Friday, August 31, 2007

Climate Crisis Update 9-1-07: TV "Meteorologists" Can't Just Be Eye-Candy or Comic Relief Anymore, Now They Have to Hide the Truth

United States of Climate Change, Sightline


Climate Crisis Update 9-1-07: TV "Meteorologists" Can't Just Be Eye-Candy or Comic Relief Anymore, Now They Have to Hide the Truth

By Richard Power


Since the dawn of television, both network and local news broadcasts have utilized "meteorologists" as either eye-candy or comic relief, but now, they have a more important task to perform, i.e., they need to look straight into the camera and pretend that the weather they are reporting has nothing to do with climate change or global warming, and that none of the bizarre and destructive weather this country has been experiencing is interconnected with anything else at the planetary level.

Well, you shouldn't be surprised by this trend, the talking heads who report the headlines routinely warp, obfuscate, misplace and outright deny the truth; and increasingly over the past several years, and particularly in the past several weeks, business reporters have been doing the same.

Earlier this week, Laurie David posted a powerful piece on this latest twist in the US mainstream news media's downward spiral into oblivion:

As severe storms and the resultant flooding continue to batter the Midwest with deadly results, the media is filled with scary stories of the destruction and misery being inflicted. We see headlines about 300,000 Chicagoans without power, state of emergency declarations across four other states, dozens killed by storms from Texas to Minnesota, flooded interstates, and thousands of flooded homes and businesses. It's now commonplace to see news footage of people being rescued off their rooftops, many saying goodbye to their homes for good.
But no news outlet has had the courage to state the obvious: This is the face of global warming. This is it. While no single weather event can be directly pinned to global warming, these are the predictions of the world's best scientist come to terrifying life. ...

These glimpses from storm-ravaged Middle America ought to be a wake-up call. ...
Laurie David, This is the Face of Global Warming, Huffington Post, 8-26-07

Here are three other important stories that went unreported on the USA's ideologically-controlled air waves:

Climate change and an increasing population could trigger a global food crisis in the next half century as countries struggle for fertile land to grow crops and rear animals, scientists warned ...
To keep up with the growth in human population, more food will have to be produced worldwide over the next 50 years than has been during the past 10,000 years combined, the experts said.
But in many countries a combination of poor farming practices and deforestation will be exacerbated by climate change to steadily degrade soil fertility, leaving vast areas unsuitable for crops or grazing. ...
The UN millennium ecosystem assessment ranked land degradation among the world's greatest environmental challenges, claiming it risked destabilizing societies, endangering food security and increasing poverty.
Some 40% of the world's agricultural land is seriously degraded. Among the worst affected regions are Central America, where 75% of land is infertile, Africa, where a fifth of soil is degraded, and Asia, where 11% is unsuitable for farming.
Guardian, 8-30-07

Climate change may carry a higher risk of flooding than was previously thought, the journal Nature reports.
Researchers say efforts to calculate flooding risk from climate change do not take into account the effect carbon dioxide (CO2) has on vegetation.
Higher atmospheric levels of this greenhouse gas reduce the ability of plants to suck water out of the ground and “breathe” out the excess.
Plants expel excess water through tiny pores, or stomata, in their leaves.
Their reduced ability to release water back into the atmosphere will result in the ground becoming saturated.
Areas with higher predicted rainfall have a greater risk of flooding. But this effect also reduces the severity of droughts.
The findings suggest computer models of future climate change may need to be revised in order to plan for coming decades.
BBC News, 8-30-07

Scientists had predicted that global warming ought to increase rainfall in the tropics. Now NASA researchers say it has. Scientists assembled a 27-year global record of rainfall from satellite observations and ground-based instruments and found that the rainiest years between 1979 and 2005 occurred primarily after 2001. The wettest year in the record was 2005, followed by 2004, 2003, 2002 and 1998. ... "When we look at the whole planet over almost three decades, the total amount of rain falling has changed very little," said study leader Guojun Gu of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. "But in the tropics, where nearly two-thirds of all rain falls, there has been an increase of 5 percent." This increase in rainfall is expected in a warming world, because warmer surface temperatures increase the evaporation of water from the ocean and the land and warmer air can hold more moisture, which eventually forms clouds and precipitation. ... The latest numbers for 2006 show that it tied 2005 as the rainiest year in the record. One World,

To sign the Live Earth Pledge, click here.

Click here for access to great promotional tools available on The Eleventh Hour action page.

Want to wake people up to the US mainstream news media's complicity in misinforming the public on global warming and climate change? Click here for Media Matters' compilation of "Myths and Falsehoods about Global Warming".

Want to participate in the effort to mitigate the impact of global warming? Download "Ten Things You Can Do"

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For a directory of Words of Power Climate Crisis Updates, click here.

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Click here for the Words of Power Progressive Talk Radio -- Archive

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Thursday, August 30, 2007

Hard Rain Journal 8-31-07: "Tyranny is a Continuum" -- Robert Kennedy, Jr. & George Soros Debate Fascism, the News Media, & the Role of the People

Image: Salvador Dali, Premonition of Civil War



Hard Rain Journal 8-31-07: "Tyranny is a Continuum" -- Robert Kennedy, Jr. & George Soros Debate Fascism, the News Media, & the Role of the People

On a recent Ring of Fire broadcast (8-18-07), two heroic fellow citizens, Bobby Kennedy, Jr. and George Soros engaged in an important and inspiring debate on where we are as a nation and what must be done to rescue this open society. I have transcribed a portion of it, and posted it here to further the dialogue and encourage greater activism.

Bobby has distinguished himself as a fierce and formidable protector of the environment in his work with the National Resources Defense Council. (See Crimes Against Nature, Rolling Stone, 12/03)

He was also perhaps the first prominent American political leader to dare utter the term "fascism" in regard to the direction this country is being taken, and has urged the impeachment of Bush and Cheney as a "civics lesson" if nothing else.

In 2006, he upped the stakes by declaring that the 2004 election stolen, and documented how it was done (Rolling Stone, 6/06)

George Soros is a billionaire financial speculator, stock investor, philanthropist, political activist, and author. He is chairman of Soros Fund Management and the Open Society Institute, and has provided vital support for pro-democracy movements of historical and global signfigance, e.g., the Solidarity labor movement in Poland, the Czechoslovakian human rights organization Charter 77, and Georgia's Rose Revolution.

He also put his money where his heart is by burning many millions of dollars in an effort to defeat the Bush-Cheney regime in the 2004 presidential election.

On a weekly basis, Bobby co-hosts Ring of Fire on Air America Radio, with his friend and colleague, the indomitable Mike Papantonio. Ring of Fire is, indeed, the best weekly news and opinion magazine on the air waves. Imagine how different our public debate would be if Ring of Fire took the slot of Sixty Minutes or 20/20 or Face the Nation or ABC Week in Review or the PBS News Hour. (For a refreshing alternative, tune into GoLeftTV.)

Is the US news media the problem, as Bobby suggests? Or are the American people as a whole the problem, as George Soros suggests?

The answer is not either/or, of course, it is both.

Yes, the US mainstream news media has done worse than fail our way of life, they have betrayed it. And yes, we should all know this by now, and those who still listen to Jim Lehrer or Tim Russert or Katy Couric or George Stephanopoulos as if they had credibility are simply lying to themselves, and taking the easy way out.

Please spend a few moments reading this dialogue, and then share it and discuss it with other concerned citizens. -- Richard Power


Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.: I have always been a big fan of yours because of your love for this country. You were born in Hungary, you were raised in totalitarian regimes, and yet you fell in love with America, you see that it is in my uncle's words, the "last, best hope for mankind." And it has been a great disappointment to you, and to myself, and many others, over the past six years, America seems to have lost its sense of leadership, its moral authority, and our prestige in the world. The book, The Age of Fallibility is your attempt at analyzing what went wrong with America, and why we are no longer serving that leadership role in the world. One of the things you talk about is the respect for truth.

George Soros: It is really amazing that we have a free media, and yet, nevertheless the leadership has been able to distort the truth to such an extent that they are acting on a false conception of what they need to do, and I think it has a lot to do with the way they exploited the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001. Declaring war on terror was accepted by the public ... But the way that is has been used has really been counterproductive, we have a much bigger terrorist threat today, and our security has really been endangered, because our power and influence in the world has been impaired by how the leadership has exploited the war on terror. It has also had a very negative consequence for the world at large, because not only are we less secure, but the rest of the world is in turmoil. And what had been a figure of speech, "war on terror," has become a real war on a number of fronts. ... I find it amazing that the President can keep on invoking the "war on terror" and actually claim that there is still victory in sight ...

RFK, Jr.: One of the frameworks that I disagree with in the book is that you really blame the American people for re-electing President Bush -- and I have to say this, George, I published an article in Rolling Stone, which shows pretty decisively that he was not re-elected, and in fact, that they stole the election -- and you blame the American people for not caring more about these issues. One of the themes that we have had on this show is really targeting the American press, and saying, you know, in the beginning of our national history, our greatest leaders understood that democracy cannot last if we have an uninformed public, that the principle mechanism today for informing the public is the American press, and that after 1988 when Ronald Reagan abolished the fairness doctrine and lifted from the electronic media the obligation that they serve the public interest, ever since [the American press] have served their own corporate interests, their shareholders' interests, by giving us sex and celebrity gossip and very little in the way of news and real analysis, and that this is one of the big problems in our country, it is not that the American people don't care -- because I speak all over the country, in red states, to Republican audiences, and people deeply care about these issues when they understand them. The problem is we have a press that is not telling the people what is going on.

Soros: Bobby, first of all, I am delighted that there is something about which we disagree, because otherwise the conversation would get less interesting. Let's pursue the disagreement. The media is a business, and the business caters to the market. Now there is a problem with that, because of course the media ought also to be an institution of an open society, and there is a problem with the media not fulfilling its institutional role, we only have maybe two and a half newspapers left that actually serve that institutional role and even they were wayward during the early months after the "war on terror" was declared. That's how we got into Iraq. But there is also something wrong with the public, because the public wants to be entertained, and not informed, and so the media as a business caters to the public. If the public insisted on information, there would be services that would provide that information. And the people who are interested, actually, these days, get a lot of their information from the Internet. It is really up to people to find the news sources they want, and it is really up to the people who actually care about these issues to engage in discussion with others, and try to persuade them they we are really being very badly misled.

RFK, Jr.: George, the debate that I think you should read is the debate that took place when the fairness doctrine was passed at the dawn of commercial radio in 1928, and both Republicans and Democrats invoked these old arguments that occurred between Jefferson on one side, who was advocating full democracy, and Hamilton and Adams, and some of the other founders, who were saying, no, democracy should remain just in the hands of the landed classes. They weren't snobs, what they said, and Jefferson agreed, was that an uninformed public will trade a hundred years of hard fought civil rights for a half hour of welfare, and the first tyrant or demagogue or religious fanatic that comes along and essentially promises them a three hundred dollar tax break ... And Jefferson said, yes, that is true, but the remedy is not to deprive the public of power, but rather to forcibly inform the public and educate them, and that's why both in Massachusetts and Virginia, after the revolution, Jefferson an Adams enacted these very strong mandates for public education, mandatory public education, because if you weren't informed, you were regard as a threat to the whole society, if you have large amounts on uninformed people, those people will choose to listen to sex or celebrity gossip rather than the news, and they become a threat to our society. So the obligation of the press, of the electronic media, was to inform the whole public. Now, if you own a printing press, you can write anything you want, but if you are broadcasting on the air waves (and that's where most Americans get their news), that's a publicly owned resource, and you have to use that to inform the public, and to advance our democracy, and Ronald Reagan abolished that rule in 1988, and that is when you see the devolution of the American press, and this lack of interest now, among the American public, in our democracy.

Soros: You are right about the excessive concentration of the media in a very few hands, and the lack of choice and pluralism. And, in fact, in the so-called red states usually you only have one source of news and that tends to be from the right side ... So in that sense, you are right. But now, the whole industry is in turmoil, and actually, with the advent of the Internet and so on, and even the networks don't have the audiences that use to have. So it is really up to people to find the news source that they want. And it is really up to the people who care about these issues to engage in discussion with others, and to try to persuade them that we are being really very badly misled.

RFK, Jr.: You donated or spent almost $27.5 million on the last campaign, trying to get George Bush out of the White House, and you made a lot of enemies on the right. You are an outspoken man. One of the comments that you made during the campaign was that some of the propaganda techniques that had been used by the Bush administration were reminiscent of the propaganda techniques that you had seen used in Hungary, first by the Nazis, and later on by the Communists, but actually more skillful because of the technological capacity and the degree of sophistication. You took a beating for that. You were trying to make the right wing look radical, but instead they used their very sophisticated propaganda techniques to make you look like a radical. In your book, Age of Fallibility, and it's a wonderful book, you elucidated on that experience and what your impressions are, and you reaffirm some of those comparisons. I want to read you something that I keep on my wall, and it's a list of the early warning signs of fascism. There are fourteen characteristics of fascism, or totalitarianism, that Lawrence Britt put together, after reviewing the commonalities between seven fascist regimes: Adolph Hitler's Nazi Germany, Mussolini's Italy, Franco's Spain, Salazar's Portugal, Papadopoulos' Greece, Pinochet's Chile and Suharto's Indonesia. These are the warning signs: a powerful and continuing nationalism, a disdain for human rights, the identification of enemies or scapegoats as a unifying cause, the supremacy of the military, controlled mass media, the cultivation of fear as a governing tool, the obsession with national security, religion and government become intertwined, corporate power is protected, labor power is suppressed, disdain for intellectuals and the arts, obsession with crime and punishment, rampant cronyism and corruption, and fraudulent elections. All of those are things we see with this administration, and I have made the comparison myself, and also taken the beating for it, but this isn't to say that this administration is a fascist dictatorship, but tyranny is a continuum, and if we are to survive as a free people, we need to be able to recognize all the milestones of that continuum.

Soros: The list you gave is a very good one. I will try to memorize it, but I do not know if I can count up to fourteen. But it is a good list. And, of course, open societies and democracies are always endangered, but the big thing we have to remember is that we still are a democracy. We do have strong institutions. We have the separation of powers. All of those things are endangered. One of the nefarious effects of the war on terror, which is a war that will never end, is that you now have a war president, who claims an extension of powers, which may or may not be appropriate in a time of war, but certainly undermines the very foundations of our democracy. Our democracy is in danger, but it is still our democracy, and when I draw the comparison with Hitler's Germany, the first thing that I point out is that we are a democracy and they were not.

RFK, Jr.: Except that Germany started out as a democracy ...

Soros: And that is the danger.

RFK, Jr.: Hitler was elected in a democracy by the most educated people on Earth.

Soros: Right, and that is why we really need to go out of our way to defend democracy. With all of that, however, I really was reminded particularly of the Nazi propaganda machine when President Bush said, "Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists." Because that doesn't leave any room for criticizing the President's policy, and pointing out that they are counterproductive, and that we now have a bigger terrorist threat, and we are less safe than when we embarked on it. He has declared that any kind of opposition is unpatriotic and that is a big threat to our democratic and open society, and that is what I am fighting for.

I urge you to support progressive talk radio in general, and Ring of Fire in particular. Subscribe to the show's podcast!

(Click here for the Words of Power Progressive Talk Radio -- Archive )

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Hard Rain Late Night: Joni Mitchell -- Hejira (Japan 1994)

Hard Rain Late Night: Joni Mitchell -- Hejira (Japan 1994)



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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Hard Rain Journal 8-29-07: It Wasn't the Breach of the Levees, or the Hurricane Itself, It Was the Criminal Negligence and Calculated Indifference


Image: Hurricane Katrina

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about what you understood three years before Katrina hit, what it meant for what actually happened and what it means for today?
JOHN McQUAID: Well, it was common knowledge in the disaster management community that New Orleans was incredibly vulnerable to a large hurricane, and my co-author and I looked at that issue. We looked at the levee system and specifically weaknesses in the levee system. Was the Corps of Engineers really telling us the truth when it said we were well protected? We concluded that it was not. And, in fact, it turned out that things were far worse than even we had anticipated, because there were actually flaws, engineering flaws, in the levee system that caused walls to collapse prematurely and flooded vast areas of the city that otherwise would not have flooded.
Democracy Now, 8-29-07

Hard Rain Journal 8-29-07: It wasn't the Breach of the Levees, or the Hurricane Itself, It was the Criminal Negligence and Calculated Indifference

By Richard Power


It wasn't the breach of the levees, or the hurricane itself, that did the most damage to New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, and to the soul of this troubled nation, two years ago, it was the criminal negligence and calculated indifference at the highest levels of government.

In dramatic and sometimes agonizing terms, federal disaster officials warned President Bush and his homeland security chief before Hurricane Katrina struck that the storm could breach levees, put lives at risk in New Orleans’ Superdome and overwhelm rescuers, according to confidential video footage.
Bush didn’t ask a single question during the final briefing before Katrina struck on Aug. 29, but he assured soon-to-be-battered state officials: “We are fully prepared.”
The footage — along with seven days of transcripts of briefings obtained by The Associated Press — show in excruciating detail that while federal officials anticipated the tragedy that unfolded in New Orleans and elsewhere along the Gulf Coast, they were fatally slow to realize they had not mustered enough resources to deal with the unprecedented disaster.


But even worse is the painful fact that this profound cravenness has gone unanswered in any meaningful way, i.e., serious investigation, censure, or personal accountability of some kind for Bush or the other ring-leaders.

It should be astonishing (but isn't any longer) that the US political establishment and mainstream news media is so sick it could let this crime against our own humanity stand without consequences.

As Chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) has squashed attempts to get at the deeper, uglier truth of this debacle. (Read Jane Hamsher's Joe Lieberman Betrays Hurricane Katrina Victims, 8-27-07)

And what of the federal effort Bush delegated to Karl Rove in the aftermath of the devastation?

Two years after Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans, “none of the 115 ‘critical priority projects’ identified by city officials” for publicly funded rebuilding efforts “has been completed.” Of the $34 billion “earmarked for long-term rebuilding,” less than half “has made its way through federal checks and balances to reach municipal projects.” Think Progess, 8-27-07

But perhaps worst of all is that the USA is not prepared for the next catastrophe, whether it comes in the form of a natural disaster, a critical infrastructure failure, a pubic health emergency or a terrorist attack; and if such an event occurs while the Bush-Cheney regime still occupies the White House, the response will be predicated on the same cravenness exhibited when Katrina hit.

Meanwhile, in recent days --

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has issued an important report, Broken Promises: Two Years After Katrina, that exposes numerous post-Katrina civil rights violations, including reports of heightened racially motivated police activity, housing discrimination, and prisoner abuse.

"Two years ago, Americans were glued to their television sets, outraged at the images of poor people of color cast aside in the aftermath of Katrina," said Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the ACLU. "Politicians made promises, but they failed to fix the problems that Katrina's fury made painfully clear. The government must be held accountable for its mistakes rather than allowed to perpetuate the systemic racism and discrimination that only added strength to the storm." ACLU, 8-20-07

Robert Greenwald's Brave New Films and a national coalition of social justice organizations have released a powerful viral video, When The Saints Go Marching In, marking the second anniversary.

The three minute YouTube video reveals the devastating reality of hurricane survivors still struggling to rebuild their lives and the amazing hope they maintain about the future. ... When The Saints Go Marching In includes footage of NOLA residents working to make the city home again, and ends with a call to action for viewers to urge the Senate to pass Senator Chris Dodd's (D-CT) Gulf Coast Recovery Bill (S. 1668). Common Dreams, 8-28-07



To sign the petition urging passage of Senator Dodd's Gulf Coast Recovery Bill of 2007 (S1668) to assist the Gulf Coast region in rebuilding the infrastructure lost after the Katrina and Rita disasters, click here.

To get re-enraged, read CREW's THE BEST LAID PLANS: THE STORY OF HOW THE GOVERNMENT IGNORED ITS OWN GULF COAST HURRICANE PLANS, and then watch Spike Lee's When The Levees Broke.

To channel that rage into helping Katrina survivors, go to the Katrina Information Network and Acorn Katrina Survivors Association.

For a comprehensive Hurricane Katrina timeline from Think Progress, click here.

Some Related Words of Power Posts

Hard Rain Journal 6-29-07: Katrina, 9/11 and Iraq -- An Almost Incomprehensible Truth

Words of Power #31: Ghosts of Christmas Past (Katrina) and Future (Iran)

Hard Rain Journal 8-24-06: Updates on Darfur & Katrina, Failures of the Human Spirit

Words of Power #5: Failed Leadership Invites Disaster

Words of Power #1: Truths Salvaged from Post-Katrina Debacle

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Hard Rain Journal 8-29-07: Signs & Portents -- Gonzalez Fled, Just as Rove Fled, But There is Still Great Danger

Image: China Daily, 8-28-07



Hard Rain Journal 8-29-07: Signs & Portents -- Gonzalez Fled, Just as Rove Fled, But There is Still Great Danger

By Richard Power


Do not be misled.

Gonzalez fled, just as Rove did.

Just as Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Fieth, Libby and Bolton fled. Just as Monica Goodling, Kyle Sampson, Wan J. Kim, Tim Griffin, Brad Schlozman and others have fled.

It is over. They failed.

The night after the worst Attorney General in US history resigned in disgrace, the Cosmos offered up a blood-orange lunar eclipse. Eerie, and evocative, it glowed like a spectacular cave painting on the dark wall of the night sky.

Glimpsing the eclipse through the lush boughs of oaks and madrones, I felt it to be a portent of political doom, foretelling the end of the Bush-Cheney regime.

Yes, they failed.

They have broken everything they touched, and they will leave behind a legacy of catastrophe and humiliation. But they have failed.

Their defensive ops will continue, i.e., the cover-ups and stonewalling. But their offensive ops will be curtailed, i.e., there will be no more politically motivated prosecutions (ala Don Siegelman), there will be no more purging of principled prosecutors.

But if the Democratic Party leadership fails to finish them off, if the investigations are not pursued aggressively, if contempt of Congress charges are not pursued, if there is no withdrawal from Iraq, if the country is coerced into war with Iran, if somehow the Cult formerly known as the Republican Party succeeds in winning back the US Senate or installing any of the hollow men who are currently vying for its presidential nomination, if there is another 9/11, we could all find ourselves in a world of hurt beyond imagining.

Although Rove is gone, as dangerous as he is, and as destructive as he has been, there is someone even more dangerous, and even more destructive, still in power: VICE _resident Cheney.

Although Gonzalez is gone, as embarrassing as he is, and as toxic as his influence has been, there is someone even more embarrassing, and even more toxic, still in power: _resident Bush.

Warriors do not turn their backs on vanquished foes; warriors do not offer them a second shot.

Politics is supposed to be the art of compromise. But that's business as usual, and this is the Bizarro World. We are on the other side of the looking glass. This struggle is the political equivalent of mortal combat; and it is not "them or us," it is "them or the Republic."

Finish this.

How?

Probe Cheney directly -- on the invasion of Iraq, on the Halliburton no-bid contracts, on his office's interest in Justice Department investigations, on FISA and FOIA, etc., etc., etc.

There is an opportunity turn the page in the coming year and a half, but there is also a great danger that the book itself will be burned.

We will know a lot more about the state of the nation when we hear who Bush is going to propose, and whether or not the Democrats are willing to fight the wrong kind of nominee. If it is a Gates-like figure from GHW Bush's era, it will be a positve indicator; if it is shameless partisan like Ted Olson, or a war party fellow traveler (and torture booster) like Lieberman, it will be a bad sign.

Leader Reid, Speaker Pelosi, here are your own words --

"Alberto Gonzales was never the right man for this job. He lacked independence, he lacked judgment, and he lacked the spine to say no to Karl Rove. This resignation is not the end of the story. Congress must get to the bottom of this mess and follow the facts where they lead, into the White House." — Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), Majority Leader of the US Senate

The resignation of Attorney General Gonzales is long overdue. The rampant politicization of federal law enforcement that occurred under his tenure seriously eroded public confidence in our justice system.
The President must now restore credibility to the office of the Attorney General. Given the serious loss of public trust and the disarray at the Department of Justice, the American people must have absolute confidence in the integrity of the next Attorney General as the nation’s chief law enforcement officer and as defender of our constitution independent of political influence. The President’s nominee must have the character and stature to command that confidence.
The nominee must also pledge to cooperate with ongoing congressional oversight into the conduct of the White House in the politicization of federal law enforcement. Hearings on the nominee will provide Congress with another opportunity to examine the new, flawed FISA law and will aid in our efforts to improve it.
Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Speaker of the House

Finish it.

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Hard Rain Late Night: Neil Young -- Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere (Red Rocks Ampitheatre Sept. 2000)

Hard Rain Late Night: Neil Young -- Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere (Red Rocks Ampitheatre Sept. 2000)



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Sunday, August 26, 2007

GS(3) Intel Brief 8-27-06: Close Your Eyes, Listen, Feel the Planet, and then Live from Inside that Truth



Image: Yves Tanguy, The Dark Garden, Le Jardin sombre. 1928.

GS(3) Intel Brief 8-27-06: Close Your Eyes, Listen, Feel the Planet, and then Live from Inside that Truth

By Richard Power


Close your eyes, and imagine you were born blind, but that like Homer, the misfortune has expanded your mind, and like Helen Keller, it has also expanded your heart.

Imagine, further, that you are sitting upright in a high-back chair, with comfortable arm-rests. Next to you is a large topographical globe, which rests on its own stand. You lift your left arm and place your left hand upon the globe.

In the swirling luminescence that the sighted simply call "darkness," you feel the planet at the edge of your fingertips and in the palm of your hand, and you hear it inside of your mind.

You feel the beating heart of a new-born gorilla as your fingers pass over the Congo, that place of struggle between irrepressible life and seemingly uneradicable despair:

A mountain gorilla was born in the Democratic republic of Congo's Virunga park Tuesday, an important event for the endangered species' survival following the recent killings of five silverbacks. "The birth ... is seen as a key step toward the survival of this critically endangered species," the Wildlife Direct conservationist organisation said in a statement ... "Nine Mountain Gorillas have been killed since January in Congos gorilla sector, sparking one of the worst crises for this endangered species in over 35 years," it added. ... "Despite the slaughter of the gorillas in July that shocked the whole world, we can see that they are fighting to survive," said Norbert Mushenzi, head of southern Virunga for the Congolese Nature Conservation Institute (ICCN). "ICCN is collaborating with all conservation NGOs to intensify the protection of the gorillas with additional guards and reinforced patrols," he added in the statement. Agence France Press, 8-22-07

Moving your hand westward, you hear the muted footsteps of Ghana's economic refugees, and follow them northward on their long, desperate journey up through the Sahara to Libya and then across the Mediterranean Sea to Italy:

Before setting out across the Mediterranean Sea from Libya to Italy, the Ghanaian human traffickers who had hired Samuel and his two friends to captain the boat in exchange for their passage warned them not to sail with more than 90 immigrants aboard--nor to trust the Libyan police ... Experts suggest several causes for the fishing industry's plight. ... But central to the problem are the industrial trawlers subsidized by the European Union, primarily from Spain, which has acquired fishing rights off West African territorial waters. And industrial fishing greatly affects the catch closer to shore that the local communities rely on for survival.
European trawlers now fish off the coasts of nine West African countries--from Morocco in the north to Gabon in the south--a development criticized by the United Nations as well as environmental organizations like Greenpeace and the World Wildlife Fund, which question the sustainability of the practice. ...
In These Times, 8-10-07

Moving your hand upward, to the northwest, in the cool, pristine sky above the Norwegian fjords, you feel a grittiness, and rub the grains between your fingers:

Some dust from the deserts of the Sahara has been spotted in the air over an island off the northern part of Norway. ... Officials said it was "quite special" to see desert sand as far north as Norway. ... Such dust clouds rarely extend further north than Central Europe. ... the particles were probably whipped up by a major sandstorm in the Sahara earlier this month. Aftenposten, 8-14-07

Yes, the planet is a oneness. What befalls Africa, befalls us all -- one way or another, sooner or later.

Moving downward and diagonally across the Atlantic, the great rainforests and mountain ranges of South America brush your fingertips, and you feel renewed strength emanating from those sacred spaces, besieged as they are by people in the thrall of spiritual maladies (e.g., ignorance and greed):

Rainforest conservation policies are reducing the rate of deforestation in the Peruvian Amazon, but roads are unquestionably the drivers of change, new satellite data reveal. ... "Peru's forest reserves and conservation areas appear to be working well," said Greg Asner, director of the Carnegie Airborne Observatory, at Stanford University in California. ... The study clearly shows that deforestation follows the construction of the Inter-Oceanic Highway, which ultimately is directly connected with 23 percent of the total damage. "Roads are absolutely connected to deforestation," Asner said.
Loggers are chasing "red gold", the valuable wood of mahogany trees, which are still found in commercial quantities in the Peruvian Amazon, says David Hill, a campaigner for Survival International, a Britain-based non-governmental organisation supporting tribal peoples worldwide. ...
Stephen Leahy, Satellites Show Logging Decline in Peru's Amazon Region, Inter Press Service, 8-18-07

Destruction of Brazil's Amazon rainforest has dropped by nearly a third during the last year to its lowest rate in the last seven years, according to government figures. ... Marina Silva, the environment minister, told a news conference in the capital Brasilia: "It's a great achievement for Brazilian society. It reflects a new environmental governance." But environmentalists say deforestation has slowed largely because of the strengthening of Brazil's currency and a drop in the price of soybeans, which makes it less profitable to clear forest to grow the crop. Brazil's deforestation rate 'falls', Mercosur, 8-12-07

Following the sea horse spine of South America down to its southern edges, you turn your hand palm upward and feel the membrane of the atmosphere itself, blessing those that made certain the nations of the Earth delivered on the 1987 Montreal Protocol:

Tierramérica: When will we see the full restoration of the ozone layer over Antarctica and the southern region of South America? Last year the thinning of the layer, the hole, reached a record size of 27.5 million square kilometres.
Marco González [Executive Secretary of the Secretariat for the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer]: The studies by the Protocol's scientific groups establish that the concentrations of chlorine and bromide show a downward trend since 2000 and that the situation in the stratosphere is improving. As far as the ozone hole, it occurs seasonally and depends on the meteorological conditions in Antarctica. The colder the temperatures in the Antarctic, there occurs a freezing of the air that forms a sort of "vortex", which produces the conditions propitious for massive destruction of the ozone. Scientists agreed that the hole is going to stay with us in a similar situation to that of 2006 for at least the next decade.
Q&A: Global Fight to Protect the Ozone Layer Celebrates 20 Years
Interview with Montreal Protocol chief Marco González, Inter Press Service, 8-11-07


Moving northward along the Pacific coast of the Americas, from the rubble of Pisco to what Joni Mitchell has called "City of the Fallen Angels," you can feel the Ring of Fire, with all its unspeakable power to turn life upside down, and you can also feel the pressure building inside of it:

A devastating quake in California's Coachella Valley usually occurs every 150 years, but its been more than 300 years since a quake shook the region.
"There will be several thousand dead and billions of dollars in damage," said Lucy Jones, a seismologist at the U.S. Geological Survey, according to the Los Angeles Times. ... Scientists consider a quake along the San Andreas Fault in the Coachella Valley "a near inevitability," the Palm Springs Desert Sun reports, noting that such a quake could be the "most destructive natural disaster in U.S. history."
Nick Juliano, Scientist says 300-year overdue earthquake could cause thousands of deaths, Raw Story, 8-10-07

Moving your hand downward again, it skims across the vast rolling blue vortex of the Pacific, until you come to the nation-continent of Australia:

Northern Australia contains the world's largest remaining savannas and is one of the last great pristine wilderness zones, covering an area larger than western Europe, Australian researchers said ... The country's tropics, stretching 2,000 kilometres (1,250 miles) across the continent, accounted for more than a quarter of the world's remaining savanna after the decline of grasslands that once spread over South America, Africa and Asia, they said. ... after satellite mapping 1.5 million square kilometres (580,000 square miles) of Australia's north, a team of scientists from the Wild Country Science Council said the area now ranked with Antarctica and South America's Amazon rainforests in environmental importance. Rob Taylor, Australia holds the world's last great savanna, Reuters, 8-14-07

As the harsh impact of climate change intensifies (Australia is already drought-ravaged), there will be a great drive to develop the savannas, this self-destructive urge must be resisted.

In circling the globe with your tactile prescience, you can also hear the deliberations of its governments and feel the visions of its leaders. You wince at the cacophony of coarseness and narrow-mindedness, but from within the discordant din, you can hear charming melodies and inspiring overtures:

Landlocked in the eastern Himalayas, the tiny country of Bhutan seems almost untouched by globalisation. ... Bhutan is one of the few countries to employ the concept of gross national happiness — that social and economic development should promote happiness as its primary value. Conservation of the environment and sustainable and equitable socioeconomic development are the two pillars of gross national happiness, which was declared more important than gross national product by Bhutan's then king, Jigme Singye Wangchuk, in 1972.
But today, the country is facing change. Global warming is melting many of its glaciers, while its need for economic development and quest to export hydropower to neighbouring India may harm its fragile terrain. Bhutan is grappling with the dilemma of conservation versus development.
Bhutan's dilemma: Happiness vs. development, T. V. Padma, SciDev.Net, 8-16-07,

While oil prices are soaring, Quito is adopting the civil society initiative calling for the Ishpingo-Tiputini-Tambococha (ITT) oil reserve, the country’s largest, to remain untapped. The ITT reserve is located in Yasuní National Park, one of the most biodiverse areas in the world, in the Amazon region provinces of Pastaza and Napo. The slogans "Yasuní Belongs to Everyone" and "Yes to Life, No to ITT", painted on the walls in Quito and other Ecuadorean cities in the last few days, are a sign that something new is happening in this country. ... Quito has suspended oil drilling at ITT for one year, and has approached several foreign governments, international bodies and non-governmental organisations with the proposal that Ecuador be paid an indemnity in return for leaving the oil undisturbed, on the grounds that this would prevent environmental damages that would affect humanity as a whole. ... Ecuador is basing its proposal on four key arguments: the need to combat climate change, curb the destruction of biodiversity, protect the Huaorani, Tagaeri and Taromenane indigenous people, and transform the country’s economy by adopting a new development model. ... Kintto Lucas, ECUADOR: Support Grows for Letting Sleeping Amazon Oil Lie, Inter Press Service, 8-23-07

Just as an eruption (or a series of them) along Ring of Fire could disrupt life for much of the human race and the other species we share this planet with, so could a mistake or an act of madness concerning nuclear weapons. No greater threat of such a catastrophe exists than the one that confronts us in Pakistan.

[NOTE: Benazir Bhutto, 54, the former prime minister of Pakistan and leader of the Pakistan Peoples Party, has lived in exile for eight years. Now that President Pervez Musharraf's authority is weakened, her chances of returning to power are greater than they have been for some time.]
SPIEGEL: You have been living in exile for eight years. You could probably only return home after the charges of corruption leveled against you have been dropped. The regulation prohibiting a third term as prime minister would also have to be eliminated. What did Musharraf say about that?
Bhutto: We spoke about a fair starting basis for all parties and about strengthening the parliament.
SPIEGEL: Musharraf has been more unpopular than ever since the siege of the Red Mosque. Is this your chance?
Bhutto: It is extremely sad that he is not enforcing law and order in the tribal areas along the border with Afghanistan or taking measures to eradicate terrorism there. His policy of cease-fires and peace treaties has only kept the Taliban alive and expanded their zone of influence. I want to give my compatriots a clear choice. Either they support extremism or they reject it decisively.
SPIEGEL INTERVIEW WITH BENAZIR BHUTTO, 'Pakistan Must Not Be Talibanized', Der Spiegel, 8-13-07

In the 21st Century, security, sustainability and spirit are interdependent.

You cannot deal with terrorism without dealing with religious extremism, and you cannot deal with either without dealing with extreme poverty and sustainability. You cannot deal with sustainability without dealing with energy security, you cannot deal with energy security without dealing with corporatism and militarism.

You cannot achieve security without sustainability, and you will not attain sustainability without drawing on the collective spiritual heritage of the human race.

Furthermore, national security, regional security and global security are synonymous, so are national security, environmental security and energy security.

You cannot establish any one without establishing the others.

Feeling the globe with your fingertips, while holding the planet itself within your heart, you know this. You see it.

Unfortunately, although we are twenty plus years into the Information Age, most business and government leaders do not even understand the security and risk imperatives of cyberspace, as two recent studies confirm:

Forty-four percent of mobile users questioned in a survey this spring said they open e-mails and attachments from unknown or even suspicious senders. The study also showed that one-third of mobile users access unauthorized wireless connections, whether they're hijacking a neighbors' wireless connection or using unsecured hotspots at a coffee shop or in a public park. The study was commissioned by Cisco Systems and the National Cyber Security Alliance. ... According to the study, 73% of mobile users said they are not always aware of security threats and best practices when working on the go. Although many said they are "sometimes" aware, another 28% admitted they "hardly ever" consider security risks and proper behavior. ... When questioned about why they're so lax about wireless security, the top answers included, "I'm busy and need to get work done," and "It's IT's job, not mine." InsightExpress surveyed 700 mobile workers in seven countries that have widely adopted wireless technologies -- the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, China, India, South Korea, and Singapore. Sharon Gaudin, Information Week, 8-21-07

Almost 40 per cent of UK organisations admit to protecting less than a quarter of their network traffic, according to the annual security survey conducted by SafeNet.
The report revealed that five per cent of UK organisations have no security measures at all to protect the data crossing their networks ... the survey also showed that overall levels of network protection are falling. Some 34 per cent of organisations encrypt only between one and 25 per cent of their data
Ian Williams, VNU, 8-21-07

Cyberspace, too, is a oneness.

Given this general state of cluelessness among leaders in business and government concerning the full spectrum of risks and threats, much of the most important work involved in saving the planet will have to be done in spite of them, and be imposed on them from below through democratic processes.

The forces of nature, history and human evolution are with you.

Close your eyes again, you can feel it.

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Saturday, August 25, 2007

Campaign '08 Update 8-25-07: Edwards -- "They will not give up their power -- you have to take it from them."

The Candidate, A Film by Robert Redford (1972)


But let me tell you one thing I have learned from my experience -- you cannot deal with them on their terms. You cannot play by their rules, sit at their table, or give them a seat at yours. They will not give up their power -- you have to take it from them. We cannot triangulate our way to real change. We cannot compromise our way to real change. But we can lead to real change. John Edwards, Hanover, NH, 8-23-07

Campaign '08 Update 8-25-07: Edwards -- "They will not give up their power -- you have to take it from them."

NOTE: Words of Power is not going to endorse a candidate this early in the 2008 presidential race. But I have posted a "Words of Power short list" composed of three announced candidates (Edwards, Richardson and Kucinich) and two potential candidates (Gore and Clark), and an "Open Letter to Democratic Primary and Caucus Voters," in which I urge turning this race upside down. I reserve the right to comment on the race from time to time, even at this early stage.

Whatever happens next year, John and Elizabeth Edwards are running a campaign worthy of this make or break moment in US (and world) history.

Unlike Sen. Clinton, Edwards is not running as if the last seven years hadn't happened. Unlike Sen. Obama, he is not acting as if the legacy of this last seven years can be overcome by setting a different tone.

Edwards' style of "transformational politics" has placed him at the forefront over and over again: committing his campaign's resources to global actions on Darfur (click here) and Global Warming (click here), suspending fund-raising for a week to move among the forgotten poor of states that do not even have primaries or caucuses (click here), daring to touch that third rail of unfair trade agreements (click here), forcing the other frontrunners into a boycott of Fox (click here), calling out the rabid right and those that pander to it (click here), etc.

And now, just as he did at the Riverside Church earlier this year, John Edwards has delivered a speech that goes beyond the political "business as usual" formula of Sens. Clinton and Obama. In this speech, Edwards declares the truth of the corruption within Beltwayistan, and challenges all of us to "end the game."

-- Richard Power

Here is an excerpt, with a link to the full text:

I am the son of Wallace and Bobbie Edwards. My father had to borrow $50 to bring me and my mother home from the hospital. I am here today because, like all the people my father worked with in the mill, my parents got up every day believing in the promise of America, and they worked hard -- no matter what obstacles were thrown against them -- to give me the chance for a better life.
That's the promise at the heart of the American Dream. What matters to our generation is of little consequence -- in America what has always mattered most is the consequences for our children and their children after them. And no amount of power or money gives anyone the right to break that promise with our future.
I have stood with ordinary Americans at the most difficult times in their lives, when all the power of corporate America was arrayed against them. I have walked into courtrooms alone to face an army of corporate lawyers with all the money in the world. I have walked off the Senate elevator and been besieged by an army of corporate lobbyists. And I have beaten them over and over again.
But let me tell you one thing I have learned from my experience -- you cannot deal with them on their terms. You cannot play by their rules, sit at their table, or give them a seat at yours. They will not give up their power -- you have to take it from them.
We cannot triangulate our way to real change. We cannot compromise our way to real change. But we can lead to real change. And we can start today.
Nearly ten years ago, I made the decision that I would never take a dime from a Washington lobbyist -- I wasn't going to work for them, and I didn't want their money.
Because in the courtroom, when you present your case to the jury, you can offer facts and evidence, you can argue your heart out -- and I have -- but the one thing you can't do, is pay the jury. We call that a bribe. But in Washington when an oil lobbyist gives money to office holders to influence our energy policy, they call it politics. That's exactly what's wrong with this system.
Money flies like lightning between corporations, lobbyists, and politicians. We need full public financing to reform the system once and for all. But we don't need to wait to reform our party. Two weeks ago, I called on all Democrats to reject contributions from federal lobbyists. To tell them -- we know that you give money to influence politicians on behalf of your corporate clients. Well, we're not going to take it anymore. Your money's no good here.
I repeat that challenge today. Let's show America exactly whose side we're on. We can reform our party and truly be the party of the people. And we can expose for all time who the Republicans in Washington are really working for.
There are 60 lobbyists in Washington for every member of Congress. The big corporations don't need another president that looks out for them -- they've got all the power they need. I want to be the people's president. ... I am the son of Wallace and Bobbie Edwards.
And I believe in the promise of America.


Remarks as Prepared for Delivery: "To Build One America, End the Game," 8/23/07,
Hanover, New Hampshire


For an archive of Words of Power posts on Campaign '08, click here.

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Hard Rain Late Night: Sinead O'Connor -- Óró, sé do bheatha 'bhaile

Hard Rain Late Night: Sinead O'Connor -- Óró, sé do bheatha 'bhaile

Oró, 'Sé do Bheatha 'Bhaile (pronounced [ˈɔɾˠoː ɕeː d̪ˠə ˈvʲahə ˈwalʲə]) is a traditional Irish rebel song. While part of it dates back to the reign of Elizabeth I of England, its current form dates back to the early 20th century. It was originally a Jacobite song, but later received new verses by nationalist poet Patrick Pearse and was often sung by IRA members and sympathisers, both during the Easter Rising and since. Since 1916 it has also been known under the title Dord na bhFiann (Call of the Fighters). Wikipedia

Sé Do Bheatha 'Bhaile (You Are Welcome Home)

Se do bheatha a bhean ba leanmhar!
(Welcome Oh woman who was so afflicted)
B'e ar gcreach tu bheith i ngeibhinn
(It was our ruin that you were in bondage)
Do dhuiche bhrea i seilbh meirleach
(Our fine land in the possesion of theives)
'S tu diolta leis na Ghallaibh.
(And sold to the foreigners)

Oro, se do bheatha 'bhaile! x3
(Óró! You are welcome home!)
Anois ar theacht an tsamhraidh.
(Now that summer is coming)

Ta Grainne Mhaol ag teacht thar saile,
(Grainne Mhaol is coming over the sea)
Oglaigh armtha lei mar gharda
(Armed warriors along with her as guard)
Gaeil iad fein 's ni Gaill na Spainnigh
(They are Irishmen, not English or Spanish)
'S cuirfid siad ruaig ar Ghallaibh.
(And they will rout the foreigners)

Oro, se do bheatha 'bhaile! x3
(Óró! You are welcome home!)
Anois ar theacht an tsamhraidh.
(Now that summer is coming)

A bhui le Ri na bhfeart go bhfeiceam
(May it please the God of Miracles that we may see)
Muna mbeam beo 'na dhiaidh ach seachtain
(Although we only live a week after it)
Grainne Mhaol agus mile gaiscioch
(Grainne Mhaol and a thousand warriors)
Ag fogairt fain ar Ghallaibh.
(Dispersing the foreigners)




Click here for Hard Rain Late Night Music Video -- Archive

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Thursday, August 23, 2007

Crisis in Darfur Update 8-24-07: Disturbing New Themes in The Human Race's Spiritual Failure on Darfur

Image: UNICEF Child Alert



Darfuris who fled their homes during a 4-1/2 year revolt are urging a joint U.N.-African Union force to deploy rapidly to protect them from attacks and allow their safe return to their villages. After months of talks, threats and negotiations, Khartoum finally agreed to the 26,000-strong force, which will incorporate a struggling 7,000 AU force that has failed to stem the Darfur violence. The joint mission is expected to fully deploy by next year, but Darfuris say that is too late. "We want them to come immediately," said Yahya Osman. He lost everything when he fled his village west of Nyala town in South Darfur to Otash camp, where some 62,000 people have sought refuge from fled rape, looting and killing. But they say violence continues even there. Reuters, 8-20-07

Crisis in Darfur Update 8-24-07: Disturbing New Themes in The Human Race's Spiritual Failure on Darfur

By Richard Power


The news from Darfur is that there is no news. Only the stink of hypocrisy from the US, Chinese and Israeli governments.

The Chinese are the Chinese. But we must demand better from ourselves and our allies.

Israel is engaging in hypocrisy concerning the genocide in Darfur.

Fifty Darfuris a day are crossing the border from Egypt, where they are being persecuted, and now Israel has begun to expel them.

What would Shindler do?

PM Olmert says the deportations are in accordance with Israeli law.

What if Shindler had said that what was being done to the Jews of Europe was in accordance with German law?

ISRAEL has begun deporting refugees from the massacres in the Sudanese region of Darfur despite claims that the legacy of the Holocaust imposes a special responsibility on the Jewish state to protect fugitives from genocide. ... The office of the Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, said the forced return of the 50 refugees complied with Israeli and international law. ... Human rights groups say there are already about 2 million Sudanese refugees in Egypt, where they complain of discrimination and state brutality. This month an Israeli television channel said that it had footage shot by Israeli border guards of two Sudanese refugees being beaten to death by Egyptian border guards. It said it would not show the footage to avoid a dispute with Egypt.
Sydney Morning Herald, 8-21-07

Rep. Rahm Emmaneul (D-Ill), the Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights (American Jewish Committee), and a majority of the members of the Israeli parliament, including even Netanyahu, are calling on Olmert's government to change its policies.

But, of course, the hypocrisy of Israel on this issue pales in comparison to that of China and the USA.

Consider the issue from a fresh perspective --

There are two great geopolitical fantasies floating around in the heads of the planet's pundits: one is that the 21st Century will be the Chinese Century, the other is that it will be the American Century.

Well, after seven years of Neo-Con dementia in the West Wing, it might seem that the Chinese Century scenario is the more plausible of the two; until you ask yourself how long a nation that exports poison food, clothing and toys on a massive scale will remain on the ascent.

The fates of the USA and China are tangled up together with the barbed wire of a bitter irony.

China has chosen to build its future on unbridled capitalism wedded to totalitarian control of the political process and the news media; and the USA is, sadly, struggling to match it in both unbridled capitalism and totalitarian control.

The problem both great nations will confront sooner than later is that the whole force of nature, history and the human spirit is against such greed and oppression.

But what do these geopolitical fantasies have to do with the wretched circumstances of the Dafuris? Everything.

Darfur is the number one refugee crisis on the planet. But Iraq is number two and gaining on it.

And what do Darfur and Iraq have in common?

The short-sighted, self-defeating thirst for oil.

The number of US political leaders who have denounced the Bush-Cheney cabal's drive to privatize the Iraqi oil industry, and turn the profits over to the cabal's sponsors (e.g., Exxon, etc.), could be counted on one hand (you might even have a finger or two left over):

If passed, the Bush administration's long-sought "hydrocarbons framework" law would give Big Oil access to Iraq's vast energy reserves on the most advantageous terms and with virtually no regulation. Meanwhile, a parallel law carving up the country’s oil revenues threatens to set off a fresh wave of conflict in the shell-shocked country. Subhi al-Badri, head of the Iraqi Federation of Union Councils, said last month that the "law is a bomb that may kill everyone." Iraq's oil "does not belong to any certain side," he said, "it belongs to all future generations." Joshua Holland, Alternet, 8-9-07

The Chinese are in bed with the thugs in Karthoum, and the aphrodesiac is a lethal cocktail of oil and arms sales:

The Small Arms Survey said China's financial support to Sudan indirectly helped finance its wars, lifting Khartoum's income to at least $1.3 billion a year from oil revenues. Chinese companies have controlling interests in Sudan's largest oil blocks and 50 percent of its largest refinery. But Chinese investment was larger than just oil, the report said. "China is now northern Sudan's most important trade partner," the report said, adding investment was in construction, dams and railways as well as the energy sector. On arms, the report said Chinese-Sudanese military relations strengthened from 2002 with high-level exchange visits. While little information is available, it cited U.N. figures showing China as the largest military weapons and parts supplier to Sudan in 2004 and 2005, overtaking Iran. Reuters, 8-20-07

If you want to help save Darfur, here are sites that will show you how:

Save Darfur!
Enough: The Project to End Genocide and Mass Atrocities
Genocide Intervention Network
Mia Farrow

Click here for a Words of Power Archive of posts on the Crisis in Darfur

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Hard Rain Late Night: Alanis Morissette -- You Oughta Know (1996 Grammy Award)

Hard Rain Late Night: Alanis Morissette -- You Oughta Know (1996 Grammy Award)



Click here for Hard Rain Late Night Music Video -- Archive

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Sunday, August 19, 2007

Climate Crisis Update 8-21-07: How Will You Spend Earth's Eleventh Hour? Thom Hartmann Interviews Eleventh Hour Directors

See The Eleventh Hour and Spread the Message to Your Friends and Colleagues



Frodo: I wish the ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened.

Gandalf: So do all who live through such times. But that is not ours to decide, all we can decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.


Climate Crisis Update 8-21-07: How Will You Spend Earth's Eleventh Hour? Thom Hartmann Interviews Eleventh Hour Directors

By Richard Power


What Gandalf told Frodo, as they rested on a rock during their journey through the mines of Moria (Peter Jackson's film version of Lord of the Rings) might as well have been said to any of us, who have kept our eyes, minds and hearts open.

I was reminded of the scene as I listened to this Thom Hartmann Air America Radio interview with the directors of Leonardo Dicaprio's film, The Eleventh Hour: Leila Conyers Peterson and Nadja Conyers.

Dicaprio and these two women have made their decision. Hartmann, who conducts a virtual, national teach-in every weekday morning on the Thom Hartmann Show (and who's prophetic book Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight inspired Dicaprio) has made his decision. Al Gore, who was elected President in 2000, has made his decision.

Many of us have made our decision. If you are reading this, you probably have made your decision. If you haven't, it is not yet too late, and you will make a profound difference, whether you are able to detect it or not.

Here is a transcript from a portion of the 8-17-07 interview.

Thom Hartmann: Leila Conyers Peterson and Nadja Conyers, two sisters who are the directors of The Eleventh Hour, a 2007 feature film documentary, created, produced and narrated by Leonardo Dicaprio on the state of the natural environment, are here in the studio with us ... Let's talk about the making of this movie, and how this film came about?

Leila Conyers Petersen: Well, Nadja, Leo and myself had long conversations about the state of the world, and what we were concerned about was the state of the debate in the country, and how it was just not dealing with the state of the environment, and so we said a film needed to be made. Leo specifically liked your book The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight, it was a guiding light in this project, as well as David Orr's book The Last Refuge, and the Bioneers, and we took some of these pieces, and put them together in this narrative, that Leo punctuates throughout. We interviewed 71 people, and had about 150 hours of interview footage, and distilled it down to 91 minutes, which is about a year in the edit bay. It tells the tale of humanity ignoring the disintegration of the Earth's life support systems, and really makes a call to our inner impulse of love and survival, and says, "Hey this is important, life is important, we are all important, let's save ourselves, and the world, together.

Thom Hartmann: ... Nadja, you were telling me 700 high schools kids came to the [Los Angeles] screening?

Nadja Conyers: It was very exciting, because it was the first official public screening. ... 700 hundred high school children came. Global Green got them tickets. .. It was incredibly hopeful to see this new generation, and I said to them, "When I was in high school twenty years ago, I heard about global warming, rainforest depletion, ozone loss -- all of these issues were there, and I thought this was going to be the issue of my generation. Now, [it is] twenty years later, and we have watched corporations and governments consistently deny and ignore what is going on, and basically, keep us consumers, and encourage us to be consumers, and we have lost a certain aspect of our citizenship," and so the environmental issue, and this is what I said to them, and there was just resounding applause, speaks across all lines, and this is not just about the environment anymore, this is about empowerment, and taking back what has been taken away from us. That message is incredibly important to this generation, and to anyone alive right now. It is a human rights and social justice issue.

Hartmann: Leonardo says in the movie we are facing a convergence of crises, and that is a very strong way of putting it. One of the experts in the movie talks about how every living system on the planet is in decline right now, and that the last time this happened was when the dinosaurs vanished. Leila, there is a word used in the movie that did not to my knowledge appear in Al Gore's movie, An Inconvenient Truth -- I think of this movie as the next step, this movie picks up where Al Gore's movie left off, and does so brilliantly -- and that word is "extinction."

Leila Conyers Petersen: Well, what hasn't been discussed, and needs to be discussed is that the life support systems, when they decline, impact not just the spotted owl and the trees ... it impacts us very directly, and so, human extinction is on the table here. We are dealing with that possibility. That is a horrific, and terrifying thought. And it is unacceptable that human extinction is even on the table, we have to take it off the table and ensure that future generations live in a beautiful world for a very long time. And what is so exciting, actually, is we know how to do that, we know how to secure the future, we have the solutions, they are on the shelf: renewable energy, bio-mimicry, even basic conservation. These things can help us reduce our human footprint on the planet. If we continue with business as usual, we are really taking away future generations' ability to sustain themselves. They will not have food, they will not have energy. They will have polluted water, and polluted air. Reproduction wil become difficult. It was a shock for us that human extinction become a theme throughout the interviews, so to be clear, we didn't go into to this project thinking about human extinction ...

Here are five important stories that highlight the planetary state of emergency that Conyers, Petersen and Dicaprio warn of in The Eleventh Hour.

From the plains of Africa to the Artic sea ice, the reports are increasingly disturbing:

The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) says climate change is to blame for increasing conflicts between humans and wildlife across East Africa, and is heightening the risk that animal diseases will spread. ... SciDev.Net, 8-17-07

There was less sea ice in the Arctic on Friday than ever before on record, and the melting is continuing, the National Snow and Ice Data Center reported. ...
The puzzling thing ... is that the melting is actually occurring faster than computer climate models have predicted.
Associated Press, 8-17-07

There is increased concern about the impact of aviation:

The aviation industry may be more damaging to the environment than widely thought because aircraft not only release carbon dioxide but they also produce other harmful gases that warm the earth, experts said.

 A tented camp of about 250 climate protests at London's Heathrow airport this week highlights pressures to include aviation in a global pact to fight global warming. Alistair Doyle, Reuters, 8-15-07

Meanwhile, U.S. automakers are still procrastinating. They are spending their money organizing rallies in the midwest (Chicago and St. Louis) to protest a proposed federal fuel economy standard, which would set a 35 mile-per-gallon (mpg) fleetwide average target for 2020. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, the auto industry is backing a feeble counter proposal that would save approximately 180 million barrels of oil in 2020 (which is what we currently consume in about nine days), and is significantly weaker than Bush-Cheney's own faux goal of saving 8.5 billion gallons of gasoline in 2017.

According to a recent UCS analysis, fully implementing the 35 mpg target would:
· save drivers $25 billion at the pump in 2020, above and beyond the cost of the technology (at the 2006 average gas price of $2.55, in 2005 dollars)
· generate 22,300 jobs in the auto industry and a total of 170,800 new jobs nationwide in 2020 (for the UCS analysis, go to [click here]
· cut 206 million metric tons of global warming pollution in 2020 alone—equivalent to taking more than 30 million of today's average cars and trucks off the road
· save 1.2 million barrels of oil per day—equivalent to the amount of oil the United States now imports from Saudi Arabia daily
Union of Concerned Scientists, 8-16-07

In his diary at Daily Kos, Glenn Hurowitz quotes the NYT's Nicholas Kristof on a recent encounter with Al Gore, and raises a provocative question:

Kristof: I ran into Al Gore at a climate/energy conference this month, and he vibrates with passion about this issue — recognizing that we should confront mortal threats even when they don’t emanate from Al Qaeda.
"We are now treating the Earth’s atmosphere as an open sewer," he said, and (perhaps because my teenage son was beside me) he encouraged young people to engage in peaceful protests to block major new carbon sources.
"I can’t understand why there aren’t rings of young people blocking bulldozers," Mr. Gore said, "and preventing them from constructing coal-fired power plants."
Hurowitz: Say it, Al! But it's not just young people who need to do it - everyone needs to join in, starting with you. Shutting down coal plants, blockading palm oil importers like Imperium Renewables and other rainforest destroyers, and stopping work at oil refineries could move the climate debate beyond just personal action and put the spotlight squarely on the big polluters who are the real culprits behind the problem.
This could be Al Gore's Gandhi moment (especially appropriate for a Nobel Peace Prize nominee).
Daily Kos, 8-16-07

To sign the Live Earth Pledge, click here.

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Want to wake people up to the US mainstream news media's complicity in misinforming the public on global warming and climate change? Click here for Media Matters' compilation of "Myths and Falsehoods about Global Warming".

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Friday, August 17, 2007

Hard Rain Journal 8-17-07: Beyond Rove and Bush -- Brown Shirts or Solidarity? Who Will Triumph?

Image: Lech Walesa carried on the shoulders of Solidarity during the uprising against totalitarism in the East.



Karl Rove will be a guest this Sunday on Face the Nation, Meet the Press, and Fox News Sunday ... The media will be tempted to pick “Bush’s brain” for his views on the political horserace, on everything from the Democratic presidential candidates to Iraq to Bush’s veto threats. But they shouldn’t forget that Rove has yet to personally account for much of his sordid record in the White House. Here are a few of the issues that Rove needs to be asked about:
– Promoting the war as a member of the White House Iraq Group
– Leaking Valerie Plame’s identity
– Compiling the list of fired U.S. attorneys
– Politicizing government agencies
– Dealing with Jack Abramoff
– Violating White House email record-keeping rules
Think Progress, 8-17-07

Hard Rain Journal 8-17-07: Beyond Rove and Bush -- Brown Shirts or Solidarity? Who Will Triumph?

By Richard Power


Important points not to overlook in the aftermath of Karl Rove's departure from the White House:

Rove is not a "genius," or a "mastermind."

If you were handed a) the unflinching complicity of the US mainstream news media, b) a campaign finanace advantage of at least one hundred million dollars over your opponent, and c) control of the electoral process in a few critical Electoral College states (e.g, Florida and Ohio), you would look like a "genius" or a "mastermind" too.

I do not know what loveless place Rove grew up in, or what unhealthy influences warped his vision of the world, but it is hard to see him as anything other than a vicious dirty trickster and a seriously disturbed individual.

What is most impressive in his biography is not his array of skills or faculties, but what he was empowered to do with them -- first to produce false victories in 2000 and 2004, and then pervert the engine of the US federal government itself to the sordid ends of the Bush-Cheney cabal and its enablers in the Cult formerly known as the Republican Party and its corporatist sponsors, especially in energy, pharmaceuticals, insurance, tobacco and media.

Even though he is far from finished, and apparently in no imminent danger of prosecution, it is very good that he has fled the White House.

Yes, I said "fled."

The investigations of Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Reps. John Conyers (D-MI) and Henry Waxman (D-CA) have already uncovered much more than Rove and his co-conspirators ever wanted you to know about what he was up.

He will write his book, and it will receive disproportionate and overly accommodating attention from the US mainstream news media. He will involve himself the 2008 campaign, and no doubt inflict new damage on progressive candidates and on the electoral process itself. But he will also be fighting subpoenas, contempt of Congress charges, and eventually, if there is any justice left, at least one criminal probe. (Until he is pardoned, of course.)

As Bush, Rove and Cheney twist and turn in the noose of the political rope that they strung themselves up with -- and assuming that there is no new 9/11 to provide them another reprieve (it is extraordinary that the people who once wished for a "second Pearl Harbor" now wish for a "second 9/11") -- the bigger issue is what abominations lurk out there beyond this illegitimate, incompetent and corrupt regime?

The possibilities are chilling.

"President Romney"? "President Giuliani"? "President Thompson"?

Consider the precedents that have been set.

What will the next front man for the vast reich-wing conspiracy -- after all, it is existed before Bush-Cheney co-opted it, and it still exists -- do with all of the executive power that has been amassed in these last several years?

What will the USA look like if crimes such as the betrayal of a US secret agent's covert status (Valerie Plame) or the murder of a US special forces commando who happened to be a media celebrity and a dissident (Pat Tillman) go unpunished?

What will the USA look like if perjury in Senate testimony and brazen defiance of congressional subpoenas go unpunished?

What will the USA look like if show trials and false imprisonment for political adversaries (e.g., former Alabama governor Don Siegelman) and leniency for made-men (e.g., I. Lewis Libby) become the norm?

Unfortunately, the national debate over the next year and a half will not center on what is needed most (even more the health care or an end to the occupation of Iraq, because it would insure both and a whole lot more):

Media reform, e.g., breaking up the corporatist stranglehold on journalism;

Campaign finance reform, e.g., six-month, publicly funded campaigns with frequent debates and no TV or radio ads;

Electoral safeguards, e.g., ripping out the electronic voting machines and implementing international standards; and

A radical and urgent energy paradigm shift away from fossil fuels, e.g., setting a date certain for a ban on the manufacturing or importing of any vehicle that is not at least a hybrid.

Nevertheless, it is not too late to save this country, and to participate in saving life as we know it on this planet.

Remember what happened in Gdansk, Berlin and Moscow during the collapse of the Soviet empire.

The USA doesn't need a second revolution, it simply needs to embrace its own Evolution.

Sinclair Lewis was right about fascism, of course: it can happen here, and arguably has happened here. But what happened in Gdansk, Berlin and Moscow can also happen here.

Who will be our Lech Walesa?

Who will be our Gorbachev?

Who will be our Vaclav Havel?

Whoever they are, they will need you surging to the polls, on the Internet, and yes, before it ends well, in the streets.

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