Tuesday, February 28, 2006

The Learning Moment

The other night, a University professor and I were visiting. He was European I think. As any respectable dinner conversation would demand, we strolled into the international news and current events lane for a little spin.

Over the last few weeks, there has been a great amount of turmoil over a cartoon characterization of the Prophet Muhammad with a bomb in his head. Muslims all over the world have demonstrated.

I suggested that the cartoon was remarkably consistent with my memory of the history of the Prophet who founded Islam and that of all the prophets, Muhammed was the only one I knew of who applied organized violence during his lifetime.

The Professor agreed.

Here is a brief look at his life.

Muhammad was born into a well-to-do family settled in the northern Arabian town of Mecca. Some calculate his birthdate as April 20, 570 (Shia muslims believe it to be April 26) , and some as 571; tradition places it in the Year of the Elephant.

Muhammad's father, Abdullah, had died before he was born and the young boy was brought up by his paternal grandfather Abd al-Muttalib, of the tribe of Quraysh. Tradition says that as an infant, he was placed with a Bedouin wetnurse, Halima, as desert life was believed to be safer and healthier for children.

At the age of six Muhammad lost his mother Amina, and at the age of eight his grandfather Abd al-Muttalib. Muhammad now came under care of his uncle Abu Talib, the new leader of the Hashim clan of the Quraysh tribe, the most powerful in Mecca.

Mecca was a thriving commercial center, due in great part to a stone temple called the Ka'aba that housed many different idols. Merchants from different tribes would visit Mecca during the pilgrimage season, when all inter-tribal warfare was forbidden and they could trade in safety.

As a teenager Muhammad began accompanying his uncle on trading journeys to Syria. He thus became well-travelled and knowledgeable as to foreign ways.

Muhammad became a merchant and one of his employers was Khadijah, a widow then forty years old. The young twenty-five-year old Muhammad had impressed Khadijah, and she proposed to him in the year 595.

Ibn Ishaq records that Khadijah bore Muhammad five children, one son and four daughters. All of Khadija's children were born before Muhammad received his first revelation. His son Qasim died at the age of two. The four daughters are said to be Zainab, Ruqayyah, Umm Kulthum, and Fatimah.

Muslims believe that around the year 610, while meditating, Muhammad had a vision of the Angel Gabriel.

His wife Khadijah and her Christian cousin Waraqah ibn Nawfal were the first to believe Muhammad was a prophet. She was soon followed by his ten-year-old cousin Ali ibn Abi Talib, and Abu Bakr, whom Sunnis assert to have been Muhammad's closest friend.

Until his death, Muhammad reportedly received frequent revelations, although there was a relatively long gap after the first revelation. This silence worried him, until he received surat ad-Dhuha, whose words provided comfort and reassurance.

Around 613, Muhammad began to spread his message amongst the people. Most of those who heard his message ignored it. A few mocked him. Some, however, believed and joined his small group.

For most of the sixty-three years of his life, Muhammad was a merchant, then a prophet. He took up the sword late in his life.

He was a warrior for ten years.

Much criticism has been leveled at Muhammad for engaging in caravan raids and taking part in battles. Critics say that his wars went well beyond self-defense.

Muslim commentators, however, argue that he fought only to defend his community against the Meccans, and that he insisted on humane rules of warfare."

There is no argument that he employed the sword.

However, before I get put on some list somewhere,

let me make it absolutely clear that I have nothing to say of

the Prophet's use of organized violence.

It is simply a historical fact.

What I do have to say is about the use of organized violence,

by those who claim a different Master.

And He made it clear.

He even healed the ear of the guard that Peter cut off

as he was being arrested in the Garden.

Deepak Chopra says it well here.

People seem to assume that the moment you brand someone else as evil (terrorists, Nazis, mass murderers, pedophiles, etc.), you have every right to seek revenge against them. The War on Terror is based on this notion. The first person to disagree, however, happens to be Jesus, which our right-wing religious hawks seem to ignore. If you look at the passage in the New Testament where Jesus says to turn the other cheek (Matthew 5:38-42), the whole speech illustrates how radical Jesus's morality actually was.

In a World standoff over declining finite resources,

and in a World desperately in need of environmental leadership,

where one group is living their teachings

while the other is not,

It seems that a learning moment is at hand.

Let us keep this learning moment in our hands,

Let us wage peace.


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Monday, February 27, 2006

The Soylent Seas

A reader sent me this story in the March /April Mother Jones. It's a bit of a read, but considering it's about the death of the oceans as we know them, you might want to at least see what's happening.

Here is an very small, but significant part of this well crafted article.

The Fate of the Ocean
Mother Jones
By Julia Whitty

In 2005, researchers from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory found the first clear evidence that the world ocean is growing warmer.

In a novel study combining computer modeling and field observations, and screening for natural weather effects and the impact of volcanic gases, they discovered the top half-mile of the ocean has warmed dramatically in the past 40 years as a result, clearly and simply, of human-induced, rising greenhouse gases.

The statistical significance of these results is far too strong to be merely dismissed and should wipe out much of the uncertainty about the reality of global warming,” reported researcher Tim Barnett of Scripps, who suggests the Bush administration convene a Manhattan-style Project to figure out what mitigations might still be possible.

One symptom already manifesting is the melting of the Arctic. Last year set a fourth consecutive record low for ice cover in the Arctic, and scientists now predict the summertime Arctic will be ice-free before the end of this century—a course likely exacerbated by the simultaneous decrease of wintertime Arctic ice. Consequently, the world’s 22,000 polar bears, along with their primary prey, the ringed seals who likewise den on sea ice, are likely to suffer localized or even overall extinction [see “On Thin Ice” by Marla Cone].

Yet the eight nations surrounding the Arctic are rushing to capitalize on the resources emerging from the ice, grabbing for a quarter of the world’s undiscovered oil and natural gas; a trove of gold, diamonds, copper, and zinc; the earth’s last pristine fishing grounds, which are shifting north as fish follow colder waters; and the fabled Northwest Passage and other Arctic travel routes.

Even as some governments deny the existence of global warming, they are racing to map the Arctic seafloor and bolster their territorial claims for exclusive economic zones no one cared about 15 years ago.

Reinforcing these entrepreneurial dreams is the reality of a feedback loop already in motion.

Compact sea ice, with its high albedo (whiteness), reflects 80 percent of the sun’s heat back into space, while seawater, with a low albedo, absorbs 80 percent. The reduction in the ratio of ice to water further increases the warming of the ocean, which rises from thermal expansion, creating an even greater surface area of water, which promotes further warming and further melting, nibbling away at even more sea ice.

In other words, the melting will be difficult if not impossible to reverse anytime soon.

Along with thermal expansion, melting ice also adds freshwater to the ocean. Until recently, many researchers believed this freshening would have a negligible impact on sea levels or ocean chemistry. But the effects are proving unpredictable.

In the Antarctic Peninsula, lubricated by summer temperatures registering 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than 40 years ago, ancient ice shelves are disintegrating, enabling the glaciers behind them to surge into the sea with a rapidity startling to scientists.

Consequently, fears are growing that if the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, currently contained by the Ronne and Ross ice shelves, ever surges, it would raise sea levels by as much as 23 feet worldwide.


AT NO TIME IN HUMAN HISTORY has so much scientific inquiry been focused so intensively in one direction: on the anthropogenic changes in our world. As a result, we are learning more, and more quickly than ever before, about how the life-support systems of earth work.

Science now recognizes that the ocean is not just a pretty vista or a distant horizon but the vital circulatory, respiratory, and reproductive organs of our planet, and that these biological systems are suffering. "

Over the weekend, I told my girl friend that

We can power the earth cleanly, sustainably, and economically.

We can protect the cities from the heat storms of climate change.

We can provide the nitrogen to grow our food on the land.

I do not know how we can survive with a dead ocean.

Then that movie came to mind.



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*illustration courtesy Yuko Shimizu

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Choice C

Buzzflash is running an editorial today

There is No Choice "C"
in the Battle to Restore Democracy to America

"On Saturday, we wrote in our e-mail alert that we believed that liberals who smugly disdain outrage and think that if they are "polite and civil" democracy will be restored, that these people are cowards and deserters from the battle for democracy.

This was written in reaction to e-mail subscribers who have left our BuzzFlash alerts because they think that we are too "shrill" and "angry."


"The truth is that in life you don't always get the choices you want, particularly in politics and government. In this case, we are currently confronted with Choices "A" and "B": a dictatorship disguised as a democracy or the restoration of the democracy and Constitutional rights that were granted to this nation in 1776.

There is no Choice "C."

In my view, the folks at "The Flash" are very good

at reporting our condition.

And they deserve our support.

But there is a Choice C.

It is based on the radical realization that the world we have known,

has passed.

Maybe you didn't get the e mail or perhaps you didn't see it

on the Evening News.

But it happened.

On Feb 11, almost beyond belief, two independent stories

spoke of the arrival and reality of uncontrolled climate change,

and the beginning of the end of our depletable oil resources.

Democracy, as we have known it, is now buried under

a mountain of Corporate donations.

It has slipped behind a black hole of unaccountability,

where votes are no longer counted but tabulated,

by computers now controlled by criminals and cronies.

Our Institututions are corrupted.

Our leaders are in la la land.

Except for a few heros,

Our press is asleep at the quill.

We cannot restore democracy to America.

America has passed.

What is before us is a World

beyond nations.

beyond competition.

beyond right and wrong.

beyond god.

beyond our limited views

of ourselves

and our abilities to perceive.

What is before us is a World,

of cooperation over competition,

of union over division,

of understanding over fear,

of life over death.

We are all sailors on this spaceship called earth.

So, say goodbye to America.

And Hello to your mothership.

With the advent of advanced global communication, new forms of social contract can be created which transcend the geographic state. These new cybercoops or cyberstates will bring humankind to higher levels of cooperation and understanding.

The Flashers and their like may someday choose

to help lead us in this new world.

Until then,

We should be grateful

For the good work they do now.

For we are all of this earth,

and the Moon knows no strangers.


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photo courtesy of Susan S.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Another Door


Here is Jon Stewart on the new energy vision of the POTUS.

And here is Letterman on our dear leader's strategic thinking.

And here is Letterman on closing the door on the VICE

and his little incident.

And just in case you think that the Veep doesn't have the right

to declassify government information when and however he wants,

Read this Sidney Blumenthal piece in the Guardian.

Cheney's vice-like grip

Bush has granted his deputy
the greatest expansion of powers
in American history

Sidney Blumenthal
Friday February 24, 2006
The Guardian

After shooting Harry Whittington, Dick Cheney's immediate impulse was to control the intelligence. Rather than call the president directly, he ordered an aide to inform the White House chief of staff, Andrew Card, that there had been an accident - but not that Cheney was its cause. Then surrogates attacked the victim for not steering clear of Cheney when he was firing without looking. The vice-president tried to defuse the furore by giving an interview to friendly Fox News.

His most revealing answer came in response to a question about something other than the hunting accident. Cheney was asked about court papers filed by his former chief of staff Lewis "Scooter" Libby, indicted for perjury and obstruction of justice in the inquiry into the leaking of the identity of the undercover CIA agent Valerie Plame.

In the papers, Libby laid out a line of defence that he leaked classified material at the behest of "his superiors" (to wit, Cheney). Libby said he was authorised to disclose to members of the press classified sections of the prewar National Intelligence Estimate on Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction. Indeed, Cheney explained, he has the power to declassify intelligence. "There is an executive order to that effect," he said.

On March 25 2003 President Bush signed executive order 13292, a hitherto little-known document that grants the greatest expansion of the power of the vice-president in US history. It gives the vice-president the same ability to classify intelligence as the president.

By controlling classification, the vice-president can control intelligence and, through that, foreign policy. Bush operates on the radical notion of the "unitary executive", that the presidency has inherent and limitless powers in his role as commander in chief, above the system of checks and balances.

Never before has any president diminished and divided his power.


Since the coup d'etat of executive order 13292, the vice-presidency has been transformed. Perhaps, for a blinding moment, Cheney imagined he might classify his shooting party as top secret."

Meanwhile the true Father of the Conservative Movement

is not deserting the ship,

He has just put a torpedo into it.

William F. Buckley says this of the Veep's plans to invade Iraq,

It didn't work.

So let's close that door.

And open another.

"Even the Hero gets a bullet in the chest,

Once upon a time in the West." Dire Straits


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*"Plough and Door "courtesy of José Luis Alvarez Vélez

Friday, February 24, 2006

In the Balance

As the balance moves violently in Iraq.

As the balance moves in the Congress on Ports.

As suicide bombers attack the World's largest oil facility.

The neorats are leaving the ship.

Here is the story.

Neocon architect says: 'Pull it down'
The Scotsman
Alex Massie

NEOCONSERVATISM has failed the United States and needs to be replaced by a more realistic foreign policy agenda, according to one of its prime architects.

Francis Fukuyama, who wrote the best-selling book The End of History and was a member of the neoconservative project, now says that, both as a political symbol and a body of thought, it has "evolved into something I can no longer support". He says it should be discarded on to history's pile of discredited ideologies.

In an extract from his forthcoming book, America at the Crossroads, Mr Fukuyama declares that the doctrine "is now in shambles" and that its failure has demonstrated "the danger of good intentions carried to extremes".

In its narrowest form, neoconservatism advocates the use of military force, unilaterally if necessary, to replace autocratic regimes with democratic ones.

Mr Fukuyama once supported regime change in Iraq and was a signatory to a 1998 letter sent by the Project for a New American Century to the then president, Bill Clinton, urging the US to step up its efforts to remove Saddam Hussein from power.

It was also signed by neoconservative intellectuals, such as Bill Kristol and Robert Kagan, and political figures Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle and the current defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld.

However, Mr Fukuyama now thinks the war in Iraq is the wrong sort of war, in the wrong place, at the wrong time.

"The most basic misjudgment was an overestimation of the threat facing the United States from radical Islamism," he argues.

"Although the new and ominous possibility of undeterrable terrorists armed with weapons of mass destruction did indeed present itself, advocates of the war wrongly conflated this with the threat presented by Iraq and with the rogue state/proliferation problem more generally."

Mr Fukuyama, one of the US's most influential public intellectuals, concludes that "it seems very unlikely that history will judge either the intervention [in Iraq] itself or the ideas animating it kindly".

Going further, he says the movements' advocates are Leninists who "believed that history can be pushed along with the right application of power and will. Leninism was a tragedy in its Bolshevik version, and it has returned as farce when practised by the United States".

Although Mr Fukuyama still supports the idea of democratic reform - complete with establishing the institutions of liberal modernity - in the Middle East, he warns that this process alone will not immediately reduce the threats and dangers the US faces.

"Radical Islamism is a by-product of modernisation itself, arising from the loss of identity that accompanies the transition to a modern, pluralist society. More democracy will mean more alienation, radicalisation and - yes, unfortunately - terrorism," he says.

"By definition, outsiders can't 'impose' democracy on a country that doesn't want it; demand for democracy and reform must be domestic. Democracy promotion is therefore a long-term and opportunistic process that has to await the gradual ripening of political and economic conditions to be effective."

According to Zogby,

52% of Americans think that this administration should be impeached.

The non-partisan polling firm Zogby International last month found that by a margin of 52 percent to 43 percent, Americans want Congress to consider impeaching President Bush "if he wiretapped American citizens without a judge's approval."

The balance is moving.

And, we should not tarry.

For there are precious

Lives in the Balance. (Watch this)

* art courtesy of pascalstudio


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OZ note.
When I typed in my word verification to publish this post,
the letters were D A F U R

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Utterly Baffled

As Howard Zinn says, if you don't know your history,

well you get the idea.

Here is a small slice of a good piece from the Crisis Papers.

Slicing Away Liberty: 1933 Germany, 2006 America
By Bernard Weiner
Co-Editor, The Crisis Papers


What happened in Germany in the 1920s and '30s can teach us much about how a nation in a few years can lose its freedom in incremental slices as a result of a drumbeat of never-ceasing propaganda, strong-arm tactics, government snooping and harassment, manufactured fear of "the other," and wars begun abroad with the accompanying rally-'round-the-flag patriotism.


In the beginning of their rule, the Nazis would announce restrictive policies aimed at marginalized citizens (the mentally handicapped, for example), and if no great uproar of objection came from any power centers such as the churches or hospitals or political parties, the

Nazis would proceed to the next slice aimed, say, at Communists or homosexuals or Jews or Gypsies. All of these moves were carefully couched in terms of saving the "national security" of the Reich or purging the country of "non-productive" or "destructive/dangerous" elements in society.

The Nazi propaganda machine was clever, intense and all-pervasive, using the Big Lie technique masterfully -- endlessly repeating its falsehoods until the drummed-upon populace came to accept them as truths.

Many ordinary "good Germans" and moral arbiters went along with these violations of civil rights and liberties either because they inwardly agreed with the propagandists or because they were afraid to disagree in public.

Those few leaders in academia, the church and the press who courageously or even tentatively demurred or asked too many questions tended to be punished -- demoted, fired, their honors revoked, etc. -- and so more and more citizens got the message to "watch what you say."

The Nazi juggernaut pushed on, widening its list of what was forbidden, issuing harsher and harsher edicts, and treating any dissidents roughly.Hitler, leader of the rabidly rightwing Nazi party, was installed as Chancellor in 1933, even though his party was not in the majority, in the hope that he could bring some order and stability to a society still reeling from the horrendous economic/social Great Depression that had devastated the country during the '20s and early-'30s.

Given the reins of power, Hitler felt free to unleash policies that most citizens earlier had rejected as way too extreme. He had written about them in his book "Mein Kampf," but many thought he would modify his demented views once he was inside the establishment corridors.

The "Enabling Act" that gave Hitler total control of the organs of power in Germany was passed in 1933, following the burning of the German Reichstag (Parliament), an arson that was blamed on Communist "terrorists." Hitler "temporarily" suspended civil liberties during this "national emergency," which of course never ended. Hitler lied to the Reichstag about his true intentions in order to obtain approval of the Enabling Act.

Shortly after its passage, Hitler began rounding up tens of thousands of political enemies and sending them to concentration camps. Democracy was dead in Hitler's Germany.

The corporate titans, seeing that there might be profit to be gained from Nazi economic and military policies, supported Hitler's rise and rule; those who had objections to what he was doing thought they could tame his passions through their immense influence.

But slowly, and then quickly, the Nazis took over one institution after another;

totalitarianism was in full force."

What if Hitler had accidentally shot a man?

What if the ministry of truth said it occurred on Saturday,

but the victim said he was shot on Friday?

What if they said he was at a good distance away,

but the wounds showed he was shot at a much closer range?

What if Hitler was stone drunk when he did it?

Would the media pick it up?

Or would Hitler be above the law?

The Crisis Paper piece begins with these words.

I must confess that I'm utterly baffled by the lack of sustained, organized outrage and opposition from Democratic officials and ordinary citizens at the Bush Administration's never-ending scandals, corruptions, war-initiations, and the amassing of more and more police-state power into their hands.

If you know your history.

You won't be baffled.

You will know the future.


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*"The Son of Man" by Magritte

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Balloon Junkies

You may have noticed yesterday that the POTUS

was making some pretty encouraging statements.

He even talked about being "less addicted".

There is some serious truth in that statement.

As someone in the office said yesterday,

It's a fine goal to be less addicted to heroin.

but the truth is, you are still a junkie.

It's a text book example of addictive behavior.

Here is a good piece on our oil addiction from Foreign Policy in Focus

Breaking the U.S. Oil Addiction
By Daphne Wysham and Nadia Martinez
February 7, 2006

In his State of the Union address, President George W. Bush admitted to the American people that America has a problem: Oil addiction. The first step in overcoming an addiction is acknowledging the problem. The logical second step should be addressing the root causes of that addiction and correcting the imbalances that enable it. But the Bush proposal does little to meet this challenge.

If past is any prediction of the future, one need only follow the money to see who has profited under the Bush Administration's energy policies and who has not.

Exxon Mobil Corp., one of Bush's strongest supporters, made a record $36 billion in profits in 2005. Exxon Mobil has also been actively campaigning against the Kyoto Protocol, for fear their profits may be affected. Bush followed their urging, and withdrew from the climate negotiations in 2001.

To post record profits in a year when a historic hurricane season made thousands homeless, killed over a thousand, and cost over a $100 billion in damages--and record prices at the pump--is obscene.

But it is also the result of Bush's energy strategy.

In comparison, the money that Bush has committed to such items as the "solar America initiative" and the "clean energy from wind" is dwarfed by the amount of tax breaks, subsidized loans and other forms of government handouts that are given to the oil, gas and coal industry every year, and result in record profits such as these.

Oil and gas companies are the lucky winners of $6 billion in subsidies written into law with last year's approval of the Bush and Cheney energy bill alone.

Bush's vehicle tax credits mean SUV drivers can get a full deduction for the price of a new 6,000 pound SUV priced under $25,000--most of which get less than 20 miles per gallon, but the $2,000 tax credits for hybrid vehicles, which get more than 50 miles per gallon, are being phased out.

What is left unsaid in the pledges Bush made in his so-called "advance energy initiative" is almost as important as what was said. The most striking statement made by Bush was his claim that he will set a goal of "replacing more than 75% of our oil imports from the Middle East by 2025."


"The only way that America will become truly independent of its oil dealers, whether in the Middle East or elsewhere, is by kicking the oil habit.

Here are three simple ways we could begin to really address our fossil fuel addiction:

1) Replace subsidies and tax breaks for the oil, gas and coal industry with carbon taxes, and phase this in simultaneous with a comparable phase-out of the payroll tax to avoid regressive impacts on the poorest and to encourage employment.

2) Stop muzzling the climate scientists and listening only to oil, gas and coal interests so that our energy policy can be better informed by both science and the public interest.

3) Withdraw American troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, and start to reorient the funds now being spent on the military with a clean energy fund to rapidly phase in emissions-free vehicles, better public transportation, and the rapid uptake of renewable energy nationally and globally.

Such a policy would not only break our oil addiction, it would make America a true leader by taking the world down the path to a clean energy future."

Yesterday,when the POTUS arrived at the National Renewable Energy Lab

to have his photo op with the scientists at the Lab,

They realized that many of them had lost their jobs due to budget cuts.

"It was a mix up", they said.

Junky talk.


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"Junky" courtesy of Werner Reiterer

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

The Danger Within

Last night we had dinner with old good friends who live outside of town.

We had gone for a little ride in the country to check my PO Box,

and we ended up at their delightful grey wood house of spacious porches,

Where bird feeders and bird baths abound on the grounds,

and high quality binoculars perch readily on the table in the corner.

There you can stand and identify the large population of birds

that choose to habitate around these friendly bird watching spirits.

When we arrived, they were getting their broadband hooked up.

They had even purchased a "link sys" wireless router.

Their caller ID aurally announced the caller, so we screened effortlessly.

We listened to Bob Dylan and to Bruce Springsteen.

We even used a phonograph.

Towards the end of our dinner,

We began to speak of politics, and of course,

"Who will the Democrats put up for President".

Once again, I offered that Warner would be the smart, formulaic approach.

Hillary, of course, was seen as a sure show maker,

another "thrilla from manilla", that would indeed delight the media,

and make everyone a lot of money while insuring another four years

of Republican hegemony.

Generally, when I'm asked about national politics anymore,

I respond that I am a transnationalist.

Last night, as is often the case, the notion was marginalized.

"You have to be in the real world", my friend said.

I tried to make the case that climate change was changing everything.

I tried to make the case that peak oil was going to make the world

a very difficult place to "live in" in the very near future.

I tried to make the case that politics as usual will simply be a recipe

for calamity.

Nobody much listened.

Later in the evening,

One of our hosts got really hot and bothered about the nomination of Alito.

In this house of so called liberal minded people,

she argued forcefully, almost belligerantly,

that Alito would not simply be an apparachik of the right,

but would instead be a judge of reason and prudence and wisdom.

Yes, the hottest moment of the night was about a supreme court judge.

Not the sure calamity we are bringing upon on children,

and our civilization

through the ravages of an unstable more energetic climate.

Not the sure war and instability and misery we are bringing

upon ourselves,

as the nations attenuate their wars and struggles

for the last half of the oil.

As we approached dessert,

I recounted the story about how the German people actually believed

that they were going to be attacked by the Poles.

It was in their newspapers.

It was in the speeches of their leaders.

And they believed that the danger was out there.

When all along,

The Danger was within.

In the real world, you see,

We make our problems up,

while we hide from the real ones.

We drove home.

The light struggled

to pierce the thick wet air.

It was late, and foggy,

and dark.


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Monday, February 20, 2006

Prescience and Presidents

We had gone to a fund raiser for a global something or another.

As we walked in the door, we saw a legislator, a columnist, and an author.

In the kitchen, a few of us gathered close to the buffet steamers.

I was asking if anyone knew who the Congressman was

who had asked the hard questions about the coming war on Mexico

back in 1846.

Who was the young whig congressman who risked his career

to ask the unpopular questions of then President Polk,

and who sponsored the spot resolutions to determine if

American blood had indeed been shed on American soil?

In the spirit of good party conversation,

the answer led to another story of our 16th president.

Since today is President's Day, it seems appropriate to mention it.

When you walk into the Lincoln Memorial and look to the right,

you will see the words of Lincoln's second inaugural.

"On the occasion corresponding to this four years ago all thoughts were anxiously directed to an impending civil war. All dreaded it, all sought to avert it. While the inaugural address was being delivered from this place, devoted altogether to saving the Union without war, urgent agents were in the city seeking to destroy it without war—seeking to dissolve the Union and divide effects by negotiation.

Both parties deprecated war, but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive, and the other would accept war rather than let it perish, and the war came.

One-eighth of the whole population were colored slaves, not distributed generally over the Union, but localized in the southern part of it. These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest. All knew that this interest was somehow the cause of the war.


Neither party expected for the war the magnitude or the duration which it has already attained.

Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with or even before the conflict itself should cease.

Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding.

Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other.

It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God's assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged.

The prayers of both could not be answered.

That of neither has been answered fully.

The Almighty has His own purposes.

'Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh.'

If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that

He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him?

Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away.

Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said 'the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations."

When I walked into the Lincoln Monument one day,

many years ago,

alone and open,

and read these words,

I wept.

I wept for my Great Grandfather who fought as a boy in this war,

and was captured, only to be released by Lincoln's goodness,

into the hands of a cousin in Ohio.

I wept for the South and for the North.

And I weep for a people who have traded in this depth of greatness,

for the singular shallowness of spirit that imposes its long shadow


At the party,

We marveled how such words of moral Karma and cosmic retribution

could find itself in the speech of perhaps our greatest president


and how such a people could accept such nationalistic corporate dribble


Earlier in the weekend,

We heard Howard Zinn speak at the Historians Against the War conference.

He always reminds his audience of the value of knowing your history.

"If I don't have any history, then whatever you, the person in authority, the president at the microphone announcing we must bomb here, we must go there, the president has the field all to himself.

I cannot counteract, because I don't know any history.

I can only believe him.

I was born yesterday.

What history does is give you enough data so that you can question anything that is said from on high. You can measure the claims that are being made by the people in authority against the reality.

And you can look at similar claims that were made before, and see what happened then.

Here's a president who's saying we're going to war for democracy.

And then you go back through history and say, "How many times have presidents said we're going to war for democracy, and what have those wars really been about?"

The history can clarify things,

prepare you for dealing with the duplicities of the real world."

On this day, we would do well to remember

Lincoln and our History.

And the duplicities of the real world.

With that in mind,

I was born a Mexican,

and a War between the North and the South,

will have two committed sides that

"pray to the same God,

and each invokes His aid against the other"


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Sunday, February 19, 2006

Churches Condemn US

The first Assembly of the World Council of Churches (WCC) in the 21st century opened in Porto Alegre, Brazil, February 14, under the theme "God, in your grace, transform the world."

The Assembly, which meets every seven years, is the highest governing body of the WCC, the world's broadest global gathering of churches and Christian organizations. The diverse and dynamic event manifests the churches' commitment to seeking unity, common witness and service to the world.

Yesterday, The Conference issued a statement regarding the administration presently ruling the US. Here is a complilation of the stories.

U.S. religious group condemns Iraq war
Feb 18 23006

The U.S. Conference for the World Council of Churches condemned the U.S.-led war in Iraq on Saturday for "raining down terror" on helpless Iraqis, and criticized Washington's policies on the environment and poverty.

The statement, issued at the largest gathering of Christian churches in nearly 10 years, also warned that the United States is pushing the world toward environmental catastrophe with a "culture of consumption" and its refusal to back international accords to battle global warming.

"We lament with special anguish the war in Iraq, launched in deception and violating global norms of justice and human rights," said the statement from representatives of the 34 U.S. members of the World Council of Churches.

"We mourn all who have died or been injured in this war. We acknowledge with shame abuses carried out in our name."

The World Council of Churches includes more than 350 mainstream Protestant, Anglican and Orthodox churches; the Roman Catholic Church is not a member. The U.S. groups in the WCC include the Episcopal Church, the Presbyterian Church (USA), the United Methodist Church, several Orthodox churches and Baptist denominations, among others.

It said the U.S. government turned a deaf ear to the voice of the church in the country and in the world, using God's name instead "in national agendas that are nothing short of idolatrous."

"We confess that we have failed to raise a prophetic voice loud enough and persistent enough to deter our leaders from this path of pre-emptive war.

Lord, have mercy," the letter said.

Pointing out that the United States enjoyed enormous wealth, the conference said Washington was clinging to its possessions rather than sharing its wealth with the vast majority of people who live in utter poverty.

The message also accused U.S. officials of ignoring warnings about climate change and treating the world's "finite resources as if they are private possessions." It went on to criticize U.S. domestic policies for refusing to confront racism and poverty.

The churches said they had "grown heavy with guilt" for not doing enough to speak out against the Iraq war and other issues.

The statement asked forgiveness for a world that's "grown weary from the violence, degradation and poverty our nation has sown."

Earlier, this week, I put up a post called beyond belief about the nexus of climate change and peak oil, with another story asking where are the scientists, where are the academics, where are our religious leaders?

Truth is,

They are here.

So are the Scientists.

Sure, we can point our fingers,

and speak with disdain,

of the military, industrial, congressional, academic, media, entertainment


with its skill to blind and obfuscate our

"national agendas that are nothing short of idolatrous"

But, that's a cop out.

It's US who are not listening.

You can't blame the captain,

if everyone keeps rowing.


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Marquis de Sade by Man Ray

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Seed Storm



The woman who came into our new
shop and announced that mini carrots
are not real --

a flat expanse of West Texas
outside Brownfield, cotton farms as far
as the eye can see morph to an empire of dairy
farms, mud lots, cows standing
in their own excrement, then
a gigantic chartreuse monster mansion,
with a white picket fence --

"That's not real," Jay announces.

Ronnie Walker says that Bird Flu
is real --

70% of the song birds on
the planet have been wiped out
in the last 100 years, that's real.

Global Warming is real.

Ronnie says to buy rice, beans, corn meal,
face masks.

We've moved and are up to our eyeballs
in boxes.

Where will I put a three month supply
of cat litter, dog food, water?

Vertical trading in the mountains in Equador --
Alpaca from the heights, and wool, below
vegetables, rice, coffee half way up,
abundance that was shared
before the Conquistadors --

Street people in Brazil relocated to farm
coops on land taken back from multi-national
plantations --

The worst government imaginable --
and a living map of how the Germans
allowed Hitler, here --
"But my friends, family, we are good people."

Mothers, fathers, bleeding --
slaughtered babies in their arms.

Our government did this.
We can't even get a paper trail for voting

There is a moment
when the tower falls.

Josh, at supper, talking about bird flu,
saying, "It is real. Everything will

CNN runs loops of a federal
search for a lost whippet the day
the FBI invades Puerto Rico!

Dick Cheney, a blood thirsty, callous,
evil son-of-a-bitch-liar. Who knew?

I buy sacks of rice and beans.

Josh at supper, twenty-five-years-old,
hopelessly in love saying,"
Maybe the earth is fighting back."

"Six out of ten people who get bird flu die,"
John says.

"If I am one of the ones who has to die," Josh
says, "It's ok."


"Because everything has to break."

We did a great job, did we not, making
the world better for our children?

There have been upheavals, plagues, disasters,
throughout history.

The "haves" insulate themselves,
arrive first at mounds of blood and rubble,
get everything that's useable, start over.

So here's an idea.

Send bird feeders to the G-8 leaders.
Gift the WTO with chicken feed. Send it to Monsanto.
Scatter bird seed around every major corporate
head quarters, tons and loads of bird seed.

Scatter bird seed
on lawns in corporate neighborhoods,
around the public and private digs of empire --

Millions of people, seeding the rich.


©Susan Bright

Susan Bright is the author of nineteen books of poetry. She is the editor of Plain View Press which since 1975 has published one-hundred-and-fifty books. Her work as a poet, publisher, activist and educator has taken her all over the United States and abroad. Her most recent book, The Layers of Our Seeing, is a collection of poetry, photographs and essays about peace done in collaboration with photographer Alan Pogue and Middle Eastern journalist, Muna Hamzeh


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"Seed Storm" courtesy of Sheila Simpson-Creps

Friday, February 17, 2006

Wars on Nouns

We were eating dinner last night talking about the day.

The blog was breaking a new record, thanks to Crooks and Liars,

the Veep shooting victim story was still running its course,

and meanwhile, the UN is telling the US to either try the prisoners

they locked up after 9/11,

or let them go.

There is a new wave of evidence of horrible prison abuses.

There is more evidence that the Greenland melt is accelerating.

There is more evidence that government minders are trying

to control the opinions of the weathermen at NOAA.

There is more evidence that there was no evidence of WMDs.

And now there is this undenyable evidence that our leaders

have moments of reckless endangerment that result in serious injury,

To others,

To the nations,

To the earthfamily.

This is this same leadership that has brought the world

the War on Terror.

There have been other Wars on Nouns.

There was the War on Poverty.

Johnson gave us that.

And we are still losing it.

There was and still is the War on Crime.

We lose that one everyday.

And of course, there is the War on Drugs.

Which, according to the conservative National Review,

has resulted in the a significant erosion of civil liberty.

We have lost our liberties and the war on this noun.

Now we have another war on a noun.

And, it will be the mother of all wars on nouns.

We will lose our civil liberties, while gaining an imperial unified executive

that can declassify, reclassify, imprison, try, and convict,

enterpret, obey as it sees fit, and ignore the Constitution

unilaterally and with impunity.

We should all be nervous about Wars on Nouns.

They are never won,

and they generally are accompanied with significant losses

of freedom and resources.

But we should be very concerned about real war.

Real Wars start with W.

And they end with Roman Numerals.

They result in the loss of tens of millions of lives,

And the destruction of whole cities and nations and ways of life.

They are generally won or lost, and they tend to end.

The generation that survives it,

always vows that

It will be the last.

That would be a first.


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*art courtesy of Christine Wolheim

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Secret Decoder Ring

Last year, while opening a box of Ovaltine,

I noticed a free offer for a secret decoder ring.

All I had to do was save up 14 jar coupons and send them in

to Battle Creek.

Well, my ring came in today and geesh,

Am I glad that I don't drink coffee anymore.

It's doesn't look like much, but it works great.

It has a little magnifying glass that decodes the secret messages

underneath almost any political statement.

Here are today's revelations.

He was peppered pretty good.

Soups and salads are peppered, he was shot at almost point blank range.

I stand by my decision to let the ranch owner make the call.

We were all loaded.

No one ever suspected that the levees might be breached.

If 200,000 poor people are forced to leave NOLA, there won't be any more black mayors or democratic governors from LA.

We must protect our borders.

Mexican Americans tend to vote wrong.

We cannot have a nuclear Iran.

Iran has the third largest oil reserves and the second largest natural gas reserves.

We are winning the war in Iraq.

No one gets out of the green zone ever.

Americans want the freedom to invest their retirement savings.

The stock market needs more musical chair money and the owners have already lost or stolen the pension money.

Social Security will be bankrupt in 2026.

Hyperinflation is coming to a theatre near you soon.

We must continue to study Climate Change.

We have already screwed the pooch.

America has a great and bright future.

The mierda is hitting the fan.

Americans are a great people.

but their leaders suck.

I wanted to use my SDR on several other statements,

but after a few minutes of use,

It ran out of power.

I called Battle Creek to get a new battery.

They said " it doesn't have one."

I asked how it worked.

"It's like a crystal radio", the lady said.

"It just does."

So why did it stop working?

"Give it time", she said.

"They have a governor on them.

It will recharge."

Besides, too much decoding,

does not a happy camper make.


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Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Divine Intervention

Here is the Jon Stewart clip on this weekends Duel

between the Veep and the para wingless farm raised quail hunter.

It is not nearly so funny, if it ever was, now that the blamed victim

is back in the IC unit with buckshot in his heart.

On a positive note,

Here is an encouraging story from MIT on another ultra capacitor.

Researchers fired up over new battery
Deborah Halbert
February 8, 2006

Just about everything that runs on batteries -- flashlights, cell phones, electric cars, missile-guidance systems -- would be improved with a better energy supply. But traditional batteries haven't progressed far beyond the basic design developed by Alessandro Volta in the 19th century.

Until now.

Work at MIT's Laboratory for Electromagnetic and Electronic Systems (LEES) holds out the promise of the first technologically significant and economically viable alternative to conventional batteries in more than 200 years.

Joel E. Schindall, the Bernard Gordon Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS) and associate director of the Laboratory for Electromagnetic and Electronic Systems; John G. Kassakian, EECS professor and director of LEES; and Ph.D. candidate Riccardo Signorelli are using nanotube structures to improve on an energy storage device called an ultracapacitor.

Capacitors store energy as an electrical field, making them more efficient than standard batteries, which get their energy from chemical reactions. Ultracapacitors are capacitor-based storage cells that provide quick, massive bursts of instant energy. They are sometimes used in fuel-cell vehicles to provide an extra burst for accelerating into traffic and climbing hills.

However, ultracapacitors need to be much larger than batteries to hold the same charge.

The LEES invention would increase the storage capacity of existing commercial ultracapacitors by storing electrical fields at the atomic level.

Although ultracapacitors have been around since the 1960s, they are relatively expensive and only recently began being manufactured in sufficient quantities to become cost-competitive.

Today you can find ultracapacitors in a range of electronic devices, from computers to cars.

However, despite their inherent advantages -- a 10-year-plus lifetime, indifference to temperature change, high immunity to shock and vibration and high charging and discharging efficiency -- physical constraints on electrode surface area and spacing have limited ultracapacitors to an energy storage capacity around 25 times less than a similarly sized lithium-ion battery.

How does it work?

Storage capacity in an ultracapacitor is proportional to the surface area of the electrodes. Today's ultracapacitors use electrodes made of activated carbon, which is extremely porous and therefore has a very large surface area. However, the pores in the carbon are irregular in size and shape, which reduces efficiency.

The vertically aligned nanotubes in the LEES ultracapacitor have a regular shape, and a size that is only several atomic diameters in width. The result is a significantly more effective surface area, which equates to significantly increased storage capacity. "

Affordable utra capacitors can change everything.

Electric cars that have the range of the best cruisers,

and the speed and power of a muscle car would be possible.

Plug-In Hybrids would become absolutely dominant.

If Electric Utilities employed these devices extensively,

Their distribution grids could become muscled up with electrical storage,

and smartened up with smart grid switching and control.

The intermittancy of wind and solar would cease to be an issue

for utility planners and policy makers.

With the large scale deployment of ultra capacitance,

Electric Utilities could defer building power plants for years,

as they employ their excess night time capacity to charge for the day.

That would give us the time and energy for the carbon plant moratorium.

So we can develop third generation photon to electon power paints,

So we can stop adding to our climate change problem,

So we can stop fighting over the last glops of oil,

So we can quit funding our armies and our armaments industry,

So we can start feeding and caring for the poor and hungry,

So we can begin being a family .

An Earthfamily.



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"Divine Intervention Diptych" courtesy of Wayne Epperly