Sunday, August 29, 2004

Watching the Olympics

I always enjoy watching distance races, as I once was a runner myself, so these races were the highlights of the Olympics for me. It was particularly enjoyable to see the American win a silver in the marathon, and the Morrocan win the 1500 and 5000 meter races. Of course it was too bad that a crazy man attacked the Brazilian runner, perhaps even causing him to lose the gold or silver. Overall, NBC did a pretty good job this time covering the Olympics, with less of the fluffy bios, more concentration on the actual contests.

We are killing our heritage to make some money

I caught the tail end of a documentary on one of my local PBS channels:

Net Loss: The Storm Over Salmon Farming, Melissa Young and Mark Dworkin, directors, Moving Images , 2003, 52 minutes. Order from Bullfrog Films, (800) 543-3764 or

One comment stood out to me: "They are killing our heritage in order to make some money." Unfortunately it is this principle that is behind environmental degradation around the world: use up our natural resources, endanger public health with environmental pollution, all for the short term profit. Our world, and particularly our own nation, is like a spendthrift playboy spending off his parents' fortune. Soon we will be bankrupt and future generations will have to pay the price for our folly.

This documentary was about the impact of salmon farming in British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest. For a review see:

"By and large, though, the film serves as an illustration of mainstream aquaculture’s relentless march towards profit at any cost, as evidenced by its arrogant assumption that it can better nature through the genetic engineering of salmon."

Monday, August 16, 2004

A shooting at the laundromat

Today, being off from work, I took my clothes to a laundromat at the Berkeley-Oakland border. While sitting there reading a book, I heard a series of explosions that sounded either like firecrackers or gunfire. Unfortunately it turned out to be the latter. Several gunshots were fired at a black teenage kid, from what I understand, and although police and ambulance arrived soon afterwards, his chances of survival are very slim. The police cordoned off the area and I took my wet clothes to another laundromat.

I had just been thinking of another shooting that occurred last week. An 18-year-old black student from De La Salle, considered the most valuable football player of the best high school football team in the nation, had a full scholarship to the University of Oregon and was preparing to leave for the school in a few days. Instead he was shot and killed while sitting in a car in his Richmond neighborhood. Another teenager who had been a fellow athlete of his has been arrested, and now the suspect's 15-year-old brother is being sought.

Later in the day I went to the veterinary clinic to pick up some medicine for my cat and got into a conversation with a young black woman who works there. She is attending a Bible college and preparing for the ministry by working with inner school kids, trying to help break the cycle of drugs, gangs and violence. I said to her it must be very hard for someone growing up in that environment to resist peer pressure to join gangs and become trapped into this extremely self-destructive lifestyle.

What are the causes for this situation and how can the vicious cycle be broken? There are no easy answers, but I believe part of the problem is that many black youth don't see that much hope for them in the present system. It isn't easy to rise from the ghetto and overcome substandard schools to reach the American dream of a stable job and a home of one's own. We live in a society where jobs are becoming harder to find and the gap between rich and poor ever widens.

But another part of the problem is cultural. Bill Cosby and others have addressed this problem, that some aspects of the black youth culture seem to encourage gangster behavior. Not to single out black culture, it is a problem among other ethnic groups too. In any case, the change cannot just come from outside aid, ultimately it must come from within the culture itself, within the neighborhood, and within the heart of each individual.

My friend at the veterinary clinic who is working to help inner city kids is a real hero for our society, as much a hero as the soldiers who go to Iraq. Maybe if we could revitalize programs such as the Vista corps, and provide more funds for educational program, that might help overcome this tragic situation today of senseless killings, where young people with their whole lives ahead of them instead die in a hail of gunfire on a neighborhood street corner.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Our Man Chalabi is looking more like a con man

Robert Scheer of the Los Angeles Times commented on the closeness of the Bush administration to Ahmad Chalabi prior to his fall:

"In January, when President Bush delivered his State of the Union speechto Congress celebrating the success of the ]preemptive' war against Iraq,a controversial Iraqi exile named Ahmad Chalabi sat in a place of honorbehind First Lady Laura Bush.

"The symbolism was no accident: Despite being a fugitive from Jordan for aconviction in absentia on bank-fraud charges, this darling ofneoconservative hard-liners was the Pentagon's and White House's favored and well-paid adviser on all things Iraq -- including weapons of massdestruction, ties with Al-Qaida and the odds for a postinvasioninsurgency. As is now apparent, he and his cronies seemed to have liedspectacularly about it all."
Scheer observes Chalabi's close ties to the Iran political leadership and asks: "Was Our Man Chalabi a double agent working for the theocraticayatollahs when he helped lobby and lie the United States intooverthrowing Saddam, Iran's despotic but secular enemy?"

Scheer concludes the article by stating: "How ironic that a close alliancebetween Iraq and the fanatical ayatollahs of Iran is the most likely accomplishment of the U.S. invasion. That would lend credence to the claim in a revealing Newsweek cover story on Ahmad Chalabi's checkered past that'the Bushies were bamboozled by a Machiavellian con man for the ages.'"

For the full text of the article, see:

Leading neoconservative abandons Bush

Francis Fukuyama, considered a leading neo-conservative intellectual, has stated he will not vote Republican in the upcoming election. Fukuyama gained fame for his book, The End of History, published shortly after the collapse of the Soviet Union, in which he argued capitalist liberal democracy had prevailed over world socialism. He was also a leading light of the Project for a New American Century, an organization of neo-conservative intellectuals which in 1998 urged President Clinton to invade Iraq. In an interview with the Australian newspaper, The Age, he said his decision was based on Bush's failed policy in Iraq, and he particularly blamed Donald Rumsfeld, whom he said should resign:

"There seems to be this cultural thing that Americans don't resign, no matter what. But I think that people who are responsible for policy that hasn't gone well owe it to give a chance to somebody else. I just think they (the Bush Administration) ought to be held accountable for policy failure."

For the full text of the article, see:

- Steve Denney

Our next Herbert Hoover

As with its anti-environmental policies, the economic policies of the Bush administration are also short-sighted, its tax cuts benefitting mostly the very rich, while its effects on the rest of the economy are disastrous. A New York Times editorial today (Dec. 12) comments on the $700 billion swing from a federal surplus to deficit under Bush: "The president's fiscal policies, mainly high-end tax cuts, have resulted in a record federal budget deficit without spurring hiring or income growth. If Mr. Bush continues on the tax-cut path, continuing high deficits will further threaten job creation and living standards." It also points out:

"The main reason for the crippling discrepancy is that the tax cuts were mostly handed out where they did the least good - that is, lavished on the people least likely to spend the largess. The reduction in the tax rates, the largest of Mr. Bush's tax boons, provided only 59 cents of economic stimulus for every dollar of lost tax revenue. The tax cut for dividends and capital gains produced 9 cents of stimulus for every forgone dollar. "

For the text of the editorial, see:

Sunday, August 08, 2004

Protect the environment, vote for Kerry

The other day I heard Russell Train interviewed by Al Franken on Air America radio. Train is a Republican and former EPA administrator under Nixon and Ford, heading the EPA from Sept. 1973 to Jan. 1977. He also in 1988 co-chaired Conservationists for Bush, supporting Bush's father. Now Train is supporting Kerry because of Bush's anti-environmental record. Here is an article he wrote about Bush and the environnment:

see also:

Train describes the Bush environmental record as "polluter protection."

See also:

This is the website of Republicans for Environmental Protection America. Although not explicitly anti-Bush, it is clear they do not support the various anti-environmental policies of the Bush administration and are trying to offer an alternative voice within the GOP for those who still believe in conservation.

It seems to me the Democrats should make more use of the environmental issue in this presidential campaign. We debate jobs and the economy, but in the long run, it is really the destruction of our natural resources which most seriously threaten our economy and society. The Democrats have a far from perfect record, but it is dramatically better than the record under Bush.

Monday, August 02, 2004

Sandy Berger and the National Archive

The July 30th issue of The Wall Street Journal reports that Sandy Berger, who had been advising the Kerry campaign (but resigned), has been cleared of taking original documents out of the National Archive in Washington D.C. See:

Below is an excerpt from the article:


Officials looking into the removal of classified documents from the National Archives by former Clinton National Security Adviser Samuel Berger say no original materials are missing and nothing Mr. Berger reviewed was withheld from the commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.
Several prominent Republicans, including House Speaker Dennis Hastert and House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, have voiced suspicion that when Mr. Berger was preparing materials for the 9/11 Commission on the Clinton administration's antiterror actions, he may have removed documents that were potentially damaging to the former president's record.
The conclusion by archives officials and others would seem to lay to rest the issue of whether any information was permanently destroyed or withheld from the commission.
Archives spokeswoman Susan Cooper said officials there "are confident that there aren't any original documents missing in relation to this case." She said in most cases, Mr. Berger was given photocopies to review, and that in any event officials have accounted for all originals to which he had access.


Consider the timing of these accusations: as the 9/11 report was about to come out, as well as the Democrat convention, Republicans were screaming charges as if Berger had already been proved guilty. Now that the convention is over, it turns out the main accusation against Berger was false, but don't expect to hear much about from his accusers.

New Restrictions on Cuban Americans

NBC Dateline this evening had an interesting segment on Elian Gonzalez and U.S.-Cuba relations. The transcript can be found at:

The new U.S. restrictions on traveling to Cuba, particularly by Cuban Americans, is highlighted. Reporter Keith Morrison travels with a Cuban American lawyer, Pedro Irigonegaray, to visit the man's aging relatives,whom Irigonegaray may never meet again:

"The U.S. thinking goes something like this: Each time a Cuban-American brings or sends money to relatives, that money, almost $1 billion lastyear, boosts the island's economy and helps Castro continue his dictatorship. So beginning July 2004, Cuban-Americans may only visit direct family members, and then only once every three years. If their relatives are uncles or cousins or, say, aunts, as in Pedro's case, those Cuban-Americans will never be allowed to return or send money ever."

These new restrictions seem inhumane and stupid to me. Castro has been in power for over four decades despite U.S. embargos. Isolating Cuba, particularly Cubans from their loved ones in America, will not bring democracy to the island.

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