August 23, 2008 archive

Weekend News Digest

Weekend News Digest is an Open Thread

From Yahoo News Top Stories

1 New Orleans repeating deadly levee mistakes

By CAIN BURDEAU, Associated Press Writer

1 hour, 14 minutes ago

NEW ORLEANS – Signs are emerging that history is repeating itself in the Big Easy, still healing from Katrina: People have forgotten a lesson from four decades ago and believe once again that the federal government is constructing a levee system they can prosper behind.

In a yearlong review of levee work here, The Associated Press has tracked a pattern of public misperception, political jockeying and legal fighting, along with economic and engineering miscalculations since Katrina, that threaten to make New Orleans the scene of another devastating flood.

Dozens of interviews with engineers, historians, policymakers and flood zone residents confirmed many have not learned from public policy mistakes made after Hurricane Betsy in 1965, which set the stage for Katrina; many mistakes are being repeated.


I am grumpy and going to rant, deal with it! If you are in the mood for something uplifting or fun, this is not the essay for you!

I don’t like humans much. Sure individuals like YOU are fine and generally fairly inoffensive, but as a species they have little to recommend them. Some decent art, though the best of it is still just a pale imitation of nature. Those few of us who actually think and communicate well are often inspiring and almost worth making the effort to get out of bed for, though thanks to the net you don’t even have to do that. So there is another good thing on the ledger, Al Gore creating the internet. Plus…. there is some great take out food out there, particularly in the “Mexican” genre. But other than that what are they good for? Oh yeah, sex is good too. So that is a few things that save us from being irredeemably worthless.

But as organisms who are allegedly capable of thought,  we have a loooooooong way to go. And a short time to get there. As I look around at my fellow humans, it often takes all of my willpower not to despair or just start yelling at them!

Sure, we can blame the pace of development due to the exploding population for the lack of an intelligent approach to living on a planet with limited resources. But that is more an excuse than exculpatory. We have the information we need and have had it for decades. Despite all of the efforts by the PTB to quash it, we now have the technologies that we need either in hand or within easy reach. And we certainly have the evidence we need that the conditions to support human life on our little oasis of a planet are deteriorating at an alarming rate. So alarming, in fact, that those humans who have been ‘blessed’ with ignorance and the nearly unlimited human capacity for denial have succeeded (once again) in halting or slowing the efforts of those who have the capacity of thought necessary to save the planet for their children and grandchildren because they are fearful, superstitious, gullible and unwilling to face the fact that the lifestyle they value above all else is unsustainable and in fact a form of slow suicide for our entire species.

There is a scientific term that describes this lack of adaptability to new information perfectly: extinct.


San Diego Zoo: bears, primates and flashes of color

Allen’s Swamp Monkey

and Child

This is your basic swimming primate.  As the name suggests, they live in swamps.  They have developed a bit of webbing between their fingers and toes, but I’m sure that would in no way have anything to do with evil-ution.  They are related to guenons, but are not in the same genus.

Swamp monkeys, who live in social groups with as many as 40 members, live in the countries of the former Belgian Congo.  They eat fruits, leaves, beetles and worms.  The genus is classified as near-threatened.

The Tao Of Leadership

Want “Change you can believe in”?

Why autos are important to winning MI & Ohio

MI is still the home of the auto industry and dependent on them for its economic well being.  From Gov. Granholm’s state of the state:

… we will not concede the automotive industry to any other state or nation.

We are the state that put America on wheels – the state that put the “car” in NASCAR. There is no vision for Michigan’s new economy that does not include cars designed, engineered, and made in Michigan. The industry’s changing – but we in Michigan cannot – will not – abandon it. And we should not allow our government in Washington to abandon it either.

Because of MI sustained efforts to keep and attract automotive research and development companies,

Michigan has more employees and investments in that growing part of our economy than all of the other 49 states, plus Canada, plus Mexico combined.

Public Service Pony Party

I have to re-certify my ACLS

next week and in typical calico fashion I haven’t cracked a book. I am going to have to because I forget some of the more obscure rhythms that we don’t see in my work place very often.

Even if you don’t know some of the more advanced life saving techniques one thing that can help you enormously is becoming familiar with an AED. The AED identifies a “shockable” rhythm and then provides instructions….. If your place of employment does have one know where it is and if they don’t have one ask management to obtain one. Most studies show that CPR with an AED greatly improves chances of survival when the victim has a cardiac event in the community.

Awesome singer from NOLA who also has a new CD out…..

Irma Thomas

Sen. Joe Biden – Dover Airbase – KIA’s

Back a few years ago I went Absolutely Livid, have many many……………….. times from the first beat of the War Drums, this time while watching the CBS ‘Face the Nation’ sunday show. While the blood had rushed to my head I waited, impatiently, for the transcript to come up on their site. When it finally did, I quickly copied and pasted it to an e-mail and sent it out, but that didn’t quell the Absolute Rage. I wanted more who hadn’t seen it to get as Pissed as myself so I tried thinking of online News outlets, some just coming into being, to further trying to get this report out to as many eyes and minds as possible, one was a fairly new outlet, the Huffington Post. A few hours later, to my surprise, and still Royally Pissed at what was reported, I receive an E from the Huffington Post that they were going to run with it, saw very little that day and ensuing days from the MSM about this incident as told by Senator Biden to Bob Schieffer.

Huffington posted it on June 20, 2005 at 10:11 PM {you gotta love google, I didn’t keep the story, but a quick search and there it was}

Docudharma Times Saturday August 23

Someone Sent A Message

About Something Important Today

Saturday’s Headlines:

Boeing threatens not to bid on tanker contract

Diyala raid was rogue operation, Iraqi government says

Israel declares Gaza protest boats will not reach their destination

Banned artist misses Delhi’s first art show

Afghans accuse coalition forces of killing 76 civilians in air strike

Honour for restaurant that doesn’t exist

We will not be the next on Russia’s hitlist, vows defiant Ukraine

An American adventurer’s death in El Salvador

Despite Pullout, Russia Envisions Long-Term Shift


Published: August 22, 2008  

MOSCOW – As the Russian Army withdrew most of its forces from Georgia, it was becoming ever more clear on Friday that Moscow had no intention of restoring what once was – either on the ground or diplomatically.The West wants a return to early August, before an obscure territorial dispute on the fringes of the old Soviet empire erupted into an international crisis. But Russia’s forces are digging in and seizing ribbons of Georgian land that abut two breakaway enclaves allied with Moscow, effectively extending its zone of influence.

Guards’ Lapses Cited in Detainee Suicides

Probe Also Faults Lenient Policies At Guantanamo

By Josh White

Washington Post Staff Writer

Saturday, August 23, 2008; Page A01  

As the lights flickered off above them, more than two dozen detainees began to raise their voices in prayer and other songs, a din the guards dismissed as harmless. Three of the detainees furtively stuffed water bottles and toilet paper under their bedsheets to create the illusion of sleeping bodies, and they each strung up walls of blue blankets in their metal-mesh cells, seeking cover from their captors’ glances.

Then, with strips of white sheets, T-shirts and towels wound into nooses, the three detainees in Guantanamo Bay’s Camp 1, Block Alpha, hid behind the blankets and hanged themselves, their toes dangling inches above the floor while their bodies became blue and rigid. For hours, the guards failed to notice the first deaths to occur at the controversial U.S. military detention facility.


Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke sees unemployment and weak growth as bigger problems than inflation

The central bank chief says he and other Fed members believe inflation will ease on its own.

By Maura Reynolds, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

August 23, 2008

WASHINGTON — Prices may be rising unpleasantly fast, but what really worries the Federal Reserve is the weak economy, Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said Friday.

Using careful language, the central bank chief said the Fed’s forecasts suggested that if energy costs and other commodity prices held their recent declines and the dollar stabilized, inflation would moderate by the end of this year.

Bernanke’s comments at a Fed conference in Jackson Hole, Wyo., were widely seen as a signal that the bank intended to keep its benchmark interest rate at 2%, a low level by historical standards, for much of this year and possibly into 2009.

The remarks, along with a more than $6-a-barrel drop in oil prices, fueled a rally in the stock market Friday. The Dow Jones industrial average surged 197.85 points, or 1.7%, to close at 11,628.06.

The New Leviathan

On 9/11, America was shocked to discover that there was an outside world with many, many people in it who quite simply hated America’s guts – and this discovery scared the hell out of America. If the last several years are an indication of what America’s future holds – and I believe they are – then 9/11 will haunt and infest American cultural life for many years to come. Everything that Americans think, write, do and believe will be refracted through this enormous funhouse lens. This event, which contained so much potential to inspire serious-minded reflection and subtle analysis, instead inspired America to do what it does best: unleash its power.

Michel Foucault wrote of:

A power that presented rules and obligations as personal bonds, a breach of which constituted an offense and called for vengeance; of a power for which disobedience was an act of hostility, the first sign of rebellion .. of a power that had to demonstrate not only why it enforced its laws, but who were its enemies … of a power that was recharged in the ritual display of its reality as ‘superpower.’

America’s favorite ritual display is war, something that seems to have an almost addictive power over Americans. America spends as much on war as the rest of the world combined. This is beyond any sane concept of “security”; this is the behavior of a junkie.

I do not describe this behavior as “addiction” lightly. As writer Chris Hedges pointed out (at a college commencement address at which he was shouted down by an auditorium full of fresh-faced, patriotic young Americans), “the seduction of war is so insidious because so much of what we are told about it is true – it does create a feeling of comradeship which obliterates our alienation and makes us, for perhaps the only time in our life, feel we belong.” This is why America – a country full of people who are so un-alike in so many ways – embraces this addictive new chapter in its love affair with war, the “Global War on Terror.” Because as soon as that warm, patriotic glow of togetherness starts to dim (as it appears it is now doing with the “Iraq front in the war on terror”), a new battle in this war without end is served up: pure, uncut, expensive as hell but cheap at twice the price, ready to be mainlined by an eager nation.

America does not view its decades-long string of foreign-policy disasters (most recently the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq) as failures of diplomacy and policy. War replaces diplomacy and defines policy. War is the point: so easy, so unambiguous, so damned glamorous compared to the mundane tedium of building consensus and displaying moral leadership.

But what is this frantic, almost compulsive resort to the military option as the default response really in aid of?

I recently found myself re-reading Hobbes’ Leviathan, and I was struck by how easily one can map Hobbes’ mythical authoritarian/submissive society to America in the 21st century. Hobbes believed that a society’s function was to accrue more and more power, to strive constantly to seize the upper hand, all in aid of defending a passive and cowering populace from a world full of evil enemies. Hobbes argued that humans are always willing to accept submission to a strong and domineering leadership in exchange for protection from evildoers. Protection from fear itself, in effect. The citizens of Leviathan were so riddled with fear and doubt that they surrendered their freedom with breathtaking eagerness. America’s default attitude since 9/11 can best be summed up by Derrida’s wonderful phrase: “manic triumphalism.” However, this is mere posturing, intended to cover a deep core of dread. Underneath all the testosterone-laden, Hoo-Rah bravado, America in the 21st century is the new Leviathan, in which the citizens cower like whipped dogs.

Still, the unabashed willingness with which Americans surrendered their freedoms must give us pause. Because at the end of the day, that is the fundamental question: why did so many Americans toss off the burden of freedom with such eagerness? I would like to propose at least a partial answer. America is a country where 90% of the people describe themselves as “religious” and 46% describe themselves as “evangelical.” Eighty-six percent of Americans believe in miracles; 83% believe in a real, literal Virgin Birth. Over 40% of Americans believe the world will end in an actual battle of Armageddon, and a stunning 45% believe in a real, anthropomorphic Devil. With horns, mind you. To the majority of Americans, the people who live and die within such a belief system, America’s vaunted “freedom” – and, more importantly, the consequences of that freedom – is, quite simply, horrifying. Profanity and nudity on TV, gay marriage and adoption, “Feces Madonna” and “Piss Jesus” and Mapplethorpe’s photos of men with bullwhips jammed up their asses, on and on and on. They look at America’s free society, they look at the things that this free society permits to happen and they hate what they see. They absolutely hate modern America, and they believe that surrendering their freedom is a very small price to pay in order to make it stop.  These Americans have more in common with Muslim fundamentalists than they can ever admit to themselves. This is the secret heart of darkness in 21st century America. America will have another Bush some day, because it is what so many Americans want and need.

Wallowing Publicly in Our Own Guilt

So yeah, bitching and moaning on a mega-blog is probably not the best thing to do on a Friday night at 2am, but I’m not feeling the veepage-love tonight that seems so insistent and yet so forced.

In the darkest of times-indeed, in those times when it only seems dark, but is actually some other shade entirely-in my weak, shameful moments of worst malaise, I turn to the Doctor, who makes me smile every time. For an admittedly roundabout, but strikingly current example, try “Here Come De Judge”  from Thompson’s S.F. Examiner column, 9/21/87:

By the end of the week [Judge Bork] looked like a big winner, with a solid 8-6 plurality that stonewalled Ted Kennedy, embarrassed the Democratic majority and left Joe Biden’s ’88 presidential campaign in a pile of stinking ruins.

Its Official

Color Me Unimpressed

Well, it seems every time I turn around, Obama has hit a new nadir in my opinion of him.  

Right now, the news folks are all falling all over one another talking about what a great VP pick Joe Biden is.  And maybe they are right.  Perhaps, in some way that I don’t fathom, picking a long-term Senator and repeat failed Presidential candidate from a state which is a slam-dunk for the Democratic nominee, and is worth a mighty three electoral votes, is brilliant.  Perhaps this man, who rambled on for over 40 minutes when he had his chance to grill Sam Alito before the Senate Judiciary Committee without asking a single question, will really be the brilliant political attack dog that the media says he will.

What troubles me regardless of whether they are right or wrong is that Biden has a terrible history of “leadership” in the War on Drugs, still America’s longest-running and most utterly failed war.  Biden was the author of the awful Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act (also known, sadly, as the “Biden Act”).  This act included the massive expansion of capital punishment, adding sixty different crimes to the list of those for which Federal prosecutors could seek the death penalty.  It eliminated the ability for prisoners to get grants for education while incarcerated.  Biden is also the Chairman of the International Narcotics Control Caucus, and as the head, was the brilliant person who created the cabinet position of “Drug Czar”.  He has remained, throughout his career, an ardent drug warrior, sponsoring the RAVE Act in 2003, and leading the attempt to make steroids such as androstenedione, which were abused by professional baseball players, illegal under Federal law.

In other words, exactly the person who was leading the charge to put millions of black men, who experiment with marijuana and cocaine, just like Barack Obama, in prison.  Just the sort of person who has been repeatedly accused by the ACLU and other civil libertarians of drafting laws which abridge the rights guaranteed by the First Amendment.

So, maybe the talking heads are right, and Biden is the correct choice for Obama’s political benefit.  But, from all the available evidence, I believe that Sen. Biden is exactly the sort of person who should not be advanced any further than he has been by anyone with the interests of American citizens at heart.

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