A secular analysis of news, culture and kitsch. Following the slide into theocracy and fascism and encouraging signs of resistance.
Sunday, December 10, 2006
Saturday, December 09, 2006
Reality finally dawns even on the short bus.
Smith said he is at, "the end of my rope when it comes to supporting a policy that has our soldiers patrolling the same streets in the same way, being blown up the same bombs, day after day.
"That is absurd," he said. "It may even be criminal."
Smith said he has tried to quietly support President Bush during the course of the war -- and doesn't believe the president intentionally lied to get the U.S. into the war -- but now recognizes, "we have paid a price in blood and treasure that is beyond calculation" for a war waged due to bad intelligence.
Moved this week by the findings of the Iraq Study Group, Smith said he needed to "speak from my heart.
"I, for one, am tired of paying the price of 10 or more of our troops dying a day. So let's cut and run or cut and walk, but let us fight the way on terror more intelligently that we have because we have fought this war in a very lamentable way," he said.
Monday, December 04, 2006
'Zombie chickens' hatch debate over older chickens' fate
PETALUMA (AP) - In this rich agricultural region of Northern California, ranchers have been turning chickens too old to lay eggs into compost at a rate of a half-million hens a year.
But some chickens not properly euthanized have been seen crawling out of the compost piles, earning them the name "zombie chickens'' -- and hatching a debate over what else might be done with them and other "spent hens.''
A food bank proposed making sausage to feed the poor. A reptile enthusiast suggested using them as food for large exotic pets like pythons and alligators. And an industry group said in the future they could be used as fuel for power plants.
But for now, according to egg farmers in Sonoma County, composting is the only affordable option. The last California rendering plant stopped taking the hens in May.
"If there was something that could be done, it would be done,'' said Petaluma egg farmer Arnie Reibli.
The egg-laying birds have only a pound of usable meat, compared to the 5-pound chickens typically raised for eating. Slaughtering the chickens, even to transport them unprocessed and frozen whole, would likely cost more than composting them, Reibli said.
"Unfortunately, it's less expensive to go out and buy the birds than process them,'' said David Goodman, executive director of the Redwood Empire Food Bank in Santa Rosa, which had considered the sausage-making plan.
To kill the chickens, farmers suffocate them in sealed boxes filled with carbon dioxide, a practice that has drawn the ire of animal rights groups. Afterward, the hens are layered in mounds of sawdust.
A new European technology that turns dead cows into fuel to generate electricity -- and that could be the fate of spent hens someday, said Rich Matteis, head of the Pacific Egg and Poultry Association.
But "that's not something that's going to be available anytime soon,'' he said.
Friday, December 01, 2006
Bush's man in Iraq
Bush's man in Iraq
'HE'S THE right guy for Iraq," President Bush said of Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki after two hours of discussion with the Iraqi leader yesterday in Amman, Jordan. Notwithstanding this endorsement, the true import of the Amman encounter will become clear only in policies decided in Washington and unfolding facts on the ground in Iraq. And if Iraq's dire situation is not to be made even worse, a realistic acceptance of those facts will have to inform US policy decisions.
Events surrounding Bush's meeting with Maliki hardly inspire confidence that the president is ready to face nasty realities in Iraq. A leaked memo to Bush from National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley said, "Maliki is either ignorant of what is going on, misrepresenting his intentions, or . . . his capabilities are not yet sufficient to turn his good intentions into action."
Behind this questioning of Maliki's performance is an obtuse assumption that he should be willing or able to move decisively against the anti-American Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. Maliki was able to become prime minister only as a result of his political alliance with Sadr. If Sadr's followers in Parliament were to desert Maliki, his government would fall or he would have to form a coalition with the main Shi'ite rival to his own Dawa party, the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq . Dawa, the Supreme Council, and the Sadrists are all anti secular and supported by the theocratic regime in Iran.
This reality of Iraqi politics is crucial. Much as Bush has trumpeted his goal of democratizing Iraq and the rest of the region, his problem with Maliki is rooted in Iraqi power relations that were produced by parliamentary elections and the political horse-trading needed to form a coalition government.
Hadley's memo bemoans Maliki's failure to provide basic services to Sunni areas of Iraq and his intervention to "stop military action against Shi'a targets and to encourage them against Sunni ones." Hadley also castigates Maliki for fostering Shi'a dominance in the ministries. But the memo's most unrealistic demand is that Maliki dissolve his alliance with Sadr and "bring to justice any" Mahdi army "actors that do not eschew violence."
Only by refusing to face reality could Bush believe that in the midst of Iraq's vicious sectarian vendetta he could convince Maliki to abandon Sadr and build "an alternative political base" for "a nonsectarian national movement," as Hadley's memo proposes. There are no serious possibilities at present for a non-sectarian government in Iraq.Iraqis need security above all. They may need cooperation from neighbors and some continued training and military support from the United States, but ultimately, they will have to end their sectarian warfare their own way. Americans must now decide how slowly or quickly to reduce the role of foreign forces in that conflict.