Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Very interesting story

A court in Germany has ordered the arrest of 13 people suspected of being involved in the abduction of a German national who says he was kidnapped and tortured by the CIA, state prosecutors said on Wednesday.
[Arrests are ordered] on suspicion of falsely imprisoning and causing grievous bodily harm to Khaled el-Masri, a German of Lebanese descent.
German NDR state television said the 13 suspects were CIA employees, according to its own research. It said the majority of them were in the United States.
Since no one seems willing/able to hold the Administration to account for it's constitutional violations, perhaps trials such as this will bring the CIA and Defense Dept. back in line in terms of human rights abuses.
Americans have traditionally believed in limited government.  Failures to keep government limited have never led to good outcomes in our history.  Our present failure to preserve limited government has not had and will not have good outcomes either.    Morally and strategically, those who have participated in 'reditions' leading to torture and mistreatment must be prosecuted.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

More Global Warming Evidence

Is this the sort of evidence that the Bush Administration tries to hide?

The latest survey concluded 30 glaciers worldwide by World Glacier Monitoring Service (WGMS), based in Switzerland, shows that in the year 2005 glaciers have melt 1.6 times more than the average annual loss during the 1990s.

Wilfried Haeberli, WGMS director Wilfried Haeberli feared that if the current trend continues than most of glacier would disappear on a timescale of decades.

The unfinished job

Afghanistan continues to be a very dangerous place.  Never were enough 'boots on the ground' placed in that country.  The invasion of Iraq further eroded strenght and focus on Afghanistan. 
More than 1,000 civilians were killed in Afghanistan in 2006, most of them as a result of attacks by the Taliban and other anti-government forces in the country's unstable south, a rights group said Tuesday.

Human Rights Watch said that at least 100 of those civilian deaths were caused by NATO and U.S.-led troop operations, far below another estimate by an Afghan rights group.

In all, more than 4,400 Afghans - comprising civilians and combatants - died in conflict-related violence, twice as many as in 2005 and more than in any other year since the U.S . helped oust the Taliban in 2001, the Human Rights Watch said in a statement.

Taliban-led guerrillas launched a record number of attacks last year and engaged in several pitched battles with foreign troops, who now number more than 40,000, the most since the fall of the fundamentalist militia.

With warlords and drug traffickers still powerful, Human Rights Watch said Afghan President Hamid Karzai and donor nations had failed to meet promises to improve governance, the economy and security under plans to be reviewed at an international meeting on Afghanistan starting Tuesday in Berlin.

"Afghanistan hasn't really met any of the benchmarks" on improving human rights...

Which means that the US hasn't met any benchmarks- or its obligations- regarding Afghanistan.


Politics over truth

Democratic-controlled Congress on Tuesday stepped up its pressure on President Bush's global warming strategy, hearing allegations of new political pressure on government scientists to downplay the threat of global warming.
...46 percent felt pressure to eliminate the words "climate change," "global warming" or similar terms from communications about their work.

The scientists also reported 435 instances of political interference in their work over the past five years.

The Union of Concerned Scientists, a private advocacy group, and the Government Accountability Project, a legal-assistance group that represents whistle-blowers, sent out the survey to 1,600 scientists. Surveys were returned by 308 scientists. Not all answered every question, but the survey found that:

  • 43 percent of respondents reported edits during review of their work that changed the meaning of their findings.
  • 46 percent felt administrative requirements that impaired climate-related work.
  • 67 percent said the environment for federal government climate research is worse now than five years ago.
We will make no progress in dealing with this environmental crisis without honest inquiry.
Dishonest inquiry led us to the War in Iraq.  It will equally lead us to devastating environmental consequences. 
We will be getting an honest appraisal in just a few days as a major report is due to be released.
The Administration will not be able to apply pressure or edit their way out of the facts of that report.

Monday, January 29, 2007


We can never have enough of nature. We must be refreshed by the sight of inexhaustible vigor, vast and titanic features, the sea-coast with its wrecks, the wilderness with its living and its decaying trees, the thunder cloud, and the rain which lasts three weeks and produces freshets. We need to witness our own limits transgressed, and some life pasturing freely where we never wander.

- Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Negative reaction to Gore's movie

In some areas parents have risen up to try and prevent teachers from showing An Inconvenient Truth in schools. Here's a sample of the illogic:

"Liberal left is all over Hollywood... No you will not teach or show that propagandist Al Gore video to my child, blaming our nation -- the greatest nation ever to exist on this planet -- for global warming," Hardison wrote in an e-mail to the Federal Way School Board. The 43-year-old computer consultant is an evangelical Christian who says he believes that a warming planet is "one of the signs" of Jesus Christ's imminent return for Judgment Day.

First- the ridiculous over-reaction in the email demonstrates the truth of the movie's name. The truth is simply inconvenient to some people's politics. Since they don't like it, kids shouldn't see it. While I think the movie would have been better without some of the overt political moments, they are simply moments and do not in any way invalidate the movie.

Second- does the writer believe that Christians in the US are to be rewarded for their selfish environmental destruction by being taken to heaven? The science is not in doubt- it is humans who have changed the amount of CO2 and other greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere. Are we to be rewarded for this?

The US has done great things in its history. Stopping the spread of Nazi Germany, spreading- by example- ideals of freedom and democracy, would be two examples. These, and more, are things we teach about extensively in our schools.

The US has done terrible things as well. Slavery and the destruction of Native American tribes would be two examples here. We must teach about these as well.

A third example would be our abuse of the environment in pursuit of the Almighty Dollar. We must teach about this as well. VP Gore's movie is a timely way to do that and, when appropriate with the classroom curriculum, it could be a useful tool.

The extreme critics of Gore's movie, I fear, practice not a truly Christian faith, but worship at the Church of Economic Growth, and would sacrifice all, including the education and very future of our children, upon the altar of Consumption.


Long term impact

From a draft UN report:

Warming to raise seas for 1,000 years

World sea levels will keep rising for more than 1,000 years even if governments manage to slow a projected surge in temperatures this century blamed on greenhouse gases, a draft U.N. climate report says.

The draft projects more droughts, rains, shrinking Arctic ice and glaciers and rising sea levels to 2100 and cautions that the effects of a build-up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere will last far longer.

Sea levels rose by 17 cm (6.7 inches) in the 20th century. Rising seas would threaten low-lying Pacific islands, coasts from Bangladesh to Florida and cities from Shanghai to Buenos Aires.

The report says it is "very likely" -- or more than a 90 percent chance -- that human activities, led by burning fossil fuels, are to blame for warming since 1950.

We've been the source of the problem. Are we prepared to be a part of the solution? Are we ready to make the sacrifice? Or are we simply going to pass the consequences of our sins down to future generations?


Work Unifinished

Because the Bush Administration failed to stick to the task in Afghanistan, this is the headline:

Karzai offers talks with Taliban to end bloodshed

Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Monday offered peace talks with a resurgent Taliban after the bloodiest year since the hardline Islamists were driven from power in 2001.
More than 4,000 people, including about 170 foreign soldiers, died in fighting in 2006, which saw a dramatic jump in suicide bombings, and Taliban commanders have warned of a massive summer offensive this year.

Afghanistan is the nation that actually brought harm upon the US by aiding Al-Qaeda. The military action against Afghanistan was just. It was also under-manned and unfinished. President Bush decided that an unjust invasion of a nation that had not done direct harm to the US had to be launched. Furthermore, he decided that the unjust invasion was 5x as important as the just military action (judging by troop strength). So, bin Laden escaped and the Taliban remains a force of some potency.

How have our interests been served?

A key explanation for the 'surge' has been that we should not let the sacrifices of troops be in vain. What about Afghanistan? Would an agreement with the Taliban- those who assisted and gave sanctuary to bin Laden- not be an offense to those who have fought, sacrificed, and died in a just cause?



As of Monday, Jan. 29, 2007, at least 3,084 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count. The figure includes seven military civilians. At least 2,466 died as a result of hostile action, according to the military's numbers.

Glass half full

From CNN:
President Bush defended Vice President Dick Cheney's recent comments to CNN that there have been enormous successes in Iraq, characterizing the vice president as an optimist in an interview Monday with National Public Radio.

"I think that the vice president is a person reflecting the glass half full mentality," Bush said. "In other words, he's been able to look at -- as have I and I hope other Americans -- that the tyrant has been removed, 12 million voted, there's an Iraqi constitution in place that is a model and unique for the Middle East."

I'm not going to take the easy shot over whether the glass is half full or the mentality if half full (maybe I just did take it). 
I will say that the 'Iraq War' glass is half full.  And it has a hole in the bottom.

The opposition builds

A comment from someone who viewed Hillary Clinton being interviewed this weekend.  As a result of seeing the Senator...
the visceral distate for Hillary Rodham that I cultivated during the '90s when coming of age politically as a libertarian-style conservative returned. If anyone could "get the band back together" on the right for just one more election, it's her. She'd be the greatest gift the Dems could give to a collapsing GOP.
The best chance for the US to end its disaster in Iraq and its damage to the personal liberties portions of our Constitution appears to be an election of a Democrat in '08.  That may not end up being so, but the front runners from the Republican side continue to be from the pro-Iraq War side.
If the last best hope is a Democrat (not to say a great hope, only the best available), then that hope should not be thrown away on Senator Clinton.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Why Hillary Can't Win

In an earlier post I gave my opinion regarding the Clinton candidacy for President- that it cannot succeed. Not a should or shouldn't issue. Simply an issue of can't.

Look at the second graph. The red line indicates 'unfavorable' views in the are hovering around 40%- and have been there for the past several years.

Examine the graph and read the post below.



Today's world requires us to accept the oneness of humanity... The world is becoming increasingly interdependent. Within the context of this new interdependence, self-interest clearly lies in considering the interest of others. Without the cultivation of a sense of universal responsibility our very future is in danger. ~ His Holiness the Dalai Lama


Since there will never cease to be some in need on the earth, I therefore command you, "Open your hand to the poor and needy neighbor in your land."
Deuteronomy 15:11-11


Wednesday, January 24, 2007


The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has passed a non-binding resolution saying that "President Bush's 'surge' plan [is] 'not in the national interest.'"

Sen. Biden, the Democratic chairman of the committee said, in part, that the resolution is

"an attempt to save the President from making a significant mistake with regard to our policy in Iraq...this amendment is designed to let the President know that there are many in both parties, Democrats and Republicans, who believe that change in our mission to go into Baghdad in the midst of a civil war, as well as surging troops to lay the groundwork for a new Iraqi political solution, is the wrong way to go, and in fact I believe will have the opposite -- emphasize "the opposite" -- effect that the President intends."

Biden was not alone.

Republican Senator Arlen Spector said, "To put more American personnel in harm's way without a realistic chance for success is something I'm not in favor of."

The strongest comments on the Republican side came from Sen. Chuck Hagel .

“The American people are far ahead of us” on what to do next in Iraq. “They’re not conflicted with the nuances of life. They understand what’s going on. When I hear, on both sides of this argument, impugning motives and patriotism to our country, not only is it offensive and disgusting but it debases the whole system of our country and who we are. My goodness. Can’t we debate the most critical issue of our time, out front, in front of the American people? They expect it. Are we so weak, we can’t do that?"

Three years too late, the debate is finally beginning. We are finally having the national conversation we should have had in 2003. Had we had that conversation, we may not have made the terrible error of going to war in Iraq.

Let us hope that we never again go to war without this sort of conversation, and without the Congress fulfilling its constitutional obligation of actually declaring war.


The President's not-so-bold environmental statement

In the face of this sort of potential disaster, the President's proposals to deal with 'global climate change' are woefully inadequate.
There are appalling reports that snow covers of Alpine ranges will completely disappear by the end of 2050. The new revelations are scarier than earlier ones as it predict that it all happen 50 years early, which means that we can see the live coverage of our doom.

Alpine glaciers
are melting with the speed of 3 percent every year and it will cause the high paucity of drinking and irrigation water, leading to more falling rocks and shattering million-dollar European ski industry.
The condition of world glaciers is more gruesome as snow areas are receding about 31 feet (9.6 meters) since 1980, said World Glacier Monitoring Service in Zurich, Switzerland, which monitors 30 glaciers in nine mountain ranges across the world.

Other reports reveal that the past glacial melting occurred when atmospheric levels of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) were 280 parts per million while now a days the this level is touching 385 parts per million.

As glaciers melt, some of the energy that the ice would reflect gets absorbed (water reflects less energy than ice), thus contributing to global warming.  Thus melting glaciers have an additive effect to the global warming problem.

President Bush did speak about the need to deal with global climate change last night (I can't help but wonder if he specifically avoided the term 'global warming' since many Republicans continue to try and sell the concept that global warming is a myth).  In that sense, it was rather like the moment when President Reagan finally specifically mentioned AIDS in a speech back in the 1980s. 

But, compare the specificity of Bush's health care proposals in his speech last night- a good proposal with specific plans and dollar estimates- with the vagueness of his comments on the environment, and what one is left with is a clear indication of a lack of commitment. 

Commitment is necessary to make the dramatic and rapid changes necessary to avert serious consequences.

All people of faith who are committed to good stewardship of the earth gifted to us should look ahead to '08 and choose a leader who will lead this commitment to a better future.


Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Just say NO

In his state of the union address, President Bush urged a rebellious Congress on Tuesday to give his new Iraq plan a chance. "Our country is pursuing a new strategy in Iraq -- and I ask you to give it a chance to work."

No, Mr. President. You've had your chance. More than 3,000 US troops have died. The nation they were to liberate is enslaved by violence.

The policy you say is new is merely an extension of the old, poorly constructed, immoral policy of the last three years.

It is time for change.


An Inconvenient Truth

The Al Gore documentary on the dangers of global warming has received an Oscar nomination. It is deserved.

The movie is, for the most part, very well done. If Gore had been able to resist a little self-aggrandizement (we've all had to move on from the 2000 election, Mr. Gore), it would have been completely well done.

Anyone who is interested in environmental protection should see the film.

Those not interested should see it twice.



As of Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2007, at least 3,064 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count. The figure includes seven military civilians. At least 2,445 died as a result of hostile action, according to the military's numbers.

US Outsourcing... Torture

Here's the story of one person who's torture is the responsibility of the US President.

How about this statement?

"The president listened too much to the Vice President . . . Of course, the president bears the ultimate responsibility, but he was very badly served by both the Vice President and, most of all, the Secretary of Defense.  Rumsfeld will go down in history, along with McNamara, as one of the worst secretaries of defense in history."
Looks like he's ready to run for President.  Creating some distance between himself and the administration.
Andrew Sullivan says this may be the last line of defense for the President (not his view, but he thinks others may try to sell it)- he's a good guy who got bad advice.
The Pilgrim doesn't buy that, and the American people shouldn't. 
Remember McCain's words: "Of course, the president bears the ultimate responsibility..."

Faster and More Devastating??

This is a very disturbing report.
A study by the world's leading experts says global warming will happen faster and be more devastating than previously thought
Global warming is destined to have a far more destructive and earlier impact than previously estimated, the most authoritative report yet produced on climate change will warn next week.

A draft copy of the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, obtained by The Observer, shows the frequency of devastating storms - like the ones that battered Britain last week - will increase dramatically. Sea levels will rise over the century by around half a metre; snow will disappear from all but the highest mountains; deserts will spread; oceans become acidic, leading to the destruction of coral reefs and atolls; and deadly heatwaves will become more prevalent.

· 12 of the past 13 years were the warmest since records began;

· ocean temperatures have risen at least three kilometres beneath the surface;

· glaciers, snow cover and permafrost have decreased in both hemispheres;

· sea levels are rising at the rate of almost 2mm a year;

· cold days, nights and frost have become rarer while hot days, hot nights and heatwaves have become more frequent.

We must act.


CNN Debunks False Report About Obama

CNN Debunks False Report About Obama
Thank goodness for responsible journalism :

Wolf Blitzer of CNN's "Situation Room" has a report in which CNN actually traveled to Jakarta, Indonesia to investigate the school [Senator Barack] Obama attended [as a child]. Its reporter concluded it's a regular public school, not a madrassah at all, thus debunking the rumor.

The CNN report is posted here.  The report provides a thorough debunking of this smear effort .  Good for CNN for acting quickly and responsibly.


Monday, January 22, 2007

Environment and Economics

Earlier posts (here and here) have examined the myth that economic growth and environmental responsibility are intrinsically at odds. The UN is making the same point the Pilgrim has endeavored to make on this matter. [Emphasis added.]

A lack of global leadership on climate change, stemming from an unwarranted fear of economic hardship, is seriously hampering efforts to combat global warming, the top United Nations official dealing with the issue has warned.

[Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Yvo de Boer stressed that]the key to the problem is to provide incentives for economies to grow along a greener path, and to put in place mechanisms to ensure that the needed resources are available.He pointed to

India as an example of a country which is already successfully making use of such incentives. 'India is showing that economic growth and climate protection are far from being mutually exclusive. The country already has 155 registered CDM projects, with another 400 projects in the pipeline,' he noted, referring to the Kyoto Protocol treaty's Clean Development Mechanism.

Is it truly the position of the US that India- with one of the most dynamically growing economies in the world- can meet global environmental goals and we in the US cannot?

If the US cannot do so, it is only due to a lack of comittment and moral vision.


Could be a positive step

If this is not passed over in the Senate or vetoed by the President, this would be a positive development in energy policy.

House Repeals Tax Break for Big Oil

The measure passed yesterday would repeal a tax break oil and gas firms received in 2004 that effectively lowered their corporate tax rates. It would also bar oil companies from bidding on new federal leases unless they pay a fee on or renegotiated improperly drafted leases from 1998 and 1999 that did not require royalty payments on Gulf of Mexico production. And the bill would take the estimated $13 billion to $15 billion in revenues over a five-year period and set the money aside for tax breaks and appropriations that would go to renewable energy sources.

I don't mind the oil companies making money. I do mind the US addiction to oil.

Fact is- gas prices in the US are not high enough yet. So long as people are still buying SUVs- especially the Pilgrim-despised Hummers- then the pain in the pocketbook over gas prices is just not severe enough yet.

A wise environmental policy in the US would create incentives to switch to more earth-friendly fuel sources. Some incentives may be tax-credits for green behaviors. Some could be tax penalties for wasteful/destructive behaviors. A tax on oil companies will be passed along to consumers, which could result in behavior change- especially if positive incentives to move people to 'greener pastures' are included in a comprehensive policy.

Eliminating tax breaks to oil companies is a good place to start.


Civil Disobedience

Christian campaigner jailed after Iraq protest

Chris Cole was jailed today for refusing to pay a fine of £661 arising from an anti-war action at the Ministry of Defence on Holy Innocents Day, 28th December 2004. Cole was part of a small group which took the action. When they were arrested, Scott Albrecht and Liz Yates had been digging graves, with a child's coffin ready to be placed in one. Chris Cole and Fr Martin Newell had begun to inscribe a wall as a memorial with the words "Remember Iraqi War Dead", "Slaughter of the Innocent" and "Stop the War" in red paint. "Father Forgive Us" was also written on the ground. Prayers of repentance and remembrance were also said.

Bloody Monday

Bloody Monday: 111 Iraqis Killed, 215 Wounded


Jesus took the command to love our neighbor as we love ourselves, and pushed the definition of who is our neighbor, out, out, and still further out, until it reached to the ends of the earth and included all of humanity - all of God's children.

- Alvin Alexi Currier

Against the surge

I am not persuaded that another surge of troops into Baghdad for the purposes of suppressing this communitarian violence, this civil war, will work. So if it's grave and deteriorating and we're not winning, we are losing.

It is the D.C. police force that guards Washington, D.C., not the troops that are stationed at Fort Myer. And in Baghdad, you need a police force to do that, and in the other cities, you need a police force to do that, and not the American troops.

The current active Army is not large enough and the Marine Corps is not large enough for the kinds of missions they're being asked to perform. We need to let both the Army and the Marine Corps grow in size, in my military judgment.

Colin Powell on Face the Nation

The US used to be a leader

Human rights has never been an area in which the US was perfect (slavery, segregation, Japanese internment camps...), but has been an area in which the US has historically improved, and in doing so provided leadership in the world. 
Under the current administration the US has begun to lead the world in the opposite direction, providing aid and comfort to those who would find an excuse to torture opponents in the darkest corners of military-run prisons. 
Fortunately there are still some in the world who hold high standards and criticize the US for its actions.
The U.S. detention center in Guantanamo fails to meet even basic British standards for prisoners, British lawmakers who visited the base said on Sunday.
Guantanamo "fails to achieve minimum United Kingdom standards on access to exercise and recreation, to lawyers, and to the outside world through educational facilities and the media," the Foreign Affairs Committee said in a report.

"We conclude that abuse of detainees at Guantanamo Bay has almost certainly taken place in the past, but we believe it is unlikely to be taking place now," the report added.

Washington risked undermining the Geneva Conventions by choosing unilaterally to interpret their terms and provisions, they said...

The consequences of US abuse appear clear in the case of accused terrorist Jose Padilla.

Jose Padilla rocked back and forth during the meetings with a psychologist, his chained hands sweating and facial muscles twitching, and insisted repeatedly in a voice devoid of emotion that he was not crazy.

He is a bit paranoid and believes the government is persecuting him, "but this does not appear to be delusional," wrote one of doctors who examined the alleged al Qaeda operative in a Miami prison cell at his lawyers' request.

Interesting statement by the doctor.  His belief that he is being persecuted is not delusional because he is being persecuted- not because he was arrested, but because he has been subject to abuse, has had counsel withheld until recently, and is still uncharged.  He may be guilty, but if he is, he should be tried and convicted.  What has been done to him virtually assures that he never will be.  To bring him into open court would be to expose the government's abuse.  In other words, to cover-up mistreatment, justice will be denied- to both perpetrator and victims. 


Iraq grows more deadly

  • Saturday's U.S. death toll climbed significantly to 25 after the military reported Sunday that six more troops had died in the deadliest day in two years for American forces.
  • As of Sunday, Jan. 21, 2007, at least 3,057 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003.
  • Two simultaneous car bombs blasted a busy market in central Baghdad on Monday, killing at least 75 people in fresh violence that came as Iraqis awaited the start of a planned U.S.-backed offensive in the capital.
The situation in Iraq has deteriorated so badly that it is inconceivable what good can come from an additional 21,000 troops.
The President will have one final opportunity to make his case to the American people as he delivers his State of the Union address.  His chances of doing so are slim.  70% oppose his handling of Iraq.  68% oppose the surge.
One can only hope that the impact of this opposition is felt in the halls of power in Washington.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Pretty good article on lessons of history

Worth a read. A couple of selections below. We should not allow our nation to be misled again as it was misled in the 60s and 70s.

America's last `long war' offers lessons for Iraq, experts say

Previous presidents, they note, made many of the same arguments about Vietnam that Bush and his aides are making about Iraq: The war there was part of a larger struggle against a monolithic enemy, and Vietnam's neighbors would fall to communism like dominoes if the U.S. were defeated.

That turned out not to be true: The U.S. lost the battle in Vietnam but won the war against communism anyway.

American troops remained in Vietnam long after hopes for victory had faded, in part because U.S. officials feared that withdrawal would hasten the spread of communism. In hindsight, many scholars think that the communist takeover of Vietnam backfired by prompting the Soviet Union to become overly ambitious.

It's getting crowded

Get the feeling that when the first presidential debates are held for each party that there will be more candidates on the stage than people in the audience. Brownback. McCain. Richardson. Dodd. Obama. Add a Clinton to the list.

Hillary Clinton takes first step for 2008 race

Normally the Pilgrim doesn't deal in horserace politics. Focusing on the issues is what matters. Clinton is a unique case, however.

Putting it bluntly: she could be the nominee, but she cannot win the general election. In poll after poll her negatives are simply too high.

Think about the last 2 elections. In 2000, Gore won the popular vote narrowly, and Bush won the electoral vote narrowly. In 2004, Bush won both narrowly (Ohio could have changed the outcome). The nation is virtually 50-50.

Hillary has negative ratings in the 30% range- even 40% range. That is unfair, but it is reality. She simply has too much baggage to carry.

Remember that whatever negative numbers a candidate enters the race with, that number will go higher due to negative ads. And nobody will bring out the attack ads like Hillary. The Right, simply put, hates her, her husband, and what they are presumed to stand for. They will show no restraint.

Too many Americans who might be open to other Democrats simply will not consider a vote for Hillary Clinton. A Hillary campaign may be fun for the media, and may be fun for the purposes of speculation (what will Bill be called? First Man. First Philanderer?). And, given that the nation is 50-50, the election will be close. She won't win, however. If the Democrats want to win and not just put in a good showing (again), then they will need to look to another candidate.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Justice Delayed

The Pilgrim has long opposed the death penalty on moral grounds.

Here's a good article that provides a 'process oriented' reason to oppose the death penalty.

It is simply too easy to get it wrong, even in a justice system with as many safeguards as ours has.

The notion of wrongly executed people is simply too much burden for a moral nation to carry.


More on Environment and Business

The posts below (here and here) argues that business and sound environmental policy need not be at odds. More from this MSNBC story.

Industry signals Bush to do more on warming
10 U.S.-based companies and four environmental groups called for mandatory reductions of greenhouse gas emissions, including those from power plants, transportation and buildings.
Called the U.S. Climate Action Partnership, the group includes aluminum giant Alcoa, BP America, Caterpillar, DuPont, General Electric, Lehman Brothers and four utilities with a big stake in climate policy: Duke Energy, FPL Group, PG&E and PNM Resources. ( is a joint venture of Microsoft and GE's NBC Universal unit.)

"There must be a reasoned and serious debate about the solutions," the group stated. "But debate cannot substitute for action. We hope that the consensus we have reached through our unique partnership provides further impetus toward the creation of sensible and effective policies to address global climate change."


I don't really have a reaction on this, although I know it is an important story.

Concern grows over China's satellite-killing missile test

Just a couple of thoughts:
  • While China has been coming closer to the mainstream in the world community, there is no doubt that the regime there still has great potential for tremendous violations of human rights and hostile actions. Whether with its policies of virtual genocide in Tibet or its persecution of political opponents, China is not the sort of nation that we in the US can feel comfortable with. The Chinese governments paranoia when it comes to criticism is profound, and troubling.
  • The US is not in much of a position to complain about what China is doing, since the US has committed major resources since the 1980s to a missile defense system that could serve a very similar purpose to what China has done. To complain too strongly would once again sound as if the US has a separate standard for itself than for the rest of the world, and that we and only we are entitled to certain sorts of technologies.

I don't know where this will lead. It will be a story to watch.


Good for the Environment, Good for Business

In an earlier post the issue of potential economic benefits from good environmental policy was discussed.

This MSNBC article raises the same possibility, and from individuals with much greater business credentials than the Pilgrim.

[A]sk Unilever, CEO Patrick Cescau about the $52 billion Dutch-British giant's biggest strategic challenges for the 21st century, and the conversation roams from water-deprived villages in Africa to the planet's warming climate.

The world is Unilever's laboratory. In Brazil, the company operates a free community laundry in a São Paulo slum, provides financing to help tomato growers convert to eco-friendly "drip" irrigation, and recycles 17 tons of waste annually at a toothpaste factory. Unilever funds a floating hospital that offers free medical care in Bangladesh, a nation with just 20 doctors for every 10,000 people. In Ghana, it teaches palm oil producers to reuse plant waste while providing potable water to deprived communities. In India, Unilever staff help thousands of women in remote villages start micro-enterprises. And responding to green activists, the company discloses how much carbon dioxide and hazardous waste its factories spew out around the world.

Embracing sustainability can help avert costly setbacks from environmental disasters, political protests, and human rights or workplace abuses—the kinds of debacles suffered by Royal Dutch Shell PLC in Nigeria and Unocal in Burma. "Nobody has an idea when such events can hit a balance sheet, so companies must stay ahead of the curve," says Matthew J. Kiernan, CEO of Innovest Strategic Value Advisors.

Many other important points are made in the article. Well worth your time.


Obama on the war

Speaking on the floor of the Senate, Obama said US troop strength should not exceed the 132,000 troops in Iraq on January 10, when Bush announced his plan to deploy 21,500 additional troops there.

The Illinois senator also said his measure would also call for the gradual redeployment of US troops from the region "within two to four months."

"We've been told that we would be greeted as liberators. We're been promised that the insurgency was in its last throes. We've been assured again and again that we were making progress, and that the Iraqis would soon stand up so we could stand down," Obama said.

"Now, after the loss of more than 3,000 American lives, after spending almost 400 billion dollars, after Iraq has descended into civil war, we have been promised once again that the president's plan to escalate the war in Iraq will this time be well-planned, well-coordinated, and well-supported by the Iraqi government," he said.

"None of this seems to be the case," said Obama, citing news reports that found no clear chain of command between US and Iraqi military leaders on the ground there.

"In the end, no amount of American forces can solve the political differences that lie at the heart of somebody else's civil war."
Obama was not around for the vote in the Senate to authorize the war in Iraq.  He did not have to make the call in what was clearly a tough political environment at that time.  In 2002, however,  Obama called a war to topple Saddam Hussein "dumb" and "rash." You can access his whole October, 2002 speech here
He does appear to be one of the few major political figures in America who has had it right the whole time.


As of Thursday, Jan. 18, 2007, at least 3,029 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count. The figure includes seven military civilians. At least 2,434 died as a result of hostile action, according to the military's numbers.

Warming evidence

In all the sources I consult, the evidence of melting of glaciers is consistent.  While predictions regarding the implications vary somewhat, none of the predictions are good.
Glacier ice is the largest reservoir of fresh water on Earth and the Greenland ice sheet the second largest ice body in the world. Global warming is making this reservoir melt and that also much faster than any of the previous times. Its exposed lonely mountains are separating to form islands of their own.

Appearance of the islands is a symptom of an ice sheet retreating. Flooded seacoasts and rising water levels are the legacy of their retreats, as are the ecological changes on the landscapes around the glacier's edge. If all the ice on Greenland were to melt into the North Atlantic Ocean, global sea levels would rise by about 21.3 feet.

Other evidence is available too, for those who are willing to look at it.

Awareness and understanding are crucial in order to begin to change our ways.  It is rather like the importance of the acceptance of the cancer causing effects of cigarettes.  It took time, but eventually gains began to be made in the area of smoking. 

It is far from a solution- far, far, far from a solution- but, the following is good news:

Pelosi forms committee to tackle global warming

The fact that someone in the US government may actually look at the envidence realistically- rather than cook it as the current administration has- would be an important first step.

Will it be soon enough to make a real difference?


Let the ugliness begin

In his book, The Audacity of Hope, Obama indicates that he's been lucky in his political life- he's generally received kind press coverage and has rarely been the victim of negative political attacks.

Well... say farewell to your good luck, Senator. You've entered a new league now.

Here's just a sampling of what is to come, from the mainstream (Insight Magazine, associated with the Washington (DC) Times) and- relatively speaking- responsible media.

Are the American people ready for an elected president who was educated in a Madrassa as a young boy and has not been forthcoming about his Muslim heritage?

Think Progress responds as follow:

Obama Smeared As Former 'Madrassa' Student, Possible Covert Muslim Extremist

For the record, I fail to see how anyone could claim that Obama has 'hidden' his background. He's written two best sellers about his background, and his most recent book does indeed mention his Muslim heritage. Pretty poor secret keeping.

Another attempt to derail Obama: compare his first autobiographical book to James Frey's A Million Little Pieces (I haven't read it, but it must be bad to have been discredited by Oprah!) for having composite and renamed characters.

The difference- Obama says he does this in his introduction to the book.

I haven't decided on Obama yet as a presidential candidate, but he clearly has one characteristic that would be good- and unique- in a President: He's lousy at a cover-up.


Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Score one for the Constitution

While Attorney General Gonzales may be way off track in general in regards to the courts' role in protecting the Constitution and limiting the government, he and the rest of the Bush Administration are apparently not completely immune to criticism, as shown by their back-tracking on their warrantless wire tapping scheme.
The Bush administration, in what appears to be a concession to its critics, said today it will allow an independent court to monitor its electronic-eavesdropping program.
Key word: allow.
Isn't it kind of them to allow some sort of oversight?


Unjust War

Andrew Sullivan has three interesting posts dealing w/ the concept of just war as it applies to Iraq.  They are well worth reading.  Find them here, here, and here.
Sullivan's transformation on the war is very significant and interesting.  He was a supporter of the invasion.  His views have changed, and he has been very open and honest in his blog about those changes. 
As his views on the war have transformed, so have his views on the Bush administration because of their conduct of the war, their acceptance of torture, and their willingness to trample upon the Constitution. 
His blog is one of the best on the web.  Well worth a read. 



If you don't see God in all, you don't see God at all.

     ~ Yogi Bhajan

Unfit for his position

Attorney General Gonzales should not hold his office in government. The author of the Administration's torture justifications has now shown that he fails to grasp even one of the most basic concepts in our Constitution- separation of powers.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales says federal judges are unqualified to make rulings affecting national security policy, ramping up his criticism of how they handle terrorism cases.

[Speaking as to whether a candidate would be qualified for the federal bench, Gonzales says] "We want to determine whether he understands the inherent limits that make an unelected judiciary inferior to Congress or the president in making policy judgments," Gonzales says in the prepared speech. "That, for example, a judge will never be in the best position to know what is in the national security interests of our country" [the Pilgrim's underlining added] .

Our Constitution is based upon a principle of co-equal branches, each checking the other to prevent violations of the rights and liberties of the people that are to be protected under that same Constitution.

This Administration continues to try to establish itself as above the law. The Decider-in-Chief gets to determine what is in our national security interest, without answering to anyone. (Don't fall for that mention of the Congress by Gonzales. Remember that White House Spokesman Tony Snow recently said that the Congress could not stop the President from sending more troops- that the President would do what he wished if the Congress voted the 'wrong way.')

Why do conservatives have any tolerance for this Administration? Don't they still believe in limited government?

Whichever party you vote for in '08, listen to the candidates carefully and make certain that your vote is for the Constitution, not for the sort of flawed and despotic thinking characterized by Bush/Cheney/Snow/Gonzales.


Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Myth Buster

[Do you ever watch that show, Myth Busters, on Discovery? It's a lot of fun watching them blow up (often literally) urban legends. Anyways...]

A common argument against taking steps, and making policies, to protect the environment is that it will cost money and jobs.

Of course it will cost money- everything does. But, failing to protect the environment will cost us too.

Economics 101: for every opportunity there is a cost.

To pretend that environmentalism costs money but environmental destruction does not is illogical.

Here's an example of how environmentalism can make economic sense.

A hybrid vehicle saves its owner enough money over the car's life to make up for its higher initial prices, a U.S. automotive cost-of-ownership study said.

While gasoline savings alone are not enough to make up for higher sticker prices, financing, fuel, insurance, taxes and license fees, repairs, maintenance and depreciation more than offset the upfront cost, of Los Angeles said.

As to costing jobs... Well, how about Toyota destroying the US competition while producing more fuel efficient cars? And Toyota opening plants in the US while Ford and GM are closing plants?

The problem of creating policies that are more 'green' is not fundamentally an economic one. It is a political one- driven by the fact that the donors to both of the major parties have a vested interest in the present system (keep enriching oneself for now, until the 'golden parachute' is prepared) and a lack of vision about a new world on the horizon. These are the same vested interests and lack of vision that are leading these same business 'leaders' to lose in the growing 'flat world' economy.

The reality is this- green policies do not have to be driven only by concern for the environment or altruistic concerns about future generations. There will be plenty of money to be made. A creative government policy which helps to shift investment from the 'old' economy to a 'green' economy can lead to an economic and environmental revival. Not without costs (remember Econ 101), but with benefits that outweigh those costs.

The same cannot be said for 'stay the course.'


Verse for thought

As for me, I would seek God, and to God I would commit my cause. [God] does great things and unsearchable, marvelous things without number. [God] gives rain on the earth and sends waters on the fields; [and] sets on high those who are lowly, and those who mourn are lifted to safety.- Job 5:8-11

There is a significant difference between commiting one's cause to God and claiming God to one's cause.


More on a major policy change

In an earlier post, a British report suggested that President Bush was about to make a major shift in policy to deal with environmental issues.

Here's another source on that point.

Bush readies speech on ethanol, climate change

U.S. President George W. Bush's annual speech to Congress next week is likely to call for a massive increase in U.S. ethanol usage and tweak climate change policy while stopping short of mandatory emissions caps...

How much 'tweaking' is proposed will indicated whether this President is indeed ready to make a major shift to deal with a major looming crisis.


Refugee crisis- Moral crisis

US senators denounce Bush inaction for Iraqi refugees

Once the WMD argument evaporated under the heat lamp of absence of evidence, the justification for the war became increasingly that the US was doing Iraqis a great favor.

I don't think the millions of refugees feel helped or empowered by the US invasion.

Rather than spend another $100 billion (or more) on an additional (and irrelevant) 21,000 troops, perhaps that money should be spent in providing some real hope to refugees.

Perhaps then the US could win friends rather than simply try to kill enemies.



A top Senate Democrat introduced legislation that would require President Bush to get congressional approval before sending additional US troops to Iraq.

In a statement, the office of Senator Chris Dodd said the original US military mission in Iraq, which Congress authorized in 2002, "has been radically transformed by events in the region," and that Bush therefore must seek an entirely new authorization from the US legislature before expanding it.

Democrats have taken too long to provide any realistic resistance to the Iraq war.

Moral credit to Senator Dodd? I'm not sure. He recently announced his intention to run for President. Where was this courage before? Sounds like his ambition, not his values, are leading the way.

We'll have to wait and see if he gets sufficient support to make a run at this legislation.

Keep in mind- a filibuster is inevitable.


Death toll climbs

U.S. military deaths in Iraq reach 3,026

As of Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2007, at least 3,026 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count. The figure includes seven military civilians. At least 2,428 died as a result of hostile action, according to the military's numbers.

'60 Minutes' piece on global warming

Watch it here.

It's divided into segments so you can watch it in small parts as you have time.



"The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it."
  • Henry David Thoreau

Too much life has been exchanged in Iraq for... ??

What is it exchanged for, exactly?



"Justice is truth in action."
  • Benjamin Disraeli

His hat is in the ring...

Obama to run for President in '08

Bloody Tuesday in Iraq

A car bomb and a suicide bomber killed 60 people and wounded 110, including many students blown up as they waited at the entrance to a university in Baghdad on Tuesday, police said.

Other bombings and a mass shooting brought to at least 95 the death toll in Baghdad on the bloodiest day for such attacks in weeks, as the United Nations published figures showing more than 34,000 Iraqi civilians were killed in violence last year.

The Pilgrim remains unconvinced that an additional 20,000 troops will do anything to stop this sort of violence.

What then?  20,000 more?

It's like JFK once said regarding sending troops to Vietnam.  'It's like taking a drink.  Soon the affect wears off and you have to take another.'

Soon, you're an alcoholic.


Monday, January 15, 2007

A Major Policy Change?

British media reports that "Downing Street says that belated US recognition of global warming could lead to a post-Kyoto agreement on curbing emissions".

George Bush is preparing to make a historic shift in his position on global warming when he makes his State of the Union speech later this month.

Bush and Blair held private talks on climate change before Christmas, and there is a feeling that the US President will now agree a cap on emissions in the US, meaning that, for the first time, American industry and consumers would be expected to start conserving energy and curbing pollution.

'We could now be seeing the beginning of a consensus on a post-Kyoto framework,' said a source close to the prime minister. 'President Bush is beginning to talk about more radical measures.'

This would be a remarkable and welcome development.

Evidence that the President should make this policy shift:

Global Warming: Melting Tibetan Glaciers Threaten China, Other Countries’ Economies: The tens of thousands of glaciers on high Tibetan plateau and Qinghai province store vast quantities of water, feeding the life-giving rivers to cities as far away as Bangladesh and Vietnam as they melt each summer... But this is not happening any more! The winter snow is failing to make up for summer melting. And, as a result, a large layer of ice “as big as central Beijing” is lost each year! The present fear lies with the fact that global warming is speeding up the loss, according to the Chinese geological survey.

Immense ice shelf breaks off in Canadian Arctic: "This loss is the biggest in 25 years, but it continues the loss that occurred within the last century," [Geographer Luke] Copland told AFP, saying 90 percent of the the ice cover had been lost since the area was discovered in 1906.

Numbers of rockhopper penguins have plummeted in recent years, possibly due to climate change, a bird charity said in a warning over the creatures made into stars by the recent blockbuster "Happy Feet." Their number in the Falkland Islands has tumbled 30 percent in just five years, from 298,496 pairs in 2000 to 210,418 in 2005/06, said the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

I hope the President makes this important shift in his thinking and his policies.

Republicans were once the vanguard of environmental protections. That was the legacy of Theodore Roosevelt.

They could be again.


Losing the base

The majority of Americans oppose the 'surge.' But, more important to the President politically, his base has shifted.

While 52 percent of Republicans support the surge according to a just-released AP/Ipsos poll, some 60 percent of white evangelicals oppose it, as do 56 percent of self-described conservatives.

Thursday, January 11, 2007


What if we had not chosen to spend more than $350B on a misadventure in Iraq- damaging American security and undermining American moral leadership? 
A moral choice may have been to provide assistance to the hundreds of thousands of homeless Americans- caring for 'the least of these.'
There were 744,000 homeless people in the United States in 2005, according to the first national estimate in a decade.

A little more than half were living in shelters, and nearly a quarter were chronically homeless, according to the report Wednesday by the National Alliance to End Homelessness, an advocacy group.
According to the website that provides the cost of war counter to the left, The National Priorities Project, the US could have built more than 3 million housing units with the money spent on the Iraq war.
Remember, President Bush once chose Jesus as the most influencial philospher in his life.
How would Jesus budget?


UN Chief: Close GITMO

UNITED NATIONS ( Reuters) - New U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon believes the U.S. prison at Cuba's Guantanamo Bay should be shut down, he said on Thursday.

"Like my predecessor, I believe that the prison at Guantanamo should be closed," Ban told a news conference. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who stepped down on December 31, had also called for the facility to be closed.

More than 770 captives have been held there since [the prison was opened 5 years ago], of whom only 10 have been charged with crimes.
Many of those 770 have been detained and released.  Some of them have filed lawsuits against the US.  The Pilgrim hopes those suits go forward so that Americans can be made more fully aware of the abuses that have taken place there, and more fully aware of the damage done to the US as a traditional moral leader in the area of human rights.
If the perpetrators of torture are arrested, tried, and punished, then some of the leadership of America can perhaps be restored. 
And perhaps people will think more carefully before following their leader blindly down the path of immorality.

Quote III

Waist deep in the Big Muddy!
And the big fool says to push on

Faulty Logic

From the National Review:

The central and most glaring contradiction is the implied threat to walk away... Yoked to the ringing declaration that, of course, we can't walk away.  We seem to be saying to the Maliki govt.:  "Hey, you guys better step up to your responsibilites, or else we're outa here."  This, a few sentences after saying that we can't leave the place without a victory.  So-o-o-o:

—-We can't leave Iraq without a victory.

—-Unless Maliki & Co. get their act together, we can't achieve victory.

—-If Maliki & Co. don't get their act together, we'll leave.

It's been a while since I studied classical logic, but it seems to me that this syllogism leaks like a sieve.

Right on the money.  But, logic has never been the strong suit of the Administration.


The Balrog is Dead!  Long Live Gandalf!

A Scientific Poll

Even more people oppose the 'surge' in a scietific poll from AP :
Just 35 percent think it was right for the United States to go to war, a new low in AP polling and a reversal from two years ago, when two-thirds of Americans thought it was the correct move.
Sixty percent, meanwhile, think it is unlikely that a stable, democratic Iraqi government will be established.
Fully 70 percent of Americans oppose sending more troops...
If that majority will make its will felt in Washington, perhaps a major error can be avoided.

Unscientific Poll results

From an MSNBC Poll
Do you agree with President Bush's plan to add 21,500 troops to those now in Iraq?   * 233835 responses
Yes. The United States can still win this thing militarily; a sizable increase in troop strength, and help from the Iraqis, will turn the tide
No. Define "win." After nearly four years, neither our country nor Iraq is better off. More troops going out means more body bags coming back.

Escalation speech II

Full text of the President's address.


Reuters coverage of the Bush escalation speech.

Quote II

He who has great power should use it lightly.


Insanity defined:  Do the same thing and expect different results.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Say No

Tonight the President will announce his plan to escalate again the war in Iraq.

Events in opposition are planned for across the nation.

Visit America Says No to find an event near you.


From the lips of the Decider

"Some Americans ask me, if completing the mission is so important, why don't you send more troops? If our commanders on the ground say we need more troops, I will send them. But our commanders tell me they have the number of troops they need to do their job. Sending more Americans would undermine our strategy of encouraging Iraqis to take the lead in this fight. And sending more Americans would suggest that we intend to stay forever, when we are, in fact, working for the day when Iraq can defend itself and we can leave. As we determine the right force level, our troops can know that I will continue to be guided by the advice that matters: the sober judgment of our military leaders," - president George W. Bush, June 28, 2005.
Now the President says the commanders will get more troops, even if they don't think the troops will help with the mission.
How long will this continue?

Global Warming

Last year was the warmest in the continental United States in the past 112 years -- capping a nine-year warming streak "unprecedented in the historical record" that was driven in part by the burning of fossil fuels, the government reported yesterday.

According to the government's National Climatic Data Center, the record-breaking warmth -- which caused daffodils and cherry trees to bloom throughout the East on New Year's Day -- was the result of both unusual regional weather patterns and the long-term effects of the buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

The Congress must be the power strip...

to stop the surge.

WASHINGTON (AFP) - US President George W. Bush will say he is deploying 20,000 more US troops in Iraq after winning Iraqi promises to be more aggressive against sectarian militias, top aides said.

A continuation of a failed policy.

In a new level of intellectual cowardice, the Administration admits the policy in Iraq has been flawed, but says it is not, you see, their fault. Oh no. It's the Iraqis that are to blame.

"What we've seen in the past is that military operations sometimes were handcuffed by political interference by Iraqi leadership. This is going to be different," top Bush adviser Dan Bartlett told CBS television.

That is excatly the sort inability to be self-critical that characterizes the Administration, and is the source of it's failure in Iraq policy.

Congress needs to step up and be a 'surge protector.'


Madison rolls in his grave

During a press briefing a couple of days ago at the White House, Snow was dealing with questions of Congressional opposition to the President's planned 'surge' of troops in Iraq. 
MR. SNOW: You know what, I don't want to play junior constitutional lawyer on this, so let's wait until we see what happens, if you have specific questions about constitutional authority. But, you know, Congress has the power of the purse. The President has the ability to exercise his own authority if he thinks Congress has voted the wrong way.
Good thing he's not a constitutional lawyer.  I don't think one of our founding principles is 'If the Congress votes the wrong way, the President can do as he wishes .'  Arrogance is not one of our core democratic values either.
It is this sort of thinking that has led this administration so badly astray.  The President believes that since he's the 'decider', he can do as he wishes.  This is how we end up with Guantanamo torture, warrantless wiretapping, and the most recently declared presidential power to open your mail.
The Congress would do well for the country to spend the next two years restraining this President, taking back the precedents that they have sat by and allowed him to establish.
In other words, reestablishing the Constitution.