Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Julian Assange In Conversation

I was getting ready to blog and looking around for Julian Assange's bio when I came upon a TED video talk he had just a few short days before the release of the 92,000 plus reports on the Afghanistan war. A very interesting, intelligent man with a good sense of humour -- and yet another reason to love the intertubes.

The Narrative

One of my problems with the blogging thing is I've always looked at things from the perspective of the big picture -- macro. In doing so I often allow the minutiae to escape me. It's why I don't do short sharp posts, for the most part, like the blogs I love to read do. I'm always trying to fit everything into the bigger picture and for the last 19 months I have to admit the big picture has been scaring the crap out of me.

There are untold consequences to come for the kind of public discourse being allowed to happen in the public square -- hell, hate is not just being allowed, it's encouraged. Witness last week's attack on Shirley Sherrod by a scumbag named Andrew Breitbart. It was proven to not only be demonstrably false but a deliberate lie meant to turn what she said on it's ear and give her words the exact opposite meaning that were intended. Even being called out by their media colleagues doesn't do anything to stop the endless attacks. Maybe it's because guys like Breitbart have many, many, many enablers. And there's seemingly no depths they won't sink to.

The outcomes of such non-stop propagandizing and vitriol can only be guessed at. There's no way of determining what will result in five, ten, fifteen years from now as a result of a steady stream of hate being taught absorbed and taken to heart.

So I wander over to a link at MMFA and read that Glenn Beck's hate-mongering rhetoric nearly got him a demonstrable body count, and that only a bit of luck prevented Byron Williams, a right-wing, government-hating, gun-toting nut who had strapped on body armor, stocked a pickup truck with guns, ammo, and set off up the California coast to San Francisco in order to start killing employees at the Tides Foundation - an obscure organization continually targeted by Glenn Beck on his program. All this in the hopes of sparking a political revolution.

Thankfully, the planned domestic terrorist attack never came to pass because California Highway Patrol officers pulled Williams over for drunk driving on his way to his killing spree. Williams quickly opened fire, wounding two officers during a lengthy shootout. Luckily, Williams wasn't able to act out the ultimate goal of his dark anger -- fueled by the TV news he watched -- about how "Congress was railroading through all these left-wing agenda items," as his mother put it. Williams wasn't able to open fire inside the offices of the Tides Foundation, an organization "nobody knew" about until Glenn Beck started targeting it.

So, happenstance prevented Glenn Beck inspired murder and mayhem this time. It's not likely that we'll be so lucky next time. There is a way to head this off at the pass and that is for people to stand up and declare his speech intolerable and unacceptable in a civilized society. I often declare that we're living in the age of stupid - there's a lot of cowardice going around too.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Annie Leonard - "The Story of Bottled Water"

Getting ready to blog here and wanted to post something that might be thought provoking and of use in the meantime. Have a look at Annie Leonard's, The Story of Bottled Water:


Monday, July 26, 2010

Julian Assange As Daniel Ellsberg

The moment Julian Assange of WikiLeaks released the 92,000 plus reports that are a daily diary of the war in Afghanistan, it was inevitable that they would be compared with the Pentagon Papers. The Washington Post does a good job of sorting out the similarities and the differences noting on the one hand that, unlike the Pentagon Papers, there are no high-level documents here that raise basic questions about the credibility of Presidents Obama and George W. Bush and their top advisors. However just like the Pentagon Papers, the Wikileaks Afghanistan War Logs will (likely) fuel political opposition in the U.S. to American troops continuing combat operations in Afghanistan.

The Guardian describes the revelations as being, ...a devastating portrait of the failing war in Afghanistan, revealing how coalition forces have killed hundreds of civilians in unreported incidents, Taliban attacks have soared and Nato commanders fear neighbouring Pakistan and Iran are fuelling the insurgency.


This is one of the biggest leaks in US military history and make no mistake will have enormous consequences for the current White House who are rather clumsily trying to both downplay the information contained in the leaks and claim that they may affect "national security." Ever the lapdog, Harper's Minister of Defense, Lawrence Cannon makes the same claim. Jay Rosen takes apart their arguments in short order, describing them as the world's first stateless news organization:

•This leak will harm national security. (As if those words still had some kind of magical power, after all the abuse they have been party to.)



•There’s nothing new here. (Then how could the release harm national security?)


•Wikileaks is irresponsible; they didn’t even try to contact us! (Hold on: you’re hunting the guy down and you’re outraged that he didn’t contact you?)


•Wikileaks is against the war in Afghanistan; they’re not an objective news source. (So does that mean the documents they published are fake?)

•“The period of time covered in these documents… is before the President announced his new strategy. Some of the disconcerting things reported are exactly why the President ordered a three month policy review and a change in strategy.” (Okay, so now we too know the basis for the President’s decision: and that’s a bad thing?)

The New York Times publishes some of the reports so as to give the reader a sense of what's in the more than 90,000 reports and describe the leaks as, ...a daily diary of an American-led force often starved for resources and attention as it struggled against an insurgency that grew larger, better coordinated and more deadly each year.

Glenn Greenwald wonders if the same Democrats who have said of the Daniel Ellsberg leak of the Pentagon Papers back in 1971 was heroic and necessary will follow the White House lead. He paints an ironic picture as the original Pentagon Papers exposed the amoral duplicity of a Democratic administration -- occurred when there was a Republican in the White House. This latest leak, by contrast, indicts a war which a Democratic President has embraced as his own, and documents similar manipulation of public opinion and suppression of the truth well into 2009.
 
Julian Assange's motives for doing this seem pretty clear from the following statement he made to Der Spiegel before publishing the Afghan logs, "They will change our perspective on not only the war in Afghanistan, but on all modern wars. This material shines light on the everyday brutality and squalor of war. The archive will change public opinion and it will change the opinion of people in positions of political and diplomatic influence."

These documents illustrate why the US military campaign in Afghanistan has achieved so little success. The release also focuses on Pakistan’s intelligence service, which has provides strategic support to the Taliban, helping it coordinate attacks against US troops and assassinate Afghani leaders. All the while claiming to be an ally of the US. Go listen to the NPR Q&A on what WikiLeaks is all about.
The toll on Afghan civilians is well documented and stands as one of the major failures of the Afghan war effort. It's hard to read all of this and not wonder exactly what is the point of all this war, bloodshed and destroyed lives? Stateless terrorists will always find a place to train and plot their terror. Even if the NATO allies could magically transform Afghanistan into a western style democracy there would be little if any decrease in terrorist activities - in fact the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have created more terrorists than existed after the World Trade Center bombings of  Sept11, 2001.

What Have The Unions Ever Done For Us?

Here's something funny to ponder while I get ready to post the day's links. Hope it's all going your way - and you know, you could drop me a note every once in a while.


Sunday, July 25, 2010

"If We Capitulate To Superstition Or Greed Or Stupidity..."

This is a longer version of the Carl Sagan video I posted some weeks ago. It's thoughtful and insightful and a good example of what his series, Cosmos, was like. The person who put this together threw in a few modern day reminders of where we find ourselves now - strange times indeed. His was a sane and rational voice that cut through the superstitions and nonsense to present the layman with easy to understand science about the universe and our place in it. As a kid I loved watching and reading Mr. Sagan and that hasn't changed. All these years later if he were alive he'd be aghast at the backwards steps we've taken as a species but not surprised. He speculates on that very topic at the close of the video with the words in the heading, "If we capitulate to superstition or greed or stupidity..." There are very few days I feel that we haven't.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

No Narratives

The title is misleading of course. There is one continuous narrative in the MSM: Everything that happens is good for the Republicans and bad for the Democrats. You can take that MSM wisdom further and say everything that does happen is the responsibility of the Democrats and not the Republicans. Sadly a lot of Democrats or progressives are happy to play along. I'd say they do that to show off their independence creds, but that would be cynical on my part too. There are some genuine reasons for criticism and I'll talk about that, but it'd be nice if after a long week if some of the good could get as much attention.

I know the left is supposed to be more critical than the subservient right. But there is however a useful limit. A point beyond which you do your cause harm. Now you'd never know it if you listened to the MSM hacks who play journalists on TV, Barrack had himself, legislatively speaking, a hell of a week. There was Wall Street Reform, the much needed unemployment extension for millions that the Republicans had been stubbornly blocking, and credit card reform designed to better protect consumers.

There was also an Executive Order from the President to provide a National Endowment for the Oceans, to provide a stable funding source to support stewardship of the oceans, to benefit the communities that rely on the many services provided by the oceans, from healthy fisheries to clean beaches to clean air.

There was the Improper Payments Elimination and Recovery Act which is designed to begin to put an end to unnecessary no-bid contracts. There's some savings involved for taxpayers ($48 billion) and modernization of how government does things.

While the president is having a hard time getting what he wants, what many feel is absolutely necessary, for a Climate and Energy bill, he did manage to expand greenhouse gas reduction targets for federal operations. The Federal Government will reduce greenhouse gas pollution from indirect sources, such as employee travel and commuting, by 13% by 2020. Every little bit helps.

There was bad news for the administration as they joined everyone in jumping the gun on the Shirley Sherrod affair. A nasty and deliberate smear job perpetrated by Andrew Breitbart, someone who has done this sort of thing before, that proves the Obama administration to be overly cautious and sensitive to criticism from people who should not matter a whit. It is a failing but it is also a moment that they will hopefully learn from.

As for that failed climate bill, every progressive I've read blames Obama for running a poor campaign to get it passed. That's an argument with merit. It's hard to tell from reading about the issue whether or not it is him directly or if it is the political calculations of his staff. Either way it is a major disappointment but it doesn't mean that it can't be rectified in the near future, in fact it has to be. The one caveat here is that not a single Republican is on board for what may prove to be the defining issue of our times and that is not Obama's fault, but it not the fault of those who have lobbied hard and long to change their minds. There's blame enough to go around to be sure.

One more thing, my favourite blogger is the guy over at Eschaton, an economist named Duncan Black who has proved to be remarkably prescient. His beef with Obama, and he does have one, is about Obama's willingness to constantly give in to pressure from what he calls the wise old men of Washington. The people who, in effect, led the US to this place with 9.5% unemployment and a struggling economy. He makes a persuasive argument.

Interesting times are, without a doubt, a curse.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Unsafe Chemicals

It's Friday and I'd like to somehow both catch-up to all the stories I couldn't get to and provide a public service. Really! So here's a whole list of chemicals in everyday products you have to learn to avoid, and they're in everything from lipstick to toothpaste to pizza boxes. Go to, Not a Guinea Pig, for a more complete list of things you should keep away from. To top it off, Annie Leonard, of The Story of Stuff, fame giving a primer on the toxic products we purchase and bring into our homes:

Thursday, July 22, 2010

A Week That Defies Categoriazation

Starting with the dispersants BP has been using to hide the enormity of the spill in the Gulf. The real reason BP has used nearly 2 million gallons of the dispersant Corexit in the Gulf is to hide the oil and save themselves money in possible fines, says Hugh Kaufman, a senior policy analyst at the EPA’s Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response. He explains that the dispersant is used to atomize the oil and force it down the water column so that it’s invisible to the eye. 

He also feels that , the government—both EPA, NOAA, etc.—have been sock puppets for BP in this cover-up. Now, by hiding the amount of spill, BP is saving hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars in fines, and so, from day one, there was tremendous economic incentive to use these dispersants to hide the magnitude of the gusher that’s been going on for almost three months. You can listen to his full interview with Democracy Now's Amy Goodman below:



In what should be considered alarming news, oil and dispersant have entered the food chain, and hydrocarbons have been detected in crab larvae. A Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries biologist expressed this concern recently:"We are quite concerned that we will see significant mortality of larvae as they encounter oil or dispersants." (Times Picayune, Bob Marshall, 7/20/2010) Further, it is a known fact that oil mixed with dispersant can actually prove to be more toxic than oil, or dispersant, alone. (See fact sheet at the link).

There's so much BP has done wrong - so many acts for which they will hopefully be criminally liable it's no surprise to read that they've been screwing up the cleanup of the Gulf on top of everything else.



As far as capping the well, that's been the good news this week as the gusher seems to be under control and they're getting closer to having the relief wells done. In a bit of bad news on this front, efforts will be suspended this weekend as they wait out a tropical storm Bonnie which could potentially develop into a hurricane.

On the environmental front, some good news beginning with Obama signing an executive order creating a new national ocean policy to protect and restore America's oceans, coasts, and Great Lakes. Followed by terrible news today, from TPM: At a press conference this afternoon, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), the Democrats' top climate and energy negotiator, acknowledged officially, and with obvious disappointment, that they lack the votes to pass legislation limiting carbon pollution, and that forthcoming energy legislation will be extremely narrow, in a bid to overcome a GOP filibuster.

Now there are those who want to blame this failure on Obama and I unsderstand that but it is not his fault. Says Harry Reid about the fate of the bill, "Unfortunately at this time we don't have a single Republican to work with in achieving this goal."

Not one single Republican to work with on legislation that is probaby more important than any other issue out there. Joe Romm believes averting catastrophic climate change is the singular most important problem we face as a society.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Standing Up To Bullies

As we grow up we learn that the only way to deal with bullies is to stand up to them, damn the consequences, because nothing else works. Every other path leads to more fear and more bullying. Keith Olbermann advocates for the President to do just that:


Shirley Sherrod

I Wanted to make sure anyone who dropped by had the details on the controversy manufactured by a right-wing creep with the help of the right-wing media that led to the firing of Shirley Sherrod. Rachel has the details below:




Now if you listened to the report you know the perpetrator of the defamation of Shirley Sherrod's character is Andrew Breitbart, a smear merchant whose credibility should be non-existent. That would be true in a world without Glenn beck Rush Limbaugh and Fox News - sadly those things all exist and he has a platform for his lies and fabrications. He was the man behind the lies about ACORN which, even though they proved to be false, helped to bring about that organization's demise.

Part of the reason for his success in taking on ACORN, aside from endless trumpeting of the so called scandal by the right-wing Wurlitzer, was that it took many weeks to completely debunk the story. By that time people had lost interest and moved on. One of the reasons we have hope that this will stick to Breitbart like s*** to a jackal's hide is that it all happened with a 24 hour news-cycle: The lie, the fake outrage, the realization that the video had been clipped and was out of all context, the firing, the apology, the media embarrassment, the walk-back and her vindication.

So people can witness and understand what happened in its entirety. David Frum spoke out against Breitbart and his ilk and tactics but he now represents a small minority in the conservative movement. Shirley herself laid the blame at the feet of Fox and Breitbart - but many will try to blame Obama and the administration who are not without blame but maybe could be excused for being overly sensitive to issues of race.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Criminals at British Petroleum

It has been hard to not get overly emotional about what British Petroleum has done to the Gulf of Mexico and the marine life and animals that make up those fragile eco-systems. Something that I expected to be mitigated by an outcry for sanity and clean energy policies, and stricter observance to the regulations that already exist. My hopes have sadly gone unanswered.

Instead the right has shamelessly ramped up calls for more drilling, more tax breaks and subsidies for fossil fuel companies and less regulation. This, even even though they are the most profitable corporations in the history of modern capitalism. Some have even wanted to shield BP from paying the full costs of the clean-up.

The extent of BP's criminality is not yet known but, near as I can tell, by direct comparison they make the Mafia look like pikers. They cut corners on safety and design, and their negligence seems to have been the cause of the catastrophe in the first place. Now they're trying to buy up scientists and by extension their silence on Gulf coast studies - The Press-Register obtained a copy of a contract offered to scientists by BP. It prohibits the scientists from publishing their research, sharing it with other scientists or speaking about the data that they collect for at least the next three years.

Listen to Rachel's report on how they're trying to accomplish this:




The really sad thing about this post is that it comes at a time when there should be a bit of relief that they got that damned well capped! They found a way to close the lid on that oil gushing volcano and they're close (by the only accounts available to one and all) to having those relief wells dug. We don't know if it'll hold as there are concerns about the wellbore's integrity and besides, this would just mark the end of the first part of the disaster anyhow.

The millions of gallons of oil and dispersants in the Gulf of Mexico waters, the toll they take on the Gulf region, and the length of time it takes for the region to recover is what follows and will take far more than three months to wrap up. The stories to keep your eye on are the ones about BP's continuing cover-up of the truth. Their continuous maneuvering to try and lessen the financial costs of their criminality and the politicians who are in their thrall and will work on their behalf and not for their constituents.

Friday, July 16, 2010

US Chamber of Horrors!

When I saw the story about the open letter the US Chamber of Commerce sent to the President a couple of days ago I was so horrified I had to flee from the computer console and take refuge in... well, you know, life. I went to a comedy show, hung out with friends, talked, laughed and never mentioned what I had seen.

Sociopathy will suck the fun right out of an evening and that's the only word I can use to describe the contents of the letter the US Chamber of Commerce sent to the President on Wednesday. It's their Christmas wish list and all they want is everything - tax cuts for them tax raises for the middle-class and the poor as well as gutting social Security. To paraphrase, "We want all the nice shiny things the American middle-class has left.

Crooks and Liars does a good job of summarizing what the Chamber's goals are all about. They use the phrase the Chamber no doubt loves and probably coined, "Drill, baby drill!" to great advantage and turn it into other phrases the Chamber probably is secretly in love with: "Loot, baby loot!" and "Starve, baby starve!"

From the huffpo, here's what the Chamber wants: ...deregulation of business, tax cuts for the wealthy, free trade agreements, a reduced corporate income tax, expanded offshore drilling and logging in national forests and the privatization of waterways and roads.


Specifically, the Chamber urges the president to extend Bush-era tax cuts in full and provide tax breaks for companies that move jobs overseas.

The Chamber simultaneously calls for a reduction in the deficit -- a gap caused largely by the tax cuts the Chamber wants extended, which are projected to add $3.4 trillion to the debt between 2009 and 2019.

Now I think this will all work against them and the Republicans in the long and hopefully the short run if word gets out there and people can bear witness to their brazen attempts to ruin once and for all the American middle-class.


Thursday, July 15, 2010

Climate Science Deniers Getting Desperate

With the once and for all debunking of "climategate" earlier this week - there were editorials around the country telling their readers that the integrity of the science was solid in spite of all that had been alleged over the months since last November when the scientists private e-mails were hacked into - it seems that the anti-science crowd has become far more bellicose.

There are calls for violence from swift-boater Marc Marano who apparently believes climate scientists should be publicly beaten.

There's a denier that goes by the name of Lord Moncton and his sorry act was thoroughly debunked by John Abraham (absolute must listening!). From Lord Moncton we have cyber-bullying, lies and hate-speech.

He's a heck of a guy huh?

Oppressed White Folks

These people say they're not racist - what say you?



They're affiliated with the people who put up this billboard.


Maybe I'm being hyperbolic.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Powerlessness of Positive Thinking (Cognition Revisited)

I found this over at Pharyngula. It's an entertaining and eye-opening ten minute talk about the doctrine of positive thinking being used to quell dissent - for social control. Barbara Ehrenreich has an answer though: realism and collective power. Watch for yourself and see if you don't agree,

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Follow-up

Just to follow up on the Corexit dispersant story and the videos posted below - the people over at Video CafĂ© have this story and chat with a marine toxicologist about the effects of Corexit on the metabolism: Shrimpers who were exposed to a mixture of oil and Corexit dispersant in the Gulf of Mexico suffered severe symptoms such as muscle spasms, heart palpitations, headaches that last for weeks and bleeding from the rectum...



The media doesn't give it a lot of coverage, but it's old news that Corexit is 4 times more toxic than the oil itself, it's old news that there are better and less toxic dispersant available,  it's old news that the EPA asked BP to stop using Corexit and BP told them to stuff it.

MSM Wankery Redux



This is a good segue into MSM wankery staring with: I'll bet you weren't aware how vitriolic and relentless the Democrats are. And while all the media talk has been about how those crazy Dems want to do nothing but spend money there's this from Senate Republican Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) who insisted on Sunday that Congress should extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans regardless of their impact on the deficit, even as he and other Republicans are blocking unemployment insurance extensions over deficit concerns. Will the media report it? Will the deluded teaparty types notice?


Media Matters chronicles how stories go from Fox news (no matter how inane or insane) to the MSM. In effect they create news and oft times a whole series of news cycles. Rush picks up on one of those stories and proves he's a pig.

Climate Change suggests two scientists could just as well be called Ocean Change. The oceans are choking on greenhouse gases. Our emissions are changing ocean temperature, pH and circulation with wide-ranging effects on biological productivity and ecosystem health. These are among the conclusions of five review articles published in a special feature on the oceans in a recent issue of Science magazine. Go read the whole thing.

A story that should make everyone sit up and take notice, Lake Superior 20 degrees F warmer than normal for this time of year - that's massive!

Even though the Treasury Department estimates that ending the subsidies to bigoil would decrease domestic oil production by less than one half of one percent, an amendment proposed by Bernie Sanders (I-VT) that would have cut $35 billion in tax subsidies to big oil companies, failed to pass, losing 61-35. Every GOP Senator voted against the measure. The good people over at the Wonk Room explain why and how they continue to get away with this.

Democrats try and unite under a single banner to counter teaparty politics, demanding all the change they voted for.

Cognition

It's one of those days where I did a lot of reading and research and little posting until late. Starting with how facts can backfire - a recent study discovered a human tendency that will be deeply discouraging to anyone with faith in the power of information. It’s this: Facts don’t necessarily have the power to change our minds. In fact, quite the opposite. In a series of studies in 2005 and 2006, researchers at the University of Michigan found that when misinformed people, particularly political partisans, were exposed to corrected facts in news stories, they rarely changed their minds. In fact, they often became even more strongly set in their beliefs. Facts, they found, were not curing misinformation.

Here's a Ted video that decribes another human phenomena that produces similar results - errors in cognition:

Monday, July 12, 2010

Corporate Criminals

If BP does manage to get the spill contained there's so much that they still have to answer for - Like cutting 40,000 claimants off for having incomplete files. Oh yeah, they're going to make it right all right... for themselves. Take a look at this video with images that aren't being showed much in the MSM:




There's their use of the dispersant Corexit that's described as being four times as toxic as the oil itself:



And from our good friend Laffy over at the Political Carnival, comes this video of BP hiding the toxic sludge that they're collecting - the waste management facility reminds me of something I once saw in the X-Files. Sadly though, the truth is nowhere to be found.

Waiting All Day...

On the radio show today I talked about BP taking off the containment cap - a massive spew of course ensued - and were getting ready to put a new one on that they hoped was going to staunch the flow considerably if not completely. I'm the last person to be taken in by these criminal propagandists but I have to admit all day long I've had a feeling that this really might come to an end soon. Surely BP couldn't be dense enough to raise people's hopes yet again only to let them down. So I've been waiting all day to post on their progress and so far are all signs are positive.

While the original cap only caught about half of the estimated oil spewing into the Gulf, the new cap will divert the entire oil flow into a containment system so it can be disposed of. As of Saturday, BP said the total volume of oil that has been collected by the existing system was roughly 3/4 of a million barrels. The new system that it is being introduced should be able to deal with 60,000 to 80,000 barrels a day and should be ready by the end of the month.


Capping the well and collecting the oil is not going to solve the long-term problem. Stopping the flow of oil is still dependent upon two relief wells that BP has been digging since May and are designed to join up with the original well, about 18,000ft under the sea floor. They will then pump the specialised heavy fluids down the relief well and bring the first part of the catastrophe to a merciful end. What will follow can only be guessed at.

Here's something that'll take the edge off if you're half as angry as I am about this criminal and negligent behaviour on the part of BP.


Sunday, July 11, 2010

Sunday and I Should Be in the Park

Genuine pushback from David Axelrod the Obama admin on republican lies about the economy.



Six US soldiers get killed in Afghanistan.

The wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, taking corporate donations for her teaparty activities. Does that smell corrupt to you? Sure looks like influence peddling to me.

Some good news from the MSM - well, in reality the evidence was in a long time ago but you take good news where you get it - the New York Times acknowledges "climategate" was not a scandal after all.

In another bit of good environmental news, water and life are returning to Iraq's 'Garden of Eden.' Saddam Hussein's draining of the Mesopotamian marshes of Iraq – recorded as the Garden of Eden in the Bible - was one of the most infamous outrages of his regime, leaving a vast area of once-teeming river delta a dry, salt-encrusted desert, emptied of insects, birds and the people who lived on them.



But nearly two decades later the area is buzzing and twittering with life again after local people and a new breed of Iraqi conservationists have restored much of what was once the world's third largest wetland to some of its former glory.

Sadly, that mass of plastic garbage floating in the Pacific Ocean is still there - David de Rothschild set out on an ocean crossing aboard his recycled yacht to highlight pollution of Earth's waters and is shocked by what he found. In the Gulf of Mexico, grappling with a different and very real problem - dead zones.

Word that the Obama administration hasn't been as friendly to scientists as first hoped.

A look back at the legacy of the Rainbow Warrior - and some of Greenpeace's finer moments.

PZ Meyers over at Pharyngula is my new favourite blogger - go have a read of his take on the brain of the Christian conservative.

Sunday Links

Never got back yesterday and I even manage to feel a little guilty about it... well not terribly but just enough to remind me I was raised Catholic. So this'll just be links until I'm all caught up here, at the radio station and for tomorrow's show.

Here's some of the things you could have missed if you were busy and had a life and a summer to get to: In the US the Republicans doing everything they can to screw the economy and the unemployed strangely hoping there will be no accountability for their actions and that it will in fact win them seats in November - maybe they hope they can just bury the Dems under an avalanche of corporate money.

Amy Goodman reporting on how the media and scientists are being shut out from examining and covering the ongoing catastrophe in the Gulf and how the lack of transparency may lead to more disasters. From Keith a report on 27,000 abandoned wells in the Gulf of Mexico, 3,500 hundred of which pose a risk of leaking.



The US courts also refused to grant the Obama administration a stay on the deepwater drilling moritoium.
If you saw the post abut the New Black Panther Party and wondered about the extent of the demagoguery taking place in the American MSM, here from David Neiwert is a collection of those news reports and the ones they don't want you to see. The guy who started the caterwauling about the DOJ's refusal to bring voter intimidation cases against blacks over the New Black Panther case from election day 2008 is J. Christian Adams. He's one of the Bush appointees who was running the DOJ back then who was actively purging career attorneys and replacing them with right-wing activists. Why do these people have any credibility? Well, it's Fox news.

The Washington Post reports that a tax on tanning salons is evidence of reverse racism - someone actually cites this and says, "I now know the pain of racism," seriously! Speaking of MSM wankery - the Huffington Post gets inclusion as a new entrant to the club. Turns out money is more important than accuracy or integrity.

The heat wave has abated somewhat in the east although the long-range forecast for this week includes lots more heat so no putting away those fans yet. A study by Stanford University climate scientists says that exceptionally long heat waves could become the norm in the near future. As the mercury rises outdoors, it's a fitting time to consider the affects of summertime droughts and global warming on ecosystems.

It's also the right time to look at sunscreens and two studies that are creating confusion for Canadians on the subject: one from the Canadian Medical Association Journal and the other from the Canadian Dermatology Association - this CBC report tries to sort it out.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Lazy Saturday Blogging

Will try to post a couple of things as the day goes along - have to get a bike ride in or go mad. Wanted to have something new and brilliant for passers-by to look at. This is not new but it's brilliant! I found it at one of my new favourite blogs Pharyngula. So listen to Carl Sagan and enjoy a breath of sanity and perspective.


Friday, July 9, 2010

Black Panthers Looking Forward to Seeing Glenn Beck

From Mediaite's Tommy Christopher, an exerpt of an exclusive interview with Malik Zulu Shabazz, the New Black Panther Party Chairman, who has plans of his own for August 28. He's not happy with Glenn Beck's choosing Martin Luther King's birthday as the date or the Lincoln Memorial as the place to hold his rally and promises to go see it himself. He calls Beck a sneaky little devil, a neo-racist and promises that there will be direct opposition to this rally from the New Black Panther Party. What could go wrong?



You can watch the entire interview here.

Too Smart For His Own Good

I'll admit I'm a fan of Krugman's writing and he does have that Nobel prize prize in economics which suggests to me he's often more right than wrong, unlike a long list of Austrian economists and those who follow their lead, who all love the shredding of safety nets and abhor deficits - no matter the cost.

Last week for example Hugo Lindgren over at Business Week - who have a standing philosophical disagreement with Krugman and what they call his "Keynesian orthodoxy" - was having issue with Krugman's disagreements with the pledges made at the G20. Krugman is famously an advocate of deficit spending which he firmly believes will ...keep the U.S. economy from death-spiraling into deflation.

Of the pledges Krugman says: The threat is not merely the dreaded "double dip." If the leaders of the developed world hold to pledges they made at the G-20 summit in Toronto and cut government spending, Krugman argues, we face nothing less than a "third depression"—perhaps not as singularly devastating as the Great Depression, which ripped the U.S. economy in half, but comparable to the Long Depression that followed the Panic of 1873, a grinding period of chronic social need and dissension. That is indeed a dire warning.

Then, in a tone that's best described as mocking, Lindgren points to a speech given at the London School of economics (as if this means he couldn't possibly be wrong) noting that the ...speaker was not a decorated academic with visions of 1873, he was a profit seeker, pure and simple: John Paulson, the hedge-fund manager on whose behalf Goldman Sachs cooked up those killer collateralized debt obligations designed to pay off handsomely in the event of a housing crash. He was right about that one, you'll recall. "We're in the middle of a sustained recovery in the U.S.," Paulson declared in London. "The risk of a double dip is less than 10 percent."

The question then is, who are you going to bet on? The Nobel Laureate or the guy who's good at making profits come rain or shine? (paraphrase) After all Paulson's got real money on the table, and Krugman is likely to be just another too-smart-for-his-own-good academic with no feel for animal spirits.

Well some early returns are already in and guess what? Mr. Paulson’s $9 billion Advantage fund lost 4.4 percent in June, leaving it down 5.8 percent for the year so far, The Financial Times reported. That comes on top of a 6.9 percent drop in May. Paulson & Company’s Advantage Plus fund, meanwhile, fell 6.9 percent in June, bringing it to an 8.8 percent loss in the first half of the year, according to Bloomberg News. Not that Krugman couldn't still be wrong in the long run - even he hopes he is - but at the very least his arguments should be taken seriously.

So today as he describes Obama's dilemma and what went wrong - the stimulus package was much too small - and the need for a second round of cuts and spending. With the unlikely prospect of getting that done as there will not be enough votes for anything major after the mid-term results are in, it occurs to me that the mid-terms have to be seen in a different light by Democrats. They need to take the same approach and urgency that existed in 2006 and 2008 elections. If Americans feel that the country overall is still headed in the wrong direction it is absolutely because of the Republicans. More Democrats in Congress not less will better help to solve that problem.

What The Hell Were They Waiting For?

Katia Moskvitch the science reporter for the BBC reports that the captain, Yevgenii Chernyaev, of one of two Russian-built submersibles built to go down to depths of 6,000 metres, has said his vessel, the Mir-2 would be able to cap the oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico. "Of the four vessels in the world that can go down to 6,000m - the Mirs, French Nautile and Japanese Shinkai. The Mirs are known to be the best," the captain said.


The submersible's pilot also said that the Russians were very surprised that BP and the US government had not asked them for help from the beginning.

"And we would not refuse to help, even though for us it would be very complicated, especially right now, when we're already working on Baikal. But it doesn't look like anyone seriously wants our help," he added.

There are some fishermen in the Gulf who would disagree.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Eat The Rich!

There are days when I get so angry with the current state of the economy, with people like Steve Moore whom Paddy over at the Political Carnival linked to earlier advocating increased taxes on the poor - the lack of readily available and decent paying jobs that have helped to shrink the middle-class over the past 30 years or so - that I sometimes joke on my radio program that I'm looking forward to a time when "Eat the rich," is no longer a bit of graffiti scrawled on a wall but a menu option. I'm gonna' sit down and order me one extra-large republican braised over a spit for two or three days in a tangy lemon-ginger sauce. I'm only kidding of course - not really all that fond of lemon-ginger. I prefer garlic sweet and sour.

Over at the Nation, Robert Reich writes about how Wall Street's banditry is essentially the event responsible for the recession but not the ultimate cause. That fault lies with all of us and what we have allowed governments to do in our names. He points to some eye-opening numbers about the redistribution of wealth to the rich that has taken place in recent years. It's not just our imaginations or bitterness at the lack of real opportunity that makes us blame and resent the wealthy: ...in 1928 the richest 1 percent of Americans received 23.9 percent of the nation's total income. After that, the share going to the richest 1 percent steadily declined. New Deal reforms, followed by World War II, the GI Bill and the Great Society expanded the circle of prosperity. By the late 1970s the top 1 percent raked in only 8 to 9 percent of America's total annual income. But after that, inequality began to widen again, and income reconcentrated at the top. By 2007 the richest 1 percent were back to where they were in 1928—with 23.5 percent of the total.

It's not just a tale of out of control greed on the part of the wealthy though. It's also a story about missed opportunities and complacency on all our parts: Big, profitable companies could have been barred from laying off a large number of workers all at once, and could have been required to pay severance—say, a year of wages—to anyone they let go. Corporations whose research was subsidized by taxpayers could have been required to create jobs in the United States. The minimum wage could have been linked to inflation. America's trading partners, he points out, also could have been coerced to take similar actions and that, at the very least, would have prevented the massive outsourcing we have all been witness to.

Governments we have elected have deregulated industries and privatized everything in sight - under the auspices of the free market does everything better - and that has left us all increasingly vulnerable to the vagaries and whims of corporations. The cost of public higher education has been increased. Safety nets have been shredded. Tax rates for the wealthy of 70–90 percent that existed during the 1950s and '60s have dropped to 28–40 percent - with the attendant loss in government revenues. The nation's wealthy get to treat their income as capital gains subject to no more than 15 percent tax and escape inheritance taxes altogether. America also boosted sales and payroll taxes, both of which have taken a bigger chunk out of the pay of the middle class and the poor than of the rich.

He concludes with some dire warnings about the direction the current state of rancorous politics could lead to and notes that, None of us can thrive in a nation divided between a small number of people receiving an ever larger share of the nation's income and wealth, and everyone else receiving a declining share. The lopsidedness not only diminishes economic growth but also tears at the social fabric of our society.

Indeed.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Summertime!

During what became known as "Snowpocalypse," people were foolish enough to declare "the end of the global warming hoax." with a couple of snowstorms as proof of their claims. Now with a heat wave under way on the east coast people are asking, "is this because of climate change?" And that's just silly. A heat wave is no more proof of global warming than a snowstorm is proof that anthropogenic climate change is not happening. However, we are in the middle of a global heat wave - with the first five months of the year being the warmest on record and that is a likely indicator. The NOAA say that the combined global land and ocean surface temperature are 1.22 degrees F warmer than the 20th century average. Global warming does mean that events like this are more likely to occur and with greater frequency.


You'd think that people who call themselves conservatives would want to err on the side of caution and perhaps do something about preventing things from getting worse - of course you'd be wrong.



Stay cool!

Police State Redux

Remember that story I blogged yesterday about the corporatist Police State that we're now all inhabitants of (yeah, that includes Canada)? well, today over at ProPublica.org there's a story of a photographer who was followed and detained by BP security and the Police for taking innocuous photographs of signs in and around a BP refinery in Texas City. It's a story of attempted bullying and intimidation.


Lance Rosenfield was taking pictures for two stories being covered by ProPublica. One was about a BP refinery illegally releasing 538,000 pounds of toxic chemicals into the air (aren't they beautiful people?) and the other about the refinery where 15 people died as result of BP negligence 5 years ago that continues to have safety violations to this day. He is first hemmed in by two Texas City police cars at a gas station, then ordered to show the pictures he took or, the police officer threatens, ...he could handle this another way, including calling Homeland Security and taking me in. The BP security guard shows up and is given Mr. Rosenfield's personal information by the police and finally the Homeland Security/FBI agent Tom Robison is called in to help assist in the police-state like tactics.

Fortunately Mr. Rosenfield was well aware of his rights as he stood his ground and remained calm, polite and on point until they released him 20-30 minutes later. A good lesson for us all in these strange times.

Gross Violations of Decency

Whenever Keith Olbermann includes Rush and Glenn in his daily feature, "Worst Persons in the World," he's going to have to rename it "Most Despicable People in the World!" Yesterday both made it into his trifecta that has been featured and posted all over the blogosphere. Yet for these two, the title seems so inadequate. With Limbaugh it's daily doses of putrid, bile belching racism that he not only he gets away with, they pay him millions to do it. He can even spew his venomous drool in the direction of the children of the poor and for Rush there are no consequences. No blowback or pushback or outrage or anything but more paychecks.

With Glenn it's creepier. He's paid the same kind of money Rush gets to be a paranoid, delusional, liar. The stomach-turning nature of the hatred he regurgitates can be heard below courtesy of MMFA, who do a great job of cataloguing the viciousness of today's Most Despicable People in the World!



Bonus hilarity: Bill Keller is saying Glenn Beck is not a Christian, stating he is in fact a member of a weird religious cult.

Those Craaaazy Believers in Global Warming

I was reading a post over at Climate Progress about vanishing sea ice in the Arctic, and how in June it was at its' lowest extent and had gone through the fastest rate of decline in the satellite record and was thinking, "What does it matter?" The deniers will either claim it's not happening, or it's a one-off, or it's all part of some master plan to sandbag us all and they'll be loud enough and strident enough to continue to prevent real action from being taken. "Who the hell would these idiots listen to?" was the question that came to mind. Other than Jeebus, I mean.

Then I got lucky. I found a video with former Army Chief of Staff, General Gordon Sulllivan, discussing national security and climate change. Turns out he was once a skeptic but having looked at tall the data, he changed his mind and he wasn't alone. The military leaders who agree with him are many and include Rear Admiral David Titley, Vice Admiral Dennis McGinn, James Woolsey former director of the CIA and former undersecretary of the US Navy, General Ron Keyes former Commander Air Combat Command, Wesley Clark former Supreme Allied commander of NATO, General Chuck Wald USAF and former Deputy Commander US European Command, and General Anthony Zinni former Chief US Central Command. These are not the kinds of people that are prone to being alarmists nor did they rise to the very top of the conservative military chain of command by being free-thinkers who rely on their intuition. They are the kinds of people who, when making decisions, had to rely on facts to guide their actions. If you watch you'll see they are all worried about wars for water, wars for oil, mass migrations and food insecurity all as a direct result of climate change. See for yourself... and be alarmed.



HT: A Few Things Ill Considered

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Anti-Science Cowards Know No Decency

The anti-climate-science crowd are apparently incapable of using the internet for anything other than surfing from one echo-chamber to the next and threatening people they disagree with. The so called "climategate" scandal has long since been debunked, and was in fact not a scandal at all - unless you think they shouldn't have stolen people's personal e-mails. Michael Mann's much maligned hockey-stick graph has been exonerated and while there were some MSM retractions there were no apologies. In fact two stalwart members of the MSM, the New York Times and The Washington Post, actually refused to print an op-ed that was signed by 255 National Academy of Science members defending climate science integrity.

Small wonder then there's so much confusion. The media are only too happy to run with any story that assaults global warming science. Sure they'll retract it later but by then the damage is already done. The narrative has been created and a lot of people are not around when the story is debunked - that's how zombie lies are created.

Those threats I mentioned in the first sentence? A story over at the Guardian chronicles what life has been like for the scientists whose names were mentioned in the stolen emails from the University of East Anglia. They have subsequently faced ...a torrent of death threats and hate mail, leaving them fearing for their lives and one to contemplate arming himself with a handgun. Professor Phil Jones, the UEA scientist at the centre of the hacked email controversy, revealed in February he had been receiving two death threats a week. As scientist Stephen Schneider notes, this is obviously the work of cowards. Go read some of the mails for yourself and see if you don't come to the same conclusion. (Caution: vile and threatening language)