The Watering Hole, Monday, March 24th, 2014: Mixed Emotions

This past weekend’s reading brought an odd range of emotions:

HUMILITY: Geography is not my strong suit. When I was growing up, the continent of Africa was nearly always referred to as “the dark continent”, or “darkest Africa.” However, the amazing maps in “8 Maps That Will Change The Way You Look at Africa” help to shed light on “the dark continent” and its place in the modern world. Some of the maps are truly mind-boggling.

INCREDULITY: Why is David Vitter still a Senator? How was he not so shamed in his constituents’ eyes that not only did they not demand his immediate resignation when his diapered-DC Madam sexual habits were made public, they reelected him? And why is Vitter showing his face in public claiming that “…the Koch brothers are two of the most patriotic Americans in the history of the Earth…God bless the Koch brothers. They’re fighting for our freedoms.”? Steve Benen on The Maddow Blog can at least answer the the last question.

BETRAYAL: This one’s personal. My love-hate relationship with my beloved/cursed New York Jets is finally tipping over toward the ‘hate’ side. This weekend, the Jets announced their acquisition of former Eagles quarterback Michael Vick, and their release of hapless quarterback Matt Sanchez. My sense of betrayal has nothing to do with Sanchez–he sucked most of the time, but I wish him well. On the other hand, I wish that Michael Vick, of dog-fighting-ring/dog killer fame, would have his throwing arm mangled by a pit bull. Just enough to keep that scum out of football forever. In the meantime (well, when football season starts), I will boycott the Jets until that inhumane piece of shit is gone.

Damn, it's just a toy

Damn, it’s just a toy

Finally, to take that nasty taste out of your mouth:

CONTENTMENT: Although the story is five years old, it’s still heartwarming, and reinforces my opinion that animals are far better than humans. Mankind should really try to emulate Mother Nature.

In 2009, a fire in the Santa Barbara area had firefighters rescuing wildlife, including young animals separated from their mothers. The unlikely pair shown ended up together after their rescuers ran out of crates.
Rescued Fawn and Bobcat kittenfawn and bobcat kitten

This is our daily open thread–what’s on YOUR mind?

Guest Blog: Occupy Ukraine?

Today’s guest blogging post (and open thread) is by our friend, TerrytheTurtle.

What is happening in Ukraine is awful, bloody, murderously awful. Depending on where you come from in your world view, there are at least three ways of looking at what is happening:

1. If you follow the Western media, it is about Ukraine wishing to “join the EU” (quotes because there are many sources of this over-simplification) and the coverage is dumbed down to this one point time and again. But the EU trade agreement Yanukovych refused to sign after promising to in his manifesto, is only the catalyst, the problems lie much deeper than that.

2. This is part of the Neo-Cold War, pitting American power against the Czar of All the Russias and his part-dictatorship, part-kleptocracy. If you read the full transcript of the intercepted Nuland phone call two weeks ago, there is no question the US is picking sides, and picking which opposition horse to back, the whole point of which seems to be, to use the violence in Ukraine to win ground in a wider struggle. And for his part, Putin, by blaming ‘entirely, the terrorists and radicals’ for the violence, is shamelessly backing his client, Yanukovych, just like he has backed Syria’s Assad. It seems the US and Putin are both ‘playing cards’ and the people of Kiev are doing the dying.

3. The third thesis is that what we are watching is the Occupy movement of Ukraine. Ukraine’s government is controlled by a very small number of hyper-rich Ukrainians who owe their riches to a perpetuation of the same style of oligarchy and kleptocracy that Vladimir Putin sits atop in neighbouring Russia. They want the massive income inequality and lack of social justice to continue – its good for business. But you won’t hear this in the Western media. That kind of discussion is too close to home and would remind people of what Occupy Wall Street was all about. When Yanukovych returned to power, in 2010, as president (in an election the EU certified as fair), mainly because the Orange Revolution had stalled in the world depression after the financial crisis, he changed the constitution away from the 2004 constitution: more power to him and his cronies. Corruption blossomed again. You know the formula: billionaires, owning politicians for favours, closing and selling off factories, looting the old industries where ordinary people made a living and punishing dissent. The Kochs and Waltons would love these people.

What do Ukrainians think about some of this? The most recent poll I could find (Feb 5th) said:

Showing divisions between Ukrainians on foreign policy, 48% said Ukraine should reconsider its rejection of an EU partnership, but 40.3% said it should not.

Asked if the protests should continue, 48% said yes and 45.1% said no.

These divisions have an ethnic and geographic element to them – west is more likely to be ethnic Ukrainian and east and south more Russian. But like the American south, the Russian-leaning part is voting for more income inequality, more Russian-style “democracy”. But Ukrainians seem to distrust the EU only a little less than Russia, especially when it comes to helping them now. It seems to me they feel like they are on their own.

OK, so all this geopolitics aside, you just have to look at the faces of the people in the streets and in the makeshift hospitals to get an idea of which of these theses is closest to the truth and it is complicated, even if I am getting some coaching.  :)  That ordinary Ukrainians just want the freedom to have their government represent them and protect their freedoms from foreign powers (all of them!) and from their own “entitled” citizens and corporations.  Just spend some time on the blogs (helpfully translated on request and forwarded to people like me by friends). You will see what I am seeing and hearing directly.

Yes, there are protesters with guns now and policemen have died, but today’s toll of death was far unbalanced to the 10s of thousands of mostly unarmed protesters, shot in the square, or beaten by police or paid thugs, the “tituski”, in the side streets as they try to leave to take care of families or escape the bloodshed. Or as volunteers try to treat them in makeshift hospitals while the police try to arrest them from the bloody floor where they lie.

Take a look at two of Putin's "radicals and terrorists."

Take a look at two of Putin’s “radicals and terrorists.”

Finally, and I wish it was finally, this article I was sent today goes roughly like this: A former policeman has come to Kiev to find his 19-year-old son, a student in Kiev. Like all fathers he wished his son did not go to the protests, but as a Ukrainian he was proud of his son to go. He holds in his hand the helmet he wore, covered in blood, a single sniper bullet hole in the helmet where his forehead was. Facebook posts are full of pictures of young people like this….

And yes, like Zooey said Thursday, this could be us too, someday soon.

Sunday Roast: Balinese Gabor Dance

Cats and I went to the Oregon Asian Celebration on Saturday, and had a great time wandering around the various exhibits.  We had words written in Chinese calligraphy on squares of red paper.  Mine reads “good health,” and Cats’ says something similar to “thumbs up.”

We watched a group of ukulele players having fun singing Hawaiian songs.  Did you know “ukulele” means “jumping flea?”  Well, now you do!

After the jumping flea players, it was announced that there would be Balinese dancing.  We decided to stay, since we’d never seen Balinese dancing.  All I could say is wow! We saw the same dance as in the video above, which is called a Gabor Dance, which is a sacrificial dance for the gods, wherein the dancers themselves are offerings.

I love learning new things!

This is our daily open thread — What did you learn today?

The Waterless Watering Hole, Monday, February 3rd, 2014

A few recent articles got me started connecting several dots, which then began forming an unsettling picture. Read along, and let me know what you think.

First, according to this ClimateProgress article from January 31st, what was once the largest lake in the Middle East, Lake Urmia in northwestern Iran, has reportedly lost 95% of its water. While Lake Urmia is a saltwater lake, and not essential for agriculture or drinking water, such a huge reduction in size is more than alarming. From the article:

“Dam construction recently increased throughout the country, to provide both badly needed electricity and water supplies for irrigation. But that’s also diverted massive amounts of the freshwater that formerly flowed into Lake Urmia. Other major rivers throughout the country have gone dry, and the dust from the riverbeds and the salt from Lake Urmia’s dried basin are now a form of pollution unto themselves. Major cities around the country — including the capital of Tehran, home to 22 million — are making contingency plans for rationing. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani recently named water as a national security issue, and demonstrations and riots over water supplies have already erupted.”[emphasis mine]

“According to a 2012 study by the United Nations, 65 percent of the decline can be chalked up to climate change and the diversion of surface water cutting inflow to the lake. Another 25 percent was due to dams, and 10 percent was due to decreased rainfall over the lake itself.

A long drought in Iran ended two years ago, but the recent boost to rainfall has not been able to offset the other effects on the lake. Average temperatures around Lake Urmia rose three degrees in just the past ten years. In Pakistan, which sits along Iran’s southeast border, climate change has reduced snowmelt and river flow. That’s led to domestic political strife, and to a strained relationship with India over dams along the Indus River — Pakistan’s main source of freshwater.”[emphasis mine]

A commenter on the thread then led me to this Guardian article from November, concerning Hongjiannao Lake, China’s largest freshwater lake:

“Data released by local meteorological agencies on Thursday and reported by Chinese state media, shows the lake has now shrunk by almost one-third since 2009…”

Then there was this article by Graham Land entitled “Asia’s Disappearing Lakes”, with its alarming opening paragraphs:

“One of the worst environmental disasters in living memory is the near vanishing of the Aral Sea in Central Asia. What was once one of the world’s four largest lakes, containing some 1.5 thousand islands and covering 68,000 square kilometres (26,000 miles), by 2007 the Aral Sea was only 10% of its previous size and divided into four lakes.

What happened to Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan’s inland sea was not the result of normal changing weather patterns. The fate of the Aral Sea is a story of human intervention, contamination and local climate change.”

Next, Brad Plumer interviews Francesca Femia of the think-tank Center for Climate and Security in this Washington Post article. Ms. Femia states that, during the period between 2006 and 2011, “…up to 60 percent of Syria’s land experienced one of the worst long-term droughts in modern history.”

“This drought — combined with the mismanagement of natural resources by [Syrian President Bashar] Assad, who subsidized water-intensive crops like wheat and cotton farming and promoted bad irrigation techniques — led to significant devastation. According to updated numbers, the drought displaced 1.5 million people within Syria…They all moved into urban areas — urban areas that were already experiencing economic insecurity due to an influx of Iraqi and Palestinian refugees.”

Ms. Femia added, “…we’re not making any claim to causality here. We can’t say climate change caused the civil war. But we can say that there were some very harsh climatic conditions that led to instability.” Later in the interview, Ms. Femia says that it was a 2011 NOAA report “showing that a prolonged period of drying in the Mediterranean and the Middle East was linked to climate change” that brought the conditions in Syria to her attention. [I mention this simply because I find it ironic that a NOAA report is taken so seriously outside of the U.S., while so many of our "exceptional Americans" are dumbfuck climate change deniers who wouldn't trust a NOAA report if god it/him/herself read the report to them.]

We’ve all read the recent stories about the toxic spill in West Virginia that contaminated the water supply for 300,000 people. (And they’re still peeling more eye-watering layers off this onion of a story.) We’ve seen the photos and news reports showing West Virginians driving to designated water-supply centers for their ration of clean water–which didn’t appear to be enough for families to bathe, drink, cook, and somehow wash clothes with. At one point, Wal-Mart had to call in the local police to help protect a delivery of bottled water.

Now imagine if the Keystone XL pipeline is given the go-ahead, and eventually there’s a spill that contaminates the Ogallala Aquifer. Instead of 300,000 people being without clean water, it would be 3,000,000 – all vying for relief deliveries of fresh water.

I could go on, but I think you catch my drift: if mankind, and the United States in particular, continues to ignore global climate change, refuses to enforce current environmental regulations, continues to rely heavily on finite and filthy fossil fuels, and refuses to consider stricter pollution regulations, then clean drinking water will become more scarce, and more valuable. If scarcity of water is fueling riots and protests in other parts of the world, imagine what could happen in the United States: with so much of our citizenry being over-armed and paranoid, how soon would the shooting start? And, if even Iran is already considering water to be “a national security issue”, eventually the inept fools who occupy Congress might finally get it through their thick skulls that clean water is essential to life as we know it, and is therefore more important than oil. So, when do you think the first War for Water would start? Or maybe it would be referred to as WWW: World Water War?

Not that I think that all of this may happen within my lifetime, but as Rachel Maddow used to say, “Somebody talk me down!”

This is our daily open thread–talk about whatever you want!

The Watering Hole, Saturday, January 25th, 2014: Animals, Birds and Kites – Oh My!

As always, The Weather Channel is great for more than just checking the forecast. Since I’m suddenly standing in for Wayne, today’s thread is going to explore a few recent articles from TWC:

First, from “A Race Against Time: Photos Capture Animals Before They Disappear”, by Michele Berger:

“Joel Sartore has ambitious plans: To photograph all 10,000 or so animals currently in captivity before they go extinct. Over the course of nine years, this National Geographic photographer has made great progress, capturing some 3,300 animals to date. Still, he thinks getting the remaining creatures will take the rest of his life — and he’s ok with that because he believes in this project.

It’s called Photo Ark, and Sartore sees it as both a snapshot of our time and as a call to action.” … “We really need to show people that this is a tragedy and it is the issue of our time,” he said. “It is folly to think that we can doom half of all species to extinction and think it won’t harm humanity.”

Among the animals included in the 15-photo slide show is the adorable Coquerel’s sifaka:

Coquerels sifaka (from the Bronx Zoo Gallery)

Coquerels sifaka (from the Bronx Zoo Gallery)

Next, we’re going to the birds with “Stunning Bird Portaits from Around the World”, also by Michele Berger. The 41 photos by Andrew Zuckerman include representations of such oddities as:

~ The Silkie Bantam Chicken, “…one of the few breeds with five toes instead of four.”

Silkie Bantam Chickens (photo courtesy keepingchickens.com)

Silkie Bantam Chickens (photo courtesy keepingchickens.com)


~ The Wattled Curassow:
Wattled Curassow (source psms29-com)

Wattled Curassow (source psms29-com)


~ The Lilac-Breasted Roller
Lilac-Breasted Roller

Lilac-Breasted Roller


~ And the Twelve-Wired Bird of Paradise
Twelve-Wired Bird of Paradise

Twelve-Wired Bird of Paradise

Finally, apparently I was unaware of the recent week-long international kite festival in parts of India, but there’s a photo gallery of 40 pics to prove it. (Some Bollywood actor is the subject of too many of the photos, but the kites are unusual.)

This is our daily open thread–if you’re somewhere freezing like Wayne and I, stay warm today!

The Watering Hole, Monday, September 30th, 2013: “UBUNTU”

I know that Wayne posted this on yesterday’s Sunday Roast, but it bears another look – especially in light of the myriad inhumane arguments, diatribes, and lies rising to a cacophonic crescendo over the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, aka “Obamacare.” Just look at so many of the self-serving and ignorant comments on Think Progress’s various threads about the ACA. It’s getting to the point where I think I’d rather live in a more simple society where greed and selfishness are not idealized.
ubuntu

These children put the childish “adults” running/ruining our country to shame. It seems that those who supposedly revere our founding fathers have forgotten one of the earliest ideals of this once-great country, as depicted in the Great Seal of the United States:
Great Seal of the United States

“E Pluribus Unum”: “Out of many, one.”

“Ubuntu”: “I am because we are.” Even those children understand the basic concept of what a workable society should be, and are living it. Why the fuck can’t we?

This is our daily open thread. I’m totally disgusted – how about you?

The Watering Hole, Monday, July 29th, 2013: Saint Ronnie? I Don’t Think So!

jimmycarter460
I have always had great admiration for President James Earl Carter. I confess that I did not start voting until 1988, after I married Wayne (so Clinton was “my first.”) But my parents were pretty staunch Democrats who voted for Carter, and in those times we actually did sit down to watch the evening news every night, and I watched the Sunday political shows with my dad each weekend – which, of course, usually ended with me taking a nap. So I was not completely ignorant of political machinations, especially with dad filling me in on the background issues.

President Carter’s administration covered some troubled times, but he always spoke to the nation in a unique combination of down-home-folksy Sheriff Andy and subtly eloquent professor. That he is still, and always will be, derided by Republicans as one of the worst Presidents in history, just proves how little the Republicans respect intellect and integrity.

President Jimmy (as I like to call him) differentiated himself from too many other former Presidents by, after leaving office, continuing for decades to serve his planet, his country, and humanity in general. Jimmy and Rosalynn remain wonderful examples of “public service” at its most noble.

Here’s a selection of interviews, articles, and videos, all from the last year or two, which include President Carter’s views on America’s dysfunctional democracy and the effect of Edward Snowdon’s NSA leaks; his speech at the Carter Center’s “Mobilizing Faith for Women” conference on June 23, 2013; and an interview with CNN’s Piers Morgan from January 2012 on a wide range of topics, but mostly about the Middle East.

And saving the best for last, here’s Part 1 and Part 2 of President Carter’s appearance on The Daily Show, April 9th, 2013.

In my opinion, no other President has acted so Presidential after leaving office as has President Jimmy Carter. The right-wing can criticize and ridicule him all they want, but Jimmy deserves beatification to sainthood much more than their much-vaunted but historically inaccurate Saint Ronnie.

jimmy and rosalynn

This is our Open Thread. What’s your opinion about President Jimmy Carter? Or on anything else, for that matter.

Sunday Roast: March 17, 2013 – Including NSFW

So what is going on this Sunday, not much, and that’s not always bad. I picked a fews reads for you, I hope you all slept in ;)

President Obama will be in Israel next week. The so-called peace process, was there ever a real effort (?), is not only stalled, it is at it’s lowest point since I remember. The Economist picks up the topic:

IN 1942, as the Holocaust in Europe was entering its most horrific phase, a pacifist American rabbi called Judah Magnes helped found a political party in Palestine called Ihud. Hebrew for unity, Ihud argued for a single binational state in the Holy Land to be shared by Jews and Arabs. Its efforts—and those of like-minded idealists—came to naught. Bitterly opposed to the partition of Palestine, Magnes died in 1948 just as the state of Israel—the naqba, or catastrophe, to Palestinians—was being born. Decades of strife were to follow.(read more)

Cyprus needs a bailout. That’s not really news, but the account holders will get a haircut, oops:

Cypriots reacted with shock that turned to panic on Saturday after a 10% one-off levy on savings was forced on them as part of an extraordinary 10bn euro (£8.7bn) bailout agreed in Brussels.(read more)

Formula 1 is on, finally, The Lotus Effect:

Kimi Raikkonen proved he and Lotus have what it takes this year to become Formula One world champions after storming to victory in the season-opening Australian Grand Prix.(read more)

And, kids, you look the other way now:

Close your eyes and ears,” warns an off-screen voice, “because here comes a sex comedy that’s all about bonking and banging.” Then Bavarian character Sepp appears on screen. As he assumes a wide-legged stance in an Alpine pasture, a cow gazes awe-struck at the fly of his lederhosen. Thunderbolts shoot out of his tight leather shorts, bulging with excessive man-power.( read more)

Again, there’s not much going on really, I could have brought you ‘She Who Must Not Be Named’ and her CPAC speech, but I am not cruel.

This is our Open Thread. All Yours!

Breaking: The Pope Resigns

Pope Benedict XVI resigns. I, personally, have the greatest respect for his decision. The Catholic Church was in a deadlock well before John Paul II died, not least because the latter, sick, invalid and  stubborn, refused to do what Benedict XVI has done now. To go, when you know you are not adding any value requires guts.

I have my own wishes for the future of catholicism, raising their voices against poverty and catholicism run amuck would be one. Any pope who did that for earnest, imho, would seriously injure his health and lifespan.

Sunday Roast, February 3, 2013 – Food for Thought

Just some numbers:

Iraq Body Count 2013

341 civilians killed

United States Body Count from gun violence in 2013 (you can use the date range button on the site)

936 civilians killed

Numbers may increase with every click on the link.

We all agree, that Iraq is a postwar society, plagued by ethnic conflicts and a weak government. We all agree that the United States of America is not that. Or do we?

This is an open thread. Comment on this, or on anything else that comes to mind and have a wonderful Sunday everyone.

Across the Pond: January 20th, 2013 – Sunday Round Up

Right. Well, I’m up anyway, so let’s check the webs.

The Hostage Crisis in Algeria seems to be over. But it ended in a bloodbath. The situation is still not quite resolved while I am typing this, but one thing is clear: All attackers and the hostages remaining in the hands of their captors are dead.

The Algerian government seems to not have thought twice about getting this done, never mind the cost. It reminds me of the Beslan massacre where a hostage taking by Chechen rebels in a school was ended by the Russian forces without any consideration of the hostages’ fate.

“The terrorists were prepared to commit a collective suicide; the army’s intervention led to their neutralisation. Unfortunately, the hostages were executed,”

said El Watan a local newspaper. Well, the public will hear the truth about this at some point.

There is, of course, the war in Mali headlining over here in Europe. You can find a very useful summary of the players involved on the BBC News website. The French are involved in a situation, which, in my humble opinion, may land them in their own version of Afghanistan. Germans are discussing what kind of contribution they can make but there’s the fact that this is a super election year which will be kicked off today in Lower Saxonia. Chancellor Merkel will, obviously, not be getting into any military adventures this year if she can help it at all. President Obama does not show any inclination to get the US involved either. 

Neu ist, dass die USA nicht instinktiv zu einer Führungsrolle innerhalb einer solchen «Koalition der Willigen» drängen. Bereits im Libyen-Krieg hatten sie nach aussen hin den Franzosen den Vorrang gelassen. Die Amerikaner übernahmen damals aber, ohne dies an die grosse Glocke zu hängen, einen beträchtlichen Teil der Lufteinsätze und halfen den Europäern aus, als diesen die Munition ausging. Obama nannte dies «Führung von hinten», was ihm einigen Spott eintrug – aber um einen Führungsanspruch handelte es sich gleichwohl. Davon kann in Mali keine Rede mehr sein.

(It is new, that the US does not instinctively claim a leading role in such a “coalition of the willing”. In the Libya war they had already let the French have the leading role, at least outwardly. The Americans, however, have at that time without making any fuss about it taken over a considerable number of airstrikes and helped out when the Europeans were running out of ammunition. Obama called this “leading from behind” which caused some ridicule, but – nevertheless – included the will to lead. In Mali there is no mention of it. Translation by yours truly

When it comes to foreign politics, looking at it from our side of the pond, New Obama, is naturally a topic of interest. The sudden change in his handling of the Republican opposition does not go unnoticed:

After being widely criticised in his first four years for a lack of savvy during negotiations with the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, Obama has suddenly taken a much harder line. In debates over the so-called “fiscal cliff” of tax hikes and spending cuts at the end of last year, Obama’s team secured a deal widely seen as a victory. That tougher stance has also been matched by Obama staking out a strong position on forthcoming talks with the Republicans in Congress over raising the debt ceiling. Indeed, only days after Obama gave a speech on the issue marked by stern language the Republicans last week appeared to cave in and moved to extend the ceiling for another three months. (read the whole post here)

About time, I’d say.

Have you finished your coffee? Not yet? Well, there’s more for reading found in the old world:

Oil and the interests of Canada’s First Nations

Catholic Hospitals refuse Aid to Rape Victim (Germany has its own bible belt, methinks)

Boeing’s Dreamliner is grounded

and

The Swiss are fretting over what will happen to their banks.

I hope you’ll enjoy your Sunday Morning reading.

This is an Open Thread! Join in. What is important to you today?

The Watering Hole, Thursday, November 29th, 2012: By the Numbers

For today’s post, here’s a mix of articles with one very minor common theme: they’re all numbered lists.

First, from Foreign Policy magazine, a list of “The FP Top 100 Global Thinkers”, which includes Aung San Suu Kyi of Burma (recently visited by President Obama), Bill and Hilary Clinton, Bill and Melinda Gates, Malala Yousafzai, and (coming in at Number 7) President Barack Obama. As David Rothkopf says in a companion article on FP (titled “The Opposite of Thinking”):

“Once again, Foreign Policy has with characteristic humility compiled its list of leading Global Thinkers. How we could possibly identify the top 100 thinkers on a planet of 7 billion people when we’ve never met a fairly considerable number of those people is not something we dwell on when discussing our methodology. Suffice it to say, the list is impressionistic. (OK, it’s more than a little ridiculous. But this is a tradition, so let’s just keep that between us, shall we?)”

On a more aesthetic theme, from The Weather Channel, here’s “The World’s 20 Most Amazing Bridges”, several of which are located in the United States.

And, just for fun, visit cracked.com for “14 Photographs That Shatter Your Image of Famous People.” Try not to get lost at cracked.com, it’s an addictive site.

Enjoy!

This is our Open Thread. What’s up?

The Watering Hole, Monday, November 26th, 2012: Time to Go, Senator McCain

Wave Bye-Bye Now!


As Rachel Maddow so perfectly pointed out recently, John McCain’s regular – some might say ubiquitous – appearances on so many of the Sunday morning political talkfests only serve to show McCain’s desperation to remain relevant at any cost. Unfortunately, that ‘cost’ seems to be the remnants of McCain’s respectability along with the shards of his integrity.

McCain’s latest insanity is shown in his recent calls for a “Watergate-style” investigation of U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice regarding the Benghazi, Libya, attack. McCain’s rabid and, IMHO, unfounded attacks on Ms. Rice (including calling her “not very bright”, and his vow to block her possible nomination as future Secretary of State) were supposedly tempered a trifle yesterday, if by ‘tempered’ one means asking for the same information from Ms. Rice, presumably sans the “Watergate-style” investigation. Regardless, McCain still will not say whether, even if he (undeservedly) receives the requested information from Ms. Rice, he would consider NOT blocking her possible future nomination for Secretary of State.

But in McCain’s interview on Fox Sunday, he shows his characteristic bungling of essential facts:

HOST: You say that you will do everything in your power to block Susan Rice’s nomination if the President decides to name her to be secretary of state . . . . Is there anything that Ambassador Rice can do to change your mind?
MCCAIN: Sure, she can give everyone the benefit of explaining their position and the actions that they took. And I’ll be glad to have the opportunity to discuss these issues with her. Why did she say that al Qaeda has been decimated in her statement here on this program? Al Qaeda hasn’t been decimated. They’re on the rise. They’re all over Iraq.

Yes, John, of course Al Qaeda is “all over” Iraq, sure they are…NOT.

In the same Fox News Sunday interview, on women’s issues, McCain had this to say:

McCAIN:… And as far as young women are concerned, absolutely. I don’t think anybody like me, I can state my position on abortion, but, to — other than that, leave the issue alone. When we are in the kind of economic situation and, frankly, national security situation we’re in.

CHRIS WALLACE (HOST): When you say leave the issue alone, you would allow, you say, freedom of choice?

McCAIN: I would allow people to have those opinions and respect those opinions and I’m proud of my pro-life position and record, but if someone disagrees with me, I respect your views.

So, that would be a ‘NO’ to ‘freedom of choice”?

Since the 2008 Presidential election, when Senator McCain foisted Sarah Palin on us, it seems that his tenuous ties to reality, and his sense of decency and honor, have rapidly strained to the snapping point. I think that we all agree (and I wouldn’t be surprised if many in the Republican heirarchy agree, too), that it’s way past time for McCain to, shall we say, spend a lot more of his time at one of his seven -or was it eight? – homes.

This is our Open Thread. Feel free to discuss this topic, or anything else that comes to mind.

The Watering Hole, Monday, November 5th, 2012: Adelson’s “Newspaper”

In my post from Saturday, November 3rd, I promised (threatened?) forthcoming info regarding the view of our Presidential Election from overseas. So here’s a few recent articles – aka “newsletters” – from the Israel HaYom free daily newspaper**, owned by Mitt Romney’s biggest sugar-daddy, Sheldon Adelson:

November 2nd Newsletter: “Will Sandy save Obama?”
November 2nd Newsletter: “A stormy road to the White House – Uncle Sam’s Identity Crisis”
Another November 2nd Newsletter: “Where will the storm take voters?”
A third – and truly offensive – Newsletter/Opinion from November 2nd: “Obama’s ‘black power’ past and present”

Fourth: In this article from yesterday, it appears that there may not be any daylight between Bibi Netanyahu and President Obama, at least on one issue:

Two days after Abbas implied in a Channel 2 interview that he would be willing to abandon the demand for a Palestinian “right of return” in exchange for peace with Israel, Netanyahu told the weekly cabinet meeting: “I saw the interview with Abbas over the weekend. I heard that he has since rescinded his remarks, but this proves how important it is to hold direct negotiations without preconditions.[Emphasis mine]

From the Fifth (and last) in the Israel HaYom’s election series: The following two (the only two) amusing excerpts from Boaz Bismuth’s “Two Days to Go”, reporting from Cambridge, Massachusetts, prefaced an article based mostly on the Obama “Messiah” myth:

“At least one thing is certain: The next American president will be a Harvard graduate. Out there, in the picturesque calm of the prestigious Ivy League institution…I watched the students passing in front of me and wondered whether any of them would choose to emulate the two famous alumni, Obama and Mitt Romney, and someday join the race to the White House.

“We’re not too excited by the fact that two of our alumni are running for president,” explains Sam, a business student. “Obama is a part of the ruling elite, just like Romney, and it is pretty clear that someone from the ruling elite will be sitting in the White House.”

I ask Sam to help me figure out the polls. “Look, it’s rather simple,” he says. “The people you see who are dressed up and wearing a tie, like me, will vote for Romney.”

“And what about the rest?” I ask.

“They’ll vote for Obama,” he replies.

“But I see very few ties,” I remark.

“It’s the weekend,” he explains.”

Bismuth’s next paragraph gave me a satisfying chuckle:

“Since Americans are unable to decipher the multitude of polls, Nate Silver has come to the rescue with his New York Times blog, FiveThirtyEight, named after the 538 electoral votes. Silver, 38, who accurately predicted the results in 48 states in the 2008 election, declares decisively: Obama is going to win on Tuesday. He projects that 300 electoral votes will go to Obama (30 more than he needs to win), and 50.5% of the popular vote. On the opposite side of the fence, senior Republican strategist Karl Rove predicts in the Wall Street Journal that Romney will win 279 electoral votes, making him the next president of the U.S.”

[Yeah, well we all know how Rovian Math worked out in 2008, right? It still brings me joy to remember the look on Karl's face when, in the midst of his explanation of how, via Rovian Math, McCain could still win, Brit Hume next to him announced that Obama had won Ohio, and the election was over. Priceless.]

And just for fun (or at least a brief break from our election,) here’s a couple of IsraelHayom’s ‘newsletters’ regarding Iran:

From Friday, November 2nd: “Iran is near completing its nuclear activities in Fordo”; and today’s “Iran suspending uranium enrichment in effort to halt sanctions.”

**Check the ‘About Us‘ page’s claim that “… Israel Hayom has a 31.8 percent exposure rate, maintaining its position as the most read daily newspaper in Israel for the second year in a row.” I emailed a few of the above links to a Jewish co-worker, whose daughter has visited Israel several times and has close contacts there: her daughter had never heard of ‘Israel HaYom’, and was going to ask her Israeli friend about it. Haven’t heard anything yet, but IMO, this “newspaper” could be nothing more than one of those freebies you can grab on your way out of the grocery store. :)

This is our daily open thread–try to stay strong and sane!

President Obama vs Mitt Romney: HWOCV? (How Would Other Countries Vote?)

While I haven’t quite been ‘all over the map’ on the internets last night and this morning, I have spent several hours overseas.

Once again, I started at foreignpolicy.com, where “Blue Planet”, by Uri Friedman, caught my eye. For a brief moment I thought it was going to be about climate change, then I saw the subtitle: “What if the world could vote in the U.S. election?” Well, let’s see:

“In a recent UPI/C-Voter/WIN-Gallup International poll, which surveyed more than 26,000 men and women in 32 countries, 62 percent of respondents said that the U.S. president has a high or very high impact on their lives, and 42 percent felt they should have the right to vote in this year’s contest for that very reason. When you call yourself the leader of the free world, you’d better believe the world is going to take an interest in who you are.”

“Obama is preferred over Mitt Romney in 31 out of 32 countries in the UPI poll and 20 out of 21 countries in another BBC World Service/GlobeScan/PIPA survey. Fifty-one percent of respondents in the UPI poll said they would cast a ballot for Obama, with more people saying they wouldn’t vote for either candidate (18 percent) than would vote for the Republican nominee (12 percent). In the BBC survey, 50 percent of respondents chose Obama and only 9 percent selected Romney.” [NOTE: The BBC survey did NOT include Israel.]

Mr. Friedman’s article goes on to describe the (as he designated them) “Red States” and “Blue States.” As one would expect, “Blue States” include “…France…Denmark, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Sweden, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom.” Under “Red States”, Mr Friedman writes:

“There is really only one red (foreign) state in this election, and it’s Israel. In a poll conducted by the Israel Democracy Institute and Tel Aviv University last week, 52 percent of Israelis said a Romney win would be preferable for Israeli interests, compared with 25 percent who said the same about Obama. The divide was starker among Jewish Israelis, who backed Romney by a 57-22 margin, with support for the GOP candidate strongest among right-wingers. A plurality of Arab Israelis, by contrast, favored Obama (45 percent) over Romney (15 percent)…Benjamin Netanyahu hasn’t expressed a preference for Obama or Romney during his effort to get the United States to commit to clear “red lines” for Iran’s nuclear program, but the Israeli press** has speculated that the prime minister’s meddling in the race could invite U.S. payback if Obama is reelected.”

Keep in mind that these surveys were taken during September and October. I’d be curious to know whether there would be any changes if those polls were taken now, after Hurricane Sandy has drawn attention to the differences between a very Presidential President Obama and the out-and-out opportunism and phoniness of Willard Mitt Romney.

**I’ll have more on some of the “Israeli Press” in another post that I’m working on, probably for sometime tomorrow. Stay tuned…

The Watering Hole: Tuesday May 8th – Men in Kilts

On the last Sunday in April I was in Säckingen with the boys. They have this Festival, which translates into Medieval Phantastic Spectacle, or some such. Loads of men were wearing kilts there, but I whipped my head around when a saw a guy wearing nice nature colored tartans. Little did I know I’d see the bloke on stage shortly after and, boy, this was fun to watch and listen to. The video above is from the same festival a year ago.

Other than making music, they have a charity going on. See more here and here. As the boys and me are planning for a Scotland visit this summer, we know where to go.

I could have written about the North Carolina Amendment 1 vote tonight, but it depresses me. I could have written about Greece’s troubles, but the fact that they are considering yet another vote rather than listen what the People says, depresses me. I could have written about Chancellor Merkel’s arrogance in the face of European voters’ will, but that depresses me as well. So I decided on music and men in kilts.

This is our Open Thread. Enjoy and weigh in.

The Watering Hole: March 20th – Europe’s Hate Crimes

Ok, ok. I knooow. There’s Illinois tonight. But still. Europe has it’s own stories to tell. We do have elections coming up, some really important, too. Most prominently France. And here’s what setting me off, once again:

You do not pander to the right wing haters without consequences. Marine LePen, daughter of ill-reputed right winger Jean-Marie LePen is running at around 16% of votes in recent polls.16% that Nicolas Sarkozy desperately wants to have, to get a second term. Sarko himself has been busily blaming minorities for France’s problems for years now, to get the right to vote for him and LePen wouldn’t be her father’s daughter if she didn’t, never mind her switch of focus.

Look what happens:

The neighborhood near Toulouse railway station where the Rue Jules Dalou is located is shabby and depressing. The houses are narrow and mostly only two stories high. There are no gourmet shops or chic boutiques. It’s a long way from the image of France that you see in the tourist brochures.

On any normal evening, the area would be deserted at 10 p.m., but this is not a normal evening. Since Monday morning, nothing in Toulouse is normal. That was when an unknown perpetrator on a motor scooter drove into the Rue Jules Dalou and shot dead three children and a teacher.

The shooting took place in front of and inside a Jewish school, the Collège et Lycée Ozar Hatorah. Now, photographers, cameramen and reporters are gathered in a crowd outside the cordoned-off building. Local residents, students and friends have placed flowers at the entrance, where the killer fired the first shots. “You will always be angels,” is written on one of the notes.

The four haven’t been the only ones to die. Three paratroopers of North African descent were killed recently as well as well as one of Caribean descent wounded. By the same perp.

This, obviously, reminds me of the German so-called Döner killings mentioned in the earlier post on the subject. Random shootings of immigrant small business owners, that could recently be traced back to a Nazi cell.

I dare to predict it is going to be a right wing Neo-Nazi behind this all. He will be, of course, a lone lunatic, as the three Germans behind the killings were lone lunatics, as Breivik was a lone lunatic and it has nothing at all to do with the fact, that hate speech and pandering to the right wing of politicians is making the Nazi’s sick views legitimate and sets the violence off. Nothing at all.

This is our open thread. Join us and yes, you may mention Illinois.

March 21st, UPDATE: The Washington Post has an UPDATE today.

Leftside Annie: We Are All Chattel Now: A Hard Look at Women’s Rights

Natalie Behring-Chisholm/Stringer/Getty Images

Cross-posted from Leftside Annie’s blog, Welcome to the Leftside.

“Why extremists always focus on women remains a mystery to me. But they all seem to. They want to control women. They want to control how we dress, they want to control how we act, they even want to control the decisions we make about our own health and bodies. Yes, it is hard to believe that even here at home, we have to stand up for women’s rights and reject efforts to marginalize any one of us, because America needs to set an example for the entire world.” ~ Hillary Clinton

She’s right, you know. Extremists all over the world have moved heaven and earth to control women, and they continue to do so to this day.

We’re only seeing the tip of the iceberg here in the United States, where the current crop of rightwing extremists are vowing to push women back to the early 1900′s, when birth control was illegal. Margaret Sanger, who saw her own mother die at the age of 50 after 18 pregnancies in 22 years, took up the cause of contraception and spent years crusading for the right of women to have control over their own bodies and not just serve as walking, talking incubators. She was even arrested and tossed in jail for disseminating information about contraception, which at the time was considered “smut” and outlawed via the 1873 Comstock Act, which “criminalized publication, distribution, and possession of information about or devices or medications for “unlawful abortion or contraception.”

We’ve come a long way since then. Unfortunately, the extremist right is trying to push us back in time to the days when women died by the thousands at the hands of back-alley abortionists. Since abortion is still illegal in many countries world-wide, the WHO (World Health Organization) reports that approximately 68,000 women die as a result of illegal abortions every year, and the number of women suffering from long-term complications from illegal abortions is staggeringly high as well, as many as 7 million women, who end up with sepsis, hemorrhages and internal injuries.

Men controlling women doesn’t stop there. In many Muslim countries, the lives of women are even more restricted and often dangerous or even fatal. In Afghanistan and Pakistan, “honor killings” are becoming more common every day, as these countries sink deeper into the morass of war and chaos. The Taliban, an extremist Islamist political group enforces its strict interpretation of Sharia law, which puts extreme limitations on the rights of women to move freely, to dress, to marry, to receive an education, to drive a car or ride a bicycle. It even prohibits a woman from wearing high heels, because it may “excite” a man. Women may not appear in public without a male relative, and must be fully veiled from head to toe in a restrictive garment called a burqa, which is essentially a very large bag that covers the entire woman, with the exception of a small section of mesh at eye level through which the woman is expected to navigate.

In these countries, another atrocity against women is on the rise: acid attacks, which men in India and Southeast Asia use as a form of revenge on a woman for refusing their sexual advances, proposals of marriage or demands for a dowry. The statistics are alarming: 80% of acid attacks are against women, and 70% of those attacks are carried out on women and girls under the age of 18. In countries such as Pakistan and Afghanistan, religious fanatics use acid attacks to enforce the strict Islamic dress code for women – if they consider a woman to be improperly dressed or immodest, acid thrown at her face is a method to ensure that women know the penalty for immodest behavior. Acid attacks have also been used against schoolgirls, because these religious fanatics do not believe that women should be educated. These men throw hydrochloric acid or sulphuric acid in the faces of these women and girls, maiming and often blinding or even killing them.

Please read the rest of Leftside Annie’s post at her blog.  You won’t be sorry!

The Watering Hole: December 27th – Headlines

Some headlines for today:

Hope: The tanks are being withdrawn, relief for the people of Homs.

No Surprise: Vladimir Putin rejects scrutiny into last elections 

Kill the Poor: Britain’s poorest hit by Stealth Tax

Critters and such: Confusing Weather Patterns for Britain’s Wildlife

Nature Victimized and her victims: Rising Seal Levels and Erosion leave landmark crumbling.

Romney: Inevitable? Well…

Not Romney: The Molotov Party

Cute Overdose: Red Panda

This is our daily Open Thread, what’s your news?

The Watering Hole December 13th, 2011 Vulnerability

Breaking News:

A gun and grenade attack in the centre of the Belgian city of Liege has killed at least two people and wounded 47 including a toddler, media say.

Witnesses say a man in his 40s threw grenades at a bus stop in Place Saint Lambert, a busy square. At least two other men are thought to be involved.

Reports say one of the attackers is among the dead. Local media say another has been detained, while a third is involved in a stand-off with police. (more)

Lately:

An unidentified Scrooge poisoned visitors to two of Berlin’s popular Christmas markets with an offer of tiny bottles of liquor that were laced with vomit-inducing chemicals, police said Friday.

The suspect, who was in his mid-40s, hit two of the traditional holiday fairs Thursday and at the first, spoke to two foreign students, a man and a woman in their mid-20s, in English.(more)

No so recent:

At 9.15am on Friday 4 November, two men stormed into a building society in the east German town of Eisenach. One was wearing a black balaclava, the other a gorilla mask. Both had guns. They demanded money, punching a bank teller before grabbing €70,000 (£60,000) from the safe and hopping on to bicycles they had propped up outside. They knew what they were doing – it was their 14th bank robbery in 12 years.(more)

In a Democracy a lunatics like the Norway killer Breivik and the perps in the first story today will always find an opportunity to do damage, as will the psycho cowards like in case two.

Case three, however, shows some significant difference. The victims of the neonazis were law-abiding, hard working small business owners. As they were of Turkish and Greek descent, police immediately took decisive steps to solve the crimes. All the victim’s family members were thoroughly interrogated and checked for any criminal or drug contacts in their past, family feuds were on top of the list as well. “You know how they are, don’t you”. “All criminals”.”Not like us.” “They kill off each other”. The killings were dubbed “Doner killings” named after the popular Turkish fast food.

Well it wasn’t “Doners” that were murdered, it was fellow human beings. And they were murdered by some of “us”. “You know how we are”. “All Nazis”. “We kill those who are different”. This time we thoroughly earn the badge. Alas, again.

This the Daily Open Thread. Really.

The Watering Hole, November 29 – The Next Step

I think we have had the possibility of living in democracies. What does it mean? It means places where the privileged are not the one to make the decisions, but that the underprivileged are going to rise to a status where they are normal human beings and human citizens with their freedoms and their rights. Stéphane Hessel

I am following the actions of the world wide Occupy Movement as much as I can. Their activism is a necessary and valuable contribution to spotlight  the inequality that is rampant in most industrialized countries. An inequality which is, by all standards, a huge threat for Democracy itself.

Increasingly there are voices that want to take things one step further. How to introduce the ideas and actions of a movement into the political process in order to bring about the necessary legislation to reinstitute the rule by the people as opposed to the rule of a chosen few?

Well, if you want to go places, you have to define the place to go. The Occupy movement is a rather amorphous entity. Students are protesting fees, OWS is protesting the power of Wall Street and the lack of regulation, OccupyParadeplatz in Zurich is voicing a general discomfort with things as they are, but can’t bring themselves to go for any kind of specific political demands.

So what exactly needs to be done? Can we change the legislation through existing political channels? Who could we support? How do we avoid being sucked into the machinery of a totally corrupted political class? Do we have to run for office ourselves? What would our platform be? What’s the starting point?

Stéphane Hessel  in the interview quoted above has called for the youth to voice their outrage. They are doing it. But he calls for political action, too. How can we help ?

Tell me in the comments section.

This is our open thread, let us know your thoughts on this and don’t hesitate to comment, if you have other things on your mind.

Picture of The Day – Queue

Women queueing to vote in Egypt

Source: http://www.thestar.com.my

The writing on the wall says “We build Egypt together” They had to act twice, once to get rid of Mubarak and now again, when the military tried to introduce their concept of Democracy. I am afraid their struggle is not over yet. Democracy is hard to come by, let’s not ours go to waste.

The Watering Hole: Tuesday, November 8 – Personhood

Image source: Flickr Creative Commons user zieak

I am not talking about the abominable plans in Mississippi to turn a fertilized egg into a person legally. I have no intention to grace this irrationality with a post. I am talking about “The Economy” and “The Markets”. Both are nomina depicting a number of activities but are treated like they were personalities.

The Economy, that’s what we do. That’s the system or range of economic activity in a country, region, or community. We do it by producing goods, by providing services, by consuming. You name it. It is not a person, it is the totality of economic interaction done by all of us. As this is done by all of us, we have as a society or community the right and the duty to set the rules how this interaction should be, in order to be most profitable for all of us.

The Economy is not a person which is empowered to set the rules unless we make it that way, or rather let it happen. We do that currently.

The Markets are defined ranging from a) A public gathering to sell and buy merchandise, to b) A specific geographical area where certain merchandise or good are being sold to or bought from, to most globally c) The entire enterprise of buying and selling commodities and securities. If this were a person I’d recommend psychiatric evaluation for dissociative disorder.

The Markets are an integral part of the greater entity The Economy. The Economy is what WE do, The Markets is what WE do inside The Economy. WE decide how we want to do it. It is time we took our lives and our society back into our own hands and start to send representatives into our parliaments who do OUR bidding not the bidding of their shill friends Economy and Markets.

For behind the shill we find the real friends who perfectly understand how to use the concept of The Economy and The Markets as godlike ruling force against us. We all know who they are on your side of the Atlantic and on ours. 

This is our open thread. A public gathering to offer and accept your comments and a lively discussion. Get going.

The Watering Hole, Thursday, October 27th: …and in other news…

After mulling over topics for today’s post, I decided to just present a mixed bag of ‘things that caught my eye on the internets during the past few days.’ The articles range from serious to tongue-in-cheek to outright ridiculous. The following are from Foreign Policy Magazine online and from Newsmax.

From FP: The title of Ryan Caldwell’s article, “An Islamist, a Liberal, and a Former Regime Loyalist Walk into a Cafe”, snagged my attention. The article gave an interesting presentation of the post-Gaddafi views of three Libyans of different stripes working together. Also, for some reason I found it just wondrous that the interview was done via Skype, from Caldwell’s home in California to a cafe in Benghazi. Plus I learned that ‘celebratory gunfire’ is called rasaas al-farah, which means, literally, “bullets of joy.”

From FP: In “Dumb Power: Republicans Introduce the “What Wouldn’t Jesus Do?” Foreign Policy”, David Rothkopf gives his reaction to the Republican debate on foreign policy.

From Newsmax: In the Newsmax “Breaking News” email, this article was billed as “Thomas Sowell: Herman Cain Is Real Black, Obama Not Typical“. The article includes such tidbits as:

“His prescription for fixing the economy: “I would love to have a constitutional amendment that says politicians are not allowed to intervene in the economy under any circumstances. I think there would be a boom following that.””

From Newsmax: The title of “Hensarling: Supercommittee Need Not Cut Entitlements” sounds hopeful, doesn’t it? Sure…read the whole article: Hensarling, the Republican co-chair of this “Supercommittee”, has some strange ideas. Here’s one:

“I would like to pick up the Internal Revenue Code by its roots and throw it into the nearest trash can. Having said that, realistically, that’s probably a bridge too far for this committee,”


From Newsmax
: And finally, Frank Gaffney being Frank Gaffney:

“Frank Gaffney warned in an exclusive Newsmax.TV interview: “I’m afraid there’s a war coming, a very serious, perhaps cataclysmic regional war,” he said. “It will be presumably over, at least in part, the future existence of the state of Israel. It may involve all of its neighbors, as they have in the past, attacking Israel to try, as they say, to drive the Jews into the sea.””

Enjoy!

This is our Open Thread. I’m sure you can find something to say about any one of the above, so Speak Up!

The Watering Hole: Tuesday October 25th – Switzerland Voted

Two small centre parties – the Conservative Democrats and the Liberal Greens – are the winners of Sunday’s parliamentary polls ending years of increasing polarisation.

The rightwing Swiss People’s Party and the centre-left Greens suffered the biggest losses in the House of Representatives compared with the 2007 vote. The two main centre-right parties also saw their support slip, while the centre-left Social Democrats registered a slight gain. (read more)

Obviously the Swiss were fed up with the fear mongering and the hate politics. I feel very sorry for the Greens. They are the ones who should have profited from the increased interest in environmental issues in Switzerland, but the Green Liberal Party, which is basically promising to build a greener capitalism, so everybody can keep their Porsche Cayennes, outstaged them. The SVP (Swiss People’s (Tea-) Party) just got their due. Good riddance to some of their MP’s.

Here’s Swissinfo’s comments page, so you can get a glimpse into the Swiss Psyche. See any similarities?

This is our open thread, so open up!