Friday, August 10, 2007

Bush Rejects Gas Tax To Fund Bridge Repair, Decries Hill Spending

Of course he rejects a gas tax. Look at what he's driving around Maine! How many mpg's do you think these engines get?

Or how about this one?

By the way, how many boats does he have, anyway?

Americans agree: We have a moral obligation to help

Last month, The ONE Campaign enlisted the help of Peter D. Hart Research Associates and McLaughlin and Associates to conduct a bipartisan survey of likely Democratic and Republican New Hampshire primary voters. ONE will release the full results this afternoon, but as an exclusive to our ONE Blog readers, some key findings are below.

  • Nearly all Democrats (97%) and 70% of Republicans agree that America's standing has suffered in recent years. In addition to a strong military, Democrats (91%) and Republicans (78%) agree that the United States also needs to improve diplomatic relations by doing more to help improve health, education and opportunities in the poorest countries around the world. Both Democrats (81%) and Republicans alike (70%) agree that reducing poverty, treating preventable diseases and improving education in poor countries around the world will help make the world safer and the United States more secure.

  • Democrats and Republicans agree that America has a moral obligation as a compassionate nation to help the world's poorest people through foreign assistance. More than nine in ten Democrats (93%) and 84% of Republicans agree that when millions of children around the world are dying from preventable diseases and hunger, we have a moral obligation to do what we can to help. Similarly, Democrats (90%) and Republicans (85%) agree that it is in keeping with the country's values and our history of compassion to lead an effort to solve some of the most serious problems facing the world's poorest people.

  • When it comes to addressing these issues, Democrats (86%) and Republicans (67%) agree that it is important for Presidential candidates to discuss their plans for addressing global hunger and poverty issues in this campaign. Additionally, eight in ten Democrats (81%) and Republicans (80%) agree that the next president should keep the commitments made by President Bush to prevent and fight the spread of AIDS in Africa.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Suicide bombers in Iraq are mostly foreigners

From the McClatchy News Service:

WASHINGTON — Suicide bombers in Iraq are overwhelmingly foreigners bent on destabilizing the government and undermining American interests there, two independent studies have concluded.

The studies report that the number of suicide bombings in Iraq has now surpassed those conducted worldwide since the early 1980s. The findings suggest that extremists from throughout the region and around the world are fueling Iraq's violence.

“The war on terrorism — and certainly the war in Iraq — has failed in decreasing the number of suicide attacks and has really radicalized the Muslim world to create this concept of martyrs without borders,” said Mohammed Hafez, a visiting professor at the University of Missouri in Kansas City and the author of one of the two studies.

Hafez, whose new book is “Suicide Bombers in Iraq,” has identified the nationalities of 124 bombers who attacked in Iraq. Of those, the largest number — 53 — were Saudis. Eight apiece came from Italy and Syria, seven from Kuwait, four from Jordan and two each from Belgium, France and Spain. Others came from North and East Africa, South Asia and various Middle Eastern and European countries. Only 18 — 15 percent — were Iraqis.

Read more here.

Bob Allen: Better to be racist than gay

Remember Florida state representative Bob Allen? He's the man who was arrested in a Florida park after soliciting an undercover policeman. Oh yeah, and he was also co-chairman of John McCain’s presidential campaign in Florida.

Well, turns out that Bob only offered to, uh, “service” the policeman (for $20) because he feared for his life. You see, the cop was black, and there were other black men in the park. He was sceeered!

I know whenever I find myself near “dangerous” individuals, my first thought is: maybe they won't hurt me if I offer oral sex.

You can see and hear it for yourself here.

Lamest excuse, ever.

Abu Ghraib whistleblower fears for his life

I'm fortunate that the local public radio station carries the BBC News Hour in the afternoons during my commute home. Fortunate, because they often cover stories that the American media ignores. Such is one they have covered this week. Please read the following story from the BBC News:

Abu Ghraib whistleblower's ordeal

The US soldier who exposed the abuse of Iraqi prisoners in Abu Ghraib prison found himself a marked man after his anonymity was blown in the most astonishing way by Donald Rumsfeld.

When Joe Darby saw the horrific photos of abuse at Abu Ghraib prison he was stunned.

So stunned that he walked out into the hot Baghdad night and smoked half a dozen cigarettes and agonised over what he should do.

Joe Darby was a reserve soldier with US forces at Abu Ghraib prison when he stumbled across those images which would eventually shock the world in 2004.

They were photographs of his colleagues, some of them men and women he had known since high school — torturing and abusing Iraqi prisoners.

His decision to hand them over rather than keep quiet changed his life forever.

The military policeman has only been allowed to talk about that struggle very recently, and in his first UK interview, for BBC Radio 4's The Choice, he told Michael Buerk how he made that decision and how he fears for the safety of his family.

Read the rest here, including:

And then he was sitting in a crowded Iraqi canteen with hundreds of soldiers and Donald Rumsfeld came on the television to thank Joe Darby by name for handing in the photographs.


“I really find it hard to believe that the secretary of defence of the United States has no idea about the star witness for a criminal case being anonymous.”

Rather than turn on him for betraying colleagues, most of the soldiers in his unit shook his hand. It was at home where the real trouble started.

Romney boys serve their country by driving a Winnebago

From the Associated Press:

Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney on Wednesday defended his five sons' decision not to enlist in the military, saying they're showing their support for the country by “helping me get elected.”

Romney, who did not serve in Vietnam due to his Mormon missionary work and a high draft lottery number, was asked the question by an anti-war activist after a speech in which he called for “a surge of support” for U.S. forces in Iraq.


Romney's five sons range in age from 37 to 26 and have worked as real estate developers, sports marketers and advertising executives. They are now actively campaigning for their father and have a “Five Brothers” blog on Romney's campaign Web site.

Romney noted that his middle son, 36-year-old Josh, was completing a recreational vehicle tour of all 99 Iowa counties on Wednesday and said, “I respect that and respect all those and the way they serve this great country.”

The woman who asked the question, Rachel Griffiths, 41, of Milan, Ill., identified herself as a member of Quad City Progressive Action for the Common Good, as well as the sister of an Army major who had served in Iraq.

“Of course not,” Griffiths said when asked if she was satisfied with Romney's answer. “He told me the way his son shows support for our military and our nation is to buy a Winnebago and ride across Iowa and help him get elected.”

Read the rest of the story here.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Sir, You'll have to remove your shoes ... and your monkey

Man Smuggles Monkey Into NYC Airport

NEW YORK (AP) - A man smuggled a monkey onto an airplane Tuesday, stashing the furry fist-size primate under his hat until passengers spotted it perched on his ponytail, an airline official said.

The monkey escapade began in Lima, Peru, late Monday, when the man boarded a flight to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., said Spirit Airlines spokeswoman Alison Russell. After landing Tuesday morning, the man waited several hours before catching a connecting flight to LaGuardia Airport.

During the flight, people around the man noticed that the marmoset, which normally lives in forests and eats fruit and insects, had emerged from underneath his hat, Russell said.

“Other passengers asked the man if he knew he had a monkey on him,” she said.

The monkey spent the remainder of the flight in the man's seat and behaved well, said Russell, who didn't know how it skirted customs and security.

Airport police were waiting for the man and his monkey when the plane landed about 3 p.m., and the man was taken away for questioning. It was unclear whether he would face any criminal charges.

The city's animal control agency said the monkey appeared healthy. But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was planning to take it for disease testing and keep it quarantined for 31 days, CDC spokesman Tom Skinner said.

If the monkey is healthy, it could wind up in a zoo.

“It is kind of a spirited monkey,” Russell said. “That will be the nickname of the monkey: Spirit.”

Wednesday Poetry Break: Keats

Endymion (extract)

A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:
Its loveliness increases, it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.
Therefore, on every morrow, are we wreathing
A flowery band to bind us to the earth,
Spite of despondence, of the inhuman dearth
Of noble natures, of the gloomy days,
Of all the unhealthy and o'er—darkened ways
Made of our searching; yes, in spite of all
Some shape of beauty moves away the pall
From our dark spirits.

— John Keats

Barry Bonds* breaks home run record, does anyone care?

I'm sorry if I sound jaded, but as a long-suffering Baltimore Orioles fan, I've become more and more disenchanted with major league baseball. Those in charge allowed steroid use to run rampant throughout teams for most of the 1980s and late '90s, and now I'm supposed to care that one of these juiced-up players hit more home runs than Hank Aaron?

Hank Aaron is a class act, and as far as I'm concerned, that record still belongs to him.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

A history lesson from Teddy Roosevelt

The world of politics is fluid. Though it's hard to see a way out from the current atmosphere of unprecedented power-grabbing by the Bush-Cheney Administration, remember that things do change. There will come a more sane time in the world, when historians will look back on this period in our history and say, “WTF?”

So I found Garrison Keillor's essay this morning on The Writer's Almanac quite interesting, as it gave a brief summary of a time of major change in American politics that I had forgotten about. Please read, and enjoy:

It was on this day in 1912 that Teddy Roosevelt was nominated by the Progressive Party to run for President, an election that went on to define the Republican Party for the rest of the 20th Century.

Republicans had dominated politics ever since the Civil War. A Republican had been in the White House for 44 of the previous 52 years. They were the party of civil rights and, under the presidency of Teddy Roosevelt, the Republican Party became the party of environmental conservation, antitrust laws, and consumer protection.

Teddy Roosevelt was one of the most popular presidents in history, the youngest too. He was 42 when he took office. He was the first president to ride in an automobile and in an airplane, and the first to visit a foreign country while in office. He was a naturalist. He was an author of history. He published almost 50 books (books by this author).

After he'd served two terms, he announced that he would not seek a third term. He handpicked his successor, William Howard Taft, and then went off on an African safari. But when he got back, Teddy Roosevelt found that Taft had moved away from progressive principles and aligned himself with the conservative wing of the Republican Party.

Teddy Roosevelt ran against Taft in the primaries, won the primary in Taft's home state of Ohio, but eventually it was party insiders who picked the nominee, and they gave it to Taft. And so Roosevelt called for the creation of a new progressive party and accepted its nomination on this day in 1912. It was nicknamed the Bull Moose Party because Roosevelt said, “I am as strong as a bull moose, and you can use me to the limit.”

He was in a three-way race with Taft and Woodrow Wilson, campaigning on a platform that called for income taxes, inheritance taxes, the eight-hour workday, and voting rights for women. He drew huge crowds wherever he went. In Milwaukee, October 14, 1912, on the way to give his speech, he was shot by a man six feet away, the bullet deflected by the speech in his pocket, along with a metal eyeglasses case. Roosevelt went on to give the speech, but Woodrow Wilson won the election. Despite Roosevelt making the best showing of any third party candidate in American history. He came in second.

And one of the results of his Progressive Party campaign was splitting the Republican Party between conservatives and progressives, and the progressives have never been in charge since.

Groundbreaking news:
Equity for organic farmers

Before going on the August break, the House of Representatives approved the 2007 Farm Bill, which includes more than $300 million for organic agriculture.

Also included in the bill is a major revision to the crop insurance rates required of organic farmers, which has been higher than for non-organics. From a press release put out by the Organic Trade Association:

In addition to the funding, the House of Representatives also directed the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation to provide equitable crop insurance to organic producers. Currently, organic producers pay a 5% surcharge, and if losses occur, they are paid at the conventional, not the organic, price.
Non-organic farmers do not have to pay the 5% surcharge. Why do the organics? Do they have different droughts? Floods? They deal with pests, just without chemicals.

This would be a big help in bringing down the price of organic foods. Please contact your US Senators' office and request that they support this provision of the 2007 Farm bill.

  1. Organic products meet stringent standards
  2. Organic food tastes great!
  3. Organic production reduces health risks
  4. Organic farms respect our water resources
  5. Organic farmers build healthy soil
  6. Organic farmers work in harmony with nature
  7. Organic producers are leaders in innovative research
  8. Organic producers strive to preserve diversity
  9. Organic farming helps keep rural communities healthy
  10. Organic abundance – Foods and non-foods alike!

Monday, August 6, 2007

Some good news

I do like to give credit when politicians do good things. My Congressman, John Sarbanes, has introduced legislation called the “No Child left Inside” bill which calls for stronger environmental and outdoor education.

Mr. Sarbanes, a father of three, said spending time outside is “absolutely critical” to the intellectual, emotional and physical health of children, as well as their self-esteem and sense of responsibility. “If we get our kids out into nature, it's going to be good for them.”
Read more here.

If you haven't already read the book “Last Child in the Woods,” I heartily recommend it. The author, Richard Louv, coins a term “nature-deficit disorder,” which he goes to great lengths to make clear is not an official diagnosis.

But he does argue that children are shortchanged when they don't have a chance to play outside and discover nature firsthand. Teachers and environmentalists have known this for quite some time.

From one review of the book:

... a 2002 British study reported that eight-year-olds could identify Pokémon characters far more easily than they could name “otter, beetle, and oak tree.”

“I like to play indoors better ’cause that’s where all the electrical outlets are,” reports a fourth grader. But it’s not only computers, television, and video games that are keeping kids inside. It’s also their parents’ fears of traffic, strangers, Lyme disease, and West Nile virus; their schools’ emphasis on more and more homework; their structured schedules; and their lack of access to natural areas. Local governments, neighborhood associations, and even organizations devoted to the outdoors are placing legal and regulatory constraints on many wild spaces, sometimes making natural play a crime.

In “Last Child in the Woods,” Louv talks with parents, children, teachers, scientists, religious leaders, child-development researchers, and environmentalists who recognize the threat and offer solutions. Louv shows us an alternative future, one in which parents help their kids experience the natural world more deeply—and find the joy of family connectedness in the process.

Meanwhile, who's building the new US embassy in Baghdad?

Why, illegal immigrants, of course! Reporting from the Iraq Updates news service states:

More than 100 illegal Indian migrant workers are constructing the biggest and most expensive US embassy in the world in strife-torn Baghdad.

The US plans to open its “Vatican-sized” diplomatic enclave in Baghdad by September this year, and workers from the central Indian province of Andhra Pradesh are now racing against time to meet the deadline.


Since the UAE, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries are tightening their immigration rules, unskilled labourers from backward districts now prefer strife-torn Iraq for jobs.

Since they are shipped to the bunkers by US military aircraft, visa and immigration rules are relaxed and the workers are free to stay as long as they wish.

Well, it is the American, way, isn't it?

Power cuts worsen as Iraqi grid nears collapse

Yet more proof why western efforts to create a sense of “nation” out of the historically soverign peoples of Iraq will not work. From the Guardian UK:

Iraq's power grid is on the brink of collapse because of insurgent sabotage, rising demand, fuel shortages and provinces that are unplugging local power stations from the national grid, according to officials.

Aziz al-Shimari, an electricity ministry spokesman, said at the weekend that power generation nationally was only meeting half the demand, and there had been four nationwide blackouts over the past two days. The shortages across the country were the worst since the summer of 2003, shortly after the US-led invasion to topple Saddam Hussein, he added.


“We wait for the sunset to enjoy some coolness,” said Qassim Hussein, a 31-year-old labourer in Kerbala. “The people are fed up. There is no water, no electricity, there is nothing but death. I've even had more trouble with my wife these last three days. Everybody is on edge.”


Iraq has the world's third-largest proven oil reserves, behind Saudi Arabia and Iran. But oil production has been hampered by insurgent and saboteur attacks, ranging rom bombing pipelines to siphoning off oil. The attacks have cost the country billions of dollars since the 2003 US invasion. Dilapidated infrastructure has also hindered refining, forcing Iraq to import large amounts of kerosene and other oil products.

Please read the entire story here.

Half of small arms given by US to Iraqis unaccounted for

From The Raw Story:

The United States has spent about 19.2 billion dollars since the beginning of the war to stand up Iraqi security forces that are supposed to gradually replace US troops in providing security for the country.

This total, according to the GAO, included at least 2.8 billion used to purchase and transport weapons and other military equipment necessary to improve the Iraqi arsenal.

Part of the money was used to purchase and distribute to Iraqis by September of 2005 about 185,000 Soviet-designed AK-47 assault rifles and 170,000 pistols.

But now, the Department of Defense “cannot fully account” for at least 190,000 of these weapons, or more than 50 percent of the total, the report said.

Also missing were 135,000 items of body armor out of a total of 215,000, despite the fact that even some US soldiers lacked this life-saving equipment, particularly in the early stages of the war.

No water, 1 hour of electricity, stifling heat:
Life in Baghdad (for civillians)

A lot of the right-wingnuts assumed that the reports of no water in Baghdad were false. I've noticed that happens a lot when the first people to break a story like this one are the alternative news sources, rather than the mainstream media.

So, in order to demonstrate the veracity of this news story, here are a variety of news sources now reporting on the lack of water in 117 degree heat in Baghdad. (Most seem to be pulling from AP news reports. I'll keep looking for updates.)

Baghdad Without Running Water for Over a Day — Fox News

Residents and city officials said large sections in the west of the capital had been virtually dry for six days because the already strained electricity grid cannot provide sufficient power to run water purification and pumping stations.

Much of the Iraqi capital was without running water Thursday and had been for at least 24 hours, compounding the urban misery in a war zone and the blistering heat at the height of the Baghdad summer.

And from March 2007:

Even before the Iraq war began in 2003, millions of people were struggling with broken pipes and faulty systems. But since then, Iraq’s water problems have multiplied.

In the chaotic aftermath of the initial conflict, Iraq’s main pumping stations and water-treatment plants were stripped of vital equipment by looters. Acts of sabotage damaged infrastructure even further. Municipal water became dirty and contaminated – exposing children to dangerous and health-sapping waterborne diseases.