March 17, 2008 archive

Congressional races round 2: Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire

Nebraska has 3 representatives: All Republican

Filing deadline was March 3, primary is May 13

Nevada has 3 representatives: 2 Republican, 1 Democrat

Filing deadline is May 16, primary is Aug 12

New Hampshire has 2 representatives: Both Democrats

Filing deadline is June 13, primary is Sept 9

Health care in Iraq: Iraqis must wonder where it is

As long as you don’t need water, access to health care, have no concerns about public safety, don’t mind being unemployed, enjoy adventures as a refugee, aren’t worried the occupying forces are going to target you, and relish the challenge of living in a country with no to little infrastructure, daily life in Iraq is just peachy. Of course if any of those things might say have a negative impact on your ability to survive, then daily life is an ever changing lurch to avoid disaster.

The Red Cross managed to highlight just a few minor barriers for Iraqi citizens.

Among the discovered gems of reality….

Iraqi hospitals lack qualified staff and basic drugs, and facilities are not properly maintained, the Red Cross said

So…. Iraqis can have a fruitful productive life as long as they don’t get sick.

Public hospitals provide 30,000 beds, less than half of the 80,000 needed. Few Iraqis can afford to seek help in private clinics where consultations cost $2-$7 because the average daily wage in the country is less than $5.

And if you’re poor…. don’t get sick.

The Red Cross said Iraqi officials estimate that more than 2,200 doctors and nurses have been killed and more than 250 kidnapped since 2003

Even if you can find your way to the hospital with a few bucks for treatment, it might be hard to find anybody qualified to actually treat or care for you.

Water supplies have inconveniently deteriorated.

And the whole concept of “public water”, well turns out that whole personal choices and free market solutions mantra is alive and well.

At current prices, families with only one earner spend a third of their income – or about $50 a month – on water alone, the Red Cross said

Isn’t democracy great? You get to pay for your own water instead of having your civil rights violated by being forced to share clean, public water with other people. Who needs for hospital beds anyway, people should just toughen up and take better care of themselves while they are dodging bombs and bullets in the street.

Pony Party: Pickle Architecture

Well, hello there! I hope y’all are wearing the Green o’ the Irish!

Happy St Pickles Day! Lovely day to wear green, eh?

Today may be St Paddy’s day, but every day is a day for Green! And what could be more green than a pickle? Hmmm?

So, how about the Gherkin building:

Who knew I’d be immortalized in a building? This calls for the Party Pickle!

Four at Four

  1. When rats slink in and out of buildings, they don’t announce their arrivals. And, so it comes as no surprise that, McClatchy Newspapers reports Cheney, in surprise Iraq visit, praises “phenomenal” progress.

    Dick Cheney made a surprise visit to Baghdad on Monday and credited Iraqi leaders and a massive U.S. troop build-up with security improvements he described as phenomenal” after meetings with U.S. military commanders and Iraqi politicians.

    But violence continued against civilians. At sunset Monday, a female suicide bomber killed at least 36 people and injured more than 40 when she blew herself up among Iranian pilgrims just outside a crowded Shiite Muslim shrine in the southern holy city of Karbala, said Raheem Mishawi, a spokesman of Karbala’s provincial government. Local police said many Iranians were among the victims.

    Cheney’s trip coincided with that of another high-profile visitor, Republican presidential candidate John McCain, who arrived Sunday for a two-day fact-finding mission for the U.S. Senate’s Armed Services Committee. Cheney was a chief architect of the U.S.-led invasion that began five years ago this week; McCain was an early supporter of the war.

    Despite the Bush administration’s lies they tell to their American audience, the Iraqis know the reality in their country. McClatchy reports, 5 years after Iraq’s ‘liberation,’ there are worms in the water. “To them, the real crime is that five years after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, they still swelter in the summer and freeze in the winter because of a lack of electricity. Government rations are inevitably late, incomplete or expired. Garbage piles up for days, sometimes weeks, emanating toxic fumes. The list goes on: black-market fuel, phone bills for land lines that haven’t worked in years, education and health-care systems degraded by the flight of thousands of Iraq’s best teachers and doctors… Increasingly, Iraqis are relying on militias and other armed groups to fill the services void.

    Meanwhile the CS Monitor wonders Is the Mahdi Army’s ‘cease-fire’ over? “Over the past 10 days, violence has tested the militia’s period of quiet, which many say has contributed to a drop in US and Iraqi casualties, and seems to indicate deepening fissures within Sadr’s powerful organization… Clashes between militiamen and the police in the city of Kut, about 100 miles southeast of Baghdad, since Tuesday have left at least 13 people dead including two policemen”.

  2. The Washington Post reports that 4 FBI agents were hurt in Islamabad blast. “Four FBI agents were among 12 people wounded in a weekend bomb blast at a popular Italian restaurant in Pakistan’s capital, U.S. law enforcement officials said Sunday… The explosion killed a Turkish woman and injured several other people, including another American. The four FBI agents who were wounded included a legal attache, an assistant legal attache and an agency supervisor, according to one law enforcement official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak for the record. The job title of the fourth agent could not be determined… The U.S.-led task force was called in to assist with an investigation into two coordinated bombings Tuesday in Lahore.”

Below the fold, stories on the Pacific salmon collapse, Europe’s next green energy source, and sand dimes.

Updated – Feedback: Special Iraq Occupation Issue

(Cross-posted at EENR blog and Daily Kos.)

We’ve started something new on this blog.  We’re calling it Feedback.  It’s a newsletter, but we aren’t doing it the traditional way.  You can see the evolution of this project here.

Here’s the short explanation which will be found in every issue we publish:

(what is this?) The internet, primarily through blogs, has brought about a communications revolution. Yet the traditional media has maintained their position as information gatekeepers, and they won’t let you hear us.

We can’t bring about change when the media ignores us. We can’t rely on politicians to fix things for us. So we’re through playing nice. We’re done begging for attention. We’re bypassing the media and coming direct to you.

We can solve our problems if we work together. We can make things better when all of us try. All we’re asking for is your help. So we can generate a little Feedback.

While this will normally be a weekly publication, due to our various schedules, we realized we had to delay our official launch for a couple weeks.  Despite that, we were determined to have something ready for this week, and somehow, we’ve managed just that.

Now we need your help.

Focus on War: Returning to the Scene of the War Crime

“It’s good to be back in Iraq,” Cheney said…


Just a quick recap of the history of the 21st Century, for any of you who may have made the incredibly wise decision to spend this century under a rock.

An American President gets a blowjob, $40 million is spent to investigate said blowjob, said President impeached.

Americans, shocked!, jerk their knees at this sexual horror and vote for an incompetent, corrupt, lying idiot in great enough numbers to allow the Republican dirty tricks machine and old boy network to steal the election. Whom, it also turns out….shockingly enough given the Republicans record on this sort of thing…is a War Monger and ultimately, a War Criminal.

A bunch of Saudis based in Afghanistan kill 3000 Americans, AND destroy valuable private property! Americans, under a War Mongering Republican President and a batshit insane paranoiac, Machiavellian, Vice President who had obviously closely studied the history of Fascism and taken it to heart…..respond to the Saudi/Afghan attack by ……..invading Iraq. It is PURE coincidence that these two oil men happen to preemptively invade a sovereign nation that had nothing to do with the attacks on Americans but that just happens to be the weakest nation that has the largest oil reserves. Pure coincidence, really. The fact that they manufactured and twisted every shred of evidence they used to justify this blatant War of Aggression (War Crime) has nothing to do with it. Pay no attention to the elephant behind the curtain.

Undermining the Premise of Eavesdropping

We like to think that our vote is the ultimate weapon of the people, but if the new rule is to get elected, raid the treasury and change the laws that hamper you, and then go away, then we are just voting in new thieves.

The FISA bill goes into compromise with Bush already promising his veto if the bill doesn’t include retroactive immunity for the telephone companies. Congress knows damn well the telco’s don’t need immunity because they should be able to produce an executive order for anything illegal they are accused of. If they can’t, then they should stand trial. Bush was willing to break the law in the first place because he saw the need as vital to national security, yet his willingness to suspend the same program over a provision in a bill pretty much destroys his claim of vital interest.

I want to show another way to shatter the claim that domestic spying is vital to national security, and point out the possible abuses that could happen if the apparatus is allowed to run without oversight.


The rule of law is mankind’s greatest triumph. It ensures that all actions and transactions are zero-sum endeavors. We agree on a value and trade if we are willing to pay the price. If we steal, or gain an unfair advantage in some other way, then justice puts up the capitol to balance the transaction. It forcibly extracts the balance from the perpetrator and charges interest. When an injustice is allowed to stand, the damage is greater than the original injustice. It undermines the system and fosters the notion of an entitled class that is above the law. Resentment is our internal justice system that works not by raising our own self worth, but by lowering the worth of the other class, seeding distrust and even hatred. Scooter Libby was within the arms of justice but was released by an entitled class that was above the law and let his roll in a dangerous and senseless crime against this country go unpunished. Joe Wilson, in my mind, would be justified in taking action against those that would place the life of his wife in danger.

The phone companies should be able to hold up a presidential order in court for any illegal act they perpetrated. I can understand that. What I can’t understand is not being able to find out if they followed the presidential order or went beyond it. Even more unbelievable is not being allowed total oversight over the scope of data mining and how that data is used in all cases. FISA was created by the abuse of the 4th amendment in the past. That abuse, as always, led to other abuses such as the burglary at Watergate.

The phone companies have a body of information so valuable that many specific laws have been enacted to safeguard it and the unfair advantage it creates if a privileged class has unfair access. It’s not just the possibility of being able to listen in on the content of a call; the telemetry of calling patterns is in itself of immense value and can be used for grossly unfair advantages.

Analyzing the calling patterns of an investment bank can greatly increase the chance of speculating correctly that a certain company might be in play for a takeover. Analyzing the calling patterns in and out of certain phones at the FBI or Justice department can be used as an early warning of an investigation. Congressional offices. Defense contractors. Law offices. Doctors offices. Local police. Party headquarters. Husbands/wives/paramours/competitors/personal enemies – all for the taking. All for sale. Unchecked.

Any and every time a telco complies with a request that is not public knowledge and might otherwise be illegal, the telco gains a bit too. They can begin to think of it as the norm and possible start helping themselves too because, after all, they can hold up examples for all the world to see if they felt pressured in any way. Leverage is a great way to unhinge justice.

The premise of the governments efforts to gather information is to thwart terrorism. They will use the argument that stopping even one attack makes it worth the violence being done to our liberties. That’s a false argument; more people die in car accidents than terrorist attacks, so why don’t they take our cars away too.

Even with low odds, if eavesdropping were certain to stop terrorism, then I might accept it with strict oversight. The fact is, it is unlikely a terrorist would communicate in the clear in a way that the automated collection apparatus would catch. Why talk openly when they can just post a picture of an ugly purple couch on Craigslist at an address in Walla Walla Washington as a signal to do something. The apparatus is useless to stop it.

Concentrating and analyzing the motherload of all data under the excuse of looking for terrorists is just an excuse. The power is too great to not abuse. The FBI has already admitting to abusing this information and has thoughtfully informed us that they are attempting to reduce the abuse. How will we know? We are not allowed full oversight.

Since congress very well might abdicate their responsibility to their constituents – us – then is there anything we the people can do for ourselves? It has to be done now because soon, it might be impossible to organize any kind of protest or action without the government being in on every detail.

One thought that I had would be to show how easy it is to undermine the premise of the system. If software was written to work on computers and cell phones that constantly emitted non-specific, non-localized, threatening-sounding, non-threats (can’t call it FOX News – already taken) then it would overwhelm the automated collection systems, causing them to flag billions of messages for review by human eyes every day. Harmless phrases such as “Flea bomb the white house at the end of the street,” might drive any system that is looking for terrorists crazy. Even worse would be to take specific sentences from Tom Clancy books and randomly emit them.

If any lawyers are reading this, do you know if voluntarily running such software would be illegal? What would be the government’s response in your estimation?

Unless that data is open to everyone, it should be open to no one. The government has not acknowledged any program of data mining. How can we know that? If they are not mining, then the program mentioned above should have no detrimental effect.

This in no way can be construed as sedition. I just want my 4th amendment rights honored. Since destroying the equipment that is listening to us is destruction of property, I wonder if there might not be another way around it by simply undermining the premise.

Corporate Wingnut Welfare. You as an individual simply don’t count.

Just a short note to everyone regarding the buyout of Bear Stearns by the American government, er, J.P. Morgan.  

Yes, I know you heard that J.P. Morgan bought them for approximately $2.00 per share.  The stock for this company was trading one year ago today at $159.36 per share.

The stock was trading for $62.00 one week ago today.

The stock opened today at $3.20 per share. That is at an upside to the discounted price that J.P. Morgan paid.  J.P. Morgan was guaranteed the money to purchase Bear Stearns by the US Fed.  Guaranteed. The. Money. By the US Government.

The Focus of the Fittest

I have been neglecting you lately here, but I have picked up a few odd jobs the last few weeks, and my blogging time is seriously limited. I wrote this Saturday, so I hope you don’t mind left overs 🙂


Wherein Diane Ponders about the Focus of Electoral Politics.

I miss the Iraq Grief Diaries. How quickly we forget these things, the soul-wrenching Truths that once bound us together.  We were once united trying to stop these atrocities.

Hardly anyone talks about the War anymore, even with the breaking of the Pentagon Papers admitting we knew there were no wmd’s and NO al queda connection.

They sure broke that story at the right time, huh?

Yeah, no one was listening for the most part.

Prostitutes, Purple People Eaters, and Pontification

There was an interesting article at alternet about why men engage the services of prostitutes in light of the latest public figure/prostitute scandal. The analysis is perfectly reasonable and sound. However, it clearly presents the use of paid sex workers as a pathology in itself. I wonder if the author see the consumers and those who offer it as being essentially in need of treatment solely based on that relationship.

But I pondered one thing…. why is it whenever one of these scandals arises we end up talking about sex via the prism of men? Why is it male sexuality and typically straight male sexuality that appears to define and frame our discussions of sex? Why do we still discuss sex in terms of a tenuous and bitterly tinged negotiation? Why do we assume monogamy is the highest ideal ( I am not against it ) and never suggest that notions of monogamy,and sexual exploration are actually pretty fluid. Monogamy made much more sense when we all got married at 15 and died when we were 45 and had minimal birth control so women were pregnant half their lives anyway. I am not building a personal or societal case against it either but the idea that  consensual sexual relations are a “one size fits all” paradigm is a bit silly.

And yet, unless things change significants the one symbol we never see in popular culture via television and movies is….. I know they exist because I have actually seen a couple.

I have seen countless pairs of breasts especially at work, given that two colleagues have had breast cancer and several others have had enhancements and the first thing they do when they get to work is run into our little closet sized office to show them off.

Michael Bader, who wrote the article at alternet and treats men in his practice argues that the men who frequent the services of prostitutes/sex workers posits that

I have found that for the overwhelming majority of them, the appeal lies in the fact that, after payment is made, the woman is experienced as completely devoted to the man — to his pleasure, his satisfaction, his care, his happiness. The man doesn’t have to please a prostitute, doesn’t have to make her happy, doesn’t have to worry about her emotional needs or demands. He can give or take without the burden of reciprocity

He asserts that

Such beliefs are often exaggerated and based on a belief and perception that women are high-maintenance, helpless, or disposed to be unhappy and dissatisfied. These beliefs are formed in childhood and are reinforced by our culture

Glaciers Retreat at Record Rate Imperiling World Water Supplies

The world’s glaciers are losing mass at record rates according to the United Nations. Preliminary calculations just completed for 2006 show that the rate of glacial melting increased from the previous record rate in 2003. Glaciers have not retreated this rapidly since prehistoric time over 5000 years ago.

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By FishOutofWater

Water supplies and agriculture, especially in China, India and Pakistan are threatened by the rapid loss of mountain glaciers. Water supplies in California and the western U.S. are diminishing as glaciers and winter snowpack decline.

Note: x-posted in Orange.

I have generally lurked here rather than post here because environmental writing doesn’t seem to be a primary focus here. However, many of my former readers are now here so I thought it might be a good time to make a first post here. Environmental matters aren’t discussed enough on the political blogs, in my opinion. The planet has been taken for granted by people for far too long. We can not escape the environmental consequences of our choices.

The glacial retreat story was covered extensively in the European press and virtually ignored in the U.S. One reason Americans are so ignorant is the lack of media coverage of environmental matters. Blogs also tend to have less discussion of the environment here. I hope this blog is interested in environmental discussions.


Things I’d Like To See, Part 1: Krugman As Federal Reserve Chairman

Leave it to Paul Krugman to tell the hard truth about what needs to be done in this financial crisis.

[T]he important thing is to bail out the system, not the people who got us into this mess. That means cleaning out the shareholders in failed institutions, making bondholders take a haircut, and canceling the stock options of executives who got rich playing heads I win, tails you lose.

Not that the Fed shall listen, mind you; Ben Bernanke, like Alan Greenspan before him, cares about the laissez-faire swindlers who caused the latest financial meltdown.  Factoring in the taxpayers only counts for bailing out the criminals, not bailing out the system the crooks abused in order to flush the economy down the toilet.

Krugman goes on to caution:

According to late reports on Sunday, JPMorgan Chase will buy Bear [Stearns] for a pittance. That’s an O.K. resolution for this case – but not a model for the much bigger bailout to come. Looking ahead, we probably need something similar to the Resolution Trust Corporation, which took over bankrupt savings and loan institutions and sold off their assets to reimburse taxpayers. And we need it quickly: things are falling apart as you read this.

He’s right, of course.  Bailing out Bear Stearns might be the smart thing to do as an individual case; for better or worse, that bank is large enough that its failure could — as Krugman suggests — hasten the market panic that would make the Depression we now suffer (the one contributor Michael Fox wrote had begun back in November)  official.  But if it’s used simply as a model for bailing out the rest of the Wall Street rip-off artists, then we taxpayers shall have been forced yet again to foot the bill for the irresponsibility of Wall Street.  It’s like a mugging victim being told by a jury that the thug who robbed him wasted the cash on booze and women, so now the victim has to reimburse the thief.

If the Democratic nominee somehow manages to survive the general election in November and become president, he (or she) could do a lot worse than to ask for Bernanke’s resignation as Fed chairman, and offer the job to Professor Krugman.

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