also 'greasers'. But I will stick to the geographic ones since that is in my correspondent's bailiwick. The columnist rightly pointed out the effort being made, not only in Oregon, but elsewhere in the West to change 19th century place names that may offend some in our more diverse citizenry. You may be familiar with examples. The derogatory term for a native woman, "squaw" is but one. I am informed that inappropriate names cross color lines too. "Whorehouse Meadow" was changed to the less succinct but more polite "Naughty Girl Meadow". Just saying that name is enough to convince you the change did not last. It did not. Some changes have more staying power because they right a social injustice. "Darkey Creek" was changed to the last name of the black freeman who settled nearby the banks of Southworth Creek.

I think the 'greaser' names fall into this last category. The board member agrees,"given the increasing prominence of the Latin community in Oregon." He is not sure of the names origin, but because of its proliferation he "could not imagine any racial connotation attached to it". However, he did offer the more candid opinion of an expert colleague who thought it may have derived from vaqueros brought in to work a prominent white man's spread in the 1880s. This explanation I find convincing since Mexican cowboys--vaqueros--were known to whites as "greasers" for the oil they used to groom their hair. The term may have been a mere commonplace in the 1880s, but it is now a derogatory racial slur. The good news is that the names can be changed if the Board is petitioned to do so. So if you live in Oregon and would like to see these place names changed to something less offensive but equally descriptive--such as Vaquero Lake--contact me at the address on the navigation bar and join in making more history.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

District of Bizarro VIII: Smoke and Mirrors

Its time for smoke in the District as Congress faces gut check time on the Iraq War. Despite peace marches, memorial vigils, antiwar petitions, state legislature resolutions calling for withdrawal and an election the war party loss, progressive leaders in Congress seem bent on an blaming the Republicans, verbalizing frustration, and doing nothing about the "slow bleed" of American military intervention in the Iraq Civil War. The regime's purge of prosecutors is providing media diversion and cover for their hand wringing timidity. The Pelosi-Murtha bill is wimpish since it only calls for a redeployment by March 2008. The real deal is the the Lee Amendment to the pending $93 billion supplemental appropriation for the war. The Charlatan cannot fight the war without money and he doesn't have the votes to block a veto override. Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) wants to dedicate more money only to withdrawal and force protection. [See amendment text here.] While allowing a fully funded wind down of American involvement, the amendment requires all troops and contractors to exit the country by the end of this year. Its very doubtful that the amendment will pass the House because so many Democrats are loath to take a strong anti war stance just in case the ludicrous adventure succeeds before the 2008 election. If only the courage of Congress members matched that of our soldiers fighting a lost cause. Its no wonder Congress' public approval rating is dropping.
Weekend Update: Barbara Lee and her liberal colleagues in the House are signing on the leadership's weaker bill in an effort to get some kind of endgame going in Iraq. There simply are not enough votes to support decisive action ending the failed occupation of Iraq. In the Senate, the Appropriations Committee under the chairmanship of octogenarian Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV) (he is looking like Yoda more and more) passed out a $121.6 billion defense spending bill that includes language requiring the president to begin a phased withdrawal within 120 days of passage. That language will not survive since the Senate is locked up by the Republicans' filibuster of any legislation limiting the Charlatan's war making abilities. We are now spending more on wars and the military than we did in WWII. Fine mess the authorities have us in, Ollie.
Latest: The House passed a supplemental war funding bill 218-214. The bill calls for withdrawal from Iraq by August 2008. Fourteen progressive Democrats voted against it since the bill allows the Charlatan to continue the war into next year. The anti-war effort now passes to the Senate. If the withdrawal provision survives Congress the Charlatan will most certainly veto it. The legislators will then be exposed to vilification as "troop haters", "traitors", "defeatist" and "unpatriotic" by the war mongers if they do not override his veto and give him more money for war. Speaker Pelosi got support from the net roots activist organization. After taking an online survey of its members, it endorsed the more moderate spending bill which then passed. The organization and its founder Eli Pariser have been criticised on the left for not supporting the more aggressive Out of Iraq Caucus' amendment to the spending bill introduced by Barbara Lee (D-CA). According to Pariser 85% of the organization's members supported backing the Pelosi-Murtha, bill but no other alternative--such as the Lee Amendment-- was presented to members for consideration. (I also voted for the Pelosi-Murtha bill knowing no other option would pass muster with conservative Democratic Representatives). One critic called the MoveOn email survey a "Soviet ballot". The pressure for a more aggressive time table would have been greater if the 3.2 million member group had voted to back the Lee Amendment. But Pariser responds that the form of the question was dictated by the the parliamentary realities and the need to build toward a filibuster proof majority against the Charlatan's war on Iraq. According to some in the peace coalition, MoveOn organizers enjoy greater access to legislators than they do and they resent their apparent acceptance by 'mainstream' politicians wary of being identified with 'fringe' elements. That's too bad for those timid politicians because the so-called fringe now represents the position on Iraq of a substantial majority of Americans .

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Giving the People What They Need

I wrote to my congressman about the need to fundamentally reform American health care. I got a letter in reply, but it was disappointing. My congressman said he supported reforming the health care delivery system, but his proposal was an anemic, vague plan to let individual states decide what kind of system they wanted. He called it "creative federalism". Sounds great but fuzzy thinking is not what is needed to cure the sick system. Some in your face economic leverage--like Oxycontin against pain--is what the doctor needs.

Enter Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) with a bold plan to heal the inflammation of spiraling costs, unresponsive HMOs, and diabolical insurance companies. Only a single payer plan provides the needed economic muscle to negotiate lower drug prices and control the runaway cost of medical care in America. HR 676, the United States National Health Insurance Act, introduced last year and originally co-sponsored by Kucinich and that other friend of the working person, Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), it is now co-sponsored by 61 other House members this session. Kucinich says, "passage is inevitable--it is only a matter of time." The bill proposes to expand the existing Medicare system to include every man, woman and child in America so they can receive publicly financed, privately delivered health care. Every participating American would receive a National Health Insurance ID card and number. No frustrating, profit motivated insurance companies to deal with here. You get to choose who takes care of you. No co-pays or deductibles either. The federal government would have the necessary economic leverage to negotiate lower drug prices and control costs since every provider would be compelled to accept payment from the nationwide public insurance program. The program would be paid for by a roll back of the regime's tax breaks for the rich, a 5% health tax on the wealthiest 5%, a 10% tax on the top 1%, a 1/3 of 1 percent transaction tax, and a 4.25% payroll tax for employers and employees. A study by the Center for Economic Research and Policy found that a family of three with an annual income of $40,000 would spend about $1900 on health insurance under the universal plan. The average premium for a family covered under an employer provided health insurance plan in 2007 is $11,000.

Congressman, HR 676 is what I call "creative federalism": doing the greatest good for the greatest number. So why don't you sign on?

Monday, March 19, 2007

Baby Killers

The Humane Society of the United States is conducting a boycott of Canadian seafood products to protest the cruel baby seal hunt. Last year 350,000 fur seals, mostly infants and some as young as 12 days, were clubbed or shot for their fur in Newfoundland. According to reports some were skinned while still conscious. Please help stop this barbaric and unnecessary hunt by pledging to boycott Canadian seafood.

Baby seal slaughter is an off season activity for Canadian fishermen who earn a small supplement to their income by selling skins to the fur industry. The Canadian fishing industry is a $3 billion business compared to the $17.5 million paid for seal skins (2005). The boycott is having an effect since Canada's snow crab export to the U.S. has suffered a $350 million (Canadian) decline. That is a 36% decline from pre boycot trade levels. As with any boycott, the more people who participate, the more effective it is. The European Union is also working on a ban of trade in seal products. Belgium, the first European country to do so, has already banned seal products.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

NIght of the Long Knives

Sometime in the darkest part of the Dark Ages, perhaps a century since the departure of Roman legions, Saxon warlords invited their former Briton masters to parlay for peace at Stonehenge. The Saxons were a violent people who extolled the manly virtues of warfare. Killing your foe in battle was a very good thing for a Saxon. Britons showed up for the meeting and the two sides began talking into the night. When they were fully distracted by the negotiations, the Saxons fell upon the unsuspecting Celts and killed them with their long Saxon knives. Hitler, no slouch in the lore of Germanic peoples, repeated a similar ruthless purge of his political rivals in the Sturmabteilung (SA). The stormtroopers' leadership was executed over the weekend of June 30-July1, 1934. and the purge is known as the "Night of the Long Knives". According to official Nazi records, 82 were executed.

The current Washington regime conducted it own version of a political purge with the firing of eight unenthusiastic US District Attorneys. Information now coming to the surface indicates that the original intent was to replace all 93 federal prosecutors at the beginning of the regime's second term in power. Such a mass firing is unprecedented. A provision of the Patriot Act was to be invoked replacing prosecutors with more loyal 'Bushies'. Amidst the political fallout, the White House is attempting to make the innocuous Harriet Myers the fall guy for the plan, but the purge has the vicious modus operandi of Carl 'the Brain' Rove. The regime has also displayed it's absolute requirement of loyalty to the Charlatan in the Plame Affair. The ex-operative testified clearly before the House Government Oversight Committee that the regime recklessly blew her cover in retaliation for her husband Ambassador Joe Wilson's public debunking of the Niger connection. The White House has become a personality cult reminiscent of the last century.

Friday, March 16, 2007

District of Bizzaro VII--Waiting for the Shoe to Drop

Bravo Dennis Kucinich. He used the "I" word on the floor of the House. He understands the game being played by the regime and its conservative Democratic supporters. Its called whack a jihadist all over the Middle East. The House Appropriations committee with the help of Democratic hawks took out language preventing the Charlatan from unilaterally attacking Iran without first seeking a declaration of war from Congress. It shows how powerful the Israeli lobby is in the District of Bizzaro when the defenders of the Constitution and Congress are in a decided minority. Of all the "demographics" in the Democratic tent, Jews are the biggest money contributors. Whether Nancy Pelosi deliberately handed the George Washington Bush another get out of jail card or if she blundered not knowing that he would forge ahead in his own jihad without the threat of impeachment is moot. She took impeachment "off the table" and the most dangerous president in history took his cue from that. He has eighteen months in which to provoke the mullahs into a mistake or overreaction. Its equally clear that Israel has more than enough means--thanks to our generous military aid since its inception--to met any and all threats from Iran. Justifying an attack on Iran as protecting Israel is as flimsy an excuse as Saddam's possession of WMD. Repeating the crime is enough to justify impeaching the President and his Vice President simultaneously.

Zbigniew Brzezinski testified before the Senate that a "mythical" historical narrative is already being articulated to justify a protracted and expanded war in the Middle East. First the war was sold as a necessary preemptive strike, now it has become a decisive ideological struggle on par with those against Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia. Of course, neither simplistic comparison is historically apposite, but that does not stop hawks in Congress talking about saving Iraq from domination by Al Qa'ida or Iran. Could it be that some war supporters are pining to return the days of permanent Cold War that fueled the American economy on military procurement? Or is the Charlatan's Manichean vision of the world finally infecting Congressmen who do not have the intellectual vigor to make their own analysis? You go with the war you got not the one you would like to have to paraphrase former Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld.

Weekend Update: Democratic activists had to give up impeachment proceedings for the meager placebo of the "100 hour agenda". I ask you, where is the minimum wage increase? Stuck in a house tax committee. Impeachment would do more for correcting this country's course than a measly $2.00 more an hour. The people are tired of being jacked around by politicians. Many communities across America will be marking the anniversary of the war with peace demonstrations and vigils. Participate if you can because when the leaders will not lead, the people must.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

An Embarrassing Anniversary

The UK is marking the 200th anniversary of the end of the slave trade. More accurately, Parliament passed a billed in 1807 to prohibit the use of British ships to transport slaves but the trade in human lives did not end for several more decades. Before the despicable trade was finally ended some 20 million Africans had been transported, enslaved or killed. The relative social position of the Africans and their 'owners' can be described with two disparate facts. In 1781 the captain of the Zong threw his 'cargo' overboard rather than feed slaves dying of malnourishment. In the 1830s former slave owners were paid 20 million pounds in reparations and given an apology by the British government for their lost property. Slavery in the Empire was not outlawed until 1833. Another thirty years passed before the United States ended the immoral practice. Both the United Kingdom and America still live uncomfortably with the legacy of black slavery.

William Wilberforce, a white MP who stood in Parliament for abolition and eventually won passage of the law prohibiting slave trading in the Empire is the subject of a film now in distribution that has received critical acclaim. But the inhuman suffering of thousands--as in Darfur--makes poor box office.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

SOS: Polar Bears

Their home is literally melting away. Scientists think that by 2042 the Arctic summer sea ice will be gone. Ursus Maritimus or nanug is a superb swimmer, but needs ice floes for feeding, resting and hunting. It cannot survive in an open sea. Their population is declining by 20% as well as their size. Many fewer clubs are being born which may be a result of PCB contamination. Despite these clear warning signs, the Bush regime resisted the petitions of environmental activists to list the mammal under the Endangered Species Act. After a lawsuit to force a decision, the regime proposed to list the polar bear as "threatened" under the Act. But for the listing to be made law, an outpouring of public support for one of Earth's largest living carnivores is needed during the official comment period that ends April 9th. Take action now. The World Conservation Union gave polar bears threatened status in May, 2006.
Government officials were forced to admit that rising Arctic temperatures are melting the ice cap. However they still dispute that the temperature changes are caused by human activity. They are keenly aware that a listing for nanug would give activists another weapon in the battle for action against greenhouse gases. The Act would require all federal agencies to ensure their actions do not put the bear at risk of extinction or harm its critical habitat. It would also require a recovery plan with measurable steps for protecting the bear's critical habitat from harm. This is a broad legal mandate that could conceivably alter the way the entire federal government does business. Thus, the Secretary of the Interior recently claimed that eliminating the causes of global warming are "beyond the scope of the Endangered Species Act". Government scientists have been ordered not to discuss global warming in the context of protecting polar bears. Achieving protected status for these magnificent mammals will be a fight against the usual perpetrators.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Out of the Box--Sonar Kills

Scientists in the environmental community know intense sonar kills marine mammals. Just ask the Spanish veterinarians who arrived on the Canary Islands just after a NATO naval exercise. They examined the stranding of 14 beaked whales. They found the mammals dying, severely shocked, and bleeding profusely from their mouths and eyes. The vets did a full carcass examination and found severe hemorrhaging around the brains and also around the blood vessels of many of the other organs. They found gas and fat bubbles in their blood consistent with a case of the "bends" or too rapid decompression according to an article by Peter Canby in NRDC's magazine's On Earth. The investigators suggested the whales were forced to the surface too rapidly by intense sonar waves from practicing warships. Faced with cranial hemorrhaging evidence from an earlier Bahama stranding of 17 beaked whales, the Navy concluded the mammals died from "cardiovascular collapse" after stranding. A conclusion strongly disputed by the scientists who performed necropsies on several of the cetaceans' heads.

But such anecdotal evidence is not enough for the US Navy to avoid using intense sonar around whales. It has been doing hearing loss research on marine mammals for 15 years, but because it wants to use active sonar systems emitting extremely intense sonar waves, Navy funded research focuses obsessively on controlled exposure to sonar. Its funding of such research is intended to provide justifications for continued use of sonar near marine mammals. The NRDC found evidence of this biased approach when a series of e-mails was discovered in the course of a lawsuit against a proposed deployment of low-frequency sonar. The Navy's environmental manager for the system asked a Navy funded researcher if a negative environmental appraisal was issued by Navy funded scientists. When told that they were receiving Navy research funds, the manager told the researcher their appraisal comments were "....were out of the box. If they are funded by the Navy, the proper way to bitch is via the sponsor (you)." The Navy is not above pressuring researchers whose universities are heavily dependant on government funding. Getting funding is a matter of career success or failure for many. When the Navy does not like the results, it simply stops participating, as it did when an attempt at a consensus report to guide Congress failed. The Office of Chief of Naval Operations called the scientific panel and told them it no longer agreed with any of the draft consensus report. The consensus process collapsed and only sharply different caucus reports were issued. When you work for the Navy its their way or not at all.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

GOP Mouthpiece Gets Dumped--Finally generated a quarter of a million signatures, and 3000 phone calls. John Edwards vowed to boycott the televised debate. But Nevada Democratic leaders stood firm against pressure from their own party members to drop Fox News as a sponsor of the presidential debate from Nevada in August. It took a disparaging allusion to the Oh!Bama wunderkind from Fox News chairman Roger Ailes at an awards banquet (these people never stop awarding themselves something) to finally prompt cancelling Democratic Party participation in the debate. The reason for the cancellation cited by Majority Leader Henry Reid and Nevada Chairman, Tom Collins in a letter to a Fox executive producer was Ailes' joke about Obama "being on the move" and the President asking, "why can't we catch this guy?".

Reid must have felt the intramural heat because he had to publicly disown the choice of Fox News to sponsor the debate in a conference call with bloggers. Reid said, "I don't like Fox" but "I don't control the state party". Previously, Reid pronounced himself "happy" that Fox was to co-sponsor the August debate when the sponsorship was announced in February. The party hired DC based Future Communications, Inc., a media consulting firm, which approached Fox News about participating. Fox has a local affiliate in Las Vegas , KVVU. State Chair Tom Collins approved the decision. What the imbroglio demonstrates is how ensconced corporate interests are in the Democratic Party. It has a long way to go before it truly becomes a 'party of the people'. Most of the credit for the reversal goes to the Fox chairman's bad taste.

As long as we are on the subject of who runs the Democratic Party. We should not overlook the "Blue Dogs" as those Democratic representatives from conservative districts are now called. Or should they be called "idiots" for continuing to give the Idiot in Chief more rope with which to hang America? Only a man without a clue would have the unmitigated gall to ask for yet more men to be wasted on the pyre of Iraq.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

More GOP Corruption

Turn the page and another GOP politician is under investigation, charged with crimes or on the way to prison. This time the winner is Senator Pete Domenici (R-NM). You have read or heard about the politically motivated firings of US Attorneys around the country. One of the dismissed attorneys, David Iglesias, testified to the Senate Tuesday that Domenici made an improper contact with him concerning courthouse construction kickbacks just before the November 2006 elections. He was trying to aid the reelection bid of protege Rep. Heather Wilson (R), who had also called Iglesias about indictment of state Democratic officials in the case. The Senator has given three different accounts of the incident and now claims he cannot remember any such contact. Iglesias said that he got a "sick feeling" from the call and was "leaned on" by Domenici to speed up the prosecution. The Senator now faces a Senate Ethics Committee investigation of the matter. He has 'lawyered up' with former Representative Randy 'Duke' Cunningham's attorney.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

White Man's Country

Western American place names are so evocative of the trials and tragedies experienced by 19th century Anglo-American settlers. If you look at a map you will see place names like Breakheart, Lickskillet, Desperation, Tribulation and Never Summer. Certainly these starkly descriptive names provoke admiration in the 21st century reader for the mettle of pioneers bent on a new, and hopefully better life at the frontier. Oregon Territory was an early and popular destination for Anglos looking for cheap, fertile land in which to take root. The state has a lot of colorful place names dating back to Oregon Trail days and before. There is another kind of place name that shows the darker side of Anglo culture and is not so admirable. It is a culture tarnished with violence, intolerance and a rigid sense of racial superiority and religious elitism.

I was looking at a 1992 road map to locate an obscure national historic landmark named Fort Rock. The geographic feature is the remnant of an ancient volcanic caldera rising above the surrounding valley. The site was used as a shelter by native peoples and as a landmark by late comers. My eyes were drawn to the empty spaces along the Nevada border, home to what the map called the "largest of the few remaining herds of wild antelope in North America". East, out of the village of Adel, runs highway 140. I have never driven it, but it must be a lonely road as it crosses windswept high desert and descends into isolated canyons on its way to more horizon. I imagined the highway could be a good motorcycle route: no traffic, fresh air, inspiring scenery even a chance to glimpse a rare antelope herd.

My revelry was interrupted and my eyes narrowed as I read a place name along the road: "Greaser Canyon". First, I was flustered, then I was indignant. Why was the blue state of Oregon employing a racial slur as a place name? Perhaps a Mr. Greaser broke his wagon wheel here on the way to the land of milk and honey, but I doubt it. I asked this question of a member of the Oregon State Board of Geographical Place Names. He did not bother to reply. Oregon is still an agricultural state. Vineyards and fruit orchards are a significant share of the industry. The fruit is picked by migrant labor some of which is undocumented. Without their hard labor, the fruit would rot in the fields. Many more Latinos work in landscape, restaurant, hotel and construction businesses. Oregon cannot afford to pander to bigots. The name should be changed. I suggest Los Trabajdores Canyon. In the 21st century a mature America can recognize its diverse heritage and the contributions of all its peoples.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Washing Away Louisiana

The Times-Picayune of New Orleans is printing a series of articles on the crisis facing the Mississippi delta region. Scientists estimate that the southern coastline of Louisiana will disappear in ten years. The Gulf of Mexico could reach the New Orleans suburbs in much less time than estimated in historical predictions. Science has known since 1970 of the coastal land loss. For each square mile restored by man since 1989 when serious reclamation efforts began, the Gulf has taken five. Essentially the wetlands that act as a buffer against the saltwater are collapsing due to lack of new inflows of silt and freshwater from the Mississippi River. Decades of channel digging and levee building have totally disrupted the natural balance of the wetlands ecosystem. Besides the loss of the irreplaceable wildlife and habitat, studies show that destruction of the wetlands protecting industrial infrastructure such as oil and gas installations puts $103 billion worth of assets at risk. Levees built to withstand occasional storm surges will be continuously standing in water. Congress recently gave Louisiana a permanent 37.5% share of offshore petroleum revenue for coast restoration. But that money does not arrive until 2017. The next ten years are critical, and there is not enough money to fund projects big enough to ameliorate the problem.

The Barataria Basin to the south of New Orleans has been neglected for thirty years. It is the weak link in New Orlean's storm surge protection. To the north, surges can be directed into the basin of Lake Pontchartrain. But the marshes, swamps, and barrier islands of Barataria acted as a sponge for Gulf waters pushed north by storms prior to 1940. Land in the basin is disappearing so fast chart makers cannot make changes fast enough. Whole villages have disappeared. There was a time in the 1980s when man might have been able to get ahead of the curve of destruction, but now it may be a case of too little, too late.

Never one to allow scientific data to inform his policy, the Charlatan is moving $1.3 billion in federal funds in his fiscal 2008 budget away from fortifying levees to plug funding gaps in other hurricane protection projects. Apparent this is an attempt to avoid asking Congress for more money. If the predictions of a twenty foot increase in sea levels due to melting ice cap are correct, New Orleans will be submerged within a hundred years. Only a public works project on the scale of the Netherlands' Nord Zee dikes has a chance of saving the city from future abandonment. But with our federal government spending $623 billion on the war machine, running record deficits, and still cutting taxes, financing such a massive construction program is problematic.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

At the Master's Side

Say what you will about Senator Hillary Rodham. What you cannot say is that she was a traditional First Lady. First Lady Clinton was perhaps the first actual presidential partner in the White House-- a kind of a deputy president. Hillary made a campaign joke about getting two for the price of one. She observed policy formulation at first hand and even assisted formulation in the area of national health care. Whether she participated in formulating foreign policy, I do not know. But my belief is that she did in an informal way. She was the apprentice learning at the master's side in anticipation of her inevitable solo into national politics. Whether this novel role as First Partner was part of a marital deal between the Clintons, I leave to the tabloids to speculate.

The Senator's thinking about Iraq policy is revealed in her statement at the time of voting for the use of force resolution by which the President invaded sovereign Iraq: "...I believe the authority to use force to enforce that mandate [unfettered UN inspections] is inherent in the original 1991 UN resolution, as President Clinton recognized when he launched Operation Desert Fox in 1998." Operation Desert Fox was a 72 hour bombing campaign ostensibly intended as a punitive strike to encourage disarmament. By citing her husband's previous military action to justify her vote as Senator, she endorsed a policy that was based on lies about Saddam Hussein's alleged reconstituted weapons program. We know this because Scott Ritter, a former Marine officer and UN weapons inspector working for UNSCOM (United Nations Special Commission, 1991-98) has stated so publicly:

I witnessed first hand the duplicitous Iraq policies of the administration of Bill Clinton, the implementation of which saw a President lie to the American people about a threat he knew was hyped...and [who] pursued a policy defined by the unilateral interests of the administration to remove Saddam Hussein from power.

Ritter goes on to cite examples of the duplicity he encountered:

I personally witnessed the Director of CIA under Bill Clinton, James Woolsey, fabricate a case for the continued existence of Iraqi ballistic missiles in November 1993 after I had provided a detailed briefing which articulated the UN inspector's finding that Iraq's missile program had been fundamentally disarmed... I was in Baghdad in the summer of 1996 as the Clinton administration used the inspection process as a vehicle for a covert action program run by the CIA intending to assassinate Saddam Hussein...In May 1998 his National Security Team implemented a new policy which turned its back on the inspectors, seeking to avoid supporting a disarmament process which undermined the policies of regime change.

Given the Senator's identification with her husband's policy at the time of her vote for war, much more than an apology is needed from her. She supported a policy that purportedly intended only Saddam's disarmament. Yet her husband knew that Saddam was already disarmed, and he knew this when he ordered the bombing of Iraq in 1998. Skip the apology Senator, an explanation will suffice.

(Thanks for the 'toon, Pat Oliphant.)

Friday, March 02, 2007

District of Bizarro VI: Collaboration in a Time of War

Congressional Democrats ask me for money all the time. When they ask, I ask myself what have they done for me? More importantly, what is their record on the overriding issue of our time, the Iraq War? I have to tell myself their record is one of missed opportunities, lack of selfless leadership and outright complicity in the regime's war of choice. Yes, we were attacked at home and the attacks traumatized the nation. But a politician with the courage of his convictions and objective thinking should have realized that the invasion and occupation of Iraq is wrong. It is wrong strategically, morally, legally and politically.

When the October 2002 vote authorizing war against Iraq took place, Democrats controlled the Senate under Tom Daschle. Twenty three Democratic senators voted against the resolution. Every senator with presidential ambitions, including John Kerry, voted for it. Hillary Rodham, John Edwards, and Joe Biden voted for war too. Every senator with a close senate race voted for war like Daschle and Max Cleland. They lost anyway. When the Democrats lost the majority, they never had fewer seats than necessary (41) to sustain a filibuster against the yearly supplemental war appropriations. Now that they have regained majority status, albeit by one, the caucus is not capable of passing even a non-binding resolution against the war. The 'nuclear option' is apparently good enough for Senate Republicans to use, and they have already used it twice since becoming the minority in 2006. Mention filibuster to an official Democrat and they walk away or barricade their offices as John Kerry did when Veterans for Peace came to visit. Collaboration is the name of the game in the District of Bizzarro. Perhaps this stealth Democratic war support explains Hillary's unwillingness to make her position on the war perfectly clear to voters.

Republicans have a radical base that demands adherence to their warmongering policy or cause their representatives to suffer political consequences if they do not. Democratic peace supporters are stiffed by their representatives and marginalized with apparent impunity. Upon assuming the Speaker's chair, Nancy Pelosi immediately pronounced impeachment off the table despite mounting evidence of the regime's criminality. The occupation is a failure, yet no one in Democratic officialdom is cutting funding, let alone contemplating using the filibuster as a weapon to end American involvement in what is clearly now a civil war. I recall Nader's tag line in the 2000 election, "there is not a dime's worth of difference between the major parties". There maybe some truth in that. However, creating a third party movement would simply isolate peace activists further from 'the process' as its so fondly referred to in the District. The solution lies not in a third party, but in the peace movement demanding action from our representatives or suffer the lack of their support and funding. The Connecticut Senate race in 2006 was a beginning. The onerous hawk Lieberman was not defeated, but that was more a function of Republican voters crossing over and an ineffectual alternative Democratic candidate than organized opposition by Democrats. Peace activists rose up and resisted a politician that no longer represented their views. The Senator suffered an embarrassing primary defeat, and is no longer considered a Democrat. That's just fine with me. So if a Democratic office holder asks you for money ask them if they still use the "F" word.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Good News Friday: Tech is a Good Thing

Except when it threatens to cut into corporate profits. The Union of Concerned Scientists announced yesterday their new clean vehicle design dubbed "The Vanguard". Built using off the shelf technologies, the minivan (attention Soccer Moms) meets or exceeds tougher clean air standards adopted by California, ten other states and Canada. Several more states are considering the new standards in the absence of federal action to reduce warming pollution from vehicles. The California standard calls for 34% reduction in global warming pollution for cars and light trucks and a 25% reduction for SUVs and trucks within the next 10 years. The Vanguard demonstrates that those standards can be met today.
The green vehicle incorporates several design elements to achieve its environment friendly performance. It has variable valve timing which allows better combustion under changing engine loads. Two of its six cylinders can be automatically deactivated when not needed to maintain speed as when cruising on a highway. Fuel and air conditioning hoses are upgraded and connections improved to stop leaks into the atmosphere of concentrated pollutants such as hydroflurocarbons. Who would have thought? The van also uses a less toxic refrigerant. Vanguard is a flex fuel vehicle that can run on either gasoline or up to 85% ethanol blend. Of course the vehicle is aerodynamically slick to reduce drag and improve mileage.
Typically, the automakers are resisting the implementation of the new standards by filing law suits and lobbying legislators. They also resisted seat belts and air bags. Their trade group, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, is now headed by Dave McCurdy, a former seven term Democratic congressman from Oklahoma. Maybe McCurdy should kick the Vanguard's tires before saying it cannot be done.


As predicted, the White House spin machine and its corporate media hacks are attacking decorated war veteran Rep.John Murtha (D) as anti-troop. Murtha is under political fire because he has introduce legislation designed to reign in the Charlatan's war in Iraq by linking further funding to common sense protections for combat troops. Soldiers must be adequately rested between tours, properly equipped, and trained to use the equipment effectively. Recent news accounts show that in the rush to escalate the conflict, military personnel are being dangerously shortchanged.
The military reports shortages of armor and material. Some units are borrowing equipment from stateside units to make up deficits. The 39th National Guard Combat Brigade is short 600 rifles. First Brigade, 3rd Infantry crammed a year's worth of training into four months. Two other brigades are skipping counterinsurgency training in order to get to Iraq as soon as possible. The Walter Reed 'ghetto' making the news is an example of the poor treatment some recovering veterans receive. About 80,000 veterans are using the Veterans Hospital system for mental disorders as a result of deployment stress. More than 30% of all soldiers qualify as experiencing mental disorders related to emotional stress. The system is straining under the load and is unable to meet all the psychological needs of soldiers and their families. Even the "Baghdad Brain Trust"--a group of high ranking officers advising the expert Gen. Petraeus--says the military faces a Vietnam-style collapse if the situation does not improve within six months, The Guardian reports (image by Carlos Barria/Reuters).
Despite all these symptoms of an increasingly dysfunctional military machine the usual suspects are carrying water for the regime's stupid plan to escalate a loosing war. Trent Lot (R) in a "gee whiz" speech on the Senate floor compared wining the war in Iraq to wining the Super Bowl. They are simply out of touch with reality. Attacking the motives of a legislator who is actually trying to do something to protect "our troops" by giving them adequate rest, training and equipment is a strange way to show your support.