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Updated: 6 years 7 weeks ago

IRV–one victory, one setback

Tue, 2007-10-16 10:53

Voters in Cary, North Carolina became the first in the state to use instant runoff voting, and the vote seems to have gone very smoothly.

“I thought it was really positive,” said Alex Funk, a retired engineer who biked to the Herbert C. Young Community Center to vote. “I mean, why do this all twice?”

Next month voters in Hendersonville, North Carolins will use the system in their City Council election.

On the negative side,

On October 14, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed AB 1294, the bill to let all cities and counties use Instant-Runoff Voting for elections for their own officers. His veto message says, “This represents a drastic change to the way we vote. I am concerned that we don’t yet know enough about how voters will react to such a dramatic change. Charter cities and counties already have the right to hold ranked voting elections, yet only one city has done so thus far.”  Several cities in California have already voted to use Instant-Runoff Voting, but state law prevents them from implementing their choice because they aren’t charter cities.

U.S Income Inequality Sets Post War Record

Mon, 2007-10-15 20:02

NEw IRS data shows that the wealthiest 1% of Americans earned 21.2% of all income in 2005, up sharply from 19% in 2004, and surpassing the previous high of 20.8% set in 2000, at the peak of the previous bull market in stocks.  The bottom 50% earned 12.8% of all income, down from 13.4% in 2004 and a bit less than their 13% share in 2000.

The 2005 data follows a steady trend toward greater income inequality that began in the 1970s and accelerated in the 1980s and 90s.  The richest one percent now earn nearly the same share as they did back in the 1930s.

 And while total income has risen since 2001, median household income has declined.  This has been a rich man’s recovery.


It’s the Media’s Fault

Sun, 2007-10-14 12:34

“I’m sick and tired of only hearing the bad news. Why can’t someone talk about the good news?” Captain Edward Smith, Titanic, 11:40 PM, April 12, 1912.

Corn ethanol will threaten nation’s water supplies

Sat, 2007-10-13 12:34

The National Research Council has released a report that claims increasing corn ethanol production will stress the nation’s fresh water supplies.

Growing lots more corn using current farm practices will come at a huge water cost to Nebraska and other states where the fuel is made. Industrial farming methods would deplete underground water supplies and result in a flow of agricultural chemicals and eroded soil into rivers, lakes and oceans, according to the report, “Water Implications of Biofuels Production in the United States.”

“It is equivalent to ‘mining’ the water resource, and the loss of the resource is essentially irreversible,” the report said.

Arkansas Green Party Submits Ballot Petitions

Thu, 2007-09-27 10:52

In the first step toward the Green Party’s drive to get on all 51 ballots next year, the Arkansas Green Party submitted 17,197 signatures to the state board of elections yesterday.  If they have 10,000 valid signatures, they will be able to nominate candidates for any partisan office in the state.

Toledo Green Outpolls Incumbent Republican–In Runnoff

Mon, 2007-09-24 11:18

In Toledo, Ohio’s city council elections on September 11, 2007, Green Party candidate outpolled the incumbant Republican candidate in a three way race.  The results in the 6th district were: Democrat Lindsey Webb 1,403; Green David Ball 615; Republican Joe Birmingham 462. Webb and Ball will compete in a runoff on November 6. 

Oil Production Appears to be in Decline

Fri, 2007-09-21 19:07

The following chart shows world oil production as well as production of other oil liquids. All appear to have peaked.

Chart is reproduced from The Oil Drum.

The Northweest Passage is Navigable for the First Time in Recorded History

Mon, 2007-09-17 11:07

The Northwest Passage across Northern Canada is completely ice free for the first time ever, as Arctic ice cover dropped to around 3 million square miles this summer, a million square miles less than the previous recorded low.  Arctic ice cover has dropped by an average of around 100,000 square kilometers a year over the last ten years, so this year’s million square kilometer drop is itself a remarkable occurance.

Writer Madeleine L’Engle, 88; Author of ‘A Wrinkle in Time’

Sat, 2007-09-08 08:57

She was definitely one of my favorite authors. I haven’t felt this sad since I was in junior high and E. B. White died.

Arctic Ice at an All Time Low

Thu, 2007-09-06 15:53

According to the National Snow and Ice Data Center, Arctic sea ice hit a record low of 4.42 million square kilometers on September 4. The lowest absolute minimum previously recorded was 5.32 million square kilometers on September 20–21, 2005. With several more weeks to go, the absolute minimum this year will likely be even lower.

A global wheat crisis?

Wed, 2007-09-05 18:11

Andrew Leonard writes in Salon that global stockpiles of grain are plunging. A fascinating article that dovetails quite nicely with the documentary “The End of Suburbia.” Here’s a link to an article about sugar cane-derived biofuel.

Here’s something that I received from an aquaintance…..

Wed, 2007-09-05 06:15

The below was received from someone who wishes to remain anonymous.  As I understand it, this essay was part of an ongoing dialog with someone else.

The story of the mother of the young Israeli girl, killed in a suicide terrorist attack, was very sad and poignant. If we look at this tragedy in and of itself, the only conclusion that any decent person can draw is that the perpetrators of such an act are not fully human. “Savages” and ”barbarians” are the words that quickly come to mind. However, if we step back to see the bigger picture, the question arises, why do the Palestinians hate Israel? Is it simply a case of being born with an anti-Jewish gene? Is it, as Bush simplistically explains away 9-11, “they hate us for our freedoms”?

I grew up in a predominantly Jewish neighborhood in Brooklyn in the 1950s - Brighton Beach - and as a young child I saw the blue numbers engraved into peoples’ arms. The image of Jews that we had was marching to the cattle cars and into the death camps like sheep. So when the 1967 war came, and 6 days later little Israel had destroyed the air forces of Egypt, Jordan and Syria and captured and occupied so much land, we were all proud -finally, Jews that fought back! But Vietnam and the Civil Rights Movement created a crisis of cognitive dissonance for me. I learned in school and fully accepted that America stands for freedom and justice, yet we were bombing the hell out of this little country half way around the world that never attacked us, and were using fire hoses and attack dogs to put down peaceful, nonviolent protest against segregation while the KKK was murdering people - with the connivance of the FBI ! This forced me to face up to the painful fact that school, TV, movies - everyone was lying, and that I had to go out and do the intellectual legwork necessary to come up with some semblance of the truth. So I intensively studied US history and learned for the first time about the African Holocaust, the Native American Holocaust, the theft of the northern half of Mexico in 1846, Manifest Destiny, the rise of Jim Crow in the 1870s and especially, the ugly side of US post WW 2 foreign policy. My quest eventually led me to Israel - why would the US government - the only government to actually drop atomic bombs on civilians, supporter of dictators around the world, the same government that refused to open the doors of immigration to desperate Jewish refugees fleeing Nazism in the 1930s and 40s - why would the US support Israel? And what was the quid pro quo for Israel to get this support? For me, the original sin of Zionism was the attempt to build a Jewish state in a land where Jews were outnumbered by Palestinians, 12:1 in 1917, 8:1 in 1922 and 3:1 in 1947. The slogan was “a land without people for a people without land” but there were people. Perhaps not 50 million living in an urbanized and industrialized society, but a population of about 700,000. And it wasn’t a desert, but a mostly agricultural society with citrus orchards, olive groves, and fig and date trees known throughout the world. Trade, crafts, textiles and cottage industries flourished there. A “Jewish state” obviously means a state by and for the Jews, where Jews will enjoy certain rights and privileges that non Jews won’t have, otherwise it wouldn’t be called a Jewish state but a state, a democratic state or a non-religious, secular state. If the Pat Robertsons and Jerry Falwells get their wish, someday the US will be “a Christian state”. How would Jews and all other non Christians feel about that? With good reason, they’d feel that this state wasn’t going to represent and stand up for them, and that they were going to be second class citizens. Now if Palestine was truly a land without people, no one would’ve been hurt by this project of creating a new Jewish nation - an unoccupied land would’ve been peacefully occupied and settled. But a Jewish state in an already occupied country of non Jews would be impossible if Jews were a minority simply because the majority would  oppose rights and privileges exclusively enjoyed by a minority. The task of Zionism was thus to undo this negative demographic - to de-Arabize or in today’s parlance, “ethnically cleanse” Arab Palestine so that Jews could become the majority in a Jewish state. As Theodor Herzl, the founder of political Zionism prophesized, “we shall spirit the penniless population across the border and procure employment for them in neighboring countries, while denying it to them in ours”. As Joseph Weitz, the head of the Jewish Agency’s Colonization Department wrote in 1940, “Between ourselves it must be clear that there is no room for both peoples together in this country. We shall not achieve our goal if the Arabs are in this small country. There is no other way than to transfer the Arabs from here to neighboring countries - all of them. Not one village, not one tribe should be left.” In the 1930s, the Labor Zionists (David Ben Gurion, Golda Meir) sought to achieve this with a policy of “buy Jewish/hire Jewish” which aimed at economically choking the Palestinians and driving them into such misery that to survive, they would have to abandon Palestine. Also in the 1930s, masses of Jewish refugees from Nazism sought to come to the West, mostly the US, but the doors were closed to them due to anti Semitism, which US Zionists never protested against. David Ben Gurion, speaking to a meeting of Labor Zionists in Britain in 1938 - ” If I knew that it would be possible to save all the children in Germany by bringing them over to England and only half of them by transporting them to Eretz Israel, then I opt for the second alternative”. Obviously, if European Jews had a choice and chose the US, who would “Judaize” Palestine? So they were not given the choice, and out of desperation, these people came to Palestine. By 1947, the Jewish population had swelled to almost 31%. But the Palestinian Arabs were still there and were still the overwhelming majority. And after decades of trying to buy the land, the Zionists still only owned less than 6%, according to the Jewish National Fund’s own archives. The Zionists in 1947- 1948 turned to the violence and brute force that extremists like Vladimir Jabotinsky, an admirer of Mussolini, had predicted would one day be necessary, back in the early 1920s. There were massacres such as the one at Deir Yassin, a small village outside of Jerusalem where on April 9, 1948, 254 men, women and children were murdered in cold blood by the Zionist terrorist group Irgun. The Irgun leader, Jabotinsky-protege Menachem Begin bragged about it in his book, The Revolt: Story of The Irgun. This is the same Begin - “terrorist #1″ as the British called him, that became Israeli Prime Minister in the 1970s. Fearing more massacres by Zionist terrorists like the Irgun and the Lehi/Stern Gang (headed by another future Prime Minister, Yitzhak Shamir), the Palestinians did what all non combatants have done throughout human history during war - they fled temporarily until peace was restored and then fully intended to return to go on with their lives. But they weren’t allowed to return. Between 700-900,000 people were declared “absentee property owners” and their lands and other property were declared the property of the new State of Israel. Imagine having to evacuate your home because of a nearby train derailment involving a toxic substance, or a fire on your block, and then not being allowed to return and losing your possessions while strangers moved in! Deir Yassin was just one of many massacres and threats of massacres designed to create mass hysteria to achieve ethnic cleansing of Palestine. When Israeli state archives containing plans and memoranda of that time were opened to the public in the late 1980s, historians discovered that the stories of Arabs getting on the radio and telling the Palestinians to leave temporarily so that the Arab armies could come in “to wipe out the Jews” were falsifications of history. These so-called Revisionist historians (revising the founding myths) documented in detail Zionist leaders’ plans to drive out the non Jewish population (Plan Dalet). In fact, the leading Revisionist historian, Benny Morris criticized the Zionist leaders not for ethnic cleansing but for not being thorough enough, leaving “too many” Palestinians, about 20% of the Israeli population, as a future “demographic time bomb” given their higher birth rate. For 59 years these refugees have been denied the right to return, but Jews from all over the world are given that right. The Palestinians have steadfastly refused to assimilate into other Arab societies because they refuse to sever their connection to Palestine. In 1967, another 700,000  were driven out when Israel occupied the Gaza Strip and the West Bank and created a policy of establishing settlements and building civilian infrastructure - illegal under international law. The world, blinded by the enormity of the Nazi Holocaust ignored the plight of these people. Worse, the Palestinians were made to appear as no more than the latest in a long line of tormentors of the Jewish people, the most recent victimizers of the greatest victims of the greatest crime of the 20th century. But the Palestinians had nothing to do with Auschwitz, Dachau, Bergen-Belsen, Treblinka and the rest. Why, they ask should they have to lose their country and pay for the crimes of Europeans? If the Jews wanted a nation of their own why, after WW 2 didn’t they demand of the UN and world public opinion that Germany and Austria pay by ceding a part of its territory for a Jewish state? International law maintains that a people under occupation has the right to use force to resist which means more than just singing We Shall Overcome. So the Palestinians seek to resist. Suicide bombings are certainly a horrific tactic which I oppose, but the Palestinians don’t have an army, a navy, or an air force equipped with Apache and Black Hawk helicopters and all the other high-tech instruments of death provided free, courtesy of US taxpayers. And they don’t possess the 200-300 nukes that Israel has. In the past six years alone, wrote the historian Ilan Pappe, “Israeli forces have killed more than 4,000 Palestinians, half of them children”. Reporting on a four-year field study in occupied Palestine for the British Medical Journal, Dr Derek Summerfield wrote that “two-thirds of the 621 children killed at checkpoints, in the street, on the way to school, in their homes, died from small arms fire, directed in over half of cases to the head, neck and chest - the sniper’s wound”. Isn’t this terrorism? When looking at the current situation in Palestine, an observer will find an illegal Israeli occupation that has been festering for 40 years, combined with illegal ethnically-exclusive colonies built on stolen Palestinian land, and the world’s only ethnically-segregated road network, where many routes can only be accessed by Jews. An internationally-illegal apartheid barrier surrounds Palestinian towns and villages, not only cutting them off from one another, but also cutting off farmers from their lands, children from their schools, patients from their hospitals and workers from their jobs. If this wall was really there to protect against Palestinian terrorism, it would be built on the Green Line between Israel and the West Bank, not 80% within the West Bank. It’s nothing more than a naked land grab, seeking to make a future Palestinian state impossible. Israel controls all of the Palestinians’ openings to the outside world, stifling not only Palestinians’ freedom of movement, but also their economy and trade. Winston Churchill once said that “war is terrorism by the rich and terrorism is war by the poor”. Is this why, when the US killed between 3-4 million people in Southeast Asia by dropping napalm, Agent Orange and carrying out ”saturation bombings” in the 1960s and 1970s and the CIA murdered over 20,000 civilians in its notorious Operation Phoenix program, it was called “war” and not ”terrorism”? Why isn’t the CIA’s overthrowing of democratically-elected governments in Iran (1953), Guatemala (1954), Iraq (1963), Brazil (1964), Indonesia (1965) and Chile (1973) called “terrorism”? Why wasn’t Reagan’s support for death squads in Angola, Mozambique, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala in the 1980s with hundreds of thousands dead and “disappeared” called “terrorist”? Is this why the US sanctions program of the 1990s against Iraq which took the lives of over 1 million civilians including 1/2 million children was labeled “war” and not “terrorist”? And why can Israel blow up houses, carry out “targeted assassinations”, imprison 11,000 people without filing charges against them and denying them the right to be visited by family and attorneys, torture some of these prisoners, bomb water filtration plants and electric generators last year as they did in Gaza and Beirut last summer and drop one million cluster bombs over Lebanon that will explode when farmers plow their fields and little children pick them up, thinking that they’re toys — why can Israel do these things and yet it is the Palestinians who are the “terrorists” the “inhuman savages”? Israel developed a tactic that was soon named ‘targeted assassination’. According to the new Israeli military doctrine, all that was needed was some intelligence on the ground, which would be followed by a single Israeli jet launching an American guided missile in highly populated Gaza. The achievements were rather clear. In many cases targeted Palestinians were assassinated - in very many cases they found their death alongside innocent civilian bystanders who were unlucky enough to be in the proximity. These unfortunate people -  “collateral damage” - were in the wrong place at the very wrong time. In many other cases the pilots just missed or were misled by intelligence. As a result, many Palestinian civilians, old people, women and children found their death. In the 2006 Israeli-Lebanon war, Hezbollah fired over 4,000 Katyusha rockets into Israeli cities, killing a total of 43 Israeli civilians. By contrast, Israeli bombing of Lebanon killed an estimated 1,100-1,200 Lebanese civilians. Israel reportedly used white phosphorus chemical weapons against civilians with impunity, and in light of strong international protest. If Hezbollah’s terrorist acts killing over 40 Israelis are deplorable, what about Israel’s killing of 28 times as many civilians? Why does the US media, unlike the Israeli media neglect to report this? Because when the Israelis kill, it’s “war”, when the Palestinians kill, it’s “terrorism”? And why is it that anyone daring to point out this gross racist hypocrisy is demonized, denigrated and dismissed with the label of being a “Jew hater” or “self hater”??? suggested readings - Statistics not trumpeted by US media Non violent resistance of Palestinians not covered by US media Benny Morris - The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited Righteous Victims - A History of the Zionist-Arab Conflict, 1881-2001 Ilan Pappe The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine Avi Shlaim The Iron Wall Baruch Kimmerling Politicide - Ariel Sharon’s War Against the Palestinians Norman Finkelstein Beyond Chutzpah - On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse  of History