Saturday, October 27, 2007

We're Full Up!

This is really bad news, because carbon sequestration was one possible way to prevent a worsening global warming crisis:
Carbon dioxide (CO2) levels in the atmosphere have risen 35% faster than expected since 2000, says a study.
International scientists found that inefficiency in the use of fossil fuels increased levels of CO2 by 17%.

The other 18% came from a decline in the natural ability of land and oceans to soak up CO2 from the atmosphere.

About half of emissions from human activity are absorbed by natural "sinks" but the efficiency of these sinks has fallen, the study suggests.
Imagine a sponge. Drip water on the sponge when it's dry and not much of it gets out. The sponge absorbs a lot of the water.

Now imagine that sponge is as full as it's going to get. The water basically just rolls off the sponge.

That's what we've done with our carbon sinks. What are those sinks? Well, the oceans, for one. Remember, carbon isn't only created in the form of carbon dioxide. We've been dumping megatons of carbon in other forms into our oceans in industrial and human wastes.

Yup. You crap carbon.

Carbon has an unique ability to bond with other elements. In a balanced system, this can work miracles.

For example, take one atom of carbon and one of calcium, and you have the building blocks of a coral reef.

But, take TWO carbon atoms and one calcium atom and you get calcium bicarbonate, which works great on your stomach acid, but actually destroys coral.

Too, the oceans do a massive job of scrubbing the atmosphere. Plankton, which are probably the simplest form of vegetation on the planet, commit photosynthesis, taking carbon dioxide out of the air, and converting it to oxygen, absoring the carbon for use in their calcium carbonate skeletons. Thus starts the oceanic carbon cycle, ultimately sequestering massive amounts of carbon at the bottom of the ocean in decaying dead fish.

But look what has happened: as global warming has intensified the weather patterns over the oceans, winds have picked up. There's still plenty of carbon dioxide to go around, but it's harder for plankton to get at...after all, do you find it easier to eat when the boat is rocking?

Too, increasing carbon levels, particularly in the form of carbon dioxide, makes the oceans more acidic, which kills off the plankton. So you have fewer plankton, more carbon, and it's harder to get at.

Worse. Right now, the carbon that is sequestered deep in the ocean stays deep in the ocean because of temperature and density differences between the top and bottom waters, effectively forming a wall that mostly prevents mixing except where the oceans upwell and then over geologic time scales. If temperatures begin to rise higher in the ocean, the forces that created this halocline will cease functioning, which means that the oceanic waters will start mixing up more, bringing more carbon up to the ocean surfaces.

Which sinks (pardon the pun) any chance of using the deep oceans to store carbon that we might scrub out of our wastes.

Another sink, of course, is vegetation, which absorbs carbon dioxide as well as carbon in the soil (this is partially how burned forests bounce back so quickly). Any vegetation will do this, but trees are particularly efficient at scrubbing carbon out of the air and ground: extensive canopies, root systems, and large energy needs combine to make them oxygen factories.

Here, too, weather has played a prominent part, because as the earth warms...well, let's take a quick look at the hydrological cycle: temperatures rise, water evaporates, clouds form, rain falls. Basic physics tells us that warmer air can absorb more moisture, so literally, evaporation starts to suck the moisture out of the ground, parching the land. Now you have plants dying of thirst. Too, you have a higher risk of wildfires (we've seen that this week), which destroy vegetation outright.

Remove vegetation, either through clearing land or burning it out or simply creating a new desert, and you remove a major carbon sink.

We've reached, and passed, a tipping point in global warming, and I think there are some problems man cannot solve.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Friday Cat Kitten Blogging

Annoyed cat iz annoyed!

Friday Music Blogging

Rufus f. Chaka Khan - Tell Me Something Good


Nobody Asked Me, But....

1) Unnecessary admission of the year. While it's nice that Rowling made that admission, I sense (maybe I read it in my crystal ball) there's a certain amount of pandering here. After all, she's written all seven books now, she has nothing to lose, and perhaps she is merely extending here fifteen minutes?

2) It was a rough week for Rudy Giuliani. But it's going to get a lot rougher!

3) It won't make a whit of difference, since Bush has all but disavowed the World Court, but it's nice to see someone with balls out there, even if they have to be French to have them.

4) Don't worry! DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT!

5) I'm pondering whether to attend a fund raiser for an upstate Congresswoman that I've been invited to. The reason I'm on the horns (normally, I'd just donate a couple bucks and leave it at that) is that Nancy Pelosi will be there. If I went, what should I ask her, assuming I can ask just one question? I have some ideas, but I'm open to suggestion. (I'll post my ideas in comments)

6) Once more, Bush shows his vicious side. It was a smart move by Democrats to add the LHEAP to the SCHIP bill, but now that Bush will have vetoed it twice, what are they going to do now, especially since...

7) ...Oil has gone through the roof?

8) LUCEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE! You got some 'splainin to do!

9) I suspect this will shortly be a new paradigm on YouTube.

10) Did Larry Craig have sex with a DC boy toy? You decide. (Warning: verrrrry graphic details)

11) Is Fox afraid their viewers might get confused and suddenly realize Fox IS the Republican National Committee?

12) And Hillary got her licks in on Rudy last night.

13) Careful with that!

14) Holy crap The telling statistic?

For what it’s worth, the overall numbers show Hillary Clinton at 45%, Rudy Giuliani at 35%, and Colbert at 13%.

The other match-up shows Clinton at 46%, Thompson at 34% and Colbert at 12%.

Meaning, Colbert is eating away REPUBLICAN VOTERS more than Democrats! Could it be that people take his show seriously?

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Paul Wellstone, Prophet

Paul Wellstone died 5 years ago today. I still get tears in my eyes thinking of him.

Because it has turned out to be so prophetic, I thought I would post his Senate floor speech regarding military action in Iraq on October 3, 2002, just before he died. He was in the middle of a tough re-election campaign. His numbers went up after his vote against authorization. People who said Paul was "too far left for me" always add that they still voted for him because they trusted him. If you have the chance to ever hear the speech, at the end he thanks his staff and makes it clear that they in no way tried to influence his decision to oppose the Iraq war resolution, shouldering the responsibility alone.

(Ed. Note: I added the video for your convenience)


Regarding Military Action Against Iraq: October 3, 2002

Mr. President, as we turn later today to address our policy on Iraq, I want to take a few minutes to outline my views. The situation remains fluid, and Administration officials are engaged in negotiations at the United Nations over what approach we ought to take, with our allies, to disarm the brutal and dictatorial Iraqi regime.

Our debate here is critical because the administration seeks our authorization now for military action including possibly unprecedented, pre-emptive, go-it-alone military action in Iraq, even as it seeks to garner support from our allies on a tough new UN disarmament resolution.

Let me be clear: Saddam Hussein is a brutal, ruthless dictator who has repressed his own people, attacked his neighbors, and remains an international outlaw. The world would be a much better place if he were gone and the regime in Iraq were changed. That's why the U.S. should unite the world against Saddam, and not allow him to unite forces against us.

A go-it-alone approach, allowing for a ground invasion of Iraq without the support of other countries, could give Saddam exactly that chance. A pre-emptive go-it-alone strategy towards Iraq is wrong. I oppose it.

I support ridding Iraq of weapons of mass destruction through unfettered U.N. inspections, which should begin as soon as possible. Only a broad coalition of nations, united to disarm Saddam, while preserving our war on terror, is likely to succeed. Our primary focus now must be on Iraq's verifiable disarmament of weapons of mass destruction. This will help maintain international support, and could even eventually result in Saddam's loss of power.

Of course, I would welcome this, as would most of our allies. The president has helped to direct intense new multilateral pressure on Saddam Hussein to allow U.N. and International Atomic Energy Agency weapons inspectors back in to Iraq to conduct their assessment of Iraq's chemical, biological and nuclear programs. Saddam clearly has felt that heat, and it suggests what might be accomplished through collective action. I am not naive about this process, and much work lies ahead. But we cannot dismiss out-of-hand Saddam's late and reluctant commitment to comply with U.N. disarmament arrangements, or the agreement struck Tuesday to begin to implement it. We should use the gathering international resolve to collectively confront his regime by building on these efforts through a new U.N. disarmament resolution.

This debate must include all Americans, because our decisions finally must have the informed consent of the American people, who will be asked to bear the costs, in blood and treasure, of our decisions. When the lives of the sons and daughters of average Americans could be risked and lost, their voices must be heard by Congress before we make decisions about military action.

Right now, despite a desire to support our president, I believe many Americans still have profound questions about the wisdom of relying too heavily on a pre-emptive, go-it-alone military approach.

Acting now on our own might be a sign of our power. Acting sensibly and in a measured way in concert with our allies, with bipartisan Congressional support, would be a sign of our strength.

It would also be a sign of the wisdom of our founders, who lodged in the President the power to command U.S. armed forces, and in Congress the power to make war, ensuring a balance of powers between co-equal branches of government. Our Constitution lodges the power to weigh the causes for war and the ability to declare war in Congress precisely to ensure that the American people and those who represent them will be consulted before military action is taken.

The Senate has a grave duty to insist on a full debate that examines for all Americans the full range of options before us, and weighs those options, together with their risks and costs. Such a debate should be energized by the real spirit of September 11: a debate which places a priority not on unanimity, but on the unity of a people determined to forcefully confront and defeat terrorism and to defend our values.

I have supported internationally sanctioned coalition military action in Bosnia, in Kosovo and Serbia, and in Afghanistan. Even so, in recent weeks, I and others including major Republican policymakers like former Bush National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft, former Bush Secretary of State James Baker, my colleague on the Foreign Relations Committee Senator Hagel, Bush Mideast Envoy General Anthony Zinni and other leading US military leaders have raised serious questions about the approach the Administration is taking on Iraq.

There have been questions raised about the nature and urgency of Iraq's threat, our response to that threat, and against whom, exactly that threat is directed. What is the best course of action that the U.S. could take to address the threat? What are the economic, political, and national security consequences of possible U.S. or U.S.-British invasion of Iraq? There have been questions raised about the consequences of our actions abroad, including its effects on the continuing war on terrorism, our ongoing efforts to stabilize and rebuild Afghanistan, and efforts to calm the intensifying Middle East crisis, especially the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And there have been questions raised about the consequences of our actions here at home.

Of first and greatest concern, obviously, are the questions raised about the possible loss of life that could result from our actions. The United States could send tens of thousands of U.S. troops to fight in Iraq, and in so doing we could risk countless lives, of U.S. soldiers and innocent Iraqis. There are other questions, about the impact of an attack in relation to our economy. The United States could face soaring oil prices and could spend billions both on a war and on a years-long effort to stabilize Iraq after an invasion. The resolution we will be debating today would explicitly authorize a go-it-alone approach.

I believe an international approach is essential. In my view, our policy should have four key elements. First and foremost, the United States must work with our allies to deal with Iraq. We should not go it alone or virtually alone with a pre-emptive ground invasion. Most critically, acting alone could jeopardize our top national security priority, the continuing war on terror. The intense cooperation of other nations in matters related to intelligence-sharing, security, political and economic cooperation, law enforcement and financial surveillance, and other areas has been crucial to this fight, and enables us to wage it effectively with our allies. Over the past year, this cooperation has been our most successful weapon against terror networks. That -- not attacking Iraq should be the main focus of our efforts in the war on terror.

We have succeeded in destroying some Al Qaida forces, but many of its operatives have scattered, their will to kill Americans still strong. The United States has relied heavily on alliances with nearly 100 countries in a coalition against terror for critical intelligence to protect Americans from possible future attacks. Acting with the support of allies, including hopefully Arab and Muslim allies, would limit possible damage to that coalition and our anti-terrorism efforts. But as General Wes Clark, former Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in Europe has recently noted, a premature go-it-alone invasion of Iraq "would super-charge recruiting for Al Qaida."

Second, our efforts should have the goal of disarming Saddam Hussein of all of his weapons of mass destruction. Iraq agreed to destroy its weapons of mass destruction at the end of the Persian Gulf War and to verification by the U.N. and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that this had been done. According to the U.N. and IAEA, and undisputed by the administration, inspections during the 1990's neutralized a substantial portion of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, and getting inspectors back in to finish the job is critical. The prompt resumption of inspections and disarmament, under an expedited timetable and with unfettered access in Iraq, is imperative.

Third, weapons inspections should be enforceable. If efforts by U.N. weapons inspectors are tried and fail, a range of potential U.N.-sanctioned means, including proportionate military force, should be considered. I have no doubt that Congress would act swiftly to authorize force in such circumstances. This does not mean giving the U.N. a veto over U.S. actions. No one wants to do that. It simply means, as Chairman Levin has observed, that Saddam is a world problem and should be addressed in the world arena.

Finally, our approach toward Iraq must be consistent with international law and the framework of collective security developed over the last 50 years or more. It should be sanctioned by the Security Council under the U.N. Charter, to which we are a party and by which we are legally bound. Only a broad coalition of nations, united to disarm Saddam, while preserving our war on terror, can succeed. Our response will be far more effective if Saddam sees the whole world arrayed against him.

We should act forcefully, resolutely, sensibly with our allies, and not alone, to disarm Saddam. Authorizing the pre-emptive, go-it-alone use of force now, right in the midst of continuing efforts to enlist the world community to back a tough new disarmament resolution on Iraq, could be a costly mistake for our country.

This Is Going To Raise Some Right Wing Hackles....

For many months now, I've dangled the "psychosis" trope on my blog about Bush & Co., calling them magical children whose grasp of reality is driven by fear of inadequacies.

From out of the west in supoport of these theme comes Rosa Brooks, riding from the fires of Malibu and San Diego like Carter Slade in Ghost Rider:
Forget impeachment.

Liberals, put it behind you. George W. Bush and Dick Cheney shouldn't be treated like criminals who deserve punishment. They should be treated like psychotics who need treatment.

Because they've clearly gone mad. Exhibit A: We're in the middle of a disastrous war in Iraq, the military and political situation in Afghanistan is steadily worsening, and the administration's interrogation and detention tactics have inflamed anti-Americanism and fueled extremist movements around the globe. Sane people, confronting such a situation, do their best to tamp down tensions, rebuild shattered alliances, find common ground with hostile parties and give our military a little breathing space. But crazy people? They look around and decide it's a great time to start another war.

That would be with Iran, and you'd have to be deaf not to hear the war drums. Last week, Bush remarked that "if you're interested in avoiding World War III . . . you ought to be interested in preventing [Iran] from having the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon." On Sunday, Cheney warned of "the Iranian regime's efforts to destabilize the Middle East and to gain hegemonic power . . . [we] cannot stand by as a terror-supporting state fulfills its most aggressive ambitions." On Tuesday, Bush insisted on the need "to defend Europe against the emerging Iranian threat."
By the that "Old Europe" or "New Europe", Mr. President? You know, like how there was New Coke and Coke Classic and everyone turned on New Coke so that Coke Classic ended up dominating our palates for decades beyond?

Of course, New Coke didn't have your marketing genius behind it, now, did it?

But I digress:
Huh? Iran is now a major threat to Europe? The Iranians are going to launch a nuclear missile (that they don't yet possess) against Europe (for reasons unknown because, as far as we know, they're not mad at anyone in Europe)? This is lunacy in action.
I want to take a few paragraphs here to delve a bit more into the probable cause of this psychosis, at least in my mind opinion.

Here we have a man of whom it was once famously quipped, "He was born on third base, thinking he'd hit a triple."

Life should have been easy for him, and it was, until he went to school. Suddenly, learnin' became hard werk. Dodging the draft became hard werk. Skipping out on the Champagne Squadron of the TANG became hard werk. Runnin' a bidness became hard werk.

And all this time, Poppy and Bar were right there to hold his little hand and march him along past all these obstacles like the good l'il soldier he was (say that in a Shirley Temple voice. It's a lot funnier.)

So here, in his immortal hubris, he's locked himself into his own worst nightmare: a job that he so desperately needs his father's help with....gee...did you ever imagine looking back at Bush the Elder nostalgically?...but who he has pushed away publicly in favor of men who would exploit his power at the drop of a hat to advance an agenda that is not only unacceptable to a free society, but is antithetical to that very foundation of freedom.

They say the Presidency is the loneliest job in the world, and given Bush's "attaboy" cheerleader attitude about his socializations, one can only imagine the depths of his soul that are aflame with fear and even terror.

But there is no Al Qaeda there. There is only a mirror and when Bush looks into it, all he sees is his own reflection and hovering over him like a wraith, Dick Cheney.

Too, Cheney himself has his own reality to deal with. This is a man who's ignorance and ego prevent him from taking even the simplest steps to preserve his own health (after all, with all those stents in his bloodstream, we should probably start thinking of him as more an Erector set and less as a human). This is a man who wouldn't consider an opposing opinion if Jesus himself came down, shook him by the shoulders and said "Listen, man!"

We all know people like Dick. He's as officious as a DMV clerk (a job more suited to his talents, anyway). It's nearly OCD how compartmentalized his thinking has become: no matter what, he must cause a war. My daughter's a lesbian mommy? Threaten war. My wife wrote a lesbian porn novel? Threaten war. I had a heart attack? Threaten war.

I can't imagine that the Founding Fathers ever had it in their heads that a small cadre of completely psychotic wackjobs would ever occupy the highest levels of government (remember, our earliest elections saw the second place finished in the Presidential election become Vice President, which forced a tamping down of ambitions. That was changed in 1803).

Since clearly both men are physically able to execute their offices, there is no recourse beyond impeachment to bring sanity back to the White House (and you'd need to impeach both and then deal with Condi Rice, about whose sanity I have some reservations.)

Ah, but our Ms. Brooks has an out:
In Washington, the appropriate statutory law is already in place: If a "court or jury finds that [a] person is mentally ill and . . . is likely to injure himself or other persons if allowed to remain at liberty, the court may order his hospitalization."
Anyone want to file the commitment papers?

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


I love Wayne Barrett, and his writing style, so let me punch this right up:
A 15-page "memorandum for the record," prepared by a commission counsel and dated April 20, 2004, quotes Giuliani conceding that it wasn't until "after 9/11" that "we brought in people to brief us on al Qaeda." According to the memorandum, Giuliani told two commission members and five staffers: "But we had nothing like this pre 9/11, which was a mistake, because if experts share a lot of info," there would be a "better chance of someone making heads and tails" of the "situation." (Such memoranda are not verbatim transcripts of the confidential commission interviews, but are described on the cover page as "100 percent accurate" notes taken by staffers, stamped "commission sensitive/unclassified" on the top of each page.)

Asked about the “flow of information about al Qaeda threats from 1998-2001,” Giuliani said: “At the time, I wasn’t told it was al Qaeda, but now that I look back at it, I think it was al Qaeda.” He also said that as part of one of his post-9/11 briefings, “we had in Bodansky, who had written a book on bin Laden.” Giuliani was referring to Yossef Bodanksy, the author of Bin Laden: The Man Who Declared War on America, which was published in 1999 and predicted “spectacular terrorist strikes in Washington and/or New York.” Giuliani wrote in his own book, Leadership, that Judi Nathan got him a copy of Bodansky’s prophetic work “shortly after 9/11,” and that he covered it in “highlighter and notes,” citing his study of it as an example of how he “mastered a subject.” Apparently, he also invited Bodansky to address key members of his staff.

Giuliani attributed his pre-9/11 shortcomings in part to the FBI, which was run by his close friend (and current endorser) Louis Freeh, and to the Joint Terrorism Task Force, an FBI-directed partnership with the NYPD. "We already had JTTF, and got flow information no one else got," he explained. "But did we get the flow of information we wanted? No. We would be told about a threat, but not about the underlying nature of the threat. I wanted all the same information the FBI had, and we didn't get that until after 9/11. Immediately after 9/11, we were made a complete partner." He added: "Without 9/11, I never would have been able to send an adviser to FBI briefings."
Why is this important?

Well, because you might have heard in his stump speech...wait, let Barrett tell it...
Rudy Giuliani told an audience at Pat Robertson's Regent University: "Bin Laden declared war on us. We didn't hear it. I thought it was pretty clear at the time, but a lot of people didn't see it, couldn't see it." Other tenets of his standard stump speech include the assertion that he's been "studying terrorism" for more than 30 years, and that "the thing that distinguishes me on terrorism is that I have more experience in dealing with it" than the other presidential candidates.
"Clear at the time"? What "time", Rudy? September 12th, when the rest of us had been sitting with that knowledge for 24 hours? Was this before or after you asked for the briefing on Al Qaeda, Rudy?

Turns out, his secret testimony was corroborated by then-fire chief Thomas van Essen and disgraced then-police commissioner Bernard Kerik: NO BRIEFINGS ON AL QAEDA PRIOR TO 9/11!

Hump Day Comedy Blogging

George Carlin - Seven Dirty Words, Updated

Killer Keller Kuts Kross Kountry

(hat tip
If you thought that the imperial hubris of Texas Republicans stopped at the front drive of the White House, this will
probably make your blood boil:
Four words -- "We close at 5" -- enforced by Texas judge Sharon Keller led to the almost immediate execution of convicted murderer Michael Richard.

Three hours after Keller refused to keep her courthouse open past closing time to receive the condemned killer's request to stay his execution, Richard was executed.
You know, it's not like Michael Richard was late with his homework, or had an appointment to renew his driver's license...his life was on the line!

OK, so why was Richard's appeal late?
Richard's attorney's computer broke down, and when they called the courthouse asking for a little more time, just 20 minutes more, Judge Keller ordered the court clerk not to wait for the appeal that could have at least temporarily stopped his execution.
Twenty minutes. Just twenty minutes. Pizza delivery time.

I'm sure Judge Keller had to rush home to watch...Judge Judy? Re-runs of Law and Order? Bob The Builder?

Fortunately, it seems cooler heads are, well, getting fired up:
After the execution, prominent defense attorneys from across Texas signed an official complaint against Keller, asking the Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct to disciplined or fire her.

[...]It's not just the attorneys complaining. In a rare development, other judges on the appeals court -- three of whom stayed late in the courthouse waiting to rule on Richard's motion -- have criticized Keller's decision.

Judge Cheryl Johnson, who was expecting to rule on the case, told the Austin American-Statesman she was dismayed by Keller's decision. "And I was angry," she told the paper. "If I'm in charge of the execution, I ought to have known about those things … I mean this is a death."
Keller has a history of putting an express lane into Death Row in Texas:
• Keller was in the court majority that allowed the 2003 execution of Leonard Rojas to go forward despite a showing that his lawyer had just two years of experience, had his law license suspended three times and had missed a deadline for federal appeals because of bipolar disorder...saying the lawyer only needed to be competent when appointed. She said the fact the Bar had probated the lawyer's suspensions showed that the Bar "still found counsel to be competent to practice law."

• Prior to the Richard execution, the biggest controversy of her tenure on the court came when Keller wrote an opinion saying DNA evidence did not prove convicted rapist Roy Criner was innocent even though the semen in his alleged victim was not his. Keller said Criner could have worn a condom during the rape, a theory that was not raised by the prosecution in his trial.

On the PBS program Frontline, Keller was asked how Criner could prove his innocence. She replied: "I don't know."

• In 1996, Keller wrote an opinion that death row inmate Cesar Fierro received a fair trial despite the fact his confession was coerced by threats that Mexican police would torture his parents. After learning of the coerced confession, the prosecutor and judge in the case called for Fierro to receive a new trial.

"We conclude that the applicant's due process rights were violated," Keller wrote for the court. "But, because we conclude that the error was harmless, we deny relief."
In that last case, Keller decided that Fierro could have been convicted on the basis of a co-defendant's testimony.

You read that correctly: a man died based on hearsay evidence.

A few days ago, at the end of their Fall pledge drive,
Free Speech TV broadcast a recent "Keynote" with author Michael Parenti (Real Player only, sorry folks), in which he lays out a case for an imperial America...not just abroad, but internally, where an elite ruling (not governing) class grabs all available resources, leaving the working and middle classes in virtual serfdom, unable to capture any significant property or power for themselves, all in the name of the US Constitution.

You can get a taste of this case in
this article.

There is, undoubtedly, in this country a growing and burgeoning elite who believe that privilege and rank grant access to power above and beyond what you might attain. They have theirs, its up to you to get yours, Jack.

Power and wealth are not a zero sum game, however. Never are. When one person grabs power, someone else must give it up. Same with wealth, despite the economic theory that capital creates more capital. It doesn't. It merely converts resources and labor into more capital, but that depletes resources and-- dare I say it?-- exploits labor.

Now, as a dyed-in-the-wool capitalist, I don't have that big a problem with that provided there's an equality or at least an equivalence in the dynamic.

This is supposed to be the role of government: a counter-balance to the predations and exploitations of corporations, run by human beings who are as flawed and id-driven as the local serial killer. They just wear a white collar.

However, the most successful con in American history has been perpetrated upon us in the past sixty years: government's role as protector of innocents has been warped into this bizarre dual-exploitative tag-team match, with citizens on one side, and government and corporations on the other.

Think about the way the Bush administration has emasculated any regulatory oversight in the Federal government by installing corporate lobbyists into positions of power over the industries they lobbied for, and you'll see my point.

It's safe to say the first to pick up on this new paradigm were the Republicans, specifically the Reagan administration, who apparently never met a lobbyist with a checkbook it didn't like. After all, the removal of the Fairness Doctrine paved the way for millions and millions of dollars to flow from corporate coffers into politicians' pockets, with no responsible opposing viewpoint to be found...because they couldn't afford commercial air time.

Our last hope, short of revolution in the streets, is the Democratic party, but even there, the taint of corporate money and greed fills the air, and asking the Democrats to govern without the power of business behind them is like asking you or I to only see out of one eye, despite having two perfectly good ones at our disposal.

Still, we have to insist. We have to start holding feet to the fire. We have to start making sure that, at all levels of government, people come first. Starting with local judges like Sharon Keller.

UPDATE: Tell Texas
what you think about this outrageous judge.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Blog Announcement

I'm thrilled and honored to announce that one of the finest blogs in all of Blogtopia (©Skippy), Michael J. W. Stickings' superb The Reaction, has invited me to join the blog team there.


Children Are Our Future, If We Let Them Be

And if so, there's hope yet:
TORONTO (Reuters Life!) - The Muggle, or non-wizard, world is agog at author J.K. Rowling's bombshell announcement that one of the main characters in the Harry Potter books was gay.

By Monday afternoon, after a weekend of gossip about Rowling's "outing" of Hogwarts headmaster Albus Dumbledore, there were almost 6,000 comments on the issue on two popular Harry Potter Web sites, and

"Mostly people are happy that she has done this," said Melissa Anelli, webmistress of the Leaky Cauldron site, admitting that the site has seen a small subset of vocal readers unhappy at the revelation.

"I think it's great, I think the way she handled it was that this was just another fact about him, the same way that he's a teacher, he likes bowling, chamber music. And if more people were like that, we'd have less of a problem today."
Take heart, progressives!

I make this admission: I've not read a Harry Potter book. I started to, but thought Rowling's writings to be too cute by half to focus on the story (I mean, come on..."Diagon Alley"????) and so got quickly bored with wordplay that I've seen done better in Mad Magazine.

I have, however, seen the movies. I suspect this is how most adults were exposed to HP.

Albus Dumbeldore always struck me as a kindly old schoolmaster, involved in the schooling of the children and their protection, but not uncomfortably engaged in their some Republicans we might mention (koffkoffMARKFOLEYkoffkoffTEDHAGGARD
. His sexuality was never in question in my mind: he simply had none because it wasn't relevant to the story.

Apparently, this after-the-fact revelation of inconsequential relevance has already raised the hackles of the predictable:
Why would people applaud? Why would it be necessary to have this as a back story? Maybe the final paragraph in the AP story explains it: “Not everyone likes her work, Rowling said, likely referring to Christian groups that have alleged the books promote witchcraft. Her news about Dumbledore, she said, will give them one more reason.”

Yes, knock the Christians. That will sell books.
One presumes Surber is near-hysterical because he was going to wear a Dumbeldore costume for Halloween, but now has to go for a more overtly butch character...say, Myra Breckenridge.

One wonders why Surber feels the need to spin the facts. After all, Christian groups all across this country have railed long and hard against Harry Potter novels for introducing a sympathetic witchcraft into polite society (like "Bell Book and Candle" didn't???). She spoke a fact, Donbo, yet you bridle at this?

Or are you saying that Christians are more tolerant of gays than they are of fantasy withcraft? I'm sure Matthew Shepard would disagree with you, respectfully of course (and probably in more tasteful clothing), if he could.

It's safe to say that Christian wingnuts have made more hay off Harry Potter than Harry Potter has made by pissing Christians off.

One can only imagine the furor in certain pulpits this weekend over this. In fact, I'm surprised to see that Focus On Family is still silent on this, but maybe they're trying to find a way to spin facts as well.

Unsurprisingly, Focus On family remained stone cold silent when the Roman Catholic Church was under assault for harboring pedophiles. One would think that an organization that has toiled long and hard to equate homosexuality with pedophilia would have said something about celibate authority figures molesting children.

In fairness, FOF did have something to say about Ted Haggard. Curiously, it was its own weird hatemongering way.

Speaking of "authority figures", a more astounding admission from Rowling was less noticed:
The books, she said, were "a plea for an end to hatred, to bigotry" as well as a lesson for kids "to question authority.... You should not assume the establishment tells you the truth."
Keith Olbermann admitted on his show last night that, in a private conversation with Rowling prior to this signal event, she revealed that in fact, she intended a metaphor to the Bush and Blair administrations and how the United States and Britain were hoodwinked into war and sheepdogged into place by their authoritarian proxies.

UPDATE: Needless to say, The Borowitz Report has the perfect antidote to all this "outting"...

Monday, October 22, 2007

The Hannah Montanans

There's this kiddie trope going around (you'll know this is if you parent a "tween" adolescent): a television program called "Hannah Montana" on the Disney channel.(WARNING: TREACLY TEEN POP IS PLAYED LOUD AT THAT LINK!)

The series focuses on Miley Stewart (played by Miley Cyrus, daughter of regrettable country music "star" Billy Ray "Mullethead" Cyrus), who lives a double life as an average teenage girl at school during the day and a famous pop singer, Hannah Montana, at night, concealing her real identity from the public other than her close friends and family.

Republicans, always seizing on the latest marketing gimmick that Madison Avenue and Hollywood (liberals!!) can develop, have adapted this to their own Presidential race.

Comes last night's debate:
ORLANDO, Florida (Reuters) - The top Republican White House contenders battled on Sunday over who was the better conservative, with Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney defending their records and views on social issues from strong attacks.

In a debate in the election swing state of Florida, former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson accused Giuliani of being out of step with the conservative values of the Republican Party and Arizona Sen. John McCain attacked Romney's conservative credentials.

"Governor Romney, you've been spending the last year trying to fool people about your record. I don't want you to start fooling them about mine," McCain said. "I stand on my record of a conservative."

Thompson, a latecomer to the race who is chasing Giuliani in national opinion polls, said the former New York mayor's support for abortion rights and gun control put him in a league with Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton, a New York senator.

"I simply disagree with him on those issues, and he sides with Hillary Clinton on each of those issues I just mentioned," he said.
Thompson, of course, is the ultimate GOP-Hollywood nexus, outdoing even Ronald "I missed World War II to make forgettable B movies in liberal Hollywood" Reagan with such classic conservative roles as DA Arthur Branch (Law & Order), Rear Admiral Joshua Painter (The Hunt For Red October), and Knox Pooley, the neo-Nazi Jew-killer in Wiseguy.

Oh, and we should probably mention the role most dear to the hearts of Republicans and conservative Christians everywhere, lobbyist for a pro-choice group.

Dude, you really can't make this stuff up!

So between Rudy and Romney's former liberal positions (can you say "flip flop"?), Fred Thompson's questionable commitment to Christian values, and John McCain's "Now you see it, now you don't" position on campaign finance reform or Baghdad's safety, we're looking at men who have, to put it mildly, ambiguous moral compasses.

Which brings us back to the Hannah Montana thing: it's OK, I guess, for Disney to show a girl who's so terrified of who she is that she has to hide herself from the world (metaphor: she's a lesbian), but the Republican party?

What I find so funny about all this is any one of the four men could easily have "outted" themselves, "outted" their pasts, and probably not lost a whole lot of standing in the Republican community (and indeed, might have attracted normally uninvolved voters frustrated with the whole Bush administration/christofascist regime thing), but chose instead to narrow their base to the tiniest sliver of scraps on the floor.

Contrast that with the Democratic primary where, for the most part, the candidates have been pretty forthright about who they are, and not running from their history (save Hillary and to a degree, Obama and Edwards regarding their positions on the Iraq some ways, I'm not convinced that Iraq won't be the third rail of the 2008 elections the way Social Security reform has long been that same electrified iron).

I don't think it's any secret why the Republican primary, which should be generating enormous interest for a party that's controlled all three branches of government for the past eight years or so, is so bloody boring: no one is willing to take a stance, to chance a roll of the dice and speak what is on his mind.

Without attacking Hillary. That would probably be an added bonus.

It's almost as if these guys are positioning themselves for the 2012 race, when they stand a chance after four years of Hillary-dom, should she screw it up.

Which I wouldn't bet on.

McCain and Thompson all but have to win in this go-round. They'd be too old in 2012 (if indeed they aren't already). Too, Giuliani has to win in this go-round because "9/11 Tourette's" (h/t Jon Stewart) only gets you so far and he's milked that cow.

Leaving Romney, but even he has a shelf life: how much money can he afford to lend his campaign in 2012 if he has to eat tens of millions of dollars this time around?

No, I think this is the only shot for all four of the front runners and I think they've all realized they're going to be sacrificial lambs.

UPDATE: More evidence the GOP may have jumped the couch in this election cycle.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Periodic Appeal Time

Stickied until October 22

By now, long time readers of "Simply Left Behind" have probably grown tired of the seemingly endless pledge drives run by Free Speech TV and LinkTV, which take about a month and are run about three times a year.'s that time again. And it seems that these two channels, available on DISH Network (stop paying good money to a corporate oligopoly or a mad Australian fascist and sign up today. Tell them I sent you.) exclusively together and seperately on various cable outlets across the nation for portions of the broadcast week, have begun to make a difference in the political dialogue of the nation.

LinkTV covers the world from a European perspective, and brings that sensibility to domestic stories it covers. Here, you'll see retrospectives of Tianamen Square followed by South African killer whales followed by indigenous Peruvians and their struggles to reclaim water rights, capped off by Greg Palast covering the United States political theatre.

Free Speech TV is more focused on domestic issues, and is unafraid to present both sides of a story, particularly since the mainstream media, including NPR and PBS seem to shy away from showing the unvarnished truth. Here, you can see the KPFA forum on alternative 9/11 scenarios (including the really bizarre theories) followed by Gay USA, capped off by discussions of maintaining capitalism in America but fixing it, or why we shouldn't even bother.

This is gold for any thinking progressive who wants to get a better understanding of the complexities of the world around us. Too often, we rely on the proclamations of someone who specializes in one field or other and ignore the influences that everything has on everything else, from art and politics to the environment and farming.

Please. Go give now, and then make sure you go to the DISH Network website and order your service today.

Separated At Birth?

Actually, yes. Meet Mrs. Roberta McCain, John's 95 year old mother and now-constant companion on the campaign trail.

Sheesh. When I was a lad, if a kid brought his mom to school we all called him a pussy (or worse. This was before we understood bigotry).

I can't believe that the notion that dragging along an admittedly spry 95 year old mother that makes a 71 year old candidate seem young outweighs the "ick" factor enough to make it worth his while.

Particularly in a party that as patriarchal and testosterone driven as the GOP.

All week long, I'd heard stories about how McCain was coming back with an improved persona, that he was going back to his maverick roots.

Errr, dragging your mommy is hardly being a maverick, Senator. If anything, it speaks to a man too afraid to take on a challenge as large as the one you've created for yourself: to make your candidacy more relevant than the lamest of lame ducks in the White House.

There is one small constituency this stunt might work with and in states like Iowa, it might hold a key to an improved showing: the elderly. After all, that nice young man, Senator McCain, brought that lovely mother of his along to talk to us, so we should vote for him.

In a state like Iowa, that might actually pick up a point or two worth of votes.

If you can hear them among all the laughter.

This speaks of a desperate move by a desperate man who woke up at 8:15 to catch an 8:17 bus...