Saturday, October 13, 2007

Blackwater "Psycho Killers"

Set to a classic Talking Heads tune, "Psycho Killer."

Brian Eno sez

Stop the War Coalition planned a march from Trafalgar Square to Parliament Square on Monday--the day parliament resumes--to draw attention to the fact that a lot of us are still thinking about Iraq and to call for the immediate withdrawal of troops. Using an archaic law (the 1839 Metropolitan Police Act), that demonstration has now been banned. Now why would that be? Stop the War Coalition has organised dozens of such demonstrations, and as far as I know not one person has been hurt. So it can't be public safety that's at stake.

No, it's the elephant in the room. This government wants to show itself as clean and new, and doesn't want attention drawn to the elephant and the mess it has left on the carpet. So it invokes an old law, to shave a little more off the arrangements by which citizens communicate their feelings to government (a process, by the way, called democracy).

It would take courage for Gordon Brown to say: "This war was a catastrophe." It would take even greater courage to admit that the seeds of the catastrophe were in its conception: it wasn't a good idea badly done (the neocons' last refuge--"Blame it all on Rumsfeld"), but a bad idea badly done. And it would take perhaps superhuman courage to say: "And now we should withdraw and pay reparations to this poor country."

I don't see it happening. But the demonstration will, legal or not: on Monday Tony Benn will lead us as we exercise our right to remind our representatives that, even if Iraq has slipped off their agenda, it's still on ours. Please join us.
nerdified link.

In the UK, see the Stop the War Coalition's web site.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Open letter to Ron Paul

Dear Ron:

I have merely one question: was that your pickup I saw the other day with the nooses hanging from the tailgate?


You Know Who

Something a friend once said, and the coming Orwellian security state

A couple oldies but goodies from a long-lost friend:
There may be some who are less wealthy than others, but the big divide is the wall. The wall around your house, the high wall, with the locked gate. And your position vis a vis the "security personnel." If you are affluent, they won't shoot you. You are, after all, paying them. If you are poor, they will shoot you. That is, after all, what they are paid to do.
nerdified link
There are countries very near the US where gunmen armed with automatic rifles stand guard over the humblest little grocery store, where houses are surrounded by walls and gates, and tiny children hover in the parking lot of Burger King, peering through the windows, asking for the rest of your fries. Until the guard sees them. One's status is determined by whether the guards are shooting at the children who ask for your fries, or whether they are shooting at you.
nerdified link

Those are the passages that come most readily to mind when I read articles of how close the so-called "free" world is coming to fulfilling its destiny as a collection of ever-ubiquitous and pervasive surveillance states (Orwell was something of a prophet), and at the increased brutality of an alarmingly militarized domestic police force. Indeed, the time in which one is constantly monitored and in which your status is determined by whether the various security forces (both publicly funded and mercenary) are aiming their arsenal of weapons at you or away from you. For the vast majority of us who will never be garrisoned within suburban gated communities, I'd say it's a safe bet that the guns will be pointed squarely at us.

Whatever you do, of course, don't think about that. After all, such thoughts tend to be depressing, and take valuable attention away from more pressing matters such as "will Britney regain custody of her kids?" and "who's going to play in next year's Super Bowl?" Keep voting - even though doing so is practically a meaningless act (it helps to keep in mind that a few extra servings of Sartrean "Bad Faith" will be needed to prop up the fantasy of living in a "free country"). Don't worry. Be happy. The guards will be less likely to shoot at you that way.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Open letter to Speaker Pelosi


Was this intended to be your "let them eat cake" moment? If so, you really need to acquire a French accent in order to truly work it. I will agree on one thing: you are, along with your party's leadership, truly a leader and not an advocate. Granted you've spent your tenure as Speaker advocating practically nothing and have helped lead the US further down the road to Hell, for which I'm sure in time we'll all be eternally grateful.


You Know Who

Open letter to the Preznit


When you stated that, "Scary terrorists in faraway lands are plotting and planning new ways to kill Americans," what you really meant was that there are scary terrorists in the White House plotting and planning new ways to kill civilians in faraway lands. The manifest content of your statement as a thinly veiled attempt at projecting onto others the latent terrorist impulses that eat away at what's left of your psyche. I hope that clears things up for you.


You Know Who

Why our "opposition" party is full of crap

Yup. It all makes sense. Nice to see some folks waking up to what a number of us knew all along. Hat tip to Because I Said So at Political Fleshfeast.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

"These fires are the suicide note of mankind."

Today was a cooler day out in the high plains than we've seen in a while - downright seasonal in fact. Given that we've been sweating out the first week of October with high temps in the 90s (the norm is in the mid 70s) and lows in the mid 60s (when the norm is in the mid 40s), the slightly overcast sky and gentle breeze reminded me of why autumn is my favorite season.

The last couple years in particular, I've noticed that we've been running our air conditioner units well into October, which would have been laughable when we first moved out to the area. We seem to be entering another dry spell, which has local farming and ranching families concerned, and as I've noted a few times before, when we do get precipitation, it tends to be either unseasonal or unusually intense. We see breeds of insects that we've not seen before, as well as the usual flies and mosquitoes sticking around rather than dying off (or if dying off, doing so for just brief periods before returning). You get the picture. Something's a bit off. Of course we're not the only area, as Chicago was still sweltering in the upper 80s today (leading to the death of a marathon runner). Around the globe, there are all sorts of human-made climate disasters in progress:
South America chokes as Amazon burns

Vast areas of Brazil and Paraguay and much of Bolivia are choking under thick layers of smoke as fires rage out of control in the Amazon rainforest, forcing the cancellation of flights.

Satellite images yesterday showed huge clouds of smoke and much of the Amazon basin burning as fires, originally set by ranchers to clear land, have raged into the forest itself.


Roberto Smeraldi, head of Friends of the Earth Brazil, said the situation was out of control: "We have a strong concentration of fires, corresponding to more than 10,000 points of fire across a large area of about two million sq km in the southern Brazilian Amazon and Bolivia."

Each year at the end of the dry season, in anticipation of the first winter rains, farmers and cattle ranchers throughout South America set fires to "renovate" pasture land. But this age-old cycle has spun out of control as deforestation and climate change have created a tinderbox. There has also been a massive expansion of cattle ranching into forested areas, where fires are then set to clear an area after chainsaws have felled the trees.

Mr Smeraldi was clear on who was to blame for this year's fires: "They are mainly, I would say more than 90 per cent, the result of expanding cattle ranching." The first rains have arrived but they are weaker than usual in most areas and have been useless against the fires.

In the past three years Brazil's National Development Bank and the World Bank have poured funds into the southern Amazon, fuelling the expansion of the cattle industry with new slaughterhouses and four million additional head of cattle arriving in exactly the areas where the fires are now. Conservationists have said that while governments insist they are doing their utmost to stop deforestation they have been putting in place incentives for the destruction of the forest. "It is taxpayers' money fuelling these fires," said Mr Smeraldi.


"These fires are the suicide note of mankind," said Hylton Murray Philipson, from the London-based charity Rainforest Concern. "While politicians talk about defining moments, destruction will continue until we begin to attribute real value to the standing forest.

"The forces of globalisation will intensify with the construction of two asphalt roads linking the western Brazilian Amazon to the Pacific coast of Peru, dramatically shortening the export route to China," said Mr Murray-Philipson. "If we do not enable local people to gain a livelihood from the standing forest, it will continue to be converted into cattle pasture and soya prairies – and we will only have ourselves to blame."

Brazil and Indonesia do not appear on conventional industrial indices of the world's leading polluters but both countries are among the world's top four carbon emitters when deforestation is factored in.
Climate change disaster is upon us, warns UN

A record number of floods, droughts and storms around the world this year amount to a climate change "mega disaster", the United Nation's emergency relief coordinator, Sir John Holmes, has warned.

Sir John, a British diplomat who is also known as the UN's under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs, said dire predictions about the impact of global warming on humanity were already coming true.

"We are seeing the effects of climate change. Any year can be a freak but the pattern looks pretty clear to be honest. That's why we're trying ... to say, of course you've got to deal with mitigation of emissions, but this is here and now, this is with us already," he said.

As a measure of the worsening situation, Ocha, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs - part of the UN secretariat that employs Sir John - has issued 13 emergency "flash" appeals so far this year. The number is three more than in 2005, which held the previous record.

Two years ago only half the international disasters dealt with by Ocha had anything to do with the climate; this year all but one of the 13 emergency appeals is climate-related. "And 2007 is not finished. We will certainly have more by the end of the year, I fear," added Sir John, who is in charge of channelling international relief efforts to disaster areas.

More appeals were likely in the coming weeks, as floods hit west Africa. "All these events on their own didn't have massive death tolls, but if you add all these little disasters together you get a mega disaster," he said.

The only one of this year's emergency appeals not connected to the climate was an earthquake in Peru, in August. The others arose after an unprecedented string of catastrophic floods across much of Africa, south Asia and North Korea, and followed severe drought in southern Africa, Nicaragua's category-five hurricane, and extreme climate conditions in Bolivia, which brought both drought and floods.

The Ocha appeals represent the tip of an iceberg since they are launched only with the agreement of the affected country. India was badly affected by floods that hit the rest of the Asian region in July. But unlike its neighbour, Pakistan, India did not call on the UN for help.

Ocha believes that 66 million people were made homeless or were otherwise affected across south Asia. The lives of several million more people were turned upside down across Africa. Sudan, Mozambique, Madagascar, Zambia and Uganda experienced disastrous floods, and Swaziland and Lesotho declared emergencies because of severe drought that reduced harvests by half.

The latest appeal from Ocha was launched yesterday, to try to raise emergency relief funds for Ghana, where more than 400,000 people are reported to be homeless as a result of flooding. Appeals may also be started for Togo and Burkina Faso.

"The flooding in Africa just now is the worst anyone can remember," Sir John said, expressing frustration at how little media attention in the west was being devoted to what he terms creeping climatic catastrophe.

Flooding is likely to be common for a warming planet, and climate change has a double effect - causing an increase in the frequency of storms, while higher atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide curb the ability of plants to draw groundwater.
Hat tip to this post: "Much of the Amazon basin is burning"