Is The Glass Half Empty – Or Brimming Over?

It’s truly fascinating the differences encountered between the various news media reporting on Iraq these days. Mainstream media videos show Iraqis wandering happily around the various markets; normal life, as though no war had ever been encountered.

BBC World America recently made much of a Baghdad park full of picnickers, small children happily playing on swings and slides and, just tonight in Basra, a shopping mall packed with happy-faced customers.

Leila Fadel of McClatchy reports on her blog today:

“In Basra the city is rivers of sewage, destroyed buildings and bridges from war after war after war…………Every day I pass by the same buildings destroyed during the U.S. led invasion in my neighborhood in Baghdad. Every day they look exactly the same, a pile of rubble. The electricity problem seems to be getting worse; Iraqis have an average of about four hours of electricity a day. While there is talk of reconstruction, a bridge here, flowers planted there the people don’t feel a change.”[1]

Sometimes it’s hard to grant any credibility whatever to the mainstream media. The problem is, they’re fooling a lot of people.

Thank God for McClatchy.

[1] “Bridges and Water and Power, Oh No!” Baghdad Observer, Aug 5th 2008

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Let’s All Drown Ourselves In American Oil

George W Bush is in favor of drilling for oil on the continental shelf. John McCain has flip-flopped in favor of a similar policy. Barack Obama is in process of flip-flopping towards the same goal.


Because, we are told, the vast majority of Americans are also in favor, thus making it an election issue.

Exactly five years ago, thirty-five thousand people died in Europe, all within a few weeks, from the effects of the worst heatwave ever recorded.[1] Today, according to the US media, Texas and surrounding regions are “…. dealing with history-making heat; dangerous and unhealthy and unrelenting. Eleven straight days of 100+ degree temperatures….” according to NBC News.

California is rapidly becoming one huge bonfire, years of drought parch much of Nebraska, Tennessee, and Georgia,[2] while just a few months ago most of Iowa and parts of Wisconsin were under water following the wettest spring in the region on record.[3]

Why do George W Bush, John McCain, Barack Obama, and most Americans want to allow drilling for oil on the continental shelf? Because they believe it will cut America’s dependence on foreign oil, and ensure gas prices drop sufficiently so America can once again tank around in its big SUV’s for decades to come.

Personally, I believe the candidates have far more serious matters to consider. I understand that a majority of Americans suffer from acute blindness, serious deafness, and a shortage of commmonsense. I would like the mandatory issue of optical lenses and hearing aids to become an election issue. Sadly, as yet there’s no quick fix for stupidity.

Unfortunately, my suggestion won’t be taken on board, because the candidates themselves suffer the same afflictions. So, for them, and every American who believes this world exists solely to provide them with dirt cheap gasoline, let me spell it out as simply as possible:


I’m sorry I can’t make it any clearer than that. If you still fail to grasp it, please, just do the rest of us a favor. Take your trusty side-iron out to some solitary spot and blow your last few remaining braincells to the wind, where they’ll be of limited use, but have a more worthwhile existence than when adhered inertly to the inside of your thick skull.

America may want its gasoline prices to fall, but it’s the last thing America needs. Frankly, I’ll be elated if prices keep going up to the point no-one can ever afford to use a fossil-fueled engine again. Then, perhaps, we’ll all get off our backsides and start demanding vehicles that don’t pollute the planet. Vehicles, incidentally, that could be available today, if only the oil companies weren’t desperate to prevent us having them.

Not that they can stop us buying one, you understand. They just happen to own virtually every refueling station on the planet and are not keen to allow hydrogen-storage on their forecourts. Without that infrastructure, no vehicle manufacturer is going to invest too much in a hydrogen-cell vehicle, though to date Honda has the biggest balls in the marketplace.[4]

During the Iowa floods, ‘MarketWatch’ (link below) published an article focusing on the effect of the disaster on the ethanol industry, reliant as it is on the corn-producing lands so abundant in Iowa:

“….. looking at the flooded plains of the Midwest, we are confronted with the awful realization that domestic energy production is vulnerable not only to the whims of Washington, but to Acts of God in a way that oil fields, tucked deep in the earth, are not.”

MarketWatch got it horribly wrong on just one point. The Iowa floods, the European heatwave of 2003, the droughts in Georgia and Tennessee – none of these are Acts of God. They are all, irrefutably, acts of man.

If America, along with the rest of the planet, doesn’t shake off its complacency and condemn the fossil-fueled internal combustion engine to the scrapheap of history, within a few short years the planet on which we live will effectively do the job for us, not by eliminating the vehicles but through the destruction of those who drive them.

[1] “2003 European heat wave” Wikipedia

[2] “Georgians fighting over Tennessee border” TNJN, Feb 12th 2008

[3] “Corn-belt floods sweep aside ethanol hubris” MarketWatch, June 12th 2008

[4] “Honda FCX Clarity 2008

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Why I’ll Not Take The Pledge

There’s always a lot of chatter on the internet about government policies: the manner in which it’s handling the credit crisis, rising gas prices, and even stuff as far back as the initial invasion of Iraq and Hurricane Katrina.

Most of the criticism is justified. God knows, there’s been a fair bit of it on Sparrow Chat, but I’ve found myself of late seriously considering why, despite my permanent residency in the US, I cannot bring myself to apply for citizenship. After all, governments are governments, and wherever in the world, most are corrupt, inefficient, and care little for their nationals till voting time.

I never applied for citizenship of the UK, of course. It was handed to me as a birthright. I never had to swear allegiance, or sing the national anthem before an audience of my peers, or anything else equally absurd. So, I don’t see why I should have to do so here. Citizenship, to my way of thinking, should be automatic after, say, ten years of permanent residency.

I don’t believe many Americans would agree with that. Most see citizenship as an honor bestowed, even though the vast majority received it for the sheer geographical coincidence of being born here.

Swearing allegiance, to me at least, means pledging myself to defend American ideology against other human beings who just happen to live elsewhere and within a different culture. My personal opinions have little in common with what passes for US ideology, and I find something grotesquely awry about a country that brags of its ‘freedoms’, yet incarcerates more of its citizens than any other nation in order to achieve it.

The only occasion I would consider defending anything was if I, or my family, was in imminent personal danger, a situation that could occur anywhere in the world, so swearing allegiance solely to obtain citizenship would, for me, be akin to perjury.

That, then, is one of my main reasons for not becoming a US citizen.

I guess Abu Khabab is another.

For those unfamiliar with the name, Abu Khabab was reputed to be a key poisons and explosives expert for al Qaeda. He was, no doubt, a thoroughly despicable character. Note, use of the past tense, because Abu Khabab is dead. He was killed last Monday in the tribal regions of Pakistan.[1] It doesn’t bother me that Abu Khabab is dead. It was the manner of his demise that causes concern.

Abu Khabab was killed by a US predator drone. These days that’s not unusual. The practice of assassination by remote control is common, utilized both by the Israeli government and that of the United States. What’s scary, is that despite all the government critique festering on the internet, I’ve read not a word in condemnation of injudicial assassinations by a lawfully-elected government.

While many reprove the Bush administration for its tactics against extremists mythically grouped under the banner, ‘al Qaeda’, and believe use of the term ‘war’ with its attendant distortion of legalities, to be inappropriate, they miss the implication of their government committing cold-blooded murder in their name. In fact, by the omission of censure, they accept it.

“Another bad man taken care of.” “One less terrorist to worry about.”

How often have we heard those kind of phrases bandied about, both in the media and on the street, or in the workplace?

Whatever happened to “innocent till proven guilty”? Where is the right of every man to a fair trial? How far is it from remotely ‘taking out’ a stranger in the hills of Pakistan, to doing away with the judiciary altogether and having a police officer summarily execute criminals caught at the scene of a crime, perhaps on a US street?

It may be more convenient to accept that Abu Khabab was just ‘another bad man’ who deserved to die, but without the correct judicial procedure, and knowing how governments lie, no-one can be sure.

Maybe I’m in the minority, but to pledge loyalty to a nation whose citizens allow their government to murder in cold blood, and who raise not a murmur of dissent, is not in my nature.

There are many good people in these United States. They need to wake up. They need to sit up. They need to start shouting.

Otherwise, one day, it may be too late.

[1] “Al-Qaida confirms death of poisons expert in Pakistan” Guardian, Aug 3rd 2008

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