Thursday, 30 November 2006

Studied up on Iraq, group set to report findings

The New York Times reports

President Bush said today that American troops would stay in Iraq unless its government asks them to leave, using a joint news conference with the Iraqi prime minister to push back against a reported decision by an independent bipartisan panel to call for a gradual withdrawal.

Who in the Iraqi government actually wants the US in their country? Besides those who use American military as a reason and often scapegoat (excuse to citizens/constituents) for their bloody, sectarian skirmishes. The most powerful military on earth: used as an excuse for people to fight as if they were pissed four-year-olds with weapons and vendettas. Add that to the reasons the US should "stay the course", President Bush...

The Iraq Study Group (Wikipedia article) is a major topic.
The Iraq Study Group, which wrapped up eight months of deliberations yesterday, has reached a consensus and will call for a major withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq, shifting the U.S. role from combat to support and advising, according to a source familiar with the deliberations.

Though he stated he would listen and take into strong consideration the reportings of the bipartisan (which is technically accepted, but, in reality, the label of 'bipartisan' is disputed) panel advising on the situation in Iraq, Bush seems to have altogether dismissed the idea of gradual withdrawal of United States troops from Iraq.

Just a couple weeks ago:
President Bush on Monday praised a bipartisan commission on Iraq for asking him good questions but said "I'm not going to prejudge" the report the panel soon will issue.

I guess he uses the same dictionary to define "prejudge" as he does to define "torture". The Iraq Study Group, sometimes named after its co-chairs, James A. Baker III and Lee Hamilton (or just the former), will issue its final and full report on 6 December. See the independent group's website.

See this post and this post for more on Iraq, plans for withdrawal and my pick, and the Iraq Study Group.

UPDATE: Speak of the devil, the Iraq Study Group is the top-blogged thing in Slate's daily round up of blogosphere buzz and views.

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Good riddance, Bill Frist

I name current US Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist loser of the day (or two days since it applies to today and yesterday). Yesterday, it was reported that Sen. Bill Frist, who give up a cushy political position in the GOP and powerful US Senate seat representing Tennessee in this last election in order to run for president, will not run for president. As a reminder, Frist still has his job until the new Congress — with a Democratic majority — is sworn in this coming January. Frist was far in front of front runner Sen. John McCain in a Republican straw poll and is very firmly on the political right. Sen. Frist is no friend of human rights, and is anti-immigration, meaning he is more conservative than President George W. Bush on the immigration issue and at least as conservative on most all others. Frist agrees with the president on most all issues with the excepton of immigration and possibly the separation of powers/executive power issue, where the Bush is obviously for immense White House power. No surprise, he uses a biblically assorted quote in his announcement:

"In the Bible, God tells us for everything there is a season, and for me, for now, this season of being an elected official has come to a close. I do not intend to run for president in 2008," Frist said in a statement -- his only planned comment on the decision.
... possibly to overshadow his ethics problems. There are plenty of other people who can fill his shoes, so he lost his chance. Good for America, bad for him.

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Tuesday, 28 November 2006

Article picks and comment burnout

Following up on my global warming-related blog post yesterday is a NYT story on the Bush administration, the justice system, and global warming: "Global warming goes to court".

Here is an interesting Sam Harris-David Prager religion debate on Richard Dawkins' website.

Here is Harper's informative and often entertaining Weekly Review.

See more picks from my starred items.

Whew! I just spent a lot of time, energy, and writing via comments on a Daily Kos diary I posted, which is a revision an In Perspective post. I am the kind of person who likes to debate and write, but maybe I should stick to mostly writing my views on the blog and not a plethora of comments. I'm just not the type who can comment all the time because I think expanding my comment and blogging it as my own (instead of somewhere else) is more satisfying. I will take a break and maybe write some more later today.

29 Nov. UPDATE: I am still not feeling too well, I do not know what the matter is. Sorry all; browse the archives if you wish.

Monday, 27 November 2006

Warming, warming, warming...

Global warming and climate change: the inevitability, the issue, the danger, the scenario, and the crisis.

I may have missed out on analyzing the Stern Review**, but this latest climate change study is totally new to the news.

The Global Carbon Project says that emissions were rising by less than 1% annually up to the year 2000, but are now rising at 2.5% per year.

While I think the carbon emission market set up in Europe is a brilliant idea, it has been hard to implement and there have reportedly been misunderstandings and loopholes in enforcing the principles of the project — which is like a carbon dioxide (CO2 is one of the leading greenhouse emissions) stock market. The United States is by far the number one polluter of greenhouse gasses, and shows no sign of letting up soon.

At the recent United Nations climate summit in Nairobi, a number of delegations, including those of Britain, Australia and the US, pointed out that they had managed to grow their economies without significant increases in carbon emissions.

Proof enough, or just that nasty UN getting on the righteous "freedom"-loving Americans again? Who needs stupid diplomacy? .

Coming up right behind the US is rising power China, expected to take the number one spot in a while. America has yet to show any promise, with no help to the news media (versus the near-ample coverage British media has given the scientific issue of climate change). Any time that global warming has potentially been tied to something regular people can associate with (e.g. 2005's Hurricane Katrina hitting the US gulf coast), that smidgen of credibility and sensibility is knocked off the table by the media that does talk about global warming and possible implications blowing things like hurricanes out of proportion! Therefore, you have the groups of: sensible educated people who believe in scientific climate change (that's me), those who don't believe it at all [because they are narrow-minded or otherwise], those who believe it because of the hyped version that links global warming to temporary things (unseasonably summer heat, hurricanes — yet to be proven tied to the kind of climate change we are really talking about), and those who don't believe in global warming because of the sensationalized version they get.

The United States may have left the building of realism of impending ecological disaster for now, but at least there are international consortiums — such as the IPCC (see aforelink) — working on this serious matter.

**: From 1 Nov.
Check out the latest global warming report commissioned by the British Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown, the Stern Review. It shows that climate change could easily and greatly devistate the economies of the world very fast. The more we wait, the higher the economic, humanitarian, and environmental toll will be.

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Sunday, 26 November 2006

Fighting terror with... terror?

See earlier post on US foreign policy. (See later in this post for a list of some of the reasons America is so hated, especially by those in the Middle East.)

The "War on Terrorism" is not a real war*, it is a series of offenses — military and otherwise — launched by the United States and its participating allies following the 11 September 2001 terror attacks on the US. This "war" is or should be targeting the fairly fragmented extremist movements throughout the world, whose followers are like a [more] violent form of America's religious fundamentalists. I would think the US government would be able to understand fundamentalist Islam better than it does, considering the tens of millions of fundamentalist Christians (religious right and evangelicals, et al) residing in the United States. Alas, this is not the case.

These Islamic extremist movements do not target the United States and others because of their/our 'freedom', as has been heavily rhetoricized by the George W. Bush administration (and some by British PM Tony Blair), but because a multitude of actions and policies that anyone who studied up realistic sociology and history may grasp (i.e. not most of the Neoconservative movement).

Just some of those things causing the easy recruitment and support to fight against the "western menace" include:

  • the discrimination America** has shown or seems to have shown (in the eyes of the 'repressed') towards Muslims, partly due to a lack of understanding (poor public education) by many;
  • American — and overall western — foreign policy in, but not limited to, the Middle East, specifically the presence of US troops in Saudi Arabia and the pro-Israel stance that US foreign policy reflects, this stance is seen as an anti-Palestinian thus anti-Arab and anti-Muslim stance in such a delicate region on such a delicate topic (see here for my latest post on Israel);
  • a narrow view with an "us versus them" (black and white polar view) mentality shown by the US especially after 9/11 (11 Sep. 2001 terror attacks);
  • the notion that the United States, as the one standing superpower, has the right and privilege to police the world — even in defiance of international laws, etc.;
  • and, of course, Iraq, which practically speaks for itself (see my withdrawal plan here).

    When Israel attacks a village, like Biet Hanoun (in Gaza), and kills civilians or causes other direct anguish, those in Gaza or elsewhere who may have sympathized or even really liked Israel are automatically targets of extremist groups, especially if they are also united by religion. That is, if such people are not recruited by extremists — or at least support anti-Israel causes — they may even become core extremists themselves. That is the fire paradox at work: you breed terrorism in your attempts to fight it.^

    Vengeance is the ultimate recruitment tool, not fear of freedom.

    *: See Wikipedia, BBC News, Amnesty International, and others (Google search).
    **: I am generalizing, something I do not like to do too much, because there is no other way to put it).
    ^: More on this 'fire paradox' (esp. in the Mid East in re to terrorism) in an upcoming post.

    While on vacation this long weekend (Thanksgiving weekend in the US), I wrote down in a little journal — several times — ideas I had in my head. I often do this. An established opinion, or just a random musing, may run through my head and, if I can find somewhere to write my thoughts down, I record this thought for later use. Sometimes it gets lost if I am not able to write it down; sometimes I am able to record the thought but it never gets used; sometimes I make a record of the thought and later use it (e.g. for a blog post). The point of this explanation of my thought processes is that the opinions expressed above were entirely manufactured in a seemingly random fashion as I woke up the other day, were written down, typed up (after translating my odd handwriting, which looks like shorthand plus vowels, the same I use for note-taking), and posted.

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    In Perspective

  • Cease fire, Israel

    This post is a sort of continuance or update to "Israel's disproportionality, defenders and friends".

    There is finally a ceasefire agreement between some militant groups (specifically in Palestine) and Israel. This has come after Israel has continually turned ceasefire agreements down — I mean, it's ironic that a militant group like Hamas would jump on the chance of a ceasefire, but the State of Israel scoffs!

    Israel has committed all too many human rights offenses, such as the much-reported attack on an area earlier this month, in Gaza, now synonymous with the word massacre: Beit Hanoun. The Israeli government called the Beit Hanoun raid 'defensive' against militant hotspots — and man have we heard that excuse before. Obviously, as I have said, Israel has the right to sovereignly defend itself, but to use the principle of full defense against a lesser, uncertain, and not yet occurring offense. Ironically, this just breeds more violence and terrorism; it makes easier for enemies of Israel to recruit more enemies of Israel, and creates such hate.

    Those who use the talking point that Israel is protecting its existence should keep in mind that the Israeli military is one of the strongest in the world, fighting off Arabic nations for decades. Those vagrantly defending Israel's every move should also look to history to remember that Israel was build from those in the Zionist branch who believed that Israel should be created... with violence. Many of these people were what we now call terrorists, striking terror into the existing Arab establishment in the Palestinian area in order to create the state promised but not promised to them by Great Britain. One thing also looked over is that Israel may not only be violating international human rights laws by the actions taken (e.g. cutting civilian power, I guess they forgot guns are not plugged in) during their many offenses, but also from the actual land Israel occupies. Israel is not conforming with the agreed borders that allowed its existence to be overall accepted. Yes, someone of power should speak out on this. Problem being many public officials from various governments and organizations are afraid of criticizing Israel too harshly, for fear of being labeled an anti-Semite.

    UPDATE: Read revised version here.

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    Wednesday, 22 November 2006

    Fall vacation

    I will be on vacation the next few days. Check the blog because I may be able to post, but do not be disappointed if I don't. Happy Thanksgiving to all those practicing it; happy fall all those in the northern hemisphere; happy spring to all those in the southern. I think I covered all my bases...

    Keep an eye on my starred stories (see sidebar) if you want to know what I am looking at in the news and elsewhere.

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    In Perspective

    Tuesday, 21 November 2006

    A little feedback?

    As you can see on the top and middle parts of the blog's right-hand sidebar, I have added two new things. One, on the top, is a link to a poll (I could not get the code to work) on what political ideology you view yourself as. The second change is in about the middle of the sidebar. I have added a little thing that tells you five of the stories I star (i.e. I think are cool).

    Number one, is the placement of these items [or anything else on the blog] alright? Do you think I should get rid of them or anything else on the blog? If anyone has constructive feedback on layout, content, etc. than feel free to comment on this post.


    The honeymoon is well over

    The upcoming Democratic-majority US Congress may well be as bad as the current one. One positive: maybe the Dems will stick it to President Bush. One negative: do they have enough of a majority — even in their own party — to get anything done, let alone show the president that he is not the sovereign leader of America (or the world)? The squabbling — regardless of political affiliation — over Iraq shows that the American people may be in for some ride these next years.

    Revised song in memorium of habeas corpus in the US

    Here is a modified version of an original song I wrote in this post after the passing of the Military Commissions Act of 2006 mourning the virtual loss of habeas corpus judicial protections.

    To be sung to the tune of "Candle in the Wind" by Elton John:

    Goodbye habeas corpus,
    though I never needed to use you at all
    you had the strength to guarantee fair trials
    no matter what....

    You crawled out of the British law
    and you were entered, by name,
    into democratic history
    and the world was never the same again....

    And it seems to me you lived your life
    like a candle burning strong,
    never waning when the King
    tried to blow you out.

    And I would have liked to know you
    but I have never been imprisoned,
    your candle of freedom burned out long...
    before your legend ever will....

    Goodbye habeas corpus
    thanks to those bigwigs in Washington
    you cease to protect
    the very people in need...

    Goodbye habeas corpus,
    though I never needed you
    you know there still are plenty

    who dooo....
    And it seems to me,
    that King George
    got a bit to powerful...
    he scared his own people
    into trusting him...

    And I wish I could have saved you,
    but my power is limited.
    You truly died, [in America,]
    on the 17th of October, 2006.

    Maybe we can bring you... back....

    Cross posted with my Daily Kos diary.

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    In Perspective

    Monday, 20 November 2006

    "Amnesty for illegal aliens" rewritten

    I have written an edited, restructured, reworded, and updated version of this post on the granting of amnesty to illegal immigrants and posted it as my first diary entry on Daily Kos. See it here.

    Short story: "Something about Mary"

    See also my previously posted original short story, "Sanctum". Here is a short story I just wrote today:

    "Something about Mary"

    Mary was waiting for destiny. Maybe it already came and left. She twirled around the drink in her hand. The stem of the martini glass, dangling between her index and middle fingers, felt as smooth as the as the dark bar counter — and cool to the touch. He was standing there, talking to the woman in red. How could he move on so fast… how could he just forget me? These questions Mary asked herself. Destiny never came; Mary's former love never again looked at her. She walked the road of the anybody, the everybody. She forgot she was a somebody, an individual, a person. Saturated in society's expectations — of marriage, of love, of wealth; becoming a gray in the poles of black and white. Forgetting about the past, not caring about the future. Mary lived a life not even fit for a looter of happiness. She drank herself to death; drove drunk and the police didn't care, oblivious to the legal violation as long as her top buttons were undone. Countless messages left on the answering machine of alleged friends and supposed family. No answer, no call back. Mary sat there, wallowing in her self-hating delusions, waiting for even one call or one buzz; just waiting for a sign that someone, anybody, gave a damn about her being. She died eleven flips of her floral monthly calendar after that day at the bar, aged thirty-two. Nobody cared.

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    Sunday, 19 November 2006

    My status; "Is the Swede a Human Being"

    I finished Kite Runner and I am working on a blog post series — and eventually ebook — called How to Talk to a Closed-Minded Person (If You Must). I will be taking a short holiday the end of next week (Thanksgiving time, in the US); I can't guarantee I will be blogging then.

    Here is an interesting International Herald Tribune article — talking about the book Is the Swede a Human Being? — on how Sweden's socialist-like welfare system (as talked about in this post) may actually make Swedes more individualized than those in a different governmental system (e.g. that of the United States).

    Ever since the idea of nations and nationality gained serious popularity in the 18th and 19th centuries, peoples across the world have asked themselves that most basic of questions: Who are we? For Swedes, the answer has, for the last 50 years, included some kind of notion of collectivist semi-socialism, with their country the epitome of a high- tax, strong-state, cradle-to-grave welfare society.

    But that self-image is being turned on its head. A recently published and widely discussed book, provocatively titled "Is the Swede a Human Being?" ("Ar svensken manniska?"), contends that Swedes are the opposite of collectivists: they are deeply individualistic.

    As the authors point out, American individualism is more a matter of anti-statism than this Swedish striving for intrapersonal independence).

    But the book's conclusion is that, in the end, the Swedish project has been surprisingly successful. As for the question posed in the title, the answer is: Yes, the Swede is a human being.

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    In Perspective

    Saturday, 18 November 2006

    Photo of the day

    View of Washington Monument and other areas of Washington, DC from the President pro tempore of the United States Senate's (currently Sen. Ted Stevens , R-AK) private and restricted balcony in the Capitol building. Weather is humid and there is some cloud cover outside. Taken with Canon PowerShot A510 on 25 May 2006 by me ("clearthought"). I also submitted this photo to WikiCommons, see that page for more [technical] info.

    I don't know if I will be able to post a photo every day, but I'll try. Unless otherwise noted all photos are taken by me and are under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 license.

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    Trivial Persuit, college kids stats, and online university lectures (etc.)

    Whew! I just played a three-hour-some game of Trivial Pursuit (Vol. 6). The most interesting fact I learned: How many, out of 10, first year US college students describe themselves as "liberal" or "far-left" in 2001? Three. I guess the stereotype doesn't fit. I did a search (as of about January 2001, about 27 percent describe them selves as above), and found this article with even more statistical goodies about college kids.Speaking of left-right ideology in the United States, check out this interesting blog post about the 'center' and what a 'leftist' argument is.

    Have a yearning for learning? Check out all these university lectures, symposiums, round tables, audio/video courses, etc. The one with the widest variety of university sources, as well as having the largest amount of content, is Princeton's University Channel, which also has an audio and video podcast. There are also full audio cources offered as podcasts from Berkley.

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    Friday, 17 November 2006

    What a Savage...

    I just thought this kinda coincidental considering I posted two posts (HERE and HERE) on homosexuality today, then later watched a Seinfeld episode about gays.
    From Media Matters:

    Days after telling his listeners that the "radical homosexual agenda ... threaten[s] your very survival," on the November 16 edition of his radio show, Michael Savage asserted that a "society that embraces homosexuality is a society that will not last much longer." Savage then predicted his remarks would "wind up tomorrow in several of the blogs run by gays -- and they think only of that 'cause they're like drug addicts." Later in the broadcast, Savage claimed, "There is not a mean bone in my body," and concluded: "With God's will and your listenership, we shall nuke Iran."
    Well guess what Savage, I'm not gay and I'm not on drugs... yet I am still blogging your hate speech comments. You know who else is 'like a drug addict' Savage? Your pal, Rush Limbaugh. He is one. A great irony would be if Savage ended up like Ted Haggard or others on the ultra-right wing who ended up not only being homosexual, but into some not-too-legal things (including illicit drugs) too.

    Thoughts on homosexuality, part 2

    See part 1 too.

    There is hard evidence (from studies other than the linked one too) that homosexuality is biological. It is something, like being black (for example), that one cannot essentially control. You are born with it. As I said before, you cannot really tell from how someone looks whether they are gay or not; that does not keep people from scorning gays. It is quite easy to compare the current atmosphere of contempt for gays to Nazi propaganda attacking those of the Jewish faith, see here. Everything from control and wealth to abnormality to un-Biblical/un-Christian arguments were plastered by the Nazis to Jews and my the religious right to homosexuals.

    Like in the civil rights era, many sensible Americans are having trouble connecting to how someone can be different from them, and can still receive the same rights. Those who were brought up with contempt for those different feel this way especially so. The truth is, there have been many historical figures that were most likely gay (Leonardo da Vinci, possibly Abraham Lincoln, et al). There is nothing new with being gay, there is nothing wrong with it, homosexuality is not only isolated to the human species, and, while being gay can hinder procreation, maybe that's just how nature intended it. As humans, there are many things we cannot grasp — period. How someone can be gay is not one of them, but why nature created that wired homosexuality in their genes is a conundrum — like multiple dimensions and the finer points of relativity and metaphysical existence — that we can't understand. It will take time for moderate Americans to accept homosexuality, but hopefully the government can give them a push in the right direction, like the (at the time) liberal US Supreme Court did for African Americans in the 1960-70s.

    Here and here are two of many Amnesty International reports on human rights abuses to homosexuals. Sadly, it is not hard to find more.

  • Most of the above can apply to bisexuals too.
  • Just as a clarifier, I am not homosexual myself, but do know some who are. I was raised to neither like nor hate homosexuals.
  • "Thoughts on homosexuality, part 3" will most likely be about the politics of homosexuality, in the United States and elsewhere.

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  • Thoughts on homosexuality, part 1

    You learn something new every day, you know.

    Well, one of the new things I learned today is that homosexuality is akin to adult bed wetting and fear of flight — put bluntly: gays are still mental cases. Well that is what the Pentagon thinks.

    Pentagon guidelines that classified homosexuality as a mental disorder now put it among a list of conditions or "circumstances" that range from bed-wetting to fear of flying.

    The new rules are related to the military's retirement practices. The change does not affect the "don't ask, don't tell" policy that prohibits officials from inquiring about the sex lives of service members and requires discharges of those who openly acknowledge being gay.

    While it is not my view whatsoever, I believe that people — especially in the ethnically (etc.) shifting melting pot of America — seem to always [think they] need someone to discriminate against, attack, and use as a scapegoat, and portray as a symbol of evil. Throughout American history it has been Native Americans, blacks, hispanics — many of which are still discriminated against today. Also, the British, Jews, Germans, Irish, and more have also been discriminated against, but for cultural and national, not biological or color (noticeable), reasons.

    Racism, sexism, just content for those different from the supposed norm. Gays, however, stand out. Today they receive arguably the most bad rap in the US than any other group. Just as being black is biological, so, as it has been proven, is homosexuality. One of the problems is you cannot [usually] tell if someone is gay or lesbian from just looking at them. While at least the Pentagon has moved homosexuality from a mental disorder like schizophrenia to a "condition" like bed wetting, it is probably political correctness and superficial beurocracy, not a policy change, that is causing this to happen.

    As an example: recently there was a soldier... who was gay. What really made this man, Bleu Copas, important was the fact he could translate Arabic, a skill that is much needed in the US government and military (especially in these times). He was kicked out, pretty much unexplained, from the military. The official story was that he was a danger to his peers and had homosexual lovers. The US military and much of American society in general still holds the notion that gays are lower than them, that they distract easily, are weak, are girly, have stronger sexual attraction to other men than men to to women, etc. By the way, this soldier was outed by a series of anonymous emails.

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    Time killers

  • Want to kill time, try something different, or just observe nature? Check out this live feed of an African watering hole!

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    In Perspective

  • Thursday, 16 November 2006

    A Lott of hype?

    "Lott's return to leadership shows party independence from Bush":

    In the four years since he was forced to resign as majority leader after making a racially insensitive comment, Lott, 65, has assailed the Bush administration for its handling of the war in Iraq and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and voted for legislation opposed by Bush...

    Bush criticized Sen. Lott's racism, Lott criticizes Bush's incompetence — it is fighting fire with fire alright. How's it party independence? Many congresspeople attacked Bush's dealings with Hurricane Katrina and her aftermath; many people attacked Lott's seemingly racist (segregationist) comments too. The GOP has already shown some of its scorn for Bush administration policies, but its tagged along with the White House for one reason: reelection. While they may not like the people who are strongly against stem cell research, it gets them votes to stand by a president who seemingly is one of those people. America the beautiful... next up, Beltway lobbying!

    Plus, it is not out of the ordinary to find a racist (allegedly) US politician — or just one who makes dumb comments (*cough* Sen. Kerry *cough*)

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    Election reform, another push

    We need election reform in the US (hat-tip to AMERICAblog):

    Last week's elections had many examples of voting problems -- none more glaring than the serious issues in Florida's 13th Congressional District with 18,000+ not showing up. There is legislation to address the problem and it already has enough support to pass in the House. The Democrats should include this bill (HR 550) in the first 100 hours plan, or at least the 2nd 100 hours. Let the GOP be on the wrong side of clean elections if they don't like it...

    I think there needs to be reform not only on the technical areas of an election, but much of the system — from districting to the electoral college to voting machines to campaign finance — need needs to be revamped and, if possible, replaced, or, in the case of the technical issue of voting machines, reverted. I know for a fact that former President Jimmy Carter has called for the abolishment of the electoral college. My view is that the head of state should be directly elected, the lower house also directly elected (ironically the lower house often ends up being more powerful), and the upper house being indirectly elected. Either that system or one similar to that of France: directly elect them all. Since the US Congress is not fashioned in a true upper/lower house fashion (because of its non-royal/monarchical origins), that may be the way to go.

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    In Perspective

    Google Reader feeds

    You can see all the RSS stories I am reading on Google Reader here.

    Wednesday, 15 November 2006

    Open thread & current blogging ideas

    Intelligent conversation is welcome.

    Talk about anything (just no spam!) by commenting on this post.

    Questions or comments about topics or things in the news, feedback for me, general conversation, ideas and opinions... whatever is appropriate.

    Just some of the topics I am looking at right now:
  • Democratic Republic of Congo (elections)
  • Iraq (war in; US roll in, Iraq Study Group; insurgency and gov't)
  • Borat (movie)
  • Bush administration
  • Terrorism (MI5 report of)
  • Middle East (Israel-Palestine/Arab conflict; Iran; Iraq)
  • US national politics (Congress; 2006 elections, 2008 elections; Dems and GOP)
  • Darfur, Sudan (crisis in)
  • Microsoft (Zune music player; Vista OS)
  • Global warming/climate change (politics of; science of; in general)
  • Afghanistan (Taliban resurgence; NATO in)

    Here is a more full list:
    Blogging Ideas (as of mid-Nov 2006)
    • 2008 US elections
      • Wrap-up of 2006 elections
      • Players in, factors of
      • Predictions and my views
    • Iraq
      • Iraq Study Group and US policy
      • Insurgency and occupation
      • Humanitarian and govt.
    • Afghanistan
      • Humanitarian and govt.
      • External/internal factors in strife
      • Ignoring of problem
        • Expecially in US and US media
    • US foreign policy
      • Iraq
        • Relating to Iraq in general
      • Iran
      • N. Korea
      • Rest of Middle East
      • Etc.
    • Democratic Party's road map for US; future of US politics
        • Dems and GOP; ideological and otherwise climate
    • Fire paradox applied to terrorism
        • Especially in Mid East and terrorism, occupation
    • Climate change/global warming
      • Small environmental problems (historical) compared to larger scale of climate change (modern)
      • Politics of

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    In Perspective

  • Stem cells in the US, part 1

    See post on stem cells and cloned food.
    See also this post on the stem cell wars between ideologues and normal people.

    From a BBC News Q&A article on the United States and stem cells:

    There are religious and social conservatives who oppose abortion and consequently the destruction of embryos required for stem cell research. Many of these are also supporters of Mr Bush.

    This junk from the large group of social American conservatives is largely false. Scientists have found that they can do stem cell research without the risk of cloning or injuring a potential baby, yet most of these people have still refused to accept any form of stem cell research or treatment. Bottom line: the majority of staunch American partisans and conservatives are closed-minded and won't go by any of the facts, only the fantasies and fallacies they create in their quasi-moral (e.g. supporting torture of "enemy combatants"; no consented death for those with terminal illnesses?) politic.

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    Cloned food, stem cells, and the FDA

    So in the United States we are allowed to eat cloned meat but not use stem cell and related techniques that are much less severe than the technological and moral implications of cow (etc.) cloning?

    From the Washington Post article:

    Three years after the Food and Drug Administration first hinted that it might permit the sale of milk and meat from cloned animals, prompting public reactions that ranged from curiosity to disgust, the agency is poised to endorse marketing of the mass-produced animals for public consumption.
    There seems to be an indication that the cloned food is OK for humans, but what about the natural balance? Couldn't this create very negative affecting (to consumers and the ecosystem in which cows, etc., interact) result, from things like genetic mutations?

    From the Wired News article:
    Consumer watchdog groups are skeptical, and say cloned meat should at least be labeled.
    Studies have shown differences between cloned and regular animals, including a higher incidence of genetic and physiological abnormalities in clones. But scientists say these differences don't pose a threat to someone who eats cloned meat.
    A 2002 National Academy of Sciences report said there was no evidence that cloned meat was dangerous to eat, but more data was needed to be certain.
    Discount or no, it would not be practical for farmers to clone all their cattle rather than breed them normally.

    It's unnatural and unethical; cloning — I thought that was wrong!?! Haven't all those scientists been saying so? Americans should not be so willing to put so much shit into their mouths, whether it be cloned, genetically modified, or just really fatty and pumped up on preservatives. I am not one of those vegan health nuts — I like food too much — but the FDA needs to be watching out for consumers, not advancing overzealous meat mass-producers' fantasies. Of course, the Food and Drug Administration has already vastly failed on the "Drug" part, and most of the "Food" part, I guess it is just a matter of time until when one sees the FDA stamp, they will know the food is bad. There is a difference between cloned food that is safe for humans to eat, and cloned food that is safe. At this point, the former may be true, but certainly not the latter.

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    State of blame

    I finally got my State of Denial book, a month and a half after Bob Woodward mania was ensuing in the US. Apparently the seller was supposed to ship it by 24 October, but, looking on the package tag, I see it was not shipped until 31 October. Nevertheless, it still took two weeks to get to me — so I can put that part of the blame on USPS and the delayed shipping on the seller. For once, however, I think the seller deserves more of the blame. Enough about me, more about the news and other topics soon!

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    In Perspective

    Tuesday, 14 November 2006

    Feingold calls on Democrats to not fault as 'duck' season nears

    Feingold, following his withdraw** from the 2008 US presidential election** list of potentials [runners], has posted on The Huffington Post practically a manifesto of the need for Democratic alertness in American politics. The terms 'lame duck' will be used to describe President Bush — and the situation in general — as gridlock is likely to prevail with a Republican White House and a Democratic Congress.

    After the gains we made on November 7, it would be easy to just relax and bask in the victory - but it would also be a big mistake. The lame duck is the Republicans' last chance to pass bills on the White House's wish list, and we shouldn't let them get away with it. It is the Democrats' turn to lead Congress, and we can start strong by rejecting the Republicans' last ditch efforts in the lame duck session.

    **Posts on the topic(s) coming soon.

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    Can the Democrats make a significant difference...

    ...with their new majority in the US political scene?

    A butterfly flapping its wings in Cancun could trigger a tectonic plate shift in the Yukon, thus rendering much of the Earth's surface to constant metamorphosis... wiping out a billion people and countless other beings due to earthquakes, tsunamis, and other naturally-caused disasters. (I am referring to the theory of chaos and the Butterfly Effect, not the movie by the way.) But that does not mean it will happen in the next two years, or ever. Same with the Dems.

    Have you seen how small their majority is in the Senate (one seat)? Even in the House there are too many conservative Republicans and Democrats to make too much of a difference. Plus, there is a little thing called a veto, a president called Bush, and a need for a two-thirds majority in agreement to override that president.

    I guess my point is, any real change that is brought about by the Democrats' revival will be inadvertently caused and unintended, will happen as a result of something indirect or minuscule, or will be likened to the so-called Butterfly Effect. Chaos theory applies to politics as much as anything else, you know.

    This, the future of US politics and the Democratic Party's congressional majority, is one of the topics I will be elaborating on, as mentioned in this post.

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    British Tories take a page from the US Democrats playbook...

    Transparency. Always a problem in governments, especially in this modern age of 'terrorism' and the need for Big Brother-like security, or maybe there could be more governmental accountability and technology could help?

    The UK Conservative Party hopes to open a website where British citizens see how their tax dollars (rather, pounds) are being spent... or misspent ("Torygraph"——I mean Telegraph article.

    There was something just like this earlier this year, the US Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006 which met opposition — mostly from congressional Republicans — but ended up passing, with very little media spotlight (the bulb was practically burnt out).

    From a Guardian Unlimited news blog entry...

    Under a bill the Tories will introduce in the Lords, the similar-sounding "government spending transparency bill", the Treasury would be forced to maintain a website detailing every item of expenditure over £25,000.

    However, it is the Conservatives we are talking about so this bill comes with one caveat:
    ...all spending on "national security" will be exempt from public scrutiny. In fact, the purpose of the exercise is to wheedle out more traditional Tory bĂȘtes noires - spending on public sector salaries, ministerial travel, focus groups etc.

    So is it pseudo-transparency, or wishful accountability?

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    In Perspective

    Cloudy thought: the state of "clearthought" (I blame Hosseini and books)

    My 'thought' is not as 'clear' as it usually is at the moment...

    Right now I am immersed in a book called The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini. It is a good book, but when I get into a good fiction book, I become very engrossed in the story. As a result, I am unable to do much else with my spare time — including blogging. I have not read a fiction book in a little while so this could just be a syndrome from withdraw of fine fiction. Anyway, I have made a list of topics I will be blogging about the rest of November. I will try to keep a balance between blogging about those fairly specific topics and the ever-changing current of events flowing through the river of news.

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    Monday, 13 November 2006

    Some news in brief...

    Maybe I'll post more later.

    Something I have been waiting for — it was swept under the carpet until after US midterm elections — is the James A. Baker III-led nonpartisan Iraq Study Group. They will probably offer, like the 9/11 Commission, some good advice only to be ignored by the president and unknown by the public (not that they can't read it, multiple factors, societal and political, surround the public ignorance on such matters). Bush meets members of Iraq Study Group:

    President George W. Bush cautioned Democrats wanting to reduce the U.S. troop presence in Iraq to consider conditions on the ground as he met on Monday with a bipartisan group expected to offer a plan for changing course in Iraq.
    The group's work has attracted great interest from both parties after the opposition Democrats' sweeping victory last week that gave them control of the House of Representatives and the Senate.

    Injecting a note of caution into the possibility of a major shift in strategy, Bush said: "I believe that it's important for us to succeed in Iraq, not only for our security but for the security of the Middle East, and that I'm looking forward to interesting ideas."

    On the same topic (news from yesterday but all the more relevant today), the Iraq Study Group may have some good options to offer:
    After meeting with President Bush tomorrow, a panel of prestigious Americans will begin deliberations to chart a new course on Iraq, with the goal of stabilizing the country with a different U.S. strategy and possibly the withdrawal of troops.

    More politics. Man, Rove has a lot of nerve! (This article has a lot of great metaphors, by the way.) "Rove remains steadfast in the face of criticism":
    For a man still climbing out of the rubble, Karl Rove seemed in his usual unflappable mood.
    The Architect, as President Bush once called him, has a theory for why the building fell down.
    [Rove retrieved] a single sheet of paper that had been updated almost hourly since the midterm elections with a series of statistics explaining that the "thumping" Bush took was not such a thumping after all.

    The theory is this: The building's infrastructure was actually quite sound. It was bad luck and seasonal shifts in the winds that blew out the walls -- complacent candidates, an ill-timed Mark Foley page scandal and the predictable cycles of history. But the foundation is fine: "The Republican philosophy is alive and well and likely to reemerge in the majority in 2008."
    Rove encouraged [(challengers to his political forecasting formula)] with supreme confidence. "You are entitled to your math, and I'm entitled to the math," he told a National Public Radio interviewer who suggested Democrats might win.

    The question is, did Rove really believe the sunny optimism he resonated leading up to the elections, or did he know all along that this past midterm would not result in the GOP getting a grade A?

    UPDATE: I can picture the partly laid-off Dateline NBC staff, doing a show called "Inside the mind of Karl Rove: the architect, the sorceror" or "To catch Bush's brain, the Karl Rove story", trying to probe the mystery that is the somewhat-placid and underpaid presidential adviser. Rove is slightly under-credited too; he is probably just one of the politicians doing it for power and glory... what happened to those guys? K-street, that's what happened — immense lobbying and special interest groups.

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    Sunday, 12 November 2006

    Photo of the day

    Cross-published with In Perspectives.

    Picture from a boat a bit out into the Pacific Ocean from Seattle, Washington, United States. Taken with Canon PowerShot A510 in late June of 2005 by me ("clearthought").

    I don't know if I will be able to post a photo every day, but I'll try. Unless otherwise noted all photos are taken by me and are under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 license.

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    Questions about the news and headlines overshadowed by US midterms

    Questions I have thought up about reoccurring, prevalent things in the news:
    * Whatever happened to that record hurricane season that was supposed to wreak more havoc on the United States coast than the 2005 season (think hurricane Katrina)? I have not much at all about hurricanes since mid/early summer. I remember everyone forecasting doomsday scenarios for the US Gulf Coast just earlier this year... then nothing — no talk or anything.
    * If many of those in the middle and upper class "baby boomer" (born c.1945-1955) generation were so rebellious and dropped out of college, etc. (e.g. 1968 rebellions), than why did so many in that generation end up getting jobs that college degrees are generally required for? Wasn't there some education gap? If they went back to college, than doesn't that mean that the US should have a much higher higher-degree requiring jobs than it currently has? With all the talk about baby boomers, that question came to mind.

    Submit your own questions by commenting on this post.

    The forgotten
    As I had confessed in an earlier post, much news was overlooked because of the massive attention given to the US midterm elections. Foreign Policy magazine's Passport blog made a list of some of the headlines that many of us news junkies missed or — in my case — did not follow up on.

    And finally...
    Since I am now using Firefox as my default browser (I still use Safari from time to time, they both offer stability in different areas but Firefox has more functionality), I have decided to use Google Reader as my RSS reader. THe thing I like about it is the ability to tag (which I don't have time for) and star (which I do) feeds and stories.

    Song stuck in my head right now: The Who's "Baba O'riley" (aka "Teenage Wasteland") and Coldplay's "Politik" — both melodies switching on and off, sometimes playing concurrently sometimes at different times, in my mind.

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    In Perspective

    Saturday, 11 November 2006

    "The Way Out of War" — the best Iraq withdrawal plan I have seen

    Here is the Polk-McGovern Iraq withdrawal plan Harper's Magazine article I talked about in this post. This is the plan I stick by: the "blueprint for leaving Iraq now". You won't be disappointed. It is a well thought up, not very — if at all — politicized (in the partisan sense of the word), and fact-checked. This article (and subsequent research done by me) convinced me that the US and others should get out of Iraq, but not abandon the Iraqis to reap in the havoc that the United States-led invasion and occupation has created. Thanks Harper's for posting the article in its lengthly entirety!

    Some excerpts:

    Staying in Iraq is not an option. ... Polls show that as few as 2 percent of Iraqis consider Americans to be liberators. ... We must acknowledge the Iraqis’ right to ask us to leave, and we should set a firm date by which to do so.
    We suggest that phased withdrawal should begin on or before December 31, 2006, with the promise to make every effort to complete it by June 30, 2007.
    ... [withdraw] will effect massive savings. Current U.S. expenditures run at approximately $246 million each day, or more than $10 million an hour, with costs rising steadily each year.
    ... the temporary services of an international stabilization force to police the country during and immediately after the period of American withdrawal.
    ... America should immediately release all prisoners of war and close its detention centers.
    ... at least $25 billion will be required to repair the Iraqi infrastructure alone—this is quite apart from the damage done to private property. The reconstruction can be, and should be, done by Iraqis, as this would greatly benefit the Iraqi economy, but the United States will need to make a generous contribution...
    “[Iraqi oil] production-sharing agreements” are highly favorable to the concessionaires, an unfair advantage has been taken... [they] deprive Iraq of as much as $194 billion in revenues. To most Iraqis, and indeed to many foreigners, the move to turn over Iraq’s oil reserves to American and British companies surely confirms that the real purpose of the invasion was to secure, for American use and profit, Iraq’s lightweight and inexpensively produced oil.
    The monetary cost of the basic set of programs outlined here is roughly $7.25 billion. The cost of the “second tier” programs cannot be as accurately forecast, but the planning and implementation of these is likely to cost somewhere in the vicinity of $10 billion. Seventeen and a quarter billion dollars is a lot of money, but assuming that these programs cut short the American occupation by only two years, they would save us at least $200 billion.

    See also this post on some of the the horrors and contradictions of US foreign policy.

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    In Perspective