Never pass up a chance to sit down or relieve yourself. -old Apache saying

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Dem debate tonight a winner all around

Some random thoughts about tonights Democratic debate from Los Angeles, carried live on CNN.

These "debates" are of course not "real" debates. But in tonights "debate," both Hillary and Obama were pretty impressive. Very impressive. Perhaps I'm just too impressionable?

They were both funny. Smart. Articulate. Knowledgeable. Involved. Right. Impressive. Wow.

We stumbled upon the "pre-game" warmup on CNN. CNN was really overdoing the pre-debate hype. It's rather nauseating, and embarrassing. Total media overkill and bluster. They even showed the "contenders" getting out of their cars, fer crissakes, and walking into the theater, like they were fighters coming into the ring.

"Obama vs. Clinton" was the constant graphic.

"And now...standing at 6 foot, 2 inches...weighing in at 215 pounds...." is what it felt like. We muted it a lot, but the crowds outside, or inside, or somewhere, were all chanting and carrying signs. Kinda eerie. These people are pumped.

Behind the commentator, Obama was pictured in stark Warhol relief, in many different shades, like his ancestry. Hillary signs mixed in with the Obama signs. The whole thing sort of felt...orchestrated. Contrived. Shit, we're already down to only two candidates, and we're not even at
Super Tuesday yet.

Still....

I thought both Hillary and Obama were extremely impressive tonight. Right at the start, they both made it clear that whatever differences may exist between the two of them pale in contrast to the differences with the Republicans. Good start.

This was the best "debate" I've seen in a long time. Catch the repeat if you missed it. If there is a repeat.

Both of them got some good shots at McCain and his "100 years in Iraq" comment.

Compared to the Republicans, oh. my. god. There should be no competition. With all the Bush-fatigue out there, and the record Democratic voter turnouts so far in the primaries, if the Democrats do NOT win the Presidency (and multiple House and Senate seats), and if the voting is very close, and if there are fresh rumors of vote-stealing and voter suppression, I shudder to think how people might react. I know I'm sick to death at the soiling the USA has taken under Bush.

Barack and Hillary didn't make it any easier to decide between them tonight. I can easily see them both on the ticket. Woman on top? Man on top? How do you like it? No side-by-side spooning allowed.

On the one hand, I wish there were more candidates on the stage to broaden the conversation in a more progressive direction. I really don't understand why so many Democrats have dropped out, so soon. Hell, McCain has been limping along with hardly any money for months. Did Guido pay them a visit?

On the other hand, the debate format allowed the two of them to speak at length more than usual. Oh boy, you say? Politicians given long periods of time in which to speak? Well, sometimes things do take longer than a few seconds, or sound-bites, to discuss.

Wolf Blitzer, the moderator (again!), started by saying that the only rule is that there are no rules. Then he promptly gave each candidates 90 seconds (or so) to "open." (Is that a rule, Wolf? No matter.) Giving them practically unlimited time is much preferable to the silly 60 second answer, and 30 seconds to rebut, then you get 30 more to rebut the rebuttal, etc.

Quite the star-studded crowd tonight in LA too. It's good to see so many recognizable faces in the crowd, some sporting Hillary buttons or Obama buttons. I was a little disappointed that they didn't discuss the writers strike at all, but, hey, there are only so many seconds in a minute, so many minutes in an hour, so many hours in the debate...

When it does come down to soundbites, and it will, Hillary launched a great one to the oft-heard question about running the government like a business. I'd say Hillary had more soundbites than Obama tonight. So, by that standard, Hillary wins. Obama is young. He could serve as VP, then step up to POTUS.

Oh, God, we could be capable of so much good in this country. It's all just being stolen and squandered under Bush.

Bush SOTU parody...right?


This video is not too far off the mark.


Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Smirk of the Union

I've been looking for a "realistic" review of Bush's LAST SOTU.

Bush's LAST State of the Union? I have four words for that - Hal-lay-lou-yah!

Looking for a review that came close to mirroring my attitude, I think I found it in Rick Perlstein's blog at TomPaine.com.


Smirk of the Union

A small and beaten man spoke to Congress and the nation last night, convinced in his own mind he's a hero. Snoopy battling the Red Baron. Walter Mitty, imagining himself dying bravely before a firing squad.

For those who missed it, here's the Big Con run-down. Let me start with the facial expressions. Because, more than any of the words, they told the sad story.

The entrance: He raises both eyebrows puckishly, like the frat boy he is. Introduced by Speaker Pelosi, he reacts curiously to the wave of applause: he blushes. He actually thinks this applause is for him—they love me!!—and not a perfunctory gesture of respect for the office. He still thinks he is a great man, and that others think he is a great man. He looks about a thousand years old. He begins: "Seven years have passed since I first stood before you at this rostrum." Or that's what the transcript says he said. If you missed it live, what he actually said was, "...stood before yuh at this rostr'm...."

John Wayne taking on the desperadoes.

Then, the arrogant bastard, he makes a joke: "These issues"—he's named "peace and war, rising competition in the world economy, and the health and welfare of our citizens"—"deserve vigorous debate. And I think history will show we've answered the call." He gives the chamber that famous smirk, to let them know it's OK to laugh, even amid all the pomp: get it? These people keep insisting on debatin' with me. Washington! Bicker, bicker, bicker.

Then, he obliquely announces the speech's theme, also with a smirk: Bush's greatest hits. A golden trip down memory lane. He says, of public servants' job to "carry out the people's business," that "it remains our charge to keep." Dog whistle: this is the Methodist hymn that by which entitled his campaign book. Because remember: George Bush is a Christian Unleashing the "armies of compassion." Or it it this "army of compassion"?

Which brings up one of the creepiest features of the speech: "more than 2,600 of the poorest children in our Nation's Capital have found new hope at a faith-based or other non-public school. Sadly, these schools are disappearing at an alarming rate in many of America's inner cities." I didn't know—and perhaps the Constitution has something to say on this—it was the job of the U.S. government to fret over the disappearance of "faith-based" institutions. Well, our president now proposes we shore them up with "Pell Grants for Kids." Senator Clayborn Pell, a great man, now unfortunately suffers from Parkinson's disease, and probably lacks the wherewithal to slap the president in the face for the insult to his great progressive legacy.

I suppose we should also attend to the words, because this pathetic washout happens to be the most powerful man in the world, so the words he uses are important.

He repeated the Great Republican Lie of 2007, implying that the Democrats in the 110th Congress is obstructionist—"Let us show them that Republicans and Democrats can compete for votes and cooperate for results at the same time," he piously intoned.—when it's really himself and the Republican minority who are willfully obstructing, with an aggressiveness unmatched in modern history. He still trumpets his own disastrous Ownership Society rhetoric (How disastrous? See here) and barely acknowledges the massive economic pain Americans are feeling and our about to feel — and only then to issue one more obstructionist threat, on the stimulus package: "The temptation will be to load up the bill. That would delay it or derail it." Mafia words: my way, or else.

But back, again, to the facial expressions. The most fulsome smirk came, I think, winding up to his promise, "If any bill raising taxes reaches my desk, I will veto it." He said something interesting, perhaps referring to the remarkable poll results consistently showing a majority of Americans believe Bush's tax cuts were not worth it, or that they would be glad to pay higher taxes if it meant healthcare for all Americans. Such national maturity—indeed any occasion to call Americans to some higher sacrifice—can only but be mocked by the smug bastard running our country. He said this: "Others have said they'd be happier to pay higher taxes. I welcome their enthusiasm. The IRS accepts both checks and money owners."

Cheney joins his smirk.

What else? There was his promise of an executive order canceling earmarks not voted out in the open—because, of course, now that the Democrats run Congress, procedural irregularity and pork-barrel spending has suddenly become a national crisis.

There was some fairy dust about making "health care more affordable and accessible for all Americans. The best way to achieve that goal is by expanding consumer choice, not government control." The Republicans' barks of approval at that one are guttural. He add that medical decisions must be "made in the privacy of your doctor's office, not in the halls of Congress."

About medical decisions made in callous insurance company cubicles, of course—which is to say, most medical decisions—he has nothing to say.

"Six years ago, we came together to pass the No Child Left Behind Act, and today no one can deny its results." No one can deny they suck. Read this.

"To keep America competitive into the future, we must trust in the skill of our scientists and engineers and empower them to pursue the breakthroughs of tomorrow"? Only if those breakthroughs accord with conservative dogma. Read this.

Perhaps later, I'll give you more on the fairy tales he's propounding our nation on its place in the world. I'll leave you with this one peace of jargon: "protective overwatch mission." That's the new Bushism for "We're staying in Iraq for ever." You'll be hearing it much more in the days ahead.

http://www.ourfuture.org/blog-entry/smirk-union

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

SOTU came with a signing statement

I'm looking to compile a satirical/honest look at the State Of The Union speech. Maybe...

Meanwhile...


On the day of the State of the Union, apparently hoping nobody would notice, President George W. Bush posted a statement on the White House website announcing his intention to violate major sections of the Defense Authorization bill that he just signed into law.

For their part, the Democrats in Congress have chosen not to push for a just and decent economic stimulus plan, because they want to work amicably with Bush. They've chosen not to vote on contempt citations for Harriet Miers and Joshua Bolten in order to work more amicably on the economic stimulus package. They've scratched impeachment out of the Constitution, and Congressman Dennis Kucinich even backed down on his plans to introduce articles of impeachment on Monday. And of course, Congress is committed to throwing every possible dime down the blackhole of the Iraq occupation. What has been the president's response to all this bipartisan cooperation?

He's decided to close the office that handles Freedom of Information requests from Congress. He's left Blackwater free but jailed citizens who reenact its crimes. He's rewritten government reports on global warming. He's blocked his Justice Departments investigation of political hirings and firings, while the former governor of Alabama begins his eighth month as a political prisoner. He's delivered a State of the Union address packed with the same contemptuous lies as last year's, and announced the seizure of new powers (which Congress greeted with applause). And then there's the latest signing statement.

This statement http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2008/01/20080128-10.html announces in the by now familiar coded language of the "unitary executive" Bush's intention to violate four key sections of a bill he is simultaneously making "law."

CQ Today sums up these sections as follows:

"One such provision sets up a commission to probe contracting fraud in Iraq and Afghanistan. Another expands protections for whistleblowers who work for government contractors. A third requires that U.S. intelligence agencies promptly respond to congressional requests for documents. And a fourth bars funding for permanent bases in Iraq and for any action that exercises U.S. control over Iraq’s oil money."

Did you get that? Bush gives himself the right not to probe contracting fraud. Is it HIS money? Is it HIS blood?

He gives himself the power to not protect whistleblowers. Of course, he already behaved that way and nobody did anything about it, so why shouldn't he? The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee wrote a book about it before becoming chairman and won't impeach, so why shouldn't Bush flaunt his freedom to exact retribution on anyone who speaks out?

Bush gives himself the right not to provide Congress with documents. Did the impeachmentless Congress believe Bush lacked that right? Did Congress Members believe that a new law (signing statemented or not) would change anything?

And, finally, Bush gives himself the right (this is at least the fourth time he's done this) to build and maintain permanent U.S. military bases in Iraq.

And do you hear a peep out of the Congress?

I'm straining my ears and not hearing the faintest squeak.

The CQ article http://afterdowningstreet.org/node/30543 quotes Senator Carl Levin and cites Senator Jim Webb as the leading sponsor of the contractor waste provision. Do you think either of them will back impeachment any more than Senator John McCain did when Bush signing statemented a torture ban.

CQ claims that Bush simply uses signing statements more frequently than any previous president. Nonsense. No previous president EVER used signing statements to announce the intention to violate laws, and then proceeded to violate them. A Government Accountability Office study last year found that in a sample of Bush signing statements he had already violated 30 percent of the laws he granted himself the power to violate.

The House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on signing statements in January 2007 at which a Justice Department official effectively claimed the right for the president to violate any law until the Supreme Court rules on it. We're going to need a younger Supreme Court if we expect it to keep up and function in the absence of any Congress willing to display a spine.

Nancy Pelosi, John Conyers, Jerrold Nadler, at long last, have you no decency?

http://www.davidswanson.org
DAVID SWANSON is a co-founder of After Downing Street, a writer and activist, and the Washington Director of Democrats.com. He is a board member of Progressive Democrats of America, and serves on the Executive Council of the Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild, TNG-CWA. He has worked as a newspaper reporter and as a communications director, with jobs including Press Secretary for Dennis Kucinich's 2004 presidential campaign, Media Coordinator for the International Labor Communications Association, and three years as Communications Coordinator for ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now. Swanson obtained a Master's degree in philosophy from the University of Virginia in 1997.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Monkey Bar

I hear that this is an "oldie, but goodie." To me, this is a "newie," because I'd never seen it until today. Could be I'm not all that observant, but it's pretty funny....


video

Mark Morford - 29 Things To Be Happy About

Oh God, I am so sick of all the politics, and the lies and distortions, and FOX NOISE, and hatemongers, and that haughty little tyrant Bush, and my feet are aching, and my back is throbbing .... where's my pill?!

Mark Morford is a good Rx for what ails ya. Praise be to that mysterious hot feminine unknown.

29 things to be happy about
Yes, it's all doom and gloom and war and global warming and Bush. Except when it's not
By Mark Morford, SF Gate Columnist
Friday, January 25, 2008

Happiness knows no particular order, and neither does this list:

1) We may very well, within a year's time, have a black president. We may have a female president. We may, unfortunately, also have a bizarre robotic nutball Mormon president. No matter how it turns out, it will be very strange and unnerving and different and
a bit startling and therefore at least remotely interesting to watch. Which, you have to admit, is far better than how it's been for the past seven years, which is utterly humiliating, repellant, cancerous.

2) Here is this ingenious new
alarm clock. It has an Internet connection that hooks directly into your bank account. If you oversleep, it begins to withdraw funds from your account. And donate them. To groups you really, really despise. Ten minute oversnooze? Fifty bucks goes to the GOP. Oversleep a half an hour? There goes $100 to the NRA, the Heritage Foundation, the Bush Presidential Library (for all the crayons). Sleep till noon? Five hundred bucks to the Aryan Nation or National Right to Life or the Lindsay Lohan Cocaine Fund. Because nothing is more motivating than abject hate. Except, of course, abject love. But that's a completely different gizmo.

3) You're not imagining it. Your intuition was completely correct. Tom Cruise really is
insane. Also, it is a safe bet that Tom and Jerry O'Connell will not be working together anytime soon.

4) Women and minorities appear to be galvanized by Hillary Clinton's presidential run. Youth and college-educated voters appear to be galvanized by Barack Obama's. No one at all is truly, deeply galvanized by Mitt Romney or John McCain or crazy little Mike Huckabee, and everyone is generally repulsed by the fetid little tyrant that is Rudy Giuliani. All of this, remarkably, seems just about exactly as it should be.

5) There is apparently a fairly good argument to be made as to why Google — a 10-year-old company worth $100 gabillion that's run by a pair of geeky 35-year-olds who still, to this day, in just about every photo, look like they can't believe this is all really happening to them —
should buy the New York Times. Which seems, at first glance, totally insane. Then it quickly begins to make perfect sense.

Then you're like, wait a sec, you know what? Screw the Gray Lady; Google should buy General Motors, Wal-Mart, Coca-Cola, Kraft and Dow and Viacom and pretty much all of North Korea and just wipe them all away and replace them with nice organic flowerpots and solar farms and really big trampolines. How much better! (Note to Google: Forget the NYT. Please buy The San Francisco Chronicle. Way cheaper. Plus, we're local. I would very much like to eat free sushi in your amazing cafeteria every day. Thank you.)

6)
Gentle Giants rescue.

7) "
I Don't Want to Blow You Up!" is a new children's book by the author of "It's Just a Plant." It dares to tell children that the vast majority of scarf/turban/headband/burqa-wearing peoples in the world do not, in fact, wish to bomb them, eviscerate them, eat their brains with a rhino horn or hang them upside down and steal their Playstation 3 and rape their dog. Despite what Bill O'Reilly's children's book says.

8) Britain has officially
dropped the "War on Terror" label, given how, well, it's not really a war, given how most terrorists are not exactly highly organized armies of well-trained soldiers and are, instead, mostly scattershot clusters of insane fanatical murderers and suicidal religious mutants, and should be treated that way. The war on Christmas, now that's a real war.

9) TheAtlantic.com is now free. No more paid subscriptions to gain access to its excellent archives and full-length pieces. Upside: You can now read
David Foster Wallace's brilliant 2005 piece on right-wing radio. Downside: the giant, throbbing mixed blessing that is Andrew Sullivan's blog.

10)
Dolphins love sex. Frequent, kinky, aggressive, even violent. Homosexual, bisexual, incestuous, you name it. Sometimes with other species. Sometimes gang-rape style. Sometimes in frothy orgies. Sometimes (sort of) with humans. Yes, dolphins.

11) This just in: The cosmos is actually
filled with supermassive black holes. It is also packed with dark energy, a very strange and mysterious material that appears to be pushing out the edges of the universe at a faster and faster rate and no one knows why, or what the hell dark energy actually is or how it works and it might all merely point to the overwhelming fact that the universe is, in truth, a giant, random, unpredictable mindf- of a place that's not even really a place at all, but more of a concept, a theory, a wicked delicious shaman's peyote dream and consequently its mysteries can never be "solved" and its cosmic messages never fully decoded and therefore you get to sit back right now and take a deep breath and exhale very slowly, and smile, safe in the knowledge that we actually know very, very little about anything, and we always will.

12) You can now study, in academic circles, the glory that is the
Flying Spaghetti Monster.

13) The pollutive factories, the mountains of plastic, the enormous carbon footprint, the illusion of better taste, the myth of health. Yes, people seem to be
waking up to the giant $15 billion sham that is the bottled water industry. Fact: The EPA's regulations for tap water are actually more stringent than the FDA's rules for bottled water. Solution: Filter your own tap water, get a Sigg. Easy.

14) Dude, like, did your dad just post a message on your Facebook wall? Is that your mom texting you from her iPhone? Yo, brah, is that your grandma doin' the jitterbug on her own MySpace page? Dude, WTF are all these old people doing
all over the Web 2.0?

15) RU-486, that very safe, woman-empowering drug from France that induces a very early stage abortion, is proving to be a quiet, revolutionary, highly personal and yet very effective
giant middle finger to the misogynistic Christian right, much of Congress and about half the Supreme Court.

16) Hormone-free, grass-fed beef really does taste better. Organic food really is healthier. Tell everyone you know.

17)
Absinthe.

18)
Whiskipedia.

19)
Drawn!

20)
Gary Vaynerchuk.

21)
The disappearing car door.

22)
Arts & Letters Daily.

23) Cate Blanchett.

24) Heath Ledger in "Brokeback Mountain."

25) Abstinence education is, of course, a
dismal failure.

26) Karl Rove is gone. Trent Lott is gone. Rick Santorum is gone. Richard Pombo is gone. Sweet Jesus, a whole rancid stew of hardcore Bushites has vanished like rat-tailed thugs from a murder scene, leaving behind all manner of shrapnel and smoking craters and karmic wreckage for the next wave of politicos to try and clean up. But hey, at least they're gone. Mostly.

27) Gay couples are
just as committed in their relationships as anyone else, and are often more satisifed. I know, big shock. Will these two new studies matter a whit to the right-wing homophobes who ignore all such studies, including those that have proven, say, that the adopted kids of gay couples turn out just fine, or that married gays don't actually cause riots, floods, or Ebola virus outbreaks? Of course not. No matter. Still good fuel for the fight.

28) A whopping 84 percent of Americans claim to be somewhere between "pretty happy" and "very happy." No, no one knows what sort of crack they're smoking. I mean, haven't they all seen the global warming? The imminent apocalypse? The staph infections and the drug-resistant bacteria and the Islamo-fascists and Dick Cheney's black and vile stare? Why all the happiness? It is because of all the Prozac? Or is it because of No. 29?

29)
1.20.09.

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/g/a/2008/01/25/notes012508.DTL&nl=fix

Rethinking the Meat-Guzzler

Keep 'em coming sis. While I do appreciate a tender cut of beef now and then, it doesn't have the allure it used to.

Rethinking the Meat-Guzzler
By MARK BITTMAN

A SEA change in the consumption of a resource that Americans take for granted may be in store — something cheap, plentiful, widely enjoyed and a part of daily life. And it isn’t oil.

It’s meat.

The two commodities share a great deal: Like oil, meat is subsidized by the federal government. Like oil, meat is subject to accelerating demand as nations become wealthier, and this, in turn, sends prices higher. Finally — like oil — meat is something people are encouraged to consume less of, as the toll exacted by industrial production increases, and becomes increasingly visible.

Global demand for meat has multiplied in recent years, encouraged by growing affluence and nourished by the proliferation of huge, confined animal feeding operations. These assembly-line meat factories consume enormous amounts of energy, pollute water supplies, generate significant greenhouse gases and require ever-increasing amounts of corn, soy and other grains, a dependency that has led to the destruction of vast swaths of the world’s tropical rain forests.

Just this week, the president of Brazil announced emergency measures to halt the burning and cutting of the country’s rain forests for crop and grazing land. In the last five months alone, the government says, 1,250 square miles were lost.

The world’s total meat supply was 71 million tons in 1961. In 2007, it was estimated to be 284 million tons. Per capita consumption has more than doubled over that period. (In the developing world, it rose twice as fast, doubling in the last 20 years.) World meat consumption is expected to double again by 2050, which one expert, Henning Steinfeld of the United Nations, says is resulting in a “relentless growth in livestock production.”

Americans eat about the same amount of meat as we have for some time, about eight ounces a day, roughly twice the global average. At about 5 percent of the world’s population, we “process” (that is, grow and kill) nearly 10 billion animals a year, more than 15 percent of the world’s total.

Growing meat (it’s hard to use the word “raising” when applied to animals in factory farms) uses so many resources that it’s a challenge to enumerate them all. But consider: an estimated 30 percent of the earth’s ice-free land is directly or indirectly involved in livestock production, according to the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization, which also estimates that livestock production generates nearly a fifth of the world’s greenhouse gases — more than transportation.

To put the energy-using demand of meat production into easy-to-understand terms, Gidon Eshel, a geophysicist at the Bard Center, and Pamela A. Martin, an assistant professor of geophysics at the University of Chicago, calculated that if Americans were to reduce meat consumption by just 20 percent it would be as if we all switched from a standard sedan — a Camry, say — to the ultra-efficient Prius. Similarly, a study last year by the National Institute of Livestock and Grassland Science in Japan estimated that 2.2 pounds of beef is responsible for the equivalent amount of carbon dioxide emitted by the average European car every 155 miles, and burns enough energy to light a 100-watt bulb for nearly 20 days.

Grain, meat and even energy are roped together in a way that could have dire results. More meat means a corresponding increase in demand for feed, especially corn and soy, which some experts say will contribute to higher prices.

This will be inconvenient for citizens of wealthier nations, but it could have tragic consequences for those of poorer ones, especially if higher prices for feed divert production away from food crops. The demand for ethanol is already pushing up prices, and explains, in part, the 40 percent rise last year in the food price index calculated by the United Nations’ Food and Agricultural Organization.

Though some 800 million people on the planet now suffer from hunger or malnutrition, the majority of corn and soy grown in the world feeds cattle, pigs and chickens. This despite the inherent inefficiencies: about two to five times more grain is required to produce the same amount of calories through livestock as through direct grain consumption, according to Rosamond Naylor, an associate professor of economics at Stanford University. It is as much as 10 times more in the case of grain-fed beef in the United States.

The environmental impact of growing so much grain for animal feed is profound. Agriculture in the United States — much of which now serves the demand for meat — contributes to nearly three-quarters of all water-quality problems in the nation’s rivers and streams, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Because the stomachs of cattle are meant to digest grass, not grain, cattle raised industrially thrive only in the sense that they gain weight quickly. This diet made it possible to remove cattle from their natural environment and encourage the efficiency of mass confinement and slaughter. But it causes enough health problems that administration of antibiotics is routine, so much so that it can result in antibiotic-resistant bacteria that threaten the usefulness of medicines that treat people.

Those grain-fed animals, in turn, are contributing to health problems among the world’s wealthier citizens — heart disease, some types of cancer, diabetes. The argument that meat provides useful protein makes sense, if the quantities are small. But the “you gotta eat meat” claim collapses at American levels. Even if the amount of meat we eat weren’t harmful, it’s way more than enough.

HERE’S THE BEEF This feed lot in in California can accommodate up to 100,000 head of cattle.

Americans are downing close to 200 pounds of meat, poultry and fish per capita per year (dairy and eggs are separate, and hardly insignificant), an increase of 50 pounds per person from 50 years ago. We each consume something like 110 grams of protein a day, about twice the federal government’s recommended allowance; of that, about 75 grams come from animal protein. (The recommended level is itself considered by many dietary experts to be higher than it needs to be.) It’s likely that most of us would do just fine on around 30 grams of protein a day, virtually all of it from plant sources .

What can be done? There’s no simple answer. Better waste management, for one. Eliminating subsidies would also help; the United Nations estimates that they account for 31 percent of global farm income. Improved farming practices would help, too. Mark W. Rosegrant, director of environment and production technology at the nonprofit International Food Policy Research Institute, says, “There should be investment in livestock breeding and management, to reduce the footprint needed to produce any given level of meat.”

Then there’s technology. Israel and Korea are among the countries experimenting with using animal waste to generate electricity. Some of the biggest hog operations in the United States are working, with some success, to turn manure into fuel.

Longer term, it no longer seems lunacy to believe in the possibility of “meat without feet” — meat produced in vitro, by growing animal cells in a super-rich nutrient environment before being further manipulated into burgers and steaks.

Another suggestion is a return to grazing beef, a very real alternative as long as you accept the psychologically difficult and politically unpopular notion of eating less of it. That’s because grazing could never produce as many cattle as feedlots do. Still, said Michael Pollan, author of the recent book “In Defense of Food,” “In places where you can’t grow grain, fattening cows on grass is always going to make more sense.”
But pigs and chickens, which convert grain to meat far more efficiently than beef, are increasingly the meats of choice for producers, accounting for 70 percent of total meat production, with industrialized systems producing half that pork and three-quarters of the chicken.

Once, these animals were raised locally (even many New Yorkers remember the pigs of Secaucus), reducing transportation costs and allowing their manure to be spread on nearby fields. Now hog production facilities that resemble prisons more than farms are hundreds of miles from major population centers, and their manure “lagoons” pollute streams and groundwater. (In Iowa alone, hog factories and farms produce more than 50 million tons of excrement annually.)

These problems originated here, but are no longer limited to the United States. While the domestic demand for meat has leveled off, the industrial production of livestock is growing more than twice as fast as land-based methods, according to the United Nations.

Perhaps the best hope for change lies in consumers’ becoming aware of the true costs of industrial meat production. “When you look at environmental problems in the U.S.,” says Professor Eshel, “nearly all of them have their source in food production and in particular meat production. And factory farming is ‘optimal’ only as long as degrading waterways is free. If dumping this stuff becomes costly — even if it simply carries a non-zero price tag — the entire structure of food production will change dramatically.”

Animal welfare may not yet be a major concern, but as the horrors of raising meat in confinement become known, more animal lovers may start to react. And would the world not be a better place were some of the grain we use to grow meat directed instead to feed our fellow human beings?

Real prices of beef, pork and poultry have held steady, perhaps even decreased, for 40 years or more (in part because of grain subsidies), though we’re beginning to see them increase now. But many experts, including Tyler Cowen, a professor of economics at George Mason University, say they don’t believe meat prices will rise high enough to affect demand in the United States.

“I just don’t think we can count on market prices to reduce our meat consumption,” he said. “There may be a temporary spike in food prices, but it will almost certainly be reversed and then some. But if all the burden is put on eaters, that’s not a tragic state of affairs.”

If price spikes don’t change eating habits, perhaps the combination of deforestation, pollution, climate change, starvation, heart disease and animal cruelty will gradually encourage the simple daily act of eating more plants and fewer animals.

Mr. Rosegrant of the food policy research institute says he foresees “a stronger public relations campaign in the reduction of meat consumption — one like that around cigarettes — emphasizing personal health, compassion for animals, and doing good for the poor and the planet.”

It wouldn’t surprise Professor Eshel if all of this had a real impact. “The good of people’s bodies and the good of the planet are more or less perfectly aligned,” he said.

The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization, in its detailed 2006 study of the impact of meat consumption on the planet, “Livestock’s Long Shadow,” made a similar point: “There are reasons for optimism that the conflicting demands for animal products and environmental services can be reconciled. Both demands are exerted by the same group of people ... the relatively affluent, middle- to high-income class, which is no longer confined to industrialized countries. ... This group of consumers is probably ready to use its growing voice to exert pressure for change and may be willing to absorb the inevitable price increases.”

In fact, Americans are already buying more environmentally friendly products, choosing more sustainably produced meat, eggs and dairy. The number of farmers’ markets has more than doubled in the last 10 years or so, and it has escaped no one’s notice that the organic food market is growing fast. These all represent products that are more expensive but of higher quality.

If those trends continue, meat may become a treat rather than a routine. It won’t be uncommon, but just as surely as the S.U.V. will yield to the hybrid, the half-pound-a-day meat era will end.

Maybe that’s not such a big deal. “Who said people had to eat meat three times a day?” asked Mr. Pollan.

Mark Bittman, who writes the Minimalist column in the New York Times Dining In and Dining Out sections, is the author of “How to Cook Everything Vegetarian,” which was published last year. He is not a vegetarian.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Monuments Men

Interesting story on CBS "Sunday Morning" show this morning. "Sunday Morning" is short-subject segments, a lot like "60 Minutes" but without the ambushing and confrontation.

This morning there was a segment called "The Monuments Men." I'd never heard of this group of Americans who were tasked with discovering stolen art and trying to return it to its rightful owner, art that had been stolen by the Nazis in WW2. As if Hitler's treatment of the Jews and other minorities wasn't bad enough, Hitler and his goons stole or destroyed countless works of art.

This story provides a good reason to be somewhat proud of America.

Unfortunately, I cannot find a link to the video from this mornings program. CBS selectively publishes only some of the video segments from the show, and "The Monuments Men" does not appear to be one segment that made the cut. So, you'll have to be content with the transcript. Hey, set your DVR for the show each Sunday morning.

Rescuing Nazi-Looted Art

How The "Monuments Men" Helped Save Countless Treasures Plundered During World War II




(CBS) Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day ... the 63rd anniversary of the liberation of the death camps at Auschwitz and Birkenau. Allied soldiers from many lands had to deal then with the aftermath of Nazi horrors, the Monuments Men of the U.S. Army among them. Their story is our Cover Story, reported by Rita Braver.

You may have heard about Nazis destroying and looting art all over Europe. But you may not know that the looting - tons of works taken from both personal and public collections - was perhaps the great pillage in history, as much a part of Nazi war planning as was military conquest.

"If you have an interest in art history, you have an interest in World War II," author Robert Edsel told CBS News' Rita Braver. "If you like extraordinary treasure hunts, it's got something for everybody. There's no way you can't be interested in this story."

This is a story that haunts Edsel.

"I like to think of it as a passion," he told Braver, "some say obsession, but there is so much of this story to be revealed."

Edsel's obsession came late. A professional-level tennis player from Dallas, he went on to make a fortune in oil and gas. By age 39, he was a multi-millionaire and ready for a change of pace. He sold his business and moved to Florence.

Before that, he had not thought much about the Nazi's impact on European art. He explained to Braver how he remembers becoming interested in the topic.

"I was walking across one of the bridges in Florence one day, the Ponte Vecchio, the one bridge that wasn't destroyed during World War II by the Nazis, and it occurred to me, almost this epiphany, that how did all these great works of art survive the destructiveness of World War II? And who were the people that saved them?"

What he learned staggered him. Not Jewish and with no relatives who had been caught up in the Holocaust, he has spent millions of dollars of his own money to write a book called "Rescuing Da Vinci" - and to co-produce a documentary titled "The Rape of Europa" to tell the story.

The Nazi war on art and the ravages of modern combat caused an unprecedented upheaval of art and cultural property that is still unraveling today.

For one thing, there was the systematic way the Nazis had gone about stealing art - how, for example, Hitler's second in command, Herman Goering, would line up items for his own collection and Hitler's, making repeated visits to the Jeu de Paume museum in Paris.

"Where he could have a glass of champagne, smoke a cigar," explained Edsel, "and make these elections of works."

"And just take them!" Braver marveled.

"And just take them!" he agreed. "And load them up on his trains, load them up on planes and send them back to Germany."

But what really cut through to Edsel was that while the Nazis were stealing and sometimes destroying treasures, the U.S. was making heroic efforts to safeguard art and architecture.

"And it's a huge change in the history of warfare," Edsel said, "to try and fight a war on the one hand and mitigate damage to cultural treasures at the same time."

And when the war was over there was another extraordinary effort: to return the art the Nazis had looted.

Arriving at Munich and Wiesbaden were the collections of Adolf Hitler, Herman Goering, and art looted from across Europe.

Under the command of General Dwight Eisenhower, a small band of American men and women, including many art historians, was assigned to find and return looted art, some two hundred works in all. They became known collectively as the "monuments men."

"I was 20 years old, just turned 20," reminisced one of them, looking at a photograph, "must have been February 1946 when this photo was taken."

Henry Ettinger, a German born American, was one of the people who found and saved the art. He still marvels at what the United States did.

"We Americans for the first time in the history of civilization, adopted a policy which said that to the victor do not belong the spoils of war."

They weren't always successful. The documentary shows how villagers hijacked a train carrying the last shipment of art that Herman Goering had tried to amass.

Hundreds of paintings and sculptures were scattered in at least six different structures.

But the monuments men had huge successes, too. They found a castle full of property stolen from the Rothchilds and other French Jews.

And they discovered Hitler's personal art hoard deep in a salt mine in the Austrian Alps.

Braver asked art historian Nancy Yeide about the importance of the "monuments men."

"Oh, they were of vital importance," Yeide told her. "Not only did they save this art and rescue it, but the records they kept in the restitutions are used by art historians today to track the provenancy of paintings in our collection."

Yeide, head of curatorial records at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, is studying how Nazis went about looting and how monument men went about tracking the rightful owners of each piece.

"Yeah, this painting was actually confiscated from a private dealer, a dealer's stock, the Seligman Gallery in Paris," Yeide explained, showing Braver one work, "and then taken by Goering and kept in his personal collection throughout the war. And it was recovered by the monuments men with the rest of Goering's collection in Berchtesgaden."

Later the family sold the piece, which is how it ended up here. Other works which the Nazis has seized in Austria were returned by the monuments men and were later sold by their legitimate owners.

"There's such an irony there," Braver observed. "You have people who are in the middle of committing genocide and yet, here they are, fancying themselves connoisseurs of art?"

"Yes, it is, actually, very ironic, Yeide agreed. "The very people they were eradicating, they were taking their art and keeping track of whom they take the art from."

Uncovering the story of how Americans helped return some of that art earned Robert Edsel the 2007 National Humanities Award and last spring, resolutions were passed in both houses of Congress to recognize the work of the monuments men.

"They were overlooked after the war," Edsel said, "but these Congress people and senators fully embraced the story as I went around and told them."

Four of the 12 living monuments men, including Harry Ettinger, were there in Washington that day to reminisce about a time and place where good really did triumph over evil.

Learn more about the Monuments Men at Laurel Publishing's Web Site, www.rescuingdavinci.com, and check out screenings of the documentary "The Rape of Europa."

Here's the link to the website: http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2008/01/27/sunday/main3755983.shtml

Friday, January 25, 2008

Proverbs

Another (probably) oldie, but goodie. If we forget to laugh, we will go insane.

A 1st grade school teacher had twenty-six students in her class. She
presented each child in her classroom the 1st half of a well-known proverb and asked them to come up with the remainder of the proverb. It's hard to believe these were actually done by first graders. Their insight may surprise you. While reading, keep in mind that these are first-graders, 6-year-olds, because the last one is a classic!

1.Don't change horses - until they stop running.

2. Strike while - the bug is close.

3. It's always darkest before - Daylight Saving Time.

4. Never underestimate - the power of termites.

5. You can lead a horse to water but - How?

6. Don't bite the hand that - looks dirty.

7. No news is - impossible

8. A miss is as good as a - Mr.

9. You can't teach an old dog new - Math

10. If you lie down with dogs, - you'll stink in the morning.

11. Love all, trust - Me.

12. The pen is mightier than - the pigs.

13. An idle mind is - the best way to relax.

14. Where there's smoke there's - pollution.

15. Happy the bride who - gets all the presents.

16. A penny saved is - not much.

17. Two's company, three's - the Musketeers.

18. Don't put off till tomorrow what you - put on to go to bed.

19. Laugh and the whole world laughs with you, cry and - You have to blow your nose.

20. There are none so blind as - Stevie Wonder.

21. Children should be seen and not - spanked or grounded.

22. If at first you don't succeed - get new batteries.

23. You get out of something only what you - See in the picture on the box

24. When the blind lead the blind - get out of the way.

25. A bird in the hand is - going to poop on you.

And the WINNER and last one!

26. Better late than - Pregnant

Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Missing Manuals

I discovered David Pogue, the New York Times technology columnist, thanks to my sister in Colorado. She, like me, recently bought a MacBook. She found David and his "Missing Manual" series and turned me on to him. I discovered that my local library has quite a number of Pogue's books, and so I picked up a few of them a couple of days ago. Within the first few minutes of reading one of them, I've already learned a couple of new tricks on the Apple.

Discovering and learning new things is exciting.

I hear that soon he will have the "Leopard" book out, but I'm going to spend some time on the "Tiger" book first, and the "Garage Band" and "iTunes and IPod" books.

Also want to get my hands on his "Switching to the Mac" book. This guy is PROLIFIC. There is a listing of all of his books, ranked by release date, here.

The Missing Manuals site is here, and David's own webpage is here. I'm having a MacAttack.

Dig it! Up!

Barely a year after we moved into our new neighborhood, the Midtown Redevelopment Authority is undertaking improvements to our infrastructure. Imagine that! We have some money left over after Iraq and after giving it away in tax breaks? Wild!

This blurb was posted on our door:

Construction of enhancements to the right of way and street and utility improvements to A, B, and C streets between D and E streets will begin the week of January 14, 2008. The construction will involve the demolition of the existing streets and utilities along with some sidewalks and driveways, the installation of new streets and utilities, sidewalks and driveways, and the planting of trees. This is a project of the Midtown Redevelopment Authority. Construction will start on your block on Thursday, 1/24/08.

They're spending around $2.7 million. Funding for the project is from Midtown bonds and direct reimbursement by the City of Houston. We have often complained that every highway and major roadway is under construction in this city, and now, well, they're just outside the front door. But no worries. I'm glad to see these improvements. It's already a great neighborhood, but when (if?) they finish, it's going to be much nicer. We're missing too many sidewalks already.
Link to the Midtown Gang here

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Bush LIED?!?! No!!

A recent study reveals that - brace yourself - Bush and his thuggish gang LIED us into the Iraq war! Ohmigod! Is nothing sacred? My question is, what are the Democrats going to do about it? My guess: nothing.

False Pretenses
Following 9/11, President Bush and seven top officials of his administration waged a carefully orchestrated campaign of misinformation about the threat posed by Saddam Hussein's Iraq.

By Charles Lewis and Mark Reading-Smith


President George W. Bush and seven of his administration's top officials, including Vice President Dick Cheney, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, made at least 935 false statements in the two years following September 11, 2001, about the national security threat posed by Saddam Hussein's Iraq. Nearly five years after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, an exhaustive examination of the record shows that the statements were part of an orchestrated campaign that effectively galvanized public opinion and, in the process, led the nation to war under decidedly false pretenses.

On at least 532 separate occasions (in speeches, briefings, interviews, testimony, and the like), Bush and these three key officials, along with Secretary of State Colin Powell, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, and White House press secretaries Ari Fleischer and Scott McClellan, stated unequivocally that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction (or was trying to produce or obtain them), links to Al Qaeda, or both. This concerted effort was the underpinning of the Bush administration's case for war.

It is now beyond dispute that Iraq did not possess any weapons of mass destruction or have meaningful ties to Al Qaeda. This was the conclusion of numerous bipartisan government investigations, including those by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (2004 and 2006), the 9/11 Commission, and the multinational Iraq Survey Group, whose "Duelfer Report" established that Saddam Hussein had terminated Iraq's nuclear program in 1991 and made little effort to restart it.

In short, the Bush administration led the nation to war on the basis of erroneous information that it methodically propagated and that culminated in military action against Iraq on March 19, 2003. Not surprisingly, the officials with the most opportunities to make speeches, grant media interviews, and otherwise frame the public debate also made the most false statements, according to this first-ever analysis of the entire body of prewar rhetoric.

much more at the link: http://www.publicintegrity.org/WarCard/ (thanks, David)

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Paul Krugman - Debunking the Reagan Myth

Obama's "praise" of Reagan comes at a pretty horrible time. He is obviously playing to the right, perhaps even moreso than Hillary Clinton has been. Frankly, I'm getting a little tired of his "can't we all just get along" line. I want to get along, sure, but not until we have some serious hearings on the lies, illegal activities and thefts under Bush and not until somebody gets sentenced to some jailtime. Bush and the Republicans have been mean, nasty and thuggish for about ten years now, and we're just all supposed to turn the other cheek and sing Kumbayah? That's what the religious conservatives are supposed to do, and I don't see very much of that. Dream on. I have a very conservative co-worker, and even HE says that he likes and could vote for Obama. I'm sorry, but now, today, that only sends up a yellow flag to me.

Debunking the Reagan Myth
By
PAUL KRUGMAN
Published: January 21, 2008

Historical narratives matter. That’s why conservatives are still writing books denouncing F.D.R. and the New Deal; they understand that the way Americans perceive bygone eras, even eras from the seemingly distant past, affects politics today.

And it’s also why the furor over Barack Obama’s praise for Ronald Reagan is not, as some think, overblown. The fact is that how we talk about the Reagan era still matters immensely for American politics.

Bill Clinton knew that in 1991, when he began his presidential campaign. “The Reagan-Bush years,” he declared, “have exalted private gain over public obligation, special interests over the common good, wealth and fame over work and family. The 1980s ushered in a Gilded Age of greed and selfishness, of irresponsibility and excess, and of neglect.”

Contrast that with Mr. Obama’s recent statement, in an interview with a Nevada newspaper, that Reagan offered a “sense of dynamism and entrepreneurship that had been missing.”

Maybe Mr. Obama was, as his supporters insist, simply praising Reagan’s political skills. (I think he was trying to curry favor with a conservative editorial board, which did in fact endorse him.) But where in his remarks was the clear declaration that Reaganomics failed?

For it did fail. The Reagan economy was a one-hit wonder. Yes, there was a boom in the mid-1980s, as the economy recovered from a severe recession. But while the rich got much richer, there was little sustained economic improvement for most Americans. By the late 1980s, middle-class incomes were barely higher than they had been a decade before — and the poverty rate had actually risen.

When the inevitable recession arrived, people felt betrayed — a sense of betrayal that Mr. Clinton was able to ride into the White House.

Given that reality, what was Mr. Obama talking about? Some good things did eventually happen to the U.S. economy — but not on Reagan’s watch.

For example, I’m not sure what “dynamism” means, but if it means productivity growth, there wasn’t any resurgence in the Reagan years. Eventually productivity did take off — but even the Bush administration’s own Council of Economic Advisers dates the beginning of that takeoff to 1995.

Similarly, if a sense of entrepreneurship means having confidence in the talents of American business leaders, that didn’t happen in the 1980s, when all the business books seemed to have samurai warriors on their covers. Like productivity, American business prestige didn’t stage a comeback until the mid-1990s, when the U.S. began to reassert its technological and economic leadership.

I understand why conservatives want to rewrite history and pretend that these good things happened while a Republican was in office — or claim, implausibly, that the 1981 Reagan tax cut somehow deserves credit for positive economic developments that didn’t happen until 14 or more years had passed. (Does Richard Nixon get credit for “Morning in America”?)

But why would a self-proclaimed progressive say anything that lends credibility to this rewriting of history — particularly right now, when Reaganomics has just failed all over again?

Like Ronald Reagan, President Bush began his term in office with big tax cuts for the rich and promises that the benefits would trickle down to the middle class. Like Reagan, he also began his term with an economic slump, then claimed that the recovery from that slump proved the success of his policies.

And like Reaganomics — but more quickly — Bushonomics has ended in grief. The public mood today is as grim as it was in 1992. Wages are lagging behind inflation. Employment growth in the Bush years has been pathetic compared with job creation in the Clinton era. Even if we don’t have a formal recession — and the odds now are that we will — the optimism of the 1990s has evaporated.

This is, in short, a time when progressives ought to be driving home the idea that the right’s ideas don’t work, and never have.

It’s not just a matter of what happens in the next election. Mr. Clinton won his elections, but — as Mr. Obama correctly pointed out — he didn’t change America’s trajectory the way Reagan did. Why?

Well, I’d say that the great failure of the Clinton administration — more important even than its failure to achieve health care reform, though the two failures were closely related — was the fact that it didn’t change the narrative, a fact demonstrated by the way Republicans are still claiming to be the next Ronald Reagan.

Now progressives have been granted a second chance to argue that Reaganism is fundamentally wrong: once again, the vast majority of Americans think that the country is on the wrong track. But they won’t be able to make that argument if their political leaders, whatever they meant to convey, seem to be saying that Reagan had it right.

Monday, January 21, 2008

To Be A Republican...

...you have to believe...

1. Jesus loves you and shares your hatred of homosexuals and Hillary Clinton.

2. Saddam was a good guy when Reagan armed him, a bad guy when Bush's daddy made war on him, a good guy when Cheney did business with him, and a bad guy when Bush needed a 'we can't find Bin Laden' diversion.

3. Trade with Cuba is wrong because the country is Communist, but trade with China and Viet Nam is vital to a spirit of international harmony.

4. The United States should get out of the United Nations, and our highest national priority is enforcing U. N. resolutions against Iraq.

5. A woman can't be trusted with decisions about her own body, but multinational drug corporations can make decisions affecting all mankind without regulation.

6. The best way to improve military morale is to praise the troops in speeches, while slashing veterans' benefits and combat pay.

7. If condoms are kept out of schools, adolescents won't have sex.

8. A good way to fight terrorism is to belittle our longtime allies, then demand their cooperation and money.

9. Providing health care to all Iraqis is sound policy, but providing health care to all Americans is socialism.

10. HMO's and insurance companies have the best interests of the public at heart.

11. Global warming and tobacco's link to cancer are junk science, but creationism should be taught in schools.

12. A president lying about an extramarital affair is an impeachable offense, but a president lying to enlist support for a war in which thousands die is solid defense policy.

13. Government should limit itself to the powers named in the Constitution, which include banning gay marriages and censoring the internet .

14. The public has a right to know about Hillary's cattle trades, but George Bush's driving record is none of our business.

15. Being a drug addict is a moral failing and a crime, unless you're a conservative radio host, then it's an illness and you need our prayers for your recovery.

16. Supporting 'Executive Privilege' for every Republican ever born, who will be born or who might be born (in perpetuity) goes without saying.

17. What Bill Clinton did in the 1960's is of vital national interest, but what Bush did in the '80's is irrelevant.

18. We should always give our support for hunters who shoot their friends and blame them for wearing orange vests similar to those worn by the quail.

Many thanks to Rhonda.

Marijuana legalization

Loading...

The Daily Puppy

Black Collar Crime

Loading...

National Weather Outlook

Atheists in the News

Loading...