Wednesday, August 22, 2007


*Don’t get naked in your bathroom – The WSJ reports that satellite data previously available only to NASA and the US Geological Survey, which used the images for scientific and environmental study, will now be available to a wide array of
law enforcement agencies at all levels of government. The move to turn spy satellites on American citizens raises legal questions because the use of such data for law enforcement is "largely uncharted territory." Even the officials behind the move are unsure of its legal implications. Some experts are saying,"Not only is the surveillance they are contemplating intrusive and omnipresent, it's also invisible. And that's what makes this so dangerous."

*Politics is politics when alteration it finds - The Boston Globe ran a summary of Rudy Giuliani’s philosophical reversal on issues as he attempts to seduce the Republican base. His flip flops encompass: ban on partial-birth abortion, funding of abortions for the poor, gun control, gay marriage and civil unions, and illegal immigrants. Mitt Romney, having been outdone in reversing political stances, responded aggressively. He promised to change his tie every four hours.

*Talking bobble head(ache) – CNBC anchor Erin Burnett cautioned viewers that if China made toys without lead or produced food without poisons their cost of production would go up. And that means prices at Wal Mart would go up too. So China is our greatest friend right now. They are keeping prices low. Micro-economist Erin Burnett is giving me a sharp shooting pain behind my left eye. It is fortunate that Wal Mart has a sale this week on generic aspirin. And with each bottle of 500 count I can get a fortune cookie.

*The game of Recall - Unrelated to its recall of 1 million Chinese-made toys earlier this month Mattell, Inc. just issued a recall of 7.3 million play sets and 1.3 million die-cast cars, the dangers being magnets that could be swallowed and lead paint. Perhaps the cost of these recalls will influence toy makers to do better inspections before the toys are imported and distributed. China, which produces 80% of toys sold world-wide, has repeatedly demonstrated that their products cannot be trusted. With no respect to Ms. Burnett, “cheap” is not the sole criterion determining a product’s value unless you are purchasing a parakeet.

*Consumers Union is providing a petition that you can sign to your elected representatives urging them to ensure food and product safety before they enter our borders. The website is:

*What’s good for the goose… trickle down theory - The State Department plans to create a new mental care office and require employees to take additional time off to deal with a surge in stress disorders among diplomats in danger posts abroad, particularly Iraq and Afghanistan. The steps were proposed in response to the findings of a survey that found up to 17 percent of diplomats serving at such posts may suffer from post traumatic stress disorder or similar problems. Now if we can only get the same sensitivity for our military serving in Iraq and Afghanistan we will have made progress. Current policy is to re-deploy soldiers in spite of physical and mental injuries as well as serious deficiencies in mental care when they return home.

*Several years ago a Mississippi court took away a woman’s 8 year old child. Two of the judges in the majority went so far as to write and sign an additional opinion, unnecessary to the case's outcome, which stated that the mother must accept the fact that losing her biological child was a possible consequence of her sexual "choice" (the mother being a lesbian). One of those two judges was Leslie Southwick. He is dangerously close to being appointed to the Federal bench by (who else?) President Bush, if confirmed by the Senate. You can sign a petition urging your senators to not confirm this Neanderthal. The link is:

*Karnak incarnate - I just watched a short video of Dick Cheney from 1994 explaining all of the reasons why the U.S. should not have gone into Iraq during the Gulf War. His reasoning was intelligent and cogent. He predicted all that could go wrong. And sure enough he was right as evidenced by the current Iraq war – initiated at his urging. The video can be seen at:

*Pork and Salmon on a skewer, unappetizing – Alaskan Republican Senator Ted Stevens and Representative Don Young are both under investigation for corrupt/criminal practices. One cannot argue, however, with the stellar job they have done for the interests of their state and their associates. Their special project appropriations include; an Alaska Fisheries Marketing Board $500,000 grant that was used partly to paint a Chinook salmon on a Boeing 737, a $450,000 grant to the University of Alaska to formulate baby food with salmon in it, the Alyeska Roundhouse received $450,000 (the building is at the Alyeska ski resort in Girdwood, where Stevens has his home), Alaska Christian College received $435,000 in 2005 (the school had several dozen students at the time), The National Archives and Records Administration received at least $2.25 million toward the purchase of an empty lot in Anchorage from two former Stevens business partners allowing them to more than double their investment.

*Takes your breath away – On Sept 18, 2001, 7 days after the attack on the World Trade Center in NYC, EPA Administrator Christie Whitman announced that results from the Agency's air and drinking water monitoring near the WTC indicate that these vital resources are safe. In August, 2003 the Office of the Inspector General of the EPA reported that some of the EPA's news releases in the weeks after the attack were softened before being released to the public: Reassuring information was added, while cautionary information was deleted. We now learn that a major study by Mount Sinai Medical Center found 70 percent of ground zero workers suffered some form of lung problems and experts there predicted thousands will either remain sick or get sick in coming years. Before Bush 43 we would have attributed such manipulation to the Soviet Union. Can you say Chernobyl? Nyet!

*Speaking of the Soviet model of governance 1 -The U.S. government argued before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals that two lawsuits centering on aspects of the secret surveillance effort run by the National Security Agency after September 11, 2001 be thrown out of court for potentially exposing state secrets. Judge McKeown said, “This seems to put us in the 'trust us' category about the government's assertions that its surveillance activities did not violate the law. We don't do it. Trust us. And don't ask us about it." Deputy Solicitor General Gregory G. Garre then argued that courts are not the right forum for complaints about government surveillance, and that "other avenues" are available. Another jurist on the panel, Judge Pregerson, shot back, "What is that? Impeachment?"

*Speaking of the Soviet model of governance 2 – Wikepedia is an online encyclopedia. It recently developed software to trace who makes changes to its entries. People using CIA, FBI and EPA computers were recently tracked when they made changes on topics such as the Iraq War, Guantanamo prison and environmental issues. Pretty soon we will be seeing entries that identify George W. Bush as the greatest president in the history of our nation and Pee Wee Herman as our greatest thespian.

*On the Rove again – Some in the mainstream media as well as right-wing pundits have been praising the presidential advisor who has just resigned. Not I. Karl Rove may be seen as a genius in that he was behind the election of George W. as governor of Texas twice and President of the U.S twice. No small feat. Bill Moyers of PBS noted, ”Greed and God won Rove four elections”. After electoral successes I am hard-pressed to identify any meaningful accomplishments of the Rove-counseled Bush administration. Foreign policy has been one disaster after another. Name a domestic accomplishment of this administration in the 80 months of its tenure. The President’s approval rating is in the 20’s and the Republican party is in disarray and shrinking (only 28% of Americans view it positively). Mr. Rove’s influence was one of divisiveness, confrontation and arrogance. If “genius” is used to describe Rove, “Rembrandt” would describe the graffiti on slum buildings.

*The least shall be first – The Bush/Cheney “thunk” tank has been indicating a desire to engage Iran in war, disregarding the military principles of operating from strength and avoiding unprovoked attacks. One would think that the leading Democratic presidential candidates such as Clinton, Obama and Biden would be out front opposing this dangerous possibility of dragging America into another unnecessary and debilitating war. But it is Dennis Kucinich who is the leading candidate in speaking the truth about such foreign policy debacles. He said, “Our nation is better served by demanding sensible and responsible diplomatic foreign policy initiatives from the Bush Administration." How unfortunate that 21st century American political positions too often amount to glib sound bites delivered with face makeup for the six o’clock news.

*Just a game/Little Drummer Boy - Left Behind: Eternal Forces is a video game inspired by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins' best-selling book series about the battle of Armageddon, in which believers of Jesus Christ fight the Antichrist. The Rev. Timothy Simpson of the Christians Alliance for Progress said "It's a horrible game. You either kill or convert the other side. This is exactly how the Osama bin Ladens of the world have portrayed us”. Operation Start Up Tour, an evangelical entertainment troupe that actively proselytizes among soldiers, intended to put this game in care packages for soldiers in Iraq. The Department of Defense abruptly halted this plan when ABC News inquired about the program. Someone had to inquire before distribution of these games to military personnel was halted? This is reminiscent of the proselytizing scandals at the Air Force Academy in recent years. To what drummer is our military marching? I find it interesting that Orthodox Jewish Independent Senator Joe Lieberman, head cheerleader for the Bush Iraq policy, has been silent on this subject as have the Republican and Democratic leadership. They just don’t get it!

*The Zimmers – Need a smile? A friend sent me a link to a youtube video. It is a remake of the Beatles’ Abbey Road by a group of 40 senior citizens. It is a lot of fun. The link is:

*Wrong man in the wrong place at the wrong time - As miners and rescuers continue to die from recent mining accidents Mine Safety Czar Richard Stickler will be overseeing investigations. His first two appointments to this position were rejected by the Senate. Ever-clever Bush then appointed him through a loophole in the law that allows certain appointments when the Senate is in recess. Most of Stickler’s career was overseeing mining operations in the private sector where his mine safety record was in serious question. Many Senators and the United Mine Workers of America opposed his appointment because of his history and likely allegiance to corporate mining interests. “Business” as usual.

*Back to School - A company based in Massachusetts has invented a bullet-proof rucksack that will help students protect themselves from guns. The $175 My Child’s Pack claims to be effective against 97% of bullets. One of the inventors cautioned, "There is no guarantee in life for anything. This product is a tool." Not mentioned in the ad copy but probably a bonus feature is that I-pod, cell phone and Game Boy will also be protected. Not currently available in school colors.

*The much anticipated General Patraeus report on the surge in Iraq is due in September, intended to update Americans on the progress of the surge. We learn this week that it will be written by the White House. Since this may be a make-or-break assessment of the Bush war strategy I am not surprised that the administration would allow the report to be based on fact by our top military commander in the theater. What I expect the report to be is Mary Poppins on Ritalin.

*Remarkable numbers:
-Troops training and fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan are firing over 1 billion bullets per year. That would equate to over 114,000 bullets per hour. Such usage has resulted in a shortage of bullets for police departments nationwide and in many cases has limited officers from training with the weapons that they carry. Remarkable violence.
-The National Snow and Ice Data Center reported that on August 17 there was less sea ice (measured in square miles) in the Arctic than ever recorded. Original predictions foresaw a complete melt between 2070 and 2100. Revised predictions are looking at 2030. Global warming deniers - remarkable ignorance.
-In campaign speeches Rudy Giuliani claims that he faced comparable risks as rescue workers following the 9/11 attack. Well, almost comparable. Rescue workers averaged 12 hours per day at ground zero and 400 hours total during their service. The Mayor spent a total of 29 hours during 41 visits to the WTC site in the 3 months following 9/11. Most of the visits were to give tours to officials and foreign dignitaries. Remarkable chutzpah.
-99 Army soldiers committed suicide last year, the highest rate in 26 years. More than a quarter did so while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Failed personal relationships, legal and financial problems and the stress of their jobs were factors motivating the soldiers to take their own lives. Remarkable tragedies.
-According to government statistics 72 miners lost their lives in 2007 and 846 have lost their live in the last 10 years. These stats do not include lives lost in the recent Utah disaster. Remarkable lack of safety oversight and concern for life.
-In the mid 70’s America experienced a serious gasoline shortage with rationing and long waits at the gas pumps. Three decades have passed and the specter of petroleum shortages wreaking havoc on our economy and our lives is as ominous today. Remarkable failure.
-McClatchy Newspapers reports that top Commerce and Treasury department officials appeared with Republican candidates and doled out millions in federal money in battleground congressional districts and states after receiving White House political briefings detailing GOP election strategy. The Hatch Act prohibits such activity. Remarkable politicization. and disdain of law.

*For an excellent explanation of how our federal budget is misguided with respect to the needs of our country and how minor adjustments can make a significant difference I recommended a two minute video at:

*BREAKING NEWS: REPUBLICANS PUSH FOR WELFARE – Free market capitalists, who oppose any welfare for needy Americans, are calling on the federal government to bail out the millionaire banks/corporations facing serious losses/bankruptcy in the sub-prime mortgage fiasco. These questionable lending decisions were performed with an absence of oversight by federal authorities. It is reminiscent of the savings and loan debacle 20 years ago. If you are rich and in trouble the government should provide a golden parachute. If you are poor and in trouble, screw you. Regardless of the government’s involvement in either the S and L or sub-prime mortgage meltdown the average American citizen will bear the brunt of greed-driven financial market machinations.

*Summer Vacations – President Bush is on vacation. The U.S Congress is on vacation. The Iraqi Parliament is on vacation. Our military in Iraq and Afghanistan are not on vacation. Let us offer are thoughts and best wishes for their safety and quick return home. And let us not forget our responsibility to bring pressure on our national leaders to end the debacle we call the Iraq War.

*A conscience is the price of morality, and morality is the price of civilization. From “Patriot Games” by Tom Clancy.

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