Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The Psychological Cost

Please watch "The Soldier's Heart," a (PBS) Frontline documentary if you have not already.

By the way, this is posted by a Democrat who would like to reinstate the draft (and if I get what I want then one day we would focus on the military as a group made up of humans and not machines).

Wednesday Links

  • A right-wing amendment to the Gulf Coast Hurricane Housing Recovery Act of 2007 would force Katrina victims to find a job before receiving aid. Fortunately, the House defeated the amendment 266-162. Unfortunately, that's 162 people (Republicans, I've no doubt) who voted for this callous amendment. Honestly, the fact that I don't even have to look that hard to find a new example of Republican douchebagery every day is the saddest thing of all. In the meantime, an effort to bulldoze more than 9,000 rotting houses still standing after Hurricane Katrina has slowed sharply this year, prolonging the city's attempts to rebuild blighted neighborhoods.

  • Under a new plan adopted by the Iowa House, Iowans would be able to register at the polls and vote on election day. Current law requires Iowans to register at least 10 days prior to election day in order to vote.

  • The Wounded Warrior Assistance Act of 2007, aimed at making immediate improvements in the treatment — medical and otherwise — of wounded combat veterans passed the House Armed Services Committee by a 59-0 vote Tuesday.

  • Senators pressed federal investigators to aggressively prosecute contracting fraud in Iraq, saying the dozen criminal cases filed aren't enough of a deterrent.

  • In a high-profile dissent from Bush administration policy, the nation's top medical research official told senators that he backs an end to restrictions on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research.

  • If you repaid student loans to the U.S. Department of Education during the past decade you may have been overcharged. A class-action suit has been filed that claims that despite repeated warnings that it was breaking the law due to a computer glitch, the DOE overcharged more than 3 million student loan borrowers hundreds of millions of dollars more than they owed.

  • As the Iraq war enters a fifth year, the conflict that President Bush's aides once said would all but pay for itself with oil revenues is fueling the highest level of defense spending since World War II.

Alternative Energy Daily News - March 21, 2007

  • This special report from Business Week takes a look at which "green car" is the best.

  • Also from Business Week: Thanks to the Clean Air Act, many metro areas have tackled poor air quality, saving thousands of lives and millions of dollars in the process.

  • With the Air Force being the U.S. government’s biggest consumer of jet fuel, Secretary of the Air Force Michael Wynne and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. T. Michael Moseley are looking at alternative fuels.

  • As the earth heats up and fuel prices soar, energy efficiency is becoming the new catchworld. A growing number of firms and individuals are investing in energy renovations to make money and cut emissions.

  • When employees don't turn off their computers after work, it can cost companies millions each year in wasted electricity. But one Seattle startup has turned this failure to shut down into a plan to rake in revenue.

  • Massachusetts House leaders today are to unveil plans for steering the state away from reliance on fossil fuels and toward embracing renewable energy and alternative fuels.

The Invisible Pink Unicorn

California Congressman Pete Stark (D-California) this past week came out of the closet, so-to-speak. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, he has crossed one of the last frontiers in politics. What did he reveal about himself that was so startling, you ask? Did he confess that in the past he committed murder, had cheated on his income taxes, or that he liked to wear women’s shoes? What horrible thing did he say that was considered so politically risky? Well, this is what he revealed: he, horror of horrors, does not believe in the existence of a supreme being, a/k/a God. And such an admission, according to a recent USA Today/Gallup poll, does carry with it political risk. According to this poll, less than one half of Americans would vote for an atheist candidate for president even if he or she were "well qualified."

Now, imagine if Stark had come out and said that he does not believe in the existence of the Invisible Pink Unicorn, a/ka the IPU. Would this revelation have caused a similar stir? Probably, but not because he was merely denying existence of this fairytale creature. It would be controversial only because nobody, other than those residing at your local looney bin, actually believes that the IPU exists. And the reason for this universal disbelief in the IPU is that there is simply no proof of its existence. No one has ever seen it, other the aforementioned nuthouse residents. So if Stark had said that he does not believe in the IPU, a statement that itself presupposes that other people actually do hold such beliefs, his sanity, and therefore competence to hold public office would have indeed been brought into question.

But think about this. Stark said that he does not believe in something for which, similar to the IPU, there is simply no proof, i.e., God. But the belief in a supreme being is almost universally held, at least in this country. So his mere denial of the existence of God disqualifies him from holding public office, according to the Gallup poll, in the eyes of more than half of Americans. But what is the difference between a claim that their is no IPU and a claim that their is no God? Based on any disparity of proof as to the existence of either there simply is none. So shouldn’t a belief in the existence of a supreme being raise similar questions regarding the competency to hold public as the belief in the Invisible Pink Unicorn?

- Jeff Bloomfield

Republicans Still Voting to Kill Troops

As we pass the fourth anniversary of the Iraq Debacle, here's an excellent post from DailyKos about how Republicans continue to send overworked, under-equipped, and at times physically and mentally unstable troops back to Iraq.

Not only do they continue to show their callous disregard for our troops' safety, they also show their ignorance of very recent history, as some of their fellow Republicans went down to defeat in November 2006 when ads like this one from VoteVets shined the light on their hollow claims to be "supporting the troops".

In a recent vote, the Republican members of the House Appropriations Committee unanimously opposed requiring that the troops sent to Iraq be properly prepared for their mission and protected with armor. Again.

So who did it? Does one of these troop-killers live near you? Let's name names:

Alabama: Robert Aderholt
California: John Doolittle and Jerry Lewis
Florida: Ander Crenshaw, Dave Weldon and C.W. "Bill" Young
Georgia: Jack Kingston
Idaho: Michael K. Simpson
Illinois: Mark Steven Kirk and Ray LaHood
Iowa: Tom Latham
Kansas: Todd Tiahrt
Kentucky: Harold Rogers
Louisiana: Rodney Alexander
Michigan: Joe Knollenberg
Mississippi: Roger Wicker
Missouri: Jo Ann Emerson
Montana: Dennis Rehberg
New Jersey: Rodney Frelinghuysen
New York: James Walsh
Ohio: Ralph Regula and David Hobson
Pennsylvania: John Peterson
Tennessee: Zach Wamp
Texas: John Carter, John Culberson and Kay Granger
Virginia: Virgil Goode and Frank Wolf"

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Saving Human Lives

Watch this:

It would be great if our foreign policy really allowed us to save human lives around the world (including the US).

And if you haven't seen this:

Did this actually air on a FOX show?

Alternative Energy Daily news - March 20, 2007

  • Hybrid technologies developed jointly by Peterbilt Motors Company and Eaton Corporation have been integrated into an aerodynamically styled Class-8 heavy-duty vehicle. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. is supporting development of the technologies.

  • "Building green," a catch-all for environmentally smart and region-specific construction, is the buzz phrase in contemporary architecture.

  • N.J. small businesses are providing renewable energy.

  • Environment ministers from the world's leading industrial nations began discussions this past Friday on how to step up international action to combat climate change.

  • AOL founder Steve Case, supermarket magnate Ron Burkle and venture capitalist Vinod Khosla are investing in a company that could produce up to 1 billion gallons of ethanol a year in Brazil.

  • Applied Materials will install solar panels that will be capable of generating 1.9 megawatts of power on the roofs of the buildings of its Sunnyvale, Calif.-based campus. That's bigger than the 1.6 megawatt facility search giant Google announced in October.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Monday Links

  • Despite the fact that its citizens pay taxes and fight in this country's wars, Bush has declared his opposition to a bill that would give the District of Columbia its first full seat in the House of Representatives, saying (without merit) that it is unconstitutional.

  • Newly -elected Democratic Governor Bill Ritter of Colorado signed a law requiring hospitals to tell rape victims about the availability of emergency contraception.

  • Another newly elected Democratic Governor, Ted Strickland of Ohio, unveiled plans to expand Ohio’s early-education effort.

  • Wyoming's Democratic Governor Dave Freudenthal signed a bill Thursday that will set aside $4 million in state matching funds for an endowment program to benefit 16 rural and critical-access hospitals across the state.

  • In a bipartisan confrontation with the White House over executive branch secrecy, the House ignored a stern veto threat and overwhelmingly passed a package of open-government bills yesterday that would roll back administration efforts to shield its workings from public view.

  • Congratulations to Missouri Governor Matt Blunt, who overruled his GOP administration's Labor Department and ordered that it declare that tipped workers are covered by the state's new minimum wage law.

  • The Senate overwhelmingly approved legislation to implement many of the remaining reforms suggested by the Sept. 11 commission, forcing a fresh national security confrontation with President Bush, who has threatened to veto the bill over a provision to expand the labor rights of 45,000 airport screeners (i.e., because he does not believe in workers' rights).

  • Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome evangelical Christians to the world of reality. The National Association of Evangelicals has endorsed an anti-torture statement saying the United States has crossed "boundaries of what is legally and morally permissible" in its treatment of detainees and war prisoners in the fight against terror.

  • The Kroger Co. has promised to always offer Plan-B emergency contraception.