Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The World Traveler Arrives at SFO



After a 14-hour trip from Zagreb, Croatia, Jess arrives bearing the infamous "box". She and Sergio lugged "the box" throughout South America and Eastern Europe.



It seems this parcel had a habit of being left behind, so Jess resorted to extreme measures to keep it "top of mind" (as marketers love to say.)

A Visit to Golden Gate National Cemetery



A day after Memorial Day, the National Cemetery in San Bruno was still decked out in a colorful display of flags. I had some difficulty locating my parents' gravesite. I should have looked for the shovel.

The crew was moving in a new neighbor.



The foreman asked if I were "family". I pointed to the stone with the shovel and said it was my parents' grave. With an unnecessary apology, he quickly moved the shovel, the John Deere, the tamper and replaced the small American flag.



The reverse side, with Mom's memorial.

1 comment:

Drew Kampion said...

Thanks for headin' down there, Tim. It's emotional to see those two names marked on that cold ol' stone.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Paying for War at the Pump

by Robert Scheer

What’s it got to do with the price of gas? Would some reporter with access to the Republican presidential candidate please ask John McCain why he wants to continue President Bush’s Mideast policy when it has proved so ruinous for American taxpayers? Because McCain is determined to ignore our economic meltdown and shift the debate to foreign policy, shouldn’t he have to explain why an open-ended military presence in the Mideast will make us economically and militarily more secure when the opposite is clearly the case?

Let’s not waste too much time on the military side of the equation. The argument that troops on the ground have made us militarily more secure is absurd on its face. American resources and lives have been squandered in an inane effort that McCain aptly criticized before becoming a presidential candidate. As a Senate watchdog, he distinguished himself by sharply denouncing one defense contractor boondoggle after another in cases involving hundreds of billions for modern weapons that had nothing to do with fighting cave-based terrorists. But as a presidential candidate, McCain now unabashedly apologizes for every twist of the downwind spiral of the Bush administration foreign policy, from wasteful weapons to inhuman torture.

McCain’s strategy is clearly that of distracting attention from the calamitous economy by sounding the demagogue’s alarm about enemies at the gate. This week, McCain again blasted Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama on the grounds that he underestimated the threat from Iran while ignoring the vast increase in Iran’s power — an increase actually resulting from Bush eliminating Iran’s only effective enemy, Saddam Hussein. The other winners in this folly have been the oil kingdoms that Hussein periodically threatened, led by the Saudi royal family. Seizing upon the opportunity presented by the 9/11 attacks, Bush knocked off not the Saudis, who had produced Osama bin Laden and 15 of his hijacker minions, but rather the royal family’s sworn enemy in Iraq, who had absolutely nothing do with 9/11.

And how did the Saudis thank us? Just check the price of oil, which has increased more than sixfold since 9/11. On Friday, Bush went to dine at Saudi King Abdullah’s bizarrely opulent horse farm and pleaded for an increase in oil production, but to no avail. Bush received the same rebuff in April 2005, when oil was selling for $54 a barrel. On Tuesday, it sold for $129, and the price rise is a good measure of Saudi gratitude for the Bush family’s unwavering support over past decades. Saudi Arabia’s oil minister, Ali al-Naimi, couldn’t have been more condescending when he turned down Bush’s request with the observation that “presidents and kings have every right, every privilege, to comment or ask or say whatever they want.” He added at a press conference, “How much does Saudi Arabia need to do to satisfy people who are questioning our oil practices and policies?”

Enough to get the price back down to where it was when we saved your sorry oil-well excuse for a country, you ingrate, Bush might have retorted. But our bold leader was too polite for anything like that. “He didn’t punch any tables or shout at anybody,” said Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal. “I think he was satisfied.” Why? Instead of pointing out that the Saudis could easily open their spigots in gratitude for our keeping them in power, the president threatened the Saudi king not with an invasion but with a U.S. recession. “My point to His Majesty,” Bush warned in an interview with The New York Times before encountering the great man himself, “is going to be, when consumers have less purchasing power because of high prices of gasoline — in other words, when it affects their families, it could cause this economy to slow down. If the economy slows down, there will be less barrels of oil purchased.”

He’ll show them — we’ll have a recession, our families will suffer and, boy, will the Saudis be sorry. A regular Teddy Roosevelt. There is no better measure of the failure of Bush’s foreign policy than that, five years after we conquered the second-most important pool of oil in the world, the American taxpayers who paid for this grand imperial adventure are rewarded with skyrocketing prices at the pump.

At least when Bush first hyped his Iraq invasion plan, he had Paul Wolfowitz telling Congress that Iraqi oil would more than pay for it all. Not so McCain, who is so charged with imperial hubris that he is willing to commit to a 100-year lease on Iraq without expecting a penny in oil revenue in return.

Robert Scheer’s new book, “The Pornography of Power: How Defense Hawks Hijacked 9/11 and Weakened America,” will be released June 9 by Twelve.

Copyright © 2008 Truthdig, L.L.C.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Obama Responds to Bush and McCain Foreign Policy Attacks



Barack Obama responds to President Bush's and John McCain's cowardly and treasonous claims that those who would negotiate with our so-called "enemies" are "appeasers", just like those who appeased Hitler.

The gloves are coming off.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Bush and McCain Together in "Never Never Land"?

Now these guys have resorted to merely "dreaming it so". Together, they have done virtually nothing to bring about the dream of peace in the Middle East. To the contrary, their hawkish positions have pushed the dream further from our grasp.

Yesterday, President Bush told Israel's Knesset:

...as we mark 60 years from Israel's founding, let us try to envision the region 60 years from now...

Israel will be celebrating the 120th anniversary as one of the world's great democracies, a secure and flourishing homeland for the Jewish people. The Palestinian people will have the homeland they have long dreamed of and deserved -- a democratic state that is governed by law, and respects human rights, and rejects terror. From Cairo to Riyadh to Baghdad and Beirut, people will live in free and independent societies, where a desire for peace is reinforced by ties of diplomacy and tourism and trade. Iran and Syria will be peaceful nations, with today's oppression a distant memory and where people are free to speak their minds and develop their God-given talents. Al Qaeda and Hezbollah and Hamas will be defeated, as Muslims across the region recognize the emptiness of the terrorists' vision and the injustice of their cause.


At virtually the same time, McCain, speaking in Columbus, Ohio said:

By January 2013, America has welcomed home most of the servicemen and women who have sacrificed terribly so that America might be secure in her freedom. The Iraq War has been won. Iraq is a functioning democracy, although still suffering from the lingering effects of decades of tyranny and centuries of sectarian tension. Violence still occurs, but it is spasmodic and much reduced. Civil war has been prevented; militias disbanded; the Iraqi Security Force is professional and competent; al Qaeda in Iraq has been defeated; and the Government of Iraq is capable of imposing its authority in every province of Iraq and defending the integrity of its borders. The United States maintains a military presence there, but a much smaller one, and it does not play a direct combat role.

The threat from a resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan has been greatly reduced but not eliminated. U.S. and NATO forces remain there to help finish the job, and continue operations against the remnants of al Qaeda. The Government of Pakistan has cooperated with the U.S. in successfully adapting the counterinsurgency tactics that worked so well in Iraq and Afghanistan to its lawless tribal areas where al Qaeda fighters are based. The increase in actionable intelligence that the counterinsurgency produced led to the capture or death of Osama bin Laden, and his chief lieutenants. There is no longer any place in the world al Qaeda can consider a safe haven. Increased cooperation between the United States and its allies in the concerted use of military, diplomatic, and economic power and reforms in the intelligence capabilities of the United States has disrupted terrorist networks and exposed plots around the world. There still has not been a major terrorist attack in the United States since September 11, 2001.
I'm tempted to think they have the same speech writer. Or at least "do their homework together."

Thursday, May 15, 2008

A Victory for the Polar Bear...or is it?

In a move reminiscent of President Bush's ubiquitous "signing statements" (where he signs a law into effect but reserves the right to violate that law), Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne has made the decision to list the polar bear as "threatened", not "endangered", a more critical classification. (If our own USGS government studies projected, as a result of Global Warming, 60% of of the global human population would die within the next few decades, don't you think we'd consider the Human Race "endangered"?)

***

US lists polar bear as threatened species

By H. JOSEF HEBERT, Associated Press Writer

The Interior Department declared the polar bear a threatened species Wednesday because of the loss of Arctic sea ice but also cautioned the decision should not be viewed as a path to address global warming.

Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne cited dramatic declines in sea ice over the last three decades and projections of continued losses, meaning, he said, that the polar bear is a species likely to be in danger of extinction in the near future.

But Kempthorne said it would be "wholly inappropriate" to use the protection of the bear to reduce greenhouse gases, or to broadly address climate change.

Read more

The Endangered Species Act "is not the right tool to set U.S. climate policy," said Kempthorne, reflecting a view recently expressed by President Bush.

The department outlined a set of administrative actions and limits to how it planned to protect the bear with its new status so that it would not have wide-ranging adverse impact on economic activities from building power plants to oil and gas exploration.

"This listing will not stop global climate change or prevent any sea ice from melting," said Kempthorne. He said he had consulted with the White House on the decision, but "at no time was there ever a suggestion that this was not my decision." (Emphasis added)

Kempthorne, at a news conference, was armed with slides and charts showing the dramatic decline in sea ice over the last 30 years and projections that the melting of ice — a key habitat for the bear — would continue and may even quicken.

He cited conclusions by department scientists that sea ice loss will likely result in two-thirds of the polar bears disappearing by mid-century. The bear population across the Arctic from Alaska to Greenland doubled from about 12,000 to 25,000 since 1960, but he noted that scientists now predict a significant population decline. Studies last year by the U.S. Geological Survey suggested 15,000 bears would be lost in coming decades with those in the western Hudson Bay area of Alaska and Canada under the greatest stress.

Kempthorne said that it is melting sea ice and not subsistence hunting and energy development that poses the threat to polar bears. While some subsistence hunting by Alaska natives is allowed, the United States bans hunting bears for sport.

Canada allows limited sports hunting of bears. The Hudson Bay bear population off Canada has decined by 22 percent in the last 20 years, according to one study.

But when asked how the bear will be afforded greater protection, Dale Hall, director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, had difficulty coming up with examples.

Better management of bear habitat on shore and making sure bears aren't threatened by people including hunters, more studies on bear population trends and their feeding habits were among the areas mentioned. "I don't want to prejudge recommendations for (bear) management," said Hall whose agency administers the Endangered Species Act.

Environmentalists were already mapping out plans to file lawsuits challenging the restrictive measures outlined by Kempthorne.

"They're trying to make this a threatened listing in name only with no change in today's impacts and that's not going to fly," said Jamie Rappaport Clark of Defenders of Wildlife and a former U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service director.

Members of Congress also were skeptical.

The Bush administration "is forcing the polar bear to sink or swim," said Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., chairman of a House committee on global warming.

Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., called it "a lifeline for our last remaining polar bears" but said the bear's survival won't be assured without limits on oil development in the same Arctic waters where the bears are found.

Despite the new listing, the announcement underscores the need to approve climate legislation that would limit the release of greenhouse gases and avert the future effects on climate change, said Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., chairwoman of the Environment Committee.

Scientists have blamed global warming for the disappearance of sea ice which is vital for the bear's survival.

Summer ice surrounding the North Pole declined an average of 10 percent per decade since 1979, with a loss of about 28,000 square miles per year, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center. Last year was the sharpest drop, as the amount of sea ice in September fell to 1.65 million square miles, or 23 percent below the previous low in 2005.

Kempthorne proposed 15 months ago to investigate whether the polar bear should be declared threatened under the Endangered Species Act. That triggered a year of studies into the threats facing the bear and its survival prospects.

A decision had been expected early this year, but the Interior Department said it needed more time to work out many of the details, prompting criticism from members of Congress and environmentalists. Environmentalists filed a lawsuit aimed at forcing a decision and a federal court on April 29 set a May 15 deadline for a decision.

A species is declared "threatened" under the Endangered Species Act if it is found to be at risk of becoming endangered in the foreseeable future. If it does not make progress toward recovery, it can be declared "endangered" meaning it is at risk of extinction and needs even greater protection.