March 24, 2008 archive
Mar 24 2008
Mar 24 2008
It was yet another gruesome day, in Iraq. As the New York Times reported:
As many as 20 mortar shells were fired Sunday at the heavily fortified Green Zone, one of the fiercest and most sustained attacks on the area in the last year.
The shelling sent thick plumes of dark gray smoke over central Baghdad and ignited a spectacular fire on the banks of the Tigris River. It ushered in a day of violence around the country that claimed the lives of at least 58 lraqis and four American soldiers.
According to tallies by The Associated Press and Icasualties.org, an independent Web site that tracks casualties in Iraq, those military deaths pushed the number of American service members killed in the five-year-old war to at least 4,000. The figure includes service members whose names have not been released by the Pentagon.
This following a week in which Dick Cheney yet again lied about a link between 9/11 and Iraq, then served as Administration point man, promoting permanent occupation. This after a week in which Bush once again expressed his complete lack of regret for having caused this hellish disaster. This after a week in which John McCain reiterated his intent to keep us in Iraq indefinitely.
Of course, even our puppet Iraqi president admits the country is rife with violence, terrorism and corruption. And the New York Times reminded us that Bush originally claimed the entire cost of the war and aftermath would be no more the $60 billion. Which has already been wrong by more than a factor of ten. A factor which is expected to increase by several more factors. And the Pentagon is still sharply divided on the war strategy going forward. And the Iraqi army is still nowhere near ready to defend itself. And the Mehdi Army’s truce is fraying. And those Sunni militias, whose allegiance Bush has been buying, may go on strike. But other than that, everything’s going perfectly well. Except, of course, for those 58 Iraqis and four Americans who were killed, yesterday.
Mar 24 2008
I realize that this type of story has been reviewed endlessly, but I still think that it cannot be opposed too often. This is not the answer.
Ethanol! Ethanol! Rah! Rah! Rah!
The cheers go up we can finally end our dependence on foreign oil. Now that is a one pound bag of manure, which they are selling to the people. Guess what!? They are buying this crap (pun intended). As long as we allow the oil companies to make obscene profits, you will NEVER be weaned from foreign oil. Why is that? Ethanol cannot be transported through pipelines, for it will pick up impurities like water. So, the only way to transport it is in trucks. Now guess what? Trucks use diesel and that is another pollutant. Ethanol IS NOT the answer, sports fans.
Let us talk about how environmentally friendly ethanol is, NOT! A Stanford study showed that ethanol is at least as polluting as gasoline and could be more so. The burning of ethanol produces more lung damaging ozone than the burning of gasoline. Another polluting factor of ethanol is that farmers will use a nitrogen based fertilizer which will enter into the water supply, killing marine life and such. This alone should make it unwise to push the use of corn as an alternative. But who cares, it is all about who makes the profits, not what it will do to the environment.
Now let us talk about corn prices. Ethanol refiners use huge amounts of corn and with that food prices will go up and up. Corn is used in food production from feed for the cattle that make our steaks to the syrup for our soft drinks. As the demand for ethanol rise, so will the price of our food. The more corn that is planted the less other crops are raised and this will also add to the price of food. Nothing about ethanol is a good.
Corn is not even the best source of ethanol. Sugar cane is and it produces 8 times more energy than it uses to make. Corn, however, the ratio is 1.3 to 1. This basically means that corn produces a little more energy than it consumes in the refining process. Not an efficient product.
The US is importing foreign oil so that ethanol can be produced and distributed. The only thing that is being accomplished by the production of ethanol is we are putting the grocery store in competition with the gas station for the use of the corn.
Ethanol is nothing new! It was used in Ford’s original Model T and it was considered in the 1970’s during the oil embargo. If ethanol is inefficient and costly why is it even being considered? That is the easiest question to answer-PROFITS! No one in the oil business wants to eliminate out dependence on foreign oil. Why would they shoot themselves in the ass? Answer-they will not cut off their supply of profit.
This is not an answer to dependency, it is however an answer to oil companies retaining their profit margin, for an additive will still need a supply of the original product and that translates into continued exploitation by the oil companies.
Mar 24 2008
Excerpted from Burning the Midnight Oil for the Coalition Change Strategy (24 March), in the Burning the Midnight Oil blog-within-a-blog, hosted by kos, though to the best of my knowledge he doesn’t know it.
What about the farmers, you ask?
Doesn’t seem like a big deal, if you look at the occupations by share of the population.
However, appearances can be deceiving, that way. The thing is, when you look at employment in any local area, you can put the employment into two mental boxes … export base employment, and local multiplier employment. The export base employment brings money into the local area, and the local multiplier employment spreads it around … one time around providing services to the export base employees, two times around providing services to the local multiplier employees employed by the first round … and so on.
Of course, at every go-round, some money leaks out of the local area, so this process is no perpetual motion machine … just extra leverage to the income that flows into a local area.
(Sometimes a set of jobs get some demand from one box and some from another, but we’re people, not robots, so we can are able to see a fuzzy borderline as a normal part of the real world and move on.)
And so that means that when that export base employment leaves an area, it takes additional local multiplier employment with it … which is something people up here in Northeast Ohio feel in their bones, and can explain in very clear language, even if it is language you will not normally here used in Church on Easter Morning.
Now, go out into a rural area, and they know, equally clearly even if not in these exact terms, that farmers are a big part of their export base employment. So leaving farmers out of the coalition leaves a lot of rural areas out of the coalition.
Even that may not be so impressive if someone is looking at national shares of urban, inner suburban, outer suburban, and rural population. However, shift attention from national averages to national politics, and suddenly one thing jumps out. The killing ground for more progressive populist reforms than any other institution in our political landscape … even more than the Supreme Court.
We have, after all, a Federal system, so when particular types of communities are important in the politics of a particular set of states, that is reflected in national politics. In other words, while in a unitary parliamentary system urban populations would be free to exercise a tyranny of a majority over rural populations and ride roughshod over the concerns of rural communities, in a Federal system like ours, there are safeguards put in place against tyrannies … even majoritarian tyrannies.
So, yes, the farmers.
Mar 24 2008
I guess this is cool, to all the people who fear that nationalizing our banks will lead to the doom of America. Sure, repeal all the regulations and let the private Federal Reserve do whatever it wants. It’s not like they are devaluating the coinage in some elaborate scheme meant to loot the citizenry.
Or is it?
“Gold was at $400 at the time, and the cost of production was $187 to the mining companies. By keeping the price reasonable, Red explained that it also kept the mining companies operating. Hearing the mumblings of disbelief in the audience, Red said, “Oh, you didn’t know that the Fed bought gold for 10 cents an ounce? Well, let me tell you how they do it.”
He then reminded them of something that everyone in that audience already knew: that the Fed printed paper bills-from $1 to $100 denominations. The price of ink and paper was the same-at a cost of 2.5 cents each. So four $100 bills were created at a cost to the Fed of 10 cents, and these could then be traded for one ounce of gold.”
I often try to remind people that the rich have various ways of ripping us off. One way is to transfer gold around at rock bottom prices. Of course when that gold is then transfered again, someone makes a hell of a return.
Last I checked, gold was around 925 USD. Each $100 costs the Fed about 2.5 cents to make. So we are looking about a quarter in printing costs. This has lead to a debasing of the coinage of the most absurd kind.
This gets into the realm of Lawful Money vs. Fiat Money.
Technically, every bill in your wallet is unlawful. At the bottom is “Legal Tender for All Debts, Public and Private”, our money is just bankers’ script. It is based on nothing but the whims of the ruling elite and their patsy the Federal Reserve, which isn’t federal and has no reserves. In fact, recently it has negative reserves. Which is why they will just print more money and buy more gold for a quarter. Of course, this will cause a further devaluation of our coinage and the cycle continues.
Now here is the kicker. The ruling elite has almost a monopoly on lawful money, any form of currency issued by the United States Treasury and not the Federal Reserve System, including gold and silver coins, Treasury notes and Treasury bonds.
Now as they increase inflation, either through this ingenious gold buying technique to generate more bankers’ script or through a wholescale looting of the collective treasury of America, unlawful money’s value inflates as well.
Only the unlawful money based on fiat is affected by inflation. So as the people’s buying power goes down, the ruling elite’s buying power goes up.
It’s quite a system.
Mar 24 2008
In a recent EENR entry I posted about Paul Krugman’s blog entry regarding the real reason regulators have failed to reign in the excesses of Wall Street. Essentially, the failure was deliberate — an effort to systematically remove any and all regulation. I guess causing one Great Depression wasn’t enough to wake up the laissez-faire assholes into realizing that the days of unrestricted greed should have remained dead and buried; they’ve been working like hell to create another while making their money, and they appear to have succeeded.
But I digress. In today’s New York Times column, Professor Krugman expands upon this failure to reign in Wall Street by bringing the discussion to the presidential election.
Mar 24 2008
The Los Angeles Times reports Terrorism money is still flowing. “The U.S.-led effort to choke off financing for Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups is foundering because setbacks at home and abroad have undermined the Bush administration’s highly touted counter-terrorism weapon… The most serious problems are fractures and mistrust within the coalition of nations that the United States admits it needs to target financiers of terrorism and to stanch the flow of funding from wealthy donors to extremist causes… Also, the most deadly terrorist attacks since Sept. 11, 2001, have cost so little — often less than $10,000 — that they are virtually impossible to detect by following a money trail.”
The Washington Post reports Fallujah’s fragile security flows from Hussein-era tactics. Meet Col. Faisal Ismail al-Zobaie, Fallujah’s chief of police.
The U.S. military showcases Fallujah as a model city where U.S. policies are finally paying off and is spending hundreds of millions of dollars in the region to promote the rule of law and a variety of nation-building efforts.
But the security that has been achieved here is fragile, the result of harsh tactics recalling the rule of Saddam Hussein, who was overthrown five years ago. Even as they work alongside U.S. forces, Zobaie’s men admit they have beaten and tortured suspects to force confessions and exact revenge…
“We never tortured anybody,” he said. “Sometimes we beat them during the first hours of capture.” …
Once a member of Hussein’s elite Republican Guard, Zobaie is driven by allegiance neither to the United States nor to Iraq’s Shiite-run central government. He wants U.S. troops to leave Iraq. But for now, he needs the United States to bolster him with military muscle and funds. And the U.S. military today depends on men such as Zobaie to help bring about the order and security in Iraq that could eventually lead to the end of the American occupation.
“I have realized that Americans love the strong guy,” Zobaie said…
What Zobaie wants is for the U.S. military to hand over full control of Fallujah. He believes Iraq’s current leaders are not strong enough. Asked whether democracy could ever bloom here, he replied: “No democracy in Iraq. Ever.“
“When the Americans leave the city,” he said, “I’ll be tougher with the people.”
Two news items from Pakistan. First, the Washington Post reports that a Bhutto aide was named Pakistan’s new prime minister. Yousaf Raza Gillani was elected prime minister today and “immediately ordered the release from house arrest of judges detained last year by President Pervez Musharraf.” Gillani’s challenge to Musharref came hours afer his overwhelming election. “Hundreds of jubilant Pakistanis then converged on the Islamabad home of the detained former chief justice, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, as police began removing barricades and barbed wire fences… ‘I and my colleagues were unconstitutionally confined under house arrest,’ Chaudhry told the crowd”.
Also, the Los Angeles Times reports that Poems are “fighting words” in Pakistan. “Pakistan may be home to Islamic terrorists. It boasts a nuclear arsenal and an omnipotent military. But it is also a place where lyrical expression still holds great power to inform, inspire and even mobilize the masses, as it has in recent months, to the government’s dismay. That power derives from the fact that poetry is woven into the fabric of everyday life here in a way seldom found in the West.”
Lastly, a bit from Frank Rich’s op-ed on Sunday in The New York Times, “The Republican Resurrection“.
For Republicans, the prospect of marathon Democratic trench warfare is an Easter miracle. Saddled with the legacy of both Iraq and a cratering economy, the G.O.P. can only rejoice at its opponents’ talent for self-destruction. The Republicans can also count on the help of a political press that, whatever its supposed tilt toward Mr. Obama, remains most benevolent toward John McCain.
This was strikingly apparent last week, when Mr. McCain’s calamitous behavior was relegated to sideshow status by many, if not most, news media. At a time of serious peril for America, the G.O.P.’s presumptive presidential nominee revealed himself to be alarmingly out of touch on both of the most pressing issues roiling the country…
But as violence flares up again in Iraq and the American economy skids, the issues consuming the Democrats are Mr. Wright and Geraldine Ferraro, race and gender, unsanctioned primaries and unaccountable superdelegates. Unless Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton find a way to come together for the good of their country as well as their party, no speech by either of them may prevent Mr. McCain from making his second unlikely resurrection in a single political year.
Mar 24 2008
4000. Noble and courageous has to be a bit of a given, for volunteers.
1,191,216 Iraqi’s. Sitting at home with their families watching TV five years ago, when onto the telly comes the news. The Americans are coming to invade your country and kill your people. You have no idea why.
Neither do the American soldiers who are coming to kill you.
But Smedley Darlington Butler does.
Oh! Excuse me, that should read…
Smedley Darlington Butler (July 30, 1881 – June 21, 1940), nicknamed “The Fighting Quaker” and “Old Gimlet Eye,” was a Major General in the U.S. Marine Corps and, at the time of his death, the most decorated Marine in U.S. history.
Mar 24 2008
A blog friend of mine recently told me about a video that I think many here at Docudharma might find interesting. The speaker is Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, a neuroanatomist who teaches at the Indiana University School of Medicine. After years of studying the brain and its chemistry, she had a stoke, and learned some amazing things from the experience. She recently gave a speech titled “Stroke of Insight” at a TED conference where it is summarized like this:
This is a powerful story of recovery and awareness — of how our brains define us and connect us to the world and to one another.
(The speech is about 18 minutes. But its well worth the time)
Mar 24 2008
I am going to the Seeds of Compassion website today to see if I can sign up for some Dalai Lama events. I’m hoping he’ll show up, given that China is calling him a “monster with a human face,” given the uptick in the Tibetan liberation movement.
He is to come to Seattle for five days next month with a focus on compassion – at home, in school and in the community. There are events for children, parents, teachers and therapists. On Saturday there will be a city-wide rally and on Sunday, youth from all over the state will gather to show “What Compassion Looks Like.”
Parent Map had a substantial article on it and I happened to pick it up in the lobby of the hospital where I work. As a follower of Kwan Yin, Goddess of Compassion, I had to take a look when I say the title, “Teaching Empathy: Seattle Launches a Compassion Movement.”