Monday, July 20, 2009

Not Black & White

U.S. President Barack Obama is a role model in many ways. It is great that many people are encouraged by his intelligence, his assorted skills, and his successes. Yet let's clarify that Obama is a multiracial person, as much Caucasian as Black. This interracial element highlights a key dynamic of sociology in America.

Via anti-miscegenation laws, many U.S. states outlawed marriage between people of different races, such as Obama's parents. When his parents married in 1961 in Hawaii, 22 of the 50 states outlawed such a marriage: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Wyoming. (Another 8 states repealed such laws between 1948-61, while a further 11 repealed their anti-miscegenation laws in the 19th century).

The U.S. Supreme Court declared all such prohibitions illegal in 1967. But more than 40 years later, which states are relatively intolerant? In the 2008 election among the 22 "anti-miscegenation states" mentioned above, multiracial Barack Obama won just 35% of the electoral vote (80 of 231), but 93% of electoral votes elsewhere. Mixed race families elicit a different "racist attitude" than other families. Barack is a living symbol of hope.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Won Flu, Too Cuckoo

The World Health Organization (WHO) recently signaled a global pandemic level 6 for novel influenza A (H1N1), a viral illness spread mainly by person-to-person contact. Health authorities around the world are seriously concerned about its potential deadly impact. The 1918-19 influenza pandemic killed approx. 21 million people worldwide; we've much more mobility now - the virus might spread very quickly.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is liaising with state & local health officials to improve public safety & security. Because flu is transmitted through contact with infected people or their surroundings (animals can also harbor the virus), public education about hygiene can be critical. At this moment there is no available vaccine that offers immunity.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, in promoting public education efforts, is sponsoring a contest (deadline 17 august 2009). U.S. residents age 14 or over who create an effective 15, 30 or 60 second video Public Service Announcement can win US$2500!

Seems a great idea. Ten finalists will be selected by celebrity judges, one prize will be given, voted "by the YouTube community."

But wait.     This contest sucks in too many ways:
-- $2500 ain't much incentive for critical activity; when people start dying, the U.S. government will seem stupid cheapskates. In June the US Congress appropriated a special budget to combat this H1N1 flu: $7.7 billion ($7,700,000,000). So this contest is not a three-millionth of the special budget. Though public education & prevention is most cost-effective, most money seems to be aimed elsewhere - perhaps fancy P4 experimentation facilities or outbreak-response helicopters...
-- No message format is good for everybody; if ten or a hundred videos will save lives, sponsor many videos.
-- Money attracts people; a million dollar prize or $100,000 gets people excited and it's newsworthy, which spreads the message.
-- Open the contest more widely; why stupidly limit entries to residents of the USA & Puerto Rico?
-- It is unlikely a proper voting system by the YouTube community can be devised
-- On a scale of 1 to 10, this contest announcement by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius (see video on link above) has an impact factor below 3; dreadful! Do these bureaucrats really care to keep us alive?

Ultimately: wash your hands regularly & carefully. Don't touch your mouth or nose. Assume public facilities are germ-infested. And Enjoy Life while you can!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Summer Haiku by Genki

Goal oriented?
Accomplishment is great, but...
Also cherish path!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Checks & Balances

When I was a schoolboy, we learned about three branches of American government, auditing & balancing each other: Executive, Legislative, Judiciary.

As I grew up, it became clear that the Legislature (U.S. Congress) is often blatantly undermined by the Executive branch, and that another key power, the Monetary branch (Federal Reserve) can do most anything.

We were not too young, not too foolish, to understand reality. What we were taught did not exist. We've been deceived.


The US economic stimulus package has been a failure. Both Bush & Obama's governments sought to prop-up a fundamentally rotted system. The "greed is good" philosophy is not good. Social Darwinism cannot create a comfortable system except for a small wealthy minority shielded from everyone else by security services.

That same banker & industrialist minority got taxpayer subsidy monies in the huge government stimulus package, though hundreds of millions of Americans (and 'guest' residents) cry "stimulate me!"

The USA must develop a new vision where people feel comfortable to invest in society. Too many Americans now feel estranged. Our communities are in tatters -- too many withdrawals, not enough deposits. Investments in community are a common wealth that's been violated by crooked politicians & business buddies, further drained by illegal immigrants. Society & community can be, and should be, more than an amalgam of accidentally overlapping greed.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Madoff Smug

Bernie Madoff has been sentenced to 150 years in prison. Much (some) stolen wealth has been recovered from his family. But Bernie took far more. He & his family enjoyed pillage and living large; now the wife reportedly is left with just $2.5 million cash... so unfair! In this darkest of cases, crooked financiers and their supporters are given leniency; typical folk get shafted. Many of Bernie's victims have been ruined. Bernie's family thrives as American gentry...

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Chiasso Bearer Bond Payoff?

Is speculation true of active news suppression over the Chiasso bearer bond case? I'd like to taste good fortune! This post evaporates for one 500 million-dollar bond... (No "termination with extreme prejudice" please...)

On 3 June 2009 two Japanese men at Chiasso train station on the Italian border to Switzerland were detained by Italian financial police (Sezione Operativa Territoriale di Chiasso, in collaboration with Guardia di Finanza del Gruppo di Ponte Chiasso). Undeclared bearer bonds valued at US$139.5 billion were found in a false sided case.

The first report was official (in Italian), at:

One blogger began providing followup:

Japan's Kyodo & the wikinews soon chimed in:

Bloomberg eventually picked-up the story: stirred the pot with innuendo:

What's happening? One reasoned analysis says it's foolhardy to imagine anyone would cash a US$500 million bond without sure authentication (they hold $10 checks until they're clear... they'll hold a half billion dollars till they're damn certain it's real). So what's going on? Who are the men? Why were their names not released? Where are they now? Can I feed at the honeypot?

Disease of the Dollar

Big capital has pushed and prodded the USA into a corner. The American people have been largely abandoned by our government (notwithstanding "of, for, and by The People..."). Huge resources drain to mismanaged banks & failed industries, supporting stupidity, as talent & promising resources waste away in a "credit crunch."

The US Congress decided this week to fund continuing overseas combat. The Yankee-led "Coalition of the Willing" & Operation Iraqi Freedom have dwindled. The US armaments industries & military bureaucracies scream that freedom has a price, and "support our troops" -- but their true concerns are money, jobs & power. Surviving millions of Iraqi & Afghan refugees suffer daily from the fallout of America's blood & guts adventurism.

In other news this week, the governments of Brazil, Russia, India & China (BRIC), and next the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, met in Yekaterinberg to discuss a new multilateralism. The US government sought to be included, but was rejected. Yekaterinberg (Ekaterinburg/Sverdlovsk) is iconic as the execution spot of the last Russian Tsar (Nicholas II) & his family; it's also the site of a highly-fatal Soviet bioweapon accident. Now there's a new breakout: the consensus that US unilateralism can't continue. The dollar has become diseased.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Washington Wars

The Obama administration today rudely twisted arms to pass a huge war funding bill. The Democratic leadership has forgotten promises to end overseas adventurism. With a new crowd now firmly in power, they dish up continuing military-industrial wastefulness, and promote the worst of the Bush/Cheney/Whitewater legacy.

These billions, the people's money, spent on America's warfare industries. Such riches could grow many better things. Instead, war machines & needless heroics stomp the world, made in the U.S.A.

America can't promote positive change through waging foreign wars. Bombing & maiming creates more enemies than friends. US money & energy should be spent at home, caring for our own people. Elected politicians who've abandoned their constituencies and damaged the nation will be voted out. Now they are parasites bathing in blood... We expected better!

Monday, June 15, 2009


Japan is a great place! It's world-leading in some ways. Could it be better?... certainly!

I've lived in Japan for 13+ years, and now visit regularly. There's much I like. (Perhaps I'll add more kudos later, but -- quickly -- some areas I admire are the hot springs, the people, culture, food, holidays, predictability, reliability, etc.).

This post, however, will list major weaknesses. Over time I'll add & revise the items. These are personal observations; suggestions welcome!

Prepare plenty of yen (cash) for Japan. Only a small percentage of ATM machines handle cashcards / creditcards issued outside Japan (this means 1% or less!) In early 2009 I was in Beppu, Oita Prefecture. There was no place in that city to withdraw cash using a foreign Visa or Master card... I asked at two Tourist Offices, the major local bank, at a high-end hotel, and at a foreign tourist assistance desk. It was recommended to go to the neighboring city of Oita. Terrible for a city that attracts international tourists and has an globally-oriented university.

Most hotels & many restaurants accept credit cards (foreign or domestic) but a great many places in Japan require cash. Foreign exchange at banks in many cities is a tedious & costly procedure. In this earlier cited trip, I visited Oita Bank and exchanged Korean won at 15% over the interbank rate, and Australian dollars at 21% above that day's interbank rate; it took about 25 minutes for the paperwork. (I'm interested in this as a structural weakness. I wasn't out of cash, and had more than 50,000 yen and also plenty of U.S. dollars). The lesson is that well-off foreign visitors to Japan can expect to be seriously inconvenienced. They'll also feel Japan as rigidly domestic and financially archaic. It's sad that Japanese financial institutions haven't fixed this...

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Zagat Sucks

I formerly subscribed to Zagat Survey, an excellent review of restaurants, hotels, nightspots, etc., around the world. I also submitted many reviews, which were published online & in Zagat printed guides.

But now I don't subscribe; rather, I believe Zagat sucks.

What soured me? They've a scummy system that automatically renews subscriptions. They don't allow immediate opt-out. The system is skewed to their convenience: the user is automatically billed again next year, and again forever. They claim a call or letter later can end a subscription. But I don't wish to "subscribe for life until further notice" -- I'd be OK for a year, but this is bad practice. Zagat sucks.


Haiku by Genki

Distraction left me
knowing "Something Was Just Lost"
Then refreshing smell


Our world ain't fair, but
Children's chalk marks, blood, and grime
All purged by Spring rain


One quiet breath, then
Another. Without chatter.
Rustles mix with wind.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Dangerous Korea?

Having spent some years in South Korea, with three trips to the DMZ and once across, I'm often asked by friends in Europe & the USA -- how dangerous is South Korea?

It's a tough question to answer. South Koreans don't feel much danger, but proximity to North Korea is certainly a problem. It's only 35 miles (55 kms) from the DPRK border to Seoul, 120 miles (190 kms) between Seoul & Pyongyang. It's costly to be bottled-up on the Korean peninsula by an unpredictable neighbor.

In terms of marketing, people around the world are both confused & frightened by the jointly-used name "Korea"...

There are smaller problems in living anywhere; sometimes irritation seems to accumulate. In Korea I've been bothered that incoming international mail is a few days slower to arrive than to Japan or Europe or the USA. It was also an irritant that an international service I use regularly will not ship to Korea (VistaPrint; they ship to 120 other countries...). An associated problem is finding Korea in international postage lists: is it under "K" for Korea, "S" for South Korea, "R" for Republic of Korea, or is it not listed...?

Some weaknesses leave locals unfazed, but I've been surprised: the university regularly issued us medicine to kill intestinal parasites. And don't drink the tap water!

But most people in South Korea prefer not to think about these wider problems, and don't spend time worrying about them. People busily focus on the everyday business of life.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Obscured Imprisonment

(poetry by Genki)

I expend
My lonely energies
Building barriers
Against Others

Wrong race
Bad nation
Can't be trusted

What threat
Built my prison?
Unforgiving jailer
In every mirror

But sometime
solitude breaks
I'm outside, in

Fresh air
A few breaths
Banter with others

No whistle of "time's up"
I trudge back
To my cell
and lock my own door

I may wake one day
In a better world
I hope. I pray.
Simple things may set me free.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Poking at Pyongyang

Media reports about Lee Seung-Eun (리승은 Euna Lee) & Laura Ling have been unfairly inflammatory. These two 'journalists' were arrested while unreasonably probing the Chinese / DPRK (North Korea) border on 17 March 2009.

To illegally cross the border, or even to be close enough that North Korean guards could grab them, was dumb. They were in a controlled area, and are now convicted provocateurs. Certainly we want them back as soon as possible; they and their families must be suffering terribly.

Who are these women? They were clearly in a dangerous place, with producer-cameraman Mitchell 'Mitch' Koss and a North Korean-born naturalized Chinese guide (who both evaded North Korean capture, but were subsequently detained by the Chinese; Koss was quickly released and returned to the USA a few days after the incident). Koss before has traveled the full length of this North Korean border (see his LA Times report from 2003). For what reasons were inexperienced women sent into danger? (Some facts emerge in a 30 March 2009 article by Barbara Demick). Why no clear statements from Koss - the direct witness who abandoned them? Most press coverage shows bias, and facts have been woefully inadequate.

Within hours of this incident, a Japanese man with wire cutters was arrested by the South Korean military attempting to break through the North Korean border. (A video report in Japanese is here). Strange goings-on for a highly-dangerous area!

The best strategy available for these women is to beg for mercy & clemency.

Update: It is unhelpful that in 2006 the older sister of imprisoned Laura Ling, Lisa Ling, infiltrated North Korea with hidden cameras posing as part of a medical relief team; the resulting National Geographic production "Undercover in North Korea" was highly critical of the DPRK.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Foreign Devils Left My House

I've lived in assorted countries as a student & teacher; over 28 years as a foreigner! (About 14 years in Japan & Korea as a racial minority). This could be characterized as miserable or wonderful - mostly it's been good. There are many thousands of people such as myself: highly skilled global migrants who regularly learn to enjoy new tastes & experiences. Our numbers are increasing.

Mixed-race people are also increasing in number (I've Hawaiian, Chinese & European roots). In comparison with citizenship, racial ancestry is less likely to be public knowledge and is often misreported: U.S. President Barack Obama is regularly termed "Black" when he's as much Caucasian as otherwise. Racial groupings and definitions are imprecise and often used as a mechanism for exclusion...

I've lived in Sweden since 1995, and was a foreigner until a couple of months ago, when I joined my American-born wife as a naturalized Swede with multiple citizenship. Now I feel more interest as a local stakeholder, and more empowered. It's nice.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Tasting Torture: Gandhi at Gitmo

Torture continues at Gitmo. Kidnapped people held by the USA at Guantanamo Bay are still held in bad conditions. These so-called "detainees" are held indefinitely without charge. Some are tortured. Food is actually forced down their throats.

Active torture exists: where a detainee refuses to eat on command, they are bound & force fed. They're hogtied, a tube is painfully thrust up their nose & down their throat, a 'meal' is forced into them "for their own best interests."

This type of torture has been specifically forbidden by the World Medical Association (1975 Declaration of Tokyo; 1991 Declaration of Malta). The medical profession (the American Medical Association is a signatory) is specific (Malta, Art. 21): "Forcible feeding is never ethically acceptable. Even if intended to benefit, feeding accompanied by threats, coercion, force or use of physical restraints is a form of inhuman and degrading treatment."

Doctors from around the world have condemned US mistreatment through force-feeding; 263 doctors signed a 2006 letter to The Lancet urging the USA to abandon these procedures.

Visualize skinny Gandhi, bound in a Gitmo five-point restraint chair, half clad in USA Gitmo orange, his hunger strike and human dignity forced to nothing by torturous tube-feeding. Force-feeding must stop now!

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Slaves: Pay for Your Chains

Bailing-out banks in the USA with public funds is a clear case of the average schmuck having to pay for his (her) own chains. What a racket! Some people foolishly expect politicians to speak up, but top politicians are rewarded by high finance - it ain't gonna happen. The public must protect itself.

The citizenry wonders why they fund the banks, who then charge them usurious fees. Paying twice? No - more than that: pay also for police who protect the wealthy. Pay further for politicians who make financier scams legal...

Those paying the costs are the American working people, chained to the job, working 50 weeks a year & liking it (or they're thrown out of work).

There's a word for this: it starts with nothing, and ends with "sucker"

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Pentagon Disinfo Exposed = Pulitzer Prize

The Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting announced this week went to David Barstow of The New York Times for articles revealing Pentagon orchestration of retired military officers as media analysts, and how many top-level pundits (and the large media networks primping them as "independent authoritative voices") neglected to disclose personal financial interests in firms profiting from policies promoted on-air.

Barstow illuminated the US Military-Industrial-Media complex. The covert Pentagon program focused on 'message multipliers' -- surrogates who'd deliver administration themes & messages to millions of Americans 'in the form of their own opinions.' These Government efforts were reportedly illegal propaganda (the Defense Dept's Inspector General has now claimed no illegality; a GAO investigation is continuing). The program ushered the nation into war; within a few days of being disclosed in The New York Times, it was discontinued.

The sub-theme since Barstow's revelations has been a stubborn refusal of most big TV networks to acknowledge the story, or to apologize for misleading viewers. Glen Greenwald has written extensively about big media's silence and conflict-of-interest. Awarding David Barstow's work a Pulitzer Prize makes a stronger and more enduring public record of a citizenry systematically deceived.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Cheney's Torturous Logic

Former US Vice President Dick Cheney is today claiming that his government's tortures led to "success" -- he demands "what we gained" be made clear.

Cheney is a dangerous man; I believe he's a criminal. He swore to uphold the U.S. Constitution and the rule of law, but he flaunted the law.

Torture 500 people to the point they believe they're dying - you may learn a few things. All were tortured illegally -- Cheney completely discounts the 450+ innocent people tortured wrongly / erroneously.

Further, international safeguards & the ICRC (Intl. Committee of the Red Cross) exist to help humankind, Americans as well as foreigners. Cheney's argument puts the lives and well-being of detained U.S. citizens in grave jeopardy.

Cheney was partly responsible for the intelligence & security failures under his government's direction that led to the 9/11 massacres. Thousands were killed during his watch (while he looked for ways to fleece us with his energy policy). Now he snipes from the sidelines.

Cheney should be in prison.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Innocent Don't Matter

The Bush government's effort to prosecute foreign detainees with secret military tribunals makes little sense in terms of vital operational details being communicated. These people had been jailed for years already, and "harsh interrogation" (torture) had supposedly extracted the useful information they might have had.

The secrecy was rather to protect the government from criticism for conducting torture. The tribunal for prisoner Majid Khan raised the claim (link here; page 13) that the 6 & 8 year old children of prisoner Khalid S. Mohammed were kept without food or water & tormented with insects for information about their father. Recent disclosures allowing insect-related torments make this hearsay story more believable...

Torturing or harming those known to be innocent, and collective punishment, are bad policy and cannot be excused.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

No Comment?

"We who have a voice must speak for the voiceless"
- Óscar Romero, Roman Catholic Archbishop; later murdered by right-wing death squad in church (24 March 1980, El Salvador)

Friday, April 17, 2009

Torture Revisited

Some specifics of U.S. Government-sponsored torture have recently been released by the Obama administration. The fact that cruel & horrific practices took place has been known for years, only now many details are exposed officially.

President Obama's positive decision to release the memos should be applauded. Interrogation details and participant testimonies highlight a rot which infected the US government and its operations.

Notwithstanding Obama's parallel words of support for intelligence service professionals, there were no requirements for operatives to conduct harsh interrogations (tortures); paramilitary or contract workers were reportedly often used instead of trained military interrogators. International & domestic laws were broken. Government fostered an open contempt for such laws, and officials sworn to uphold the law failed in their duties. Transgressions have been much more extensive than those described in these CIA memos. For example, pinning non-compliant detainees into restraint chairs and force-feeding by nasogastric tubes has been condemned ("Use of restraint chairs to break a hunger strike by a competent prisoner is a violation of both medical ethics and of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions" -- see also this link from The Lancet signed by 263 medical doctors worldwide). Smearing fresh menstrual blood on the face of a shackled prisoner (see E39) is inexcusable.

Those assigned to torture others might explain such acts as duty to Fatherland, but in any event such operations are dishonorable. They tortured suspects, not convicted terrorists. Even after months and years, prisoner abuse continued with no formal criminal accusations. Did the U.S. government truly want information from evildoers, or did they seek to harm & impose fear? The interrogators made conscious decisions to torture, and the "following orders" defense is insufficient protection; even their own President cannot protect interrogators, political commanders and direct support staff from indictment & conviction elsewhere -- in many cases these seem blatant war crimes.

Perhaps the first to be indicted should be those who crafted the policies. But the story is yet partly told: what other impromptu horrors were inflicted in efforts to "break the will" and impose fear in each detained suspect? Can we believe this was merely a search for information? ...if so, do it in public. Torture & murder are often used to crush dissent, often ultimately to enrich some elite. We know that people died under sustained secret interrogation & detention. Is it true the dead tell no tales...? Let the stories be told in a court of law.

These excesses should be rooted-out, revealed & condemned. The proposal by US Senator Patrick J. Leahy for an independent Commission of Inquiry is thus very important and should be supported. The rule of law, transparency, and accountability are fundamental to good government -- otherwise we've bad government. Otherwise the next despot will do worse.

Disinformation & falsehood are insidious. US Dept. of Defense publish the words -- too good to be true -- of Guantanamo detainees: "I'm in good health and have good facilities of eating, drinking, living, and playing." "These people take good care of me... The guards and everybody else is fine. We are allowed to talk to our friends." "The food is good, the bedrooms are clean and the health care is very good. There is a library full of Islamic books, science books, and literature... Sport, reading, and praying, all of these options are not mandatory for everyone, it is up to the person." Like Waldsee postcards written to those remaining in the ghetto by those sent to "work in the East" but actually at Auschwitz: "We are fine, working, and hoping to see you soon."

President Obama's statement that we should look forward has somewhat of a silver lining. Hopefully he means that US overseas adventurism will decline. Hopefully he will address the causes of conflict: perceived injustice. Hopefully he will shut down Guantanamo. Hopefully he will close WHINSEC and sever all links to the old School of the Americas. Hopefully...

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

What's a Goddamn Communist?

What's a Commie? Answering such a question was previously easy. They were enemies of America; we patriotically tried to to roll 'em back or kill them (USSR, VietCong, etc.) But now we do business with the same people - anyhow those who survived.

Aside from the specifics of Red Chinese commies vs. Cuban commies, it seems reasonable to ask if the whole exercise wasn't perhaps a load of bunkum. Were we misled? We certainly got all worked up about anti-Communism, and those caught in crossfire truly suffered - but did it matter? A "fight for free enterprise" morphed into overseas adventures led by no-bid Halliburton & Blackwater, cozying up to despots, and now the public bailout of key financial firms with friends in high places. Seems we've been played as suckers.

Dumb Pigs?

I hate to see government waste. I also dislike populist bullies, and those who build reputation by deceiving people.

What of the folk who publish The Congressional Pig Book Summary?

I've not been directly involved or affected, but their annual lists get a lot of attention. As with former Sen. William Proxmire's "Golden Fleece Awards" they incite populist rage, but the background story & scientific reasoning often gets trampled unheard. Perhaps the unwritten criterion for being included with the piggy "most egregious" projects is to be ha ha ha funny. For example, their work criticizes "$1.8 million for swine odor and manure management research in Iowa." Hilarious, if you live in Manhattan or Washington DC or Beverly Hills... but where do those deli goods and shrink-wrapped meats come from? Stinky factory farms pollute their surroundings unless highly regulated (also expensive). Horrible smells negatively effect health and property values. Perhaps public spending to alleviate stench is not unreasonable.

Citizens Against Government Waste explain how a project gets included - by meeting just one of their criteria: "The 1,188 projects, totaling $2.8 billion, in this year’s Congressional Pig Book Summary symbolize the most egregious and blatant examples of pork. As in previous years, all of the items in the Congressional Pig Book Summary meet at least one of CAGW’s seven criteria, but most satisfy at least two:

* Requested by only one chamber of Congress;
* Not specifically authorized;
* Not competitively awarded;
* Not requested by the President;
* Greatly exceeds the President’s budget request or the previous year’s funding;
* Not the subject of congressional hearings; or
* Serves only a local or special interest."

To rewrite, they require a project fulfill all the below criteria or it can get put in their stupid pig book:

* Requested by both chambers of Congress;
* Specifically authorized;
* Competitively awarded;
* Requested by the President;
* Can't greatly exceed Presidential budget request or previous year’s funding.

Is this reasonable?
Should wasteful spending in their own offices be examined? Why is CAGW situated in the heart of Washington D.C.? With cheap electronic communications, why not move to cheaper office space in say Ames, Iowa - complete with disagreeable pig shit smell...
CAGW's own overall budget is $5 million; should we speak of their "Five-million dollar Pig Book?"

After venting such responses, in fact I appreciate the energies and effort of the CAGW, and respect what they seem to be trying to do. But it is easy to blindside geeky researchers. Why not focus a bit more on the military - that's the real Pork Base / Camp Pork...


Saturday, April 11, 2009

Unacceptable US Govt. Torture

US President Barack Obama has thus far excused the illegal activities of the prior administration. He's doubtless busy with assorted challenges (his kids ain't yet got their promised dog). Let's hope pressure continues to indict those who broke key laws. We can start with those who setup, ran & authorized torture.

The torture procedures have now been known for a long time, from Abu Ghraib photos and elsewhere. A 2005 report by U.S. ABC News [Ross, Brian & Richard Esposito (2005) "CIA's Harsh Interrogation Techniques Described" (18 Nov 2005)] describes in detail what happened to some people detained by the US Government (and not formally arrested, charged or convicted of any crime):
"CIA sources described a list of six "Enhanced Interrogation Techniques" instituted in mid-March 2002 and used, they said, on a dozen top al Qaeda targets incarcerated in isolation at secret locations on military bases in regions from Asia to Eastern Europe. According to the sources, only a handful of CIA interrogators are trained and authorized to use the techniques:
1. The Attention Grab: The interrogator forcefully grabs the shirt front of the prisoner and shakes him.
2. Attention Slap: An open-handed slap aimed at causing pain and triggering fear.
3. The Belly Slap: A hard open-handed slap to the stomach. The aim is to cause pain, but not internal injury. Doctors consulted advised against using a punch, which could cause lasting internal damage.
4. Long Time Standing: This technique is described as among the most effective. Prisoners are forced to stand, handcuffed and with their feet shackled to an eye bolt in the floor for more than 40 hours. Exhaustion and sleep deprivation are effective in yielding confessions.
5. The Cold Cell: The prisoner is left to stand naked in a cell kept near 50 degrees. Throughout the time in the cell the prisoner is doused with cold water.
6. Water Boarding: The prisoner is bound to an inclined board, feet raised and head slightly below the feet. Cellophane is wrapped over the prisoner's face and water is poured over him. Unavoidably, the gag reflex kicks in and a terrifying fear of drowning leads to almost instant pleas to bring the treatment to a halt."

The International Committee of the Red Cross (14 Feb. 2007) describes mistreatment of 14 so-called 'high value detainees' in more detail:
"The initial period of interrogation, lasting from a few days up to several months was the harshest, where compliance was secured by the infliction of various forms of physical and psychological ill-treatment. This appeared to be followed by a reward based interrogation approach with gradually improving conditions of detention, albeit reinforced by the threat of returning to former methods. The methods of ill-treatment alleged to have been used include the following:
• Suffocation by water poured over a cloth placed over the nose and mouth.
• Prolonged stress standing position, naked, held with the arms extended and chained above the head, for periods from two or three days continuously, and for up to two or three months intermittently, during which period toilet access was sometimes denied resulting in allegations from some that they had to defecate and urinate over themselves.
• Beatings by use of a collar held around the detainees neck and used to forcefully bang the head and body against the wall.
• Beating and kicking, including slapping, punching, kicking to the body and face.
• Confinement in a box to severely restrict movement.
• Prolonged nudity during detention, interrogation and ill-treatment; this enforced nudity lasted for periods ranging from several weeks to several months.
• Sleep deprivation through days of interrogation, through use of forced stress positions (standing or sitting), cold water and use of repetitive loud noise or music. One detainee was kept sitting on a chair for prolonged periods of time (two to three weeks while constantly deprived of sleep).
• Exposure to cold temperature, especially via cold cells and interrogation rooms, and by the use of cold water poured over the body or held around the body by means of a plastic sheet to create an immersion bath with just the head out of the water.
• Prolonged shackling of hands and/or feet.
• Threats of ill-treatment to the detainee and/or his family.
• Forced shaving of the head and beard.
• Deprivation/restricted provision of solid food from 3 days to 1 month after arrest."

All this was admittedly condoned by US Vice President Cheney. Was it right? Did it work? Arrest Cheney & Co. as torturers, and let the courts decide!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Tomb of Giants

(No - this isn't a political essay on Afghanistan / Iraq) We've just returned from a driving trip in Sardinia, where we came across assorted ruins and remains of prior peoples. Much of what we saw was unexplained on site (especially so as our Italian language skills are poor); some sites had only a sign labeling a name, others nothing at all. The nuraghi are towers erected anywhere from 3500 BC to perhaps 1500 BC, largely by a Bronze Age culture. There were perhaps 30,000 of these huge towers; some 8000 remain. There are also "Tomb of Giants" - we visited one named S'Ena e Thomes near Dorgali. It is reportedly positioned significantly relative to the Spring star Aldebaran (Alpha Tauri / Rohini nakshatra). There is an extended dolmen behind. What was this thing, how was it used? Nobody seems to know. There is conjecture that the place was a gravesite for multiple individuals. Why the small opening at bottom - for animals to enter and feed? There is a sense of sacred. The site is now just a part of the wild Sardinian countryside, surrounded by scrub trees and windswept nature.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Steny Hoyer shares Facts

Here's an easy-to-read indictment of failure:
Quotes & facts of the (now past) U.S. administration
from the office of U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer
(.pdf file; from 9 Sept. 2008; great data!)

Duped !

Back in September 2008, under the laissez-faire "free market" regime of George W. Bush (Dick Cheney presiding), we were suddenly informed the USA & world economy were in a doomsday financial crisis. We needed market intervention. We had to provide huge amounts of public funding to certain private firms (to the very same people who had put their firm in trouble) and -- (drum roll) -- we needed to do it quickly! With little review or forward planning! Hurry!

The resulting Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, and TARP (Troubled Assets Relief Program) led to a feeding frenzy. Banks & major financial firms consumed many hundreds of billions of dollars in low-cost monies. Soon they were demanding more funds. Market discipline was circumvented; regulatory agencies were kept weak; the inept remained in place.       (Wikipedia 1 - 2 - 3 articles)

If told
"act fast or it's the end of the world"
  -- be very cautious...

We was duped.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Stop Speculation Now!

"What the Obama administration is doing is far worse than nationalization: it is ersatz capitalism, the privatizing of gains and the socializing of losses. It is a "partnership" in which one partner robs the other. And such partnerships - with the private sector in control - have perverse incentives, worse even than the ones that got us into the mess."
-- Joseph E. Stiglitz, 1 Apr 2009, New York Times

The financiers and bankers have built a speculative bubble. It can't be unraveled by the bartering of politicians. Speculators are far better at their own game. We cannot win. Don't throw good money after bad. Don't re-fund the same semi-skilled scum who've caused the problem.