October 30, 2007 archive

The Bad, The Bad, and The Ugly

I woke up this morning wanting to write about Cold Warriors. So I had a good chuckle when I flipped the remote control over to the Dkos channel and saw that Kagro has a piece up on one of the breed. Even if he is one of the more cuddly (due, apparently, to advanced senility) of the breed, unlike my two “favorite” Cold Warriors….
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Pony Open Thread: social bookmarking

Pony pony pony. Okay class. What do we know about Pony Parties?

1. They are open threads
2. You can bring up anything and chit chat
3. We do not rec the pony parties

other than that, just be excellent to each other. oh, and by the way, how do you bookmark your favorite sites? what do you think of this idea of social bookmarking?

(Updated x 3) Pretty Bird Woman House: Let’s Unbury some Hearts

Herstories on the issue of violence against women

A Cheyenne proverb states, “A nation is not conquered until the hearts of its women are on the ground. Then it is done, no matter how brave its warriors or how strong its weapons.” Our hearts are not on the ground. Our feet are. And we are moving forward.

A travesty to the true spirit of justice is taking place on the Standing Rock Reservation that covers North and South Dakota. Predominantly white male rapists are sexually assaulting American Indian women and getting away with inadequate consequences or no consequences whatsoever.

Four at Four

The afternoon’s news and Open Thread.

  1. According to the Washington Post, Iraqi dam seen in danger of deadly collapse. “The largest dam in Iraq is in serious danger of an imminent collapse that could unleash a trillion-gallon wave of water, possibly killing thousands of people and flooding two of the largest cities in the country, according to new assessments by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other U.S. officials. Even in a country gripped by daily bloodshed, the possibility of a catastrophic failure of the Mosul Dam has alarmed American officials, who have concluded that it could lead to as many as 500,000 civilian deaths by drowning Mosul under 65 feet of water and parts of Baghdad under 15 feet, said Abdulkhalik Thanoon Ayoub, the dam manager. ‘The Mosul dam is judged to have an unacceptable annual failure probability,’ in the dry wording of an Army Corps of Engineers draft report.” The Bush administration has mismanaged $27 million in temporary measures to “help shore up the dam” to prevent its failure.

  2. In an interview with the United Nations special rapporteur on torture, Spiegel reports UN torture investigator slams western complacency.

    Manfred Nowak, the UN special rapporteur on torture, has traveled the world investigating abuse and cruelty. As he prepares to deliver his final report, he voices his dismay at the complacency with which torture is regarded — even in the West…

    Nowak has personally visited a dozen countries, from Mongolia to Paraguay. He has inspected many dungeons and jails and spoken to hundreds of prisoners. So he is all the more annoyed when he is denied access to prisons. To this day, he has not been allowed to visit the US military base in Guantanamo, for example — at least not in order to conduct private, unsupervised interviews with detainees. The US government would not give him permission. But an essential prerequisite for Nowak’s investigative missions is the right to decide himself what he wants to see or who he wants to speak to — including without any prior appointment.

    Ever since former US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld authorized the use of so-called “enhanced interrogation” techniques in Abu Ghraib, “the United States has lost its moral leadership and authority,” Nowak believes. “Today, when the Bush administration criticizes other countries for their human rights abuses, no one takes them seriously anymore.”

    But Europe has not succeeded in taking the place of the United States as the “driving force when it comes to human rights,” the lawyer says. On the contrary, he believes the European Union is “seriously tarnished.” European governments’ cooperation with the CIA in the war on terror and their denial of secret detainee renditions and prison camps has weakened the EU, according to Nowak.

  3. The Guardian reports Malaria moves in behind the loggers. “In Peru, malaria was almost eradicated 40 years ago, but this year 64,000 cases have been registered in the country, half in the Amazon region. It is thought there are many more unregistered cases deep within the massive and humid rainforest, where health authorities find it almost impossible to gain access… Climate change and deforestation are behind the return of malaria in the Peruvian Amazon. Off-season rain is altering the pattern of mosquito development, leaving puddles containing the lethal larvae in areas where malaria had been nonexistent… And deforestation is having a similar effect, forcing the mosquito to move to new areas and spreading the disease to places where people are not aware of the disease, where villagers lack the means to get hold of mosquito nets and preventive medicines, and where health authorities have no presence.”

  4. The New York Times explores Why they called it the Manhattan Project. Historian Robert S. Norris has researched the history surrounding the creation of atomic bomb and has written a book, The Manhattan Project, that was published last month. “Dr. Norris writes about the Manhattan Project’s Manhattan locations. He says the borough had at least 10 sites, all but one still standing. They include warehouses that held uranium, laboratories that split the atom, and the project’s first headquarters — a skyscraper hidden in plain sight right across from City Hall… Manhattan was central, according to Dr. Norris, because it had everything: lots of military units, piers for the import of precious ores, top physicists who had fled Europe and ranks of workers eager to aid the war effort. It even had spies who managed to steal some of the project’s top secrets.”

So, what else is happening?

“It Takes A Network To Defeat A Network”

Crossposted from To Us.  Permission to use noncommercially with attribution. For faster response to questions please email me at aek2013 at columbia dot edu.

Northeastern University hosted retired Central Command General John Abizaid to speak to its Middle East Center for Peace, Culture, and Development students about the U.S. and the Middle East this morning. The public was also invited, and I think I may have been the sole representative of that element of the audience.

General Abizaid, a Colorado Rockies fan, apologized for competing with the Red Sox homecoming parade.

However, the NU Middle East Center host, Professor Denis Sullivan, let him know that his presentation would end in plenty of time to take in the festivities.

Northeastern’s President Joseph Aoun, a professor of linguistics, introduced General Abizaid with this intriguing proposition: America is unique in being “hyphenated”.  People can be Arab-Americans, Latino-Americans, African-Americans, etc., and in America, this enrichment thrives and cultural and ethnic heritage celebrated and valued, instead of the enforced assimilation that occurs in other countries policies toward their immigrants.

Were that it was so.  President Ayoub has not perhaps lived in homogeneous communities in the South or Midwest, for example, where immigrants are not only not rewarded for cultural pride and immersion, but are discriminated for it.  However, I digress, and this optimism is not a bad thing.

General Abizaid had spent time introducing himself to the students beforehand, and he opened by acknowledging them, ROTC members, active military and Northeastern community audience members in attendance. He was comfortable in front of this audience, and he was at home and in command of his message at all times.

The Problem With Obama

The Problem With Obama is the discussion of the day. I especially liked Stoller's and Bowers' discussion. Stoller quoted an earlier piece:

Obama is scared.  He hasn't had to make choices for a long time . . . We haven't yet seen what a Barack Obama would fight for in a public debate, and it's something I'd like to see. . . .

Fighting. Obama is not a fighter. That is the problem. In July 2006, I wrote:

How did FDR do it and can Democrats defend FDR liberalism today? Maybe not by calling it FDR liberalism but they surely can and do when they have the courage of their convictions. The most prominent of these instances was the fight to save Social Security Faced with Media hostility, Republican demagogy and flat out lies, Democrats rallied to the FDR liberalism banner and crushed the Republican attempts to roll back the clock. FDR would have been proud of Democrats in that fight. No triangulation. Good old fashioned political populism won the day.

And that is FDR's lesson for Obama. Politics is not a battle for the middle. It is a battle for defining the terms of the political debate. It is a battle to be able to say what is the middle.

Obama refuses to fight for Democratic and progressive values. He holds them of course. But he does not fight for them. He believes in finding “common ground” and, in the process, simply does not fight. He does not work to persuade the persuadable. As a politician fighting for issues, he fails (while perhaps succeeding in burnishing his own image.) If you are committed to Obama, you can be pleased with his political style. If you are committed to Democratic and progressive values, I think you can not be satisfied. More. 

Our Corrupt System: The Politics of Sugar

Today, as it has for many many years, The New York Times today slams the sweet deal given to the American sugar industry:

[S]ugar supports cost American consumers — who pay double the average world price — more than $1.5 billion a year. The system also bars farmers in some of the poorest countries of the world from selling their sugar here.

The North American Free Trade Agreement is about to topple this cozy arrangement. Next year, Mexican sugar will be allowed to enter the United States free of any quotas or duties, threatening a flood of imports. Rather than taking the opportunity to untangle the sugar program in this year’s farm bill, Congress has decided to bolster the old system.

Big Sugar is not the only beneficiary of this corporate welfare. The farm bill is larded with subsidies and other rewards for agricultural producers. The eagerness of members of Congress to please their sugar daddies is not surprising. Campaign donations from the sugar industry have topped $3 million in each of the last four political cycles. American consumers and taxpayers, as well as poor farmers overseas, shouldn’t have to pay the price.

This is of course all true, but the sugar industry is not the only egregious manipulator of our political system. But I want to concentrate on a different point, of personal interest to me. It is the fact that this system does not protect industries and jobs – it protects fat wallets. The small Florida town I grew up in lost hundreds of jobs – the excuse?

Sugar mill closes; trade pacts blamed

PAHOKEE, Fla. (AP) – The old sugar mill rises like a rusty tin mirage from endless green fields of freshly cut cane and swaths of rich, black soil. A sweet, musty smell hangs heavy in the air as white steam pours from its smokestacks for the last time.

The Bryant Sugar House has ground more than 90 million tons of cane into about 20 billion pounds of raw sugar since it opened in 1962. On Wednesday, the plant wrapped up its 45th harvest season and prepared to close forever following the industry trend — falling prices and better technology that means fewer jobs as more mills turn to automation and computers.

Faced with growing pressure from foreign sugar, U.S. Sugar Corp., the nation's largest producer of cane sugar, is combining the mill's operations with a high-tech plant 30 miles away. About 200 people will lose their jobs.

'We've had more and more trade agreements that continue to give away more access to our marketplace, creating a very, very competitive environment,' said Robert Coker, the company's vice president.

He said the company was forced to modernize one plant and consolidate operations, 'and unfortunately, when you modernize, it means eliminating jobs.'

Thirty-three mills across the country have closed in the last decade as producers try to remain competitive in a market becoming flush with excess foreign sugar, according to the American Sugar Alliance.

The $10-billion-a-year industry employs 146,000 people in the U.S. But trade agreements with other nations threaten even more American jobs as producers streamline their facilities to cut costs, the industry claims.

How convenient, trade pacts justified firing hundreds of people, a great many of them black and Latino, while the fat wallets still get to pad their pockets by virtue of a government giveaway.

Is it too difficult for Congress to insist that these fat cats use some of the money Congress gives them to keep Americans working?

Our government is broken. And small towns, populated with people who do not have millions for lobbyists, suffer:

Some of the 202 employees will go to work at U.S. Sugar's other plant. Some will retire. Many will simply move on. The company held a job fair.
'It's a sad day,' said 65-year-old mill manager Jacques Albert-Thenet. 'Some of these people have worked here an entire generation.'

Secretary Linda Stanley, 63, is one of only two employees who have worked at the plant since it opened in 1962. She has seen generations working side-by-side: 'Husbands, wives, sisters, children, brothers, nieces and nephews.'

Mill mechanic Jessie Brown Jr., 50, works alongside his two sons. He's been here 31 years and will soon head to the other mill for work.

'I'm going to have to do little adjusting. This is home,' Brown said. 'You gotta start all over again in a new place. Most of the people who are here now are your family.'

Not to worry. The fat cats will still get theirs -on the dole. The 1.5 billion dollar sugar fat cat dole.

Economic Update – The Sky is NOT Falling


Your humble sleep-deprived author is back to offer a counterpoint yet again to some of the ongoing analysis we see in lefty blergsville.

Two points continue to appear on the radar:

1) Our trade policies suck. Too many left-leaning financial types have bought into the myth that ‘Free Trade is Both Inevitable and Good’.
2) The lower value for the US Dollar is not the end of the world. At least not for those of us who live and work here.

Updates on both below the fold…

Making Peace!

My little video to contribute to today…not much in the way of a diary, but it’s all good!

Pony Party, making things pretty

Docudharma Times Tuesday Oct. 30

This is an Open Thread: Chat Like You Mean It!


Bigger Budget? No, Responds Safety Agency


Published: October 30, 2007

WASHINGTON, Oct. 29 – The nation’s top official for consumer product safety has asked Congress in recent days to reject legislation intended to strengthen the agency, which polices thousands of consumer goods, from toys to tools.

On the eve of an important Senate committee meeting to consider the legislation, Nancy A. Nord, the acting chairwoman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, has asked lawmakers in two letters not to approve the bulk of legislation that would increase the agency’s authority, double its budget and sharply increase its dwindling staff.

Muse in the Morning

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Muse in the Morning

The muses are ancient.  The inspirations for our stories were said to be born from them.  Muses of song and dance, or poetry and prose, of comedy and tragedy, of the inward and the outward.  In one version they are Calliope, Euterpe and Terpsichore, Erato and Clio, Thalia and Melpomene, Polyhymnia and Urania.

It has also been traditional to name a tenth muse.  Plato declared Sappho to be the tenth muse, the muse of women poets.  Others have been suggested throughout the centuries.  I don’t have a name for one, but I do think there should be a muse for the graphical arts.  And maybe there should be many more.

Please join us inside to celebrate our various muses…

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