Friday, December 21, 2007

(Equal time) Friday kitten blogging

funny pictures

Friday puppy blogging

I'll be doing only light posting in the next week, but that's probably o.k., because hopefully you'll be doing only light blog reading, spending more time with family friends over the holidays. There's plenty of death and destruction and just aggravating news to write about, and I'm sure I will do so. But for now, here's a "positive" story on which to end the week.
Dog's Warning Saves Woman From Fire

EAGAN, Minn. (AP) - Woman's best friend? A dog who saves her from a fire. Cathy Minnig was exercising on her basement treadmill Wednesday night, wearing music headphones, when her Labrador puppy, Riley, began jumping on and off the couch and otherwise acting strange.

Fire Chief Mike Scott said Minnig took off her headphones to hear fire alarms. She ran upstairs to find her living room engulfed in flames. Minnig grabbed the dog and ran outside, Scott said.

Both woman and dog were OK. Minnig's two sons weren't home at the time.

Scott said Minnig wouldn't have made it out in time without the dog's warning. The house was a total loss. He said the fire appeared to have started near the family Christmas tree.
Well done, Riley, well done.

Today's edition of the lying liars and the lies they tell: Mitt Romney

Why is everything said in the public arena so nuanced? It used to be, if you said that someone did something, you meant they did something. If I said I went for a walk, it meant I ... went for a walk.

Now comes Mitt Romney's description of his father's actions. In an effort to soften the image held by some in the public of the Morman church as racist, Romney recently said this: "My dad marched with Martin Luther King."

Not to be the grammar police, but that is a very simple sentence that states a clear fact. Romney's father marched with Martin Luther King. How could it mean anything else?

Well, after reporters began looking into the timing and location of when this "march" might have happened, things got a little ugly. From the Detroit Free Press:
Romney's campaign cited various historical articles, as well as a 1967 book written by Stephen Hess and Washington Post political columnist David Broder, as confirmation that George Romney marched with King in Grosse Pointe in 1963.

"He has marched with Martin Luther King through the exclusive Grosse Pointe suburb," Hess and Broder wrote in "The Republican Establishment: The Present and Future of the GOP."

Free Press archives, however, showed no record of King marching in Grosse Pointe in 1963 or of then-Gov. Romney taking part in King's historic march down Woodward Avenue in June of that year.

George Romney told the Free Press at the time that he didn't take part because it was on a Sunday and he avoided public appearances on the Sabbath because of his religion.

Romney did participate in a civil rights march protesting housing bias in Grosse Pointe just six days after the King march. According to the Free Press account, however, King was not there.

So now that the facts are out, Romney has a new explanation:
On Wednesday, Romney's campaign said his recollections of watching his father, an ardent civil rights supporter, march with King were meant to be figurative.

"He was speaking figuratively, not literally," Eric Fehrnstrom, spokesman for the Romney campaign, said of the candidate.
Just to be clear, the Oxford English Dictionary definition of figurative:
adjective: not using words literally; metaphorical.
So Romney's description, "My dad marched with Martin Luther King," really means "My dad was like others who marched with Martin Luther King." And I'm sorry, but sounds an awful like "This washer comes with a lifetime guarantee," which in "figurative" speak means "We'll repair this thing once, but not forever." In other words, misleading if not downright dishonest.

I know it's asking a lot for politicians to be honest, but could they just not abuse the English language when they lie? When something is figurative, it means it represents something else. When you say someone took an action, it means they took that actions, not that they took an action similar to the one you stated. Otherwise, if I said I went for a walk, I could mean I though about going for a walk .... which is not at all the same thing.

I need some fresh air. I'm going for a walk. really.

UPDATE: I think when you have to parse your sentences on the campaign trail, it's time to jump the shark. From MSNBC:

"The reference of seeing my father lead in civil rights," he said, "and seeing my father march with Martin Luther King is in the sense of this figurative awareness of and recognition of his leadership."

"I've tried to be as accurate as I can be," he continued, smiling firmly. "If you look at the literature or look at the dictionary, the term 'saw' includes being aware of -- in the sense I've described."

The questioning did not relent. "I'm an English literature major," he insisted at one point. "When we say I saw the Patriots win the World Series, it doesn't necessarily mean you were there." (He meant the Super Bowl, of course.)

Stunningly inept, even for George W. Bush

In an astounding display of stupidity and ineptitude, in 2006 President Bush responded to questions about the lack of legal oversight of government contractors such as KBR Haliburton with jokes and laughter.

Somehow I don't think that Jamie Leigh Jones, who was brutally raped by her KBR co-workers, finds any of this funny, Mr. President.

You can read more at The Raw Story.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Oxymoron of the day: "Department of Justice"

Perhaps someday the U.S. Department of Justice will in fact stand up for ... um, justice. But it didn't yesterday. From Firedoglake:
An extraordinarily brave Jamie Leigh Jones testified before the House Judiciary Committee today. Not-so-brave was the Justice Department -- they were supposed to send a representative, but none showed up.

Jamie Leigh:

"He handed me the drink and said 'don't worry, I saved all my Roofies for Dubai," or words very similar to that. I thought he was joking and felt safe with my co-workers. I believed that we were all on the same team. I took two sips from the drink and don't remember anything after that."

It really is consistent with a larger narrative -- we're not all on the same team. "We" are supposedly fighting terrorists, or weapons of mass destruction, or the evil-doers, or whatever they're packaging it as today, but in the end the corporate cons are just out for the corporate cons and everybody else is just supposed to pay the freight. There really is no "we."

Read the rest here. Below is video of Jamie Leigh, who did bother to show up to testify before Congress. It is painful, but important, to watch.

He needs a gun ... why?

In my ongoing quest to understand why any citizen needs to have handguns or semi-automatic weapons, I give you a good case against owning them:
Union Bridge Man Sentenced for Firing AK-47 to Silence Dogs

FREDERICK, Md. (AP) - A Union Bridge man has acknowledged in court making a bad decision when he fired his AK-47 earlier this year because of his neighbor's barking dogs.

Forty-five-year-old Dennis Kolb pleaded guilty to reckless endangerment Wednesday after telling the judge he screwed up. He was sentenced to one year in prison at his trial in Frederick County Circuit Court.

No one was injured by the gunfire.

On April 28, Kolb said barking dogs were keeping him from sleeping. So he went outside - while intoxicated - with his AK-47 assault rifle and fired multiple shots into the air.

Part Two: She needs a gun ... why?

In all fairness, it's not just the men. From CP24:

He wanted her to turn up the heat - so she shot his big screen TV.

That, in essence, sums up a bizarre case unfolding in a place called Washington Township, Michigan, about 40 kilometres from Detroit, after police were called to a bizarre domestic dispute in a home over the weekend. The argument apparently began when 65-year-old Joseph Grucz asked his spouse Cheryl to make the house a little bit warmer.

It's still not entirely clear why the request enraged the 61-year-old so much, but cops allege she picked up a pistol and fired at him as he cowered behind a pillow. The shot didn't hit him, but careened off in a different direction and put a bullet hole in their plasma TV.

Grucz then fled downstairs and dialed 911. "My wife's got a gun. She's shooting at me," he breathlessly told the operator as he outlined his request for more heat. "She's all excited about it because she's so cheap."

At that point, an already crazy confrontation became almost farcical, as his wife picked up the extension to give her side of the story. "I'm not going to hurt him. He has pushed me over the edge, that was all," she told the startled official. "He has had a stroke, and he's taking it all out on me."

"No I'm not," he defended.

"Yes, he is," she snapped back.

In the end, the heat was put on the wife, who was arrested on a charge of assault with intent to do great bodily harm. She could face up to 10 years in prison and even more on the weapon counts that have also been laid against her. She's been ordered to take part in a domestic violence program and was freed on $50,000 bail. But there's no word if she's gone back home to her husband and his now shattered TV set.

The stories behind more war tragedies: Exporting domestic violence

What follows is the particularly disturbing story of three young American servicemen and women: two female sailors were killed in "non-hostile" fire in October. At the time, I was at home recovering from surgery, so maybe I wasn't following the news enough, but I don't remember this story being reported. If anyone else does, please let me know. Most of the initial coverage came from overseas news sources, and there has been very little reported since the killings occurred. There are several details about this story which make me suspicious about the lack of news coverage. From the [Bahrain] Gulf Daily News:
Anamarie Sannicolas Camacho, 20, and her colleague Genesia Mattril Gresham,19, were shot dead at the Naval Support Activity Base, Juffair, at around 5am on October 22.

Their alleged killer, fellow serviceman Clarence Jackson, 20, is still clinging to life after apparently shooting himself in the head immediately after the murders.

He is now at the National Naval Medical Centre in Bethesda, Maryland, US, after being transferred to the US from a specialist hospital in Germany. . . .

[Camacho's mother, Jovie] Paulino, who served in the US Air Force for six years, is also angry at the way the navy have handled the shooting.

"I had entrusted my daughter to the navy when she joined and this is what has happened, I just don't understand," she said. "I was in the military and right now I feel so angry and disappointed. She put her life on the line for our freedom and the only thing they should do (in return) is protect her."

Her comments echo that of Ms Gresham's mother Anita, who earlier blamed officials for leaving her daughter exposed to danger from a man she said turned nasty when she tried to cool their "casual" relationship.

Ms Gresham revealed Jackson had a restraining order against him and had been on suicide watch, after he allegedly attacked Miss Gresham less than four months ago.

She was also angry that Jackson was allowed to carry a gun after his alleged attack on her daughter and that officials were not telling her what happened in the run-up to the killings.
The last report I can find about Jackson states that he is in critical condition at Bethesda Naval Hospital, but is not expected to survive.

Approximately 20% of American casualties in the Iraq War effort are attributed to "non-combat" reasons. Some argue that these types of deaths should not be included in the same category as those who die in combat. I disagree. These two women enlisted in the military, and were killed while serving. By not protecting them from Jackson, the American military might as well have sent them into combat, unarmed.

Jackson previously made threats against Gresham and was ordered to stay away from her. However, as part of the security detail, Jackson was authorized to carry a gun while on duty, which he apparently was at the time of the shooting. Camacho and Gresham were also part of the security detail and each held the rank of master at arms; however, they were off duty at the time of the shooting, and therefore unarmed. According to details of the event, Jackson knocked on their door, immediately shooting both women when the door was opened. There was a great deal of tension on the base following the incident. From Stars and Stripes:
The shooting shocked those stationed on this important Navy base located on this tiny island Persian Gulf nation. But some sources say there were warning signs before the shooting occurred.

Jackson and Gresham had a volatile relationship, sources said. He had made threats against her in the past, was punished for it and ordered to stay away from her. Sources who would only speak on the condition of anonymity said Jackson had just gotten off restriction when he allegedly shot Camacho and Gresham.
Here are their stories.

Anamarie Sannicolas Camacho, 20

Ms Camacho, 20, from Panama City, Florida, joined the US Navy in June last year, because she could not afford to go to college, her heartbroken mother has revealed.

[Her mother] said her daughter knew that going to college would be too expensive, so she joined the navy after graduating from school, so she could fulfill her dream of obtaining a degree.

"She always had big smiles," she said, "She was an individual who was filled with energy."

Genesia Mattril Gresham, 19

From the Gulf Daily News:

Ms Gresham's mother Anita paid a poignant tribute to her 19-year-old daughter yesterday.

She confirmed that Ms Gresham had a casual relationship with Jackson and that he turned nasty after she tried to cool it.

The mother dismissed as untrue reports that the victims were lesbian lovers.

"My daughter, who was affectionately known to her friends and family as Snowflake, was a wonderful person."

I don't know why the mother felt compelled to refer to rumors of a lesbian relationship; I haven't come across this in any of the stories I've found online. It is true, however, that details about these two women have been very scarce, and details about the shooter, Jackson, are just about non-existent. Whether there was a lesbian relationship or not, the women were shot by Gresham's former boyfriend, and as noted by the Daily Kos in an October tribute to these two women:
Every day four women die in this country as a result of domestic violence, the euphemism for murders and assaults by husbands and boyfriends. That's approximately 1,400 women a year, according to the FBI. (link)

Banned by BBC1: Fairytale of New York

Here's my answer to Bill O'Reilly's alleged "war on Christmas." Definitely not your mother's Christmas carol, but I love the Pogues. But now comes word that the BBC has announced that it will be censoring "Fairytale of New York" on its BBC 1 channel because the song uses the word faggot. This, my friends is an attack on Christmas. Enjoy this lovely tune that tells the tale of "merry effin' Christmas" (probably NSFW):


I love my dad. Yesterday I drove my parents to a doctors appointment, and on the way back we passed a house whose front yard that looked very much like this one:

As we passed by, my father -- who only goes to church with my mom so she isn't driving alone, -- shook his head and said, "What would Jesus say?"

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Early poetry break

Today's poetry break comes a day early, as I don't think I'll be able to post tomorrow -- family duties call.

On the recommendation of a friend, I've been reading a fascinating book entitled The Peabody Sisters: Three Women Who Ignited American Romanticism. It's fascinating because I'm learning a great deal more about the Transcendentalist movement of the 1800s. We all know bits and pieces, I think. You know Henry David Thoreau and Walden Pond, you know Ralph Waldo Emerson. But this (quite long) book looks at three women who were integral to the success of that movement, and it is a very interesting look at the life of women at the time. Elizabeth Palmer Peabody did many things in her lifetime, but one of the most important was to work as an editor and bookseller, ensuring that the works of those mentioned above as well as Nathaniel Hawthorn and Margaret Fuller were published. So thank Elizabeth Palmer Peabody for giving us the poem below, which still rings true today. Enjoy!

Men Say They Know Many Things

Men say they know many things;
But lo! they have taken wings, —
The arts and sciences,
And a thousand appliances;
The wind that blows
Is all that any body knows.

— by Henry David Thoreau

Does God want Mike Huckabee to win in Iowa?

Um, doesn't God have better things to be doing than powering the "surge" in Mike Huckabee's campaign? Not according to the Huckster. Watch it yourself (prepare to be majorly creeped out).

NEWSFLASH! Double standards in America: Women work harder to reach same goals

Yesterday I was part of an interesting discussion thread over at Shakespeare's Sister. The topic of discussion was, basically, whether Hillary Clinton has had the same opportunities as her male counterparts (Bill Clinton included). Most commenters agreed that, no matter what you think of Hillary's Clinton's politics, she is breaking new ground for women as the first "electable" female presidential candidate. There was, however, one commenter who was determined to yank everyone's chain. He certainly yanked mine, and I thought about the discussion for most of last evening.

In retrospect, I think Mr Negative, as I shall call him, served a purpose. He argued that Hillary Clinton, although a woman, comes from a comfortable background and was able to attend law school and work for organizations because she was a woman in the sixties. He said: "Bull@#&!, Hillary came into law and politics when political correctness was at a high point ... Look at her resume, everything she got was handed to her on a silver platter..."

Is that why some people have such a gut reaction to Hillary Clinton -- they view her as privileged? If that is the case, I am even more astonished at the double standards of this country than ever before. Compare Hillary's Clinton's resume to, oh I don't know, let's say the current president, George W. Bush.

Hillary Clinton
1947, born Chicago, Illinois, grew up in Park Ridge, Illinois, attended public schools
(father operated a small textile business, mother was a homemaker)
1965 National Merit Scholar Finalist
1969, graduated from Wellesley College with departmental honors
1973, graduated from Yale University with Law Degree
(worked on the Yale Review of Law and Social Action)
She began a year of post-graduate study on children and medicine at the Yale Child Study Center.[45] Her first scholarly paper, "Children Under the Law", was published in the Harvard Educational Review in late 1973[46] and became frequently cited in the field." wk
1973 Staff attorney for Children's Defense Fund
During 1974 she was a member of the impeachment inquiry staff in Washington, D.C., advising the House Committee on the Judiciary during the Watergate scandal.[49][50] Under the guidance of Chief Counsel John Doar and senior member Bernard Nussbaum,[32] Rodham helped research procedures of impeachment and the historical grounds and standards for impeachment.[50] The committee's work culminated in the resignation of President Richard Nixon in August 1974.[50] wk
1974, became faculty member at University of Arkansas, Fayetteville School of Law
1977, co-founded Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families
1977, became the first woman to be made a full partner of Rose Law Firm

George W. Bush
1946, born in New Haven Conn., grew up in Midland and Houston Texas
(grandfather was a U.S. senator from Connecticut, father oil executive in Texas, mother a homemaker)
Attended private school, Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts
1968 graduated from Yale University (his grandfather's and father's alma mater)
(was president of secret Skulls & Bones Society)
1968 accepted in Air National Guard
(despite scoring in the 25th percentile[21][22] on the pilot's written aptitude test, which was the lowest acceptable passing grade.[23]) wk
1970 applied to Univ. of Texas Law school, was rejected
1972 transfered to Alabama Air Guard to work on a Republican campaign
1973 left Texas National Guard 8 months early to attend Harvard Business School
1975 graduated Harvard with MBA
1976 arrested for DUI
1977 began career in the Texas oil industry

Compare where these two individuals came from, what they did during these crucial years in their lives, and where they are at this point in their lives. It seems clear to me who has had a privileged life and who has had to work for their successes in life. I have not heard Hillary Clinton "play the sexism card" as Mr. Negative claimed. I have only seen her working forward on social issues important to her.

Say what you will about her stands on the issues, but Hillary Rodham Clinton will probably be the first woman president of the United States of America, and she will have earned every right to that title.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Today's Huckabee alert: Son is a dog strangling airline terrorist

The latest edition of Newsweek reports that Mike Huckabee's son could be, uh, shall we say, a negative. In the article "A Son’s Past Deeds Come Back To Bite Huckabee," Newsweek reports on
allegations that one of his sons was involved in the hanging of a stray dog at a Boy Scout camp in 1998. The incident led to the dismissal of David Huckabee, then 17, from his job as a counselor at Camp Pioneer in Hatfield, Ark.
But wait -- there's more! Apparently the Huckster leaned on authorities who were investigating the charges, successfully getting them to drop the investigation despite several witness accounts.
It also prompted the local prosecuting attorney— bombarded with complaints generated by a national animal-rights group—to write a letter to the Arkansas state police seeking help investigating whether David and another teenager had violated state animal-cruelty laws. The state police never granted the request, and no charges were ever filed. But John Bailey, then the director of Arkansas's state police, tells NEWSWEEK that Governor Huckabee's chief of staff and personal lawyer both leaned on him to write a letter officially denying the local prosecutor's request. Bailey, a career officer who had been appointed chief by Huckabee's Democratic predecessor, said he viewed the lawyer's intervention as improper and terminated the conversation. Seven months later, he was called into Huckabee's office and fired. "I've lost confidence in your ability to do your job," Bailey says Huckabee told him. One reason Huckabee cited was "I couldn't get you to help me with my son when I had that problem," according to Bailey.
Huckabee Junior's most recent troubles were in April of this year, when he attempted to take a 40-caliber Glock pistol in his black carry-on bag, along with 8 live rounds in the gun and a nine-round clip in the bag onto a plane. Mike Huckabee himself explained that his son:
grabbed the bag on the way to the airport and didn't realize the gun was inside
And come on now, who hasn't done that?

Time for the Wal-Mart talk: Rolling back reality

I went to a holiday party last evening (actually, it was the annual celebration of Beethoven's birthday), and was immediately face to face with "The Wal-Mart Discussion." Sometimes you don't see it coming, and this was one of them. Most of my friends are very liberal (surprise, surprise, I know!), so I am always shocked to hear that any of them would throw out their values to save a buck.

But I had barely taken a sip of my first glass of wine when a friend -- really she's a friend of a friend -- announced that she had just spent the day at the "new Wal-Mart Super Center and it was fabulous!" I nearly choked on my Cabernet. Rather than get into a nasty argument, my sweetie and I simply said "we don't shop at Wal-Mart, because those low prices come at too high a cost to society." The friend acted surprised at this news, which is fairly unbelievable given the crowd she runs with. So methinks she was trying to cause some drama -- do you have friends like that? But in the small chance that she -- or anyone else -- does not know the truth behind the "fabulous" Wal-Mart, here are some facts about the retail giant, via Wake-Up Wal-Mart:

Wal-Mart cares little for the safety of its workers

  • In 2005, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has upheld a $5,000 fine against a Wal-Mart store in Hoover, Ala., for blocking emergency exits. The court upheld a decision by a judge who found that Wal-Mart was guilty of a serious and repeated offense. [New York Times, 5/17/05]
  • The West Virginia state workmen's comp agency placed Wal-Mart in an "adverse risk" pool because Wal-Mart had unusually high accident rates. [Charleston Gazette, 6/3/99]
Wal-Mart fails to provide a secure retirement benefit for its employees.

  • Wal-Mart sponsors two retirement plans — a profit sharing plan and 401(k) plan — neither of which guarantee workers a fixed monthly pension benefit.
  • Wal-Mart's retirement plans are Enron-like -- in 2003-04, 67% of their combined assets were invested in Wal-Mart stock. [Wal-Mart Stores 5500 IRS Filing, 2004]
  • When employees retire without adequate savings and benefits, they are less able to pay for health care, housing, and food. Communities and taxpayers ultimately bear the cost.

Wal-Mart closes down stores and departments that unionize

  • Wal-Mart closed its store in Jonquierre, Quebec in April 2005 after its employees received union certification. The store became the first unionized Wal-Mart in North America when 51 percent of the employees at the store signed union cards. [Washington Post, 4/14/05]
  • In 2000, when a small meatcutting department successfully organized a union at a Wal-Mart store in Texas, Wal-Mart responded a week later by announcing the phase-out of its in-store meatcutting company-wide. [Pan Demetrakakes, "Is Wal-Mart Wrapped in Union Phobia?" Food & Packaging 76 (August 1, 2003).]
Wal-Mart discriminates against women
  • In 2001, six women sued Wal-Mart in California claiming the company discriminated against women by systematically denying them promotions and paying them less than men. The lawsuit, Dukes v. Wal-Mart, has expanded to include more than 1.6 million current and former female employees, and was certified on June 21 2004 as the largest class action lawsuit ever. [Mondaq Business Briefing, November 1, 2004]
  • In 2001, women managers on average earned $14,500 less than their male counterparts. Female hourly workers earned on average $1,100 less than male counterparts. [Drogin 2003]
Wal-Mart violates Child Labor Laws

  • An internal Wal-Mart audit found "extensive violations of child-labor laws and state regulations requiring time for breaks and meals." [New York Times, 1/13/04]
  • One week of time records from 25,000 employees in July 2000 found 1,371 instances of minors working too late, during school hours, or for too many hours in a day. There were 60,767 missed breaks and 15,705 lost meal times. [New York Times, 1/13/04]
That's not enough? Then I suggest you take a read of Rolling Back Property Tax Payments: How Wal-Mart Short-Changes Schools and other Public Services by Challenging Its Property Tax Assessments

Or, read a story that we've referenced here before, the case of Deborah Shank, a Wal-Mart employee who was left severely disabled in an auto accident -- only to have Wal-Mart sue her for damages she received from the semi driver who ran into her. The settlement that Shank had received from the driver was put into a special account to pay for the catastrophic health costs incurred from her injuries. But Wal-Mart sued her for even more than the settlement amount. Nice.

As you do your holiday shopping, please consider all of these facts. Then decide if it's worth it to save a few bucks at the expense of society's weakest members.

The rich get richer and ... well you know the rest

If it feels like you can't ever get ahead, while the rich of this country seem to be lighting their cigars with $100 bills, you're not alone:
The gains in after-tax income from 2003 to 2005 for the bottom 40% of the country was less than 3%. For the top 1% of the country, it was 43.5%.
From the New York Times:
“A lot of people justifiably feel they are working harder and smarter, they are baking a bigger and better pie, and yet their slice is not growing much at all,” Mr. Bernstein [economist at the Economic Policy Institute] said. “It is meaningless to middle- and low-income families to say we have a great economy because their economy looks so much different than folks at the top of the scale because this is an economy that is working, but not working for everyone.”

At every income level Americans had more income, after adjusting for inflation in 2005 than in 2003, but the increases ranged from almost imperceptible for the poor to modest for the middle class and largest for those at the top.

Merry freakin' Christmas.

Back to the tap: good for your wallet, good for the planet

If you ever doubt the power of good marketing, look at the bottled water industry in America. This country, which has by far the largest supply in the world of clean water available to its citizens, leads the world in consumption of bottled water. The ultimate irony: more than a quarter of that is simply bottled tap water.

We spend more than $15 billion a year on bottled water in the United States. Bottles of water costs up to several dollars a gallon (and more for designer brands). Tap water, on the other hand, is delivered directly to homes and offices for less than a penny a gallon.

From the Earth Policy Institute:
In contrast to tap water, which is delivered through an energy-efficient infrastructure, bottled water is an incredibly wasteful product. It is usually packaged in single-serving plastic bottles made with fossil fuels. Just manufacturing the 29 billion plastic bottles used for water in the United States each year requires the equivalent of more than 17 million barrels of crude oil.

After being filled, the bottles may travel far. Nearly one quarter of bottled water crosses national borders before reaching consumers, and part of the cachet of certain bottled water brands is their remote origin. Adding in the Pacific Institute’s estimates for the energy used for pumping and processing, transportation, and refrigeration, brings the annual fossil fuel footprint of bottled water consumption in the United States to over 50 million barrels of oil equivalent-enough to run 3 million cars for one year. If everyone drank as much bottled water as Americans do, the world would need the equivalent of more than 1 billion barrels of oil to produce close to 650 billion individual bottles.
Fortunately, there is a movement toward tap water. More from the Earth Policy Institute:
The U.S. Conference of Mayors, which represents some 1,100 American cities, discussed at its June 2007 meeting the irony of purchasing bottled water for city employees and for city functions while at the same time touting the quality of municipal water. The group passed a resolution sponsored by Mayors Gavin Newsom of San Francisco, Rocky Anderson of Salt Lake City, and R. T. Rybak of Minneapolis that called for the examination of bottled water’s environmental impact. The resolution noted that with $43 billion a year going to provide clean drinking water in cities across the country, “the United States’ municipal water systems are among the finest in the world.”
So how easy a choice is this to make: by choosing to forgo bottled water and instead drink from the tap, you can save money and reduce waste and fuel consumption. I call that a no-brainer.

Health insurance: Some are more equal than others

A nurses union put this eye-popping ad in about 10 different Iowa newspapers last week. The ad includes a newspaper article on Cheney's last hospitalization for heart treatment with these true words: "If he were anyone else, he'd probably be dead by now."

In response to the Cheney office's claim that the ad is "outrageous," Charles Idelson, spokesman for the California Nurses Association and the National Nurses Organizing Committee, said, "What's outrageous is we have an administration that sits on its hands while we have 47 million people who are uninsured...This administration has ignored this health care crisis. They're indifferent to pain and suffering."