Saturday, June 28, 2008

Obama Disappoints Supporters By Folding On FISA Bill

As the song goes "You got to know when to hold em, know when to fold em...".

Sadly when it came to the FISA bill
which grants retroactive immunity to telecom corporations that illegally spied on Americans, many Senate Democrats, including presidential nominee, Barack Obama, folded when they should have held their ground.

And as a result of Senator Obama's recent stance, even his die hard supporters are disappointed and left wondering if this will come back to haunt him in November.

As reported in The Huffington Post, "
Sen. Barack Obama is risking his brand as a political reformer, according to reports today in the Los Angeles Times and the Washington Post. In recent weeks, he has moderated or changed positions on a number of politically-charged issues, leading to criticism from demoralized Democratic activists and charges of "flip-flopping" from conservatives."

In the following video clip Senator Obama answers a question regarding his position on the new FISA bill.

Cenk Uygur of "The Young Turks" points out just how quick the Republicans have been to jump on Obama's change in position on the FISA bill.

Did anyone on Senator Obama's staff learn anything from the 2004 Presidential Election?

Even more disturbing than the fact that Senator Obama has opened the door to being labeled as a "flip-flopper" is the fact that there is reasonable evidence that the telecoms purchased their immunity.

As Donny Shaw reports for

“On March 14 of this year the House passed an amendment that rejected retroactive immunity for phone carriers who helped the National Security Agency carry out the illegal wiretapping program without proper warrants. Ninety-four House Democrats voted in favor of this measure – rejecting immunity – on March 14, then ‘changed’ to vote in favor of the June 20 House billapproving immunity.

“Why did these ninety-four House members have a change of heart?” asked Daniel Newman, executive director of, “Their constituents deserve answers.”

MAPLight, which connects vote patterns with campaign contributions, sees evidence that it’s linked to telecom money. Their report shows that the 94 Democrats who changed their vote in the three months from opposing telecom immunity to supporting it received almost twice as much in contributions from Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint.

For me the issue of telecom immunity is non-negotiable. Not because, I have any interest in seeing decades of lawsuits resulting in insignificant punitive measures. But because granting any corporate entity immunity from being punished for illegally spying on American citizens sets and unacceptable precedent.

Senators Chris Dodd (D-CT) and Senator's Russ Feingold (D-WI) eloquently and passionately summed up why so many of us feel so strongly about this issue.

Senators Dodd & Feingold, Thank you for holding your ground and standing up for The Constitution and the rights of all Americans

Friday, June 27, 2008

Big Oil - The Fourth Branch of Government

When Vice President Dick Cheney declared in 2007 that he was a unique branch of government many of us laughed at his arrogance. But who's laughing now.

If you've been following the discussions about the rising price of oil, (and who isn't these days), it is clear that there is a fourth branch of the US government. Its name is "The Oil Industry" and this week it's become pretty clear that it doesn't matter who's in control in Congress because what the oil industry wants, the oil industry gets.

While Congressional Republicans claim that they were only looking out for their constituencies' with their repeated calls for expanding the oil industry's drilling rights to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) as well to the coastlines of Florid
a and California, Congressional Democrats are asking why the oil industry is not drilling on the 68 million acres ( much of which was previously protected public land) which they are warehousing.

Meanwhile, the US Supreme Court reduced ExxonMobil's punitive damages liability for the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska to
to $500 million, one tenth of the jury's original award of $5 billion.

And today, oil prices reached a new high of $140/barrel due to a weak US dollar and speculative trading.

Is there anyone who still wonders what was discussed during Vice President Dick Cheney's 2001 Energy Task Force meetings?

The Fourth Branch of Government is in control.

In the following video Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) speaks in favor of the Responsible Federal Oil and Gas Lease Act aka the "Use It or Lose It" Act (H.R. 6251)

The following is the response by Rep. John Boehner (R-OH)

Later Rep. Rahm Emmanuel (D-ILL) speaks on behalf the "Use It or Lose It" Act (H.R. 6251)

Related posts:

Our Socialized Energy System - August, 2005

Passing the Buck on Energy - April, 2006

EPA Relaxes Air Pollution Rules for the Oil Industry - April, 2007

Why Are We Really Talking About Iran - November 2007

Who Profits From High Energy Costs and The Iraq War - November, 2007

Thursday, June 26, 2008

My Escape from Politics

Ok, I know that in the first week of June I promised that I was back from hiatus. But I'm sure that you're familiar with the saying ... carpe diem. And seize the day I have.

The flower and herb garden is flourishing and the tomatoes are showing promise. Both the chickadee and finch families have done well (with a wee bit of human intervention ) and the babies have flown the nest. My spring cleaning is done and, even my office is returning to a publicly presentable state. I've even updated my LinkedIn profile, found the instructions for my food dehydrator and backed up my computers.

So why haven't I been blogging more?

Sadly, I've developed a few new addictions:

Yes, I'm hooked on SOCCER and have spent many afternoons this June watching coverage of EURO 2008 and the exploits of soccer's "heart-attack kids" the Turkish National Team.

I thought that my life would be back on schedule after France was knocked out, but oh... those Turks. With a team decimated by injuries and suspensions, they made it to the semifinals and stole my heart. Seeing Rustu in goal reminded me of 2002 when my best friend and I would call each other at 2 am in order to watch a World Cup match. But alas, the valiant Turkish warriors fell to Germany, but not before showing the soccer world what it means to fight against all odds. And now that Russia has fallen to Spain, all that is left is Sunday's final. EURO 2008 has definitely been a very sweet distraction. Just one thing --- I'm still not sure if Rustu's name is Rustu Recber or Recber Rustu.

As for watching "The Weather Channel" .. doesn't every gardener start their day that way? Seriously though, The Weather Channel is much more than just the daily weather forecast. It's a great way to start the day if only for the jazz.

Watching "How Clean Is Your House" has become a real source of inspiration and a bit of a guilty pleasure. During each episode I pat myself on the back for keeping a tidy home and I resolve to NEVER let my house get into the condition of the homes featured on that show. Kim and Aggie also give great tips for healthy cleaning products. No home should be without white vinegar, lemon juice, household borax and beeswax. You know, the things our grandparents depended on. :-) If you're serious about "green" cleaning I highly recommend this show.

And finally I have to get my daily dose of "You Are What You Eat". I have two years to get in shape for the 2010 World Cup. Don't laugh. You have to be in good shape to stay awake for those 2am and 4am soccer matches. This show makes me feel so guilty about coffee and sugar that I'm down to two cups a day. LOL

Yes, there is more to life than political blogging, signing petitions and writing advocacy letters.
But you can't escape reality.

My June hasn't been all fun and games. I've still been watching C-SPAN, scanning blogs and reading my daily news subscriptions and feeds. But quite honestly
it's hard to know what to say (or not to say) about:

  • tomatoes tainted with salmonella,
  • fertilizer made from municipal sewage,
  • the GOP obsession with drilling in ANWR,
  • levees breaking along the Mississippi river,
  • corporate criminals,
  • criminals shooting police officers in Philadelphia,
  • the rising rate of diabetes,
  • the insanity of Robert Mugabe and the Zimbabwe elections,
  • the lack of media coverage of the war in Afghanistan -- remember Afghanistan, and,
  • the evils of Blackwater

Oh well, its been a wonderful June. It was nice to step down from my soapbox for a moment and clean it.

Now let's see, what am I going to write about John Kerry's statement on the Senate floor about the Zimbabwe elections.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Real Life, Real Questions, Real Answers

Warning: the following two videos may contain language that you may find offensive. They are used here not for their shock value but to present real people and their views of society.

How Would You Answer These Questions?

The next time that you look at that WWJD bracelet or tee-shirt think about these videos. How do you think Jesus would respond to these videos?

Hint: His first response wouldn't be to condemn their language or the smoking.

Can you answer their questions?

Need more hints? Click here

How the Chinese Government Views Barack Obama

Being somewhat familiar with the stories of the hardships experienced by biracial children in Asian societies I had an idea of how the Chinese government might view Barack Obama. But I have to admit that Edward Cody's Washington post article "In China, Fascination With Obama's Skin Color" was enlightening.

Cody quotes an article in the Monday edition of China's People's Daily Newspaper as saying,

"Obama won precisely because he did not emphasize his racial characteristics," the writer said. "He even made a clean break with radical black people."

"Obama is a graduate from a first-class university," the editorial continued. "He is a symbol of assimilation rather than a representative of different races coming together. Obama did not break the superiority complex of white people. On the contrary, his appearance strengthened the superiority complex of white people."

And just when I was getting over the fact that the contract from the Martin Luther King, Jr. monument that will stand in the National Mall in Washington has been outsourced to a Chinese artist.

Edward Cody goes on to write:

" The editorial was signed by Ding Gang, a name frequently assigned to important analyses in a publication that plays the role of party bulletin board. Chinese journalists said they believe it is a pen name used by senior editors or other party propaganda officials conveying an official point of view.

The 68 million members of China's Communist Party, at least those who take their responsibilities seriously, normally would be expected to take their cues from such an editorial and repeat its key phrases in speeches and official conversations around the country. But it ran only in the overseas edition, which projects China's opinions abroad, and thus will not be seen by most of China's 1.3 billion people.

The Chinese government has grown comfortable over the last eight years in its relations with the Bush administration, whose leader belongs to what the People's Daily editorial called "the core of U.S. mainstream society, the white Protestant with Anglo-Saxon blood."

Officially, the Chinese government has abstained from comment on the U.S. voting, following the standard practice here of avoiding interference in the internal affairs of other nations. But the editorial touched on a theme that has frequently been expressed by ordinary Chinese ever since it became clear Obama would be the Democratic nominee: wonder at the fact that a man from a racial minority could be within reach of occupying the White House."

I guess we know who the Chinese government would like to see win the 2008 US Presidential election.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Obama's Message to Black Fathers

excerpt from:
 Obama tells black fathers to engage their children
on Yahoo! News

By CHRISTOPHER WILLS, Associated Press Writer1 hour, 8 minutes ago

Barack Obama celebrated Father's Day by calling on black fathers, who he said are "missing from too many lives and too many homes," to become active in raising their children.

"They have abandoned their responsibilities, acting like boys instead of men. And the foundations of our families are weaker because of it," the Democratic presidential candidate said Sunday at a largely black church in his hometown.

Reminding the congregation of his firsthand experience growing up without a father, Obama said he was lucky to have loving grandparents who helped his mother. He got support, second chances and scholarships that helped him get an education. Obama's father left when he was 2.

"A lot of children don't get those chances. There is no margin for error in their lives," said Obama, an Illinois senator.

"I resolved many years ago that it was my obligation to break the cycle — that if I could be anything in life, I would be a good father to my girls," added Obama, whose daughters, Sasha and Malia, and his wife, Michelle, watched from the audience.

Obama's appearance at the Apostolic Church of God was his first address to a church since he ended his membership at Trinity United Church of Christ, where he had worshipped for 20 years, following inflammatory remarks there by his former longtime pastor and others.

Obama frequently emphasized the importance of God in his life and ended the speech by asking the congregation to "Pray for me. Pray for Michelle."

Let The Church Say Amen!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Madness Escalates in Zimbabwe

excerpt from:
 Zimbabwe police haul in opposition's top leaders
on Yahoo! News

By ANGUS SHAW, Associated Press Writer 35 minutes ago

President Robert Mugabe's regime struck at his rivals Thursday only two weeks before Zimbabwe's presidential runoff, twice detaining his challenger and jailing the No. 2 opposition leader to face treason charges.

The U.S. ambassador, meanwhile, said 20 tons of American food aid heading to impoverished Zimbabwean children had been seized by authorities last week and given to Mugabe supporters at a rally.

The repeated detentions, coupled with Western accusations that Mugabe's regime is using food as a weapon, dramatically demonstrate the obstacles to the campaign thrown up by the longtime leader.

"This is a government that is taking tremendous and, frankly, awful strides to maintain its power, that is increasingly abusing its own citizens and has raised, or should I say lowered, the bar to a level that we rarely see," State Department spokesman Gonzalo Gallegos said in Washington.

Morgan Tsvangirai, who led the opening round of presidential voting 2 1/2 months ago and faces the increasingly autocratic Mugabe in a June 27 runoff, was first stopped at a roadblock in the south and held at a police station for about two hours, his party said.

The party said Tsvangirai went back to campaigning, but was stopped later by another group of police, and it was not known if he was still being held Thursday night. It was the third and fourth times in recent weeks that he was detained while running against Mugabe, who is increasingly unpopular for repressive ways and a wrecked economy.

But the biggest blow was aimed at Tendai Biti, secretary-general of Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change, who was arrested at Harare airport upon returning from South Africa. Police said he would be charged with treason, which carries the possibility of the death penalty

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


Surprise, Surprise - Senate GOP blocks windfall taxes on Big Oil

Ok, no one is really surprised.

Believe it or not I agree with the GOP when they say that the windfall profit tax won't do a thing to lower $4/gal. gasoline. I also agree that if the windfall profit tax is passed Big Oil will probably increase their prices. Big Oil and their cronies in Washington are going to milk this cash cow dry. However I also believe that the bill should have passed and here's one common sense reason why.

If Big Oil is making record profits they should not also need to feed from the government trough by receiving billions of dollars in tax breaks.

At present Big Oil is sticking it to consumers at the pump and at tax time. Instead of going to Big Oil, the billion of dollars of the working public's tax dollars should be directed towards companies solely committed to the research, development and production of alternative energy (excluding ethanol which is being subsidized by the farm bill).

Doesn't this make sense?

But oh, it may put a few oil industry lobbyists out of work.

excerpt from:
Senate Blocks Windfall Tax on Big Oil

Saved by Senate Republicans, big oil companies dodged an attempt Tuesday to slap them with a windfall profits tax and take away billions of dollars in tax breaks in response to the record gasoline prices that have the nation fuming

GOP senators shoved aside the Democratic proposal, arguing that punishing Big Oil won't do a thing to lower the $4-a-gallon-price of gasoline that is sending economic waves across the country. High prices at the pump are threatening everything from summer vacations to Meals on Wheels deliveries to the elderly.

The Democratic energy package would have imposed a 25 percent tax on any "unreasonable" profits of the five largest U.S. oil companies, which together made $36 billion during the first three months of the year. It also would have given the government more power to address oil market speculation, opened the way for antitrust actions against countries belonging to the OPEC oil cartel, and made energy price gouging a federal crime.

"Americans are furious about what's going on," declared Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D. He said they want Congress to do something about oil company profits and the "orgy of speculation" on oil markets.

Related posts:

When The Student Becomes the Master

It's Time for An Intervention

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

I'm Starting to Feel It -- Hope

" Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life."
Proverbs 13:12 ( New Living Translation)

or as it is translated in
(The Message Translation)

"Unrelenting disappointment leaves you heartsick,
but a sudden good break can turn life around."

Among my earliest childhood memories are the images that hung on the wall in my living room. There was a plate with an image of Martin Luther King Jr., a picture of John F. Kennedy and a plaque with "The Lord's Prayer".

One of my first efforts at writing for a pubic audience came when I entered a 4th Grade Essay Contest on, what was then called, "Negro Achievement". My mother was happy when my essay on the achievements of the first African American Supreme Court Justice, Thurgood Marshall received second honors but, of course, she also reminded me that I should strive to improve. Somewhere around this time, I clipped a picture of Robert Kennedy out of the paper and taped in on my bedroom wall ( I think that he replaced The Green Hornet and Kato ).

I was born at a time of great change, great hope, and great possibility. In 1966, Barbara Jordan became the first African American to the Texas State Senate since 1883. in 1968, Shirley Chisholm became the first African-American woman elected to Congress. So, at a very young age, I learned to set the bar pretty high when evaluating political figures.
Sadly, in 1968, I also learned just how fragile dreams can be and how quickly hopes can be dashed. In May of 1968, many Americans had hopes that Robert F. Kennedy would be President but in November Richard Nixon was elected. I learned just how quickly the political tide can change and just have fickle the American electorate can be.

For forty years, I've witnessed political stars rise and fall, politicians switch parties (and seemingly values), idiotic sex scandals, wars, stolen elections and, the corporate takeover of Washington. I've seen the mainstream political media go from being "The Fourth Estate" to a propaganda tool for their corporate owners. And saddest of all, I've witnessed the American electorate, at times, resemble sheep being placidly led about by shepherds using the staffs of fear-mongering, race-baiting, gender bias, religious intolerance and swift-boating. So when the 2008 presidential primary campaign began I knew that it would take a lot more than eloquent speeches, campaign slogans, rock star crowds, celebrity endorsements or, the promise of gender or racial historical firsts to get me believe that this country could recapture the level of hope that it once felt -- that I once felt.

Don't get me wrong, as a lifelong Democrat, I was proud of all of the candidates who entered the Democratic primary. I was an early supporter of John Edwards but despite my various policy differences with the other candidates I could have voted for almost any of them. ( Sorry, Mike Gravel would have been too much of a stretch). I was excited to see a woman, an African American and a Latino with a viable chance of becoming th 44th President of the United States but until yesterday I was still waiting to feel that the hope that has so long been deferred may finally become a dream fulfilled.

Now, I'm starting to feel it.

The following video is of Barack Obama's speech given
on June 9, 2008 in Raleigh, NC as he kicked off his Change that Works for You tour.

In the following excerpt of an article for RealClearPolitics,
John Avalon outlines what Barack Obama will have to do in order to have a chance at fulfilling the promise that was placed on hold in 1968.

Avalon writes:
"Politics is history in the present tense. And perhaps never more than at this moment.

Barack Obama captured the Democratic nomination almost 40 years to the day after Robert F. Kennedy's assassination the night he won the California primary. RFK died on June 6th, 1968.

And he will accept his party's nomination on another fateful day - the 45th anniversary of Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial.

This coincidence of the calendar underscores the way in which Obama's candidacy symbolizes a step toward resolution of the shattered dreams of mid-1960s moderate liberalism.

But while Obama's soaring oratory has been exhaustively compared to Martin Luther King's Baptist rhythms, his success in the general election will depend on rebuilding Robert F. Kennedy's brief and almost mythic electoral coalition.

No Democratic candidate since RFK has been able to bridge the left, right and center -inspiring blacks and working class whites, Hispanics and young voters - the same fault lines that that underlay the bitter 2008 nomination fight.

The secret to Kennedy's success was a balance of profile based in his experience. He combined what MLK's sermons referred to as a "tough mind and a tender heart."

As a former mob-busting Attorney General and committed Cold Warrior, Bobby Kennedy reassured voters who wanted the law and order that counter-culture liberals seemed to dismiss. His 1968 stump speech and television ads hammered home this fact, testifying to his experience as "the chief law enforcement officer in the nation."

But as the civil rights enforcer and social reformer New York Senator who turned against the Vietnam War, Bobby Kennedy inspired progressive voters who wanted compassion to be matched with action.

Bridging the differences of the 1960s Democratic Party, aided by the strength of association with his slain brother, RFK was able to avoid being stereotyped as a member of the far-left. His campaign turned into a cause and then a crusade.

And while few future political candidates would attempt to cast themselves as inheritors of MLK's mantle (Jesse Jackson comes to mind), the image of Bobby Kennedy retains its romance when Democrats look in the mirror even 40 years after his death.

George McGovern, Jimmy Carter, Ted Kennedy and Gary Hart all attempted to carry the RFK torch forward. Bill Clinton claimed Robert F. Kennedy as the first New Democrat, writing, "he believed in civil rights for all and special privileges for none, for giving poor people a hand-up rather than a hand-out: work was better than welfare."

In this 16-month primary campaign, Hillary Clinton tried to repeatedly invoke the aura of RFK, using footage of her fellow New York Senator in advertisements with testimonials from his children.

Obama's campaign proved to be far more worthy of the RFK comparisons.

Among young voters, he has inspired devotion as a symbol of generational change.

Like RFK, Obama succeeded in inspiring voters outside liberal Democratic strongholds, consistently claiming victories among conservative red state Democrats in the deep south, Midwest and northwest - even winning Oregon, which resisted RFK in 1968.

But two groups that Hillary Clinton consistently and increasingly kept from him were older working class whites (incarnations or remnants of the '68 George Wallace vote) and Hispanics. It was RFK-marcher Cesar Chavez who popularized the phrase "si, se puede" - which morphed across the decades into the Obama slogan "yes, we can" - but Latino voters stayed loyal to Hillary in the 2008 primaries.

Obama will need to deepen his appeal among both groups to win the election in November.

As a bridge-builder by biography and self-conception, Obama is well equipped to not only bridge generations but also heal the wounds left by the late 1960s. He can fulfill the promise of Bobby Kennedy's unfinished campaign by building a broad coalition across racial, geographic and political lines. And when he takes the stage in Denver, he can proclaim with some justification that he represents Martin Luther King's American dream, not deferred but finally realized."

The mark was set very high but I'm ready to hope again.

Monday, June 9, 2008

In Burma and Zimbabwe Insanity Rules

excerpt from:

Burma Arrests Celebrity Critic Who Organized Cyclone Relief

By Amy Kazmin
Washington Post Foreign Service
Saturday, June 7, 2008; A11

BANGKOK, June 6 -- In the weeks after Tropical Cyclone Nargis battered Burma's Irrawaddy Delta, Burma's most famous comedian -- a dentist known by his stage name, Zarganar, or "Tweezers" -- spearheaded efforts by about 400 Burmese artists to collect and distribute food, mosquito nets, blankets and other supplies to destitute survivors.

His initiative was one of many spontaneous private operations by concerned Rangoon residents -- including businesspeople, students, monks and local journalists -- that brought some measure of help to cyclone victims as U.N. agencies struggled with Burma's military government to get aid into the devastated region.

Long known for sharp comic jibes at the military rulers, Zarganar also spoke publicly in stark terms about the inadequacy of their cyclone relief effort, the physical difficulties and psychological trauma of the victims and the appalling conditions in the delta.

On Wednesday night, Zarganar was taken into custody by Burmese authorities, who insist that the relief phase of the emergency is over. The state-owned New Light of Myanmar newspaper, meanwhile, lashed out at "unscrupulous" elements that it said were exaggerating the problems in the delta.

Human rights groups say the detention of the high-profile figure and the effort to gloss over the extent of the disaster highlight the precedence Burma's rulers are giving to political concerns at the expense of the welfare of an estimated 2.5 million cyclone victims.

"By detaining him, it sends a message of real intimidation to people who the regime thinks could use the humanitarian disaster for political purposes," said Benjamin Zawacki, a researcher with Amnesty International.

More than a month after the cyclone hit, more than 1 million survivors, especially in remote, hard-to-reach areas of the delta, have received no assistance as they try to rebuild their lives, the United Nations says

excerpt from:
Zimbabwe Run-off "Dead on Arrival"
posted by Human Rights Watch

The Zimbabwean government’s campaign of violence and intimidation against the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has extinguished anychance of a free and fair presidential runoff on June 27, 2008, Human Rights Watch said in a new report released today.

Human Rights Watch urged the African Union (AU) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to use its influence and push President Robert Mugabe to take immediate steps to end the violence and hold those responsible to account.

The 69-page report, "'Bullets for Each of You': State-Sponsored Violence since Zimbabwe’s March 29 Elections,” documents numerous incidents of abductions, beatings, torture, and killings by officials and supporters of the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union–Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), the armed forces and police, “war veterans,” and youth militia against MDC activists and perceived MDC supporters. Human Rights Watch has confirmed at least 36 politically motivated deaths and 2,000 victims of violence. The report also examines the Zimbabwean government’s role in perpetrating and inciting the violence for political gain, and its failure to end the violence and prosecute those responsible. Human Rights Watch researchers conducted more than 70 interviews with victims and eyewitnesses to the violence since March in all 10 provinces of Zimbabwe.

“Since the runoff was announced the violence in Zimbabwe has gotten even worse,” said Georgette Gagnon, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “Zimbabweans can’t vote freely if they fear their vote may get them killed.”

ZANU-PF and its allies are also engaged in a politically motivated campaign of looting and destruction, slaughtering animals, stealing food and property, and burning down homesteads. “War veterans” and youth militia have set up roadblocks and taken control of huge swathes of the countryside in order to limit the flow of information on the extent of the violence and to punish those perceived to have voted for the MDC. The government has also ordered all local and international nongovernmental organizations to suspend their operations in Zimbabwe, accusing them of politicizing aid distribution.

Watch the BBCNews report on the
International aid agencies warning of disaster after Zimbabwe's government ordered them to stop work.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Zimbabwe's Ongoing Political Turmoil

excerpt from:
Tsvangirai detained again in Zimbabwe
- International Herald Tribune

With only three weeks to go before Zimbabwe's presidential runoff, the police briefly detained the opposition's standard-bearer, Morgan Tsvangirai, on Friday for the second time this week and directed his party to cancel political rallies, effectively preventing him from addressing voters.

At the same time, the Zimbabwean government's requirement that all nongovernmental organizations suspend their humanitarian operations, a decision that grew out of the authorities' allegations that some were supporting the opposition, was condemned on Friday by officials in the United States and Europe, as well as the United Nations.

Relief agencies said the order, issued this week, would deprive millions of desperately poor Zimbabweans of food aid and other basic humanitarian assistance. Unicef, for example, depends on 25 nongovernmental organizations to provide education, health care and food to 185,000 orphans in Zimbabwe.

"It's a horrible situation," said James Elder, Unicef's spokesman in Zimbabwe. "The children and their families continue to find stoic means of surviving, but this is a profoundly disturbing blow to them. We can't reach these children today."

When the Student Becomes The Master


"An economic system in which the means of production and distribution are privately or corporately owned and development is proportionate to the accumulation and reinvestment of profits gained in a free market"

If the Bush Administration has faltered in its efforts to bring "democracy" to the Middle East, it has certainly succeeded in exporting its brand of capitalism to Saudi Arabia. When it comes to oil, Saudi Arabia gets an A+ in understanding "supply and demand", "market forces", and "business friendships."

excerpt from:
Los Angeles Times: New forces fraying U.S.-Saudi oil ties
by Paul Richter

For decades, Saudi Arabia worked with its dominant customer, the United States, to keep world oil markets stable and advance common political goals.

But the surging price of oil, which soared more than $10 a barrel Friday to a record-high $138.54, has made it plain that those days are over. New forces, including a weak dollar and an oil-thirsty Asia, have blunted the United States' leverage and helped sour the two countries' relationship.

As gasoline prices have risen, the White House has unsuccessfully exhorted the Saudis to step up production, and Congress has threatened retaliation. But the situation now is a far cry from the days when the U.S. economy dominated the direction of the petroleum market.

"That gave us leverage," said Greg Priddy, an oil analyst at the Eurasia Group, a New York-based risk assessment firm. "There's certainly a perception that the power equation has changed."

The weakening of the economic relationship comes when the vital U.S.-Saudi security relationship also has been fraying.

In the 1980s, the U.S.-Saudi bond that kept oil prices low was credited with helping weaken the Soviet Union during the waning days of the Cold War. And it helped keep markets stable after Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait.

But the Saudi government has been dismayed by the consequences of the war in Iraq and by what it sees as a weak Bush administration commitment to the Palestinians.

The relationship is shaping up as a political issue for the fall campaign, certainly among congressional candidates and perhaps among presidential candidates.

With a 20-million-barrel-per-day habit, the U.S. remains the world's largest oil customer, even though its daily consumption over the years has dropped from one-third of total daily production to one-fourth.

But the U.S. can no longer guarantee on its own that producers will have the markets they need for their oil. Nor can the Saudis, alone, ramp up production in sufficient amounts to stabilize prices.

China and other Asian nations now use about 17 million barrels a day. That's up more than 20% since 2003, and booming growth is expected to continue.

With the shift in buying power, the Saudis are cultivating important Chinese customers, analysts say. Saudi Arabia recently contributed $50 million for Chinese earthquake relief, and King Abdullah has visited China.

$4+/gal Gasoline -- The Days of Change

cartoon courtesy of

Associated Press is reporting:
" Drivers are paying an average of $4 for a gallon of gasoline for the first time. AAA and the Oil Price Information Service say the national average price for a gallon of regular gas rose to $4.005 overnight from $3.988. But consumers in many parts of the country have already been paying well above that price for some time.

Gas is expected to keep climbing, putting greater pressure on consumers and businesses, because the price of oil is soaring in futures markets. Light, sweet crude shot up nearly $11 a barrel Friday and approached $140 for the first time."

It was inevitable -- the Era of $4.00+/gal gasoline is officially here. And it may not entirely be a bad thing.

After months of debate on the floors of Congress, it seems that the politicos in Washington are no closer to being honest with the American public that before. The GOP wants to convince you that if only the oil companies were allowed to drill in ANWR and off the coasts of Florida and California that gasoline prices will come down. They want you to believe that Exxon will choose to only supply oil to US consumer if a foreign entity like China or India offers to buy it at a higher price. Do you believe that Exxon will turn down a profit?

The Democrats want to convince you that they will one day find the gumption to take on "Big Oil" and their windfall profits and government subsidies.

What neither side of the aisle wants to tell the American public is that it's time to get a new attitude about fossil fuel consumption. Proposals like drilling in ANWR and a gasoline tax can only offer temporary relief from pump prices
, at best. In order to address America's fuel needs Americans need to begin rethinking how they live and even where they live.

While America begins transitioning from dependence on fossil fuels
e all need to get use to the idea of "conservation. We need to get serious about smaller and more energy efficient cars and homes. We need to support local farmers and manufacturers and reduce the need for imported goods. We may need to rethink the importance of saving our small towns so Americans won't have to commute so far to work or school. We need to commit resources to making our cities safe and improving our public schools so families won't feel that they have to flee to the suburbs.

In short, it's time for Americans to get serious about the things that should have been addressed 20 years ago.

Oil is a finite resource and Americans aren't the only ones in the world who have a need (or desire) for it. In fact, the countries which manufacture and export goods have just as great a need for oil as the countries which import and consume the goods.

These are the days of change.

Friday, June 6, 2008

The Mission Continues

Hi Readers,

I'm back from my little hiatus of gardening, spring cleaning, family time and spiritual reflection.  I never thought that I would find such serenity in housecleaning but between you and me, it was refreshing to be away from the politics of the Democratic presidential primary contest.  :-)  

Political junkie that I am, I was keeping up with all of the goings on.  However, when I feel that I have nothing to add to a  conversation I try not to waste your time and my breath (or typing in this case).  Some things just have to run their course. Hopefully, now we can all begin to move on with the business of restoring this democracy, healing this land and its people.

So many of us have waited a very, very long time. 


The Hill Blog» Blog Archive »
Obama Is Continuing My Uncle's Mission (Rep. Patrick Kennedy)

I'm just absolutely thrilled to be part of this historic time in our nation's history.  Tomorrow is the 40th anniversary of my uncle Robert Kennedy's death, but it is also, in a sense, a continuation of his unfinished campaign for a renewal in America, for how we can come together as a society between black and white, between those who have been disenfranchised in our society and those who felt left behind, and those who really haven't been welcomed into circles of opportunity or into our country.  This is a chance, in this election, for them to finally have a voice and feel like this government belongs to them, too.

People haven't felt this empowered really, I think, since my uncle Robert Kennedy and Dr. King were giving them a voice in the late '60s.  It's ironic that Barack Obama will give his convention night speech on the same day that Martin Luther King delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech.  All of these ironies, I think, are not mere coincidences.  I think there's something afoot here.  There is something spiritual about him, and you can't help but feel that when you see the size of the crowds and you feel the spirit in the people.  There really is a great energy, and it's really exciting to be around.

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By R.I. Dem. Rep. Patrick Kennedy

Thursday, June 5, 2008

It's Time to Get Very Serious About Water

There's an old saying that "it's too late to close the barn door when the horse is gone". And another saying that reminds us that "you don't miss the water until the well is dry".

Well the world's usable water supply is running mighty low and it's seems that, as in the gasoline and food crises, the barn door has been left wide open.

With summer (in the Northern Hemisphere) approaching and weather temperatures rising it's time for everyone to get very serious about water and water management. While Congress is busy debating approaches for addressing the impact of skyrocketing gasoline prices, meteorologists, environmentalists and farmers are already talking about how high temperatures and the lack of rainfall will impact the southeastern US.

The states of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee are in an on-going dispute over water resources and land boundaries. The Michigan and Ohio State Legislatures are still trying to decide on participating in the Great Lakes Water Compact. Some states seem to have their head in the sand. Washington politicians seem to have their head stuck somewhere else. And, questions about water supply and US infrastructure were MIA during the US presidential primary debates.

I, for one, am pricing rain barrels for gathering rain water.

In the following video Mike Hightower of Sandia National Laboratories discusses the world water shortage with a reporter for KRQE in New Mexico

excerpt from:
How the World Is Realizing That Water Is "Blue Gold"
by Mark Clayton,

Public fountains are dry in Barcelona, Spain, a city so parched there's a €9,000 ($13,000) fine if you're caught watering your flowers. A tanker ship docked there this month carrying 5 million gallons of precious fresh water -- and officials are scrambling to line up more such shipments to slake public thirst.

Barcelona is not alone. Cyprus will ferry water from Greece this summer. Australian cities are buying water from that nation's farmers and building desalination plants. Thirsty China plans to divert Himalayan water. And 18 million southern Californians are bracing for their first water-rationing in years.

Water, Dow Chemical Chairman Andrew Liveris told the World Economic Forum in February, "is the oil of this century." Developed nations have taken cheap, abundant fresh water largely for granted. Now global population growth, pollution, and climate change are shaping a new view of water as "blue gold."

"We're at a transition point where fundamental decisions need to be made by societies about how this basic human need -- water -- is going to be provided," says Christopher Kilian, clean-water program director for the Boston-based Conservation Law Foundation. "The profit motive and basic human need [for water] are just inherently in conflict."

Will "peak water" displace "peak oil" as the central resource question? Some see such a scenario rising.

"What's different now is that it's increasingly obvious that we're running up against limits to new [fresh water] supplies," says Peter Gleick, a water expert and president of the Pacific Institute for Studies in Development, Environment, and Security, a nonpartisan think tank in Oakland, Calif. "It's no longer cheap and easy to drill another well or dam another river."

"We have ignored demand for decades, just assuming supplies of water would be there," Dr. Gleick says. "Now we have to learn to manage water demand and -- on top of that -- deal with climate change, too."

In the following video Patrick Barta discusses how Perth, Australia is addressing its growing water shortage.

Related articles:

Michigan House Passes More of Its Water Management Plan

Ohio Agreement to Join Great Lakes Water Plan Stalls Again

Florida Lawmakers Mad About Water

Poaching Water Isn't The Solution

Related posts:

Much Talk About Oil But Little About Water

Falling Bridges and No Water

Georgia Water Crisis: Sorting Out Priorities

US Sales of Municipal Water Systems to Multinational Interests

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Would You Put Sewage Sludge on Your Lawn?

"Of Course Not", you say.

But don't be so sure. If your fertilizer lists "beneficial biosolids" as a key ingredient then your have just spread processed sewage on your lawn. I hope that you used gloves!

In fact, sewage sludge may have been used on your child's school yard, on the produce from the market and, it may be seeping into your well water.

According to the Center for Food Safety:
"Every time you flush your toilet or clean a paintbrush in your sink, you may be unwittingly contributing fertilizer used to grow the food in your pantry. Beginning in the early 1990s, millions of tons of potentially-toxic sewage sludge have been applied to millions of acres of America's farmland as food crop fertilizer. Selling sewage sludge to farmers for use on cropland has been a favored government program for disposing of the unwanted byproducts from municipal wastewater treatment plants. But sewage sludge is anything but the benign fertilizer the Environmental Protection Agency says it is.

Sewage sludge includes anything that is flushed, poured, or dumped into our nation's wastewater system--a vast, toxic mix of wastes collected from countless sources, from homes to chemical industries to hospitals. The sludge being spread on our crop fields is a dangerous stew of heavy metals, industrial compounds, viruses, bacteria, drug residues, and radioactive material. In fact, hundreds of people have fallen ill after being exposed to sewage sludge fertilizer--suffering such symptoms as respiratory distress, headaches, nausea, rashes, reproductive complications, cysts, and tumors.

Despite the apparent danger of using sludge in food production, federal regulations are woefully lax. The EPA monitors only nine of the thousands of pathogens commonly found in sludge; the agency rarely performs site inspections of sewage treatment plants; and it almost never inspects the farms that use sludge fertilizer."

This is just one more reason to buy organic, support your local farmer's market and become a better informed consumer.

excerpt from:
Will the Toxic Sludge Industry Be Held Accountable for Human Health Risks?
| Health and Wellness | AlterNet

By Joel Bleifuss for Alternet

Nancy Holt, a retired nurse from Mebane, N.C., is beset by mysterious neurological problems. She blames the cause of her illness on the multiple unknown toxicities of the sewage sludge that has been spread since 1991 on the fields across from her house as "fertilizer."

And Holt says she isn't alone. People in her neighborhood have a high incidence of cancer and thyroid problems. Local creeks are no longer safe for kids to play in -- the danger of staph infection is too great.

In 2001, Holt began chronicling the health problems in her area of rural Alamance County -- 12 miles north of Chapel Hill. Soon she was tracking reports of sludge-related illnesses and deaths across the country.

"I put together the symptoms, the illnesses, the high cancer rates, the thyroid disorders in this community," she says. "It is non-scientific, of course."

"And we have precocious puberty, little girls developing breasts at 5 or 6 years old, little boys developing armpit hair. And that is something that people don't want to talk about," Holt says. "They will talk about their thyroid glands, their cancers, but they will not talk about early puberty. We are on a true toxic tilt."

For the first time since she became involved in the sludge issue, Holt is guardedly hopeful that her concerns will finally be addressed, and that the sulphurous alliance between the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), municipal sewer authorities and Synagro Technologies (the nation's largest sludge disposal firm, which was recently bought by the Carlyle Group) -- will be exposed for the blight it is.

In April, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), chair of the Environment and Public Works Committee, announced that her committee will hold hearings on the issue this summer. The catalyst is a confluence of recent news reports about sludge-related scandals.

In the Potomac River, 60 miles upstream from Washington, D.C., scientists have discovered many small-mouth male bass with eggs inside their sex organs. The cause of these "intersexed" fish is almost certainly endocrine disruptors -- also known as estrogen mimickers -- in the water, chemical pollutants that disrupt an animal's natural hormonal system.

In February, the Washington Post reported that the concentration of intersexed fish is greatest near towns or near heavily farmed land. One major source of these endocrine disruptors is thought to be the post-treatment "cleaned" water from municipal sewage treatment centers that is discharged directly into the Potomac River system and runoff from fields "fertilized" with sludge.

This news of male fish bearing eggs was followed with an April report by the Associated Press that in 2000, nine Baltimore families -- all black residents of the city's east side -- received food coupons in exchange for permission to allow researchers to spread "Class A" Baltimore sewage sludge (brand name, Orgro High Organic Compost) on their yards, till it into the soil and then plant grass seed.

The rationale for this experiment was to find out whether municipal sewage sludge could lower the amount of lead that children who played in the nine experimental yards would absorb. Veolia Water, the corporation that markets Baltimore municipal sludge as Orgro, claims its "beneficial biosolids" are so safe they are even used on the White House lawn.

"Beneficial biosolids" is the term that Powell Tate, a D.C.-based public relations firm, invented in the early '90s, in an attempt to linguistically detoxify the 7 million tons of sludge -- industrial waste, hospital waste, pharmaceuticals in addition to feces -- that the nation's 16,000 municipal sewer systems produce each year.

In the following video clip is from an April DemocracyNow newscast which discussed how toxic sludge was spread on the lawns on residents of a low-income Baltimore neighborhood

NC Move to Ban Coal From Mountaintop Removal Mining

Kudos to North Carolina State Rep Pricey Harrison. Let's all hope that North Carolina leads the way in eliminating this environmentally destructive and hazardous health practice.

excerpt from:
NC May Be First to Say No to Buying Coal from
Mountaintop Removal Mining

by Kate Sheppard, for AlterNet

Last week, North Carolina State Rep. Pricey Harrison introduced legislation in the state House that would ban the burning of coal obtained through mountaintop-removal mining. If it passes, North Carolina would become the first state in the nation with such a law.

The mining method isn't practiced in North Carolina, but 61 percent of the state's power comes from coal; North Carolina is second only to Georgia in the amount of MTR-mined coal it burns. According to Appalachian Voices, a group devoted to ending the controversial and destructive mining practice, 13 power plants in North Carolina buy coal from mountaintop-removal mine sites. Most of it comes from nearby West Virginia, Kentucky, and Virginia.

MTR blasts off mountaintops for the purpose of extracting coal, wiping out biodiverse forest habitats and permanently scarring the world's oldest mountains. The debris left over from the blasts is usually dumped in nearby streams; according to the U.S. EPA, more than 700 miles of streams have been completely buried by mountaintop-removal debris, and thousands of others have been damaged. MTR also causes myriad health problems for nearby residents, in part because mine waste contaminates water supplies.

Harrison, a Democrat who represents Guilford County, told Grist she learned about the hazards of the practice by doing a flyover of West Virginian mountains that had been destroyed by MTR, and by watching the documentary Mountain Top Removal. Since there aren't regions in her state likely to be affected by the practice, banning the burning of MTR coal seemed like the most logical way to take action.

"I thought this was a pretty abhorrent practice," says Harrison. "[I] wanted to send a signal to folks in West Virginia and Kentucky that we object to the way they're being treated and we're not going to put up with it."

In the following video clip, Amy Goodman speaks with West Virginia Grandfather Ed Wiley about his battle against the mountaintop removal mining which has described as "the government-sanctioned bombing of Appalachia."

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Quote of the Day

" Democracy in America is a series of narrow escapes, and we may be running out of luck. The reigning presumption about the American experience, as the historian Lawrence Goodwyn has written, is grounded in the idea of progress, the conviction that the present is "better" than the past and the future will bring even more improvement. For all of its shortcomings, we keep telling ourselves, 'The system works.'

Now all bets are off. We have fallen under the spell of money, faction, and fear, and the great American experience in creating a different future together has been subjugated to individual cunning in the pursuit of wealth and power -and to the claims of empire, with its ravenous demands and stuporous distractions. A sense of political impotence pervades the country -- a mass resignation defined by Goodwyn as 'believing the dogma of 'democracy' on a superficial public level but not believing it privately.' We hold elections, knowing they are unlikely to bring the corporate state under popular control."

an excerpt from Bill Moyers' new book, "Moyers on Democracy" (Doubleday, 2008)