Simple and Plain

The title of the book tells it all. Oh what a consummation devoutly to be wished. The Huffington Post has an excerpt.

I mean, in America, we apparently impeach presidents for having consensual sex outside of marriage and trying to cover it up. If we impeach presidents for that, then if the president takes the country to war on a lie where thousands of American soldiers die horrible, violent deaths and over 100,000 innocent Iraqi civilians, including women and children, even babies are killed, the punishment obviously has to be much, much more severe. That’s just common sense. If Bush were impeached, convicted in the Senate, and removed from office, he’d still be a free man, still be able to wake up in the morning with his cup of coffee and freshly squeezed orange juice and read the morning paper, still travel widely and lead a life of privilege, still belong to his country club and get standing ovations whenever he chose to speak to the Republican faithful. This, for being responsible for over 100,000 horrible deaths? For anyone interested in true justice, impeachment alone would be a joke for what Bush did.


Tiny Choices, big results

I came across the Tiny Choices blog when I was researching alternative to plastic sports bottles. I’ve seen the Siggi ones and such and I’m thinking I may buy one. Anyway, this blog is all about the little things we can start doing to help the Earth before we all get drowned by rising tides, beaten to death in food riots, or die working in the Dick Cheney Memorial Salt Mines. I’ve starting to use canvas bags instead of paper bags at the supermarket (the Trader Joes ones are great, the ones at Vons are balls). If I lived in a bigger apartment I would compost, but as it is, I don’t have room. There’s a tendency on the blog to fuss over really tiny things (plastic straws!) and some people seem to have a big problem learning to cook for themselves (something I’ve been doing for ages and have to remind myself is still rare). But still, you may find one or two things that you can start doing now. I mean, NOW!!!

Portrait of an Oil-Addicted Former Superpower

Michael T. Klare has an excerpt from his new book Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet over at TomDispatch, and it’s a quite telling history of how our continual wars, our hubristic dismissal of Russia, and other egotistical blunders have bankrupted our country and sent it backwards. And so quickly!

Every day, the average G.I. in Iraq uses approximately 27 gallons of petroleum-based fuels. With some 160,000 American troops in Iraq, that amounts to 4.37 million gallons in daily oil usage, including gasoline for vans and light vehicles, diesel for trucks and armored vehicles, and aviation fuel for helicopters, drones, and fixed-wing aircraft. With U.S. forces paying, as of late April, an average of $3.23 per gallon for these fuels, the Pentagon is already spending approximately $14 million per day on oil ($98 million per week, $5.1 billion per year) to stay in Iraq. Meanwhile, our Iraqi allies, who are expected to receive a windfall of $70 billion this year from the rising price of their oil exports, charge their citizens $1.36 per gallon for gasoline.

Klare also points out how Bush just assumed that a post-Berlin Wall Russia would become another outpost of the American empire.

In line with this outlook, President Bush believed that he could convert an impoverished and compliant Russia into a major source of oil and natural gas for the United States — with American energy companies running the show. This was the evident aim of the U.S.-Russian “energy dialogue” announced by Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin in May 2002. But if Bush thought Russia was prepared to turn into a northern version of Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, or Venezuela prior to the arrival of Hugo Chávez, he was to be sorely disappointed. Putin never permitted American firms to acquire substantial energy assets in Russia. Instead, he presided over a major recentralization of state control when it came to the country’s most valuable oil and gas reserves, putting most of them in the hands of Gazprom, the state-controlled natural gas behemoth.

That was the meeting when the ChimpFascist looked into Pootie-Poot’s eyes and saw what a wonderful man he was. Oops!!

Melbourne – See what a sane and sensible city should be

Thanks to homeslice Jon Crow for sending me this. Check out this vid from the StreetFilms group that promotes sensible living in urban areas. More rooms for pedestrians, more bikes, friendlier neighborhoods, more culture, more nightlife, less crime. Melbourne (yes, the one in Australia) took on very simple and easy changes and transformed their city. It gives one hope that many places could be like this.

Is this the Big One?

Are we truly screwed with this latest hike in gas prices? Two articles today want to make me break out the bicycle clips. The Wall Street Journal says Why This Oil Shock is the Big One in this article.

With the price shock of 2007-08, spending on energy as a share of wage income has shot up above 6%, topping the 1974-75 and 1990-91 shocks to be the worst since the 1980-81 runup. Comparing the additional cost of energy to income growth (especially sluggish in recent years), the current shock is far worse than any of the three prior ones, Mr. Carson says.
The figures “suggest that energy costs will crowd out other spending components because income growth is being stifled by weakness in payroll employment,” he writes. “Moreover, relatively thin saving flows offer consumers little cushion against the rising oil prices.”

That’s because everybody’s paying (or not paying) off huge credit card debt, or work for peanuts, or a combination of those and other disastrous factors. Check out that graph. Yikes. Then there’s the New York Sun today which also has the cheerful news that Gasoline May Soon Cost $10/gallon:

The forecasts calling for a jump to between $7 and $10 a gallon are based on the view that the price of crude is on its way to $200 in two to three years.
Translating this price into dollars and cents at the gas pump, one of our forecasters, the chairman of Houston-based Dune Energy, Alan Gaines, sees gas rising to $7-$8 a gallon. The other, a commodities tracker at Weiss Research in Jupiter, Fla., Sean Brodrick, projects a range of $8 to $10 a gallon.
While $7-$10 a gallon would be ground-breaking in America, these prices would not be trendsetting internationally. For example, European drivers are already shelling out $9 a gallon (which includes a $2-a-gallon tax).

Wheeeeeeee!! How you like your gas guzzlers now, America?

Curtis White on Theology and Capitalism

On the flight over to Hawaii, I got stuck into some old Harper’s and came across this essay by Curtis White, “Hot Air Gods.” To simplify, he equates a fractioning of belief (into a personal, isolated thing) to the fractioning of the self within a capitalist framework (where we are all individual worker bees without community). He says it much better than me, of course, but I was struck by this para:

…We need to come to an honest acknowledgment of what capitalism is, and that has been made very clear for us in recent months by the Chinese entrepreneurs who fill our pet food, toothpaste, animal feed, and even our Viagra with toxic filler. for the entrepreneur, such filler is poison only if someone dies; otherwise it’s just a profit margin. The game is to take profit as close to the poison line as possible. When on occasion profit spills over into poison and someone dies, there is a wild wringing of hands (and , in china, death sentences), but soon back we go in search of that ideal balance between profit and death. We see very much the same principle at work in industrial agriculture. Just how much herbicide and pesticide can we put down before it starts killing something more than bugs and pigweed? Here we see the creed of “cost/benefit analysis” presided over with loving-kindness by accountants and legions of liability lawyers.

I had to type that out, because Harper’s doesn’t print online. Phew! But anyway, dig out the Dec. 2007 issue to read the thing in full.
Here’s an essay on Saving Private Ryan by White that’s worth a peruse.

Nearly right, nearly…

Here’s the opening of the New York Times editorial today:

Looking at America
Published: December 31, 2007
There are too many moments these days when we cannot recognize our country. Sunday was one of them, as we read the account in The Times of how men in some of the most trusted posts in the nation plotted to cover up the torture of prisoners by Central Intelligence Agency interrogators by destroying videotapes of their sickening behavior. It was impossible to see the founding principles of the greatest democracy in the contempt these men and their bosses showed for the Constitution, the rule of law and human decency.
It was not the first time in recent years we’ve felt this horror, this sorrowful sense of estrangement, not nearly. This sort of lawless behavior has become standard practice since Sept. 11, 2001.
The country and much of the world was rightly and profoundly frightened by the single-minded hatred and ingenuity displayed by this new enemy. But there is no excuse for how President Bush and his advisers panicked — how they forgot that it is their responsibility to protect American lives and American ideals, that there really is no safety for Americans or their country when those ideals are sacrificed.

What’s wrong in that third paragraph? Bush and his junta didn’t “panic”–you don’t suddenly squat out the Patriot Act in a fight-or-flight squirly moment–and they certainly didn’t “forget” their responsibilities.
C’mon, New York Times, it was intentional the moment those corrupt bastards stole the election in 2000. Destroying our freedoms was intentional. Removing habeus corpus was intentional. Letting New Orleans drown was intentional. Bombing the country that didn’t contain the terrorists that bombed us was intentional. Underfunding deployed troops is intentional. Underfunding returned troops is intentional. Torture is intentional.
Suddenly saying Burma!…well, that’s panic.
At least the end para strives for hope:

We can only hope that this time, unlike 2004, American voters will have the wisdom to grant the awesome powers of the presidency to someone who has the integrity, principle and decency to use them honorably. Then when we look in the mirror as a nation, we will see, once again, the reflection of the United States of America.

When will this fascist nightmare be over? breaks the story of the stomach-churning conditions within the CIA “Black Sites”–i.e. our totalitarian-regime-like torture sites.

The CIA held Mohamed Farag Ahmad Bashmilah in several different cells when he was incarcerated in its network of secret prisons known as “black sites.” But the small cells were all pretty similar, maybe 7 feet wide and 10 feet long. He was sometimes naked, and sometimes handcuffed for weeks at a time. In one cell his ankle was chained to a bolt in the floor. There was a small toilet. In another cell there was just a bucket. Video cameras recorded his every move. The lights always stayed on — there was no day or night. A speaker blasted him with continuous white noise, or rap music, 24 hours a day.
The guards wore black masks and black clothes. They would not utter a word as they extracted Bashmilah from his cell for interrogation — one of his few interactions with other human beings during his entire 19 months of imprisonment. Nobody told him where he was, or if he would ever be freed.
It was enough to drive anyone crazy. Bashmilah finally tried to slash his wrists with a small piece of metal, smearing the words “I am innocent” in blood on the walls of his cell. But the CIA patched him up.
So Bashmilah stopped eating. But after his weight dropped to 90 pounds, he was dragged into an interrogation room, where they rammed a tube down his nose and into his stomach. Liquid was pumped in. The CIA would not let him die.

Yes, we have a history of not doing humane things (slavery! genocide of the Native Americans! Whoops!!), and these sort of stories have been leaked before but this is, to quote from the article, “the first in-depth, first-person account of captivity inside a CIA black site.”
Read the whole thing and feel the chill. Bashmilah was never charged with anything.
Question: will a new administration put a stop to this?

Whoops (Financial) Apocalypse!

Here’s a jolly quote from Krugman’s latest article in the NYTimes:

“What we are witnessing,” says Bill Gross of the bond manager Pimco, “is essentially the breakdown of our modern-day banking system, a complex of leveraged lending so hard to understand that Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke required a face-to-face refresher course from hedge fund managers in mid-August.”

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Mort Sahl Interview on TruthDig

Mort Sahl was one of America’s best-known satirists during the ’50s and ’60s. His politics offended enough people on both sides that he never really got the breaks other comedians who followed after him would get. He’s quoted as saying “If you maintain a consistent political position long enough, you will eventually be accused of treason.” However, I hadn’t thought of Sahl for some time until Mr. C sent me this link to an interview with Sahl at TruthDig. It’s full o’ good quotes:

Mr. Fish: Are you at all frustrated by [Barack] Obama’s recent public displays of toughness, his willingness to bomb Pakistan and Iran, etc.?

Sahl: Obama is a black guy made in the lab by white guys.  Again, it’s about [Democratic] virtue, “We’re going to nominate a black man.” Look who they pick—they didn’t exactly pick Paul Robeson or Malcolm X.  Or it’s like with Hillary Clinton.  She says, “Believe me, I won’t let the war go on!” What reason is there to believe her?  She’s running on the entitlement ticket.  It isn’t enough that we had [Bill Clinton], now we have to have her?  Has everybody forgotten that he went into Kosovo and that he bombed civilians in Yugoslavia?  I mean, his presidency wasn’t exactly a high time in America—maybe for the stock market.  But getting back to Obama, Bill Bradley just the other day referred to him as a rock star.  What kind of an appraisal is that?  It’s not even a good parallel—how often do rocks stars have anything to do with music, not the music industry, but music?  It’s vaudeville.

And on the current state of satire/standup:

Sahl: I think the artist is only that good. I don’t think it’s a broker’s decision to even try to meet the audience’s needs. A comedian nowadays is there to accommodate the audience’s materialism. They don’t have anything on their minds. [A comedian] will get up there and talk for an hour about women like they’re aliens, and that’s his act. I was in New York and I saw Judy Gold and she was complaining that CNN runs that line of headlines at the bottom of the screen—is that really what’s wrong? I just don’t think there’s any cultural depth perception anymore. Even the guys at “The Daily Show” aren’t making fun of the worst of [political wrongdoing]. Maybe they should just do more of what the real news doesn’t do. Those guys at CBS really ended [the Vietnam War]—Rather, Morley Safer and John Hart—by showing us what was going on. Everyday we hear that a bunch of American soldiers got killed, but we don’t see anything. You will on Al-Jazeera.

It’s good stuff, read it.