December 30, 2008 archive

Water News & a Word on Middle-East Water Rights

This is my last Water News diary for the year and I’d like to take the opportunity to remind the fighting I/P posters that the Middle East, where a few great waterways are the major source of water for a large area of dry lands spanning a number of national borders, the scarcity of water has played a central role in defining the political relationships in the region for thousands of years. Its ideological, religious, and geographical disputes go hand in hand with water-related tensions and it is becoming abundantly clear that the incoming administration of Barack Obama will have to deal swiftly with the powers of the region as the water crisis is not limited to the Jordan basin, but extends throughout the Middle East, encompassing also the watersheds of the Nile and the Tigris-Euphrates. Because of water’s preeminent role in survival (Israel depends on fresh water resources originating in the occupied territories for about one-third of its total supply) the parched and volatile Middle East must be dealt with because the fact is that the region is running out of water. The people who have built their lives on what was once a reliable source of fresh water are now seeing a shortage of this vital resource impinge on all aspects of their increasingly fragile relations.

Cross-posted on La Vida Locavore and DKos.

Four at Four

  1. The LA Times reports U.S. home prices drop 18% in October. “The Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller index of home prices in 20 metropolitan areas was down 18% in October from the same month a year ago, the 22nd straight month of decline.”

  2. Bloomberg News reports Yellowstone National Park hit by hundreds of small earthquakes.

    Hundreds of small earthquakes have struck Yellowstone National Park in the western U.S. during the past four days, the “most intense” series of tremors in the area in “some years,” the University of Utah reported.

    Earthquakes are common in Yellowstone, which averages 1,000 to 2,000 tremors a year, and its 10,000 geysers and hot springs are the result of geologic activity…

    Seismologists are trying to determine if the tremors are being caused by fault movements, the university said. The biggest quake was a magnitude 3.9 recorded at 10:15 p.m. local time on Dec. 27, when the largest number of tremors of magnitude 3.0 or more was recorded.

    And U.S. News & World Report adds Yellowstone earthquakes are under the supervolcano caldera. “And what if the supervolcano blew? Kind of like if a giant rock hit the Earth. A planet killer. An extinction-level event.”

  3. The NY Times reports the U.S. and NATO plan an alternate supply route to Afghanistan.

    The plan to open new paths through Central Asia reflects an American-led effort to seek out a more reliable alternative to the route from Pakistan through the strategic Khyber Pass, which was closed by Pakistani security forces on Tuesday as they launched an offensive against militants in the region…

    More than 80 percent of the supplies for American and allied forces in Afghanistan now flow through Pakistan.

    But the new arrangements could leave the United States more reliant on cooperation from authoritarian countries like Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, which have poor records when it comes to democracy and human rights.

  4. And lastly, the AP reports Lake Superior State University’s annual banned word list cites “maverick” as the top overused word of 2008.

On Being Human…and Crimes Against Humanity

As we glance through the headlines of our busy world and see all of the places where humans are killing, torturing, discriminating against and hating each other, we see that they all have one common factor: Humans acting like humans.

But are they?

Or are they acting more like the animals that humans once were, the animals that we are descended from?

Throughout the centuries and millennia of recorded human history, we as humans have struggled with this reality. We have the capacity to be so much more than just animal-like creatures behaving in the animal-like programmed behavior of instinct. This behavior is in many ways the raison d’etre of religion, of philosophy, of the quest for ‘civilization’ itself. But still to this day, all of these millenia later, we still quite often act as savages, as beasts, we act and especially react in thrall to our lower instincts and motivations. I. Me. Mine. Eye for an Eye. THEY started it.

We see it everywhere, from children playing to great nation-states clashing, nation states bullying or invading smaller nation states….and so often it ends in hurt, or blood. And then come the justifications for the blood. And then the justifications for revenge. And then more blood.

Religion at its best seeks to provide a moral code, ethical and behavioral guidelines, in the attempt to lift us above this savage behavior. Religion at its worst is far to often the cause of the very behavior it proscribes. Thou shalt not kill. Except in the name of Religion.

However, humans have also invented another code for dealing with our lingering state of savagery, with our capacity for animal-like behavior…the legal code.

Straws in the Wind: Philadelphia Libraries

I’ve started posting “Straws In The Wind” posts over at Fire on the Mountain to focus on how the burden of the economic meltdown is being placed on ordinary working folks and on their developing consciousness and resistance.

As 2008 draws to an end, and with it the tax year, we are seeing what will rapidly become a tsunami of cuts in public services starting to gather force around the country. Every state and municipality will be hit in different ways, but no place is gonna stay high and dry.

Want an example? The estimable Suzy Subways (one-time literary voice of Brooklyn’s bike delivery folk) has done my homework for me. Mayor Michael Nutter of Philadelphia announced just last month that 11 of the city’s 54 libraries will be shuttered, effective New Year’s Day. This has produced a riptide of anger in neighborhoods all over the city, and several City Council members have gone to court to block the closings.

But I recommend a look at this cable broadcast of one of the neighborhood meetings Nutter and Library Director Siobhan Reardon held to try and quell opposition to library and other cuts.

It’s a long meeting–folks in predominantly Black Southwest Philly are steamed–but Suzy has put in the time to transcribe the highlights, and included time checks so you can slide straight to the exchanges she typed up below.

Do these folks seem like they are gonna sit quietly and watch their communities stripped of libraries? Not to me. I’m gonna be checking the news from Philadelphia  over the next few days.

TRANSCRIPT (courtesy Suzy Subways)

‘Obama we’re hopeful — but we’re watching, marching, too’

Obama We’re Hopeful

(Nelson 2008, tune of “O Come All Ye Faithful”)

Obama we’re hopeful, cautiously believing

you meant when you told us that you’d end this war,

Sooner than later, let’s get our troops back state-side!




Ensconced in the White House, trying to get your bearings,

Oil men and gen’rals whisp’ring in those big ears,

Filling your head with doubts and grim scenarios,




That could be the theme song* for Camp Hope, which opens a 19-day presence in the president-elect’s Hyde Park neighborhood on New Year’s Day, also known as Emancipation Proclamation Day.  Activities and actions are planned daily in Chicago, ending on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Jan. 19.


Docudharma Times Tuesday December 30

U.S. Media Outlets Leave Iraq

I Guess The Mtv War Has Become Boring

While People And Soldiers Still Die  

Tuesday’s Headlines:

GMAC To Get $6 Billion Lifeline

Winds of change come to country plagued by power blackouts

World’s ‘largest dinosaur fossil site’ found in China

Gaza tactics and long-term goals divide Israeli military analysts

The Shah? He’s as safe as houses …

Opposition ‘wins’ Ghana election

Gazprom, once mighty, is reeling

Opponents Protest Kremlin’s Presidential Term Effort

Setbacks in Mexico’s war on corruption

Now Israel declares ‘war to the bitter end’

International outcry grows as death toll from continued assault on Gaza reaches 320

By Donald Macintyre in Jerusalem

Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Israel’s defence Minister, Ehud Barak, warned yesterday that his country was engaged in “a war to the bitter end” with Hamas as a third day of fierce bombing brought the estimated Gaza death toll to 320. Two Israelis were killed in retaliatory rocket barrages last night as Hamas struck deep inside Israeli territory.

Mr Barak’s declaration to the Knesset – the Israeli parliament – came as Israel continued its comprehensive bombardment of Hamas targets after overnight aerial attacks that devastated large parts of the Interior Ministry and the Islamic University.

Amid signs of increased international restiveness about the Palestinian death toll, Mr Barak insisted that “we have nothing against Gaza residents” but added: “We are engaged in an all-out war against Hamas and its proxies. This operation will expand and deepen as much as needed.”

Bush has successfully defended anti-terrorism policies

Domestic surveillance, rounding up Muslim men after Sept. 11, harsh interrogations — the administration has beat back nearly all legal challenges to its controversial programs.

By David G. Savage

December 30, 2008

Reporting from Washington — Second in a series of occasional reports on President Bush’s legacy.

George W. Bush will end his presidency in retreat, forced to compromise on several fronts. Free-market economics have given way to massive government bailouts, and an assertive, unilateral foreign policy has yielded to one more attuned to world opinion. But in his defense of the war on terrorism, Bush has succeeded in beating back nearly all legal challenges — including those to some of his most controversial policies.Among them are a domestic surveillance program to intercept international phone calls, the rounding up of Muslim men for questioning after the Sept. 11 attacks, the holding of suspects in military custody in this country without filing charges, harsh interrogations — some have called it torture — of suspects arrested abroad, and the detention of foreign captives at a military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.



Black Workers in Auto Plants Losing Ground


Published: December 29, 2008

DETROIT – Since millions of African-Americans began leaving Southern farms for Northern factories nearly a century ago in what is still known as the Great Migration, the destinies of many of them have been entwined with the auto industry’s.

The car companies were hardly multiracial utopias, but they, especially Ford, employed blacks when many industries would not. Through the decades, the automakers and their higher wage scales provided a route to the middle class for many blacks, especially those with limited education, and their children.

Now, with Detroit reeling, many blacks find their economic well-being threatened.

Muse in the Morning

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Muse in the Morning

Distortion on a Gray Day


With any luck

the ragged people

discover how to sing

on the countless

gray days

which occupy time

between those occasional

days of sunshine

In a better world

one not consisting

of lies and jest

going away

is not necessary

or required

or even desired

–Robyn Elaine Serven

–February 22. 2008

MSM: “BREAKING: Ask Obama For a Torture Special Prosecutor”

You’ve gotta love MSM reporters. “I do?“, you ask. “Why?

Heh. Well, some of them anyway!

Image courtesy of:

Ari Melber is:

[…] a monthly columnist for Politico and […] a commentator on public affairs, Melber frequently speaks on national television and radio, including NBC, CNBC, CNN, CNN Headline News, C-SPAN, MSNBC, Bloomberg News, FOX News, FOX Business, NPR and Air America, on programs including The Today Show, American Morning, Washington Journal, Power Lunch, The Live Desk, MSNBC Reports with David Shuster, The Ron Reagan Show and The Rachel Maddow Show, among others.

Melber has been a featured speaker in forums sponsored by the Yale Political Science Department; Harvard Law School, Kennedy School of Government at Harvard; The Park Center for Independent Media at Ithaca College, TimeWarner Summit; Campaign for America’s Future; Young Democrats of America; Cornell University Democrats; Columbia University Democrats; Democracy for America; New York’s Blogging Liberally; Personal Democracy Forum, [as well as] Netroots Nation and the YearlyKos netroots conventions.

[…] Melber’s writing has been widely cited by publications across the spectrum, such as the New York Times Magazine, The Week, The Washington Times, Slate,,,,,,, Wall Street Journal Online, National Review Online, American Conservative Online, Atlantic Monthly Online, American Spectator Online and

[…] his writing has also appeared in The Baltimore Sun, Philadelphia Daily News, New York Daily News, New York Post, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, The Forward, Huffington Post, and The Stranger, among others. He was born and raised in Seattle, Washington, and received a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

So Ari is an educated, smart, experienced and good reporter, and Ari gets around. So what, you ask? Big deal? Who cares? Who’s side is Ari on?

Well, Ari’s on our side. Ari now writes for The Nation.

And Ari has an article up yesterday on the front page of The Nation, an article that is also the lead article at Huffington Post on their “Eric Holder: Some news is so big it needs its own page” page.

Ari’s article at The Nation is titled: BREAKING: Ask Obama For a Torture Special Prosecutor. The HuffPo version is on the top of this page.

The second link in Ari’s opening paragraph is to the Docudharma/ sponsored Citizens Petition for a Special Prosecutor, at Democrats com.

Late Night Karaoke

The All Restaurant Team

The Waitresses – I know what boys like

New Year 2009: Bring It On Home To Me

joyfully cross-posted from The Dream Antilles

“Bring It On Home to Me” is a 1961 soul song written and recorded by R&B singer-songwriter Sam Cooke. The song, about infidelity, was a hit for Cooke and has become a pop standard covered by numerous artists of different genres. It is one of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll. Cooke’s recorded version has Lou Rawls singing responses as an uncredited background singer.

This song is considered by many historians of soul music to be the founding, or at least definitive soul song, as it provides the formula that is still popular today


The song itself is simple enough:

If you ever change your mind

About leavin’, leavin’ me behind

Oh, oh, bring it to me

Bring your sweet lovin’

Bring it on home to me, oh yeah

You know I laughed (ha ha) when you left

But now I know I’ve only hurt myself

Oh, oh, bring it to me

Bring your sweet lovin’

Bring it on home to me.


Yes, it’s simple.  And there have been so many different versions.  So many variations.  So many different ways of playing and singing it.  Many people have dug deed into their own understanding, their creativity, their desire to express themselves and have chosen this song.  It is a truly remarkable vehicle.

It’s remarkable how each of the versions is at once the same.  And very, very different.

And so, as an illustration of my 2009 resolution, to continue to explore my own voice, to find my own way of expression, to expand in creativity and inventiveness, I give you for your year end inspiration, Bring It On Home To Me, Ten+ Versions:  

The echo chamber vs the Star Chamber

If you are as old as I am, you remember the movie The Star Chamber.  

It was about a group of judges who met in secret.  The would discuss and debate over which criminal who got off due to a technicality that they should put out a “hit” on, and, they would then hire an assassin to kill that person.

I find echo chambers to be much the same thing.

Open Thread

Interesting post over at zuky, who quotes Rabbi Michael Lerner of Tikkun Magazine on the present situation in Gaza:

From the standpoint of Tikkun, war is the wrong response. If Israel wants peace with Palestinians, it can achieve it by negotiations based on the Saudi peace initiative; it cannot achieve it by killing more Palestinian civilians or even by wiping out the current generation of Hamas activists. There is no path to peace-peace is the path. And if Israel wants to destroy Hamas, it has one clear way: rebuild Gaza and the West Bank with a massive Marshall Plan type enterprise-adopt our Strategy of Generosity and renounce the strategy of domination. Trust in God, trust in love, trust in kindness, trust in generosity-and give those strategies a ten year chance to work and Israel will get far more security than it will achieve by this latest violation of international law, Torah ethics, and common sense.

There is no path to peace-peace is the path.

I have no expertise on this issue, but I do find that line compelling.  Would that we’d all learn that precious path.

Open Thread is hereby Open!

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