Archive for April, 2013

We are unwitting guinea pigs

April 29, 2013 | By | Reply More
We are unwitting guinea pigs

At Common Dreams, David Rosner and Gerald Markowitz write that we are unwitting guinea pigs for chemical manufacturers. The worst part is that these untested (and sometimes demonstrably unsafe) substances can act synergistically. The whole danger might well be greater than the individual dangers.

Today, we are all unwitting subjects in the largest set of drug trials ever. Without our knowledge or consent, we are testing thousands of suspected toxic chemicals and compounds, as well as new substances whose safety is largely unproven and whose effects on human beings are all but unknown. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) itself has begun monitoring our bodies for 151 potentially dangerous chemicals, detailing the variety of pollutants we store in our bones, muscle, blood, and fat. None of the companies introducing these new chemicals has even bothered to tell us we’re part of their experiment. None of them has asked us to sign consent forms or explained that they have little idea what the long-term side effects of the chemicals they’ve put in our environment — and so our bodies — could be. Nor do they have any clue as to what the synergistic effects of combining so many novel chemicals inside a human body in unknown quantities might produce.

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Obsessing over physical courage; overlooking moral courage

April 29, 2013 | By | Reply More
Obsessing over physical courage; overlooking moral courage

Ask people who their heroes are, and many of them talk about those who engage in physical exploits, such as soldiers and athletes. Most of those who I consider to be courageous, however, do not engage in any physical acts of bravery. [More]

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More about the big foreclosure settlement

April 29, 2013 | By | Reply More

From Matt Taibbi:

In advance of that notorious settlement, the government ordered banks to hire “independent” consultants to examine their loan files to see just exactly how corrupt they were.

Now it comes out that not only were these consultants not so independent, not only did they very likely skew the numbers seriously in favor of the banks, and not only were these few consultants paid over $2 billion (over 20 percent of the entire settlement amount) while the average homeowner only received $300 in the deal – in addition to all of that, it appears that federal regulators will not turn over the evidence of impropriety they discovered during these reviews to homeowners who may want to sue the banks.

In other words, the government not only ordered the banks to hire consultants who may have gamed the foreclosure settlement in favor of the banks, but the regulators themselves are hiding the information from the public in order to shield the banks from further lawsuits.”

You owe it to yourself to click the link to Rolling Stone. Taibbi’s article features Senator Warren grilling the corrupt government agencies who are protecting the corrupt banks. This is unbelievable stuff, except that it’s real.

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Democracy in action–American style–in Afghanistan

April 28, 2013 | By | Reply More

“Democracy” in action in Afghanistan is described in the NYT:

KABUL, Afghanistan — For more than a decade, wads of American dollars packed into suitcases, backpacks and, on occasion, plastic shopping bags have been dropped off every month or so at the offices of Afghanistan’s president — courtesy of the Central Intelligence Agency. All told, tens of millions of dollars have flowed from the C.I.A. to the office of President Hamid Karzai, according to current and former advisers to the Afghan leader.

How has this cash benefited anyone?

[T]here is little evidence that the payments bought the influence the C.I.A. sought. Instead, some American officials said, the cash has fueled corruption and empowered warlords, undermining Washington’s exit strategy from Afghanistan.

Yes, this is democracy in action, American Style, complete with large amount of secret cash being transferred. And this is in addition to the two billion dollars per week that we have been wasting in Afghanistan for a decade. All of this occurring at a time when American politicians claim that they don’t have enough money to provide the basics for Americans.

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Congress foists weapons on army

April 28, 2013 | By | 2 Replies More

The army says it doesn’t need new Abrams tanks, but Congress is buying them anyway. What more proof would one need that the political system is corrupt, that it is broken, that it is not responding to the needs of the American people, that we have pervasive corporate welfare?

Lawmakers from both parties have devoted nearly half a billion dollars in taxpayer money over the past two years to build improved versions of the 70-ton Abrams.

But senior Army officials have said repeatedly, “No thanks.”

It’s the inverse of the federal budget world these days, in which automatic spending cuts are leaving sought-after pet programs struggling or unpaid altogether. Republicans and Democrats for years have fought so bitterly that lawmaking in Washington ground to a near-halt.

Yet in the case of the Abrams tank, there’s a bipartisan push to spend an extra $436 million on a weapon the experts explicitly say is not needed.

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Bradley Manning barred as S.F. Gay Pride Grand Marshal; abusive corporations welcomed.

April 28, 2013 | By | Reply More

Glen Greenwald reports that Bradley Manning may not be honored at this year’s San Francisco Gay Pride Parade, though corrupt and abusive corporations are welcome:

So apparently, the very high-minded ethical standards of Lisa L Williams and the SF Pride Board apply only to young and powerless Army Privates who engage in an act of conscience against the US war machine, but instantly disappear for large corporations and banks that hand over cash. What we really see here is how the largest and most corrupt corporations own not just the government but also the culture. Even at the San Francisco Gay Pride Parade, once an iconic symbol of cultural dissent and disregard for stifling pieties, nothing can happen that might offend AT&T and the Bank of America. The minute something even a bit deviant takes place (as defined by standards imposed by America’s political and corporate class), even the SF Gay Pride Parade must scamper, capitulate, apologize, and take an oath of fealty to their orthodoxies (we adore the military, the state, and your laws). And, as usual, the largest corporate factions are completely exempt from the strictures and standards applied to the marginalized and powerless. Thus, while Bradley Manning is persona non grata at SF Pride, illegal eavesdropping telecoms, scheming banks, and hedge-fund purveryors of the nation’s worst right-wing agitprop are more than welcome.

Greenwald also points out the flaw in Ms. Williams’ thinking, which is a conflation I often hear, even among many folks who think of themselves as progressive:

Equating illegal behavior with ignominious behavior is the defining mentality of an authoritarian – and is particularly notable coming from what was once viewed as a bastion of liberal dissent.

And how should one now characterize the Gay Pride parade?

Yet another edgy, interesting, creative, independent event has been degraded and neutered into a meek and subservient ritual that must pay homage to the nation’s most powerful entities and at all costs avoid offending them in any way.

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Inventing gods to control the things that scare us

April 28, 2013 | By | Reply More
Inventing gods to control the things that scare us

Why would someone invent a god? There are lots of conceivable reasons. One might be lonely, scared or feeling lost, and belief in could provide comfort. Two books I’m reading have provided a different but consistent perspective on this question of why people invent gods. One of the books, Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel […]

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Dirty fracking water: a flood of permanent pollution.

April 27, 2013 | By | Reply More

From Scientific American, we learn that huge amounts of precious water are being polluted to such an extent that it can never feasible be returned to the planet’s fresh water system. This is horrifying, especially since there are much safer alternatives, including conservation and sustainable energy supplies.

The nation’s oil and gas wells produce at least nine billion liters of contaminated water per day, according to an Argonne National Laboratory report. And that is an underestimate of the amount of brine, fracking fluid and other contaminated water that flows back up a well along with the natural gas or oil, because it is based on incomplete data from state governments gathered in 2007.

The volume will only get larger, too: oil and gas producers use at least 7.5 million liters of water per well to fracture subterranean formations and release entrapped hydrocarbon fuels, a practice that has grown in the U.S. by at least 48 percent per year in the last five years . . . The problem is that the large volumes of water that flow back to the surface along with the oil or gas are laced with everything from naturally radioactive minerals to proprietary chemicals. And there are not a lot of cost-effective options for treating it, other than dumping it down a deep well.

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African proverbs

April 27, 2013 | By | Reply More

I’ve often posted on quotes, but a friend recently sent me a link to a big collection of African proverbs. Lots of wisdom in these words, and here are some of my favorites:

To get lost is to learn the way. ~ African proverb

He who learns, teaches. ~ Ethiopian proverb

You always learn a lot more when you lose than when you win. ~ African proverb

You learn how to cut down trees by cutting them down. ~ Bateke proverb

Instruction in youth is like engraving in stone. ~Moroccan Proverb

Traveling is learning. ~Kenyan Proverb

Peace is costly but it is worth the expense. ~Kenyan proverb

War has no eyes ~ Swahili saying

There can be no peace without understanding. ~Senegalese proverb

If you can’t resolve your problems in peace, you can’t solve war. ~ Somalian proverb

He who thinks he is leading and has no one following him is only taking a walk. ~ Malawian proverb

A large chair does not make a king. ~ Sudanese proverb

Sticks in a bundle are unbreakable. ~ Bondei proverb

It takes a village to raise a child. ~ African proverb

Cross the river in a crowd and the crocodile won’t eat you. ~ African proverb

Hold a true friend with both hands. ~ African proverb

Show me your friend and I will show you your character. ~ African proverb

Bad friends will prevent you from having good friends. ~ Gabon proverb

Make some money but don’t let money make you. ~ Tanzania

The rich are always complaining. ~ Zulu

Money can’t talk, yet it can make lies look true. ~ South Africa

What you give you get, ten times over. ~ Yoruba

The surface of the water is beautiful, but it is no good to sleep on. ~Ghanaian Proverb

You are beautiful, but learn to work, for you cannot eat your beauty. ~Congolese Proverb

Three things cause sorrow to flee; water, green trees, and a beautiful face. ~Moroccan Proverb

A beautiful thing is never perfect. ~Egyptian Proverb

Youth is beauty, even in cattle. ~Egyptian Proverb

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