Wednesday, April 15, 2009
What, exactly, are the protesters protesting? The marginal tax rate rising 3% for millionaires?
Go to a hobby store. Buy a scale model of a U.N. One-World-Government Black Helicopter and a tube of glue. Toss the model kit. Sniff the entire tube of glue. You're all set for the party.
And now this. Whip out your Lipton and don your tinfoil hat and join the protest against ... against ... against what exactly?
The original Boston Tea Party was caffeinated by a very simple injustice: American Colonists refused to be taxed by a government that lacked any popular representation. That was remedied a few years later in a heroic struggle that stretched from Concord to Yorktown.
Then again, this rash of tea parties is being organized not only by the pseudo-journalists at Fox News (with Glenn Beck, Neil Cavuto and Sean Hannity actively stoking the flames) but also by FreedomWorks, a conservative lobbying outfit headed by former House Majority Leader Dick Armey. I suppose it was Armey's constitutional if morally dubious privilege to have built an entire political career out of defending the wealthy.
But are common folks actually going to dump Earl Grey into Santa Monica Bay because they are outraged, simply infuriated, by the marginal tax rate rising 3% for millionaires?
Insert Teabagging Joke Here
It's Tax Day, and since our eco-advice on that front is pretty straightforward (save paper and file online!), we thought we'd focus instead on the other event that's brewing. Unless you've been ignoring cable news altogether for the past few weeks, you already know that lots of people plan to gather at "tea parties" to protest high taxes and government spending.
In the spirit of this (completely wacked) day, we thought we'd offer an eco-tip to the beleaguered politicians receiving tea bags in the mail, and to those who might be gathering tea bags as props for the media: Don't toss those tea bags in the garbage. For the most part, tea bags—which, as our own Umbra has pointed out, are a perfect example of our throwaway culture—are compostable!
We hope Michelle Malkin, Grover Norquist, and all our pals over at Fox News shopped for tea that comes in unbleached bags, as this handy fact sheet advises. And we hope they avoided bags with staples in them, to keep more metal bits out of the ol' compost bin. We suppose we should give a shout-out to the yahoos who set up a page that lets people send virtual tea bags, since it's much less wasteful.
But for those who have a handful they don't know what to do with, there are plenty of uses for used tea bags. According to ehow.com, tea bags are great liners for potted plants, helping retain moisture and prevent soil from falling out through the various drainage holes. If the Obamas get enough of them, maybe they can make compost for their new garden.
So, er, happy tea bag day. And bottoms up!
BEIJING, April 14 (Xinhuanet) -- Thousands of dolphins blocked the suspected Somali pirate ships when they were trying to attack Chinese merchant ships passing the Gulf of Aden, the China Radio International reported on Monday.
The Chinese merchant ships escorted by a China's fleet sailed on the Gulf of Aden when they met some suspected pirate ships. Thousands of dolphins suddenly leaped out of water between pirates and merchants when the pirate ships headed for the China's.
The suspected pirates ships stopped and then turned away. The pirates could only lament their littleness befor the vast number of dolphins. The spectacular scene continued for a while.
Anchorage, Alaska— At tomorrow's hearing to gain public input on development of Alaska's outer continental shelf, a polar bear will be on hand to deliver 50,000 petitions to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar requesting that he rescind two rules passed in the final days of the Bush administration that weaken the Endangered Species Act. One of these rules exempts thousands of federal activities, including those that generate greenhouse gases, from review under the Endangered Species Act, and the other sharply limits protections for the threatened polar bear.
"These regulations are a disaster for the nation's endangered species," said Rebecca Noblin, staff attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity. "This is a major test for Secretary Salazar — we need to know whether he will live up to President Obama's commitment to support a strong Endangered Species Act."
Congress passed legislation on March 10 giving Secretary Salazar power to rescind both rules within 60 days, by May 9. Despite the fact that more than half of those 60 days have passed, Secretary Salazar has given no indication of whether he will use the power granted by Congress.
On April 3, 44 members of the House of Representatives, including seven committee chairmen and several other high-ranking leaders, sent a letter to secretaries Salazar and Locke urging them to use the authority to rescind the rules.
Many of the species that call Alaska's outer continental shelf home — including threatened polar bears, Pacific walruses, and ice seals — face dire threats from climate change. Protecting these species from offshore oil development and climate change will require the full protections of the Endangered Species Act. Under the Bush administration rules, the impacts of Outer Continental Shelf drilling on climate and these species would be exempt from consideration under the Endangered Species Act.
OFFICIALS in southwest China's Yunnan Province are promoting the cultivation of hemp for industrial use to increase the income of local residents.
A hemp fiber processing factory with an annual capacity of 2,000 tonnes began production yesterday in Menghai County in Dai Autonomous Prefecture of Xishuangbanna, a mountainous region in Yunnan.
"The fiber from hemp is widely used to make socks and bulletproof clothes as well as top-grade suits," said Shi Dongming, board chairman of China Hemp Industrial Holding Investment Co Ltd, which runs the production line.
Local officials expect the plant to help raise the living standard of farmers.
The government provides the seeds for free to encourage cultivation. Farmers can also get technical training and instruction.
"Nearly 10,000 farmers are growing the plant, which can double their per capita income from less than 2,000 yuan (US$293) to about 4,000 yuan every year," said Jiang Pusheng, Communist Party chief of the prefecture.
Yang Yonghong from Manlu Village plans to plant more hemp next year. "The planting does not demand too much work. Companies will come to collect the hemp in the harvest time, so we are not worried about sales," she said.
More than two years after the builder lost control of the planned 102-story tower at Ground Zero, he is collecting $500,000 monthly "development fees" - and the checks will keep flowing until mid-2010, documents show.
The giveaway - $15.25 million so far and an additional $6.25 million in the pipeline - is costing bridge and tunnel commuters the equivalent of 2.7 million George Washington Bridge tolls or 12.3 million PATH fares.
It stems from a September 2006 master development agreement - inked by the city, state, Port Authority and Silverstein - aimed at halting five years of feuding, runaway costs and budget-busting delays at the World Trade Center site.
The deal called for the developer to surrender the city's tallest skyscraper to the PA and take responsibility for building three towers on Church St. As part of the complex transaction, the agency agreed to pay Silverstein so-called development fees.
In exchange, his company was required to "make itself available only as and when specifically requested by the Port Authority," according to a clause in the 2006 Freedom Tower Development Agreement.
'We are abiding by it'
The PA has never made such a request. Agency officials confirm that Silverstein is receiving development fees even though he's done no work on the building since the deal was thrashed out more than two years ago.
by Charlie Todd
For April Fool's Day we posted a video of a fake mission where it appeared that we had lost our judgment and crashed a funeral. We fooled thousands of angry YouTube users into thinking it was real. The biggest fools of all were the CW 11 news team who reported on the funeral as if it actually happened. They didn't do one bit of research or fact checking, they simply broadcast a YouTube video and reported it as fact (a video from a prank group on April 1st!) I of course uploaded their story to my personal YouTube channel to show the world their lack of journalism skills.
Tonight I got a copyright notice from YouTube informing me that Tribune (the parent company of the CW 11) had filed a copyright claim against the video and that it had been removed. Clearly they want this embarrassment off of the Internets. What's more interesting is the fact that their original broadcast used our content without permission. They simply put "YOUTUBE" on the screen to indicate that's where they found the video. So it's OK for them to air content that we shot and own, but it's not OK for me to upload their footage of the content they took from me? It's "fair use" for the news to take a video off of YouTube and broadcast it, but it's not "fair use" for a citizen to expose their poor reporting on his own content?
Good thing the video has already been uploaded somewhere else:
And if you'd like to download it and keep a copy for safekeeping, you can do that too.
AL WALEED, IRAQ — What does it feel like to raise a newborn baby in an inhospitable desert where scorpions crawl about and sandstorms threaten to bring down one's tent?
Lubna Falah is about to find out. She will soon deliver her baby. This is not her first child, but she has never tried to raise one in a tent.
In Baghdad, Lubna had a beautiful home. That was then. Now she is left with bad dreams and repeated nightmares. Lubna is an Iraqi Palestinian, a double refugee, living in the desert close to the border with Syria. Her ancestors fled Palestine 60 years ago when Jewish forces took control of their home in Haifa, and now she is trying to flee Iraq. She is the sister of my friend Lina.
The sisters never thought they would end up in a tent. Nor did they foresee what would happen to Lina's husband: One sunny afternoon he was taken from his home by Shiite militia, then brutally tortured and later beheaded. Then acid was poured over his head. His facial features were gone, and his family's life in Baghdad was forever gone.
For days after that, Lina was unable to speak. She would open her mouth but not a single word would come out.
Lina was born in Baghdad, raised in Baghdad and loved Baghdad. But after the Americans invaded, Palestinians were no longer welcome in Iraq. They are seen as Saddam's people — he gave them free housing and utilities, although he never granted them citizenship.
So Lina could not stay and could not leave. A second generation Palestinian refugee, she had no nationality and no passport.
The only thing Lubna and Lina could do was pitch a tent in the desert, far from the violence and the death threats in Baghdad (the militia threatened to give Lina's sons the same treatment their father got), and hope that someone, somewhere, would hear about their plight.
Fortunately, the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees provides the people in Al Waleed with assistance. Sadly, UNHCR does not have the capacity to resolve their situation. It cannot provide them with a nationality or homes. A political decision is needed.
Lina was among the few lucky ones who got out. After roasting for two summers and freezing for two winters in the desert, the Icelandic government offered her and 28 other women and children to resettle in Iceland. They ended up in my hometown, Akranes (they arrived 15 minutes before the economic meltdown).
Today the outlook in Iceland is gloomy, but nothing compared to that of Al Waleed. Iceland, with its tiny population of 320,000 people, is proud to have offered 29 refugees the possibility of a future free of hazards.
The Lima Beans
Representative Lindsey Holmes asked Ross how he would view cases involving homosexuality, you know…him thinking they're "degenerates" and all, and writing it in the Alaska Bar Newsletter.
Ross responded, "Let me give you an analogy. I hate lima beans. I've never liked lima beans. But if I was hired to represent the United Vegetable Growers would you ask me if I liked lima beans? No. If I disliked lima beans? No. Because my job is to represent the United Vegetable Growers."
Now, we love a good analogy here at Mudflats. In fact it's one of our favorite literary devices. So, if gays are lima beans, and the United Vegetable Growers are the state of Alaska, then what does it sound like when we replace those words in our little analogy?
"I hate gays. I've never liked gays. But, if I was hired to represent the State of Alaska, would you ask me if I liked gays? No. If I disliked gays? No. Because my job is to represent the State of Alaska."
Ah, now we see. So do we feel better now? No.
By Michael Lind
Predictably, Obama's remarks have enraged conservative talking heads. But Obama's observations have ample precedent in American diplomacy and constitutional thought. The most striking is the Treaty of Tripoli, ratified by the U.S. Senate in 1797. Article 11 states: "As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility [sic], of Mussulmen [Muslims]; and, as the said States never have entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries."
Conservatives who claim that the U.S. is a "Christian nation" sometimes dismiss the Treaty of Tripoli because it was authored by the U.S. diplomat Joel Barlow, an Enlightenment freethinker. Well, then, how about the tenth president, John Tyler, in an 1843 letter: "The United States have adventured upon a great and noble experiment, which is believed to have been hazarded in the absence of all previous precedent -- that of total separation of Church and State. No religious establishment by law exists among us. The conscience is left free from all restraint and each is permitted to worship his Maker after his own judgment. The offices of the Government are open alike to all. No tithes are levied to support an established Hierarchy, nor is the fallible judgment of man set up as the sure and infallible creed of faith. The Mohammedan, if he will to come among us would have the privilege guaranteed to him by the constitution to worship according to the Koran; and the East Indian might erect a shrine to Brahma, if it so pleased him. Such is the spirit of toleration inculcated by our political Institutions."
Was Tyler too minor a president to be considered an authority on whether the U.S. is a Christian republic or not? Here's George Washington in a letter to the Hebrew Congregation of Newport, Rhode Island in 1790: "The citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for having given to mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy -- a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship. It is now no more that toleration is spoken of as if it were the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights, for, happily, the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens in giving it on all occasions their effectual support ... May the children of the stock of Abraham who dwell in this land continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants -- while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree and there shall be none to make him afraid."
Eloquent as he is, Barack Obama could not have put it better.
An interview with Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
By Dieter Bednarz, Erich Follath and Georg Mascolo
April 14, 2009 | Mr. President, so far you have traveled to the United States four times to attend the General Assembly of the United Nations. What is your impression of America and the Americans?
In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate, I am pleased to be able to welcome you to Tehran once again, after our extensive conversation almost three years ago. Now on the USA: Of course, one cannot get to know a country like the United States in short visits, but my speech and the discussions at Columbia University were very special to me. I am quite aware that a distinction must be drawn between the American government and the American people. We do not hold Americans accountable for the faulty decisions of the Bush administration. They want to live in peace, like we all do.
The new U.S. president, Barack Obama, directed a video address to the Iranian nation three weeks ago, during the Iranian New Year festival. Did you watch the speech?
How did you feel about the speech?
Ambivalent. Some passages were new, while some repeated well-known positions. I thought it striking that Obama attached such high value to the Iranian civilization, our history and culture. It is also positive that he stresses mutual respect and honest interactions with one another as the basis of cooperation. In one segment of his speech, he says that a nation's standing in the world does not depend solely on weapons and military strength, which is precisely what we told the previous American administration. George W. Bush's big mistake was that he wanted to solve all problems militarily. The days are gone when a country can issue orders to other peoples. Today, mankind needs culture, ideas and logic.
Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-AL) likes the fact that Barack Obama is a better listener than Dubya, but says
Asked to clarify his comments after the breakfast speech at the Trussville Civic Center, Bachus said 17 members of the U.S. House are socialists.
Not 16, not 18. 17.
Which raises a number of questions and concerns.
1: It's a certainty than Bachus doesn't know what the word "socialist" means. I say this for a couple of reasons. First, I do know what it means, and if there are 17 of them on the Hill I'll personally polish Bachus's entire collection of Dukes of Hazzard memorabilia with my satiny-smooth nutsack. Second, Bachus holds degrees from both Auburn and Alabama, schools that are most assuredly not known for the heated rivalry between their debate teams. What he probably means by "socialist," a word that dumb politicians have used a great deal in recent months when addressing even dumber audiences, is "someone who is politically to the left of Newt Gingrich.
2: However, even once we understand that Bachus is merely doing what politicians of a certain stripe do - that is, using highly charged but little understood terms as a cynical tool for whipping the hillbillies into a lather - it's not clear that the tactic will be as successful as it once might have been. Why, you ask? Because in a recent poll only 53% felt that capitalism was better than socialism. Sweet fancy tap-dancing Lenin - what has Amerika come to?
3: It's a certainty that the people polled don't know what the word "socialist" means. Many probably think it means "not George Bush," although if that were uniformly the cash the pro-socialist numbers should be higher. So there must be other factors at work. This is where I remind you that the US "educational" system is barely capable of teaching people how to use string. Helping the average student (whose eyes begin glazing over when a message exceeds 160 characters, counting spaces) understand the subtle differences between capitalism, socialism, communism, libertarianism, Zoroastrianism, Mercerism, and pulmonary embolism is like trying to teach meditation to a gerbil on angel dust.