This Thing Called Courage

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Will you teach your children what we have taught our children? That the earth is our mother?


From top: Echidna, Bumbleebee Bat, Aye-Aye, Kakapo, and the Solenodon)







(THERE IS A GREAT WEBSITE CALLED webecoist.com, and they have some wonderful, amazing even, articles. This one below is one of my recent favorites: the 20 strangest endangered species. Some of these are on the very edge of extinction-- it strikes me as criminal that we can so cavalierly wave adieu to species on this planet-- extinction is forever. Call me crazy, but I would much rather see our fellow endangered creatures 'bailed out' with huge infusions of cash and enlightenment, than Wall Street. From time to time I'll be posting more of these amazing creatures. (There are hundreds and thousands of others.) Here are a few for now.)

The ugly redheaded stepchildren of the animal kingdom don’t get much attention compared to the perennial endangered animal favorites like pandas, polar bears, and owls. These are the cute, majestic, and otherwise emblematic creatures of the endangered species list. But there are hundreds more animal species on our wondrous planet that are critically threatened and need both publicity and support. From bats the size of bees to poison-slinging mammals, lizards that don’t eat for a decade to seals with giant inflatable faces, here are the 25 strangest, most bizarre, unusual and important endangered species living on the “EDGE” (Evolutionarily Distinct & Globally Endangered).


1. Solenodon (beside and below map of Cuba)
No, it’s not an ROUS. The strange solenodon is a mammal found primarily in Cuba and Hispanola. Sure, it looks cute and manageable enough - sort of like an over-sized hedgehog. Too bad the solenodon injects rattlesnake-like venom through its teeth, the only mammal to do so. Easily annoyed, the solenodon bites at the drop of a banana leaf. Still, being both a carrion feeder and insectivore, it is a vital species in its ecosystem. It was thought to be extinct until scientists found a few still alive in 2003. It is in grave danger of extinction.
2. Kakapo (green, parrot-looking bird)
This is not only the rarest, but the strangest parrot in the world. Imagine a rather portly nocturnal bird that never flies, preferring to hike through hilly forest for miles every night. It weighs in as the heaviest parrot in the world at 8 pounds. Imagine this and you have the very real (but virtually extinct) kakapo. A resident of New Zealand, which is home to a number of rare birds, there are only 62 kakapos remaining on earth. (Bonus fact: New Zealand is full of unusual creatures. It originally had no native land mammals, so its many unique birds evolved in unusual ways - which unfortunately has made them very vulnerable to mammals that were brought in during European colonization.)

3. Aye Aye
Sharing something in common with bats, aye ayes are the only primates of the mammal world to rely on echolocation for hunting. The aye aye is a rather unusual cousin of us humans. It lives in spherical nests with a small hole for entry and exit. It uses its long, slender middle finger to tap on trees in order to find tasty insects - and it uses this same finger to scoop them out. Perhaps it is due to its unusually-large eyes and ears that this unique, sensitive primate is believed to be a demon or a bad luck omen. A native of Madagascar, it is often killed at first notice by the island’s superstitious residents.

4. Bumblebee Bat
Winning the cutest. bat. ever. award is the Bumblebee bat, which at its largest measures 1 inch. These tiny mammals hover like hummingbirds and like all bats prefer caves and love feasting on insects. They can easily perch on the tip of your thumb. This tiny bat dwells in Thailand and is considered one of the 12 most endangered species. There are fewer than 200 remaining.

5. Echidna (porcupine-resembling mammal)
The echidna is one of two egg-laying mammals in the world (the other is the famous duck-billed platypus). Though it looks a big hedgehog-like, this spiky creature is shy and non-confrontational. The echidna has a long, moist snout and an even longer tongue which it uses to feast on termites. It has no teeth, so it has to “chew” termites by crushing them between its tongue and mouth cavity. There are actually 4 species of echidna, and along with the platypus, they are the only monotremes.
And now some words to ponder, from those who were deemed 'Savages:'
"The President in Washington sends word that he wishes to buy our land. But how can you buy or sell the sky? the land? The idea is strange to us. If we do not own the freshness of the air and the sparkle of the water, how can you buy them?
"Every part of the earth is sacred to my people. Every shining pine needle, every sandy shore, every mist in the dark woods, every meadow, every humming insect. All are holy in the memory and experience of my people.
"We know the sap which courses through the trees as we know the blood that courses through our veins. We are part of the earth and it is part of us. The perfumed flowers are our sisters. The bear, the deer, the great eagle, these are our brothers. The rocky crests, the dew in the meadow, the body heat of the pony, and man all belong to the same family.
"The shining water that moves in the streams and rivers is not just water, but the blood of our ancestors. If we sell you our land, you must remember that it is sacred. Each glossy reflection in the clear waters of the lakes tells of events and memories in the life of my people. The water's murmur is the voice of my father's father.
"The rivers are our brothers. They quench our thirst. They carry our canoes and feed our children. So you must give the rivers the kindness that you would give any brother.
"If we sell you our land, remember that the air is precious to us, that the air shares its spirit with all the life that it supports. The wind that gave our grandfather his first breath also received his last sigh. The wind also gives our children the spirit of life. So if we sell our land, you must keep it apart and sacred, as a place where man can go to taste the wind that is sweetened by the meadow flowers.
"Will you teach your children what we have taught our children? That the earth is our mother? What befalls the earth befalls all the sons of the earth.
"This we know: the earth does not belong to man, man belongs to the earth. All things are connected like the blood that unites us all. Man did not weave the web of life, he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.
"One thing we know: our God is also your God. The earth is precious to him and to harm the earth is to heap contempt on its creator.
"Your destiny is a mystery to us. What will happen when the buffalo are all slaughtered? The wild horses tamed? What will happen when the secret corners of the forest are heavy with the scent of many men and the view of the ripe hills is blotted with talking wires? Where will the thicket be? Gone! Where will the eagle be? Gone! And what is to say goodbye to the swift pony and then hunt? The end of living and the beginning of survival.
"When the last red man has vanished with this wilderness, and his memory is only the shadow of a cloud moving across the prairie, will these shores and forests still be here? Will there be any of the spirit of my people left?
"We love this earth as a newborn loves its mother's heartbeat. So, if we sell you our land, love it as we have loved it. Care for it, as we have cared for it. Hold in your mind the memory of the land as it is when you receive it. Preserve the land for all children, and love it, as God loves us.
"As we are part of the land, you too are part of the land. This earth is precious to us. It is also precious to you.
"One thing we know - there is only one God. No man, be he Red man or White man, can be apart. We ARE all brothers after all."
Chief Seattle, Suquamish










Monday, September 29, 2008

The Trojan War: Fact or Fiction?

This interesting article is from today's Boston Globe.


By Jonathan Gottschall September 28, 2008

NEARLY 3,000 YEARS after the death of the Greek poet Homer, his epic tales of the war for Troy and its aftermath remain deeply woven into the fabric of our culture. These stories of pride and rage, massacre and homecoming have been translated and republished over millennia. Even people who have never read a word of "The Iliad" or "The Odyssey" know the phrases they have bequeathed to us - the Trojan horse, the Achilles heel, the face that launched a thousand ships.
Today we still turn to Homer's epics not only as sources of ancient wisdom and wrenchingly powerful poetry, but also as genuinely popular entertainments. Recent translations of "The Iliad" and "Odyssey" have shared the best-seller lists with Grisham and King. "The Odyssey" has inspired works from James Joyce's "Ulysses" to a George Clooney movie, and an adaptation of "The Iliad" recently earned more than $100 million in the form of Wolfgang Petersen's "Troy" - a summer blockbuster starring Brad Pitt as an improbable Achilles.
The ancient Greeks, however, believed that Homer's epics were something more than fiction: They thought the poems chronicled a real war, and reflected the authentic struggles of their ancestors. But modern scholars have generally been more skeptical. The poems describe a culture that thrived hundreds of years before Homer was born, and which would have seemed legendary even to him. Scholars have allowed that a kernel of historical truth might be tucked beneath the layers of heroic hyperbole and poetic embroidery, but only a small kernel. In the last 50 years, most scholars have sided with the great classicist Moses Finley, who argued that the epics were "a collection of fictions from beginning to end" and that - for all their majesty and drama - they were "no guide at all" to the civilization that
may have fought the Trojan War.
But thanks to evidence from a range of disciplines, we are in the middle of a massive reappraisal of these foundational works of Western literature. Recent advances in archeology and linguistics offer the strongest support yet that the Trojan War did take place, with evidence coming from the large excavation at the likely site of Troy, as well as new analysis of cuneiform tablets from the dominant empire of the region. Insights from comparative anthropology have transformed studies of the society that created the poems and allowed us to analyze the epics in a new way, suggesting that their particular patterns of violence contain a hidden key to ancient Greek history - though not necessarily the key that Homer's readers once thought they were being given.
"The Iliad" and "The Odyssey" are our most precious artifacts of early Greek culture. Aside from the dry and voiceless remains of archeological sites, the poems are the last surviving impressions of the society that created them - what the people hoped for, what they despaired of, and how they managed their social and political lives. The poems are time machines - imperfect, surely - that show us people who were so like us, and so different, too. And they are still revealing new truths about the prehistoric civilization that has exerted such a strong formative influence over the art, the history, and even the psychology of the West.
. . .
The desire to find truth in Homer has a long and checkered history, and no figure looms larger than the German businessman and self-taught archeologist Heinrich Schliemann. In 1870 he landed on the western coast of Asia Minor (modern day Turkey) with a copy of "The Iliad" in his hand. On the plain before him, an unimpressive mound of grass and stone and bushes swelled 100 feet into the air. Tradition had long identified this mound, called Hisarlik, as a possible site of the historical Troy.
Schliemann soon reported to the world, breathlessly, that he and his diggers had found the charred remains of a grand citadel destroyed in prehistory by hostile men - that he had found Troy just where Homer said it would be. The news was a worldwide sensation, and Schliemann's view that the Homeric epics were fairly accurate chronicles of Late Bronze Age history - that is, the Greek world of around 1200 BC - dominated scholarship for more than 50 years.
But, in fact, Schliemann hadn't found Homer's Troy. Hisarlik was occupied from 3000 BC until 500 AD, and subsequent archeological excavations showed that the civilization Schliemann chipped from the mound actually ended more than 1,000 years before the Trojan War could realistically have been fought. When the German archeologist Carl Blegen examined the proper layer of the Hisarlik mound, the settlement he found seemed like a wretched and insignificant place. Schliemann's amateurism, wishful thinking, and instinct for self-glorification had led him into serious error, and ended up discrediting his claim that Homer's poems were historically based.
But the newest digging at Troy is tipping the consensus again, perhaps this time for good. Schliemann and Blegen, it now appears, had only discovered the tip of the iceberg. The mound at Hisarlik thrusts up from the plain, but most of its ruins are concealed beneath the surface. In a project that has now been underway for 20 years, the German archeologist Manfred Korfmann and hundreds of collaborators have discovered a large lower city that surrounded the citadel. Using new tools, such as computer modeling and imaging technology that allows them to "see" into the earth before digging, Korfmann and his colleagues determined that this city's borders were 10 to 15 times larger than previously thought, and that it supported a population of 5,000 to 10,000 - a big city for its time and place, with impressive defenses and an underground water system for surviving sieges. And, critically, the city bore signs of being pillaged and burned around 1200 BC, precisely the time when the Trojan War would have been fought.
In his influential book, "Troy and Homer," German classicist Joachim Latacz argues that the identification of Hisarlik as the site of Homer's Troy is all but proven. Latacz's case is based not only on archeology, but also on fascinating reassessments of cuneiform tablets from the Hittite imperial archives. The tablets, which are dated to the period when the Late Bronze Age city at Hisarlik was destroyed, tell a story of a western people harassing a Hittite client state on the coast of Asia Minor. The Hittite name for the invading foreigners is very close to Homer's name for his Greeks - Achaians - and the Hittite names for their harassed ally are very close to "Troy" and "Ilios," Homer's names for the city.
"At the very core of the tale," Latacz argues, "Homer's 'Iliad' has shed the mantle of fiction commonly attributed to it."
But if the Trojan War is looking more and more like a historical reality, there is still the question of whether the poems tell us anything about the motives and thinking of the people who actually fought it. Do the epic time machines actually take us back to the Greek culture of the Late Bronze Age?
It is almost certain that they do not. Homer's epics are a culmination of a centuries-long tradition of oral storytelling, and extensive cross-cultural studies of oral literature have established that such tales are unreliable as history. Homeric scholars believe that the epics were finally written down sometime in the 8th century BC, which means that the stories of Achilles and Odysseus would have been passed by word of mouth for half a millennium before they were finally recorded in what was, by then, a vastly changed Greek culture. Facts about the war and the people who fought it would have been lost or grossly distorted, as in a centuries-long game of "telephone." Scholars agree that the relatively simple and poor culture Homer describes in his epics is quite sharply at odds with the complex and comparatively rich Greek kingdoms of the Late Bronze Age, when the war would have taken place.
But even if the epics make a bad history of Greece in 1200 BC - in the sense of transmitting names, dates, and accurate political details - scholars increasingly agree that they provide a precious window on Greek culture at about the time the poems were finally written down. Moses Finley, who believed that the epics were "no guide at all" to the history of the Trojan War, did believe they were guides to Homer's own culture. And by turning an anthropological eye to the conflicts Homer writes about, we are now learning far more about what that culture was really like.
. . .
Reconstructing a prehistoric world from literary sources is rife with complications. But there are aspects of life in the Homeric era upon which most scholars agree. Homer paints a coherent picture of Greek attitudes, ideology, customs, manners, and mores that is consistent with the 8th century archeological record, and holds together based on anthropological knowledge about societies at similar levels of cultural development. For instance, we can trust that the Greeks' political organization was loose but not chaotic - probably organized at the level of chiefdoms, not kingdoms or city-states. In the epics we can see the workings of an agrarian economy; we can see what animals they raised and what crops, how they mixed their wine, worshipped their gods, and treated their slaves and women. We can tell that theirs was a warlike world, with high rates of conflict within and between communities.
This violence, in fact, opens an important window onto that world. Patterns of violence in Homer are intriguingly consistent with societies on the anthropological record known to have suffered from acute shortages of women. While Homeric men did not take multiple wives, they hoarded and guarded slave women who they treated as their sexual property. These women were mainly captured in raids of neighboring towns, and they appear frequently in Homer. In the poems, Odysseus is mentioned as having 50 slave women, and it is slave women who bear most of King Priam's 62 children. For every slave woman working a rich man's loom and sharing his bed, some less fortunate or formidable man lacks a wife.
In pre-state societies around the world - from the Yanomamo of the Amazon basin to the tribes of highland New Guinea to the Inuit of the Arctic - a scarcity of women almost invariably triggers pitched competition among men, not only directly over women, but also over the wealth and social status needed to win them. This is exactly what we find in Homer. Homeric men fight over many different things, but virtually all of the major disputes center on rights to women - not only the famous conflict over Helen, but also over the slave girls Briseis and Chryseis, Odysseus's wife Penelope, and all the nameless women of common Trojan men. As the old counselor Nestor shouts to the Greek hosts, "Don't anyone hurry to return homeward until after he has lain down alongside a wife of some Trojan!"
The war between Greeks and Trojans ends in the Rape of Troy: the massacre of men, and the rape and abduction of women. These events are not the rare savageries of a particularly long and bitter war - they are one of the major points of the war. Homeric raiders always hoped to return home with new slave-concubines. Achilles conveys this in his soul-searching assessment of his life as warrior: "I have spent many sleepless nights and bloody days in battle, fighting men for their women."
Historical studies of literature are sometimes criticized for ignoring, or even diminishing, the artistic qualities that draw people to literature in the first place. But understanding how real history underlies the epics makes us appreciate Homer's art more, not less. We can see Homer pioneering the artistic technique of taking a backbone of historical fact and fleshing it over with contemporary values and concerns - the same technique used later by Virgil in "The Aeneid," by Shakespeare in his history plays, and by Renaissance painters depicting the Bible and classical antiquity.
And understanding Homer's own society gives us a new perspective on the oppressive miasma of fatalism and pessimism that pervades "The Iliad" and, to a lesser but still palpable extent, "The Odyssey." While even the fiercest fighters understand that peace is desirable, they feel doomed to endless conflict. As Odysseus says, "Zeus has given us [the Greeks] the fate of winding down our lives in hateful war, from youth until we perish, each of us." A shortage of women helps to explain more about Homeric society than its relentless violence. It may also shed light on the origins of a tragic and pessimistic worldview, a pantheon of gods deranged by petty vanities, and a people's resignation to the inevitability of "hateful war."

Jonathan Gottschall teaches English at Washington & Jefferson College. He is the author of "The Rape of Troy: Evolution, Violence, and the World of Homer," and he is currently at work on a novel of the Homeric age called "Odysseus, A True Story."

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Gore Urges Civil Disobedience to Stop Coal Plants

(This is from Planet Ark, an environmental news agency)

NEW YORK - Nobel Peace Prize winner and environmental crusader Al Gore urged young people on Wednesday to engage in civil disobedience to stop the construction of coal plants without the ability to store carbon.
The former US vice president, whose climate change documentary "An Inconvenient Truth" won an Academy Award, told a philanthropic meeting in New York City that "the world has lost ground to the climate crisis."
"If you're a young person looking at the future of this planet and looking at what is being done right now, and not done, I believe we have reached the stage where it is time for civil disobedience to prevent the construction of new coal plants that do not have carbon capture and sequestration," Gore told the Clinton Global Initiative gathering to loud applause.
"I believe for a carbon company to spend money convincing the stock-buying public that the risk from the global climate crisis is not that great represents a form of stock fraud because they are misrepresenting a material fact," he said. "I hope these state attorney generals around the country will take some action on that."
The government says about 28 coal plants are under construction in the United States. Another 20 projects have permits or are near the start of construction.
Scientists say carbon gases from burning fossil fuel for power and transport are a key factor in global warming.
Carbon capture and storage could give coal power an extended lease on life by keeping power plants' greenhouse gas emissions out of the atmosphere and easing climate change.
But no commercial-scale project exists anywhere to demonstrate the technology, partly because it is expected to increase up-front capital costs by an additional 50 percent.
So-called geo-sequestration of carbon sees carbon dioxide liquefied and pumped into underground rock layers for long term storage. (Additional reporting by Timothy Gardner; Editing by Christine Kearney and Xavier Briand)
Story by Michelle Nichols

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Republican Assault on the Environment Contniues With Palin Selection

Tomgram: Chip Ward: Sarah Palin's Holy War on Nature

Way back in September 2005, not so long after Katrina hit New Orleans and Americans discovered just what the Bush administration was -- and wasn't -- capable of, environmental activist and author Chip Ward wrote a piece for TomDispatch, "Left Behind," on "Bush's holy war on nature." In it he outlined just what that administration was, in fact, quite skilled at doing. He wrote, in part:
"During their time in power, Bush's officials have worked systematically and energetically to undo half a century of environmental law and policy based on hard-learned lessons about how to sustain healthy environments. Strikingly, they have failed to protect the environment even when they could have done so without repercussions from special-interest campaign contributors. Something more is going on."
While the administration's "holy war on nature" has certainly gotten some real attention, issue by issue, in the mainstream media, its totality, its enormity has seldom been fully assessed. Now, John McCain has picked a vice presidential candidate who, as Ward, reminds us, is guaranteed to continue that same holy war -- in her case, with special fervor. The media and Internet feeding frenzy on Sarah Palin has been… well, frenzied beyond belief. This piece, however, goes to the heart of what matters when it comes to the Alaskan governor. Tom
The Evolution of John McCainWhy He Picked Sarah Palin, Carbon QueenBy Chip Ward
Despite the media feeding frenzy, we still may be asking ourselves, "Just who exactly is Sarah Palin?" Mixed in with the Davy-Crockett-meets-SuperMom vignettes -- all those moose hunting, ice fishing, snowmobiling, baby-juggling, and hockey-momming moments -- we've also learned that she doesn't care much for her former brother-in-law and wasn't afraid to use her office to go after his job as a state trooper; that she was for the "bridge to nowhere" before she was against it; that she's against earmarks unless they benefit her constituents; that she can deliver a snappy wisecracking speech, thinks banning books in libraries is okay, considers herself a pit bull with lipstick, and above all else, wants to drill the ever-lovin' daylights out of every corner of her home state (which John McCain's handlers have somehow translated into being against Big Oil, since she insisted on a marginally bigger cut of the profits for Alaskans).
Oh, and -- not that this is very important to Americans or the planet -- she now thinks that global warming might possibly be human-made… sorta… though she didn't before, despite the fact that the state she governs is on the frontline of climate change. And, of course, she's a classic right-wing, fundamentalist Christian: against abortion -- check; against same-sex marriage -- check; against stem-cell research -- check; favors teaching Creationism in public schools -- check.
It's that last item, her willingness to put Creationism up against the teaching of evolutionary science in the classroom on a he-says-she-says basis, that's far more revealing of just who our new Republican vice presidential candidate is than we generally assume. It deserves the long, hard look that it hasn't yet gotten. Most Democrats and progressives tend to think of the teaching of Creationism as a mere sidebar item on their agenda of political don't-likes, but it's not. Sarah Palin's bias towards Creationism is a window into her political soul and a measure of John McCain's hypocrisy.
It's possible that the public has been fooled into thinking of McCain as a "maverick" when it comes to his party's abysmal record on the environment, but his selection of Palin as his running mate sends quite a different message. In fact, he's potentially put future generations on a "bridge to nowhere" (or perhaps to the fourteenth century). Whether we know it or not, we should now be duly warned: The Palin nomination is the equivalent of launching a "surge strategy" in the Republican war on the environment.


The Republican Holy War on Nature (Continued)
For the past eight years, the Bush administration's assault on environmental quality has been so deliberate, destructive, and hostile that the usual explanations -- while not wrong -- are hardly adequate. Yes, Republican animosity to government regulation is long-standing. Yes, they believe in the power of an unrestricted marketplace to shape our collective behaviors. And yes, they emphasize property rights over notions of the commons and have often been comfortable sacrificing wildlife, air, and water quality in the pursuit of profits. In addition, despite recent claims, they are indeed the party of Big Oil. But none of this quite explains the Bush administration's shameful record on the environment. In the final analysis, the only explanation that fits the nightmare of the last eight years is this: It has been on a holy war against nature -- and the nomination of Sarah Palin is essentially an insurance policy taken out on its continuation.
The idea that the environment matters is ingrained in Americans, even those who don't think of themselves as environmentally inclined. Democrats and Republicans alike have learned the hard way that the decisions we make about what we allow into our air, water, and soil gets translated into our skin, blood, and bones. We now sense that we all live downwind and downstream from one another, and that it is prudent to practice restraint and take precautions when making environmental decisions.
This unspoken consensus is one of the great accomplishments of the modern environmental movement. The policies of the Bush regime have been shocking and shameful exactly because they fly in the face of these shared values and beliefs. Only when we grasp that the narrow Republican base both Bush and McCain pander to no longer shares these basic values and beliefs, does their war on the natural world make sense.
If you believe that a look-alike God made the world for you to dominate and use, that you are among God's chosen few, and that He will provide for you no matter what you do to your surroundings, then you are likely to see yourself as above the natural order. If you believe that the world will be ending soon anyway, that you will be "raptured" while non-believers are "left behind" (as fundamentalist Tim LeHay so vividly describes the process in his bestselling novels), then precaution and restraint are moot. Remember, more than 60% of the nation's 60 million evangelicals believe that the Bible is literally true, every last word of it, and more than a third believe the end of the world will occur in their lifetime.
That's why a pro-Creationist stand is no sideline issue, but the litmus test that reveals whether a politician shares the religious right's ideology -- a literal interpretation of the Bible, a disparaging attitude towards science, belief in mankind's unfettered dominion over the natural world, and a willingness to impose its religious doctrines on others.
Both of Sarah Palin's churches -- the Wasilla Assembly of God where her faith was shaped as a child and the Wasilla Bible Church that she attends today -- believe in just such a literal interpretation of the Bible. From Biblical study, Creationists have calculated that the Earth is only about 6,000 years old. That this is contradicted by the fossil record matters little to those who also think Revelations is a reasonable guide to foreign policy in the twenty-first century. Asked during her run for governor if Creationism should be taught in the public schools, Palin responded that the theory of evolution and Creationism should be taught side by side, and then "the students could debate" which is true.
Why Evolution Matters
When many Americans think "evolution," they probably recall that illustration of an ape, then a Neanderthal, then a hairy caveman, and finally, a modern homo sapiens walking in a line and growing ever more upright as they proceed. That illustration crudely highlights the aspect of evolutionary theory that pinches the nerves of Christian zealots who prefer a creation scenario like the one painted on the roof of the Sistine Chapel -- God tagging Man with life, finger to finger. But the human common ancestry with primates is just a fraction of what evolutionary theory is all about.
Evolution is largely about connection and interaction -- the linear connection of one species evolving into another (speciation), but also how species fill niches created by one another, how they interact, exchanging energy and information, how they compete as well as cooperate, and how all of them -- from microbial soils to migrating birds -- form dynamic communities that, in turn, are also woven together, web within web within web. Pull one thread of that living tapestry and you tug at so many others, which is why precaution is so wise.
Evolutionary theory does not preclude God. It uncovers the how of life, but leaves the why of it quite open. Many devout Jews and Christians, even evangelicals, believe in evolution, just not Biblical literalists.
Evolutionary theory shapes and informs the ecological sciences that are the very basis for our environmental laws and policies. The emerging, European-led global movement -- so far lacking U.S. participation -- that aims to deal with global climate chaos and restore the earth's vital operating systems is premised on understandings gained through the evolutionary sciences. Cast doubt on those sciences and you undermine the basis for changes that are urgently needed.
The Creationist campaign means to dumb-down and confuse our kids by pushing the evolutionary sciences off the educational stage. America's Taliban want to make room for Creationism's dull sister, Intelligent Design, in order to undermine the emerging environmental consensus that is our best hope for a sustainable future. According to that consensus, we humans are embedded in natural systems that are in crisis; our well-being, even our survival, depends on the vitality of those systems.
Kiss the Polar Bear Goodbye
So how does all this translate into actual behavior? As governor, Sarah Palin recently sued the Interior Department to keep the polar bear -- the iconic symbol of her state -- from being listed as a threatened species under the provisions of the Endangered Species Act. Additional protections, she argued, might inhibit oil and gas drilling and pipeline construction in the region.
The Endangered Species Act is a favorite target of the religious right since they are convinced it elevates lowly creatures to, or above, the status of human beings. They see "charismatic carnivores" and other protected species as the means used by conservationists to pursue broader protections for whole ecosystems. And that's true enough, in that "keystone species" like the polar bear regulate a wide network of relationships within a whole ecosystem. Those bears, for example, keep a lid on seal populations that could otherwise devastate fish populations and skew the arctic food web. Numerous animal and bird species depend on scavenging bear kills for food. But without reference to ecological science, the role of a keystone species and the value of biodiversity itself are hard to appreciate.
Palin, of course, also wants to drill for oil in the ecologically fragile Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and has expressed her hope that she can convince McCain to abandon his opposition to it. She is an active promoter of Alaska's aerial hunting program where wolves and bears (again, keystone species) are shot from the air or chased until exhausted, after which the pilot lands the plane and a gunner can shoot them point blank. She tried to raise the bounty on wolves to encourage more killing and strongly opposed a ballot initiative to end the aerial hunting program. In the Lower 48, we learned the hard way that eliminating top predators upsets a chain of relationships in their ecosystems. No wolves in Yellowstone meant big, lazy herds of elk trashing streams, driving away beavers, and thus eliminating the wetlands that beavers create -- a cascade of unintended, harmful consequences. That's why naturalists are reintroducing wolves in parts of the West, and health is returning to the land with them. Under Palin, Alaska is going to relive our old mistakes at a time when Alaskans -- and humanity -- can ill afford it.
The Carbon Queen
Even in Alaska, known oil reserves are dropping. Nonetheless, Palin is determined above all else to keep the current flow of energy moving, explore and develop new oil fields, and ramp up natural gas and coal production. She gave special permission to Chevron to triple the toxic waste it can pour into the waters of the Cook Inlet, despite scientific research concluding that the Beluga whale population there is endangered. She has refused to pressure Exxon to pay-up for damages caused by the infamous Exxon-Valdez oil spill. She has supported virtually every mining proposal that has landed on her desk, including one for a vast gold mine in the Bristol Bay watershed that would risk the world's largest run of sockeye salmon. She favors open-cast mining for coal in the pristine Brooks Range. She has refused to enhance safety measures for trans-Pacific shipping along the Alaskan coast. All that and she's been governor for barely two years!
Her deplorable environmental record was such common knowledge that John McCain couldn't have missed it, even if he napped through his vetting committee's report.
So if the McCain/Palin ticket is elected, you should know what to expect. Although John McCain may once have openly refused to subscribe to the beliefs of the Republican Party's religious right, famously describing them as "agents of intolerance," his selection of Sarah Palin is a message (and not just to the Party's fundamentalist right): If you thought that he understands the need to kick our fossil-fuel addiction and address global warming, if you believed his promises to build a green economy, forget about it. A McCain/Palin administration, just like the one before it, will continue -- and this is the best-case scenario -- to fiddle while the planet burns.
Driving Into the Future Without a Map
Ed Kalnins is Sarah Palin's former pastor at the Wasilla Assembly of God Church which she attended for 26 years. He sees powerful signs that the end of the world is drawing nigh and assured a London Times reporter that Biblical scripture specifically mentions shortages of oil and wars for its control. When the end comes, he expects to be "raptured" with other righteous Christians and spared the suffering of those of us who will be left behind. He believes the apocalyptic destruction of our planet will happen in his own lifetime; in fact, that is exactly the future he hopes for. He has urged his congregation to make ready a "refuge" for good Christians fleeing northward in "the Last Days." Although Kalnin's orientation may seem -- to be polite -- extreme, it is typical enough of those who push a Creationist agenda. And it's a perspective Sarah Palin knows well, having spent a lifetime in Kalnin's Pentecostal church, and even now, she is in no hurry to disown it.
We need environmental science in our schools more than ever. An ecologically illiterate generation of students will be ill-prepared to meet our real, less than rapturous future. They won't have a clue about what's happening around them or how to deal with the damage we've done. They won't be able to create new technologies that mimic nature's models for recycling waste and energy. They will drive blindly into the future, burning fossil fuels, without a map they can read. They may even let the Ed Kalnins of our world take the wheel.
The Evolution vs. Creationism debate appears to be an argument over the distant past. But it's actually about the future. It's about, in fact, who will define the cultural mindset that will generate that future. Let us pray it is not defined by a pit bull with lipstick who thinks she is "tasked by God" to drill for oil.
Chip Ward is a former public library administrator in Utah, where the separation of church and state is always unclear. As a grassroots activist, he led several successful campaigns to make polluters accountable. He wrote about his various political adventures in Canaries on the Rim and Hope's Horizon.
Copyright 2008 Chip Ward


Friday, September 19, 2008

A Conservative for Obama

A Conservative for Obama
My party has slipped its moorings. It’s time for a true pragmatist to lead the country.
Leading Off By Wick Allison, EDITOR IN CHIEF

THE MORE I LISTEN TO AND READ ABOUT “the most liberal member of the U.S. Senate,” the more I like him. Barack Obama strikes a chord with me like no political figure since Ronald Reagan. To explain why, I need to explain why I am a conservative and what it means to me.
In 1964, at the age of 16, I organized the Dallas County Youth for Goldwater. My senior thesis at the University of Texas was on the conservative intellectual revival in America. Twenty years later, I was invited by William F. Buckley Jr. to join the board of National Review. I later became its publisher.
Conservatism to me is less a political philosophy than a stance, a recognition of the fallibility of man and of man’s institutions. Conservatives respect the past not for its antiquity but because it represents, as G.K. Chesterton said, the democracy of the dead; it gives the benefit of the doubt to customs and laws tried and tested in the crucible of time. Conservatives are skeptical of abstract theories and utopian schemes, doubtful that government is wiser than its citizens, and always ready to test any political program against actual results.
Liberalism always seemed to me to be a system of “oughts.” We ought to do this or that because it’s the right thing to do, regardless of whether it works or not. It is a doctrine based on intentions, not results, on feeling good rather than doing good.
But today it is so-called conservatives who are cemented to political programs when they clearly don’t work. The Bush tax cuts—a solution for which there was no real problem and which he refused to end even when the nation went to war—led to huge deficit spending and a $3 trillion growth in the federal debt. Facing this, John McCain pumps his “conservative” credentials by proposing even bigger tax cuts. Meanwhile, a movement that once fought for limited government has presided over the greatest growth of government in our history. That is not conservatism; it is profligacy using conservatism as a mask.
Today it is conservatives, not liberals, who talk with alarming bellicosity about making the world “safe for democracy.” It is John McCain who says America’s job is to “defeat evil,” a theological expansion of the nation’s mission that would make George Washington cough out his wooden teeth.
This kind of conservatism, which is not conservative at all, has produced financial mismanagement, the waste of human lives, the loss of moral authority, and the wreckage of our economy that McCain now threatens to make worse.
Barack Obama is not my ideal candidate for president. (In fact, I made the maximum donation to John McCain during the primaries, when there was still hope he might come to his senses.) But I now see that Obama is almost the ideal candidate for this moment in American history. I disagree with him on many issues. But those don’t matter as much as what Obama offers, which is a deeply conservative view of the world. Nobody can read Obama’s books (which, it is worth noting, he wrote himself) or listen to him speak without realizing that this is a thoughtful, pragmatic, and prudent man. It gives me comfort just to think that after eight years of George W. Bush we will have a president who has actually read the Federalist Papers.
Most important, Obama will be a realist. I doubt he will taunt Russia, as McCain has, at the very moment when our national interest requires it as an ally. The crucial distinction in my mind is that, unlike John McCain, I am convinced he will not impulsively take us into another war unless American national interests are directly threatened.
“Every great cause,” Eric Hoffer wrote, “begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket.” As a cause, conservatism may be dead. But as a stance, as a way of making judgments in a complex and difficult world, I believe it is very much alive in the instincts and predispositions of a liberal named Barack Obama.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Bats in the Belfry


This is from this morning's Boston Globe-- I guess we could call Mr. Berry (pictured, with his bat house)the White Knight...I have bats out back though I haven't seen them in a bit-- then again, I only see them when I stalk them out, at twilight. There are quite a few up in Happy Land at the place where I go to find the woodcock in spring. They are mega beneficial, though I really have a problem with the old argument about preserving species because, "they're so beneficial to man." Certainly if it were a case of species being 'beneficial' or not, humans would be the first to be tossed from the boat, for being distinctly unbeneficial...




A House with Wings



Zoo, Roxbury man build a home to bring bats back
By James Vaznis, Globe Staff September 17, 2008



Luther the tiger, Jana the giraffe, and Evita the zebra could soon have new neighbors at the Franklin Park Zoo: lots of little brown bats.
As part of an effort to lure more of the winged animals to the city, the zoo and a 67-year-old bat enthusiast from Roxbury have joined forces to build what they consider to be palatial digs for the critters, a slate-roofed, wooden house large enough for 300 bats to roost away the daylight hours.
Yes, they are actually putting out a welcome mat for those flying mammals that freak out homeowners by nesting in attics or closed patio umbrellas.
"We want to show off the beauty of bats and get urban people to love them or at least respect them," said Robert C. Berry, the Roxbury resident. With the help of a friend, Berry built a nearly 5-foot tall chimney-like house for them.
Berry and zoo officials have become concerned that they have seen fewer bats soaring in the city. Berry attributes it to the loss of open space to development and the demolition of abandoned factories, churches, and other structures where bats tend to take up summer lodging.
Their effort is occurring as scientists investigate the deaths of thousands of bats in New England and New York over the past two years, possibly because of a fuzzy, white fungus.
While many folks may welcome the disappearance of a nocturnal animal often associated with vampires and rabies, the benefits of bats far outweigh the negatives, Berry and zoo officials say. A bat, they pointed out, eats hundreds of human-biting and crop-infesting insects a night and some pollinate various vegetation.
"Anything we can do to enhance their ability to live and survive is good, especially right now," said John Linehan, chief executive of Zoo New England, which operates the Franklin Park Zoo.
Across Eastern Massachusetts, many homeowners and a handful of town governments have erected bat houses in recent years to keep down mosquito populations, which carry potentially fatal diseases such as West Nile and Eastern equine encephalitis.
But many specialists argue that bats prefer larger insects and would have negligible effect on mosquito control.
Bats are not new to the zoo. The zoo has an exhibit of fruit bats, but those are behind glass. The new structure will house a species found in New England, myotis lucifugus (little brown bats), and will be in the open.
In seeking dwellers, the zoo will rely on a bat's instinct to find the house.
The furry animal should be drawn to the house, without the use of bait, because the structure is built to simulate the kind of spaces the creatures like, such as crevices in dead trees, rocks, or eaves of houses.
The house will be placed atop a 20-foot pole and behind a fence 40 feet away from people, in deference to concerns from public health officials about rabies.
The exact location of the house has not been determined.
"We are looking to build a colony here so people can view the bats at dusk and dawn as they come out of the house or come back in," said Berry, who used to see bats flickering around his house in the Fountain Hill section of Roxbury until an abandoned church was torn down and more housing went up.
The Franklin Park Zoo would become one of a handful of zoos nationwide to have bat houses, according to the Organization for Bat Conservation.
The Detroit Zoo, for example, put up about a half-dozen bat houses a few years ago and has had no problems with bats spreading rabies or pestering people or other animals, a zoo official said last week.
According to the US Fish and Wildlife Service, less than half of 1 percent of bats carry the rabies virus. Berry said he would like to see bat houses go up in other parts of the city, such as along the Charles River, on Boston Common, or at the Public Garden - pretty much any part of the city with open space.
"We should move the wilderness and rurality into urbanity," Berry said. "If bats cease to exist, we will be up to our knees in insects."
The Boston Public Health Commission supports the bat house at Franklin Park Zoo, but officials have concerns about adding them to public parks.
"We know bats can carry rabies," said Anita Barry, the commission's director of communicable disease control. "If someone wanted to put a bat house on Boston Common where people could walk up and see bats personally, I don't think that would be a good idea."


Monday, September 15, 2008

New Life!!!!







WELCOME TO THE WORLD ISABEL LOURDES ANDREWS, and congratulations to my nephew Christian, his lovely wife Regina, and their new daughter, born this past Saturday. Shown (from the bottom)are Chris, Regina, and Isabel; my nephew (and godson) Ted and Isabel; and Isabel herself. This is Chris and Regina's first child, and my sister Peg is now a GRANDMOTHER haha which she is alternately proud of and in denial of...but Peg was very young when she got married, as she is always reminding us....everyone is healthy and Isabel arrived at a healthy nine pounds nine ounces.










Thursday, September 11, 2008

Eve Ensler on Palin


Drill Drill Drill, Kill Kill Kill


(This was forwarded this morning by my dear friend Pam in berlin-- many thanks! It's by Eve Ensler, activist and author of the Vaginia Dialogues.)


I am having Sarah Palin nightmares. I dreamt last night that she was a member of a club where they rode snowmobiles and wore the claws of drowned and starved polar bears around their necks. I have a particular thing for Polar Bears. Maybe it's their snowy whiteness or their bigness or the fact that they live in the arctic or that I have never seen one in person or touched one. Maybe it is the fact that they live so comfortably on ice. Whatever it is, I need the polar bears. I don't like raging at women. I am a Feminist and have spent my life trying to build community, help empower women and stop violence against them. It is hard to write about Sarah Palin. This is why the Sarah Palin choice was all the more insidious and cynical. The people who made this choice count on the goodness and solidarity of Feminists. But everything Sarah Palin believes in and practices is antithetical to Feminism which for me is part of one story -- connected to saving the earth, ending racism, empowering women, giving young girls options, opening our minds, deepening tolerance, and ending violence and war. I believe that the McCain/Palin ticket is one of the most dangerous choices of my lifetime, and should this country chose those candidates the fall-out may be so great, the destruction so vast in so many areas that America may never recover. But what is equally disturbing is the impact that duo would have on the rest of the world. Unfortunately, this is not a joke. In my lifetime I have seen the clownish, the inept, the bizarre be elected to the presidency with regularity. Sarah Palin does not believe in evolution. I take this as a metaphor. In her world and the world of Fundamentalists nothing changes or gets better or evolves. She does not believe in global warming. The melting of the arctic, the storms that are destroying our cities, the pollution and rise of cancers, are all part of God's plan. She is fighting to take the polar bears off the endangered species list. The earth, in Palin's view, is here to be taken and plundered. The wolves and the bears are here to be shot and plundered. The oil is here to be taken and plundered. Iraq is here to be taken and plundered. As she said herself of the Iraqi war, "It was a task from God." Sarah Palin does not believe in abortion. She does not believe women who are raped and incested and ripped open against their will should have a right to determine whether they have their rapist's baby or not. She obviously does not believe in sex education or birth control. I imagine her daughter was practicing abstinence and we know how many babies that makes. Sarah Palin does not much believe in thinking. From what I gather she has tried to ban books from the library, has a tendency to dispense with people who think independently. She cannot tolerate an environment of ambiguity and difference. This is a woman who could and might very well be the next president of the United States. She would govern one of the most diverse populations on the earth. Sarah believes in guns. She has her own custom Austrian hunting rifle. She has been known to kill 40 caribou at a clip. She has shot hundreds of wolves from the air. Sarah believes in God. That is of course her right, her private right. But when God and Guns come together in the public sector, when war is declared in God's name, when the rights of women are denied in his name, that is the end of separation of church and state and the undoing of everything America has ever tried to be. I write to my sisters. I write because I believe we hold this election in our hands. This vote is a vote that will determine the future not just of the U.S., but of the planet. It will determine whether we create policies to save the earth or make it forever uninhabitable for humans. It will determine whether we move towards dialogue and diplomacy in the world or whether we escalate violence through invasion, undermining and attack. It will determine whether we go for oil, strip mining, coal burning or invest our money in alternatives that will free us from dependency and destruction. It will determine if money gets spent on education and healthcare or whether we build more and more methods of killing. It will determine whether America is a free open tolerant society or a closed place of fear, fundamentalism and aggression. If the Polar Bears don't move you to go and do everything in your power to get Obama elected then consider the chant that filled the hall after Palin spoke at the RNC, "Drill Drill Drill." I think of teeth when I think o f drills. I think of rape. I think of destruction. I think of domination. I think of military exercises that force mindless repetition, emptying the brain of analysis, doubt, ambiguity or dissent. I think of pain. Do we want a future of drilling? More holes in the ozone, in the floor of the sea, more holes in our thinking, in the trust between nations and peoples, more holes in the fabric of this precious thing we call life?

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

9/11 Plus Seven: What Have We Done, What Have We Learned?

From Tom Dispatch

Andrew Bacevich, Worshiping the Indispensable Nation

Can anyone be surprised that, once again, the attacks of 9/11/01 were reflexively ground zero for embattled Republicans? George W. Bush led the way at the Republican National Convention, saying of John McCain, "We need a president who understands the lessons of September 11, 2001." In his convention keynote address, Rudy Giuliani followed suit, zapping Obama and his supporters this way: "The Democrats rarely mentioned the attacks of September 11. They are in a state of denial about the threat that faces us now and in the future." Post-convention, it's evidently time to assure the nation that Sarah Palin is just the pit bull to handle the next 9/11. Now comes the news that this Thursday, the endless presidential election campaign will finally make it -- quite literally -- to Ground Zero. Barack Obama and John McCain will "put aside politics" and appear together for the yearly ceremonies. By now, however, it's far too late to "put aside" 9/11, no less remove it from American politics. Our world has been profoundly reshaped, after all, by the decisions Bush and his top officials made in the wake of those attacks.
Still, taking up the President's implied question, what "lessons" exactly should be drawn, seven years later, other than that you stand a reasonable chance of winning elections by invoking 9/11 ad nauseum? As Andrew Bacevich, author of the New York Times bestselling book, The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism, indicates below, there are indeed lessons to be drawn. They are, in fact, devastating to the Bush administration, and unless they are grasped, further disaster is undoubtedly in the offing. (To watch a video of Bacevich discussing those post-9/11 lessons, click here.) Tom
9/11 Plus SevenBy Andrew J. Bacevich
The events of the past seven years have yielded a definitive judgment on the strategy that the Bush administration conceived in the wake of 9/11 to wage its so-called Global War on Terror. That strategy has failed, massively and irrevocably. To acknowledge that failure is to confront an urgent national priority: to scrap the Bush approach in favor of a new national security strategy that is realistic and sustainable -- a task that, alas, neither of the presidential candidates seems able to recognize or willing to take up.
On September 30, 2001, President Bush received from Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld a memorandum outlining U.S. objectives in the War on Terror. Drafted by Rumsfeld's chief strategist Douglas Feith, the memo declared expansively: "If the war does not significantly change the world's political map, the U.S. will not achieve its aim." That aim, as Feith explained in a subsequent missive to his boss, was to "transform the Middle East and the broader world of Islam generally."
Rumsfeld and Feith were co-religionists: Along with other senior Bush administration officials, they worshipped in the Church of the Indispensable Nation, a small but intensely devout Washington-based sect formed in the immediate wake of the Cold War. Members of this church shared an exalted appreciation for the efficacy of American power, especially hard power. The strategy of transformation emerged as a direct expression of their faith.
The members of this church were also united by an equally exalted estimation of their own abilities. Lucky the nation to be blessed with such savvy and sophisticated public servants in its hour of need!
The goal of transforming the Islamic world was nothing if not bold. It implied far-reaching political, economic, social, and even cultural adjustments. At a press conference on September 18, 2001, Rumsfeld spoke bluntly of the need to "change the way that they live." Rumsfeld didn't specify who "they" were. He didn't have to. His listeners understood without being told: "They" were Muslims inhabiting a vast arc of territory that stretched from Morocco in the west all the way to the Moro territories of the Southern Philippines in the east.
Yet boldly conceived action, if successfully executed, offered the prospect of solving a host of problems. Once pacified (or "liberated"), the Middle East would cease to breed or harbor anti-American terrorists. Post-9/11 fears about weapons of mass destruction falling into the hands of evil-doers could abate. Local regimes, notorious for being venal, oppressive, and inept, might finally get serious about cleaning up their acts. Liberal values, including rights for women, would flourish. A part of the world perpetually dogged by violence would enjoy a measure of stability, with stability promising not so incidentally to facilitate exploitation of the region's oil reserves. There was even the possibility of enhancing the security of Israel. Like a powerful antibiotic, the Bush administration's strategy of transformation promised to clean out not simply a single infection but several; or to switch metaphors, a strategy of transformation meant running the table.
When it came to implementation, the imperative of the moment was to think big. Just days after 9/11, Rumsfeld was charging his subordinates to devise a plan of action that had "three, four, five moves behind it." By December 2001, the Pentagon had persuaded itself that the first move -- into Afghanistan -- had met success. The Bush administration wasted little time in pocketing its ostensible victory. Attention quickly shifted to the second move, seen by insiders as holding the key to ultimate success: Iraq.
Fix Iraq and moves three, four, and five promised to come easily. Writing in the Weekly Standard, William Kristol and Robert Kagan got it exactly right: "The president's vision will, in the coming months, either be launched successfully in Iraq, or it will die in Iraq."
The point cannot be emphasized too strongly: Saddam Hussein's (nonexistent) weapons of mass destruction and his (imaginary) ties to Al Qaeda never constituted the real reason for invading Iraq -- any more than the imperative of defending Russian "peacekeepers" in South Ossetia explains the Kremlin's decision to invade Georgia.
Iraq merely offered a convenient place from which to launch a much larger and infinitely more ambitious project. "After Hussein is removed," enthused Hudson Institute analyst Max Singer, "there will be an earthquake through the region." Success in Iraq promised to endow the United States with hitherto unprecedented leverage. Once the United States had made an example of Saddam Hussein, as the influential neoconservative Richard Perle put it, dealing with other ne'er-do-wells would become simple: "We could deliver a short message, a two-word message: 'You're next.'" Faced with the prospect of sharing Saddam's fate, Syrians, Iranians, Sudanese, and other recalcitrant regimes would see submission as the wiser course -- so Perle and others believed.
Members of the administration tried to imbue this strategic vision with a softer ideological gloss. "For 60 years," Condoleezza Rice explained to a group of students in Cairo, "my country, the United States, pursued stability at the expense of democracy in this region here in the Middle East -- and we achieved neither." No more. "Now, we are taking a different course. We are supporting the democratic aspirations of all people." The world's Muslims needed to know that the motives behind the U.S. incursion into Iraq and its actions elsewhere in the region were (or had, at least, suddenly become) entirely benign. Who knows? Rice may even have believed the words she spoke.
In either case -- whether the strategy of transformation aimed at dominion or democratization -- today, seven years after it was conceived, we can assess exactly what it has produced. The answer is clear: next to nothing, apart from squandering vast resources and exacerbating the slide toward debt and dependency that poses a greater strategic threat to the United States than Osama bin Laden ever did.
In point of fact, hardly had the Pentagon commenced its second move, its invasion of Iraq, when the entire strategy began to unravel. In Iraq, President Bush's vision of regional transformation did die, much as Kagan and Kristol had feared. No amount of CPR credited to the so-called surge will revive it. Even if tomorrow Iraq were to achieve stability and become a responsible member of the international community, no sensible person could suggest that Operation Iraqi Freedom provides a model to apply elsewhere. Senator John McCain says that he'll keep U.S. combat troops in Iraq for as long as it takes. Yet even he does not propose "solving" any problems posed by Syria or Iran (much less Pakistan) by employing the methods that the Bush administration used to "solve" the problem posed by Iraq. The Bush Doctrine of preventive war may remain nominally on the books. But, as a practical matter, it is defunct.
The United States will not change the world's political map in the ways top administration officials once dreamed of. There will be no earthquake that shakes up the Middle East -- unless the growing clout of Iran, Hezbollah, and Hamas in recent years qualifies as that earthquake. Given the Pentagon's existing commitments, there will be no threats of "you're next" either -- at least none that will worry our adversaries, as the Russians have neatly demonstrated. Nor will there be a wave of democratic reform -- even Rice has ceased her prattling on that score. Islam will remain stubbornly resistant to change, except on terms of its own choosing. We will not change the way "they" live.
In a book that he co-authored during the run-up to the invasion, Kristol confidently declared, "The mission begins in Baghdad, but it does not end there." In fact, the Bush administration's strategy of transformation has ended. It has failed miserably. The sooner we face up to that failure, the sooner we can get about repairing the damage.

Andrew J. Bacevich is professor of history and international relations at Boston University. His bestselling new book is The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism. You can read excerpts from it by clicking here, and here, or watch a video of him discussing the lessons of 9/11, seven years later, by clicking here.
Copyright 2008 Andrew J. Bacevich

Monday, September 08, 2008

Bush Changes Will Gut Endangered Species Act-- Act Now!


(This is from the Huffington Post)



If the proposed changes are not effectively challenged by September 15, they will go into effect, and, Goodbye Species!
Act now: Go to the end of this article for instructions. We need the public to flood the agencies involved with comments opposing the redefinitions and rule changes.

When the Cat's Away
While our attention has been turned elsewhere, the Endangered Species Act, our major environmental protection legislation, is being gutted--now.
Not by Congress. Not by the courts. Not even by Bush's executive orders. It is being destroyed by redefinition, by a series of linguistic tricks.
Causation, within an ecological system, is almost always systemic in nature. That is, there are disparate contributing causes with disparate contributed effects in various places at different times. Direct causation is rare. Direct causation occurs when there is a single act at a given time and place that results in a single effect at that time and place.
For example, a species of frog limited to a local wetland could be completely wiped out by a condo development with that wetland filled in. Direct causation.
But frogs around the country are dying out due to a complex combination of factors in different places at different times. Systemic causation.
Progressives and conservatives tend to think differently about causation. Conservatives, who think in terms of individual not social responsibility, tend to think in terms of direct causation--what an individual does. Progressives, who think in terms of social as well as individual responsibility, tend to think in terms of systemic causation. For example, if you ask what the causes of unemployment are, conservatives will tend to say people who aren't willing to do hard work, or willing to get the skills they need. Progressives will talk first about social causes: lack of education, lack of opportunities to acquire needed skills, corporate greed or insensitivity, and so on.
The present Endangered Species Act is realistic about systemic causation: disparate causes that contribute to disparate future effects count as "causation." But imagine what would happen if "causation" were redefined to mean only direct causation. Development projects now forbidden because they contribute significantly to future disparate loss of species and species habitat would now be allowed. Lots and lots of disparate projects at disparate places and times would be allowed. Their collective systemic effects could wipe out a great many habitats and species.
This is exactly what is being proposed by the Departments of the Interior and Commerce, as published in the Federal Register / Vol. 73, No. 159 / Friday, August 15, 2008 / Proposed Rules. They want to redefine causation so that only direct causation (they call it "an essential cause") counts as causation that jeopardizes the existence of a species listed under the Endangered Species act, or jeopardizes that species' critical habitat. The effect is that proposed development projects can contribute significantly to the destruction of habitat and the extinction of species, provided that they do not directly cause the elimination of a species, or directly reduce the population of a species or extent of its habitat--something that rarely happens. The result is that almost all proposed developments that were previously understood as "causes" of habitat destruction or species extinction will no longer be seen as "causes" at all and will be permitted. The reason will be that "cause" itself will have been redefined.
Consultation
Up until now, the Endangered Species Act was governed by certain rules. The rules involved the following:
* A federal "action agency" (for example, FERC--the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) which proposed a project.. An example of such a project might be the granting a license to operate a hydroelectric power plant.
* A "service"-- either the Fish and Wildlife Service for inland species or the National Marine Fisheries Service for marine species--whose job is the protection of plants, fish and wildlife and the gathering of information relevant to that protection.
* A "consultation"--a well-defined process in which an agency consults a service about a proposed project if it "may affect" species listed under the Act as threatened or endangered, in order to gather relevant information for the protection of those species.
* A Biological Assessment--a document written by the federal agency or its designated representative (perhaps, the hydroelectric project's owner) and presented to the relevant service. This document analyzes what the consequences of the proposed project might be for any threatened or endangered species the project might affect.
* A Biological Opinion written by the relevant Service which states whether there is jeopardy to listed species or their critical habitat. If there is jeopardy, the Biological Opinion sets forth measures that must be taken to mitigate project effects, or, if the effects cannot be mitigated, stops the project..
Under the proposed rule change, the federal action agency could use, in place of a Biological Assessment, a document that it assembled for other purposes, as long as the information about effects on listed species was contained in it. While this might make it easier for the action agency, it makes is more difficult and time-consuming for the Service, which then has to distill and reassemble on its own the information relevant to listed species.
Under the new rules, many such consultations would no longer even be required. The agency itself would be allowed to make that determination. In the past, the consultation determined whether or not there was jeopardy or damage to critical habitat. Under the new rules, the party proposing the project would determine whether it even needs to consult based on whether it itself, and not the Service, thinks there may be jeopardy or damage to critical habitat. In the past, a federal agency that proposed a project had to defend the notion that its project would do no harm to listed species. If the rules are changed, it will merely have to assert that it will do no harm.
The Endangered Species Act also permits "informal consultation," in which an agency informally consults with a service to see if a proposed action is reasonably certain to affect listed species. At the end of the informal consultation, which has no defined timeline, the agency is either required to enter into formal consultation, and prepare a Biological Assessment, or it is absolved by the Service from doing so. Under the new rules, this process would be limited to sixty days, an almost impossible timeline for the Services, which for years have been underfunded and understaffed. The new rules also state that if this timeline is missed, formal consultation cannot be required.
The Bush appointees who control the Services today say that it is appropriate for other federal agencies to take on some of the role that was up till now reserved to the Services. These appointees say that after 35 years of experience, the other federal agencies know a problem when they see it. The reality is that, even if the Services are in the future headed up by more progressive leadership, conservative directors of other federal agencies will still have the opportunity to evade consultation, killing off or jeopardizing endangered species.
Death by Definition
There it is. We have until September 15 to act.
The proposed new rules state that it if an agency allows the death of a plant or animal that is part of a listed species (or, in the language of the ESA, "take"), or the reduction of critical habitat, that it can be punished. This supports the conservative viewpoint that the way one avoids bad things is by a system of rewards and punishments. But the idea of the ESA is not to punish people after there is harm or reduction of habitat; the goal is to manage so that those things don't happen in the first place. If a species goes extinct, punishing the agency won't bring it back.
In addition, this conservative viewpoint presupposes that the burden of proof will be upon the Service to show that there has been take; in other words, we are back to having to show direct causation. If there is a combination of issues that may have contributed to the death of steelhead from the example described above, it would be necessary to show that a specific action resulted in the death of a specific fish. As it stands now, the combination of low flows, high water temperatures, lack of shallow rearing habitat for young fish in non-summer months, lack of high flows to help fish get from the river to the ocean, ocean conditions, and so on, all contribute to poor numbers of steelhead returning to the river to spawn. It is difficult, though not impossible, to show that low flows in the river in the summer caused take. However, looking at the matter proactively, from the point of view of the present options available to NMFS, the Service can require higher flows in the river to eliminate at least that part of the problem. It might not be definitive, or in the terms of the present proposed rule, "essential," but it can substantially improve the chance of increased survival for the fish that are present in the river.
Polar Bears
These changes proposed as parting shots by the Bush appointees at the head of the Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service are not about clarity, or eliminating unnecessary consultations, or the experience gained in thirty-five years of the Endangered Species Act. They are part of a concerted effort by conservatives to change the fundamental way that science is viewed and used in our society.
The language in the proposed rule change was reverse-engineered to address a huge looming issue: polar bears are clearly threatened by the systemic cause of ecological damage par excellence, global warming. But the evidence and the consequences of the systemic causation of environmental degradation are everywhere. Even if the conservatives succeed in truncating what scientists do and are allowed to say, and in limiting the Endangered Species Act by a linguistic trick, systemic causation, in the world of environmental science, will always be the ultimate inconvenient truth.
Act Now!
Here are some Talking Points:
* You are against the proposed rule changes because they weaken the Endangered Species Act nearly to the point of nonexistence.
* Environmental systems mostly work by systemic causation, with many indirect causes, not by "essential causation." The change to "essential causation" opens the door to an indefinitely large number of projects that can jointly put endangered species in jeopardy.
* The change in "consultation" rules will de facto eliminate the gathering of information relevant to protecting species.
Here's how you get your comments read:
Go to www.regulations.gov and use the search terms: "50 CFR Part 402 proposed rule".
The proposed changes are in Document # EB - 18938
To see the proposed changes, click on "View this document"
Click on "Send a comment or submission" to write your comment.
Note that plain e-mails will not be considered. This is another way public input is being limited.
Write your comments before September 15, 2008.


George Lakoff is Richard and Rhoda Goldman Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley and author of The Political Mind: Why You Can't Understand 21st Century Politics With an18th Century Brain.
Chris Shutes works for the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Being in Base Denial

From Tom Dispatch


Going on an Imperial BenderHow the U.S. Garrisons the Planet and Doesn't Even Notice
By Tom Engelhardt
Here it is, as simply as I can put it: In the course of any year, there must be relatively few countries on this planet on which U.S. soldiers do not set foot, whether with guns blazing, humanitarian aid in hand, or just for a friendly visit. In startling numbers of countries, our soldiers not only arrive, but stay interminably, if not indefinitely. Sometimes they live on military bases built to the tune of billions of dollars that amount to sizeable American towns (with accompanying amenities), sometimes on stripped down forward operating bases that may not even have showers. When those troops don't stay, often American equipment does -- carefully stored for further use at tiny "cooperative security locations," known informally as "lily pads" (from which U.S. troops, like so many frogs, could assumedly leap quickly into a region in crisis).
At the height of the Roman Empire, the Romans had an estimated 37 major military bases scattered around their dominions. At the height of the British Empire, the British had 36 of them planetwide. Depending on just who you listen to and how you count, we have hundreds of bases. According to Pentagon records, in fact, there are 761 active military "sites" abroad.
The fact is: We garrison the planet north to south, east to west, and even on the seven seas, thanks to our various fleets and our massive aircraft carriers which, with 5,000-6,000 personnel aboard -- that is, the population of an American town -- are functionally floating bases.
And here's the other half of that simple truth: We don't care to know about it. We, the American people, aided and abetted by our politicians, the Pentagon, and the mainstream media, are knee-deep in base denial.
Now, that's the gist of it. If, like most Americans, that's more than you care to know, stop here.
Where the Sun Never Sets
Let's face it, we're on an imperial bender and it's been a long, long night. Even now, in the wee hours, the Pentagon continues its massive expansion of recent years; we spend militarily as if there were no tomorrow; we're still building bases as if the world were our oyster; and we're still in denial. Someone should phone the imperial equivalent of Alcoholics Anonymous.
But let's start in a sunnier time, less than two decades ago, when it seemed that there would be many tomorrows, all painted red, white, and blue. Remember the 1990s when the U.S. was hailed -- or perhaps more accurately, Washington hailed itself -- not just as the planet's "sole superpower" or even its unique "hyperpower," but as its "global policeman," the only cop on the block? As it happened, our leaders took that label seriously and our central police headquarters, that famed five-sided building in Washington D.C, promptly began dropping police stations -- aka military bases -- in or near the oil heartlands of the planet (Kosovo, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait) after successful wars in the former Yugoslavia and the Persian Gulf.
As those bases multiplied, it seemed that we were embarking on a new, post-Soviet version of "containment." With the USSR gone, however, what we were containing grew a lot vaguer and, before 9/11, no one spoke its name. Nonetheless, it was, in essence, Muslims who happened to live on so many of the key oil lands of the planet.
Yes, for a while we also kept intact our old bases from our triumphant mega-war against Japan and Germany, and then the stalemated "police action" in South Korea (1950-1953) -- vast structures which added up to something like an all-military American version of the old British Raj. According to the Pentagon, we still have a total of 124 bases in Japan, up to 38 on the small island of Okinawa, and 87 in South Korea. (Of course, there were setbacks. The giant bases we built in South Vietnam were lost in 1975, and we were peaceably ejected from our major bases in the Philippines in 1992.)
But imagine the hubris involved in the idea of being "global policeman" or "sheriff" and marching into a Dodge City that was nothing less than Planet Earth itself. Naturally, with a whole passel of bad guys out there, a global "swamp" to be "drained," as key Bush administration officials loved to describe it post-9/11, we armed ourselves to kill, not stun. And the police stations… Well, they were often something to behold -- and they still are.
Let's start with the basics: Almost 70 years after World War II, the sun is still incapable of setting on the American "empire of bases" -- in Chalmers Johnson's phrase -- which at this moment stretches from Australia to Italy, Japan to Qatar, Iraq to Colombia, Greenland to the Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia, Rumania to Okinawa. And new bases of various kinds are going up all the time (always with rumors of more to come). For instance, an American missile system is slated to go into Poland and a radar system into Israel. That will mean Americans stationed in both countries and, undoubtedly, modest bases of one sort or another to go with them. (The Israeli one -- "the first American base on Israeli territory" -- reports Aluf Benn of Haaretz, will be in the Negev desert.)
There are 194 countries on the planet (more or less), and officially 39 of them have American "facilities," large and/or small. But those are only the bases the Pentagon officially acknowledges. Others simply aren't counted, either because, as in the case of Jordan, a country finds it politically preferable not to acknowledge such bases; because, as in the case of Pakistan, the American military shares bases that are officially Pakistani; or because bases in war zones, no matter how elaborate, somehow don't count. In other words, that 39 figure doesn't even include Iraq or Afghanistan. By 2005, according to the Washington Post, there were 106 American bases in Iraq, ranging from tiny outposts to mega-bases like Balad Air Base and the ill-named Camp Victory that house tens of thousands of troops, private contractors, Defense Department civilians, have bus routes, traffic lights, PXes, big name fast-food restaurants, and so on.
Some of these bases are, in effect, "American towns" on foreign soil. In Afghanistan, Bagram Air Base, previously used by the Soviets in their occupation of the country, is the largest and best known. There are, however, many more, large and small, including Kandahar Air Base, located in what was once the unofficial capital of the Taliban, which even has a full-scale hockey rink (evidently for its Canadian contingent of troops).
You would think that all of this would be genuine news, that the establishment of new bases would regularly generate significant news stories, that books by the score would pour out on America's version of imperial control. But here's the strange thing: We garrison the globe in ways that really are -- not to put too fine a point on it -- unprecedented, and yet, if you happen to live in the United States, you basically wouldn't know it; or, thought about another way, you wouldn't have to know it.
In Washington, our garrisoning of the world is so taken for granted that no one seems to blink when billions go into a new base in some exotic, embattled, war-torn land. There's no discussion, no debate at all. News about bases abroad, and Pentagon basing strategy, is, at best, inside-the-fold stuff, meant for policy wonks and news jockeys. There may be no subject more taken for granted in Washington, less seriously attended to, or more deserving of coverage.
Missing Bases
Americans have, of course, always prided themselves on exporting "democracy," not empire. So empire-talk hasn't generally been an American staple and, perhaps for that reason, all those bases prove an awkward subject to bring up or focus too closely on. When it came to empire-talk in general, there was a brief period after 9/11 when the neoconservatives, in full-throated triumph, began to compare us to Rome and Britain at their imperial height (though we were believed to be incomparably, uniquely more powerful). It was, in the phrase of the time, a "unipolar moment." Even liberal war hawks started talking about taking up "the burden" of empire or, in the phrase of Michael Ignatieff, now a Canadian politician but, in that period, still at Harvard and considered a significant American intellectual, "empire lite."
On the whole, however, those in Washington and in the media haven't considered it germane to remind Americans of just exactly how we have attempted to "police" and control the world these last years. I've had two modest encounters with base denial myself:
In the spring of 2004, a journalism student I was working with emailed me a clip, dated October 20, 2003 -- less than seven months after American troops entered Baghdad -- from a prestigious engineering magazine. It quoted Lt. Col. David Holt, the Army engineer "tasked with facilities development" in Iraq, speaking proudly of the several billion dollars ("the numbers are staggering") that had already been sunk into base construction in that country. Well, I was staggered anyway. American journalists, however, hardly noticed, even though significant sums were already pouring into a series of mega-bases that were clearly meant to be permanent fixtures on the Iraqi landscape. (The Bush administration carefully avoided using the word "permanent" in any context whatsoever, and these bases were first dubbed "enduring camps.")
Within two years, according to the Washington Post (in a piece that, typically, appeared on page A27 of the paper), the U.S. had those 106 bases in Iraq at a cost that, while unknown, must have been staggering indeed. Just stop for a moment and consider that number: 106. It boggles the mind, but not, it seems, American newspaper or TV journalism.
TomDispatch.com has covered this subject regularly ever since, in part because these massive "facts on the ground," these modern Ziggurats, were clearly evidence of the Bush administration's long-term plans and intentions in that country. Not surprisingly, this year, U.S. negotiators finally offered the Iraqi government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki its terms for a so-called status of forces agreement, evidently initially demanding the right to occupy into the distant future 58 of the bases it has built.
It has always been obvious -- to me, at least -- that any discussion of Iraq policy in this country, of timelines or "time horizons," drawdowns or withdrawals, made little sense if those giant facts on the ground weren't taken into account. And yet you have to search the U.S. press carefully to find any reporting on the subject, nor have bases played any real role in debates in Washington or the nation over Iraq policy.
I could go further: I can think of two intrepid American journalists, Thomas Ricks of the Washington Post and Guy Raz of NPR, who actually visited a single U.S. mega-base, Balad Air Base, which reputedly has a level of air traffic similar to Chicago's O'Hare International or London's Heathrow, and offered substantial reports on it. But, as far as I know, they, like the cheese of children's song, stand alone. I doubt that in the last five years Americans tuning in to their television news have ever been able to see a single report from Iraq that gave a view of what the bases we have built there look like or cost. Although reporters visit them often enough and, for instance, have regularly offered reports from Camp Victory in Baghdad on what's going on in the rest of Iraq, the cameras never pan away from the reporters to show us the gigantic base itself.
More than five years after ground was broken for the first major American base in Iraq, this is, it seems to me, a remarkable record of media denial. American bases in Afghanistan have generally experienced a similar fate.
My second encounter with base denial came in my other life. When not running TomDispatch.com, I'm a book editor; to be more specific, I'm Chalmers Johnson's editor. I worked on the prophetic Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire, which was published back in 2000 to a singular lack of attention -- until, of course, the attacks of 9/11, after which it became a bestseller, adding both "blowback" and the phrase "unintended consequences" to the American lexicon.
By the time The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic, the second volume in his Blowback Trilogy, came out in 2004, reviewers, critics, and commentators were all paying attention. The heart of that book focused on how the U.S. garrisons the planet, laying out Pentagon basing policies and discussing specific bases in remarkable detail. This represented serious research and breakthrough work, and the book indeed received much attention here, including major, generally positive reviews. Startlingly, however, not a single mainstream review, no matter how positive, paid any attention, or even really acknowledged, his chapters on the bases, or bothered to discuss the U.S. as a global garrison state. Only three years later did a major reviewer pay the subject serious attention. When Jonathan Freedland reviewed Nemesis, the final book in the Trilogy, in the New York Review of Books, he noticed the obvious and, in a discussion of U.S. basing policy, wrote, for instance:
"Johnson is in deadly earnest when he draws a parallel with Rome. He swats aside the conventional objection that, in contrast with both Romans and Britons, Americans have never constructed colonies abroad. Oh, but they have, he says; it's just that Americans are blind to them. America is an 'empire of bases,' he writes, with a network of vast, hardened military encampments across the earth, each one a match for any Roman or Raj outpost."
Not surprisingly, Freedland is not an American journalist, but a British one who works for the Guardian.
In the U.S., military bases really only matter, and so make headlines, when the Pentagon attempts to close some of the vast numbers of them scattered across this country. Then, the fear of lost jobs and lost income in local communities leads to headlines and hubbub.
Of course, millions of Americans know about our bases abroad firsthand. In this sense, they may be the least well kept secrets on the planet. American troops, private contractors, and Defense Department civilian employees all have spent extended periods of time on at least one U.S. base abroad. And yet no one seems to notice the near news blackout on our global bases or consider it the least bit strange.
The Foreshortened American Century
In a nutshell, occupying the planet, base by base, normally simply isn't news. Americans may pay no attention and yet, of course, they do pay. It turns out to be a staggeringly expensive process for U.S. taxpayers. Writing of a major 2004 Pentagon global base overhaul (largely aimed at relocating many of them closer to the oil heartlands of the planet), Mike Mechanic of Mother Jones magazine online points out the following: "An expert panel convened by Congress to assess the overseas basing realignment put the cost at $20 billion, counting indirect expenses overlooked by the Pentagon, which had initially budgeted one-fifth that amount."
And that's only the most obvious way Americans pay. It's hard for us even to begin to grasp just how military (and punitive) is the face that the U.S. has presented to the world, especially during George W. Bush's two terms in office. (Increasingly, that same face is also presented to Americans. For instance, as Paul Krugman indicated recently, the civilian Federal Emergency Management Agency [FEMA] has been so thoroughly wrecked these last years that significant planning for the response to Hurricane Gustav fell on the shoulders of the military's Bush-created U.S. Northern Command.)
In purely practical terms, though, Americans are unlikely to be able to shoulder forever the massive global role the Pentagon and successive administrations have laid out for us. Sooner or later, cutbacks will come and the sun will slowly begin to set on our base-world abroad.
In the Cold War era, there were, of course, two "superpowers," the lesser of which disappeared in 1991 after a lifespan of 74 years. Looking at what seemed to be a power vacuum across the Bering Straits, the leaders of the other power prematurely declared themselves triumphant in what had been an epic struggle for global hegemony. It now seems that, rather than victory, the second superpower was just heading for the exit far more slowly.
As of now, "the American Century," birthed by Time/Life publisher Henry Luce in 1941, has lasted but 67 years. Today, you have to be in full-scale denial not to know that the twenty-first century -- whether it proves to be the Century of Multipolarity, the Century of China, the Century of Energy, or the Century of Chaos -- will not be an American one. The unipolar moment is already so over and, sooner or later, those mega-bases and lily pads alike will wash up on the shores of history, evidence of a remarkable fantasy of a global Pax Americana.
Not that you're likely to hear much about this in the run-up to November 4th in the U.S. Here, fantasy reigns in both parties where a relatively upbeat view of our globally dominant future is a given, and will remain so, no matter who enters the White House in January 2009. After all, who's going to run for president not on the idea that "it's morning again in America," but on the recognition that it's the wee small hours of the morning, the bender is ending, and the hangover… Well, it's going to be a doozy.
Better take some B vitamins and get a little sleep. The world's probably not going to look so great by the dawn's early light.

[Note on Sources: It's rare indeed that the U.S. empire of bases gets anything like the attention it deserves, so, when it does, praise is in order. Mother Jones online has just launched a major project to map out and analyze U.S. bases worldwide. It includes a superb new piece on bases by Chalmers Johnson, "America's Unwelcome Advances" and a number of other top-notch pieces, including one on "How to Stay in Iraq for 1,000 Years" by TomDispatch regular Frida Berrigan (the second part of whose Pentagon expansion series will be posted at this site soon). Check out the package of pieces at MJ by clicking here. Perhaps most significant, the magazine has produced an impressive online interactive map of U.S. bases worldwide. Check it out by clicking here. But when you zoom in on an individual country, do note that the first base figures you'll see are the Pentagon's and so possibly not complete. You need to read the MJ texts below each map to get a fuller picture. As will be obvious, if you click on the links in this post, I made good use of MJ's efforts, for which I offer many thanks.]

Tom Engelhardt, co-founder of the American Empire Project, runs the Nation Institute's TomDispatch.com. He is the author of The End of Victory Culture, a history of the American Age of Denial. The World According to TomDispatch: America in the New Age of Empire (Verso, 2008), a collection of some of the best pieces from his site, has just been published. Focusing on what the mainstream media hasn't covered, it is an alternative history of the mad Bush years.
Copyright 2008 Tom Engelhardt