horses and saddles sold cheap and other metaphors

Friday, February 17, 2006

from the Anonymous Liberal, George Will to the Rescue
I disagree with George Will about a great many things, but he can generally be counted on to rise above reflexive partisanship when the situation truly demands it, and for that reason, I respect him. Now, at time when the NSA scandal is at an important crossroads, Will has finally broken his silence, and the Bush administration is not going to like what he has to say. His latest column can only be described as a scathing critique of the Administration. Will writes:

The next time a president asks Congress to
pass something akin to what Congress passed
on Sept. 14, 2001 -- the Authorization for Use
of Military Force (AUMF) -- the resulting
legislation might be longer than Proust's
"Remembrance of Things Past." Congress,
remembering what is happening today, might
stipulate all the statutes and constitutional
understandings that it does not intend the act
to repeal or supersede.

But, then, perhaps no future president will ask
for such congressional involvement in the
gravest decision government makes -- going
to war. Why would future presidents ask, if
the present administration successfully
asserts its current doctrine? It is that
whenever the nation is at war, the other two
branches of government have a radically
diminished pertinence to governance, and the
president determines what that pertinence
shall be. This monarchical doctrine emerges
from the administration's stance that
warrantless surveillance by the National
Security Agency targeting American citizens
on American soil is a legal exercise of the
president's inherent powers as commander in
chief, even though it violates the clear
language of the 1978 Foreign Intelligence
Surveillance Act, which was written to
regulate wartime surveillance.

There's more at the link and here from Unclaimed Territory, Federal court orders Justice Dept. to release NSA documents

Thursday, February 16, 2006

1.1 billion people in the world don't have access to clean drinking water

Segway creator unveils his next act
San Francisco (Business 2.0) - Dean Kamen, the engineer who invented the Segway, is puzzling over a new equation these days. An estimated 1.1 billion people in the world don't have access to clean drinking water, and an estimated 1.6 billion don't have electricity. Those figures add up to a big problem for the world—and an equally big opportunity for entrepreneurs.

To solve the problem, he's invented two devices, each about the size of a washing machine that can provide much-needed power and clean water in rural villages.

"Eighty percent of all the diseases you could name would be wiped out if you just gave people clean water," says Kamen. "The water purifier makes 1,000 liters of clean water a day, and we don't care what goes into it. And the power generator makes a kilowatt off of anything that burns.

architectural conjecture :: urban speculation :: landscape futures

Just cool stuff about arcitecture, art, maps, urban landscapes.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

No real American should support warrantless spying

The NSA Scandal and public opinion myths
…I plead with the American public to tune-in to what is happening in this country. Please forget the political party with which you may usually be associated, and, instead, think about the right of due process, the presumption of innocence, and the right to a private life. Forget the now tired political spin that, if one does not support warrant-less spying, then one may be a bosom buddy of Osama Bin Laden. - Sen. Byrd

Kos provided this number if anyone cares to call and try and make your concerns heard, The toll-free number for the Senate switchboard is 888-355-3588. More below the fold...

Vichy Democrats has more, Rockefeller Staffer: "We Expect There Will Be Hearings Within the Next 2 Weeks"

Liberty cannot be preserved without a general knowledge among the people, who have a right . . and a desire to know; but besides this, they have a right, an indisputable, unalienable, indefeasible, divine right to that most dreaded and envied kind of knowledge, I mean of the characters and conduct of their rulers." -- John Adams

Corporate power grows as citizens rights wean

A Trust, By Any Other Name
It is not as if we need to search long for evidence of the problems traditionally associated with monopoly. Capture of political power? Consider Boeing’s hold over the Bush administration. Extreme pricing distortions? We see them throughout Wal-Mart’s supply system. Artificial control over what technologies are brought to market and when? One blatant example is the power over renewable energy systems of British Petroleum and Royal Dutch Shell. Extreme profiteering? America’s big energy companies have not only resurrected the art of gouging the consumer, they have raised it to a new state of perfection.

As bad as these old-fashioned problems may be, many of our 21st-century global oligopolies appear to pose entirely new dangers. This is due largely to how power is exercised in systems characterized by extreme outsourcing. Alfred D. Chandler, an industrial scholar, has written that one of the main factors behind the rise of the huge, vertically integrated corporation early in the 20th century was enforcement of U.S. antitrust law, which limited the horizontal growth of these companies. Unable to exert power over the market, many scrambled instead to internalize key functions, for competitive advantage.

This means we cannot ignore the effect on global industrial organization of the radical relaxation of antitrust enforcement by the Reagan administration in 1981. One result of giving big companies a license to grow horizontally was that many producers, once they captured control over their markets, opted to sell off or shut down expensive and risky manufacturing and research and development operations and buy these “services” from outside suppliers with few or no other pathways to the marketplace. Over time, many of these top-tier companies relied ever more on their power to dictate prices to their suppliers (including workers) to capture profits.

As corporate powers grows folks may save a few more cents, or at least thats the perception, but they trade off some of their power as citizens. Sure the net gives us more of an audience when we sound off, but have we actually gained any real power at the netroots.

Top Ten Ways Iraq is like Harry Whittington from Juan Cole

First, as far as Mr Whittington is concerned, being shot and having a heart attack is not the least bit funny and my sympathies to him and his family. Then there's Dick. Top Ten Ways Iraq is like Harry Whittington
1. Cheney attacked secular Iraq, mistaking it for an ally of Usamah Bin Laden. Cheney attacked Harry Whittington, mistaking him for a small bird.

2. Iraq has been peppered with Cheney's munitions. Whittington has been peppered with Cheney's munitions.

3. Cheney did not have a legal license to hunt quail on the trip that saw Whittingon wounded. Cheney did not have a United Nations license to invade Iraq or reduce it to rubble.

4. Cheney tried to blame Iraq for getting itself invaded by not signalling hard enough that it really did not have weapons of mass destruction. Cheney tried to blame Whittington for getting himself shot by not signalling hard enough that he was not a small bird.

5. Cheney thought Iraq's insurgency was in its last throes nearly a year ago. Cheney was deathly afraid that Whittington might be in his last throes.

You'll have to go over to Juan's for the rest, its worth the trip.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

For Richard Pombo blackmail and screwing taxpayers are tools of democracy

Lake Clark National Park
Let's say I'm a Congressman. I load up the family in the RV for a 5,000 mile trip that lats ten days and claim that it was all official business because I meet with park officials on congressional business. The trip costs $6436.38 of taxpayer money. At least some of the people I supposedly meet with say they don't remember ever meeting with me. How much credibility do I have. Pombo Doesn’t Know What He Did Last Summer
The chief park naturalist at Sequoia and Kings Canyon, William Tweed, searched his records Friday and couldn’t find a sign of officials meeting with Pombo.

“I’m coming up with a blank,” Tweed said in an interview. “I do not personally remember him being here, (and that) is generally something we do recall. We pay attention, because congressmen are significant people for us.”

Joshua Tree National Park spokesman Joe Zarki, whose park was also on Pombo’s visitation list, likewise said Friday that “no one here at this point can say we met with Mr. Pombo.”

Pombo charges taxpayers for vacation
Bay Area Reps. George Miller and Ellen Tauscher on Tuesday publicly requested an investigation into the arrangement in which Steve Ding, Pombo’s and the House Resources Committee’s chief of staff, has billed taxpayers more than $87,000 during the last several years for his nearly weekly flights and hotel stays in Washington. The deal also has allowed Ding to collect tens of thousands of dollars in political consulting fees from clients in California.

Pombo has defended that relationship, saying it fosters an outside-the-beltway perspective among his committee staff.

Hard to believe the verasity of a guy that is not above legislative blackmail to get what he wants for special interests. Pombo doesn't see our parks as part of our natural and historical heritage, but as something to be exploited or sold outright. No Arctic oil drilling? How about selling parks?
Pombo hopes threat will boost bid to tap refuge's resources

Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., noted that one of the parks proposed for sale -- the Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site in Massachusetts -- honors the founder of American landscape architecture, who helped design the grounds of the U.S. Capitol, the White House and other National Park Service sites.

"In keeping with his design to gut our country of national treasures, the chairman has put the home of America's foremost park-maker ... on the list of national parks to be cut," Markey said. "He is trying to sell the park-maker's park."

Among the parks the staff proposed for sale is the Fort Bowie National Historic Site in Arizona, where Apache leader Geronimo surrendered to U.S. soldiers in 1886, and the Mary McLeod Bethune Council House in Washington, D.C., which honors the woman who founded the National Council of Negro Women.

The draft legislation also calls for the sale of several huge nature preserves in Alaska -- including the Lake Clark National Park and the Yukon-Charley Rivers Preserve -- and for commercial development of Theodore Roosevelt Island, a 91-acre wooded island of nature trails in the middle of the Potomac River in Washington. The National Parks Conservation Association estimated that the draft legislation would affect 23 percent of the National Park Service's land.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Good Luck to both Sherrod Brown and Paul Hackett

Paul Hackett, who I think would be great in politics has dropped out of the race for Senate in Ohio. Kos has some of the behind the scene details. I think is was a regrettable situation, Hackett is a real asset to the Democratic Party, but Sherrod Brown has the experience and the record to run a very strong race. I hope that Paul realizes that hard choices have to be made and will reconsider running for OH-02. Whatever he decides I wish him the best of luck.

U.S. Royalty Plan to Give Windfall to Oil Companies

Conservative fiscal agenda not so popular

AARP Report on the Federal Budget: Opinions on the Federal Budget Among U.S. Adults
The majority of respondents (71%) said they are either very or somewhat concerned with the current budget deficit. When asked about eight possible methods for reducing the budget deficit, most favored keeping the estate tax on assets over $2 million (69%) and raising income taxes for households earning over $100,000 (61%). Most of those surveyed also felt strongly that neither Social Security benefits (92%) nor Medicare and Medicaid spending (87%) should be cut.

Interestingly, respondents under 50 did not differ in their support of Social Security or Medicare and Medicaid compared to those age 50 and up. However, more younger respondents (43%) than older respondents (30%) were in favor of a national sales tax, while more older (38%) than younger (24%) respondents were in favor of cutting farm subsidies.

It looks like the majority of Americans do not support the Bush or Republican controlled Congress approach to cutting taxes, cutting Social Security, or Medicare benefits. One thing in particular is clear, conservatives overestimate the popularity of cutting the estate tax.

Speaking of the estate tax, which is usually shrouded in pro-family spin, how do the Bushies explain the morality behind this, The Culture of Death
So the President who fought so hard to abolish the Estate Tax in order to cushion the passing of the super-rich now wants to abolish the $255 death payment for families that rely on Social Security. (Depending on where you live, that $255 is between a quarter or a half of the cheapest cremation; it's about a 20th of typical funeral costs.) Not a nice man.

This cabal of cons is clearly out of step with the concerns of poor and lower middle-class families which find themselves in financial straights at the worst of times.

What do Bush supporters stand for in matters of principle. It appears, not much except for almost blind loyalty. Follow-up to the Bush post yesterday

Sunday, February 12, 2006

When will Republicans find the moral backbone to stop being corrupt

Absurd Junction
A final absurd junction of dysfunction was reached on Wednesday, when Republican Party leaders awarded Tom DeLay with a seat on the Appropriations subcommittee overseeing the Justice Department, which is investigating Jack Abramoff, including his connections to Tom DeLay.
Perfect. - Maureen Dowd

shame: a. A painful emotion caused by a strong sense of guilt, embarrassment, unworthiness, or disgrace. Qualities that have their place and purpose and lacking in the party that currently controls every branch of government.

Senator Harry Reid (D) of Nevada may not be perfect, he is a politician afterall, but as politicians go he fights the good fight for working class Americans and has always had a close relationship to the indian tribes of Nevada. Somehow in recent days people have conflated recieveing money from the tribes as the same as recieving money from Republican bagman Jack Abramoff. Its not, but the wing-nuts are trying their best to drag Senator Reid into the mud to distract from their own very real problems of corruption. Smearing Harry Reid
The kicker, of course, is that for all of their effort, Reid never supported the Abramoff position. The very definition of "quid pro quo" is "this for that." In politics, this means something valuable like money or gifts for a politician's votes or some other form of official support. In this case, though Reid or his staffers may have taken meetings on the subject, it never amounted to anything. In other words, there may have been quid, but there was no quo. So this convoluted story is just that -- a convoluted story. No climax, no punchline, and most importantly, no evidence of wrongdoing on the part of Reid.

For a variety of reasons, some of which I still don't get, the old fashioned media wants very badly for this to be a bipartisan scandal. This is only the latest attempt to make it so. But by leaving out such key information as the fact that Reid never supported the Republicans on the Marianas, the whole story is called into question.

a trip organized by Jack Abramoff you've never heard about.
In February, 1999, Rep. Don Young (R-AZ) led a Congressional Delegation to the Marshall Islands, one month after the Marshalls hired Abramoff. Rep. John Doolittle (R-CA), Rep. Ken Calvert (R-CA), and Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) all came along, joined by three delegates from U.S. territories.

Polar Bear under threat

Cross Country
Ice may not be all that habitable to humans, but for certain other species, the frozen Arctic sea spells Home Sweet Home. So it's worrisome when that home starts melting away. Citing concerns over climate change, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service last week began reviewing whether polar bears should be declared a threatened species. If they are, federal regulators would be required to consider the impact on the animals before ruling on such matters as industrial emissions or fuel economy standards.

Over the next two months, the agency will collect data on polar bear population distribution, the effects of climate change, and threats from development, contaminants, and poaching.

The review follows a petition filed last year by the Center for Biological Diversity of Tucson, Ariz., which argues that Arctic melting could cause polar bears to become extinct by century's end.

Kid's defending wildlife

Kids Planet part of the Defenders of Widlife site for kids. The picture of penquins is one of several that can be printed out and colored.

My Ecosystem Details