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Nuclear: What's the Risk?
March 17, 2011. The nuclear debate is heating up again. And once again, it's missing the point. Some say the technology is too risky, and some say, "Not any more." It's true the Dai-Ichi plants have been obsolete for 40 years and are no indication of today's technology. But the point is not technology.
The Fukushima disaster was not caused by 40 year old nukes it was caused by very recent decisions by very greedy corporations. I will not rant against corporations. We need them. But just like nuclear power, dynamite, or the army, we need to learn to limit them. TEPCO, just like our own utilities, oil companies, and Wall St. banks, was far better at controlling the Japanese government than the government was at limiting TEPCO.
And here in America, we are headed the wrong direction. Corporations just got the right to spend any amount of money in secret to swing elections. Nukes don't kill people, corporations kill people. Ironically, those who believe most in "law and order" for people fight against regulations for corporations. It's way past time to turn around, but it looks like it's too late.
The US and Europe Should Prepare to Act Decisively
February 24, 2011. "First, we are doing everything we can to protect American citizens.  That is my highest priority. ... I’ve also asked my administration to prepare the full range of options that we have to respond to this crisis." —Obama
Many who are demanding that Obama take a stronger stand seem to have forgotten the 52 American hostages held by Iran for over a year. There are roughly 6,000 Americans trapped in Libya. The US has taken a clear stand on Libyan violence, and it is not yet time to act. But, more rhetoric will do nothing to stop a psychopath.
However, the estimates of 3,000 dead, now coming from Libya, are likely still low and growing rapidly. And there is no telling what Qaddafi is capable of. It is said he has chemical and biological weapons. But whatever it is, we should be doing our best to prepare to stop it. At a minimum, this should include the same measures we deploy against low-level Al Qaeda operatives in Pakistan.
An easy step. Using drones, NATO could easily take out Qaddafi's radio and TV capability and end the jaming of Aljazeera. Control of information is powerful, and we should end Qaddafi's control of it.
More Oil Inflation:   Make the Fed Stop It !
February 22, 2011. Oil has been causing inflation. It inflates gas prices and agricultural prices (tractors need fuel). And oil prices just hit a two-year high due to the Fed causing trouble in Libya. Bernanke and some Fed Board members have been taunting Qaddafi on Facebook. As a result, headline inflation is running at nearly 1/3 the rate it was at when President Ford had to "Whip Inflation Now." (Of course core inflation is the lowest it's been in 75 years, but never mind.)
The US and Europe Could Send Qaddafi Packing;  Here's How
Demonstrators are being bombed and attacked with tanks.
 Qaddafi & Oil ?
February 21, 2011. BP (of the Gulf spill) lobbied for the release of the Lockerbie bomber (270 dead). He was released to a hero's welcome under Qaddafi. US oil companies are no better.
Congress, the President and European leaders should say immediately that Qaddafi must go, or our oil companies will no longer pump Libya's oil. That would turn many powerful Libyans, and perhaps his military, against him. Also, Nato should enforce a no-fly zone over Libya to end the bombing of demonstrators.
However, Obama may be holding back because of the number of Americans in Libya. But the oil companies are likely also playing a role. What do you think?
As the NYT reported on April 22, 2008, "Top executives of American oil companies met privately over the past year with the Libyan leader Muammar el-Qaddafi - often in his trademark Bedouin tent - as they lined up contracts allowing them to tap into the country's oil reserves.
But now, thanks to a law that threatens those deals, the new allies are working Capitol Hill. The American oil industry and the Libyan government, once a pariah in Washington, have hired high-profile lobbyists, buttonholed lawmakers and enlisted help from the Bush administration, all in an effort to win an exemption from a law that Congress passed in January that is intended to ensure that victims of terrorist attacks are compensated."
Stop the Blackouts.   Support Democracy.   What We Can Do
  Avaaz.org -- 7 million & growing fast
February 19, 2011. According to a story circulating in Egypt, Hosni Mubarak has died and met Sadat and Nasser [the previous two Egyptian presidents] in the the afterlife. Mubarak asks them how they met their ends. "Poison," says Nasser. "An assassin's bullet," says Sadat. "And what about you, Mubarak?" Looking bewildered, Mubarak mutters: "Facebook."
Pundits are debating if the web really matters. No, it's not the driving force, but forget the pundits—and check with those who really know. What did Mubarak think? He shut it down. What did the democracy protesters think? They complained bitterly. The same has been true in all recent struggles against repressive regimes. China even blocked all tweets mentioning Egypt. Those who actually know, are unanimous in saying that the web helps democracy more than tyrants.
And now there's something we can do to stop the blackouts.
Avaaz means "voice" in many languages, and Avaaz.org helps democracy protesters have a voice. It was started in response to China's violent crackdown on Tibet in 2008. About Avaaz.
I just got an email from Avaaz, which is working urgently to "blackout-proof" the protests -- with secure satellite modems and phones, tiny video cameras, and portable radio transmitters, plus expert support teams on the ground -- to enable activists to broadcast live video feeds even during internet and phone blackouts.
The window for helping is closing fast, as regimes are moving quickly to choke off borders and internet connections. Avaaz is asking for small donations from 10,000 members. They rarely send emails, but when they do, it matters. This is a great time to donate, and perhaps even sign up along with 7,257,407 others (2/19/11, 3:30PM PST, check About to see how fast it's growing).
What Reagan Would Have Said about Egypt
February 10, 2011. If anyone knows, Peggy Noonan does. As Reagan's special assistant and primary speech writer from 1984 to 1986, she wrote some of his most famous speeches. She is also his most famous political biographer and a historian of his "revolution." Today she contributes a column to the Wall St. Journal. It does not mince words.
"At the end [of Mubarak's speech] I thought: Does he not understand the people of his country? They are in revolution. They want democracy and the rule of law. ... He should have spoken of his respect for the people of Egypt and his knowledge of the political arrangements they not only desire but deserve. And so, he could have said, he will step down, resign, leave office as of midnight tonight. ...
End of story. And the people would have forgiven him. Many would have thanked him. Instead, a mess. Confusion. Anger." ... Now? All bets are off." (WSJ)
Finally all American can agree. Tea-Partiers can back the Egyptian patriots as they fight a ruler more despotic than King George. Ronald Reagan's heirs can trust he would have said Mubarak was the problem not the solution. And, Democrats side naturally with youth fighting for democracy.
And this isn't just good for Egypt. Their protests are almost entirely secular, and with U.S. backing, nothing could undermine more completely Al Qaeda's absurd but lethal narrative.
Which Part of the Army?
February 9, 2011. We had thought that our $1.3B per year was paying for a professional and reasonable military in Egypt. That's now in question. Story It turns out that at least part of the military has been arresting and torturing protesters. The arrests are definitely in the 100s and may well be over 1000. As described by Paul Amar (link below) the Military contains several factions. "Presidential Guard protected the Radio/Television Building and fought against protesters on 28 January rather than siding with them."
More from Paul Amar and here's the most important vlog that helped spark the democracy movement.
The Full Story on Egypt   [See update above]
February 6, 2011. Mubarak has already lost his power to a hard-core “stability coalition” that brings together the interests of new military, national capital and labor, while reassuring the United States.  But the vast new coalition of local social movements and internationalist Egyptians must break into this circle and set the agenda for this to become a democratic transition. Read Paul Amar for the details. He concludes "I would bet that even the hard-line leaders of the new cabinet will be unable to resist plugging into the willpower of these popular uprisings, one-hundred million Egyptians strong." He is far and away the most knowledgeable commentator I have discovered. A long and detailed, but fascinating, article.
For an up-close look at the demonstrations, read Nicholas Kristof. He's been in the thick of them and interviewed many Egyptians.
The take away from both articles is that this is nothing like Iran in 1979. The variety of forces is amazing, from crony capitalists selling the country to China and Saudi Arabia, to assertive independent judicial institutions. The democracy demonstrators are mainly secular forces. As one Egyptian businessman explained to Kristof, "The Middle East is not only for oil. We are human beings, exactly like you people. We don’t hate the American people,” he added. “They are pioneers. We want to be like them. Is that a crime?”
Mubarak Claims He Has Made No Concessions
February 2, 2011. In his interview with ABC News' Christiane Amanpour in the heavily guarded presidential palace in Cairo, Mubarak said that he never planned to run for another term in office, and that he never planned to pass on the presidency to his son Gamal, once widely considered to be his successor. So he has only agreed to do what he was going to do anyway.
We have no right to tell Egypt what to do, but they have no right to $1.5 billion per year of our money. We could, with some cleverness and courage, make a deal that benefits both sides.
FOX News Team Severely Beaten by Pro-Mubarak Thugs
February 3, 2011. There is only one reason Mubarak is attacking the press, even the relatively friendly press from Fox News. Mubarak does not want the world to have more proof that he is behind the violence and chaos in Egypt.
"They were forced to leave their position when a Molotov cocktail was thrown at it," Roberts said. "A large fire erupted. They were forced to flee. They ran out and ran right into the pro Mubarak crowd and were severely beaten and had to be taken to the hospital, spent the night in the hospital. The extent of their injuries was fairly grave, however, they have been released from the hospital." full story
And there is only one reason the pro-democracy demonstrators want the press present and the street lights on. They do want the world to know.
We Pay $1B a Year for Egypt's Army,
Couldn't Obama Ask for a Small Favor?
February 2, 2011. What is this nonsense that we cannot interfere in Egypt? How about some plain talk—Either the Army stops standing idly by while pro-democracy forces are smashed by Mubarak's thugs or we will stop interfering to the tune of $1.2 billion per year for their Army.
There is something fishy hear. Our leaders can figure this out. Why are they pretending to be dumb? They know how to do drone strikes inside Pakistan and Yemen.
Surely asking the military (that we pay for) to keep the peace—as they promised to—would gain us 1000 times more good will and respect everywhere ... well maybe not quite everywhere ... there is Israel. So ... are we allowing democracy to be smashed in Egypt because that's what Israel wants? Nothing else seems to make sense.
Of course, if you think long term, like two or three years, this also makes no sense. More hatred of America (this time justified) in the Middle East will not help us or Israel.
But are they really Mubarak's thugs doing the dirty work? This report form the Christian Science Monitor is telling. "A young Egyptian doctor I just met told me he’s been warned that there will be professional repercussions if he goes to Tahrir tomorrow, something he took as evidence that a major crackdown is in the offing. State television has been warning of the dangers of 'chaos' "(CS Monitor).
From Business Week: Mubarak loyalists rode horses and camels yesterday into Tahrir Square, the epicenter of anti-government protests since Jan. 25, swinging whips and clubs. The two sides hurled rocks, bottles and concrete chunks, sometimes from rooftops, and some pro-government marchers carried machetes. Egyptian soldiers didn’t intervene, except to use water cannon to extinguish fires, and there were no uniformed police present. More than 600 people were injured and at least three killed in the clashes,
Is Hypocrisy in the US Interest?
February 1, 2011. From the U.S. State Department: "Although the exact number of deaths was unknown, the Al-Nadim Center for Psychological Rehabilitation of the Victims of Torture documented 32 cases of police officers torturing victims to death in a nine-month period from June 2007 to March."—2008 Human Rights Report: Egypt.
"Police, security personnel, and prison guards often tortured and abused prisoners and detainees, sometimes in cases of detentions under the Emergency Law, which authorizes incommunicado detention indefinitely." —2009 Human Rights Report: Egypt. Mubarak has ruled Egypt under the "Emergency Law" for 30 years.
In fact the current protests were sparked by plainclothes police officers beating 28-year-old Khaled Said to death in the port city of Alexandria on June 6, 2010. Photos of Said's battered face were widely distributed on the Internet, giving the lie to the policy story of self-inflicted asphyxiation (Time).
At least 140 protesters have been killed in the last weak, and many more jailed. By and large the protests have been extremely peaceful and strongly pro-democracy, leaving the Muslim Brotherhood in the dust. Egyptians know we have supported Mubarak's repressive regime for 30 years with foreign aid second only to what we give Israel. Now is the time to show them we can tell the difference between democracy and hypocrisy.
Why Can't the U.S. Take a Stand on Internet Freedom?
January 31, 2011. Egypt is a tough question for Obama and the Republicans. Stand by Israel or stand for Democracy? What the U.S. says is pretty similar to what Mubarak says. There should be "an immediate dialogue with all 'political forces' for constitutional and legislative reforms." That's Mubarak.
“We are hoping and praying that the authorities will be able to respond to the legitimate requests for participation by protesters.” That's Hillary Clinton.
The story is that "Washington's options are limited for influencing events on the ground in Egypt" (Reuters). But that misses the point. Washington is being very careful not to take a stand even on easy things. It claims to support free speech and the right to protest. But Clinton won't even sweetly ask Mubarak to turn the internet back on—it's been off Friday Jan 28, and on Monday he shut down the last 3%. And, mobile phones were off for a couple of days. Now he's stopping the trains. Freedom of assembly—a bit to radical?
While democracy in Egypt could usher in the Muslim Brotherhood, they have actually been discredited in the eyes of protesters, because they've lagged so far behind. And the educated youth see them as irrelevant. More likely, having the US side with Israel and the hated Mubarak will do us and the Israelis much harm in the long run.
I say, why not take a chance on 60 million Muslims (?? but not 100%) fighting for freedom and democracy? Isn't that exactly what we've been asking for?
   Suleiman: New Egyptian VP
Why Time Is Short to Stop Major Egyptian Violence
Saturday, January 29, 2011, 10am PST. The Egyptian government has released thugs (not protesters) from prison. They have used this tactic in the past. The point is to cause looting and vandalism so that the government has an excuse to crack down with extreme violence.
Also, thugs looting upper-class neighborhoods were captured by protesters, and they were found to have government issued weapons and ID cards from the Central Security Services.
The police and army have not even protected the National Historical Museum. So it has been looted--though by no means completely.
In areas where there has been no press to cover events, the police used live ammunition yesterday, killing more than 100. The excuse was that they were looters, but in one group of 25 dead, one of them was 7 years old and one 5. Those on the scene have only seen protesters shot, not looters.
The army is now surrounding Cairo and there is essentially no presence of uniformed police or army inside the city. Mubarak has appointed a former head of Central Security Services (the agency in charge or repressing protests) as vice president. Surely they are planning violent repression and they cannot wait long to carry this out. Currently the only hope seems to be that the Army will not cooperate.
Obama's threat to cut off aid is clever—the army receives 3/4 of US aid, or just over $1B per year. But this threat is not enough. Mubarak, is not someone the US should be associated with, and even as an ally in Middle East politics, he is now useless. Obama should openly tell Mubarak that he must leave, that his people have spoken, and the US is on the side of the Egyptian people. Both Obama and the Republicans should report what is really happening and the real danger. If zFacts knows what is going on, surely our leaders can find out.
The Politics of Shooting Gabby
January 13, 2011. Loughner was crazy and politically incoherent. So you can't blame it on right-wing gun talk — he didn't think like Palin or like Gifford's M16-firing T-party opponent. That's the conservative story. But does it make sense?
There are two ways the violent gun talk could be implicated in the shootings:
(1) Loughner bought the T-party's view that Democrats are wrecking the country and thought it would be patriotic to kill some.
(2) Loughner's crazy brain translated the violent, political-shooting talk into action without understanding a thing about Palin's politics or the T-party.
No one believes #1, but #2 rings true. Naturally, conservatives focus on #1. Let's take a look at #2.
Most of Loughner's ranting are political, and anti-American government. His thoughts were highly influenced by right-wing talk, even though he understood only the hate and violence and none of the politics. But it's ludicrous to think that his political rantings had nothing to do with the fact that he shot up a political meeting.
So those who mix hate and shooting with their politics have only one possible excuse — Yes, they say, Loughner was guided by his crazy interpretation of their talk, but you can't hold right-wingers responsible for that fact.
But you can. And we should. Here's why. We all know that a climate of hate, anger and violent talk can cause crazy people to do crazy things. And when conservative leaders use the mass media to reach tens of millions, they know they are reaching a lot of crazy people. They know their message will affect those people, and they know that sooner or later there's a good chance one of those people will be in the wrong place, have a gun, and use it.
They also know that some of their followers are titillated by the idea that some crazy person just might actual shoot one of those politicians they hate. That's why they talk that way. Their base loves it.
So politicians who mix gun talk with political anger are buying popularity and media coverage by risking the lives of their political opponents and 9-year-old kids like Christina-Taylor Green.
Yes, they have a right to risk these lives.  But it brings dishonor on our country. This is not how the Founding Fathers conceived of the democratic debate so essential our pursuit of life, liberty and happiness.
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