Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Go tell it on the mountain

The National Press Club has scheduled a panel discussion on blogging and journalism. The three panelists so far are:

John Stanton
Jeff Gannon (James Guckert)

Say what? A cute, wickedly funny sex/gossip blogger, a gossip blogger, and Jeff Gannon?

Male escort, party boy, military stud wanna be, and partner (in crime) of Scott McClellan at White House press conferences. That's the guy.

I know, let's have a conference on science and invite, say, oh hell, I can't do this. I can't think of a metaphor stupid enough to work.

Sean Paul at the Agonist has to details, including an open letter to the PRess Club signed by many prominent bloggers, as well as small fry like me.

Go read, make the calls. If you care. And I know you do.

Editor & Publisher also has this.

it takes so long, my Lord

I'm shocked, I say, shocked to find out about this. Somehow, in my progressive lifestyle I was not aware that certain folks are trying to change the calender.

Why, you might ask? Is this perhaps like Episode #38 of West Wing, where Cartographers for Social Responsibility press their case for a new revision of world map, insisting that the common Mercator Projection map is inaccurate and Eurocentric?

Well, maybe not. It seems some in the extreme PC element of the progressive movement have decided that the terms BC and AD are offensive, and recommend that they be replaced by BCE (Before Common Era) and CE (Common Era).

My sister, ever the community activist, especially when it involves schools and her kids, informs me that certain school districts in very tolerant Orange County, CA, are now supporting these new designations.

Read here, for example:

Imagine how you would feel if the notation were BM and AM where "M" stood for Mithra -- a mythical god-man from Persia on whom the religion of Mithraism was created. (Mithraism was the main competitor to Christianity at one time). You would be offended, and distressed at having to acknowledge such a god-man every time that you wrote a date. Well, this is how many non-Christians feel about BC ("Before Christ") and AD ("Anno Domini" or "In the year of the Lord"). Consider Native Americans, many of whom associate Christ and Christianity with the genocide of their ancestors. Consider Jews, many of whom consider the Nazi Holocaust to have been founded on centuries of Christian Anti-semitism.

I see their point. I oppose government money spent on 10 Commandments stones in public courthouses, mandatory prayer in schools, school vouchers, in short, all the religion v. state issues.

I believe that the US was not founded on Judea-Christian values, but rather, as Jefferson says, on Natural Law.

I believe in treating all faiths (and lacks thereof) with decency and fairness.

I don't want anyone telling me or mine when, how, or to whom to pray.

So I'm sorry if I seem conflicted, or not quite progressive enough when I say, STOP IT!

There are so many battles to be fought, where real differences can be made:

  • Social Security
  • Darfur
  • Health Care
  • Minimum Wage
  • Middle East
  • Gay Rights
  • Medicaid
  • Nuclear Proliferation
  • Energy Dependency
  • Dick Cheney
  • Paul Wolfiwitz
  • Alberto Gonzales
  • Carl Rove
  • Tom Delay
  • ...
Well, you get the idea. This may be important and meaningful, but for the love of (insert name of diety here) let's focus on issues that really matter. Semantics and verbage, while important (see: Death Tax, Liberal Media, Democrat Party, Culture of Lfe, etc.) are less relevant as goals to focus upon.

Please, keep the forest in sight, and don't worry quite so much about individual trees.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Sister Kristin, part II

Michael Schiavo is going to watch his wife die.

And I watched my sister die.

So I feel some slight kinship with him. But here are some big differences:

No one offered a bounty for my killing.

No Governor threatened to take my loved one away from me by force.

No House Majority Leader said my loved one's impending death was "
to help elevate the visibility of what is going on in America."

No media let dubious people lie on national TV about my loved one's condition.

No right wing nut jobs accused Republican judges of killing my loved one.

No compulsive gambler said that the aforementioned Governor should follow a higher law, conflating such action with M. L. King's civil disobedience.

No POTUS with so much blood on his hands said we should "err on the side of life."

No far right think tanks spent over six figures to publicize my loved one's impending death.

No hypocrite responsible for abortion clinic doctor's deaths coordinated the media coverage.

No idiot let their ten year old son be arrested for trying to bring water.

No news media stopped all other coverage (Darfur, Abu Ghraib, Plame, Iraq, North Korea, etc.) to cover my family's tragedy.

No newspaper owned by a megalomaniac cult leader called me a worm.

No Senator, also a physician, did a long distance misdiagnosis of my loved one.

No Congressperson or Senator called for my loved one's feeding to continue while voting to slash Medicaid funds.

No clergy person compared my loved one's impending death, possibly on Easter weekend, to that of Jesus, calling it a modern day crucifixion.

No politicians had to look at national polls to figure out that were sticking their noses into my family's business.

No other family members held out delusional hopes that my loved one would recover.

No right wing radio wacko said this: "
I advocate the use of force to rescue Terri Schiavo from being starved to death. I further advocate the killing of anyone who interferes with such rescue."

I can't imagine what Michael Schiavo is going through. I know how my sister's death affected my family, and we didn't have the goulish and insane media scrutiny, and the hate, both honest and contrived, heaped upon us.

I just wish the politicians who have used this for their own agenda could have the opportunity to feel what Michael Schiavo is feeling. Perhaps in the face of their own impending personal tragedy they would find some shred of human decency.

But probably not.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Houses of the holy

Frank Rich in today's NYTimes pricks the balloon that is the GOP's spirited (pun intended) opposition to Universal Health Care, Family Values, Sanctity of Marriage, and State's Rights here:

The president was not about to be outpreached by these saps. The same Mr. Bush who couldn't be bothered to interrupt his vacation during the darkening summer of 2001, not even when he received a briefing titled "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.," flew from his Crawford ranch to Washington to sign Congress's Schiavo bill into law. The bill could have been flown to him in Texas, but his ceremonial arrival and departure by helicopter on the White House lawn allowed him to showboat as if he had just landed on the deck of an aircraft carrier. Within hours he turned Ms. Schiavo into a slick applause line at a Social Security rally. "It is wise to always err on the side of life," he said, wisdom that apparently had not occurred to him in 1999, when he mocked the failed pleas for clemency of Karla Faye Tucker, the born-again Texas death-row inmate, in a magazine interview with Tucker Carlson.

Is there any doubt that this shallow husk of a man with his delusions of adequacy is completely free of complicating ideas? His world view seems to allow no irony as he conflates his belief in "life" with any real understanding of life, both on this mortal coil and in the hereafter?

We seem to be creeping closer to a real understanding of other cultures and peoples. Witness this acceptance of values that the Taliban would approve:

These theatrics were foretold. Culture is often a more reliable prophecy than religion of where the country is going, and our culture has been screaming its theocratic inclinations for months now. The anti-indecency campaign, already a roaring success, has just yielded a new chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Kevin J. Martin, who had been endorsed by the Parents Television Council and other avatars of the religious right. The push for the sanctity of marriage (or all marriages except Terri and Michael Schiavo's) has led to the banishment of lesbian moms on public television. The Armageddon-fueled worldview of the "Left Behind" books extends its spell by the day, soon to surface in a new NBC prime-time mini-series, "Revelations," being sold with the slogan "The End is Near."

The richness of American diversity is to be celebrated here. We have evangelical Christians, Right-wing Christians, fundamentalist Christians, science-fearing Christians, in fact, just about every type of close-minded cultist Christians represented here.

But wait, there's more:

That bullying, stoked by politicians in power, has become omnipresent, leading television stations to practice self-censorship and high school teachers to avoid mentioning "the E word," evolution, in their classrooms, lest they arouse fundamentalist rancor. The president is on record as saying that the jury is still out on evolution, so perhaps it's no surprise that The Los Angeles Times has uncovered a three-year-old "religious rights" unit in the Justice Department that investigated a biology professor at Texas Tech because he refused to write letters of recommendation for students who do not accept evolution as "the central, unifying principle of biology." Cornelia Dean of The New York Times broke the story last weekend that some Imax theaters, even those in science centers, are now refusing to show documentaries like "Galápagos" or "Volcanoes of the Deep Sea" because their references to Darwin and the Big Bang theory might antagonize some audiences. Soon such films will disappear along with biology textbooks that don't give equal time to creationism.

James Cameron, producer of "Volcanoes" (and, more famously, the director of "Titanic"), called this development "obviously symptomatic of our shift away from empiricism in science to faith-based science." Faith-based science has in turn begat faith-based medicine that impedes stem-cell research, not to mention faith-based abstinence-only health policy that impedes the prevention of unwanted pregnancies and diseases like AIDS.

I wish those on the right would show a little more faith based,,,well, faith. Is it God's will that Terri Schiavo's life be extended but other victims of medical misadventures should be allowed to die?

I hope that if and when the experience presents itself to the wise politicians involved, that they feel the higher calling and "Let Go, Let God."

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Sister Kristin

I watched my sister die.

My immediate family and I watched as she breathed her last breath, her heart beat its last beat, and her soul flew confidently toward the universe.

She had been diagnosed with terminal cancer. What a mild phrase that has such impact: "You're going to die, your insides are going to be eaten alive, sorry."

She suffered a further medical insult, and had emergency surgery. I remember the surgeon saying "Well, I tried to fix the problem, but she was so full of cancer..."

She actually seemed to improve after surgery, she seemed a little fiesty and engaged. But she took a turn for the worse.

Her consciousness faded, and her breathing needed help, so she was intubated. Her temperature soared to 110 degrees. All attempts to ease her suffering seemed futile.

After 2 days, when we accepted that she was dying, we (my other sister and I) discussed and decided that we would end further treatment, with one exception: we would keep the breathing tube in. It was our feeling that if there was any chance she was still in there, we didn't want her to feel like she was suffocating.

The hospital followed our wishes, and called the Doctor, who ordered treatment stopped.

But minutes later, in a virtual coma, she died. My brother, my other sister & her husband, my mother, and my wife were all there to kiss her and tell her we loved her as she began the next journey.

So I feel I have some perspective on the Terri Schiavo situation. And here's my opinion:

No politician who has ever voted for the '99 Texas Advance Directives Act has any right to be involved,

No politician who has violated the ethics of his previous profession has any right to be involved,

And no politician who has:

mocked a condemned prisoner,

voted for phony Tort Reform legislation which would stop payment of insurance settlements to people like Terri Schiavo,

voted against DNA challenges in capital cases,

refused to examine death warrants in Texas,

talked about Terri Schiavo as being delivered to him for political gain,

voted against States Rights in blatant disregard of the Constitution,

has any right to be involved.

If they do, then God damn them.

Update: When I first wrote this last night, it was longer. I hit the "Publish Post" button and Blogger ate it. I was very tired, half asleep frankly, and so I recreated it as best I could. But today I realized I left out some pertinent info, some of which I have now added in.

So long, and thanks for listening.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Dead skunk in the middle of the road

The MSM seems to have awakened from its long sleep, and found something to examine in the Schiavo mess, specifically, some ever so slightly conflicting opinions.

File this under "National Health Care":

At least three physicians in Congress - Sen. Bill Frist, and Reps. Dave Weldon and Phil Gingrey, Republicans from Tennessee, Florida and Georgia - disputed whether there was sufficient medical evidence to pull the feeding tube from Schiavo, allowing her to die.

By stepping into that discussion, some experts say, the physicians raise concerns in the medical community and potentially cross a hazy ethical line.

"It's disturbing that doctors who would never venture a comment about the health of anybody from a homemade video are sitting on the floor of Congress making declarations," said Art Caplan, chairman of the Department of Medical Ethics at the University of Pennsylvania's School of Medicine. "My own impression, from a distance, is that they've subverted what they know to be good medicine for the aim of achieving a political goal."

Then file this under "Both Sides Now":

The federal law President Bush signed to prolong Terri Schiavo's life in Florida appears to conflict with a Texas law he signed as governor, attorneys familiar with the legislation said Monday.

The 1999 Advance Directives Act in Texas allows for a patient's surrogate to make end-of-life decisions and spells out how to proceed if a hospital or other health provider disagrees with a decision to maintain or halt life-sustaining treatment.

If a doctor refuses to honor a decision, the case goes before a medical committee. If the committee agrees with the doctor, the guardian or surrogate has 10 days to agree or seek treatment elsewhere.

Thomas Mayo, an associate law professor at Southern Methodist University who helped draft the Texas law, said that if the Schiavo case had happened in Texas, her husband would have been her surrogate decision-maker. Because both he and her doctors were in agreement, life support would have been discontinued.

That bump the Republicans just felt under their tires was any positive opinion the American people held about the GOP. In an amazing display of blind partisan zeal, they have clearly jumped the shark. Now let's see them land safely.

Monday, March 21, 2005

If you ever, change your mind

From Mark Kleiman, via Atrios, we have this:

...it's hard to credit the sincerity of people who throw around terms such as "murder" and "Dachau" when talking about Schiavo but make no objection to the Texas law, especially since the Texas law specifically lists "artificial nutrition and hydration" as among the services that can be discontinued.

Moreover, the law allows for (even if in the Hudson and and Nikolouzos cases it did not actually involve) the termination of life-sustaining treatment for patients with "irreversible" conditions (i.e., conditions from which they will not recover and which leave them unable to care for themselves) even if their higher brain functions are completely normal. Indeed, the law contemplates that a fully competent patient may be served by his health-care provider with a 10-day notice to find another provider or have his plug pulled;
it even provides that the patient has the right to attend the committee meeting at which his fate is to be decided. (Sec. 166.046) And the law provides no substantive guidance other than the provider's decision that the requested life-sustaining care would be "inappropriate."

So, if I read the Texas law correctly, it would allow for Terri Schiavo's feedling tube to be disconnected if her health care provider so decided, and if her family couldn't find another provider willing to take the case, even if her higher brain functions were entirely normal (rather than, as appears to be the case, entirely absent),
even if she were awake and asking to be allowed to live. So, I repeat, where's the outrage? If you think Terri Schiavo is being murdered, you think that George W. Bush signed a bill allowing murder in 1999, and that bill is still on the books. Perhaps Mr. Bush flew to the wrong capital on Sunday; some people in Austin seem to need instruction about the "presumption in favor of life."

So if it was OK for Texas, then why not for Florida? Inguiring minds want to know. Let's conjecture:

From Daily Kos, the political angle:

Democrat Bill Nelson should be the Dems' most vulnerable incumbent. Yet most top-tier Republicans in the state have their eyes set on the open governor's race. Rep. Mark Foley is being urged to run, but his public remarks hint at some reluctance. There's always Cruella, but Katherine Harris has underperformed the GOP vote in her own congressional district twice, and state Republicans fear she'd be a weak candidate.

From DCScoop, the other political angle:

This is an important moral issue and the pro-life base will be excited that the Senate is debating this important issue.

From the American people (via ABC News via ThinkProgress):

- 70% of Americans say it is inappropriate for Congress to involve itself in the Schiavo case.

- 67% of Americans “think the elected officials trying to keep Schiavo alive are doing so more for political advantage than out of concern for her or for the principles involved.” (Just 19% believe the elected officials are acting out of concern for her or their principles.)

- 58% of Republicans, 61% of independents and 63% of Democrats oppose federal government intervention in the case.

- 50% of evangelicals oppose federal government intervention in the case, just 44% approve of the intervention.

- 63% of Catholics and a plurality of evangelicals believe Schiavo’s feeding tube should be removed.

So what do the GOPers hope to gain? Everlasting gratitude? Political capitol? Everlasting life in Heaven? Maybe...

But in reality they will be finally seen as craven, calculated, pandering to the extremes, out of touch with the mainstream family and sanctity of marriage values, cynical, hypocritical, empty suits whose entire reason for existence is about power with a healthy dose of corruption.

This is the face of the Republican Party. It is the face of a monster.

Walk away walk away, I will follow

Working in the music business for a long time now, I get pretty jaded. Yes there are great new bands, and yes, some of the last generation of superstars are pretty good, but, you know, ho hum, I've seen and heard it all.

But wait. Bruce Springsteen's speech
here inducting U2 into the Rock'n'Roll Hall of Fame was some of the best words about rock music I have ever heard. I expected compliments and sappiness, what I got instead was profound and introspective, challenging and reverent.

Some quotes:

A great rock band searches for the same kind of combustible force that fueled the expansion of the universe after the big bang. You want the earth to shake and spit fire. You want the sky to split apart and for God to pour out.

For what the English occasionally have the refined sensibilities to overcome, we Irish and Italians have no such problem. We come through the door fists and hearts first. U2, with the dark, chiming sound of heaven at their command -- which, of course, is the sound of unrequited love and longing, their greatest theme -- their search for God intact. This was a band that wanted to lay claim to not only this world but had their eyes on the next one, too.

They believed in pop stardom and the big time. Now this requires foolishness and a calculating mind. It also requires a deeply held faith in the work you're doing and in its powers to transform. U2 hungered for it all, and built a sound, and they wrote the songs that demanded it. They're keepers of some of the most beautiful sonic architecture in rock and roll.

There are only a handful of guitar stylists who can create a world with their instruments, and he's one of them. The Edge's guitar playing creates enormous space and vast landscapes. It is a thrilling and a heartbreaking sound that hangs over you like the unsettled sky. In the turf it stakes out, it is inherently spiritual. It is grace and it is a gift.

Together Larry and Adam create the element that suggests the ecstatic possibilities of that other kingdom -- the one below the earth and below the belt -- that no great rock band can lay claim to the title without.

You see, every good Irish and Italian-Irish front man knows that before James Brown there was Jesus. So hold the McDonald arches on the stage set, boys, we are not ironists. We are creations of the heart and of the earth and of the stations of the cross -- there's no getting out of it. He is gifted with an operatic voice and a beautiful falsetto rare among strong rock singers. But most important, his is a voice shot through with self-doubt. That's what makes that big sound work. It is this element of Bono's talent -- along with his beautiful lyric writing -- that gives the often-celestial music of U2 its fragility and its realness. It is the questioning, the constant questioning in Bono's voice, where the band stakes its claim to its humanity and declares its commonality with us.

Now Bono's voice often sounds like it's shouting not over top of the band but from deep within it. "Here we are, Lord, this mess, in your image." He delivers all of this with great drama and an occasional smirk that says, "Kiss me, I'm Irish." He's one of the great front men of the past twenty years. He is also one of the only musicians to devote his personal faith and the ideals of his band into the real world in a way that remains true to rock's earliest implications of freedom and connection and the possibility of something better.

I could go on, but the point is, not only is U2 a great band, but Springsteen is a great writer, not only in lyrics bound by meter and notes, but in prose, bound by only his passion. He clearly is capable of looking outward as well as inward, and feeling a connection with kindred spirits.
I was moved by what Bruce said.

When I teach college classes about recording studio technology, I tell them that it's not about how strongly you want to do it. Instead, it's rather that you feel there's just nothing else you can do.

Springsteen clearly can't do anything else other than what he does; create powerful and passionate music. And he recognizes a kinship in the U2 men, that there's nothing else for them to do but write, sing and play their music. Imperfection is allowed, and sometimes cherished, but voices are raised in earnest, and songs are sung for everyone to hear, and react to. And they still haven't found what they're looking for.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Sunday, bloody sunday

In some contortionist political posturing, the GOP has stuck its collective nose where it clearly doesn't belong. In an act of tyrannical zeal, the Congress has taken on what the Supreme Court already has said is a local issue.

Today's NYTimes has this:

Congressional leaders reached a compromise Saturday on legislation to force the case of Terri Schiavo into federal court, an extraordinary intervention intended to prolong the life of the brain-damaged woman whose condition has reignited a painful national debate over when medical treatment should be withdrawn.

Gop lawmakers in both the House and the Senate said they hoped to pass the compromise bill as early as Sunday. They said it would allow Ms. Schiavo's parents to ask a federal judge to restore her feeding tube on the ground that their daughter's constitutional rights were being violated by the withholding of nutrition needed to keep her alive.

and this:

Conservative lawmakers scrambled to find a way to override a Florida judge's order Friday to remove Ms. Schiavo's feeding tube. Her husband, Michael Schiavo, has maintained for years that his wife would not want to be kept alive in her current state by artificial means.

Ms. Schiavo suffered extensive brain damage when her heart stopped briefly 15 years ago due to a potassium deficiency; she remains in what doctors have testified is a "persistent vegetative state."

and this:

Representative Tom DeLay, Republican of Texas and the House majority leader, who is at the center of the Congressional intervention, said on Saturday: "We should investigate every avenue before we take the life of a living human being. That is the very least we can do." In Crawford, the White House press secretary, Scott McClellan, said: "Everyone recognizes that time is important here. This is about defending life."

There's that "Compassionate Conservatism" we used to hear about. Warm and fuzzy. But wait, there's more:

Republican senators had been provided with talking points about how to respond to requests about the Schiavo case, which was described by party aides as a "great political issue" that resonates with Christian conservatives.

Here's why it's all a lie:


We do foresee a larger role for state and local governments in controlling the federally assisted housing that has been so poorly managed from Washington.

We therefore support the right of states to enact Right-To-Work laws.

Our Party reaffirms the traditional primacy of states over water allocation.

The federal government gave states the flexibility to manage the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program...

So the GOP believes in State's Rights? But then again, no.

In some states, activist judges are redefining the institution of marriage.

...and we believe that neither federal nor state judges nor bureaucrats should force states to recognize other living arrangements...

And we applaud President Bush for allowing states to extend health care coverage to unborn children.


...we believe that the federal government should be limited and restricted to the functions mandated by the United States Constitution.

We must maintain our commitment to free and fair trade, lower taxes, limited regulation, and a limited, efficient government...

The President's management agenda is an effective for making sure government is active but limited, focusing on results and obtaining them efficiently.

...the role of the federal government must be limited as we return control to parents, teachers, and local school boards.


To this end, the President and Congress have massively increased spending for our nation's first responders.

Defense spending has only been higher twice since World War II

We believe that good government is based on a system of limited taxes and spending.

All discretionary spending must be kept in check...

I could go on, but this list of hypocrisy and contradiction tells a tale. And in case anyone thinks I just made this stuff up, I didn't. It's all from the 2004 Republican Party Platform.

My ppoint is that if the Party truly believed in small government, state's rights, individual freedom and responsibility, etc. then DeLay et al would sadly applaud this "drave personal decision" and walk away.

But no. Tyranny and hypocrisy have no limits when flowing from the mind of the GOP.

Be warned and beware.

Friday, March 18, 2005

London calling...

As usual, the SCLM seems to miss this story. We have to look to Greg Palast, American ex-pat who works for the Beeb to find this stuff. And for all those who thought these accusations were tinfoil hat territory, he seems to have some pretty good evidence.

Seems the Bushies were after the oil all along.

Here's Greg:

The following report is from BBC OnLine

The Bush administration made plans for war and for Iraq's oil before the 9/11 attacks sparking a policy battle between neo-cons and Big Oil, BBC's Newsnight has revealed.

Watch Greg's report on BBC Newsnight Starting @ 7:00pm EST 17 March

Two years ago today - when President George Bush announced US, British and Allied forces would begin to bomb Baghdad - protestors claimed the US had a secret plan for Iraq's oil once Saddam had been conquered.

In fact there were two conflicting plans, setting off a hidden policy war between neo-conservatives at the Pentagon, on one side, versus a combination of "Big Oil" executives and US State Department "pragmatists."

"Big Oil" appears to have won. The latest plan, obtained by Newsnight from the US State Department was, we learned, drafted with the help of American oil industry consultants.

View Segments of Iraq oil plans

Insiders told Newsnight that planning began "within weeks" of Bush's first taking office in 2001, long before the September 11th attack on the US.

An Iraqi-born oil industry consultant, Falah Aljibury, says he took part in the secret meetings in California, Washington and the Middle East. He described a State Department plan for a forced coup d'etat.

Mr Aljibury himself told Newsnight that he interviewed potential successors to Saddam Hussein on behalf of the Bush administration.

So there it seems to be, kids. Let's review what we already know:

1. Saddam has WMDs

uh, no

2. Building democracy

uh, no

3. Mushroom cloud

uh, no

4. Freedom is on the march

ah, what the hell, it was all crap.

Greg continues:

The industry-favoured plan was pushed aside by yet another secret plan, drafted just before the invasion in 2003, which called for the sell-off of all of Iraq's oil fields. The new plan, crafted by neo-conservatives intent on using Iraq's oil to destroy the Opec cartel through massive increases in production above Opec quotas.

The sell-off was given the green light in a secret meeting in London headed by Ahmed Chalabi shortly after the US entered Baghdad, according to Robert Ebel. Mr. Ebel, a former Energy and CIA oil analyst, now a fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, flew to the London meeting, he told Newsnight, at the request of the State Department.

Mr Aljibury, once Ronald Reagan's "back-channel" to Saddam, claims that plans to sell off Iraq's oil, pushed by the US-installed Governing Council in 2003, helped instigate the insurgency and attacks on US and British occupying forces.

"Insurgents used this, saying, 'Look, you're losing your country, your losing your resources to a bunch of wealthy billionaires who want to take you over and make your life miserable," said Mr Aljibury from his home near San Francisco.

"We saw an increase in the bombing of oil facilities, pipelines, built on the premise that privatization is coming."

So the USofA, by being even more duplicitous than ever, has now managed to alienate most of the civilized word, all of the Arab world we were allegedly trying to tame, killed over 1500 naive and good hearted young American men and women and thousands of Iraqi civilians and children, and it really was all about the oil.

Here's more:

Philip Carroll, the former CEO of Shell Oil USA who took control of Iraq's oil production for the US Government a month after the invasion, stalled the sell-off scheme.

Mr Carroll told us he made it clear to Paul Bremer, the US occupation chief who arrived in Iraq in May 2003, that: "There was to be no privatization of Iraqi oil resources or facilities while I was involved."

The chosen successor to Mr Carroll, a Conoco Oil executive, ordered up a new plan for a state oil company preferred by the industry.

Ari Cohen, of the neo-conservative Heritage Foundation, told Newsnight that an opportunity had been missed to privatise Iraq's oil fields. He advocated the plan as a means to help the US defeat Opec, and said America should have gone ahead with what he called a "no-brainer" decision.

Mr Carroll hit back, telling Newsnight, "I would agree with that statement. To privatize would be a no-brainer. It would only be thought about by someone with no brain."

New plans, obtained from the State Department by Newsnight and Harper's Magazine under the US Freedom of Information Act, called for creation of a state-owned oil company favored by the US oil industry. It was completed in January 2004, Harper's discovered, under the guidance of Amy Jaffe of the James Baker Institute in Texas. Former US Secretary of State Baker is now an attorney. His law firm, Baker Botts, is representing ExxonMobil and the Saudi Arabian government.

Hell, read the whole thing and be disgusted.

"...the land of the free, and the home of the..."

It's the singer, not the song

The lovely and talented Tbogg talks about something I have also talked about with many of my colleagues in the music industry, to wit, that what is old is new.

He says:

Witness the growing popularity of bands like Franz Ferdinand, Dogs Die In Hot Cars, The Futureheads, Fountains of Wayne, The Shins, the vastly overrated Killers, the brilliant but quirky Modest Mouse (who recently sold out two shows in San Diego so fast even I couldn't get tickets to see them...and I have connections), and Kasabian. Half of the fun with these bands is playing name the influence, although it's a real wake-up call to mention to a younger co-worker that the first cut on Dogs Die In Hot Cars' Please Describe Yourself sounds like Oingo Boing-meets-XTC and have her ask, "Who are they?"

It's at times like this that I console myself by remembering that, way back in the day, some people thought the Clash's I Fought the Law was an original.

Indeed. I have worked on many records where others of us involved who are, you know, over 30, make similar comments. Jet recorded their album with producer Dave Sardy at the studio where I last was Chief Engineer, and they were incredibly funny, gracious, passionate and talented guys, and we (the more senior members of the crew) talked about their influences, eventually deciding that they came from The Rolling Stones via The Black Crowes, with the common root of Stax/Motown filtered through T-Rex. ( If that makes any sense...)

And my good friend Joe Barresi mixed the '03 release by Sweden's Backyard Babies, who, along with The Darkness, owe much of their strut to some of the "Big Theme" arena bands of the '70s & '80s, but instead of just repeating the missteps of the past (Journey, Foreigner) rather bring a whole new fun to power chords, minor keys, and dramatic front men.

The good news is that good musical ideas get filtered, tweaked, forgotten, renewed, and reframed, and viola, once again, they're still good.

And the bad ideas, well, I haven't heard much from The Archies lately, and that's OK.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Crazy 'bout a mercury part II

In the LATimes today, from RDF at Corrente, we have this:

Texas researchers have found a possible link between autism and mercury in the air and water.

Studying individual school districts in Texas, the epidemiologists found that those districts with the highest levels of mercury in the environment also had the highest rates of special education students and autism diagnoses.

and this:
"Mercury is a known neurotoxin," said Dr. Isaac Pessah of UC Davis' MIND Institute, who was not involved in the study. "It's rather intriguing that the correlation is so positive," meaning that there was a strong, direct relationship between mercury and autism levels. "It makes one worry."

California has the highest environmental burden of mercury of any state in the country, and it also has what appears to be the highest rate of autism as well — although some critics attribute this perceived high rate to enhanced surveillance associated with the state's special education program.

Autism is a severe developmental disorder in which children seem isolated from the world around them. There is a broad spectrum of symptoms, but the disorder is marked by poor language skills and an inability to handle social relations.

The incidence of autism has grown dramatically over the last two decades, from about one in every 2,000 children to as high as one in every 166. Researchers have been hard-pressed to explain the increase, but many believe mercury to be the culprit.

The purported link between autism and mercury has been a subject of intense debate. In the past it has centered primarily on the mercury-containing preservative thimerosal, which was once widely used in vaccines.

The study, which will appear in the journal Health & Place, found that for every 1,000 pounds of mercury released into the environment, there was a 43% increase in special education services and a 61% increase in the autism rate.

The exception to the rule was Brewster County, which had a high autism rate but did not report significant mercury levels to the EPA. When Palmer investigated, however, he found that the county had been home to one of the largest mercury mines in the nation.

And lest we forget, we will now have more of this pretty shiny stuff in our air. Hmmm, take a deep breath now. Smells so sweet.

We also have this from the Autistic Society:

Things seemed to be on the right track until about Becky’s 16th month, when things mysteriously started to go wrong. By 18 months, she had entirely lost the six or seven spoken words she had started using earlier. She started avoiding eye contact with her mom, and became uncoordinated, inattentive, irritable, and withdrawn. Angela and Jerry would often find Becky staring vacantly into space and biting her hands.

Nobody knew what to make of this. Becky’s doctor was perplexed, and ran Becky through some tests. The results confirmed autism and revealed the likely culprit: mercury.

Becky’s not alone. The number of children with mercury-caused problems is growing. According to new estimates from the Environmental Protection Agency, 16 percent of women of childbearing age have dangerous levels of mercury in their bodies, putting more than 600,000 children at risk each year.

Where is this stuff coming from? Coal-burning power plants are the single largest source of mercury pollution. They release over 100,000 pounds (50 tons) of mercury into the environment annually in the U.S. Once released into the atmosphere, it soon gets into streams, lakes, and the sea, where it forms methyl mercury – a potent neurotoxin.

It targets the developing fetal brain and nervous system. Even tiny amounts can cause serious developmental problems, reflected in humans as difficulties in walking, talking, hearing, and writing. Fish are often found with high levels of mercury in their tissue.

President Bush’s “Clear Skies Initiative” will allow power plants to increase mercury emissions by 520 percent by 2010. In December, Mike Leavitt, Bush’s new EPA administrator, said that it is “not feasible” to determine how much mercury the chemical and power plants are emitting, nor to enforce tougher standards.

Read the whole thing, it's tragic and sickening.

"You suck my blood like a leech, you break the law and you breach..." Thanks again, Freddie.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Crazy 'bout a Mercury

Up is down. Black is white. Right is wrong. Well, clearly the right is wrong about this too. From the north woods of Wisconsin we learn that:

A newly announced federal order to reduce mercury pollution from coal-burning power plants will require weakening more stringent state controls that were enacted in Wisconsin only last year, a state official says.

Say wha?

The Bush administration ordered Tuesday that power plants cut mercury pollution from smokestacks by nearly half within 15 years, but the worst polluters will be able to buy pollution "credits" from plants that give off less mercury than allowed.

By contrast, the state rule, effective last Oct. 1, required the state's four major power plants to cut mercury emissions in two phases - by 40 percent by 2010 and by 75 percent by 2015.

So polluters are given a "get out of jail free" card to do what they do best: pollute. By buying "credits" from better performing facilities, they can actually release more crap into the environment than before. How diabolical!

But what's the big deal about mercury? Well, let's see:

For starters, as an anecdote, Sam Seder said tonight on AirAmerica that his pregnant wife had been ordered to NOT eat any tuna during the pregnance. Why? Well...

Mercury in water can accumulate in fish, and eating too much mercury-contaminated fish can damage kidneys and the nervous system.

Because of high mercury levels, all Wisconsin lakes are under a fish consumption advisory alerting people to limit the number of fish they eat, particularly children and women who are of childbearing age.

In case this isn't ominous enough, let's look here:

An analysis of EPA data by Environmental Defense indicates that mercury pollution in Colorado could increase by 148 percent from 1999 levels by 2010 under the new mercury regulations. Another look, by the Natural Resources Defense Council, predicts an even greater increase.

Under the new rule, utilities would not be required to do anything more for the next five years than they are required to do under another power-plant rule EPA issued last week.

During the second phase of the new regulations, EPA will allow a cap-and-trade approach that sets a maximum on how much pollution should be allowed, then lets companies trade within those limits.

"The cap-and-trade approach sounds great unless you are one of those people who lives near a power plant that chooses to spend money on paper credits instead of making real mercury reductions," said Carl Pope, Sierra Club executive director.

Here's some real scientific research from out Northern neighbors, not that that applies in today's faith based government:

Harmful effects due to short-term exposure to elemental mercury are rarely seen any more because of strict controls used in workplaces where mercury exposure might occur. Historically, short-term exposure to high concentrations of mercury vapour caused harmful effects on the nervous, digestive and respiratory systems, and the kidneys. In most cases, exposure occurred when mercury was heated.

Initial exposure to high concentrations of mercury vapour produces symptoms similar to "metal fume fever" including fatigue, fever, and chills. Respiratory system effects include cough, shortness of breath, tightness and burning pains in the chest and inflammation of the lungs. Occupational exposure to 1 to 44 mg/m3 of mercury vapour for 4 to 8 hours caused chest pain, cough, coughing up blood, impaired lung function and inflammation of the lungs. In some cases, a potentially life-threatening accumulation of fluid in the lungs (pulmonary edema) has occurred. Exposure to high, but unspecified, concentrations of mercury vapour has caused death due to respiratory failure. All of the reported deaths resulted from inhaling mercury vapours formed upon heating mercury.

Do heated gases from coal processing constitute "mercury vapours formed upon heating mercury"?

"Is this the real life, is this just fantasy..." Sorry Freddie.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

There's only you and me and we just disagree

The irony is too rich. The State Department (whose boss is Condi Rice, in case you forgot), has roundly criticized Iraq for human rights abuse. Keep in mind that any government functional in that poor country has been installed by, you know, the USA.

Read about it here in the NYTimes:

The State Department on Monday detailed an array of human rights abuses last year by the Iraqi government, including torture, rape and illegal detentions by police officers and functionaries of the interim administration that took power in June.

In the Bush administration's bluntest description of human rights transgressions by the American-supported government, the report said the Iraqis "generally respected human rights, but serious problems remained" as the government and American-led foreign forces fought a violent insurgency. It cited "reports of arbitrary deprivation of life, torture, impunity, poor prison conditions - particularly in pretrial detention facilities - and arbitrary arrest and detention."

On the same day, in a pot meets kettle moment, the US government is chasticised for some human rights violations of its own:

A federal judge ordered the Bush administration Monday to either charge terrorism suspect Jose Padilla with a crime or release him after more than 2 1/2 years in custody.

U.S. District Judge Henry Floyd in Spartanburg, S.C., said the government can not hold Padilla indefinitely as an "enemy combatant," a designation President Bush gave him in 2002.

"The court finds that the president has no power, neither express nor implied, neither constitutional nor statutory, to hold petitioner as an enemy combatant," Floyd wrote in a 23-page opinion that was a stern rebuke to the government. He gave the administration 45 days to take action.

Sad that we can criticize the puppet regime that we installed for not being real nice, when we have such a great record here at home.

But, you know, 9/11 changed everything, and freedom is on the march.