Friday, November 9, 2007

Pakistan: Where news is contraband

From the New York Times:

When the president of Pakistan declared emergency rule over the weekend and the government halted private television broadcasts, several networks there turned to the Internet to stream news coverage of the political crisis. One network chief explained the situation this way:

“News is a contraband item in Pakistan now, and it is being sold on the black market,” Imran Aslam, the president of Geo Television, the country’s most widely watched cable news channel, told AFP.

You can read more from Pakistani blogger Teeth Maestro, including updated news and photos of student protests in Lahore.

In case you still had any doubts that George W. Bush is clueless

Um, sir, I don't think they share your laughter right now.

H/t to Mock Paper, Scissors for the photo.

Senate confirms Mukasey as new Attorney General

Am I romanticizing history? Wasn't there a time in this country when people stood for their beliefs, and when something was blatantly morally wrong, they said so?

Waterboarding is torture. The U.S. military knows it, and bans the practice. The U.S. government knows it -- after World War II we prosecuted Japanese soldiers for waterboarding American prisoners of war.

Yet yesterday, the U.S. Senate voted to confirm a man as U.S. Attorney General who would not state that waterboarding is torture. He went as far as to call it "repugnant," but would say no more. Why couldn't he state that if confirmed, he would ban the practice in the future? The talking heads' analysis is that he doesn't want to jeopardize CIA staff who are currently using the method, but I don't buy it. All he has to do is say "from here on out, it won't be used by anyone working for the United States government."

There was a time when the United States was respected around the world as a fair and just country. A nation that truly lived the ideals of democracy. You know, with liberty and justice for all.

I am happy to say that my senators, Mikulski and Cardin, both voted against Mukasey's confirmation.

I am disgusted to report that several presidential hopefuls simply did not vote:
  • Clinton
  • Obama
  • Dodd
  • Biden
  • McCain
Six democrats and the president's BFF, Joe Lieberman, voted to confirm. See how your senator voted here.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Bush handed first veto defeat. Congress takes baby steps, baby steps.

Subhead: Congress grows a spine!

Well, it's a start. For the first time in his seven years as president, Congress today handed President Bush a defeat, overriding his veto of a $23 billion water resources bill. No, it's no Iraq war funding, but it's a start.

From AP:
[It] marked a milestone for a president who spent his first six years with a much friendlier Congress controlled by his Republican Party. Now he confronts a more hostile, Democratic-controlled legislature, and Thursday's vote showed that even many Republicans will defy him on spending matters dear to their political careers.

The bill funds hundreds of Army Corps of Engineers projects, such as dams, sewage plants and beach restoration, that are important to local communities and their representatives. It also includes money for the hurricane-hit Gulf Coast and for Florida Everglades restoration efforts.

And the children will lead us ...

Over 30 anti-war protesters at Morton West High School in Berwyn [IL] face expulsion for a demonstration at the school on Thursday.

Many thanks to my school chum Denise for sending this to me:
Over 70 students participated in a sit-in against the Iraq War on All Saint's Day, Thursday, November 1st. It began third hour when dozens of students gathered quietly in the lunchroom at Morton West High School and refused to leave. The administrators and police became involved immediately and locked down the school for a half hour after class ended. Students report that they were promised that there would be no charges besides cutting classes if they took their protest outside so as not to disturb the school day. The students complied, and were led to a corner outside the cafeteria where they sang songs and held signs while classes resumed.

Despite a police line set up between the protesters and the student body, many other students joined the demonstration. Organizers say they chose November first because it is the Christian holy day called the feast of All Saints and a national day of peace. They wrote a letter and delivered it to Superintendent, Dr. Ben Nowakowski who was present at the time, stating the reason for their protest.

Deans, counselors and even the Superintendent tried to change the minds of a few, mainly those students with higher GPA scores to abandon the protest. The school called the homes of many of the protesters. Those whose parents arrived before the end of school and took their students home, or left before the protest ended at the final bell, received 3-5 days suspension. All others, an estimated 37 received 10 days suspension and expulsion papers. Parents report that Nowakowski stated those who are seventeen will also face police charges.
Read more about the incident here and here.

To quote Arthur Silber, “Here's your minimal act of civil disobedience for today”: Sign the petition supporting the students here.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Bush to Musharraf: "the president should remove his military uniform"

What a great idea. Let's try this at home, too, shall we?

And maybe the vice president should remove his costume “uniform,” too. Especially since both Bush and Cheney were AWOL or “had other priorities” when they were called upon to serve and wear the uniform during the Vietnam War.

Meanwhile, read more about the current situation in Pakistan here and here.

Situation in Pakistan will get worse before it gets better

In 2006, The Washington Post ran this quote from President Bush about Gen. Pervez Musharraf:
“In the long run, he understands that extremists can be defeated by freedom and democracy and prosperity and better education,” Bush said of Musharraf in a joint news conference at the presidential palace.
Today, President Bush watches, powerless, as Musharraf steals every freedom from the citizens of Pakistan. No freedom of speech. No freedom of press. His police are now beating up supporters of his main opponent in the scheduled elections (which will be miraculous if they are indeed held in January as scheduled.) This is what pretending that Musharraf ever truly believed in democracy has gotten us. (He is president only because he seized power in 1999 — and has never given up his position as army chief.)

Our last hope for stability in a very unstable region is now a powderkeg.

Wednesday Poetry Break

From today's edition of The Writer's Almanac from American Public radio. I'm not familiar with this poet, but I love this poem. It reminds me a great deal of my own father, who always preferred the “blue highways” — and still does, even though he's no longer the driver ....

Pushing Back

Dad always took us
to see educational things—
dams, glass factories, paper mills,
the Smithsonian.
He would stop the car
and walk into a field
to ask a farmer
what he was planting
or have one of us
jump out and read
a historical marker out loud.
We went two hundred miles
out of our way one time
to take a guided tour
of America's largest
open pit copper mine,
and I remember
nothing about it.

But I remember the town
where the miners lived,
those grayish wooden houses
pushing back
against the mountain.
Stairs to the roofed porches sagged;
here and there, a gutter
flopped in the wind.

A girl about my age
rode a tricycle
on the sidewalk,
pedaling barefoot
with her head down,
singing as she watched
her thin legs pump
and the concrete go by.

The car windows were open,
and our eyes teared up
from the dust in the air.
My father drove slowly
and said nothing.

— David Lee Garrison

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

5 more soldiers dead. What will you do?

I don't even know where to begin this post. How can we possibly still be debating the Iraq war? Every poll of US citizens shows an overwhelming majority of us want our soldiers out of there now. Yet here's the disconnect: where are the massive protests of the 1960's against the Vietnam War? Where is the call for action from those who are polled?

The American people seem to me to feel defeated in our own home. The saber-rattling and fear-mongering of the Bush Administration has gotten to us. Sure, we could call our senators, but what's the point ...

People! The point is this:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

— That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,

That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.
This has been the deadliest year yet in Iraq, as we are soon approaching 4,000 dead. Most are killed not in battles against the enemy. Most are killed by roadside explosive devices set by local insurgents.

Call. Now.

U.S. Senate contact information

House of Representatives contact information

Of wall warts and phantom loads

While you're away from your house, electricity is slowly being sucked out through the many seemingly harmless appliances you left plugged in. Actually, the appliance itself doesn't even need to be plugged in: if you left your charger plugged in when you grabbed your cell phone this morning, it's still draining some juice from the outlet.

While one charger may not use much energy, think about all of the appliances in your home that are “off” — except that is, for the LCD clock on the front. It's not off, it's running day and night.

The power these items pull is called “phantom load,” or more derisively “wall warts.”

Before you panic and start unplugging all your appliances, Grist magazine has some helpful suggestions for lightening the phantom load:

Many of us solve this environmental and financial problem by plugging the offenders into a power strip with an on/off switch. When we are through using the appliances on a strip, we turn off the strip, which cuts the electricity to the appliances. Power strips control the electricity coming from the wall, and when they are off, the power is off to the attached equipment. Then, though the evil appliances wish to continue sucking power from the grid, they are thwarted. Trolling on the web will bring you persuasive testimonials from people who shrank their power use this way.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, around 75 percent of the energy used by our home appliances is drawn while we think they are "off." Typical offenders include microwaves, stereo equipment, televisions, chargers for cell phones or iPods and co., and all the computer equipment.
As the price of gas approaches $4 per gallon, investing in a power strip might not be such a bad idea ....

Monday, November 5, 2007

For your listening pleasure ... The Bible!

I love following links backward — I find some of the coolest things that way! Today I came across this video from Unrepentant Old Hippie. It's hysterical ....

Interrogation methods from the Spanish Inquisition. Yep, we've come a long way, baby!

H/t to Mock, Paper, Scissors for this posting image. And it's true. No one expects the Spanish Inquisition! Unless they're being held prisoner at Gitmo.

UPDATED: Islamic threat = loss of civil rights

It looks like our friend in Pakistan, President Gen. Pervez Musharraf has taken lessons from George W. Bush and Co, as the President's army has rounded up more than 500 activists, censored the media, and stated that scheduled presidential elections may need to be delayed.

U.S. Secretary of State Condaleeza Rice took a strong stand, declaring “We just have to review the situation.” Now there's some leadership for ya!

Some of the suspended rights in Pakistan under his declaration of “Emergency Law” are:

  • Protection of life and liberty.
  • The right to free movement.
  • The right of detainees to be informed of their offense and given access to lawyers.
  • Protection of property rights.
  • The right to assemble in public.
  • The right to free speech.
  • Equal rights for all citizens before law and equal legal protection.
  • Media coverage of suicide bombings and militant activity is curtailed by new rules. Broadcasters also face a three-year jail term if they "ridicule" members of the government or armed forces.

This list would be shocking, if only it weren't so familiar to Americans under the rule of Bush II.

Read more at The Huffington Post.

UPDATE: You can read first-hand accounts of the events and conditions in Pakistan at the blog All Things Pakistan:
As I wrote yesterday, the emergency declared by Gen. Musharraf is deeply disturbing, but not really surprising. The horrendous political situation that Gen. Musharraf described in his ‘Emergency’ speech is, in fact, true.

Extremism and violence has gone out of hand. Society is deeply divided. Religion has been high-jacked and is now routinely used to incite violence. The writ of the government is being trampled. Politicians have failed and people do seek recourse in the judiciary. People are frustrated and deeply disturbed. We have been writing and discussing all of this and more on this blog repeatedly. We cannot, therefore, deny what is obvious.

However, none of this is a justification for a suspension of the Constitution and for the declaration of emergency. In fact, all this is damning evidence of government failure. A suspension of the constitution will not and cannot resolve any of these issues. It is more likely to - and has already - made each of these situations even worse.

Coffee-flavored condoms: Coming to a Starbucks near you?

Here's “thinking outside of the box” all right! From The Guardian:
Doctors have long argued about the health effects of coffee, but its reputation seems likely to receive a boost thanks to a flavoured condom that aims to encourage safer sex in Ethiopia.

Around 300,000 of the coffee condoms were sold in a week when they were launched in September, according to the US charity DKT International.

It hopes to tap into Ethiopia's coffee mania as a means to tackle high rates of HIV in the country, which is said to have invented the drink.

I think this is brilliant. AIDS is a growing problem is Africa; in Ethiopia, 2.1% of citizens are infected, and in the capital of Addis Ababa the infection rate is more than 7%.

With more than a millions Americans infected with HIV/AIDS, should we be giggling at efforts such as this, or encouraging them here at home? Even Jenna Bush admits that abstinence programs don't work.