all those other presidents, not

This guy just Kennedies me all over. I don’t look to massive change, but a cerebellum in office will be nice.

all those other presidents, notObama said,
“Nobody thinks that Bush and McCain have a real answer to the challenges we face.

“So what they’re going to try to do is make you scared of me.

“You know, ‘He’s not patriotic enough, he’s got a funny name,’ you know, ‘He doesn’t look like all those other presidents on the dollar bills.'”

Burger Back Story

For most of us who are not vegetarians, the strings of our hearts sometimes…

Crate of chickens during egg productionWhat do you think? Should a calf, a sow and a chicken have room to turn around freely, lie down, stand up, and fully extend their limbs?

Should we place a limit on the use of factory crates, cages and extreme animal confinement?

Nicholas D. Kristof points out that people around the world are working to improve conditions for factory livestock. There’s new law in Florida, Arizona, Colorado and Oregon; Spain and Austria. He remembers his childhood on a family farm:

Then there were the geese, the most admirable creatures I’ve ever met.

We raised Chinese white geese, a common breed, and they have distinctive personalities. They mate for life and adhere to family values that would shame most of those who dine on them.

While one of our geese was sitting on her eggs, her gander would go out foraging for food – and if he found some delicacy, he would rush back to give it to his mate. Sometimes I would offer males a dish of corn to fatten them up – but it was impossible, for they would take it all home to their true loves.

Once a month or so, we would slaughter the geese. When I was 10 years old, my job was to lock the geese in the barn and then rush and grab one. Then I would take it out and hold it by its wings on the chopping block while my Dad or someone else swung the ax.

The 150 geese knew that something dreadful was happening and would cower in a far corner of the barn, and run away in terror as I approached. Then I would grab one and carry it away as it screeched and struggled in my arms.

Very often, one goose would bravely step away from the panicked flock and walk tremulously toward me. It would be the mate of the one I had caught, male or female, and it would step right up to me, protesting pitifully. It would be frightened out of its wits, but still determined to stand with and comfort its lover.

We eventually grew so impressed with our geese – they had virtually become family friends – that we gave the remaining ones to a local park. (Unfortunately, some entrepreneurial thief took advantage of their friendliness by kidnapping them all – just before the next Thanksgiving.)

So, yes, I eat meat (even, hesitantly, goose). But I draw the line at animals being raised in cruel conditions.

Proposition 2 on California’s November ballot [wiki] will make certain that animals “for the majority of every day” will be able to “to fully extend their limbs or wings, lie down, stand up, and turn around.

Specified animals include calves raised for veal, egg-laying hens, and pregnant pigs. Exceptions made for transportation, rodeos, fairs, 4-H programs, lawful slaughter, research and veterinary purposes.”

So far, 63% of California voters think this improvement in animal rights is a good idea.

Trojan Pig by Cameron Naughton of West End Farm,Trojan Meat
But there’s no requirement to improve the livestock conditions for imported meat.

There have been improvements in the inspection system. The Centers for Disease Control are researching the global issue of shipping salmonella around the world. There have been Agency changes while the focus of new budgets includes bioterror. [search]

So far, we have no system telling consumers about imported livestock diet or conditions. We can ask our supermarket’s butcher department. Do they know? What about restaurant or fast food outlets? Can we trust brands?

In the UK, pig farmer Cameron Naughton travels markets with a Trojan Pig [story] to highlight cheap imports raised without the welfare of the animal in mind. He says 70% of imported pork would have been illegal to produce in the UK due to higher welfare standards.

“Just as the Greeks used a giant wooden horse to sneak soldiers into Troy, cheap, low welfare imports are being slipped in under the noses of unwitting shoppers due to unclear labels.” [pics]

To see photos of cruel (and atypical) livestock factory conditions, see the Animal Exploitation Photo Gallery.

Civilsphere

“If we in this country would see ourselves as physicians to the world instead of militians, we would be much further ahead.” – Francis S. Collins, director of the National Human Genome Research Institute.

Know the difference

Even a dog knows the difference between being kicked and being stumbled over. – Oliver Wendell Holmes

Either intellectual dishonesty or sheer stupidity has taken us. To increase our prosperity, we give to the wealthy. To increase our safety, we provoke the world.

The Case For Impeachment (So Far)

Dastardly Radioactive Asteroids

Astronaut Rusty Schweickart has noticed there are official reports floating around recommending a nuclear bomb to blow up any asteroid heading toward Earth. He’s warning us that this is a bad idea.

He’s telling us this idea is being used to justify nuclear weapons in space.

“The former lunar lander pilot said a NASA report that made that recommendation last year was misleading.

“He felt it was probably issued under political pressure to create some justification for putting nuclear weapons into earth orbit.” [link]

asteroid collides with EarthOK.

Political pressure. Political pressure and nuclear weapons. Political pressure and nuclear weapons and lies from our government.

Of course, Russia is using the same story. Pravda is reporting that Russia’s Center for Planetary Defense is preparing a megaton atomic blast to carry out the job quite nicely.

Now we know what to deflect.

What's inside?

Five surgeons from big cities are discussing who makes the best patients to operate on:

The first surgeon, from New York, says, “I like to see Accountants on my operating table, because everything inside is numbered.”

The second surgeon, from Chicago , responds, “Yeah, but you should try Electricians! Everything inside them is color coded.”

The third surgeon, from Dallas, says, “No, I really think Librarians are the best. Everything inside them is in alphabetical order.”

The fourth surgeon, from Los Angeles, chimes in, “You know, I like construction workers. Those guys always understand if you have a few parts left over.”

But the fifth surgeon, from Washington, shut them all up when he observed, “You’re all wrong. Politicians are the easiest to operate on. There’s no guts, no heart, no brains, and no spine, plus the head and the rear-end are interchangeable.”

Blame it on a lie

The Center for Real Estate at UCIrvine completed a study revealing that defaulting borrowers did not cause the subprime dip as we’ve been told relentlessly.

You’ll be interested to know that the researchers we’re shocked to discover the cause directly points to Fannie and Freddie.

“We were quite surprised to find the intensity of subprime lending was insignificant after controlling for all the other factors influencing the market, but we were really blown away when Fannie’s and Freddie’s continuing presence in the market was shown to be so important,” said Kerry Vandell, UCI finance professor and Center for Real Estate director.

The researchers found that rising home prices up to 2003 could be explained by economic fundamentals, such as low unemployment rates, expanding household incomes and population growth. These factors fueled housing demand and, in turn, increased U.S. home prices. During this time, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac actively issued and purchased conventional, conforming mortgage-backed securities.

“But in 2003, political, regulatory and economic factors – including accounting irregularities that led to their senior officers’ resignations and the capping of their retained loan portfolios – forced the two entities to significantly slow their lending volume. Private funding in the form of asset-backed securities and residential mortgage-backed securities replaced conventional, conforming mortgage-backed securities as the prevalent source of mortgage capital.

“The new credit environment allowed looser underwriting standards and increased tolerance for riskier, high-yield loan products. Such products included adjustable-rate mortgages with low initial “teaser” rates, Alt-A loans that did not require income verification and nonowner-occupied investor products. This borrowing climate provided previously marginal borrowers with additional access to credit. The credit market shift led to a record increase in total mortgage volume and pushed up home prices with momentum characteristic of a bubble.” [story]

It’s a kick isn’t it? …political, regulatory and economic factors…

Mother Nature Knows Best
Here’s the warning from UC’s School of Business to the free market jingoists in Washington and Manhattan telling us that nature knows best and we should just leave the economy alone:

“It’s important policymakers consider [looser underwriting standards and increased tolerance for riskier, high-yield loan products] when they attempt to shape the markets in the future.”

Policymakers shaping markets? Shaping our ‘free’ markets? And also shaping the bogus and underhanded manipulation of an electorate commonly known as the United States of America.

As if we didn't know

Rand Corporation: “Terrorists should be perceived and described as criminals, not holy warriors, and our analysis suggests that there is no battlefield solution to terrorism.”

All terrorist groups eventually end. But how do they end?

The evidence since 1968 indicates that most groups have ended because

  1. they joined the political process (43 percent)
  2. local police and intelligence agencies arrested or killed key members (40 percent).

How Terrorist Groups End, RandMilitary force has rarely been the primary reason for the end of terrorist groups, and few groups within this time frame have achieved victory.

This has significant implications for dealing with al Qa’ida and suggests fundamentally rethinking post-9/11 U.S. counterterrorism strategy: Policymakers need to understand where to prioritize their efforts with limited resources and attention.

The authors report that religious terrorist groups take longer to eliminate than other groups and rarely achieve their objectives. The largest groups achieve their goals more often and last longer than the smallest ones do. Finally, groups from upper-income countries are more likely to be left-wing or nationalist and less likely to have religion as their motivation.

The authors conclude that policing and intelligence, rather than military force, should form the backbone of U.S. efforts against al Qa’ida.

And U.S. policymakers should end the use of the phrase “war on terrorism” since there is no battlefield solution to defeating al Qa’ida.

How Terrorist Groups End
Lessons for Countering al Qa’ida

A free .pdf of this document available from Rand as a public service. Report by Seth G. Jones, Martin C. Libicki.

McCain losing home state

Thorough review of McCain’s recent efforts as Senator:

Not surprisingly, then, the voters in Arizona seem to be less than enamored with their senior Senator.

In the AZ Republican primary, McCain managed to get only 47% of the vote.

…only 21% of Arizonans had a ‘very favorable’ opinion of McCain.

…McCain’s numbers have been trending downward in Arizona since the start of 2007.

The Presumptive Derelict.

Congress and Cake

The Democracy in America blog is annoyed that Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska has functioned poorly during 50 years [!] in Congress.

After joining the Senate in 1968, Ted Stevens lived only on his Congressional salary. He wasn’t wealthy. In fact, he was in debt in the 1980s because of his investments.

But after he began spending our government’s money as chairman of the Appropriations Committee, how much money did Senator Steven’s earn for himself?

As chairman of the Appropriations Committee, how much money did Senator Stevens earn for his cronies, family and friends?

According to Citizens Against Government Waste, an advocacy group, Mr Stevens brought home to Alaska a total of 1,433 projects worth $3,345,812,961 between 1995 and 2008.

From The Economist, “Even more disturbing is the fact that a significant amount of that money seemed to benefit himself, his family and his friends more than anyone else.”

Although Stevens may have misused his top position for many years, there are likely many, many hidden shenanigans that have been negotiated out of his recent indictment.

Civilian Order

WorldNews.com Correspondent Dallas Darling:

Lost somewhere between Barack Obama’s trip to the Middle East and Europe was the debate over a civilian-oriented Commander In Chief. But then U.S. corporate hegemony, mixed with media malfeasance, has replaced the U.S. Constitution and proclaimed the litmus test for the office of Commander In Chief is one of militancy. Although the Commander in Chief is supposed to be first and foremost a citizen representing all of the people, it has become extremely popular to place the Armed Forces and Corporate-Pentagon in front of this constitutional principle.

I claim civilians are more potent than militians, proffer greater solutions and smack hierarchy to its place.

Against the rules

Emblazoned in the sky over the Republican Convention this September, there ought to be a chart of money spent on business cronies and pet projects next to money spent on citizens and children. Maybe new laser lights can draw these shameful numbers.

Today President Bush opposes rules that will ban lead and toxins in children’s toys and might veto reform at the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Shake my head.

Exxon Mobil manufacturers diisononyl phthalate, or DINP, the phthalate most frequently found in children’s toys. The company spent a chunk of its $22 million lobbying budget in the past 18 months to try to prevent any ban.

Years go by. Shake, shake, shake my head.

“The great fear is that if a big, established chemical like this can be driven from the market, what’s next?”

Exactly!

Well thought hope in Europe

Major media hoists a close race merely to jobshop headlines or to hustle its ‘fair and balanced’ pew. Major media shrinks issues into snipped differences to sell its pulpish conflict. But no matter how choked or false our pundits, this picture cannot be feigned.

Obama's trip to Berlin, AP, Jae C. Hong