Thursday, July 29, 2010

I Overslept This Morning And Can Only See Good News

Nicholas Kristoff
EJ Dionne Jr
Jason Linkins

"We won our nation’s independence for $2.4 billion in today’s money, the Congressional Research Service report said. That was good value, considering that we now fritter the same amount every nine days in Afghanistan." - Nicholas Kristoff
"Can a nation remain a superpower if its internal politics are incorrigibly stupid?" - EJ Dionne Jr

I slept in today, got a good night's sleep despite the heat. Already wildfires are raging in California about a month ahead of schedule. I grew up in the south Bay area of LA, and one of our September past-times was sitting on the beach at night, drinking beer, and watching the canyon fires burning across the bay... It seems that in the last few years over half of the state has burned up, and what must really be burning California Republicans right now is that former governor Grey Davis has a better approval rating than Arnold Schwartzenegger. I give the guy props for really trying. Arnold has given a better performance as governor than he ever has as an actor. What I admire about him is that he is willing to change his opinions, which is rare in politicians. Now, if only he could wrangle a budget... Also, check out Jason Linkins link above, he reports on the latest idea from the Iowa GOP: to repeal the current 13th Amendment and use the original language of that amendment so that we can strip Obama of his American citizenship for accepting the Nobel Peace Prize. Oh, I think it proves the proliferation of rolling meth labs in America's heartland...

It's been over 15 years since I last visited China, and back then I was struck how they ignored all environmental standards that were practiced in the US and in Europe. Now, the accumulated effect of years of pollution have caught up with them, and Beijing may become one of the world's most polluted cities. They have the added setback that during the summer months, winds blow in from the Gobi desert, bringing a fine coat of yellow sand. Those same winds are now bringing in smoke and pollutants from factories relocated hundreds of miles away, to mingle with the hundreds of thousands of new cars daily roaming the streets.

China does have a Ministry of environmental protection, but it has less regulatory powers than our EPA does, and it's fighting an uphill battle: "The ministry said the number of accidents fouling the air and water doubled during the first half of 2010, with an average of 10 each month. The report also found that more than a quarter of the country’s rivers, lakes and streams were too contaminated to be used for drinking water. Acid rain, it added, has become a problem in nearly 200 of the 440 cities it monitored.

In recent days, the state media have provided a grim sampling of China’s environmental woes, including a pipeline explosion that dumped thousands of gallons of oil into the Yellow Sea, reports of a copper mine whose toxic effluent killed tons of fish in Fujian Province, and revelations that dozens of children were poisoned by lead from illegal gold production in Yunnan Province." China is at a crossroads, and many people are rising in protest over companies that have lax standards. Coupled with the mass depression that many are feeling in their lives, driving some to acts of horrible violence and murder, China may be gearing up for another People's Revolution...

The US issued a statement this morning that it was ready to pursue Iran's offer concerning a nuclear fuel swap. Within the next few weeks senior officials from Iran, the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany plan to meet and pick up from where they left off from the last time they met in last October. Hopefully, this won't be another mind game being played by Tehran, and it means that more moderate and pragmatic folks are being listened to. It took sanctions involving the entire European Union, aimed at Iran's largest sources of income, to get them to perk up and pay attention. The strategy is a variation of the journalistic rule of: follow the money.

The Arab League needs to get rid Mahmoud Abbas and have their negotiators sit down for the upcoming face to face negotiations with Israel, also coming in the next few weeks. I say this will happen unless Abbas finds a way to back out and prolong his presidency of the Palestinian Authority. I never thought I'd be wishing that Arafat were still alive and in charge... From the Arab side, they are hoping that direct talks will keep Israel focused enough to not attack either Lebanon or Iran anytime soon. Already there are articles appearing in the US saying that direct talks could be an albatross around Obama's neck...

Here's an interesting ditty, reported in the Asia Times: "The Pentagon will buy some Russian, not American, helicopters so that special forces can "cloak" the fact they are American. No congressional representatives have gotten upset; no pundits have written editorials; and no reporters have yet followed it up." For those who worry about the coming one world global government, be afraid, be very afraid...

Since nobody really goes to the White House web site to see Barack Obama's weekly video address, perhaps we can change the way that they do things in Congress. I know that I would rather see this format on CSPAN than the partisan speeches before an empty Senate chamber, and I think more work would get done:

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