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.

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

Importing coated food

Which fruits and vegetables contain the most and least pesticides?

Andrew Schneider, senior correspondent at SeattlePI, is investigating pesticides and residue on our food.

Is anyone really checking to see how much pesticide is on the produce we import?

He’s found a poor system in the USA. Conflicting interests. Opposing forces. Hidden agenda.

On the 19th, we ran in the PI a story on a hazmat coalition involving King County and three dozen other political entities that removed from its Web site and handout materials a wallet-sized shopping guide to which fruits and vegetables contained the most and least pesticides.

The story explained that agri-business groups had urged the county to get rid of the guide.

The data on which the card was based came from USDA analysis of more than 50,000 samples of food. [found via the good folks at barfBlog]

Wow! More than three dozen agriBiz groups hope you do not know this information.

high pesticide foods

low pesticide foods


But on the other hand!
Published in the Economist, this letter offers a strong counterpoint to our worry about food residue. It might be we are unable to truly determine a level of safety for most pesticides. It might be we are ingesting natural toxins produced by a wide variety of the plants we eat. There’s much to learn and discover.

What’s in your food?

SIR – Your article on the regulation of pesticides should have pointed out that slightly exceeding the “maximum residue levels” in some food, as occasionally happens, is a risk perhaps equivalent to the likelihood of being hit on the head by a meteorite (“A balance of risk”, July 5th). Of greater risk to humans is the exposure to thousands of pesticides made naturally by plants (to kill herbivorous insects) and found in all fruits and vegetables. The average daily diet contains a quarter teaspoon of natural nerve toxins, endocrine disrupters, carcinogens and chemicals that damage chromosomes, skin, blood and the thyroid.

Humans are not adapted to these natural chemicals, in which the margin of safety is about tenfold compared with traces in synthetic pesticides (some 10,000-fold higher). Yet unqualified environmental groups and European bureaucrats are obsessed with agricultural pesticide safety, basing their assumptions on unjustified fear and anxiety. Neither makes for good policy.

Anthony Trewavas
Professor of plant biochemistry
Institute of Molecular Plant Sciences
Edinburgh



Government in Europe

The EU’s scientific assessment is that people who have continuous exposure to pesticides, for example from polluted water, pesticides in food, living near where pesticides are sprayed, and especially from working with pesticides, “may have a higher risk of incidence of cancer or other chronic diseases, birth defects, cancer in offspring, stillbirths and reproductive problems” and more.

This is why the use of sprays in farming has been controversial for over 50 years.

The public are rightly suspicious of government and industry claims that pesticides are ‘safe’, and the chemical industry should not be surprised at continuing public suspicion and criticism by environmentalists and others. Now things are changing.
The EU proposals on pesticides are supported by almost all the elected governments in Europe. In terms of a direct democratic mandate, they do not go nearly far enough, because almost all the European Parliament’s amendments to strengthen these pesticide laws have been rejected by government ministers from the member states.

None of this will affect organic farmers.

Screaming Wealth

Our Cry Baby Corporations by BobboSphere

Lots of capitalistic countries don’t get the constant barrage of malfeasance like we do. What could possibly explain this orgy of greedy narcissism?

I thought about this for a long time and finally realized that I had experienced life with totally selfish individuals before. You see, I am a parent.

Anyone who has lived with babies knows that in addition to being amazingly cute, they are the most selfish, demanding and relentless beings one can ever encounter. When a baby wants something, you’d better deliver it on time and to their their liking, night or day, no matter how tired or sick you may be. No excuses are allowed and negotiations with an infant are useless. Babies are the perfect tyrants.

Of course, as babies mature and we apply our love and parenting skills, they slowly develop social awareness. Other adults and older children are also crucial to this process. It is a societal task with schools, government, religious institutions and other organizations lending a hand. Eventually most babies mature into adults who function in society without making constant excessive and noisy demands on those around them. Most babies do…but not all babies.

Then it struck me. Corporate behavior like I have described is infantile behavior. It’s the product of people who have limited social skills and unlimited egotism. Babies have a reason for being demanding little narcissists. They are virtually helpless as a result of a long complex evolutionary process. But our corporate cry babies are the product of something else. I’m not speaking of the parenting they received. That varies from individual to individual. They have been spoiled rotten by a society that gave them every advantage and demanded very little in return. No wonder they turn into amoral vicious bullies.

But how did we coddle them to the point where they became overpaid and overly powerful spoiled brats?

Think about it.

If undecided

“It’s unpatriotic to let things pass that are damaging this country,” says Bruce Springsteen noting no American would believe what we’ve become in the last years, protecting ourselves until we are no longer who we are; that we see torture, wiretapping, suspension of Habeas Corpus, voter suppression, political prosecutions, oh, the list goes on.

Hurry now, as you can see in Polly Jackson’s ‘toon, The Decider George W has already made up his mind.

Decider, by Polly Jackson

Who do we said do?

This link points to a serious post at DailyKos that has garnered 222 comments already that Dave925 describes as carrying water for the Plutocracy.

I believe an hour’s reading here will loft new ideas about our leadership and culture, and perhaps increase both commitment and comfort as we learn to live under a very corrupt system.

I’m surprised and relieved that my fellow citizens carried on a stream of comments with nary a flame, usually contributing thoughtfully to each other, and often bringing important new resources.

Some folks have a very internalized view of how the world works and will be alarmed. But I’m sure most of us carry suspicions about elites and governments and media and education and war. We won’t be surprised reading this hefty page, and we will learn erroneousness.

Erroneousness? Nietzsche tells us:

“…from every point of view the erroneousness of the world in which we believe we live is the surest and firmest thing we can get our eyes on.”

If leadership were…

What? You didn’t know this?

The world’s five largest fully publicly traded oil companies are expected to, yet again, report record profits… Reuters

More importantly, though I’m too lazy at the moment to find the link, these firms spend very little on exploration or drilling, less than a single digit of a percent of their wealth.

The Real Fight

“You know what the real fight is? The real fight is the definition of what is reality.” – Bernie Sanders

Mother Jones interviews Bernie Sanders after his election in 2006:

What’s your first-100-days agenda?

Bernie Sanders at Mother JonesBernie Sanders: The first thing I want to do is to force reality onto the floor of the Senate so that we can end this stupid discussion about how great the American economy is. The economy is not great. The economy is a disaster for the middle class.

Second, I want to focus on an issue that is almost never talked about on the floor — that is the power of big money. What are the moral implications? What do these people do when they have tremendous amounts of money? They use that money to perpetuate their own wealth and their own power. Every day, Congress works on behalf of big-money interests.

Third, I want to take a look at some of the good things that are being done around the rest of the world that are almost never discussed in the United States. How often is it discussed that the American people work the longest hours of any industrialized country in the world? The two-week paid vacation is almost a thing of the past; meanwhile in Europe you get four to six weeks vacation, and maternity leave with pay. We don’t know about these things. I want to take a look around the world and see what workers are receiving, and compare that to the United States — from an educational point of view.

Unequal Branches

Knowing a bit about impeachment, John Dean discusses the Kucinich resolution:

Based on conversations with members of the House and Senate, and countless public statements, there is no question that Congress understands that the Bush/Cheney presidency treats its members as if they were, and should be, a decidedly lesser branch. Nixon did the same, but with a difference. When Nixon was president, Congress reached a point where it was determined to end his abuses of presidential power. Yet pointing out this out would have been testifying to the obvious, and there is nothing I could say that would give those on Capitol Hill without spine the fortitude needed to take action. As with Nixon, Congress will have to stand up to the bully at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue on its own – or never do so.

Also, there is no shortage of witnesses who can discuss the abuses of power by Bush and Cheney, to create a record of how they have gone beyond established constitutional limitations. The examples are well-known: their excessive and unnecessary secrecy, their incessant stonewalling and refusal to provide information to Congress, the issuance of executive orders that have rewritten important laws (like Bush’s virtual repeal-by-executive-order of the Presidential Records Act of 1978), their politicization of the Department of Justice, their striking disregard for civil liberties, their exclusion of Congress from the necessary national security information when it votes on legislation like the FISA amendments (leaving Congress with no idea what the changes do or do not do), their deceiving Congress about the reasons for war in Iraq, their relentless expansion of purported executive prerogatives, their ongoing politicization of the federal judiciary, their violations of longstanding treaties in order to embrace a policy of torture, their utilization of the concocted theory of executive power known as “the unitary executive theory,” and their endless signing statements accompanying legislation and claiming the right to not enforce laws enacted and signed by the president. And this is to name merely a few of the matters with which the Congress is painfully familiar

.

eye to eye. Hello!

Shame is better than war. Anyone say what’s under oil? Or the damn argument killing children too? Anyone tell why fools rise? Or the terrible habit refusing peace? There’s no government until lies quit. There’s no good earth if we won’t want it. Bring them out. Wring bells. Repair time.

Home. Obama’s alive!

As to Obama, yo,
this is campaign not fireside chatting.

Obeema stings in EurAsia, venom included.
Can you do that?
Did Kennedy?
Wot?

Saints prove none leads.
We can’t turn War to Eden
but we can zip shut Republicans.

So I might just point out that there’s no right answer but our vote.

And all the pundits trip.

Woot!

The Arrogance Principle

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia citing justification of torture:

“Jack Bauer saved Los Angeles. … He saved hundreds of thousands of lives. Are you going to convict Jack Bauer?”

From Your Handy-Dandy Guide To White House Corruption


Golden rule of wrongdoing in the White HouseSlate’s diagram of the Whitehouse’ Golden Rule of Wrongdoing


Arrogance has a permanent flaw: When you think you’re the highest point, you don’t look up.