Friday, November 30, 2007

12/1/07

*The world as a village of 100 people – A reader sent me this interesting website that examines the premise: If we could reduce the world’s population to a village of precisely 100 people, with all existing human ratios remaining the same, the demographics would look something like this:
~60 Asians – 12 Europeans – 5 North Americans – 8 Latin Americans – 14 Africans
~49 females – 51 males
~82 non-white – 18 white
~89 heterosexual – 11 homosexual
~33 Christian – 67 non-Christian
~5 would control 32% of the entire world’s wealth, and all of them would be US citizens
~80 would live in substandard housing
~24 would not have any electricity
~67 would be unable to read
~1 would have a college education
~50 would be malnourished and 1 dying of starvation
~33 would be without access to a safe water supply
~1 would have HIV and 1 would be near death
Seeing oneself in this context is enlightening. Most of the time my thoughts of the “world” revolve narrowly around what directly affects me. I imagine that this same phenomenon applies to you, our elected leaders and our national and foreign policies. Perhaps if we saw the world in a broader way we would have a greater appreciation for our good fortune to live in America. If our leaders saw the world in a broader context perhaps polices would have more positive results. America is not the world – it is a small part of a much larger and diverse community. The site offers some interesting implications of this data and is worth a visit.

*Once in a while the good guys win – In May of 2000 Pacific Northwest timber moguls donated $1 million to the Republican Party to help elect George W. Bush. In return they were promised that the Bush administration would lift certain logging restrictions that protected the environment and salmon populations. The administration kept its bargain with the devil by intentionally misinterpreting and ignoring the scientific data. Environmental groups and local communities stood up to this not untypical sell-out by Bush to big business interests. “In April a federal court ruled the administration acted illegally by suppressing scientific dissent when it illegally modified environmental safeguards, known as the Aquatic Conservation Strategy, developed in 1994 as part of the Northwest Forest Plan.” "In the end the government wasted millions of dollars in staff and attorney time all for nothing. We were able to keep the salmon protections in place because the government couldn't get any reputable scientist to go along with their scheme” said Earthjustice attorney Patti Goldman. I say don’t blame the President. His belief system precludes science.

*Pondering profit motives - In Eugene Jarecki's documentary film Why We Fight, about the U.S. military-industrial complex, U.S. foreign policy critic Chalmers Johnson states: "I guarantee you when war becomes that profitable, you are going to see more of it." The Iraq war has generated billions of dollars for defense and supply companies. The privatization of many military functions in Iraq has resulted in 180,000 personnel (more than the number of our military personnel) working for private companies in Iraq – most of which have strong ties to Bush, Cheney and the Republican party. No recession in this sector - merely a loss of life, limb and taxpayer assets.

*Standing up for your candidate – A politician in Thailand is distributing Viagra to older men in hopes of gaining their vote in the December elections. I think that this tactic is an excellent way to maximize the use of campaign funds. It gains the vote of the older man and probably the vote of a surprised but happier wife.

*Lott trots to K Street - Senator Trent Lott (R-MS) indicated that he may resign from the Senate (after 30-plus years) before the end of the year. Having just been re-elected in 2006, the move raises questions about the timing of the decision. It is likely that Lott is racing a new law that goes into effect January 1, 2008. Under current law a Senator or Representative must wait one year after leaving office before becoming a lobbyist. The new law requires a two-year waiting period – a law that Lott voted against. Former senators, representative, staff and family have made huge amounts of money working for Washington D.C. (K Street) lobbyists where they use their connections to influence legislators and public officials. Industry and trade groups fund this influence. The musical chairs of influence benefit all but the disenfranchised average citizen. I suggest that former elected officials and staff have a waiting period of 5 years before they can register as lobbyists. In the mean time they can seek real jobs and avoid the stigma of prostitution.

*The two faces of Cheney – As VP of the U.S Dick Cheney has been a leading force against Iran with threats of bombing the country and the imposition of sanctions. As CEO of Halliburton Cheney danced around the law to do business with Iran. In 1995 President Bill Clinton signed an executive order barring U.S. investments in Iran’s energy sector. Halliburton then set up an offshore subsidiary that engaged in dealings with Iran, a country the U.S. deemed a terrorist state. Of course, such epiphanies for the disingenuous members of the Bush administration generate little surprise. The offshore subsidiary gambit by Cheney may have been a loophole in the law but it demonstrates an even larger loophole in his integrity. He was for Iran (when it benefited his personal gain) before he was against it. Does Halliburton manufacture bombs?

*The third face of Cheney ~ Energy – Some may recall that in the early days of the Bush presidency Dick Cheney held secret policy meetings with America’s major oil companies – Exxon/Mobil, BP, Chevron and many of their fellow goniffs (crooks). Since it was a secret meeting we do not know what was discussed. What we do know is that when Bush took office a gallon of gasoline cost $1.45. Today, that same gallon costs $3.07. Coincidence?

*Romney’s tolerance of intolerance – Mitt Romney has faced anti-Mormon attacks in his primary run for the Republican presidential nomination. He subsequently has been asking Americans not to adversely judge him because he is a Mormon. However, he has no problem feeding the salivating racism of the political right in order to curry their favor. Steve Benen at the carpetbaggerreport.com notes that when Romney was asked if he would consider Americans of the Islamic faith for his cabinet if elected president Romney replied, “…based on the numbers of American Muslims [as a percentage] in our population, I cannot see that a cabinet position would be justified. But of course, I would imagine that Muslims could serve at lower levels of my administration.” As Benen notes, discriminating against Muslims or gays is a plus situation in appealing to the Republican base. Recall how Karl Rove energized the religious right to vote for Bush with the promise to “protect” them from gays and this was supported by the majority of the Republican leadership. What a sad commentary that a major political party in 21st Century America fuels itself with hate and prejudice. Of course, using Romney’s “demographics”, a Mormon would not qualify to run for president.

*Sex question of the week – Palm Beach Community College has approved medical insurance for employees’ pets. The Board of Trustees, however, voted down medical insurance for employee domestic partners even though the plan would not have cost the school anything because it pays employee premiums only, not those of dependents. The question this raises for me: If an employee has 2 dogs or 3 cats or 4 gerbils of the same sex are the pets disqualified from plan participation?

*I would laugh if not so sad ~ I would cry if my eyes didn’t burn – Twelve states are suing the Environmental Protection Agency for “weakening regulations that for two decades have required businesses and industries to report the toxic chemicals they use, store and release.” The “protection” that the EPA currently provides is no better than a condom with a hole. Where is congressional oversight? I guess it does not really matter since congress is so impotent there is no need for a condom.

*Star-dudded endorsement – Barack Obama is being supported by Oprah so Hillary Clinton lined up Barbara Streisand. Flash has its place but I would prefer to see a bit more substance in what the candidates stand for and what solutions they propose for the monumental problems facing this nation. And yet, perhaps this approach makes sense since as a nation we are consumed with the next media download on the Ipod, Blackberry, computer, X-Box, Sling Box, Hi Def TV, satellite radio and cell phone ring tone. There just is not enough time to devote to what is going on in our country. Bush and Cheney and Rove understood this phenomenon. They realized that too few were paying attention thus enabling them to get away with almost anything.

*President Bush’s best friend 1 – Russian President Vladimir Putin is up for re-election. In addition to critical journalists and political opponents disappearing/dying under unusual circumstances and political rivals being arrested it is now being reported that, “With the Kremlin determined to see a high turnout in Sunday's election, many Russians say they are being pressured to vote at work under the watchful eyes of their bosses or risk losing their jobs.” There is nothing like bringing back the good old days.

*President Bush’s best friend 2 – John Howard, Prime Minister of Australia was overwhelmingly voted out of office due to two policies he closely held with Bush - the Iraq war and denial of climate change. The once widely popular Howard has served as PM since 1996.His defeat was considered humiliating given that a year ago his re-election was considered a given. The new PM Kevin Rudd campaigned on removing Australia’s 550 combat troops from Iraq and joining the Kyoto Treaty whose aim is to address climate change. This now leaves America as the only industrialized country not participating in the Kyoto Treaty (172 nations participate). And most of the minimal support that comprised the Iraq “coalition” is disappearing. It is also interesting to note that the former heads of Great Britain and Italy and Spain join Howard in being forced out of office largely due to their Iraq positions. America and President Bush truly “stand alone” in the world.

*Another friend of President Bush 1 – Meet Mark W. Everson. He is a Republican family values kind of guy (with a wife and two children) who worked in the Bush administration from 2001 until recently. His jobs included Commissioner of the IRS, a position he left in May to become President and CEO of the Red Cross with a $500,000 salary. He has stepped down after revelations that he was "engaged in a personal relationship with a subordinate employee." I say it could have even been worse for Mr. Everson. The subordinate employee was a female, thereby avoiding the embarrassment experienced by a number of other prominent Republicans in recent months whose trysts were with the same gender.

*Another friend of President Bush 2 – Meet the Saudis. “Saudi Arabia has released 1,500 prisoners suspected of belonging to a radical Islamic group after the prisoners underwent what was described as a five-week counseling program”. What a novel approach - fighting terrorism with sensitivity seminars. Not so sensitive was the Saudi decision to order a young woman to be physically beaten as “punishment” for being in a situation where she was gang-raped. When Middle East leaders complain that Americans do not understand them they are spot on.

*Rudy, Rudy, Rudy ~ Another “law and order” derriere orifice – We now learn that while Giuliani was Mayor of NYC his extra-marital affair with the woman now his current wife cost the taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars. When hizzoner snuck off to the Hamptons to cavort with Judith Nathan he billed NYC agencies for security costs. The funding came from agencies responsible for regulating loft apartments, aiding the disabled and providing lawyers for indigent defendants. Republicans like Giuliani believe that such agencies should not even exist so there is no problem stealing their funds. Let’s call it reallocating the resources to benefit the “benefitted”.

*Victoria’s Secret ~ no longer – If you lust for Victoria’s Secrets (VS) products or catalog allow me to temper your libido. The National Labor Committee has issued a report that VS abuses foreign guest workers in Jordan. “D.K. Garments is a subcontract factory with 150 foreign guest workers (135 from Bangladesh and 15 from Sri Lanka), which has been producing VS garments for the last year.... The VS workers toil 14 to 15 hours a day, from 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 or 10:00 p.m., seven days a week, receiving on average one day off every three or four months. Despite being forced to work five or more overtime hours a day, the workers are routinely shortchanged on their legal overtime pay, being cheated up to $18.48 each week in wages due them... Workers are allowed just 3.3 minutes to sew each $14 Victoria's Secret women's bikini, for which they are paid four cents... The workers are housed in primitive dorms which have only irregular access to water. During winter months, when the temperatures can drop to freezing, the workers' dorms have neither heat nor hot water.” I find that what goes into Victoria’s bra and panties is no longer hot to me. In fact, it is very cold.

* ... the 20th century has been characterized by three developments of great political importance: The growth of democracy, the growth of corporate power, and the growth of corporate propaganda as a means of protecting corporate power against democracy.
Alex Carey, Australian social scientist

1 comment:

Ruth Z Deming said...

The bad thing about our wonderful country is that your well-documented Little Blog of Horrors is no longer shocking! We only expect the worst from El Presidente & his Team of Bad Boys. No, make that Team of Evil Boys. I remember the phrase by Hannah Arendt - "the banality of evil" - extant not only in Nazi Germany but in today's society where at least we have the freedom to have watchdogs like you!