Oil be seeing you

December 4th, 2003 § Comments off § permalink

George Monbiot, a British journalist who writes for the Guardian, has a new column that explains how quickly the world is running out of oil and how drastically our society will have to change in oil’s absence. Oil production could very well peak in the next decade, he argues, and alternative energy sources are either not viable or chronically underfunded. He is not optimistic about our ability to adjust to a world without oil:

The only rational response to both the impending end of the Oil Age and the menace of global warming is to redesign our cities, our farming and our lives. But this cannot happen without massive political pressure, and our problem is that no one ever rioted for austerity. People take to the streets because they want to consume more, not less. Given a choice between a new set of matching tableware and the survival of humanity, I suspect that most people would choose the tableware.

Rolling back prices! Rolling back wages!

November 23rd, 2003 § Seven comments § permalink

The Los Angeles Times has another excellent article about Wal-Mart and the harms it inflicts on American workers. (Use “pinchydotorg” as the login and password.)

All Wal-Mart, all the time: That’s the pinchy dot org promise!

The high cost of low prices

November 17th, 2003 § Three comments § permalink

Fast Company has a great article about how Wal-Mart’s relentless push to lower its prices has forced its suppliers to move even more manufacturing jobs overseas. The whole article is worth reading, but there are a couple of paragraphs that absolutely nail the biggest problem with the way Wal-Mart does business, and with American capitalism in general:

Wal-Mart wields its power for just one purpose: to bring the lowest possible prices to its customers. At Wal-Mart, that goal is never reached. The retailer has a clear policy for suppliers: On basic products that don’t change, the price Wal-Mart will pay, and will charge shoppers, must drop year after year. But what almost no one outside the world of Wal-Mart and its 21,000 suppliers knows is the high cost of those low prices. Wal-Mart has the power to squeeze profit-killing concessions from vendors. To survive in the face of its pricing demands, makers of everything from bras to bicycles to blue jeans have had to lay off employees and close U.S. plants in favor of outsourcing products from overseas.

Of course, U.S. companies have been moving jobs offshore for decades, long before Wal-Mart was a retailing power. But there is no question that the chain is helping accelerate the loss of American jobs to low-wage countries such as China. Wal-Mart, which in the late 1980s and early 1990s trumpeted its claim to “Buy American,” has doubled its imports from China in the past five years alone, buying some $12 billion in merchandise in 2002. That’s nearly 10% of all Chinese exports to the United States.

Oh, and it gets worse: Even Chinese companies are neglecting safety and reducing wages to keep prices low. (To read that last article, use “pinchydotorg” as the login and password.)

The Governator crushes another opponent

October 18th, 2003 § Comments off § permalink

Bill Lockyer, California’s attorney general, has revealed that he voted for Schwarzenegger. Bill Lockyer is a big ol’ Democrat. He helped run the state campaign for George McGovern in 1972, for Christ’s sake. He is (or maybe was) contemplating his own run for governor. And he voted for Schwarzenegger. Why? Here’s part of his explanation, quoted from the article: “I want to see principled leadership. And yes, [Schwarzenegger] may be naïve about that. But you know what? It is real. …He said, ‘Bill, you listen to my heart, not my party.’ Now how can you not love somebody that feels that way about it?”

Holy fucking Jesus on a rocket sled. What is wrong with this state? Have the many hydrocarbons in our air melted our brains? How long before we are all overcome by the mysterious Teutonic powers of seduction that left so many crying out for Arnold Schwarzenegger’s sweet, sweet governance?

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Democracy simply doesn’t work

October 14th, 2003 § Two comments § permalink

Many of you, I’m sure, have already heard about all the scary issues surrounding touchscreen voting machines–the rabid support many of their manufacturers have lent to the Republican Party; the lack of a paper trail to verify that the machines work as they’re meant to; the shoddy programming and security holes big enough to drive a truck through. Unfortunately, if the London Independent is to be believed, matters are even worse than most of us have imagined. Well worth a read.

Also, it turns out that I actually know somebody who voted for Arnold Schwarzenegger, and not just for any old reason. This somebody genuinely believes that Schwarzenegger is going to balance the state’s budget. I suppose it’s theoretically possible for that to happen, provided that Schwarzenegger’s policies are the exact opposite of what he’s said they will be. Yeesh. Thank God this somebody is just a friend of a friend and not someone I have political discussions with on a daily basis.

Hooray for democracy!

October 7th, 2003 § Three comments § permalink

Can I bring myself to type it?

Governor Schwarz…

Governor Schwarzen…

Governor Schw…

This is going to take some getting used to.

Your nomination for secretary of the posterior has been confirmed

September 17th, 2003 § One comment § permalink

Only-in-Washington pickup lines. Finally, someone has combined my love of political geekery with my weakness for terrible pickup lines. Here’s an example: “In full compliance with federal information statutes, I am required to disclose that I’ve fallen FOIA.” Get it? “Fallen FOIA?”

Clearly I need to get out more.

It’s only Iraq ‘n roll (but I like it)

July 12th, 2003 § Three comments § permalink

Knight Ridder is reporting that the Pentagon had no plan whatsoever for maintaining order in Iraq after Baghdad fell (unless “fly in Ahmad Chalabi and wait for the accolades” counts as a plan). Don’t you hate it when your worst fears turn out to be true?

The small circle of senior civilians in the Defense Department who dominated planning for postwar Iraq failed to prepare for the setbacks that have erupted over the past two months.

The officials didn’t develop any real postwar plans because they believed that Iraqis would welcome U.S. troops with open arms and Washington could install a favored Iraqi exile leader as the country’s leader. The Pentagon civilians ignored CIA and State Department experts who disputed them, resisted White House pressure to back off from their favored exile leader and when their scenario collapsed amid increasing violence and disorder, they had no backup plan.

Today, American forces face instability in Iraq, where they are losing soldiers almost daily to escalating guerrilla attacks, the cost of occupation is exploding to almost $4 billion a month and withdrawal appears untold years away.

Most of the article’s sources are “senior government officials” and the like, so you never know; maybe some folks in the State Department just have axes to grind. Also, the article claims that “American planners plotted extraordinarily detailed blueprints for administering postwar Germany and Japan” before World War II ended, but I’m not sure that’s true—I don’t know about Japan, but the Marshall Plan for Europe wasn’t proposed until 1947.

Speaking of bad things and Iraq, since I posted earlier about the looting of the National Museum, I feel duty-bound to mention that the looting wasn’t quite as bad as people feared. Something like 6,000 items are missing, not 170,000. Still, that’s awful, and some of the items that have been returned are in miserable shape. Also, plenty of other sites were looted. Much of the looting could have been prevented if the Pentagon had bothered to develop a postwar plan.

I am going to try very hard to stop posting about Iraq.

Nuke ‘em all and let God sort ‘em out

May 28th, 2003 § Comments off § permalink

Signs That the United States Government Has Gone Completely Batshit Crazy, Number 7,408,082: At the request of the White House and the Pentagon, Congress has made it easier for the military to develop new, smaller nuclear weapons.

Administration officials say that they have made no decision to produce the first new nuclear weapons since the 1980′s and that further Congressional debate and approval would be needed to do so. But they say an enormous nuclear capability to deter a rival superpower fortified with its own intercontinental missiles could be an outdated concept in the current world environment.

Instead, they say, a new generation of nuclear weapons may be needed to destroy facilities that could be constructed underground where biological and chemical weapons are being developed or stored.

“It is a return to looking at the defense of the nation in the face of a changing threat,” Fred S. Celec, deputy assistant to the secretary of defense for nuclear matters, said of the push for authority to pursue a new nuclear program. “How do you deter and dissuade potential enemies of the United States from doing us harm? I don’t know that we ought to eliminate any tools in our inventory.”

Mr. Celec and other officials said that existing, congressionally imposed restrictions on research were chilling potential progress in the field of nuclear weapons science.

I mentioned this proposal in February, back when it was still a glimmer in the eye of war planners.

The Bush administration has demonstrated its ability to make the unthinkable thinkable; witness the preemptive war with Iraq. Now it appears that it wants to do the same for the use of nuclear weapons.

This way lies madness. I don’t know what else to say. I am stunned.

The looting continues

May 7th, 2003 § One comment § permalink

Originally from the Chicago Tribune: US Allows Another Cultural Center To Be Looted.

In recent years, much of the [800-year-old Abbasid Palace] complex was taken over by the Beit al-Hikma–House of Wisdom–a kind of academy for Iraq’s most distinguished academics.

On Friday it was looted in broad daylight, apparently under the noses of U.S. troops. …

[M]embers of Beit al-Hikma said they met with several senior U.S. officials in Baghdad, including Jay Garner, the retired U.S. lieutenant general in charge of setting up an interim government.

“We told Gen. Garner and the others of the importance of this building. They promised to send security within 24 hours,” said [Amal] Shlash, a senior economist at Beit al-Hikma.

The security never came.

Three days later, the looters did. …

The looters finished their work quickly. They hauled out furniture, office equipment, carpets, plumbing fixtures and chandeliers. Anything they couldn’t carry they destroyed, including wall murals and three small presses.

Then they ransacked the library.

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