Daily Archives: June 3, 2007

Film: Winged Migration

This French film was made in 2001, runs about 1.5 hours, and is really fascinating. It’s being shown on the Discovery Channel for a couple weeks. The photography is breath-taking, and wonderful in HD. The film gives a personal kind of view of the many species as they migrate thousands of miles, twice a year. I have no idea how they got all the shots; it’s amazing. Don’t expect a plot, but the birds are endearing. Highly recommended.

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Filed under global warming/environment, Movies, Outdoors

Religion and the presidency: no longer off limits for discussion

The candidacy of Mitt Romney, a Mormon, once again raises the question of what issues are off limits for questioning. 

One of the many disasters visited upon the Republic by Karl Rove and George W. Bush is the breakdown of the barrier between church and state. Like so many of their ploys, this one is going to be difficult to put back in the bottle. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been either given to “faith-based” organizations, or, on the other hand, denied, for what amounts to religious differences between George W. Bush, and some otherwise perfectly useful and upright organization (embryonic stem cell research, for example). Bush himself claims to have been influenced by “God” in his decisions, making choices which were irrational and resulted in disasterous results.

To suggest that religion is not a fit topic for discussion is dishonest. It is more than a fit topic, it is a necessary one, and it is a critical topic, because religion is inherently irrational, and candidates who profess to be influenced by irrational considerations can constitute a hazard to the Republic, as Bush himself illustrates.

Bring it on.

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Filed under George W. Bush: is he really THAT bad?, Politics, religion

NY Times sees Cheney for what he is; above and beyond the reach of law and ethics

Not to mention what is either lying or delusion about such things as Iraq.

NY Times editorial:

Americans are accustomed to Vice President Dick Cheney’s waiting out a terrorist threat in a “secure undisclosed location.” Now it seems that Mr. Cheney wears the cloak of invisibility in secure disclosed locations.

The Associated Press reported that Mr. Cheney’s office ordered the Secret Service last September to destroy all records of visitors to the official vice presidential mansion — right after The Washington Post sued for access to the logs. That move was made in secret, naturally. It came out only because of another lawsuit, filed by a private group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, seeking the names of conservative religious figures who visited the vice president’s residence.

This disdain for accountability is distressing, but not surprising. Mr. Cheney has had it on display from his first days in office, when he refused to name the energy-industry executives who met with him behind closed doors to draft an energy policy.

In a similar way, Mr. Cheney seems unconcerned about little things like checks and balances and traditional American notions of judicial process. At one point, he gave himself the power to selectively declassify documents and selectively leak them to reporters. In a recent commencement address, he declaimed against prisoners who had the gall to “demand the protections of the Geneva Convention and the Constitution of the United States.”

Mr. Cheney is the driving force behind the Bush administration’s theory of the “unitary executive,” which holds that no one, including Congress and the courts, has the power to supervise or regulate the actions of the president. Just as he pays little attention to old-fangled notions of the separation of powers, Mr. Cheney does not overly bother himself about the bright line that should exist between his last job as chief of the energy giant Halliburton and his current one on the public payroll.

From 2001 to 2005, Mr. Cheney received “deferred salary payments” from Halliburton that far exceeded what taxpayers gave him. Mr. Cheney still holds hundreds of thousands of stock options that have ballooned by millions of dollars as Halliburton profited handsomely from the war in Iraq.

Reviewing this record — secrecy, impatience with government regulations, backroom dealings, handsome paydays — it dawned on us that Mr. Cheney is in step with the times. He has privatized the job of vice president of the United States.

Dick Cheney is still in office only because of the lying,  perjury and obstruction of justice by Scooter Libby.  He is an immense blot on this Republic.

Thank you, NY Times.  Sorry about stealing your ed. I owe you one.

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Filed under Dick Cheney: Hannibal Lector in disguise?, George W. Bush: is he really THAT bad?, Iran, Iraq, Karl Rove:Bush's brain or Bush's as'hole?, Middle East, Politics, public corruption

The selling of Iran as the next great bogeyman

Over the Line, Smokey! has devoted considerable bandwidth to the often-laughable but still ominous anti-Iran propaganda which emanates from Washington.

Juan Cole today:

Polling shows that the percentage of Americans who view Iran as the number one threat to the United States has risen to 27 percent now. I think it was only 20 percent in December 2006. First of all, how in the world can a developing country with about a fourth of the population of the US, about a $2000 per capita income (in real terms, not local purchasing power), with no intercontinental ballistic missiles, with no weapons of mass destruction (and no proof positive it is trying to get them), with a small army and a small military budget– how is such a country a “threat” to the United States of America? Iranian leaders don’t like the US, and they talk dirty about the US, and they do attempt to thwart US interests. The same is true of Venezuela under Chavez. But Tehran is a minor player on the world stage, and trying to build it up to replace the Soviet Union is just the worst sort of fear-mongering, and it is being done on behalf of the US military industrial complex, which wants to do to Iran what it did to Iraq. It is propaganda, and significant numbers of Americans (a 7 percent increase would be like 21 million people!) are buying it.

Why have those poll numbers gone up? Because the Bush administration is trying to hang the Sunni Arab insurgency in Iraq on Iran (and even trying to hang the Taliban resurgence in Afghanistan on Iran). The message of administration and military spokesmen is that Iran is deliberately killing US troops and is a major source of insurgency in Iraq. No convincing evidence has ever been presented for either allegation, nor is it reasonable to assume that Iran plays a significant role in funding hyper-Sunni, Shiite-killing death squads to deliberately destabilize its client governments in Baghdad (al-Maliki) and Kabul (Karzai). Yet the New York Times and even the Guardian put this b.s. on the front page, and of course it is all over CNN, Fox Cable News, MSNBC, etc. Are US journalists trapped in the the dictates of the military-industrial complex by virtue of working for these mega corporations? We know that Roger Ailes at Fox Cable News orders his employees how to spin the day’s news (he is a former high Republican Party official). Has any of the journalists counted up how many of the 127 US troops killed in Iraq in May was killed in Sunni Arab areas and how many in Shiite neighborhoods? Has any of them actually read the translated communiques on World News Connection of the Sunni Arab guerrillas and what they say about Iran and Shiites? Has any demanded air tight proof and non-anonymous sources before printing this garbage?

No.

I would add that Iranian influence in the Middle East is more of a threat to an expansionist Israel than to the US, and that the influence of expansionist Israel on US policies has never been greater. We are much farther from a solution to the Israel/Palestinian question than we have ever been. There is, in fact, no meaningful dialogue or even discussion of the I/P issues at present.

Of all the countries in the Middle East, the most repressive is probably Saudi Arabia; it was the home of Osama bin Laden and of the 9/11 participants, and of radical Sunni Wahabism, and is the source of much of the funding and of the foreign fighters in Iraq.

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Filed under Bill Kristol: is he smarter than you?, Condoleezza Rice: tell me again, what is her job?, Countdown to attack on Iran, Dick Cheney: Hannibal Lector in disguise?, Fred Kagan:an idiot running a war, George W. Bush: is he really THAT bad?, Iran, Iraq, John McCain for president of Del Boca Vista, Middle East, Politics