Sunday, April 30, 2006

Darfur Rally Weekend Update

Crisis in Darfur Is Expected To Draw Thousands to Mall

Massive "Stop Genocide" rallies are planned on the Mall and across the nation today to urge the Bush administration to take stronger action to end the violence in Sudan's Darfur region.
Thousands of people are expected to converge on Washington, including 240 busloads of activists from 41 states, local and national politicians and such celebrity speakers as actor George Clooney, Holocaust survivor and author Elie Wiesel and Olympic speed skater Joey Cheek.

The rallies, scheduled to take place in 18 cities, would be the largest public outcry for Darfur since the conflict began three years ago. There, Sudanese troops and pro-government Arab militias called the Janjaweed launched a campaign of killings and rapes, prompting the Bush administration to label the atrocities as genocide. At least 200,000 have died in the conflict, and 2.5 million have been forced from their homes.


Sudan Darfur peace deal up in the air: mediators

ABUJA (Reuters) - Peace talks on Sudan's Darfur region remain very fluid and chances of a deal are "50-50" as a deadline nears, senior mediators said on Sunday after a meeting with two of the three rebel factions.

The government of Sudan said earlier it was ready to sign a peace plan drafted by African Union (AU) mediators who have set a deadline for the warring parties to reach a deal by the end of Sunday. more

A Loss of Hope Inside Darfur Refugee Camps

NAIROBI -- On a stretch of the austere desert in Chad, just across the border from the Darfur region of Sudan, signs of tragedy came into full view: tattered clothing caught on the branches of thornbushes, carcasses of camels and goats that died on the long journey out.

Then the people began to appear: haggard young girls with siblings on their backs, old men riding atop donkeys piled high with cooking pots, water jugs and mats, and elderly grandmothers, some with gunshot wounds, being pushed through the sand in wheelbarrows. More

Friday, April 28, 2006

Darfur Rally Update

Bush Administration Is Urged to Intervene in Sudan

An unusually broad coalition of 164 humanitarian and religious groups, including Amnesty International and the National Association of Evangelicals, is planning a huge rally Sunday on the Mall to call for intervention to end the violence in Sudan's Darfur region.

Stop Genocide rallies also are planned in Chicago, San Francisco and 15 other cities. An allied campaign, A Million Voices for Darfur, aims to deluge the White House with 1 million postcards. The goal is to push the Bush administration to support a multinational peacekeeping force for Darfur, where militias backed by Sudan's government have killed tens of thousands of civilians and driven 2.5 million from their homes since 2003.


Congressmen Olver, McGovern arrested at Darfur protest

WASHINGTON --Five Congress members were willingly arrested and led away from the Sudanese Embassy in plastic handcuffs Friday in protest of the Sudanese government's role in atrocities in the Darfur region.

"The slaughter of the people of Darfur must end," Rep. Tom Lantos, D-Calif., a Holocaust survivor who founded the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, said from the embassy steps before his arrest.

Four other Democratic Congress members -- James McGovern and John Olver of Massachusetts, Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas and Jim Moran of Virginia -- were among 11 protesters arrested on charges of disorderly conduct and unlawful assembly, a misdemeanor subject to a fine.

"We must hold the Sudanese government accountable for the attacks they have supported on their own citizens in Darfur," Olver said.


Thanks to Donkelphant for this one:

U.N. Affirms Duty to Defend Civilians

The U.N. Security Council affirmed for the first time Friday that the international community has a responsibility to protect civilians from genocide, war crimes and ethnic cleansing when national governments fail to do so.

A resolution, which was unanimously approved by the 15-nation council, endorsed an agreement reached by world leaders at last year's summit that was aimed at preventing tragedies like the 1994 Rwanda genocide.

Britain's U.N. Ambassador Emry Jones Parry, who has been pressing for adoption of the resolution since November, said he was pleased that the Security Council had for the first time referred to the concept of the responsibility to protect in a resolution. "I think that is good news," he said.


Acting White

Being Secretary of State of the United States has to be the toughest job on the planet. The complexities of if, how, and when to intervene, in the affairs of other countries, is overwhelming. If you are ‘lead-dog’ of the free world, the calls for action, including ‘doing nothing’, come uninterrupted and from every global direction.

So what makes it so hard to do the right thing?

The Mighty Middle

Looks like we're going to the Save Darfur rally in DC this Sunday. I say it 'looks like' because although we have plane tickets, and hotel reservations, and have boarded the animals, one can never overestimate my family's capacity for screwing up even the most settled plans. Used to be there was a one-to-one ratio between plans and actions. As we added kids and middle age that ratio slipped to about three-to-one. Barring last minute crises, however, I'll be there with the wife and the kids and possibly some idiotic sign.

Hunters, Anglers, and Treehuggers Join Forces

Kudos to Jerome Alicki of Black Bear Speaks for drumming up this article :
Important note: The same give away (average price per acre 350$) of public lands is in the Bush proposed 2006 budget

Today's GOP-controlled Congress has shown itself to be no friend of the environment, but even by conservatives' own standards, last October's surprise was a standout. An amendment inserted at the last minute into a budget reconciliation bill would have opened up millions of acres of public lands, including tracts in national monuments and wilderness areas, to purchase by mining companies and other commercial interests.

It was to be the biggest divestiture of public lands in almost a century, and it was happening completely under the radar, with no floor vote, no public hearings, and no debate. Washington's environmental community was the first to notice the amendment and sound the alarm. Staffers at Earthworks, the Wilderness Society, and other green advocacy groups identified lands in the crosshairs and called allies in the Senate, where the measure could still be defeated. It didn't take much prodding before western Democrats were united against the provision.

But to stop the land sales, Republican senators would also need to speak out. That was a harder sell. Many conservatives accept large campaign contributions from mining, oil, and gas companies, and they tend to favor more industry access to public lands and resources. In addition, western Republicans don't take advice from national environmental groups, whose members tend to be urban and suburban liberals -- not exactly their voters.

But there are outdoor organizations whose members include voters who can draw conservatives' attention. After an Earthworks staffer tipped off a counterpart at Trout Unlimited, the sportsmen's group (whose membership is two to one Republican) emailed its roughly 100,000 members and contacted regional editorial boards to spotlight the fight.

News spread like wildfire -- western sportsmen were outraged that public lands where they hunt and fish might be put on the auction block. Once they knew the stakes, local hook-and-bullet organizations held phone-bank days, organized letter-writing campaigns, and scheduled visits to regional Senate offices. A petition signed by 758 sportsmen's clubs affiliated with National Wildlife Federation, from the Great Falls Bowhunters Association to the Custer Rod and Gun Club, landed on elected officials' desks in Washington just weeks later. "These lands, so important to sportsmen and women, are open to every American, rich and poor alike," the letter read. "We believe it is wrong to put them up for mining companies and other commercial interests to buy at cut-rate prices."


And this isn't the first time since W took office that hunters, anglers, and environmentalists have joined forces to battle against bad legislation. Before this there was the proposed weakening of of the Clean Water act that would have allowed for dumping raw sewage into rivers and lakes when it rained and now we are seeing a joining of forces to fight the weakening of the Endangered Species Act. Why? Because the habitat protection aspect of the ESA creates prime hunting and fishing areas.

Forgive me if I'm out of line here but aren't conservatives supposed to conserve? Failure to be fiscally conservative is not a valid reason to stop practicing conservation. The legacy of conservation was originally a Republican invention after all.

"To waste, to destroy, our natural resources, to skin and exhaust the land instead of using it so as to increase its usefulness, will result in undermining in the days of our children the very prosperity which we ought by right to hand down to them amplified and developed."

Teddy Roosevelt
Message to Congress (3 December 1907)

I guess W is a uniter and not a divider after all. Although I'm pretty certain this isn't what he had in mind when he said that.

You can view a state by state list of public lands that will be sold if the budget passes as is here.

You can oppose the sale here.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Iran to share nuclear technology?

Looks like Iran found a new bargaining chip....

Iran 'could share nuclear skills'

Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has said his country is ready to share its nuclear technology with other nations.

Ayatollah Khamenei made the offer during a meeting with visiting Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice condemned the comments.

Earlier, Iran's top nuclear negotiator threatened to suspend co-operation with the UN's nuclear watchdog if Teheran faced sanctions over its nuclear work.

The UN Security Council has set a deadline of 28 April for Iran to freeze its programme of uranium enrichment, which has been the focus of concerns that Iran could acquire nuclear weapons.

The US is trying to rally support from the Security Council for tougher action against Iran, including sanctions - a move currently being resisted by Russia and China.

In his meeting with Mr Bashir, Ayatollah Khamenei said Iranian scientists' nuclear capability was "one example of the numerous scientific movements in the country".

"The Islamic Republic is ready to transfer this experience and the technology and knowledge of its scientists," the leader was quoted as saying.

In return, the Sudanese president praised Iran's enrichment of uranium as a great victory for the Islamic world.


You can see where this is going. Iran shares with Sudan, Sudan threatens to share with Oh say Syria whenever it feels threatened Syria threatens to share with etc etc etc ad nauseum

It'll be interesting to see how the USA, the EU, and the UN keeps the nuclear cat in the bag. The last thing we need is every middle eastern country having its own private unregulated nuclear program.


Basils Blog

Right Wing Nation

Monday, April 24, 2006

Is W on Drugs or something?

First, props to Justin Gardner at Donkelphant and The Moderate Voice for pointing me towards this one.

Bush Admits Mistakes in Iraq, Defends Tactics

Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, April 24, 2006; 4:39 PM

President Bush today said mistakes were made in planning for the Iraq invasion, but he defended the troop level he ordered in the initial strike, saying he would have committed the same number if given a second chance.

Recalling his pre-war conversations with Gen. Tommy Franks, who led the invasion and is now retired, Bush told a business group in Irvine, Calif.: "The level that he suggested was the troop level necessary to do the job, and I support it strongly."


Ok now here's the part that makes you wonder if W is either lying, crazy, in denial, or on drugs:

“I also want to let you know that before you commit troops that you must do everything that you can to solve the problem diplomatically. And I can look you in the eye and tell you I feel I tried to solve the problem diplomatically to the max and would have committed troops both in Afghanistan and Iraq, knowing what I know today.”

If he'd done that we wouldn't be in quite the mess we're in now. Its crap like that that scares the hell out of people.

Well that and stuff like this:

“I base a lot of my foreign policy decisions on some things that I think are true. One, I believe there’s an Almighty. And, secondly, I believe one of the great gifts of the Almighty is the desire in everybody’s soul, regardless of what you look like or where you live, to be free.”

Why? Because that just adds credence to Bin Laden calling us Crusaders. Never prove the enemies point for them. Al Jazeera is really going to have some fun with that quote.

Adding Fuel to the Fire

Jackson Diehl of The Washington Post had a really interesting Op Ed piece today:

"President Bush's retreat from the ambitious goals of his second term will proceed one small but fateful step further this Friday. That's when, after more than two years of stalling, the president will deliver a warm White House welcome to Ilham Aliyev, the autocratic and corrupt but friendly ruler of one of the world's emerging energy powers, Azerbaijan."


The piece goes on to explain how America is forced by need to once again assist a lesser evil in order to strengthen our position (and secure oil reserves) against a greater threat Iran. Additionally it talks about Russia's continuing attempts to advance its position on the world stage by securing ever greater amounts of the worlds oil supply which again forces our hand in Azerbaijan.

Given the historical results of our meddling in Middle Eastern politics how long is it going to be before we're talking about sanctioning or invading Azerbaijan (average is 45 years)? And is this the first battle in a new cold war for oil?

Meanwhile Brazil announced that it will achieve energy independence this year. Brazil managed this with 25% of its population living in poverty, a 1 Trillion dollar deficit, a 6% inflation rate, and a 10% unemployment rate. And while Brazil has a little over half the population of the US and is one of the major sugar (key ingredient in their ethanol) produces in the world they accomplished what we should and could have long ago.

Had we set on the same course as Brazil at the same time (gas shortage of the 70's) we could have accomplished it in a fraction of the time and as a result changed the political and economic history of America. Think about it. Death of the American family farm? Wouldn't have happened as corn, soy, and wheat prices would have been stable plus farms would have been able to sell their chaff for ethanol production. American auto manufacturers would theoretically be in a better position today. We'd have never heard the words global warming, Gulf War I would have never happened, 9/11 would have been averted, and the War on Terror would be nonexistent.

Why didn't we become energy independent then? Shortsightedness of our leaders, complacency of the people, and a pay to play electoral system. The first two of those are a symptom of the third. But I've already covered that previously.

The oil industry is one of the largest campaign contributors to both parties. Neither party could risk losing that money by calling for energy independence if the other didn't as well. End result? Nothing happened. And now 30 years later we find ourselves back in the same position and we're seeing the exact same things happen again. The recently passed energy bill offered huge subsidies to oil and gas and much smaller temporary subsidies to alternate energy. We're again forced to play one crappy middle eastern dictator off of another even though we now know that it'll probably bite us in the ass later and cost American lives one way or the other.

This has to end. The status quo is slowly strangling us.

Here is what you can do:

1: Use less fossil fuels and save money by:

a: seeing my previous post for gas saving tips

b: until hydrogen powered cars are readily available make fuel efficiency a priority in your car buying decisions

c: Check with your local utility company as most have a renewable energy program. If not go to (4% of America's electricity is generated by petroleum products) and sign up there. (This is going to cost you about 3$ a month extra)

d: Install 4 fluorescent bulbs in your most used lights (this will also offset the 3$ a month you're paying for renewable energy) I converted the entire house and dropped my electric bill by 10%. For best quality light I recommend GE or Sylvania bulbs. 12$ for 12 bulbs at Sam's Club.

e: Recycle your plastics (plastics account for 15% of America's total petroleum usage)

2: Stay current on renewable energy issues at

3: Call for real campaign finance change on a state and federal level by visiting Public Campaign's site.

4: Spread the word.

If the government won't change America for the better then we have to do it ourselves.

P.S. I've already put my money where my mouth is.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Money/Gas Saving Tips

Since gas prices are going up fast here's a little help for everyone tracks prices all over america on a station by station basis. They have websites for most major cities
(insert city name) so for me its

Also make sure your tires are properly inflated normally thats 35 on the little meter thingy for most cars and light trucks. Underinflated tires can cost ya 2 mpg.

Remove any dead bodies from your trunk, move that dashboard altar inside, and limit yourself to 1 gun and 2 clips per car. 100 pnds = 1 mpg

Time for that tune up and/or oil change that you've been putting off = up to 5 mpg (if you're bad about maintenance, request platinum plugs, they last for 3 years)

Other maintenace Air Filter (you CAN do this yourself in 5 minutes), PVC valve (costs 5$ and is as easy to change as an air filter), Fuel filter (these suckers vary wildly in price and ease of installation ask your mechanic about it when you get your tune up)

And ya may wanna run a gas treatment through your car next fill up.

Sam's Club and Costco have the cheapest gas in town if you already have a membership. But don't go buying a 35 to 50$ membership just to save a nickel per gallon on gas. However if you start buying you're gas, potty paper, trash bags, water filters, pet food, laundry detergent and vaseline there you'll save money in the long run. (Note: Costco is usually cheaper than Sam's. as Costco caps its profit margin at 20% Sam's doesn't AND Costco's often have liquor stores in them.)

More tips are available here.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

The China Conundrum

Face it. Corporations and Government have pimped out most of America's manufacturing ability to China. That has left us with a HUGE trade deficit with China. And whats China doing with that money? Inflating oil prices, strengthening their military, supporting unfriendly governments like Venezuela and Iran, persecuting their own citizens for trying to excercise free speech, hiring US lobbying firms, and supplying vacations to China to our elected officials.

Our leader say that this is free market economics in action. I call it screwing over America and strengthing a government that murders it own people in mass, supports unfriendly extremist governments, and artificially keeps its currency valued low so that its citizens can't buy American made goods.

In fact we are now so dependent on China that we have no real bargaining position with them. Our federal deficit is in large part money owed to China via loans and bonds, our currencies valuation is dependent on China not dumping the 200 billion dollars that constitutes our trade deficit, and our citizens are dependent on the cheap lower quality goods produced in China.

Allow me to sum that up real quick like. China can crash the bond market and massively devalue our currency at will. And afterwards it could then revalue its currency so that Americans can't afford jack. Will it? Not as long as we play nice. We'll have a trade war long before we'll have a real war. And a trade war would cost many elected officials their jobs.

We need to start thinking long term before the US ceases to be the economic super power.
We need to kill the corporate tax breaks that encourages exportation of American jobs abroad, implement tariffs until China revalues its currency, limit congressional trips to China, and limit the amount of money that China and other countries with terrible human rights records spend on lobbyists. Here's an idea. How about we give Mexico favored nation trading status and help strengthen their economy to help stem the tide of illegal immigration?

But there is good news. Help is on the way. Due to the fact that the issues that brought about the Tianamen square protests and subsequent massacre were never resolved, rampant govt. corruption, land reclamation from the workers by the govt to build new factories, and constant abuse of workers the mood of the chinese people is souring. In 2003 there were 50,000 protests , 75,000 in 2004, and 85,000 in 2005. The economic benefits of China's new economy doesn't stretch far beyond the cities. And thats not where the majority of China's population lie.

In fact many cities have made it illeagal for for migrant country workers to actually move to the city permantly. Migrant country workers have no rights in the cities. And I do mean none. As in no guarantee of even being paid for their work ever. Migrant workers are effectively contract workers that get paid room and board with their actualy salary being paid once the job is completed. Then the job is completed a day late, or they're fired for being 1 minute late, or for getting sick, falling asleep on the job because they work 20 hour days, or getting injured and presto they don't get paid.

China's government rose to power on the backs of the working people and they may not choose to shoulder that burden much longer. But the lesson of Tianamen square lingers because what many don't know or remember is that it wasn't just protesters that were killed, but also the parents that came looking for their children and the paramedics, doctors, and nurses that came to treat the wounded. (see June 4th) And lessons like that aren't soon forgotten.

And because I believe that the chinese people will tire of the status quo long before our "leaders" I have two things to say 1: Buy American. 2: Power to the Chinese people.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Six US Generals Say Oops.

The article below is from a WaPo editorial and it raises a really valid point:

PRESIDENT BUSH'S stubborn support for Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has compounded U.S. troubles in Iraq, prevented a remedy for the criminal mistreatment of foreign detainees and worsened relations with a host of allies. Now it is deepening the domestic political hole in which the president is mired. Half a dozen senior retired generals have publicly criticized Mr. Rumsfeld, touching off another damaging and distracting controversy at a critical moment in the war. Thanks in part to his previous misjudgments, Mr. Bush has no easy way out.


The long and short of it comes to this. Rumsfeld can't resign without giving the impression he caved to their pressure and a appearing weak and W can't can Rumsfeld for the same reason.
Not that Rumsfeld would resign and if W had a choice between appearing weak and kissing Ted Kennedy on the lips on camera I think he'd pucker up (and brush his teeth with a brillo pad afterwards).

Darfur: Humanitarian Workers at Risk

Recently, the United Nations was forced to withdraw its staff from parts of western Sudan after the Janjaweed militia declared that it would begin targeting foreigners and U.N. humanitarian convoys.

Yesterday, a 26 year-old USAID worker was shot in the face when the clearly-marked humanitarian convoy she was traveling in was ambushed in broad daylight.

It is still unknown just who carried out this ambush, but Sudan expert Eric Reeves reported yesterday that he had "received from multiple, highly authoritative sources intelligence indicating that Khartoum has ambitious plans for accelerating the obstruction of humanitarian access by means of orchestrated violence and insecurity, including the use of targeted violence against humanitarian aid workers."

If such a plan is truly in the works, it will have dire consequences for the people of Darfur. Last year, Jan Egeland, the UN Undersecretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, warned that as many as 100,000 people could die in Darfur every month if those providing humanitarian assistance were forced to withdraw due to insecurity.

Save the Children has already lost 4 of its aid workers in the last year, yet they continue to provide medical care, food, water, shelter, and protection to more than 200,000 children and families in Darfur each month.

Friday, April 14, 2006

More Calls to Replace Rumsfeld

This is from the Washington Post:

Friday, April 14, 2006; Page A17

With luck, Iraq will make a fresh start soon with the formation of a new government. The Bush administration should do the same thing by replacing Donald Rumsfeld as defense secretary.

Rumsfeld has lost the support of the uniformed military officers who work for him. Make no mistake: The retired generals who are speaking out against Rumsfeld in interviews and op-ed pieces express the views of hundreds of other officers on active duty. When I recently asked an Army officer with extensive Iraq combat experience how many of his colleagues wanted Rumsfeld out, he guessed 75 percent. Based on my own conversations with senior officers over the past three years, I suspect that figure may be low.


Mr Ignatius makes a few valid points that I agree with right until he suggests that Joe Lieberman be appointed Secretary of Defense. The only way Joe Lieberman could make Americans feel safer is if Chuck Norris stood next to him every time he made a public appearance. In fact Chuck Norris might be as qualified as Joe Lieberman to be Secretary of Defense. Although I believe that either other them would do a better job than Rumsfeld.

I say that because I don't believe that Rumsfeld considers opinions that aren't his own. He's a my way or the highway kind of guy. That attitude can work well if you're a general in the field. But intractability doesn't win wars. It sure didn't work for Hitler who effectively tried to plan the 2nd half of WWII by himself. In fact he was so bad as a general that the Brits chose not
to assassinate him rather than have someone more competent as a military leader take his place. And thats exactly what we need.

Now keep in mind that this has nothing to do with the fact that Rumsfeld had repeatedly refused to to fund my army of robots. Which I can assure do an excellent job of keeping the peace. Publicly skinning people alive in under five seconds is a great crime deterrent. But thats neither here nor there.

If we are going to achieve victory in a timely manner we need new ideas and someone who will actually listen to them and commanders in the field. It was Rumsfeld who chose to ignore the original troop strength reccomendations for the war and send in 1/3 rd that number. That esulted in our forces inabilility to effectively police the country once it had fallen. The looting that occured as a result of that allowed for weapons caches and banks to be pillaged thereby supplying and funding what became the insurgency. I've commented on this before so I'll stop here. Remember folks stubborness and inflexibility are not virtues and they certainly aren't traits that make for a great Secretary of Defense.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Todays Fat Load of Crap: Hilton Screws Over Disabled Vets

This came from The Mudville Gazette by way of Basil's Blog

Fran O'Brien's steakhouse in the Capitol Hilton, Washington, DC. Every Friday night, Hal Koster, the restaurant manager and Vietnam Vet, invites wounded soldiers convalescing at nearby Walter Reed Army Center to a free steak dinner and drinks.Hilton Corporation has decided not to renew their lease as apparently,there are too many "liability issues" in accommodating American heroes in wheelchairs. In fact , the lease (and therefore the dinners) will expire in a few short weeks.

more from The Mudville Gazette

Thats enough to make you say, "You heartless bastards, I've got a mind to "
So please take the time to A: read the whole story B: vent at Hilton and C: Spread the word so that other people can tear Hilton a new one by either posting about it in your blog or emailing a friend or fifty.

Now that the important part is over allow me to ramble on for a bit. Hilton's behaviour is what is generally referred to as poor corporate citizenship and its not that uncommon. And I believe that its cause is linked to the same thing that also gives rise to corporate corruption. If you have ever taken buisness classes you know that the purpose of a corporation is "To return maximum value to its shareholders." Think about that. Maximum. Not great, not incredible, not better than last quarter, but the most you can possibly manage within the limits of the law.

Thats difficult to do and still be a good corporate citizen. And all to often maximizing shareholder value means doing it at the expense of others (downsizing, exporting jobs etc etc). Hilton's behaviour is a good example of that. Wal Mart is frequently villainized for it. I know Wal Mart stores donates to many local charities and odds are both Wal Mart and Hilton donate to charity on a corporate level as well but Hilton probably does not donate any more than the IRS allows them to deduct from their taxes. And in my opinion thats a really short sighted approach.

Why? Because as evidenced by Hilton's behaviour being a member of the heartless bastard club generates negative PR which will decrease profits. Had Hilton instead just built the damn ramp and renewed the lease that could have been avoided. Had Hilton gone a step further and say purchased dinners for disabled vets using money from their Advertising Budget they would have attracted new customers and increased the brand loyalty of some of their current customers and generated good PR. Odds are years of trying to pinch every penny possible has given Hilton tunnel vision. Wal Mart had the sense to help out significantly during hurricane Katrina and as a result got network news coverage for doing so.

I'm willing to bet that had Wal Mart paid for the same amount of advertising time they'd have gotten less consumer response and paid more for it than they actually donated. They made money by giving away money. That goes against the traditional "maximum value" way of thinking. And Nike, Whole Foods, and Google are good examples of what can happen when a company doesn't make "maximum value" its top priority.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Bush's Base Losing the Faith?

I moved to Florida for the summer. And one thing I knew would happen is that my mom would drag me to her church which is a very conservative Southern Baptist church. And by very conservative I mean women must have long hair, not wear pants, and submit to your husbands church. And during the sermon the preacher railed against liberals, the first ammendment, promoted corporal punishment, and villainized Catholics.

However, he also questioned the original logic of the war in Iraq, asked for a quick resolution to it, and asked that everyone pray for the troops and a speedy resolution to the occupation. And the congregation Amen'ed every word of that.

I was pleasantly surprised. America isn't as sheeplike as I had feared apparently.

The Unknown Death Toll

Sorry I haven't posted in a while. I moved to FL for the summer last Friday.

Many seemed surprised when UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Jan Egeland recently updated the estimated death toll in Darfur upwards from 70,000 to 180,000. Egeland estimates that 10,000 people have died, and continue to die, per month since the start of the genocide 18 months ago. He also admitted that the new death toll might be even higher (more than 200,000) and stressed that this new figure does not include those who have died violently at the hands of the Sudanese government or their proxy militia, the Janjaweed. The original figure of 70,000 was an estimate, or rather an underestimate, as it covered only the mortality in camps accessible to the World Health Organization between April and early September 2004. As such, it did not include mortality rates prior to April 2004, nor did it include mortality rates among the more than 200,000 refugees in Chad, nor the mortality rates in regions inaccessible to humanitarian organizations. It is in these inaccessible regions where most of the violence is taking place. According to Sudan expert Eric Reeves, whose continuing analysis of the situation in Darfur has been vital to understanding the widening scope of the crisis, an estimated 240,000 others have died as a direct result of government and/or Janjaweed violence. If these numbers are correct, and we really have no cause to doubt them, it is safe to assume that some 400,000 Sudanese civilians have died in the last year and a half from direct violence, disease, or starvation. That is more than 22,200 per month.That is more than 740 per day.That is more than 30 per hour.That is one death every 2 minutes ... for 18 months. Despite the seemingly hopeless nature of the crisis, we at the Coalition for Darfur believe that together we can raise awareness of the situation and, at the same time, raise money for the vital work that Save the Children is doing by providing food, water, shelter, and protection to over 200,000 children and families in Darfur each month. Together, and with your support, we hope to make a small but meaningful contribution to alleviating the massive suffering that continues to plague the region.

Friday, April 07, 2006

An Open Letter to America

Dear America,

America is sick. In fact we've been ill for so long we've forgotten what a clean bill of health feels like. Our diseases' symptoms are rampant corruption, influence peddling, and apathy that have rendered Americans almost senseless. What should be an outrage is now the status quo. Those that we have charged to lead this great nation have instead carved up this nation with the intent of selling it off to the highest campaign contributor. And we allowed this to happen. We even make jokes about it. But its not funny and it will destroy this great land if we allow it to continue.

Believe me when I tell you that I am not overstating anything. What your average American has failed to realize is that in addition everything I have stated that the current march of globalization will soon have our leadership beholden to foreign owned corporate and special interests
if this is not stopped.

The good news is there is a simple solution. The bad news is that our current leaders, corporate powers, media conglomerates, and special interests will do everything within their power to make sure that this solution is never
implemented. And what is that solution? Public campaign financing. Meaning that we, you , me, and everyone else pays to have our leaders elected that we ensure that our leaders are solely dependent on us to get into office, that they are answerable only to us. Right now as I speak campaign finance reform is being discussed on the hill and what you and I both know is they are trying to figure out how much they can get away with and still make it look like they've actually made real meaningful reforms. Right now they are figuring out which loopholes to insert into the law, how to maintain the status quo, how to line their pockets at your expense, and how to reward their paymasters.

Benjamin Disraeli former prime minister of Britain once said, "I must follow the people, am I not their leader?". If we call for total reform loudly enough and long enough they will give it to us. Its already happening on a state level. But it won't be easy. Pundits, talking heads, and media figures will rail against it. Why? Because special interests pay their bills too. They're just called sponsors instead of campaign contributors. And you'll hear the fans of these public figures parrot their words endlessly from coast to coast. You'll hear the words socialist and socialism bandied about endlessly as insults. Ignore them. This isn't socialism, its surgery. Because we have a chance to cure the cancer of corruption, take back this country, and give us a huge advantage over our competitors whose governments' corruption currently exceeds ours.

The new American system won't be a corrupt pay to play system. Business and special interests will have to plead their case and prove the merits of their ideas to get changes made. In the new American system you, your neighbor, your minister, and your high school economics teacher will have as much of a chance of being elected as any millionaire. And isn't that the way it should be? Shouldn't our leaders be elected because they have integrity, quality ideas, and the courage to back up their convictions?

And how much is this going to cost us? According to
Public Campaign about 10$ per person per year. Its a bargain at ten times the price. The real question is how much is this current system of corporate fellatio costing us now? The cost cannot easily be measured. And it also cannot be measured in dollars alone.

"Look back at the bulk of legislation passed by Congress in the past decade: an energy bill which gave oil companies huge tax breaks at the same time that Exxon Mobil just posted $36 billion in profits in 2005 and our gasoline and home heating bills are at an all-time high; a bankruptcy “"reform”" bill written by credit card companies to make it harder for poor debtors to escape the burdens of divorce or medical catastrophe; the deregulation of the banking, securities and insurance sectors which led to rampant corporate malfeasance and greed and the destruction of the retirement plans of millions of small investors; the deregulation of the telecommunications sector which led to cable industry price gouging and an undermining of news coverage; protection for rampant overpricing of pharmaceutical drugs; and the blocking of even the mildest attempt to prevent American corporations from dodging an estimated $50 billion in annual taxes by opening a PO Box in an off-shore tax haven like Bermuda or the Cayman islands." - excerpt from Bill Moyers speech
Saving Democracy

Is that what we chose? Were those our interests being represented? Is our country better off?
America, its finally time to yell, "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore!" Spread the word.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Tony Blair under investigation for allegedly selling parliment seats

From the Washington Post:

Blair has been badly hurt by recent disclosures that several wealthy businessmen who privately lent money to his campaign were then recommended for seats in the House of Lords, the upper house of Parliament.

The appearance that seats in the House of Lords were up for sale -- an allegation Blair has denied -- has caused critics to call his government as sleazy as the Conservative government of former prime minister John Major, which Blair ousted in 1997.


Wow, he could teach Abramhoff a thing or two if this proves true. I wonder if W gave him a lesson in Cronyism 101 in while they were staying in Crawford.

Odds are between this, the war, and a few other minor rows Blair is going to lose his position. Which is kind of a pity as he's been as he's been our staunchest ally and a lot more moderate than W particularly when it comes to carbon emmissions. Apparently the USA isn't the only G8 country that needs some serious campaign finance reform.

Do Something About Darfur

In May 2004, Roger Winter, the Assistant Administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development's Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance, told a House committee that it was inevitable that "more than 100,000 people will die no matter what" in Darfur, Sudan by the end of the year. Winter went on to warn that, in a worst-case scenario, the number could reach as high as 350,000.

One year later, the estimated death toll stands at more than 300,000. The actual number of deaths is nearly impossible to determine given that the government of Sudan, fearing the truth, refuses to grant access to the World Health Organization so that it can conduct a mortality survey. Nonetheless, knowledgeable observers agree that thousands have died at the hands of the Sudanese government and their proxy militia, the Janjaweed (a term meaning "Devils on Horseback") and tens of thousands more have died of disease and starvation after having their villages destroyed in government-led attacks. More than 2 million Darfurians have been internally displaced, the agricultural economy has been decimated and an estimated 3-4 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance.

Nearly two years ago, the Muslim government in Khartoum was in the process of finalizing a peace accord that would end a twenty year civil war between the government in the North and the Sudan People's Liberation Army in the South that had taken some 2 million lives. Fearful that the Western region of Darfur was going to continue to be ignored in the new coalition government that was being formed, African rebels launched a series of raids against government facilities. Rather than negotiate with the rebel forces in the West, the government of Sudan enlisted Arab militias in a campaign to wipe out the rebels and anyone suspected of supporting them. In the process, hundreds of villages have been destroyed, tens of thousands have been raped and killed, and millions have been displaced.

The international community has responded in a haphazard fashion. The African Union secured the deployment of some 4,000 troops to the region, though its mandate was limited to monitoring a cease-fire that neither side honored. Less than 2,000 AU soldiers have arrived and they have limited logistical capabilities for covering this area roughly the size of Texas, nor do they have a mandate that allows them to protect civilians. The United Nations has been plagued by inaction, with China and Russia using their veto power to water down Security Council resolutions seeking sanctions or demanding accountability. A recent UN investigation detailed massive war crimes and crimes against humanity but stopped short of calling the campaign a genocide, a declaration the United States made last September. For now, much of the debate is focused on where any cases arising from this situation will be tried: the International Criminal Court or some Africa-based tribunal.

Angered by the lackluster response to what is widely acknowledged as the "world's worst humanitarian crisis," a group of bloggers have formed a Coalition for Darfur to do what little they can. We seek to raise awareness of the crisis in Darfur, but also to raise money for the vital work that Save the Children is doing by providing food, water, shelter, and protection to over 200,000 children and families in Darfur each month.

Together, and with your support, we hope to make a small but meaningful contribution to alleviating the massive suffering that continues to plague the region. Please consider making a donation via our Coalition for Darfur blog.

Dyre Portents joins The Coalition for Darfur

I'm happy to announce my support for the Coalition for Darfur. I am a staunch believer that genocide needs to be stopped at all costs wherever it rears its vile head. And I for one have been extremely dissapointed in the current administrations response to the situation in Darfur.
Below you'll find the history of the Coalition and information on how your blog can join. Please take the time to read it and do what you can to help. Thank you.

A Southern conservative and a Northern liberal have teamed up to raise awareness about the genocide in Darfur, Sudan and money for a worthy organization doing vital work there: Save the Children.

Drawn together by their love/hate relationship with federal judicial nominee William Pryor (Feddie of Southern Appeal loves him, Eugene Oregon of Demagogue hates him) the two have found common ground on the issue of Sudan.

For nearly two years, the government of Sudan and Arab militias known as the Janjaweed have rampaged through Darfur, raping women, killing thousands, destroying hundreds of villages as well as the agricultural economy and displacing more than 2 million people. Hundreds of thousands of people are in dire need of food, shelter, and medical care, but a lack of security is making it nearly impossible for international organizations to reach those most in need.

With the UN and the rest of international community plagued by paralysis and inaction, Feddie and Eugene are seeking to do what little they can to help. As such, the have banded together in an effort to alert the blog community to the genocide taking place in Darfur and raise money for Save the Children.

As founders of the coalition, Feddie and Eugene will do the majority of the work. All we ask is that you join us in raising awareness of the crisis in Darfur by, once a week, posting a short post on the topic (one that we will provide) on your blog. (This is the inaugural Coalition for Darfur post.)

If you would like to join us, please send your blog and e-mail addresses to Furthermore, if members of the coalition write any posts related to the issue, feel free to send them to us as well so that we can post a short excerpt and link to any such posts.

An estimated 300,000 people have died from violence, disease and starvation in Western Sudan. We ask you to join us in raising awareness of this continuing genocide and raising money for Save the Children, which, despite the insecurity and deaths of several of its aid workers, continues to provide food, water, shelter, and protection to over 200,000 children and families each month.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Danger Will Robinson! Danger!

Forget Dubai -- worry about Smartmatic instead

The greater threat to our nation's security comes not from Dubai and its pro-Western government, but from Venezuela, where software engineers with links to the leftist, anti-American regime of Hugo Chávez are programming electronic voting machines that will soon power U.S. elections.

Congress spent two weeks overreacting to news that Dubai Ports World would operate several American ports, including Miami's, but a better target for their hysteria would be the acquisition by Smartmatic International of California-based Sequoia Voting Systems, whose machines serve millions of U.S. voters. That Smartmatic -- which has been accused by Venezuela's opposition of helping Chávez rig elections in his favor -- now controls a major U.S. e-voting firm should give pause to anybody who thinks that replacing our antiquated butterfly ballots and hanging chads will restore Americans' faith in our electoral process.


Meanwhile Mr Chavez is busy trying to influence Mexican elections consolidating his control of 20% of the worlds oil supply and preparing to defend Venezulala from our impending invasion.

Boy, he's about as busy as a one legged man in ass kicking contest isn't he?

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

And now without further Delay...

DeLay Won't Run, Means to Resign

The Associated Press
Tuesday, April 4, 2006; 1:06 AM

WASHINGTON -- Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, a Texan touched by a lobbying scandal that ensnared some of his former top aides and cost the Republican his leadership post, won't seek re-election to Congress and intends to resign, Republican officials said Monday.


Delay steps down as a Federal investigation works it way closer to nailing his sorry ass.

As I mentioned in one of this blogs first posts
Delays ethics are just a symptom of what has infected Texas' and the Nation's politics. Texas has a corruption and graft problem that permeates all levels of politics from Senators, County Clerks, down to patrol officers "protecting" our streets. Its bad, I mean its really bad. Its bad to the point that if I had a daughter of driving age, I'd move to the country for her safety. No one is watching the watchers.

But back to Delay, Delay steps down rather than risk losing his election. His gerrymandering screwed him as the demographics of his district have changed to the point that his voting against MLK day is hurting him on top of the criminal investigations. What we are most likely to see should the investigations draw a blank is either Delay becoming a lord high mucky muck in the GOP or him running in another more homogenous district. And strange as it sounds the GOP would be better off with him in congress than it would be running the party. Frankly the GOP would be better off getting rid of him and stopping the cancer called corruption that he and his kind spread. But we know thats not going to happen.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Behold the apocalypse draws nigh! No really, this time we're right!

I'd run across several mentions of how Carl Rove had used the apocalypse as campaign selling point during the '04 elections and I had occasionally wondered if W was buying it as well as selling it. The jury is still out. What I can say for certain from my personal experience is that there is a higher number of churches promoting apocalyptic rhetoric than I've seen since 1999. How soon they forget it seems. I remember this also happening in the late 70's, then there was the harmonic convergence apocalypse of the 80's, and the Hale Bop apocalypse of the 90's. I seem to recall a Haley's Comet apocalypse as well. It amazes me is that people fall for it repeatedly during the same lifetime. Whatever happened to,"Fool me once shame on you..blah blah blah"?

I swear if I had a nickel for every time this movement reared its head I'd have built that Army of Robots by now.

So here's an article from the Washington Post about how the GoP wed Christian evangelicals in a bid for to "turn the highest office in the USA into the Holy Presidence-See". I'm no theologian but there's one thing I know for sure; Jesus was no tool. Too bad the same thing can't be said for all of his followers.