If You Go To Science Fiction Museums...
This is how to find the facilities. Loo. Whatever it is you use. I laughed so hard at this, and don't remember now who shared it. But thanks. Just too fun.
A place for a tired old woman to try to figure things out so that the world makes a bit of sense.
Lurita Doan, head of the General Services Administration, was forced to offer her resignation tonight, according to an e-mail she sent out this evening.
Doan was appointed in late May, 2006, becoming the first woman to serve as GSA Administrator. With 12,000 empioyees and a $20 billion annual budget, GSA has responsibilty for overseeing the thousands of building and properties owned by the federal government.
Doan became the subject of congressional scrutiny last year for allegedly using GSA to help Republican lawmakers win re-election. Doan denied the allegation, but her appearance before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee was disastrous. Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), chairman of the panel, called on Doan to resign over the allegations, but Doan refused to step down.
A $7 billion gas pipeline that would link Iran and India topped the agenda Tuesday as the Islamic republic's president made his first visit to New Delhi, despite strong U.S. objections to the project.
The trip came as India and the United States are struggling to finalize a landmark nuclear energy deal.
But New Delhi has made it clear that it will look to any source to feed its energy hungry economy, and India saw the brief visit by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as a chance kick-start the long-stalled pipeline project.
Ahmadinejad arrived in the evening and met Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Pratibha Patil during his five hours in New Delhi, India's foreign ministry said. His visit was the first by an Iranian leader in five years.
The pipeline needs to run through Pakistan, India's longtime rival. But disagreements between the two over costs, and Indian fears about the pipeline's security have held up the project.
However, the South Asian countries are reportedly close to striking a deal on how much New Delhi should pay Islamabad for the fuel shipped through Pakistani territory.
That would put the project back on track — a prospect that clearly dismays Washington, which has repeatedly pressed India to back its efforts to end Iran's nuclear program.
Labels: Bush Legacy
As pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago for 36 years (he recently retired), the Rev. Wright has a record of good works. From services for the homeless and the elderly to the poor and those in prison, his church has practiced the most giving and generous teachings of Christianity. But with the good came charged rhetoric that has come back to haunt him and Mr. Obama. Most famously, in a 2003 sermon, the Rev. Wright said, "The government gives them the drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a three-strike law and then wants us to sing 'God Bless America.' No, no, no, not God bless America. God damn America, that's in The the Bible, for killing innocent people."
Yesterday, the Rev. Wright was unrepentant. He refused to disavow his oft-repeated belief in the sinister myth that the AIDS epidemic is a genocidal government plot to exterminate African Americans. He stood by his blame-America-for-Sept. 11 stance, saying, "You cannot do terrorism on other people and expect it never to come back to you."
None of this is helpful to Mr. Obama, who could face more calls not only to denounce such inflammatory comments but also to renounce his longtime pastor. We will not join in that chorus. In his address on race in Philadelphia last month after video of the Rev. Wright's fiery sermons burst onto the national scene, Mr. Obama condemned, "in unequivocal terms, the statements of Rev. Wright that have caused such controversy."
Key United Nations development agencies are meeting in Switzerland to try to develop solutions to ease the escalating global food crisis.
Led by secretary general Ban Ki-Moon, officials want to mitigate the impact of the steep rise in staple food prices and prevent food shortages worsening.
The World Food Programme (WFP) has said an extra 100 million people need food aid because of higher prices.
Food has become increasingly expensive, triggering unrest in several countries.
According to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, the overall effect of the McCain tax plan would be to reduce federal revenue by more than $5 trillion over 10 years. That’s a lot of revenue loss — enough to pose big problems for the government’s solvency.
But before I get to that, let’s look at what I found truly revealing: the McCain campaign’s response to the Tax Policy Center’s assessment. The response, written by Douglas Holtz-Eakin, the former head of the Congressional Budget Office, criticizes the center for adopting “unrealistic Congressional budgeting conventions.” What’s that about?
Well, Congress “scores” tax legislation by comparing estimates of the revenue that would be collected if the legislation passed with estimates of the revenue that would be collected under current law. In this case that means comparing the McCain plan with what would happen if the Bush tax cuts expired on schedule.
Mr. Holtz-Eakin wants the McCain plan compared, instead, with “current policy” — which he says means maintaining tax rates at today’s levels.
But here’s the thing: the reason the Bush tax cuts are set to expire is that the Bush administration engaged in a game of deception. It put an expiration date on the tax cuts, which it never intended to honor, as a way to hide those tax cuts’ true cost.
I have a Rendezvous with Death
by Alan Seeger
I have a rendezvous with Death
At some disputed barricade,
When Spring comes back with rustling shade
And apple-blossoms fill the air
I have a rendezvous with Death
When Spring brings back blue days and fair.
It may be he shall take my hand
And lead me into his dark land
And close my eyes and quench my breath
It may be I shall pass him still.
I have a rendezvous with Death
On some scarred slope of battered hill,
When Spring comes round again this year
And the first meadow-flowers appear.
God knows 'twere better to be deep
Pillowed in silk and scented down,
Where Love throbs out in blissful sleep,
Pulse nigh to pulse, and breath to breath,
Where hushed awakenings are dear...
But I've a rendezvous with Death
At midnight in some flaming town,
When Spring trips north again this year,
And I to my pledged word am true,
I shall not fail that rendezvous.
Labels: The Troops
April 27, 2008
Bowling 1, Health Care 0
By ELIZABETH EDWARDS
Chapel Hill, N.C.
FOR the last month, news media attention was focused on Pennsylvania and its Democratic primary. Given the gargantuan effort, what did we learn?
Well, the rancor of the campaign was covered. The amount of money spent was covered. But in Pennsylvania, as in the rest of the country this political season, the information about the candidates’ priorities, policies and principles — information that voters will need to choose the next president — too often did not make the cut. After having spent more than a year on the campaign trail with my husband, John Edwards, I’m not surprised.
Why? Here’s my guess: The vigorous press that was deemed an essential part of democracy at our country’s inception is now consigned to smaller venues, to the Internet and, in the mainstream media, to occasional articles. I am not suggesting that every journalist for a mainstream media outlet is neglecting his or her duties to the public. And I know that serious newspapers and magazines run analytical articles, and public television broadcasts longer, more probing segments.
But I am saying that every analysis that is shortened, every corner that is cut, moves us further away from the truth until what is left is the Cliffs Notes of the news, or what I call strobe-light journalism, in which the outlines are accurate enough but we cannot really see the whole picture.
It is not a new phenomenon. In 1954, the Army-McCarthy hearings — an important if painful part of our history — were televised, but by only one network, ABC. NBC and CBS covered a few minutes, snippets on the evening news, but continued to broadcast soap operas in order, I suspect, not to invite complaints from those whose days centered on the drama of “The Guiding Light.”
The problem today unfortunately is that voters who take their responsibility to be informed seriously enough to search out information about the candidates are finding it harder and harder to do so, particularly if they do not have access to the Internet.
Did you, for example, ever know a single fact about Joe Biden’s health care plan? Anything at all? But let me guess, you know Barack Obama’s bowling score. We are choosing a president, the next leader of the free world. We are not buying soap, and we are not choosing a court clerk with primarily administrative duties.
What’s more, the news media cut candidates like Joe Biden out of the process even before they got started. Just to be clear: I’m not talking about my husband. I’m referring to other worthy Democratic contenders. Few people even had the chance to find out about Joe Biden’s health care plan before he was literally forced from the race by the news blackout that depressed his poll numbers, which in turn depressed his fund-raising.
And it’s not as if people didn’t want this information. In focus groups that I attended or followed after debates, Joe Biden would regularly be the object of praise and interest: “I want to know more about Senator Biden,” participants would say.
But it was not to be. Indeed, the Biden campaign was covered more for its missteps than anything else. Chris Dodd, also a serious candidate with a distinguished record, received much the same treatment. I suspect that there was more coverage of the burglary at his campaign office in Hartford than of any other single event during his run other than his entering and leaving the campaign.
Who is responsible for the veil of silence over Senator Biden? Or Senator Dodd? Or Gov. Tom Vilsack? Or Senator Sam Brownback on the Republican side?
The decision was probably made by the same people who decided that Fred Thompson was a serious candidate. Articles purporting to be news spent thousands upon thousands of words contemplating whether he would enter the race, to the point that before he even entered, he was running second in the national polls for the Republican nomination. Second place! And he had not done or said anything that would allow anyone to conclude he was a serious candidate. A major weekly news magazine put Mr. Thompson on its cover, asking — honestly! — whether the absence of a serious campaign and commitment to raising money or getting his policies out was itself a strategy.
I’m not the only one who noticed this shallow news coverage. A report by the Project for Excellence in Journalism and the Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy found that during the early months of the 2008 presidential campaign, 63 percent of the campaign stories focused on political strategy while only 15 percent discussed the candidates’ ideas and proposals.
Watching the campaign unfold, I saw how the press gravitated toward a narrative template for the campaign, searching out characters as if for a novel: on one side, a self-described 9/11 hero with a colorful personal life, a former senator who had played a president in the movies, a genuine war hero with a stunning wife and an intriguing temperament, and a handsome governor with a beautiful family and a high school sweetheart as his bride. And on the other side, a senator who had been first lady, a young African-American senator with an Ivy League diploma, a Hispanic governor with a self-deprecating sense of humor and even a former senator from the South standing loyally beside his ill wife. Issues that could make a difference in the lives of Americans didn’t fit into the narrative template and, therefore, took a back seat to these superficialities.
News is different from other programming on television or other content in print. It is essential to an informed electorate. And an informed electorate is essential to freedom itself. But as long as corporations to which news gathering is not the primary source of income or expertise get to decide what information about the candidates “sells,” we are not functioning as well as we could if we had the engaged, skeptical press we deserve.
And the future of news is not bright. Indeed, we’ve heard that CBS may cut its news division, and media consolidation is leading to one-size-fits-all journalism. The state of political campaigning is no better: without a press to push them, candidates whose proposals are not workable avoid the tough questions. All of this leaves voters uncertain about what approach makes the most sense for them. Worse still, it gives us permission to ignore issues and concentrate on things that don’t matter. (Look, the press doesn’t even think there is a difference!)
I was lucky enough for a time to have a front-row seat in this campaign — to see all this, to get my information firsthand. But most Americans are not so lucky. As we move the contest to my home state, North Carolina, I want my neighbors to know as much as they possibly can about what these men and this woman would do as president.
If voters want a vibrant, vigorous press, apparently we will have to demand it. Not by screaming out our windows as in the movie “Network” but by talking calmly, repeatedly, constantly in the ears of those in whom we have entrusted this enormous responsibility. Do your job, so we can — as voters — do ours.
Elizabeth Edwards, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, is the author of “Saving Graces.”
Labels: Health Care
While many companies are now rushing to "go green," recent surveys show American consumers are getting turned off by the organic hype for three reasons: price, skepticism and confusion.
The percentage of consumers who believe organic products are good for them is down to 45%, while those who believe they're good for the environment has fallen to 48%, according to the latest survey from consulting firm WSL Strategic Retail. Both measures stood at a 54% approval rating two years ago.
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy;
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
Labels: Guantanamo Bay
Labels: Humane Treatment of Animals
Transfixed by unruly financial markets, we may be missing the year's biggest economic story: the end of the Great American Shopping Spree. For the past quarter-century, Americans have been on an unprecedented consumption binge -- for cars, TVs, longer vacations. The consequences have been profound, and the passage to something different may not be an improvement.
It was the ever-expanding stream of consumer spending that pulled the U.S. economy and, to a lesser extent, the global economy forward (imports satisfied much of Americans' frenzied buying). How big was the consumption pull? In 1980, Americans spent 63 percent of national income (gross domestic product) on consumer goods and services. For the past five years, consumer spending equaled 70 percent of GDP. At today's income levels, the difference amounts to an extra $1 trillion annually of spending.
What can replace feverish consumer spending as a motor of economic growth? Health care, some say. Health spending will surely increase. But its expansion will simply crowd out other forms of consumer and government spending, because it will be paid for with steeper taxes or insurance premiums. Both erode purchasing power. Higher exports are a more plausible possibility; they, however, depend on how healthy the rest of the world economy remains without the crutch of exporting more to the United States.
But what if nothing takes the place of the debt-driven consumption boom? Its sequel is an extended period of lackluster growth and job creation. Somber thought. The ebbing shopping spree may challenge the next president in ways that none of the candidates has yet contemplated.
The ECHR is an interesting court. It is not an appeal court above national or even European institutes, as one might think. It is not part of the European Union, but an institute of the Council of Europe, of which 47 countries are member. It’s goal is to spread democracy and human rights.
The court only adheres to one single “law”, the The European Convention on Human Rights. The convention states ethical and human rights guidelines. Every citizen of the member states can individually appeal on this convention, first at the national courts, but appealing all the way up to the ECHR in Strassbourg (which is located in North-Eastern France). In fact the only defendant is ones own country.
The ECHR has a backlog of about 80.000 cases. A serious restructuring has to be done, but Russia is the only country blocking that. It is believed this is the result of convictions by the ECHR in several cases revolving issues in Chechen (Tsjetsjen).
Reaffirming their profound belief in those fundamental freedoms which are the foundation of justice and peace in the world and are best maintained on the one hand by an effective political democracy and on the other by a common understanding and observance of the human rights upon which they depend;
Many conservative Pakhtuns believe that the fighting in Swat, Kohat and Waziristan is a war of liberation against US occupation of Afghanistan; they fight the Pakistani state because of its alliance with the US. However, it does not make it a US war alone. Whatever may be the case at the start, this is now Pakistan's war, since the objective of the insurgents is to change the nature of the Pakistani state. To fellow Pakistanis I would say that it is our war, whether we like it or not.
Compare what Aziz has written to General Musharraf's speech on September 19, 2001, when he told Pakistan that his aim was to "save Afghanistan and Taliban." What Musharraf said in that speech was that supporting the war against the Taliban was the "lesser of two difficulties," compared to driving the U.S. into the arms of India. All negotiations with militants pursued by Musharraf's government had as their aim to balance the imperative of acting against al-Qaida with that of saving the Taliban as a strategic asset for Pakistan.
Aziz says the opposite: the Taliban and other militants are fighting "to change the nature of the Pakistani state," and that therefore "It is our war, whether we like it or not." Negotiations in support of the expansion of democracy and federalism in Pakistan are not the same as negotiations in support of balancing military action against al-Qaida with preservation of the Afghan Taliban. The program of the new government in Pakistan and NWFP, unlike that of Musharraf, corresponds to the aspirations of the majority of people in the NWFP and FATA, including many conservatives, and it can win their support. If negotiations do not suffice to disarm the militants, the required military action, in support of an elected government trying to extend democracy and social services, will gain far more domestic support in Pakistan than Musharraf's balancing act ever could have. This government of Pakistan has articulated goals consistent with international objectives in the region and believes in pursuing negotiations in support of those goals without abandoning its own vision of a stable democratic Pakistan at peace with its neighbors.
"On appeal before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, government attorneys said the president has a well-established right to seek advice privately.
"Releasing lists of visitors would trample on that right, said Justice Department lawyer Jonathan F. Cohn, and the logs should be treated like other White House documents.
"Rather than balancing the president's interest with the public's, Tatel said, the government was simply disregarding the Freedom of Information Act. He said the policy would allow the president to 'draw a curtain around the White House.'...
Clearly global warming will carry enormous costs. Taller levees. Higher food prices. Treating malaria patients in New Delhi and maybe New York. One estimate put the tab higher than the combined cost of both World Wars and the Great Depression. What we need to do is make the markets foresee that cost and act accordingly.
Of course, as any economist will quickly point out, such action will also come with a cost. Since carbon is going to have to get more expensive for markets to do their thing, someone is going to get hurt. So the next part of the equation involves figuring out who should bear that price. And here, interestingly, is another place where economic orthodoxy works pretty well. Take that shrinking cap on carbon emissions: One way to make it work is to hand out permits to big carbon producers—oil companies, coal companies, and so on—and steadily shrink the availability of permits. Those permits would be very valuable, and their cost would be passed on to consumers, whose price at the pump or off the back of the fuel-oil truck would increase. But the question is, How do you award those permits? (Or how do you set tax rates for carbon, etc.—the logic is the same.)
The answer favored by big industry is, Give us the permits. For free. Because we've spent years getting rich burning coal; if you're going to interfere with the system, make sure you don't touch the profits. But the more logical alternative is for the government to auction the permits off; with the proceeds we could, if we wanted to, simply send a check for, say, $1,000 to every American, which would go a long way toward covering the increased costs we Americans would face. This so-called Cap and Dividend concept—pushed for years by Peter Barnes, a cofounder of the progressive phone company Working Assets—is actually gaining some traction: Barack Obama, for one, has endorsed the permit-auction idea.
You could also, of course, take the auction proceeds and subsidize the transition to new clean-energy technologies—solar-thermal plants or windmills or whatever. This method has real attractions too, especially given that the most compelling analogies for the change we need come from the industrial boom catalyzed by World War II or the technological vigor of the Apollo era, both prompted by massive government spending. (snip)
Which is why, in my ideal world, we'd use the power of democracy to add even more pieces of information to a market system. Tariffs that encourage local economies, for instance, because the data now show that more self-reliant societies are also more durable and more satisfying. Perhaps we should work for some totally different economic system—I hear pretty regularly from a different breed of skeptic who insists we'll never solve our problems until we go "beyond capitalism." But that debate is going to take a while—for the atmospherically relevant time frame, we're not going to change our basic economic framework any more than we're going to sign on to some new nature religion that would turn protecting the planet into some kind of Eleventh Commandment. Given how fast the ice caps are melting, speed is of the essence. And markets are quick. Given some direction, they'll help.(Emphasis added.)
Labels: Capital Punishment