Comedian Limbaugh Attacks The Troops

Jon Soltz of Vote Vets responds to Rush Limbuagh's attack on US soldiers who served in Iraq who oppose continuing the Debacle:

Rush Limbaugh, on his show said that those troops who come home and want to get America out of the middle of the religious civil war in Iraq are “phony soldiers.” I'd love for you, Rush, to have me on your show and tell that to me to my face.

First, in what universe is a guy who never served even close to being qualified to judge those who have worn the uniform? Rush Limbaugh has never worn a uniform in his life – not even one at Mickey D's – and somehow he's got the moral standing to pass judgment on the men and women who risked their lives for this nation, and his right to blather smears on the airwaves? . . .

Time for a Congressional resolution condemning Limbaugh. Yes, I am serious. This is how the game of politics has to be played.

[UPDATE] Dems firing hard at Limbaugh.

Four at Four

This is an OPEN THREAD. Here are four stories in the news at 4 o’clock to get you started.

  1. There is an uptick in news about global warming today. The Independent brings news from Washington D.C. as Bush prepares for ‘greenwashing’ climate summit. “For the first time in 16 years, a major environmental conference opens in Washington, hosted by the Bush administration. But no concrete results are expected, and that… is the point of this high-level meeting. ¶ Far from representing a Damascene conversion on climate change by… George Bush, the two-day gathering of the world’s biggest polluting nations is aimed at undermining the UN’s efforts to tackle global warming, say European sources. ‘The conference was called at very short notice,’ said one participant. ‘It’s a cynical exercise in destabilising the UN process.'” The Guardian also confirms that diplomats are accusing Bush of attempting to derail UN climate conference. “One European diplomat described the US meeting as a spoiler for a UN conference planned for Bali in December. Another… claimed that the US conference was merely a way of deflecting pressure from other world leaders who had asked at the G8 summit this year for the US to make concessions on global warming. ¶ They predicted that Mr Bush, who is to address the meeting tomorrow, will stress the need to make technological advances that can help combat climate change but will reject mandatory caps on emissions… ¶ One of those attending said the conference reflected ‘political hardball’ on the part of the Bush administration, aimed at undermining the UN, for which it holds long-term suspicion. Another said the conference was aimed at domestic politics, with Mr Bush seeking headlines and television coverage implying that he was doing something about climate change while, in fact, doing almost nothing.

    The Bush administration is doing nothing and taking credit for the work of others. The Washington Post reports the White House is taking unearned credit for emissions cuts. “Seeking to counter international pressure to adopt binding limits on greenhouse gas emissions, the Bush administration has been touting the success of three mandatory programs to curb U.S. energy consumption: gas mileage standards for vehicles, efficiency standards for home appliances and state laws requiring utilities to increase their use of renewable energy sources. ¶ But for most of the Bush presidency, the White House has either done little to promote these measures or, in some cases, has actively fought against them. Moreover, the fuel economy and appliance initiatives were first taken years ago to slash energy consumption, long before climate change became a pressing issue. ¶ The administration initially delayed plans to set improved energy-efficiency standards for 22 appliances, which led to a court battle with the Natural Resources Defense Council, an advocacy group. Under a 2006 legal settlement, the Energy Department is now working to finish the rules. The White House also tried to reverse strict efficiency standards for central air conditioners upon Bush’s taking office in 2001, a move the NRDC had reversed in a separate lawsuit.

  2. Spiegel brings news of the ever-increasing evidence that biofuels ’emit more greenhouse gases than fossil fuels’. “A team of researchers led by Nobel-prize winning chemist Paul Crutzen has found that growing and using biofuels emits up to 70 percent more greenhouse gases than fossil fuels. They are warning that the cure could end up being worse than the disease.”

    Biofuels, once championed as the great hope for fighting climate change, could end up being more damaging to the environment than oil or gasoline. A new study has found that the growth and use of crops to make biofuels produces more damaging greenhouse gases than previously thought.

    German* Nobel-prize winning chemist Paul Crutzen and his team of researchers have calculated the emissions released by the growth and burning of crops such as maize, rapeseed and cane sugar to produce biofuels. The team of American, British and German scientists has found that the process releases twice as much nitrous oxide (N2O) as previously thought. They estimate that 3 to 5 percent of nitrogen in fertilizer is converted and emitted, as opposed to the 2 percent used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in its calculations.

    Crutzen is widely respected in the field of climate research, having received the Nobel Prize in 1995 for his research into the ozone layer. The study, published in the scientific journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, finds that the growth and use of biofuels produced from rapeseed and maize can produce 70 percent and 50 percent more greenhouse gases respectively than fossil fuels.

    * Crutzen is actually Dutch according to his Wikipedia entry.

  3. Emily Wax reports for the Washington Post that boats are seen as the future in flood-prone Bangladesh. “Melting glaciers in the Himalayas are already causing sea levels to rise here, and scientists say Bangladesh may lose up to 20 percent of its land by 2030 as a result of flooding. That Bangladesh is among the most vulnerable countries on the planet to climate change is a tragedy for its 150 million people, most of whom are destitute… ¶ ‘For Bangladesh, boats are the future,’ said Abul Hasanat Mohammed Rezwan, an architect who started the boats project here and who now oversees it as executive director of the nonprofit Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha, a name that means self-reliance. ‘As Bangladeshi citizens, it’s our responsibility to find solutions because the potential for human disaster is so huge. We have to be bold. Everyone loves land. But the question is: Will there be enough? Millions of people will have nowhere to go.’ … ¶ Scientists in Dhaka, the capital, predict that as many as 20 million people in Bangladesh will become ‘climate refugees’ by 2030, unable to farm or survive on their flooded land. The migration has already started. In 1995, half of Bhola Island, Bangladesh’s biggest island, was swallowed by rising sea levels, leaving 500,000 people homeless.”

  4. Finally, a double shot of Blackwater news today.

    • The New York Times reports that shootings by Blackwater exceed those of all other firms in Iraq. “Blackwater USA has been involved in a far higher rate of shootings while guarding American diplomats in Iraq than other security firms providing similar services to the State Department, according to Bush administration officials and industry officials… ¶ The State Department keeps reports on each case in which weapons were fired by security personnel guarding American diplomats in Iraq… ¶ The officials said that Blackwater’s incident rate was at least twice that recorded by employees of DynCorp International and Triple Canopy, the two other United States-based security firms that have been contracted by the State Department to provide security for diplomats and other senior civilians in Iraq… Last year, the State Department gave Blackwater the lead role in diplomatic security in Iraq, reducing the roles of DynCorp and Triple Canopy. ¶ The company employs about 850 workers in Iraq under its diplomatic security contract, about three-quarters of them Americans, according to the State Department and the Congressional Research Service. DynCorp has 157 security guards in Iraq; Triple Canopy has about 250.” So, to eliminate private security contractors from Iraq, it would take reassignment of 1257 military personnel?

    • The Los Angeles Times reports that Defense War Secretary Robert Gates has moved to rein in contractors in Iraq. “Gates has ordered U.S. military commanders in Iraq to crack down on any abuses they uncover by private security contractors in the aftermath of a deadly shooting involving American guards that infuriated Iraqis… ¶ In a three-page directive sent Tuesday night to the Pentagon’s most senior officers, Gates’ top deputy ordered them to review rules governing contractors’ use of arms and to begin legal proceedings against any that have violated military law. ¶ Gates’ order contrasts with the reaction of State Department officials, who have been slow to acknowledge any potential failings in their oversight of Blackwater USA… The Pentagon directive does not affect private security guards under contract to other agencies, including the State Department, which is investigating the Blackwater shooting.” According to the Washington Post, Gates declined to describe the contractors as mercenaries. ” Asked by a senator whether he considered the contractors ‘mercenaries,’ Gates replied that many of the security contractors in Iraq are former members of the U.S. military and do not see themselves in that light.” McClatchy newspapers reports some in the Pentagon prefer soldiers over contractors. “Within the military, there’s disagreement about the role of contractors. During his confirmation hearing earlier this year, Petraeus said that he couldn’t effectively wage a counterinsurgency war without contactors, who do everything from security to food preparation. ¶ But… Navy Adm. William Fallon, the commander of the U.S. Central Command, which oversees the Middle East, said he didn’t want contractors seen as a ‘surrogate army.’ ‘My instinct is that it’s easier and better if they were in uniform and were working for me,’ Fallon said. ‘There’s a rule set out there, and these guys should adhere to it as far as action, training and accountability.'”

Of course, there is one more story below the fold…

  1. The Telegraph brings the tale of the Devil’s Bible returning to Prague. “A monumental Bible rumoured to have been written with the help of the Devil has been returned to Prague for the first time in 350 years. ¶ The 13th century Codex Gigas, which is 3ft long and weighs 165lb, is thought to be the biggest book in the world and is known as The Devil’s Bible due to a supposed satanic bargain made by its author. ¶ It was looted by Swedish soldiers from Prague castle at the end of the Thirty Years War in 1648 and taken to Stockholm, where it is the prize exhibit at the Royal Library. ¶ But until now Swedish authorities have refused to lend it to the Czech Republic, which regards the Bible as stolen property, for fear they would not get it back.”

So, what else is happening?

Heartwarming Tale About the Failure of a Business

I have this friend.  Her name isn’t Mary, but that’s what we’ll call her.  I’ve never had a really good friend named Mary, so this will be fun for me.

When I met Mary, her father was the Democratic mayor of the small town we went to school in.  We lived on opposite sides of the town, each outside the town limits.  There were railroad tracks between our homes, and we often joked about which one of us lived on the ‘wrong’ side.  hint: it was me.

Mary and I have been friends for 26 years.  When we were teenagers, she was a svelte 5’8″, blonde, a model.  We always met lots of boys, had lots of fun, got in lots of trouble.  We once dated brothers who looked exactly alike, though not twins.  I introduced her to her husband.  I taught her how to work with her son’s nebulizer.  She has a big mouth; she’s always liked to pick fights, and then have me fight them for her.  She makes the snowballs, and I throw them, as my grandmother would say.  That’s the heartwarming part.  A ‘buddy’ story, of sorts.  I gotta warn you, it gets a little ugly here. 

Anyway, in the years since Mary’s father was the Democratic mayor of the small town we went to school in, he tried unsuccessfully to run for other local offices.  Maybe he got bitter.  Maybe he was always bitter, I don’t know.  His most recently held public office was as a Republican…yes, Republican…councilman for the same town he was Democratic mayor of, all those years ago.  His council term ended last year, and he was not re-elected.

One of the reasons he wasn’t re-elected is that during his term as councilman of the town he was mayor of, all those years ago, he became vehemently anti-immigrant.  He didn’t really seem to care about immigrants’ legal status, family situation, or civil rights.  He basically tried to legalize racial profiling in the town he was mayor of, all those years ago.  And he managed to squeeze through a couple of regulations, mostly regarding ‘abandoned’ cars and cars with out-of-state tags, parked overnight in the town (yes, the same town he was mayor of, all those years ago). 

Now, from where I live, I can drive to Pennsylvania in 20 minutes, New Jersey in 15, depending on bridge traffic.  I can be in Maryland in half an hour.  Out-of-state cars are common.  One even drove through my mother’s hedge last year during a snow storm.  But that’s a story for another day.  Suffice it to say, regulations that amounted to harassment of innocent brown people, as well as innocent car owners of all colors, didn’t make Mary’s father a popular guy in the town he was mayor of, all those years ago.

It was at about this time that Mary, who became involved in anti-immigration and anti-immigrant activities with her father, started picking fights that I didn’t want to finish for her.  Wouldn’t finish for her.  And the fight she picked this time…well…let’s just say she could have used me.  You see, Mary and her husband own a family landscaping business.  As a matter of fact, they have a contract with the small town where Mary’s father was once mayor.  And, right now, that’s the only contract they hold.  I don’t know if Mary, or her father, or her husband had the ill-conceived idea to suggest that the local landscapers who employed immigrants should be investigated for their hiring and employment practices.  I do know who had the connections to get it done. Surely after hearing a story like this, you can learn from their mistakes and make sure this doesn’t happen to you while you run a business like this. Maybe the jobs got on top of them. But if it was you running it, knowing that creating a weekly schedule of jobs using landscaping software could make this aspect a lot easier for you to manage. We shouldn’t always see failure as a bad thing, as this is how we learn.

I told you the story got ugly.  This next part warms some hearts, upsets others.  I’m not going to tell you how to feel about it.  I’ll only say it’s true, and it worked. 

Every single other landscaper in the county where I live, in support of the hardworking legal immigrants on whose backs their livelihoods are made (and not a little bit irritated at having been investigated for their hiring practices), conspired to take turns submitting ridiculously low bids to every- and anyone whom Mary and her husband held a landscaping contract with.  They spread out the losses amongst themselves, so none of them suffered too much financially.  Mary and her husband, however, were not so lucky. 

Always optimistic, Mary and her husband already have their next business venture planned.  They’re planning to open an indoor miniature golf course.  Plastic-scaping?  Eh, who am I to judge?  I’ve already been invited to the grand opening party.  The grand opening of a business that doesn’t exist yet, to be bought with the profits from the sale of a business they haven’t sold yet.  I think Mary might be a little concerned that she’s lost more than her family business….

{….I’m aware that this story is soooo not ready for prime time.  I tell it because it is a small story about a big problem where cooperation and sacrifice made a difference.  A difference to people for whom it meant a lot.  My intention isn’t to ‘out’ Mary, or embarrass her.  I just wanted to tell a story about cooperation and sacrifice, making a difference, to people for whom it meant a lot….em}

A Blind Psychologist and Rabbi…for Congress?

I’ve heard it said that the ideal political candidate is the individual who neither wants nor needs to hold public office. Instead, the ideal candidate is the individual who serves simply because he or she feels a civic and moral responsibility to do so.

This individual is Dennis Shulman, a Democrat running for New Jersey’s fifth congressional district seat in the United States House of Representatives.

So, who exactly is this ideal candidate? As a longtime student in Dennis’s classes and congregant at his services, I believe I’m in a unique position to answer this question.

Let me begin with some background. First, Dennis is a Harvard-educated, internationally recognized clinical psychologist and psychoanalyst. Second, Dennis is a revered and respected ordained rabbi in his New Jersey community. And, to put these facts in proper perspective, Dennis has been blind since childhood.

But this background information, as remarkable as it may be, fails to capture who this man really is. It does not convey Dennis’s fundamental decency, honesty, and integrity. It does not communicate the depth of his wisdom, compassion, and commitment. And it does not speak to the profoundly positive impact Dennis has had on my life, and upon the lives of countless others. Ultimately, mere biographical data is not enough-one must know Dennis to grasp what my words cannot express. 

While I’m only 30-years-old, I’ve lived and experienced enough to know with absolute certainty that human beings like Dennis Shulman are rare in this cynical and broken world of ours.

So, you might be wondering, why on earth would such a good man want to run for congress?

The answer is simple: His conscience dictates it. As a proud American who, in his words, feels “heartbroken and troubled by our recent direction as a nation,” Dennis feels obligated to take action. While writing checks, signing petitions, and attending political rallies is both important and necessary, Dennis feels compelled to do more. Certain in his belief that we as a nation can and must do better, Dennis is choosing to run for the United States House of Representatives. 

As someone who feels utterly disheartened by the corruption, cronyism, cynicism, and lies that are currently debasing and destroying our democracy, I have been waiting and searching, often in desperation, to find a politician that I can believe in and support without reservation. For me, Dennis Shulman is this candidate.

So, if you too are yearning for a candidate that you don’t have to support with one hand on the lever and one hand holding your nose, I tell you that Dennis Shulman is your man.

But don’t take my word for it.

Check Dennis out for yourself and read what others are saying about his unorthodox and inspiring exploratory campaign at Shulman for Congress 

Pony Party: What’s Right With America (Opera Edition)

Thought that title would get your attention.  It’s easy to see the cruelty and injustice of American power, at home and abroad, to feel the country is in the hands of…er…let’s not go there.  This is about what’s right with America!  What’s beautiful and laudable and grand. 

Please don’t rec the pony parties!  Another one will be along soon…

I submit…for your consideration…two great American works of art.  If we should accomplish nothing else that is good, and true, and beautiful… when the future looks back on America…like the works of Catallus and Terentius mark Rome…we will be remembered for…


Jessical in the house, as time allows…be excellent to each other…

The Gore Narrative: Why he must run

The “inevitability” meme is beginning to set. Bill himself is being rolled out. Ordinarily this race would be all over but the counting. But the times we live in are anything but ordinary. In fact the urgency and magnitude of the challenge we and the rest of the world are facing call for leadership of historic proportions. I will argue that Hillary is not that leader. Though she is experienced, highly competent and immensely well-funded, she is the epitome of the hawkish, powerfully connected, corporate-funded Washington insider who are masterful only at the art of “politics as we know it”. But most of all she lacks en epic narrative, one that taps directly into the Power of Myth. She is no visionary, nor are any of her rivals. And a vision of unprecedented breadth and power is what these parlous times are crying for. The era of business-as-usual, lesser-of-two-evils American leadership cannot continue. The stakes are simply too high.

Right now public opinion is being stampeded into accepting the impending coronation of Hillary Clinton as the Democratic Party nominee in 2008, a media narrative four years in the making and now being carefully shaped by the power-brokers in the DLC and their fair-weather allies in the corporate media (with a little Rovian reverse-psychology thrown in by the usual suspects, to spice up this all-too-predictable horse race). Indeed, just like John Kerry’s in 2004, after the media-fabricated crash-landing of the Dean campaign in the Iowa primary, Hillary’s inevitability is wholly manufactured, by the power of money to shape opinion and of insider influence to block out others.

But there is another kind of inevitability, of a far more profound and unstoppable kind, the kind that sneaks up when nobody’s looking and then in hindsight, seems blazingly obvious. One that appeals not to one’s “lying eyes” but to the intuition, like a nagging certainty of a better tomorrow that fuels even the wildest hopes which even the corporate, consolidated media will eventually be dragged kicking and screaming into recognizing.Because it stems from an overarching narrative, that taps directly into the most ancient of human stories, common to all cultures across the centuries. the saga of the Hero:

(a) character that, in the face of danger and adversity or from a position of weakness, display(s) courage and the will for self-sacrifice, that is, heroism, for some greater good,

On Dkos alone, many diarists and commenters have already made the connection between Al Gore and heroism, most notably for his actions in the wake of the catastrophic events in New Orleans in 2005. But several others make an even broader connection to the Hero myth. For readers who, for whatever reason, remain unconvinced of the inherent potency of a Gore candidacy, each of the following is worth reading in its entirety and pondering carefully.

Al Gore Rising: The Fourth Turning

We are reaching the end of things now . . . best for Congress to hold quiet. The culture is about to flip. And when that happens everything gets different. The poles reverse their electrical pull. The Emperor becomes the Sith, the Sith the Emperor.

I’ve seen it flip before. Practically in my high school football field in Newport, RI. From Eisenhower Optimism & the Positive Face. Then a little known and undernourished Magical Animal came out of the borderland forest and lake lands of Minnesota. It is said in hindsight that the Sixties started in a minute, when Bob Dylan switched from a wooden guitar to an electric one in Newport, in the summer of ’65. Then everything was different.

And now it is flipping again.

The diarist, Bernie Quigley, makes a powerfully eloquent case:

History has its gatekeepers. They open doors and they also close doors. Ronald Reagan was a gatekeeper to the third post-war generation of culture and politics, now in the last 15 minutes of its 11th hour.

George Bush the Little is gatekeeper too. Since he first arrived in national politics it was clear that his fate would be to close the gate that Ronald Reagan opened.
The Strauss & Howe books, particularly The Fourth Turning, are easier to understand than the Vedic wanderings of Spengler, Jung and Toynbee. (…) History comes from its own nature and the seeds of the third generation are sown in the first. The seeds of the fourth generation are sown in the second. In between, the avatar which will rise later lives in shadow. (Like the “Sleeping King” in the Tolkien stories.)

John McCain is exemplar of the third generation, taking his inspiration from the first and finding his “Fathers” in first generation – the WW II warriors. (…) The third generation warrior wants to be like the first: He wants to live again the culture of valor because it is good and true. But first generation didn’t get to valor from book, movies, and memories of blood relatives. It came to them instead direct from necessity and the survival instinct.

The second generation sleeps as the third rises or sends forth it’s sith and its shadow side. It is time for it to rise now and it will rise with this picture: Earthrise. Earthrise is the picture taken from space of the earth rising in the distance with the moon as ground in the foreground. It is time for this to awaken.

The picture was taken in 1968 from the dark side of the moon. Mythologist Joseph Campbell said at the time that this image would change us. It would change the way we would see ourselves, much as the discovery that the world was round changed the way we were centuries ago. The Al Gore movie, “An Inconvenient Truth” opens with this image and the fourth generation will also open with this image and this movie.

(…) The new generation will awaken now with the awareness that we and the planet are in danger. And Al Gore opened the gate.

Tthree more diaries, all from last year, speak more specifically to contemporary American cultural myths:

Al Gore is The Lion King by Dkos diarist allanthus is beautifully written and passionate:

There is a story I’m sure most people are already familiar with. The receptors are already in place. It’s just a question of pouring the candidate into the mold that already fits him like a glove. The story goes like this: The legitimate leader, groomed for the job, is forced into exile by a usurper. There follows a period of near-catastrophic misrule during which everyone suffers but the usurper’s minions. The exiled leader hangs out in the wilderness where he gains New Wisdom. Reluctantly he returns from exile and restores balance and health to the kingdom. The story is both ancient and universal. Whether through the intellectual route of Joseph Campbell or the straight-to-the-heart magic of Disney Studios, it has deep and compelling resonance.
And what Gift for the People would candidate Gore bring with him out of the wilderness? What is the issue with which he is most clearly associated? Visionary ecology, restoring the balance. What was the title of his first book? Earth in the Balance. What is the over-arching theme of the Lion King? Restoring the balance. What is the one issue that transcends partisan interests? Global warming.

Global warming is the meta-issue that nobody is yet talking about and Al Gore owns that issue. He is, in effect, the only grown-up in the room while everyone else is squabbling over scraps, over stuff that won’t even matter when the cataclysmic changes overtake us. It’s the only issue that hasn’t been kicked around and slobbered all over to the point where it’s just an indistinguishable mash of tired rhetoric. It’s simple. It’s big. It’s shiny. It’s new. It’s tailor-made for New Deal Democrats in need of a goal towards which to mobilize. It’s JFK’s Moon and FDR’s Depression all rolled into one. It has fear and endtimes cliff-hanger drama for those who respond to that kind of stuff, but more significantly it poses the kind of practical problem that Yankee ingenuity thrives on, engaging the optimistic, sleeves-rolled-up, can-do spirit that made this country great. It’s a whole a new organizing principle just waiting to emerge from the wings like Simba returning from exile, like the sun rising after a long and agonizing night, clarifying everything, putting the jackals of pettiness to flight.

And kossack diarist davefromqueens lists ten reasons why this is so in

Al Gore: America’s Simba

Al Gore’s script as to why he’ll be President in 2009 (in a huge landslide) was already written in the Lion King.  Al Gore is Simba.

The Lion King is a phenomenal animated movie in which a happy place is torn apart by a psychologically deranged brat who wrongfully takes over the kingdom with the rightful heir banished from power.  While the deranged brat rules, the creatures of the jungle see their homeland destroyed, their standard of living decimated, and their resources stolen out from underneath them. 

What’s the only way for the kingdom to be saved?  To have Simba come back and take the throne.  America faces the exact same situation.

Another is by George in AZ, The Return of the King:

Gore is the only Dem candidate whose comeback would actually be heroic, following the gross injustice that was perpetrated on him and on the country in 2000. There are deep currents in the psyche of the American mind that resonate strongly with the idea of a fallen hero – the victim of treachery – overcoming it and returning to victory.

If Gore were to tap into those currents, which I believe he could, his race would be suffused with an epic excitement among supporters. And his victory would be a moment of profound national redemption that would, on some deep level, satisfy even his detractors that an injustice had been righted, that a national wound had been healed and an epic disgrace in America’s politics had turned out well, in the end.

It is the story of Ulysses, of Odysseus, the hero of Homer’s Odysse, and it is the story of every reluctant Hero since, who, persecuted by Fortune, ultimately triumps over betrayal and treachery to defeat his ennemies, vindiacte his name and save his people. 

Now, as 2007 winds down and the 2008 presidential race heats up, America stands at a crossroads. The most recent Pew Research Center poll of 46 nations, taken to coincide with the UN meeting on climate change this week puts America’s loss of influence in the world in the starkest terms:

The survey found that positive attitudes toward the United States had plummeted since 2002, when the first in a series of Pew Global Attitudes surveys was taken. Those with favorable views of the United States have fallen from 60% to 30% in Germany, 61% to 29% in Indonesia and 30% to 9% in Turkey.

More than 45,000 people were interviewed by phone or face-to-face for the survey, which used nearly 60 languages or dialects.

The poll found sharply rising concern about environmental problems as the world’s biggest threat. Majorities or pluralities in 34 of 37 countries where the question was asked identified the United States as the chief culprit.

Most sensible Americans know that this generalised disaffection, even among America’s staunchest allies, is not explainable by some facile talking point or easily dismissed as the work of “Blame-America-firsters”. Any American who has travelled abroad in the last few years senses that a historical groundshift may be occurring. To borrow a phrase from climate science, a tipping point may have been reached with regard to international resentment of the American hegemon, and its well-documented heavy-handedness and strong-arm tactics in dictating internal policy to other nations, with the help of international institutions like the WTO, the IMF and the World Bank. For the rest of the world, U.S. militarism, adventurism and de-facto unilateralism has been a fact of life since the rise of the military-industrial complex, which Dwight. D. Eisenhower famously warned about. So-called “regime change” is not a new concept. It has long been a covert policy of the U.S., when and wherever it was deemed in the national interest (Iran and Chile being only two of the most glaring examples). And the world has long held to a sharply different narrative regarding events in the Middle-East than the one embraced by successive Israeli and Us administrations.

Most importantly, of all the candidates currently running for the candidacy of the Democratic Party, none (Chris Dodd would come the closest, if he were better known, notably because of who his father was and because of his stated positions in the current primary race — it’s not surprising that he is the only candidate in the ’08 race whom Gore has singled out for any praise ), but no, none can command the level of trust and respect that Gore is reaping and that the international community has been expressing in the form of awards and honours of every kind, the epitomy of which may well come in a couple of weeks in Oslo, Norway, if he wins the Nobel Peace Prize.

For all the conventional wisdom spewing forth in the traditional media from the DC elite and pundit class, the Hillary Clinton juggernaut is not an unstoppable. For all her money, access and power, Hillary herself has not been able to capture the imagination of the American people, let alone the base of the Democratic party. As for Al Gore, his support among grassroots Democrats is wide and deep, and rising among Independents and Repentent Republicans. There is no doubt that leadership is his calling. Not only has he been groomed for it since childhood, his entire experience of life and politics place him at the crossroads where America finds herself at her moment of greatest need. As the great dkosser buhdydharma most eloquently put it, Destiny seems to be calling him.

Right now the nation-wide movement to draft Al Gore is building momentum in many States, gathering signatures on essential petitions to get his name on the ballot, readying to carry him forward when he finally pulls the trigger and announces he is in. When he does, at the time and place of his choosing, he will be running a guerilla campaign, as unconventional, bold and people-powered as Hillary’s is safe, steeped in money and politics-as-usual. He will run on ending the war in Iraq, which he warned against before it was launched, and on his signature issue of putting the full power of the world’s only superpower behind the Herculean task of adressing the planetary emergency, the danger he has been has been single-mindedly striving to avert for the last thirty years and which is now upon us. He will argue passionately for a Global Marshall Plan,  a visionary set of policy solutions first outlined in his ground-breaking 1992 book Earth in the Balance (now available in a new edition)and which he again linked to the global fight for social justice, just this week, during his (grossly under-reported) talk to world leaders at the UN.

Gore is ready. His whole life has prepared him for this moment. I leave you with a prediction from Kos himself, which at this point sounds prescient:

One reason I’m not jumping aboard any 2008 bandwagons is that I’ll wait as long as necessary to see if Gore will jump in. That’s ultimately my guy this cycle. And even though I don’t think he’ll run, he’s really got all the time in the world to make a final decision.

Gore was just nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, and while any schlub can get nominated, it’s Gore’s backers that make his bid impressive — Conservative Member of the Norwegian Parliament Boerge Brende and Heidi Soerensen of the Socialist Left Party. It’s rare trans-ideological support.

The prize will be announced in mid-October. So say Gore scores an Oscar and Nobel in the same year, he can announce in November and still become THE story in the primaries. It’s not as if he’ll need the full year to get his name recognition up or make the case for his candidacy. He would instantly raise gobs of cash (I’d bet on tens of millions in the first 24 hours) and become the media sensation of the winter. He would instantly make hundreds of millions spent by his primary opponents obsolete. Talent would flock to him, decimating the staffs of his opponents.

Heck, if done right, a serious “Draft Gore” movement could have the shell of an infrastructure in place for him to adopt.

If Al Gore is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, he will have been handed a mighty shield to wear into his battle to restore America’s honour and reclaim her soul. In that battle, the future of Earth’s children and the ultimate fate of human civilisation are at stake as never before. The time has come to put an end to politics-as-usual and this time resist the usual media-generated stampede, based on cleverly orchestrated, consultant-driven “communications strategies”. The time has come for Democrats to offer the American people more and better than a pre-ordained outcome, more and better than a choice between the lesser-of-two-evils. Democrats must embrace the people-powered, grassroots revolution spearheaded by Howard Dean in 2003 and fuelled by blogs like Dailykos. You have the Powerr, Dean famously told his followers and this time the People, not the consultants, not the pundits, not the power-brokers behnd the scenes, the People must decide the outcome of this race and carry the candidate who most inspires them all the way to the White House.

These are extra-ordinary times, that call for extra-ordinary courage, leadership and vision. Only one prospective candidate has it. Please help to spread his urgent message that solving the planetary crisis must be the organizing principle of the next american administration. Talk to your friends, talk yo your neighbours. And visit Draft Gore central at America for Gore to find a Draft Gore group near you. And join the My Two Cents campaign. Embrace the dream and get ready to hit the ground running the minute he declares.

crossposted at dailykos

Jim Webb Gets It (Updated)

With bucketloads of respect to those who think yesterday’s vote in favor of the Lieberman-Kyl amendment on Iran was foolish politics at worst and meaningless at best, I can’t help but stick with my original reaction. This thing stinks to high heaven. (more)

Jim Webb appears to think so too.

On the Senate floor today, Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA) made an impassioned appeal to his fellow senators, declaring that the Lieberman-Kyl amendment on Iran should be “withdrawn” because the “proposal is Dick Cheney’s fondest pipe dream.” Webb cautioned that the “cleverly-worded sense of the Congress” could be “interpreted” to “declare war” on Iran.

He continued:

“Those who regret their vote five years ago to authorize military action in Iraq should think hard before supporting this approach. Because, in my view, it has the same potential to do harm where many are seeking to do good.”

I share Jim Webb’s concern that, given the opportunity, Dick Cheney will not hesitate to use the vote on yesterday’s amendment as part of his justification to attack Iran should that opportunity come to pass. He will not seek formal congressional approval. At the link provided, there is a video of Webb’s remarks, and I would encourage folks to have a look.

I would add that I believe the designation of the Iranian National Guard as a terrorist organization was the whole point of the exercise and that the addition and subsequent removal of the two paragraphs outlining the explicit use of force was a smokescreen. Joe Lieberman does not strike me as a man who does things for no reason. To me, there is a clear method to the madness.

In fact, I have a feeling there was a telephone conversation in Washington last night that went down something like this:

DC:  Hey there my Lieber-Man, nice job today.
JL:  Always a pleasure and an honor to speak to you Mr. Vice President. Thank you for your kind words.
DC:  Well, as you know, there is still work to be done. But I just wanted to say, your efforts were noticed and appreciated.
JL:  Well, I did have to take out those two paragraphs we talked about. But you were right, they focused on those instead of the key bit. I’m always impressed with your ability to call these things, sir.
DC:  Suck Up – heh heh. Well, the terrorist designation was the key. As I’ve said, that bill without the word terrorist would have been useless as tits on a bull – just like that resolution calling MoveOn a bunch of meanies. Heh heh. Anyway, thanks again.
JL:  Ha, Mr. Vice President, you always could make me…
— click —
JL:  Mr. Vice President? Are you there sir? I think the line went dead…

On balance, I think the amendment was only a small step of the whole Cheney plan. But since it was part of the plan, why oh why did our guys feel the need to play along?

More from the ThinkProgress link:

“At best, it’s a deliberate attempt to divert attention from a failed diplomatic policy,” said Webb. “At worst, it could be read as a backdoor method of gaining Congressional validation for military action, without one hearing and without serious debate.”

I would like to add that I believe attacking Iran is by no means a done deal. But Dick Cheney is playing a game at a higher level than many of our friends in the Senate appear to realize.

Some final words from Webb:

We haven’t had one hearing on this. I’m on the Foreign Relations Committee, I’m on the Armed Services Committee. We are about to vote on something that may fundamentally change the way the United States views the Iranian military and we haven’t had one hearing. This is not the way to make foreign policy. It’s not the way to declare war.

In my view, those Senators who voted for this POS Bill are really the ones who should be put on a ‘list’, never mind that silly MoveOn diversion.


UPDATE: Armando notes below a possible confusion given Webb made the remarks before final passage of the Bill. Did he make these remarks before the 2 worst paragraphs were removed? Good question.

His response after the bill indicate he is absolutely worried about the terrorist designation, as below (repeated here):

Webb says that because the Revolutionary Guard is a military arm of the Iranian government, the resolution declaring it a terrorist organization is “tantamount to a declaration of war.”

He is clearly concerned about IDing the Iranian National Guard as a terrorist organization. If you watch his speech, that comes through loud and clear.

PS – Hopefully NPK and the Big A can see past semantic differences here.

Mayanmar Solders Fire Into Crowd (updated)

Up to 8 killed in Yangon protests, including 1 Japanese national

AP is reporting they were advised by the Japanese Foreign Ministry that Burmese Army solders fired upon a crowd of protestors near the Panzundaun River in East Yangon, Thursday, when they failed to disperse as ordered.

At least one Japanese national was killed in the attack with 7 other deaths (including one Buddhist Monk) reported but unconfirmed. Witness reported 5 men were severly beaten and arrested following the shooting.

Since Saturday, tens of thousands have joined the protests against the military junta, with crowds swelling to an estimated 70,000-100,000 before the shooting.

Tensions have been rising over the past month initially sparked by dissatisfaction with government mandated fuel price increases, but more recently escalated to mass protests by political dissidents, students and Buddhist monks.

Buddhists Protest Peacfully Monday in Defiance of Junta Ban

Over the weekend, sources within the country reported the government had stockpiled sandals and robes worn by devout Buddhists and ordered solders to shave their heads, presumably to infiltrate the protests disguised as monks.

I must add that Burmese people are devoutly Buddhist and monks, which take a vow of poverty and service, occupy a prestigous and influential position in society much as in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam.

Since this story is breaking as I write, I suggest you link directly to the following for the most up to date information:

New York Times
Xinhau EN

Several countries have issued statements condeming the incident and calling for calm.

In Beijing, Thursday, US Undersecretary of State Christopher Hill stated:

“We all need to agree on the fact that the Burmese government has got to stop thinking that this can be solved by police and military, and start thinking about the need for genuine reconciliation with the broad spectrum of political activists in the country.”

In a seperate press conference, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu stated:

“China hopes that all parties in Myanmar exercise restraint and properly handle the current issue so as to ensure the situation there does not escalate and get complicated.”

– snip –

“China expects Myanmar could commit itself to improving the living condition of people, safeguarding the rapprochement among different ethnic groups so to resume peace and stability as soon as possible.”

I would note that Mr. Hill is curently visiting Beijing and reliable sources in China indicate diplomatic pressure on Yangon is intensifying with the US urging China to lead due to it’s more direct ties.

The Myanmar regime, speaking through the mouthpiece New Light of Myanmar continued to underplay the scale of protests and place blame on outsiders, stating, Thrusday:

“Saboteurs from inside and outside the nation and some foreign radio stations, who are jealous of national peace and development, have been making instigative acts through lies to cause internal instability and civil commotion.”

As it is late here in China, I will be out for dinner and checking local sources but try to reply any commets later.

I regret my first topic is a sad one, but let’s hope for the best.


Update Follows the Jump

Fresh reports indicate the scope of police activities, unrest and violance against demonstrators was greater than originally reported.

Police executed early morning raids against several Buddhist Monistaries where monks were beaten and at least 75 were arrested.

News footage from foriegn reporters shows clashes between Police and demonstrators with tear gas and automatic weapon fire used to disperse rallys.

However, protest activities persisted and widened throughout the day.

The government now appears to be cutting telecomminications/internet lines in an attempt to impose a news blackout, but sources close to the country may be able to provide some continuing coverage of the situation.

Diplomatic pressure is increasing with a UN speacial envoy expected to arrive in Myanmar Friday.

Sky News (English) Desmond Tutu Comments

BBC News (Mandalay/English)

Below are links to updated news and background stories providing perspective.

New York Times 2
International Herald Tribune 1
International Herald Tribune 2
International Herald Tribune 3
Daily Yomiuri 1
Daily Yomiuri 2

Burma Digest

Pony Party, Happy (belated) Birthday Sam!!

  Believed to be born on September 26, 1722 (though other sources use Sept 16th), Samuel Adams lived his entire life in Boston, Massachusetts.  He died on October 2, 1803, in a state and a country which he helped to create.

Samuel Adams is one of your ‘Founding Fathers’.  Leader, activist, brewer. 


“Without the character of Samuel Adams, the true history of the American Revolution can never be written. For fifty years his pen, his tongue, his activity, were constantly exerted for his country without fee or reward.”~ John Adams

Random facts:

~Considered one of the organizers of The Boston Tea Party*.

~Member of the First and Second Constitutional Congresses.

~Signer of the Declaration of Independance.

~Supporter of the Articles of Confederation, and remained a supporter of decentralized government.

~Originally opposed the U.S. Constitution as granting too much power to a central government; eventually supported it with the Bill of Rights included.

~3rd Lt. Governor of Massachusetts, under Governor John Hancock (1789-1793).

~4th Governor of Massachusetts (10/08/93-06/02/97), succeeding Hancock after his death in 1793.

* I have often acknowledged that my history education was incomplete and at times incorrect.  Further, I have read no two accounts of the Boston Tea Party that agree on many, if any, ‘facts’.  The link is to Wikipedia, take it up with them…  😉

I am sure most of you know more about Samuel Adams, the Constitutional Congresses, and the Boston Tea Party than I.  Feel free to correct or add information….

Please don’t feed the ponies!!

Without further ado, the floor is yours…


DINOs, DINOs, where are the DINOs?

reposted from daily Kos, with a lot of changes and edits

There is a lot of talk about DINOs (Democrats In Name Only).  There is, in fact, more talk than there are DINOs.  There is only ONE DINO in the senate (and it’s not Jolting Joe) and perhaps 5 or 8 in the House. And ALL those DINOs are from red red red areas

This is not to say that there are not a lot of disappointing Democrats.  There are.  I would rather have 435 house members who vote like my own rep (Jerry Nadler NY-08).  I am on the left wing of the party. 

It’s one thing to be less inspiring than you might be.  It’s another to be a DINO, or to be as bad as a Republican.  Or to slaim that the parties are identical. 

Ben Nelson is the only Senate DINO
In the house, there are perhaps 5 DINOs: Boren (OK 2), Taylor (MS 4), Marshall (GA 3), Patterson (MN 7); borderline DINOs are Cramer (AL 5), Barrow (GA 12) and  Melancon (LA 3).

I was reading, a while back (before I posted the dailyKos piece) at one of my favorite sites: Political Arithmetik and then went on to do some more analysis.  Here is a chart of National Journal ratings for 2006:

[Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket]

Here’s the key chart

Now, let’s look at those districts.

Nebraska, Nelson’s state, gave 66% of its votes to Bush over Kerry.  The other senator is Hagel, who, his statements on the war aside, got a 20 rating from the ADA and an 87 from the ACU in 2004.  In the NJ ratings for 2006, Hagel got a liberalism score of 27, Nelson a 45. 

Nelson’s not my favorite Senator. But he’s better than Hagel.

OK-2 went for Bush 59-41 in 2004, and for Boren by 66-34.  Bush or Boren?  You decide. Boren makes a safe D seat out of a solid R district.  Go Boren.

MS-4 went 68-31 for Bush in ’04, and yet gave Taylor a 64-33 victory.  Another solid D seat in a solid R district. 

GA-3  is a little closer. 55-44 for Bush.  63-37 for Marshall, against the same person who he beat by only 51-49 in 2002.

MN-7 is another district that went for Bush: 55-43.  Yet it gave Peterson a 66-34 victory in ’04

AL-5  went 60-39 for Bush, 73-27 for Cramer

GA-12 is the closest district in the DINO list: 54-46 for Bush, 52-48 for Barrow

finally LA-3 went 58-41 for Bush, and in 2004 Melancon won a nailbiter over Billy Tauzin.  In 2002, Tauzin got a 0 from ADA and a 96 from ACU.

There are the DINOs.  There aren’t many.  And, if they weren’t there, Republicans would be.

Let’s stop bashing Democrats and concentrating on bashing Repubs

Is the Pony/Pie/Hide rating system too cutsie?

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WTF? We Can’t Leave Iraq by 2013?!?

If this weren’t so depressing, it would be comical.

In last night’s Democratic Presidential candidate debate, Tim (Timmeh!) Russert asked the three front-running Democratic candidates if they would make a firm commitment to pull out all U.S. force from Iraq by 2013.

Not one of them — not Clinton, not Obama, not Edwards — took the pledge to do so.

We should all be asking — why the hell not?

For perspective, let’s get this straight:

The current war and occupation of Iraq started on March 20, 2003.  That’s a little over 4 years.

And none of our leadership, the ones topping the polls for President, want to commit to get us fully out by 2013…or in other words, SIX YEARS FROM NOW.

So, is that the position of the party now?  We can’t commit to solving this problem and withdrawing from Iraq TEN YEARS after the damn thing started?

What are they afraid of? Leading on the issue? Getting tagged with the wimp label?

It’s disgusting.  For more perspective, full engagement of U.S. forces in the Vietnam War (if we use the Gulf of Tonkin as our guide) began in 1964.  We fully left in 1975. A little over eleven years.

In other words, the frontrunners are now saying they are at least open to the idea of keeping forces in Iraq longer than we kept them in Vietnam.

The question that we should all ask, again, is why.

I’m waiting for my answer.

America’s War on Minorities

(Excellent and crucial essay. 10:21 Big Apple Time – promoted by srkp23)

In 1980, an African-American was equally likely to be either living in a college dorm or living in prison.  Not anymore.  In the last twenty-six years, we have made remarkable progress.

Today, the Census Bureau will release a study showing that American blacks are more than three times as likely to live in prison than in a college dorm.

And the study has more good news as well.  Hispanic Americans in 1980 were more likely to live in college dorms than in prison.  Now, there are 2.7 Hispanics in prison for every Hispanic in a college dorm.

Clearly, those fine minds of the US Supreme Court are correct – America has overcome its racial issues, and can now begin to dismantle the system of affirmative action.

What can offer us some insight into how this happened?  Well, in 1980, Ronald Reagan was elected, and the “Just Say No” era of the War on Drugs began.  And Drug War Facts has a handy chart which shows us the results.

In 1980, there were 10,441,000 total arrests in the United States.  Of those, 475,160 were for violent crimes, while 580,900 of those were for drug arrests.  Of the 580,900 drug arrests, 401,982 were for marijuana, with 338,664 of those for marijuana possession.

In 2006, there were 14,380,370 total arrests in the United States.  While the total arrests increased by less than four million over the last twenty-six years, drug arrests more than tripled to 1,889,810.  Marijuana arrests more than doubled to 829,627.  And still, less than one hundred thousand of the marijuana arrests were for anything more than possession.  For the fourth year in a row, marijuana possession arrests outnumbered violent crime arrests.  In 2006, 611,523 Americans were arrested for violent crimes; that same year, 738,916 Americans were arrested for marijuana possession. 

How does that impact American blacks and Hispanics?  With more good news.  In 2004, 250,900 state prisoners were serving time in prison for drug offenses.  133,100 (53.05%) of those were black.  50,100 (19.97%) were Hispanic.  24% of black and Hispanic inmates in all state prisons are there on drug offenses, compared to 14% of white inmates.  In 2001, the Department of Justice reported that between 1990 and 2000, “Overall, the increasing number of drug offenses accounted for 27% of the total growth among black inmates.”  This is despite the fact that most drug users in America, 72% of the total, are whites, with blacks making up only 15% of America’s drug users. 

And yet, blacks constitute 36.8% of those arrested for drug violations, over 42% of those in federal prisons for drug violations. African-Americans comprise almost 58% of those in state prisons for drug felonies; Hispanics account for 20.7%.

Among persons convicted of drug felonies in state courts, whites were less likely than African-Americans to be sent to prison. Thirty-three percent (33%) of convicted white defendants received a prison sentence, while 51% of African-American defendants received prison sentences. It should also be noted that Hispanic felons are included in both demographic groups rather than being tracked separately so no separate statistic is available.

So much of what we talk about regarding race in America is symbolic.  Can we get Bill O’Reilly or Don Imus off the air for a few weeks or months?  Are people singing the national anthem in Spanish?  Can we get the N-word out of rap music?  This is hundreds of thousands of minorities charged with felonies, losing their voting rights, and being imprisoned, every year, as a matter of institutional policy.

I don’t know how there can still be a question in America that the War on Drugs is in large part a war on American minorities.  I don’t know how there can still be a question that we are establishing a massive police apparatus to quixotic purpose.  And I don’t know how anyone can’t see that this issue, more than any other, is destroying the opportunities of America’s poor and minority populations.

And now the Census numbers are out, and we cannot deceive ourselves anymore about what this policy and others are doing for American minorities.  Which assures me we’ll use the other time-tested technique to shift these facts out of sight.

We’ll change the subject.

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