Monday, April 30, 2007

Gun Struck Revisited

Because the Virginia Tech mass murderer was treated as an outpatient and not committed to a psychiatric treatment center, he was still able to purchase a 9mm semi-automatic handgun in Virginia. He was able to do this despite the fact that a Virginia judge found him to be a danger to himself or others because of his mental illness. The governor has issued an executive order closing the loophole in the state's hand gun purchase laws. Thirty-two lives is a high price to pay for allowing Virginians to indulge in a false sense of security. Unfortunately one does not have to read tea leaves to know that this tragedy will repeat itself somewhere else. Simply look to the spike in handgun purchases and concealed weapon permit applications across the country. This character attends college in Utah where handguns like his 9mm Glock are permitted on campus. Its just sad.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

The Charlatan Eyes the Prize

A little political humor to start off your week. These patriots in Miami are doing what is right for America: demanding accountability from their national government. Thanks to Raw Story for the photo.
More signs of trouble in Iraq: The British Army in the south suffered their worse month for casualties since it took Basra in April, 2003. Eleven soldiers were killed, almost half as many as were loss in the invasion itself. A respected British commander, General Sir Rupert Smith, says that Britain does not have a strategy in Iraq. He commented that simply following the Charlatan's regime is not a strategy, but an attitude. Amen. On this side of the pond, former NSA chief, retired Lt. General William Odom, says the current Commander in Chief has "gone AWOL on Iraq". He continued in his Sunday radio address, "Most Americans suspect that something is fundamentally wrong with the President's management of the conflict in Iraq. And they are right. The challenge we face today is not how to win in Iraq; it is how to recover from a strategic mistake: invading Iraq in the first place...We cannot 'win' a war that serves our enemies interests and not our own." When the old war horses finally say the jig is up, its time to pack the ole kit bag and say good night, Irene.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Waxman on the Case

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), chair of the House Oversight Committee, won approval from the committee to subpoena Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for her testimony on the bogus Niger connection. It is my long held contention that if the truth about this murky incident is exposed the public will know that Bush regime operatives contracted Italian intelligence figures with fascist affiliations to help the regime concoct a story linking Saddam Hussein to procuring enriched uranium ore. The 'Italian Job', as I refer to the affair, is the smoking gun of the regime's fraudulent effort to sell the Iraq invasion to Congress and the American people. Be prepared Mr. Chairman, for a lot of Gonzo like 'I can't recalls and I don't remembers' from Ms. Rice.
Word of the Week: lu.di.crous: 1. the name of a popular rap singer; 2. a one word description of U.S foreign policy towards the Middle East. As in her response to the evidence of deceit was ludicrous.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Impeachment No Joke

Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) made good on his promise to introduce impeachment articles against Vice President Cheney into the House of Representatives. HR 333 (at least they did not number it 666) must be considered by the House Judiciary Committee chaired by Rep. John Conyers (D-MI). If Conyers' previous public statements on the issue are any measure, the resolution should get a sympathetic hearing. However, the Speaker continues to voice her disapproval of impeachment proceedings, calling the Charlatan "not worth it". Its obvious from that statement, she does not appreciate impeachment proceedings as the means the Founders intended for controlling an Executive branch that has become dangerous to republican government. Dismissing impeachment as a "distraction" from the business of passing progressive legislation is a red herring. She fails to explain how she expects to pass legislation benefiting the Democratic Party's political fortunes when the Charlatan wields the veto pen. He has already made clear he will veto any timetables associated with more spending for the defeat in Iraq. He is attempting to use the safety of American military personnel as a bargaining lever against Congress. Meanwhile, not a single item of the ballyhooed "hundred hour agenda" has yet been signed into law.

A Cheney spokesperson also belittled the resolution saying the Vice President "is focused on the serious issues facing our nation" Well, you cannot get more serious than life or death. Soldiers continue to die because Cheney deliberately mislead the nation and Congress about Iraq's threat to our national security. Critics are dismissing the resolution as a publicity stunt in Kucinich's unlikely presidential campaign. Maybe, but Rep. Kucinich is also doing exactly what he is supposed to be doing, representing the will of his constituents in Congress. The people are with Kucinch demanding accountability, and they will be rallying this weekend in support of impeaching the man who is the most responsible for selling the Iraq war. You can read the articles here. Thanks again, Congressman!

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Collective Responsiblity and the Haditha Atrocity

Something I did when I moved to this city was join a parish church. I had never done that before. Previously my faith did not move me to formalize a relationship with a place of public worship. I picked a bad time to register, however. Shortly after registering, I was also made an official petitioner in the Chapter Eleven bankruptcy case filed by the archdiocese. The archbishop sought bankruptcy protection because the archdiocese was being sued in multiple cases for child abuse by it's priests. The claims, most of which were based on long past incidents of molestation, had the potential of bringing financial ruin on the Church in western Oregon. I was not pleased to being formally associated with responsibility, however attenuated, for behavior I find abhorrent and had nothing to do with. I was not even alive when some of the alleged incidents occurred and no claims were made for abuse since I had become a registered member of a parish. Nevertheless, the federal bankruptcy judge determined all registered parishioners should be parties to the case. I believe this ruling was prompted by the questionable legal position taken by the archdiocese that it's property was held in trust for parishioners and therefore could not be sold to satisfy claims. The secular newspaper also made repeated note of the collective responsibility for the victims' damage claims. A global settlement of the claims has been reached, so there is sense of relief among the faithful as well as some lingering resentment over being formally identified with the past evil behavior of religious authority figures.

The legal closure of the child abuse cases here brings me, in a circuitous way, to collective responsibility for a terminal case of abuse in a remote place: the Haditha atrocity. Two dozen Iraqis were apparently executed by US Marines in retaliation for a bomb that blew up one of their patrol vehicles and its occupants. A marine was gruesomely killed. In the opinion of an investigating Army general, the Marine Corps command deliberately ignored reports of civilian deaths to protect their own, and fostered a culture that allowed marines to considered Iraq civilian deaths to be insignificant. There was virtually no follow up investigation withing the Corps after the November 19, 2005 incident was exposed by a local journalist shooting video. Civilian witnesses maintain the marines went on a killing rampage. The lieutenant in command at the time believes the marines did nothing wrong despite the execution of five unarmed men sitting in a car at the scene, and the killing of the occupants in nearby houses including women and children lying in bed. The officer has received immunity to testify against three marine enlisted men charged with unpremeditated murder in the incident. Four officers are accused of dereliction of duty for failing to report what happened. All charges against a sergeant have also been dropped in return for his testimony.

Whatever the outcome of the courts martial, and the outcome is doubtful because the criminal investigation was mishandled, the impact of the Haditha atrocity cannot be understated. It is only one of several authenticated incidents of the US military using unauthorized force against civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan. Each incident undermines any claim to moral ascendancy the US makes to justify it's occupation. Each incident motivates civilians to resist the foreign occupiers. Each alleged war crime involves a uniform that represents every American. No American soldier has the cover of an anonymous bomb maker. These young soldiers have been sent to Iraq in our name stuffed with heads full of lies about fighting terror or bestowing democracy to accomplish a mission impossible. Their best efforts will not end an Iraq civil war that our cynical "regime change" triggered. So its our responsibility to end their hellish predicament and bring them home. Collective responsibility is hard to accept.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

District of Bizarro Xll: Gonzo Hearings More Smoke

Senate Democrats cannot afford to appear they are doing nothing to contain the most corrupt and incompetent Executive in American history. So it seems that Alberto 'Gonzo' Gonzales has been chosen as the target of opportunity. Only the President, who is already exhibiting bunker syndrome, can fire him. The Democratic effort is somewhat an exercise in futility, but the choice of Gonzales has Republican cooperation because it deflects Democratic ire away from the Charlatan and gives the regime yet more time to stumble across the finish line of Election Day, 2008. It is fairly clear that the attorney firings were politically motivated and that the original idea of circumventing the Senate and replacing federal prosecutors with Bush loyalists using the Patriot Act was Carl Rove's handiwork. But as Chuck Schumer had to admit to the press, there is no smoking gun tying the regime to obstruction of justice charges. If the Senate is animated about any issue, it is about protecting its prerogatives. US District Attorneys are prized political patronage positions usually handed out with the consultation and approval of the Senators from the state where the office is located. Naturally, Senators object strenuously when there is a serious effort by the White House to evade their influence. The sanctimonious dribble about "politicizing the Justice Department" is laughable. Justice is, and has been, politicized. It is more a matter of who is pulling the strings.

It would be a lot more satisfying and purgative if Gonzo was fired for the constitutional wrongs he has committed, such as approving the immoral use of torture or illegal domestic spying programs. The Vermont State Senate by voting 16-9 for impeachment of the President and Vice President is doing more to protect us than most of the politicians in the District of Bizarro where political power is the coin of the realm.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Sea Lions not the Problem or the Solution

Indian leaders of the 19th Century knew that the white man had a problem living in balance with nature. Men like Chief Seattle saw the destruction of the great bison herds and voracious slaughter of other animals for fur and food. They foresaw their way of living in harmony with the earth and even their very existence would be the next victims of the white man's mindless consumption of her resources. West coast salmon appear to be meeting the same fate as the buffalo. Depleted salmon stocks, despite millions spent on recovery programs, are fading fast. There is much consternation in the Northwest about the declining runs which sees the salmon as its iconic emblem as well as a significant contributor to local economies. Its understandable that when a villain, other than man, in the salmon's sad story is found businessmen are quick to point fingers--and guns.

California sea lions (zalophus californicus) are intelligent and resourceful predators. The collapsing marine food chain in the Pacific has encouraged them to seek out other sources of food. An enterprising few have entered the Columbia River and have found a veritable protein bonanza at the base of the Bonneville Dam. They are feasting on what remains of the spring Chinook salmon run milling before their first major man made obstacle. Fish and wildlife managers have tried a variety of methods to dissuade the protected mammals from eating the fish. None of the methods have succeeded. The current estimate is that sea lions consume about three to four thousand salmon. When salmon runs were numbered in the millions, that amount lost to natural predation could be tolerated. Not anymore. Salmon seasons have been curtailed because of crashing salmon populations. Expensive salmon restoration programs promise less than the 3% increase in adult Chinooks that are being consumed by sea lions. The states of Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Columbia basin tribes have asked the federal government permission to kill feeding sea lions. Sea lions have increased in number since 1972 when Congress passed the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

Salmon have always been prey for sea lions. Before European arrival there was a natural balance between prey and predator. Industrial man and his works have upset nature's scales and are bringing salmon to the brink of collapse, just as in the 19th century he nearly exterminated the bison. In an important decision, the Ninth Circuit US Court of Appeals ruled that the government's plan for salmon recovery in the Northwest is little more than analytical legerdemain and therefore violates the Endangered Species Act. The appeals court upheld district court Judge James Redden who was presented with a biological opinion that considered the Columbia basin dams part of the environment since they existed before enactment of the Endangered Species Act. Returns of wild Chinook in the Snake river once exceeded 1.5 million fish or about half of the total Columbia basin salmon run. Even in the late sixties and seventies after the lower Snake river dams went up, salmon returns often exceeded 60,000. Last year only 17,000 exhausted fish made it pass Lower Granite Dam. The Appeals Court called the government's approach to recovery a "slow slide to oblivion" for salmon.

We should give both the sea lions and the salmon a brake by being honest with ourselves. Our endless demands have exhausted a once mighty natural system. Killing sea lions might make some frustrated managers feel better, but it will not solve the problem. Perhaps the easiest solution is to allow more water over the dams or even remove some dams in order to help the salmon migrate successfully. But of course, governments and business interests want their salmon and electricity too. Its a lot less painful to shoot the sea lions.

Weekend Update: An angry fisherman shot a federally protected sea lion twice in the head after it took a hooked salmon from his fishing line on Wednesday. The incident, which is a federal crime punishable by imprisonment and heavy fines, occurred in the Willamette River. The polluted urban river joins the Columbia River approximately eighty miles from the sea. The sea lion was not killed outright. It was found later in serious pain and distress. One guide said that several sea lions are killed each year by frustrated anglers. "They shouldn't be here", he observed. "They are sea lions, not river lions." It seems not only sea lions are hungry for fish.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Gun Struck

A new American record set a Virginia Tech. See my previous post, Whack Jobs with Guns, 10/12/06.
Weekend Update: Its a strange government indeed that will invade the privacy of an adult female to protect her fetus--even if protecting the child means her death--yet will not take reasonable precautions to prevent, or at least make more difficult, the possession of military weapons by the general public. America will not learn the repeated horrific lesson that some individuals are not emotionally stable or socially adapted enough to own high powered weapons. To misinterpret the Second Amendment as justification for tolerating mass murder is pathetic.

Defending Democracy

Some time ago I wrote about the Electoral College and its role in the usurpation of the peoples' will that was the 2000 presidential election (Waiter: There is an Elector in My Democracy). The state of Maryland is the first state to ratify the radical idea thatin the 21st century the people should elect the President. Governor Martin O'Malley signed the National Popular Vote Plan, an interstate compact that assigns all of a state's Electoral College vote to the winner of the national popular vote for President. Once a majority of the Electoral College is restricted to a ceremonial role (270 electors), those states agree that their electors will always vote for the popular vote winner. The Plan admittedly bypasses the intentionally cumbersome procedure for amending the Constitution. But an interstate compact like the National Popular Vote Plan is entirely legal and binding. No where in the Constitution is there a provision dictating how a state must allocate its assigned electoral votes. Article II says only, "Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors." The Supreme Court has repeatedly explained the provision gives plenary power for allocating electors to the states. The Constitution never mandated a state winner take all system that is currently in use. In the first three presidential elections electors were chosen directly by state legislatures or elected under a district system of allocation. Nebraska and Maine still use a district system.

Other states, such as Colorado, are considering adopting the compact. Hawaii's legislature has already passed a bill. It is becoming increasing clear that by the current electoral convention, voters in states not considered "battleground states" are being effectively disenfranchised-- made mere spectators of the process in competitive states with enough votes to give a candidate an electoral majority. The interstate compact plan makes every citizen's vote for President count, thus requiring a candidate to solicit votes from all fifty states. Way to go, Maryland!

Thursday, April 12, 2007

District of Bizarro XI: The Charlatan in Chief

"Dag nabit-- pesky Democrat Congress! How can I get victory if they take away ma' guns!"

Weekend Update: Senator Karl Levin released a Pentagon IG report yesterday that confirms what we have known for a long, long time. There was no operational connection between Saddam Hussein and Al-Qaeda. But that did not stop the fantasizers in Douglas Feith's shop of dreams. They issued briefings and reports to "make the case" of an Iraq-Al-Qaeda connection despite the CIA and DIA concluding none existed. It was pure and simple misinformation intended to sell the war. Incredibly, on the same day the Inspector General's report was released, Darth Cheney continued to spew forth the Big Lie on Limpbutt's radio show. The only thing I can't understand is why the guy is still in office. Soldiers are dying for Cheney's lies as you read this.

The Republican Party apparently knew its boys in the White House would have big problems at the end of eight years in power. The GOP issued email addresses and lap tops so staffers could use an unofficial back channel to discuss official business that could not bear the light of day. Now that congressional investigators want the e mails, four years of communications have conveniently disappeared. It makes Nixon's 18 1/2 minute gap look like a hiccup.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Condi Blows Off Waxman Again

Condoleeza 'Free Ride' Rice is giving Rep. Henry Waxman the shrug off again. As I posted earlier the Chairman of the House Government Reform & Oversight Committee wants her testimony before the Committee on April 18th. It looks like he will have to subpoena her, if he wants her testimony on the Niger yellowcake tale. According to the Chairman, he received an inadequate response to his latest request for her testimony from the State Department Legislative Affairs Office. In their response to his latest request, the State Department refers him to previous answers given to him as ranking minority member in 2003. Things were going a lot better for the regime then.

Something Rotten in Sarasota

The mystery of 18,000 "lost" votes in Sarasota, Florida is beginning to unravel. ES&S the manufacturer of the e-voting machines in question informed the Sarasota Supervisor of Elections, Kathlene Dent, prior to the November election that a "glitch" in the software could result in inaccurate vote counts. Ms. Dent did nothing in response to the information. Previous to this revelation the company maintained that it's machines worked perfectly. According to the August 15, 2006 letter received by Ms. Dent, the addition of a smoothing filter to a later firmware version caused machines to delay in registering a voter's selection. The filter, "waits for a series of consistent touchscreen reads before a candidate's name is highlighted on a ballot. In some cases the time lapse on these consistent reads is beyond the normal time a voter would expect to have their selection highlighted." Ms. Dent and ES&S claim they did not have time to certify a firmware patch to fix the problem before the election. Their claims of innocence ring hollow in light of the fact that they failed to disclose this problem in discovery to litigants in civil suits concerning the botched 13th Congressional District election. A re-vote is obviously necessary and the US House of Representatives should require one.

The Reality of Iraq

This quote is worth quoting. From a former US military officer in Vietnam who is familiar with General Petraeus' new security plan to 'ghettoize' Baghdad:

"The first loyalty of any Sunni who is in the Iraqi army is to the insurgency,"Any Shia's first loyalty is to the head of his political party and its militia. Any Kurd in the Iraqi army, his first loyalty is to either Barzani or Talabani. There is no independent Iraqi army. These people really have no choice. They are trying to save their families from starvation and reprisal. At one time they may have believed in a unified Iraq. At one time they may have been secular. But the violence and brutality that started with the American invasion has burnt those liberal ideas out of people ... Every American who is embedded in an Iraqi unit is in constant mortal danger." quote from The Independent.

It is hard in Iraq and it will get worse. The situation has deteriorated so much that turning Baghdad neighborhoods into concentration camps will simply add more fuel to the fire of resistance. Its a tactic used before and it has failed (Tal Afar, Vietnam, Algiers). As the candid officer points out our continued occupation is accomplishing one thing: further dividing Iraq into armed camps with no loyalty to a national government. Invading Iraq again with an army of a half million, imposing total American military rule and sealing it's artificial borders is politically, if not militarily, impossible. We should begin withdrawal now. Is one Senate Democrat willing to stand up and say enough? The sad truth is, no.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Not Such a Crazy Idea

If you search the archives of this blog you will find that I joined the few daring to propose a radical solution to the problem of reconstructing Afghanistan. For centuries Afghanistan's agricultural economy has depended on the opium crop. The Taliban also depends on the drug trade to finance its resistance to the national government and NATO forces. One reason the resistance is so difficult to defeat is this reliable source of cash for purchasing material and manpower. The inability of internationally financed reconstruction projects to make a difference in ordinary Afghan's lives is another explanation for the Taliban's survival. According to one poll, Taliban support among civilians is increasing in Kandahar and Helmand provinces. A British commander warned that if civilians do not start seeing an improvement in their situation, as much as 70% of Afghans could switch sides. Such a massive opinion swing would make NATO military operations and the ultimate political goal of modernizing the nation much more difficult if not impossible.

Purchasing the entire opium crop from farmers is a solution to both problems. The idea has gotten little respect from governments. But that may be changing according to Christopher Smallwood writing for the Independent. The possibility of making opium production legal in Afghanistan is creeping onto European agendas. The idea is to allow opium poppies to be purchased from farmers by licensed dealers so that it can be sold for use by pharmaceutical companies making opium based pain killers. That is a beginning, but for the idea to work at all, the opium market must be entirely cornered by the government and its western allies. All of the poppy crop has to be sold to regulated buyers in order to deprive the Taliban of income. The pharmacies could use an additional 55 tons in their business. Afghanistan produces 6,000 tons annually. Obviously, drug companies cannot use it all. What is not resold must be rigorously destroyed. Teaching Afghan farmers to grow something benign and then providing a lucrative market for their product would also help.

Cost considerations do not make the buyout idea unfeasible either. The current program of military action and crop eradication will cost $155 billion through 2008. The program is not working. The poppy crop is bigger than ever and attacks on NATO troops are up. Estimates of a buyout program for the poppy crop are around $2.7 billion. The retail value of Afghanistan's heroin trade is around $120 billion. Why pay more?

Monday, April 09, 2007

A Psychic Cost of Endless War

As more GIs are killed and maimed for a cause that is nonexistent and in a country where they are not wanted, we begin to see the damaging effects of constant war on our national psyche. The increasing number of suicides among military personnel is symptomatic. Civilian society also exhibits war's corrosive effects. America is rapidly become a society of soulless, hyper-competitive, violent narcissists. A case in point is that of August Fox, a homeless black man who was minding his own business on a balmy night in Orlando. Unfortunately for Mr. Fox he was in the wrong place on March 26, 2007. A gang of teenagers beat him to death for no apparent reason, other than the psychotic pleasure of watching him die.
His savage beating is not an isolated phenomenon. Violent and deadly attacks on the homeless are increasing around the country. A 2006 report by the National Coalition for the Homeless found 142 attacks last year against homeless persons, twenty of which resulted in death. The number of attacks is a 65% increase over those in 2005. In 1999, the year the Coalition started keeping statistics of the phenomenon, there were 60. The attacks occur in communities large and small and in forty four states. Attackers are overwhelmingly young, white males. Somehow they have gotten the message that its OK to beat and even kill "bums" as a sport. A few have even videotaped themselves in the act. These vicious juveniles have apparently internalized society's estimate that the poor are less human and can be considered an easy target for suppressed rage or racial hatred. In ancient Sparta one of the tests in the passage to manhood was that a warrior kill a slave with his bare hands. He had to kill without being caught in the act. Brutality as a means of character development is unacceptable in modern civilization. In 21st century America beating the homeless is a serious hate crime, perverse media notwithstanding.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Iran's Reaction

The British newspaper, The Independent, reports that the capture of British military personnel in the Persian Gulf was a retaliation for a failed American attempt to capture two high level Iranian intelligence officers in Arbil, Kurdistan. The two officers, General Mohammed Jafari and General Minojahar Frouzandia, were thought to be in a Iranian liason office located in Arbil. The surprise early morning raid conducted by airborne troops did not locate the targets there but took five lower ranking Iranian officers with them. They are still being held by the U.S. The general officers were in Kurdistan on an official visit during which they met with the head of the Kurdistan Regional Government, Massoud Barzani. Barzani's chief of staff confirmed that the raiders were after Jafari. He is the deputy head of the powerful Iranian National Security Council. Frousandia is the intelligence chief of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards (Pasdaran). The raid came a few hours after the Charlatan made a public statement on January 10th alleging Iranian support for attacks on American troops inside Iraq. The shoe dropped, but it did not explode.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Fluoride in Your Water--A Good Thing?

When I was a young boy fluoridation of municipal drinking water was a no brainer except for the unstable fringe who thought it was a communist conspiracy to poison America. Fluoridation was viewed as a relatively inexpensive and safe way to give young people (especially those with less access to regular dental care) increased resistance to caries. But some communities, such as in Oregon, are resisting fluoridation proponents (Oregon ranks third from the bottom in percentage of residents using fluoridated water supplies). Portland, which has a reputation for good quality drinking water, does not add fluoride to its municipal water supply. There is a bill under consideration in the state legislature to require fluoridated drinking water and its not moving quickly. The bill was reported out of committee to the floor without a recommendation, a sign that there is not a solid majority behind its adoption. Some recent science is providing fluoride's detractors with reasons.

The three main chemicals used in the US to put fluoride in drinking water are waste byproducts of the phosphate fertilizer industry according to the US Centers for Disease Control. This fact is also recognized by the National Research Counsel. The problem is that as waste byproducts the fluoridation chemicals are not pharmaceutical grade. They contain heavy metals like arsenic, lead, and mercury which bio-accumulate and are toxic at minute levels. Fluoridation advocates do not dispute this, but argue that the concentrations are too low to present a health threat. But in the 135 Oregon communities that have already exceeded drinking water standards for toxins like arsenic, it does not make a lot of sense to those citizens to add more.

The rationale for fluoride gets weaker when you consider the evidence that swallowing fluoride does little to prevent tooth decay. What is proven effective is the topical application of fluoride to tooth enamel, such as using a fluoride toothpaste regularly. Statistical data from the CDC and the US Department of Health Services--both organizations continue to recommend fluoridation as effective--show that increasing the percentage of a state that is "fluoridated" does not correlate with fewer cavities in children. For example, in Washington state 58% of the people drink fluoridated water but it has a significantly lower percentage of poor children with good teeth than Oregon (7.1% less) where only 19% of its residents drink fluoridated water. What correlates strongly with healthy teeth in children is recent access to preventive dental care. Oregon does not do so well in this category. It has the dubious distinction of having the second lowest percentage of children in the US who had access to dental care within the previous year. A 2006 Harvard study funded by the US National Institute of Health found that drinking water fluoridation at an optimum level increased the risk of bone cancer in young boys (6-8 years old) by over 500%.

District of Bizarro X: The Railroad to Nowhere

One of the Republicans' talking points against the just passed Senate appropriation for the Iraq war containing withdrawal language is that it also contains "pork". Both Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Minority Whip Trent Lott (R-MS) have complained. Spending provisions for pet projects back home are not new baggage for military appropriation bills. Just one year ago they both supported a $106 million emergency military spending bill that included a $700 million earmark sponsored by Senator Lott (the largest ever) for Mississippi's "railroad to nowhere". One of their Republican colleagues tried to eliminate the earmark, but the amendment was tabled thanks to 18 Republican senators who also opposed the Iraq war funding bill. Its simply the pot calling the kettle black, again
Weekend Update: If Congress was not spending money on the military and pork, we could spend it on making terrorism at home less effective. Iraqi insurgents recently blew up trucks carrying chlorine gas for treating potable water. Hundreds in Baghdad were made seriously ill. If the large explosions had been better engineered, the chlorine gas clouds would have been bigger and more toxic. Essentially, in high dosages chlorine gas burns the lungs causing death. The President's Homeland Security Counsel drafted a worse case scenario in 2004 that envisioned 17,000 deaths, 10,000 injuries and 100,000 hospitalizations if a large tanker was bombed in a high population density area of the U.S. Granted, chlorine gas is not invisible and is heavier than air, but its effective enough as a weapon to have been used in WWI. Tons of chlorine gas are transported daily by truck and rail. The American Center for Progress made a study of rail transportation of chlorine gas called "Toxic Trains" . The study found that only 24 drinking water and 13 waste water facilities use chlorine gas transported by rail. However, chlorine tank cars travel long distances and through metropolitan areas to reach these facilities from the 16 suppliers that use rail transport. There are other ways to disinfect water such as ultraviolet rays or safer chemicals like liquid bleach. A single days expenditure in Iraq could easily pay for the conversion of the twenty plants without plans to covert to safer means.

There are hundreds of chemical manufacturing facilities in the United States making tons of explosive and toxic chemicals besides chlorine gas every day. The Department of Homeland Security recognizes they are vulnerable to attack, but their corporate owners are resisting any rules to improve their facilities' security. Remember that the next time you have to take off your shoes at the airport. War on terror? Not so much.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Significant Victories

The Supremes ruled 5-4 that the EPA can treat CO2 as a pollutant under the Clean Air Act. This is an important decision in the fight against global warming. In 2003 the agency reversed a Clinton era rule that allowed the Agency to limit the amount of CO2 emitted from new vehicles. The court interpreted the term "air pollutant" to include carbon dioxide since it is the major greenhouse gas causing global warming. Of course our atmosphere includes CO2 as a natural ingredient, but scientific research shows that the amount of CO2 has been increasing at an unprecedented rate since the beginning of human industrialization on Earth. Another important aspect of the case was the Court's conclusion that environmental organizations have standing to sue under the Act because they can be injured by increasing global temperatures. The decision does not require the EPA to limit carbon dioxide emissions from automobiles. Those regulations will have to be made under a different administration than the current one.

More good news for emotional whale lovers and NRDC members like myself. The National Resources Defense Counsel has convinced the Mexican Government to donate 109,000 acres surrounding the San Ignacio Lagoon in Baja Sur to conservation. The lagoon is a world famous nursery for grey whales who make a 4000 mile swim down the west coast from the Arctic to mate, give birth and feed in the lagoon. The donation puts an end to Mitsubishi Corporation's ten year effort to locate the world's largest salt works on it shores. I have visited San Ignacio and its a truly inspiring place, almost otherworldly in its stark beauty and serenity. A huge plant would have completely destroyed San Ignacio's wild beauty and unpolluted habitat. Thank you, Mexico for a wise decision.

Buying a Stairway to the White House

In the corporate media zone (you cannot really call it 'The News' anymore) the big item is Hillary's record fundraising for President. The Senator and her former president husband have garnered $26 million in contributions to her campaign. If you needed more indication that she represents the corporate plutocracy, you have it now. She is mired at 30% in the opinion polls, but that doesn't stop her rich "friends of Bill" from forking over the cash in great wads. Most of the money will be spent on media buys to convince you she is "Baberaham Lincoln". Not. The Senator does not have a substantial public record, except for voting for war on Iraq and making bankruptcy relief more difficult to obtain. Her hubby is a talented politician, but objectively the record of his administration is mixed at best. His major domestic initiative spearheaded by the Senator--universal health care--was a failure, his major economic policy--NAFTA--has exported thousands of high paying manufacturing jobs overseas, and the foreign intervention in Somalia while ignoring genocide in Rwanda, was an embarrassment. He did balance the federal budget and compared to what we have now, he is a genius.

The old saw is nothing succeeds like success, but for the good of their democracy Americans have to stop being enamored with money and its charisma. Presidential politics has turned into a contest to see which candidate can buy the most mass media and very little else. If we do not establish a more rational and neutral forum for political debate we will end up with a government worse than a legally imposed regime running the country. Here is one idea: PBS could be required to air a weekly series of free debates for each major party prior to the start of the primaries.

Check out Jib Jab for a good giggle about what used to be called 'The News'.