Month: June 2008

White House Refused to Open Pollutants E-Mail

The White House in December refused to accept the Environmental Protection Agency’s conclusion that greenhouse gases are pollutants that must be controlled, telling agency officials that an e-mail message containing the document would not be opened, senior E.P.A. officials said last week.

White House Refused to Open Pollutants E-Mail –

No, this headline is not from the Onion, I repeat, this is an accurate account of the workings of the world’s most powerful government as it delays action on climate change!

Opinion Polls and Yes Prime Minister

This story from the grist about a push poll arranged by Rasmussen showing 67% support for the reinstatement of offshore oil drilling in the United States reminded me of this most delightful exchange from Yes Prime Minister, still one of my all time favourite television shows and one that taught me almost everything I needed to know about parliamentary politics at a tender age. The show is about British politics through the eyes of an earnest but bumbling politician, his very experienced bureaucratic handler and his secretary with divided loyalties. The show is incredibly insightful and funny at the same time. But, before I get to my favourite part, some background…

It’s that time of the year when the republicans want to enrich their oil buddies by opening up oil drilling offshore of the U.S. This year, the high price of gas provides a convenient excuse and rallying point. After all, who wouldn’t want to pay less for gas. Of course, a U.S government study done by the Energy Information Administration in 2007 indicates that at best, you would see a 3% increase in production by 2030, and we all know how much that would affect gasoline prices this summer. Yet, here’s the first question from the “poll”

In order to reduce the price of gas, should drilling be allowed in offshore oil wells off the coasts of California, Florida, and other states

No really, what are you supposed to say? Can such reputable firms lie to you like that? Anyway, Joseph Romm from the original gristmill post breaks it down completely so I don’t have to. but after reading his post, come back and read the following exchange from Yes Prime Minister, and do listen to the actual audio clip from the show.

Yes Prime Minister – Season 1Episode 2 (warning: Strangely formatted website)

Sir Humphrey: “You know what happens: nice young lady comes up to you. Obviously you want to create a good impression, you don’t want to look a fool, do you? So she starts asking you some questions: Mr. Woolley, are you worried about the number of young people without jobs?”

Bernard Woolley: “Yes”

Sir Humphrey: “Are you worried about the rise in crime among teenagers?”

Bernard Woolley: “Yes”

Sir Humphrey: “Do you think there is a lack of discipline in our Comprehensive schools?”

Bernard Woolley: “Yes”

Sir Humphrey: “Do you think young people welcome some authority and leadership in their lives?”

Bernard Woolley: “Yes”

Sir Humphrey: “Do you think they respond to a challenge?”

Bernard Woolley: “Yes”

Sir Humphrey: “Would you be in favour of reintroducing National Service?”

Bernard Woolley: “Oh…well, I suppose I might be.”

Sir Humphrey: “Yes or no?”

Bernard Woolley: “Yes”

Sir Humphrey: “Of course you would, Bernard. After all you told you can’t say no to that. So they don’t mention the first five questions and they publish the last one.”

Bernard Woolley: “Is that really what they do?”

Sir Humphrey: “Well, not the reputable ones no, but there aren’t many of those. So alternatively the young lady can get the opposite result.”

Bernard Woolley: “How?”

Sir Humphrey: “Mr. Woolley, are you worried about the danger of war?”

Bernard Woolley: “Yes”

Sir Humphrey: “Are you worried about the growth of armaments?”

Bernard Woolley: “Yes”

Sir Humphrey: “Do you think there is a danger in giving young people guns and teaching them how to kill?”

Bernard Woolley: “Yes”Sir Humphrey: “Do you think it is wrong to force people to take up arms against their will?”

Bernard Woolley: “Yes”

Sir Humphrey: “Would you oppose the reintroduction of National Service?”

Bernard Woolley: “Yes”

Sir Humphrey: “There you are, you see Bernard. The perfect balanced sample.”

That is what I think about opinion polls!


Under the 1930 pact, Iraq had to consult Britain on security issues and allow it the use of Iraqi airports, ports, railways and rivers. Two major military bases were leased to the British, who were empowered to station their forces throughout Iraq. British personnel were granted immunity from local prosecution.Almost 80 years later, the Bush administration seeks a startlingly similar arrangement. While not formally a treaty (having been carefully crafted to avoid the requirement of Senate ratification), the wide-ranging pact that the United States proposes nearly replicates the 1930 accord. According to press reports based on leaks from the Iraqi Parliament, the pact envisions giving the Americans rights to as many as 58 military bases and control of Iraqi airspace. It would grant immunity from Iraqi laws to American military personnel. And it would empower American officials to detain suspected terrorists without the approval of Iraqi authorities.

Op-Ed Contributor – The U.S. and Iraq Are Repeating the Errors of a Disastrous 1930 Treaty – Op-Ed –

Seriously, I thought World War II heralded the end of colonialism. when the US invaded and occupied Iraq, I could not get most of my uncolonised friends to understand that the subjugation of Iraq by a bunch of white folk was never going to work out. We remember what it is to be colonised. While I was too young to watch the British rule India, most of us inherit those memories from our parents and history books. White men with guns and armoured trucks ordering people around, building giant fortresses with fancy restaurants while the people outside live in raw sewage, without electricity and in constant fear, good work colonial powers!

Now the US wants their puppet government to sign a treaty with them that will make their status as colonial overlords permanent masters, above the law and with almost unlimited power.

Iraq needs a referendum. If a majority of people need the US to leave, they should. Of course, as colonial overlords, they will ensure that such a referendum could never happen!

I am never surprised that the western media does not view the occupation of Iraq through this lens. After all, when were they colonised? The great US war of independence was fought by a bunch of rich white land and slave owners who wanted to not give their money to another bunch of rich land owners and slave runners.

Call them colonial occupiers, they’re not “coalition forces”.

U.S corrupt beyond imagination

The Army official who managed the Pentagon’s largest contract in Iraq says he was ousted from his job when he refused to approve paying more than $1 billion in questionable charges to KBR, the Houston-based company that has provided food, housing and other services to American troops.The official, Charles M. Smith, was the senior civilian overseeing the multibillion-dollar contract with KBR during the first two years of the war. Speaking out for the first time, Mr. Smith said that he was forced from his job in 2004 after informing KBR officials that the Army would impose escalating financial penalties if they failed to improve their chaotic Iraqi operations.

Lost Army Job Tied to Doubts on Contractor –

The next time an ignorant blowhard bleats about corruption in India, just point him to this article. In the middle of a so called war, the company formerly headed by the Vice President found an easy way to profit from the so called war, making illegal money of feeding the “heroes”.

And they did not even bother to hide it, knowing full well that they’d deal with the “bureaucrat” who would dare bring it up.

And they did, easy, it only took one day to have him “reassigned”. Glad that the U.S is a civilized country, so he was only given a different job, not sent off to Siberia, lucky man!

And they still have the contract, and more.

And they call India corrupt, HA!!

Blogged with the Flock Browser | Smoky air triggers Code Red

Officials with the state Division of Air Quality say that today’s pollution has hit higher-than-expected levels as smoke and haze arrived in the region from the wildfire in and around the Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge.While the day was labeled Code Orange, air quality spokesman Tom Mather said pollution levels have been measuring well into the Code Red range since midnight.Friday will be another Code Red day, he said.The fine particles in smoke, which contain harmful chemicals, are more dangerous than the ozone that causes most poor air quality days in the Triangle, Mather said. | Smoky air triggers Code Red

Holy cow, you leave town for a few months, and strange things start to happen, 100 degree days in early June, now fire in the Pocosin causing unhealthy air more than a 100 miles away? Bad day to ride that bike home, eh…

The fire was caused by a lightning strike, apparently…

Blogged with the Flock Browser

King Coal Country Debates a Sacrilege, Gas Heat

Hidden in the beginning of an article on a county heavily dependent on coal contemplating a switch to natural gas heating…

“Heritage should account for something,” said James J. Rhoades, a Republican state senator from Schuylkill County.

King Coal Country Debates a Sacrilege, Gas Heat –

Of course, this argument can be made to defend any practice including child marriage, the caste system, widow burning, slavery, genocide (the list goes on…). Coal is in august company.

Some of the issues with anthracite:

But what makes this brittle and lustrous rock, often known as black diamond, so hard and pure is that it is often deeper and under greater pressure than other forms of coal, which also explains why it is expensive and dangerous to extract.

The anthracite mines in this area have seen more than 30,000 deaths since 1870.

The argument about local jobs being lost and local economies being damaged is a valid one and needs to be addressed. In theory, destructive practices cannot be continued in order to prop up local economies. But decisions are made locally and it takes a lot of political courage to shutdown a destructive economy and possibly doom a town to fast death. I guess the solution is to provide alternative modes of economy and employment growth during the transition, easier said than done. Problem with being a one horse town, you better hope your horse stays forever young!

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India Shining (Not)

The guards at the gate are instructed not to let nannies take children outside, and men delivering pizza or okra are allowed in only with permission. Once, Mr. Bhalla recalled proudly, a servant caught spitting on the lawn was beaten up by the building staff.Recently, Mr. Bhalla’s association cut a path from the main gate to the private club next door, so residents no longer have to share the public sidewalk with servants and the occasional cow.

Inside Gate, India’s Good Life; Outside, the Slums –

You know something’s been going on in India for many years now when the New York Times finally gets to it! But it is an important story to keep in mind. India was always a country of great economic contrasts. But in the last few years, the inequality has exploded. I don’t know if Gini coefficients (a measure of income inequality) provide a true enough picture. India’s 2004 Gini (god knows how much it has changed in 4 years!) of 36.8 puts it as a country less inequal than the United States (40.8) or China (46.9). But as this Economist article points out, if you look at actual outcomes such as availability of water or child health statistics, India’s poor are in very bad shape. As always, a warning not to rely on economists for any mathematical estimates! Look towards public health people to provide the best information.

Add this growing inequality to India’s traditional class/caste based treatment of the not so elite by the elite, the treatment of the not at all elite by the not so elite, the treatment of the poor by the not at all elite, the treatment of the very poor by the poor and the treatment of everyone on the lower rungs of this crazy ladder by the ones higher up on the ladder, you have an inequality problem that no number can quantify and no one can fix in the short term. I do think that regionally, especially around the major metros, class/income based inequality and resentment are taking over from the traditional caste based issues. The rural areas are a completely different story altogether.

What is a blogger to do when faced with such an insurmountable problem? Why, recommend a work of fiction that talks about this issue in a refreshingly unsubtle fashion, I give you The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga. Of all the recent Indian lit I’ve read, this one comes closest to capturing Indian class dynamics and providing a good read in less than 300 pages. The novel most definitely aroused my inner class warrior! Of course, some of its characters are a little one dimensional, but most of their thought processes and attitudes are spot on. at the least, it will give you an easier to grasp picture of India’s inequalities than any World Bank report.

Police charge pair with 'crime against nature'

Raleigh police are charging two adults for sodomy in private, although the U.S. Supreme Court appears to have outlawed such charges five years ago.Police on Saturday charged two West Raleigh men with a “crime against nature” for having sex early that morning. Each faces up to two years in prison if convicted of the Class I felony. | Police charge pair with ‘crime against nature’

When I read the headline, I thought maybe they killed some deer, or emitted too much carbon dioxide, or something. Global warming is a crime against nature, not this!

If you can stop shaking your head and read the rest of the article, you may conclude that a crime may have been committed, maybe a sexual assault on one man by another, who knows, but to arrest both of them for having sex, ah well, back in the 19th century for you.

The police/DA may claim that this law is not enforced, so it need not be removed. Our esteemed Southern lawmakers (some of whom may be breaking this “law” anyway) can’t bring themselves to vote to legalize anal sex and oral sex. But why don’t the courts when faced with even one of these prosecutions immediately call the law unconstitutional? I mean, legal precedent points in that direction.

Oh North Carolina, why?