Thursday, December 25, 2008

I am Truly sick of this person....

Ignoring the pleas of those calling for a more credible figure, Senate Democrats have instead chosen Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) to lead the Senate Committee on Intelligence. Feinstein was among those who falsely claimed in 2002 — despite the lack of any apparent credible evidence — that Saddam Hussein had somehow reconstituted Iraq's arsenal of chemical and biological weapons, as well as its nuclear weapons program.

She used this supposed threat to justify her vote in October 2002 to grant President George W. Bush the unprecedented authority to invade Iraq. Most congressional Democrats voted against the resolution. So it is particularly disturbing that Democrats would award the coveted Intelligence Committee chair to someone from the party's right-wing minority.

...more here...

Dianne's results:

Monday, December 22, 2008


Torres del Paine, Chile

Fjord at Puerto Natales, Chile

...more here...

Friday, December 19, 2008

Leader of Women's Group Murdered in Iraq

Isn't this the part where someone invariably explains how much better off Iraqis are than they'd be under Saddam Hussein?

Iraqi police say attackers have decapitated the leader of the women's league of the Kurdish Communist Party.

Not In My Name

Not In My Name: No National Prayer By Rick Warren

(Robin Tyler and Diane Olson being married at the Beverly Hills Courthouse, Monday, June 16, 2008, in Beverly Hills, Calif. AP Photo/Kevork Djansezian)

I'm not especially surprised that President-Elect Barack Obama has chosen to honor a Christianist fundamentalist like Rick Warren who earns his income and his standing by steadily endorsing hate beliefs against certain segments of American citizenship. Obama has seldom acted on his so-called belief in the human rights of lesbians and gays, not in a political sense. Him throwing us under the bus again was to be expected. I voted for him knowing he would.

What choice did I have? He knows that about us. Much of his gathered leadership knows it as well. If a point can be scored, a favor earned, by reiterating our expendibility, they will do it. They're not progressives as I define the term, and this is part of the reason why.

But the choice to have Warren deliver his invocation at the inauguration is more than handing us shit on a plate with an extra-big spoon. It's a shocking mistake, I believe, for at least three reasons...more here

Monday, December 15, 2008

I love this stuff...

Archaeology magazine's top 10 finds of 2008 include Maya paint...

...and ancient [human] poop.

And there are bonus finds as well, including a monumental discovery that the discoverers have been trying to keep under wraps...

OMG...but no surprise...

Senate report links Bush to detainee homicides; media yawns
Glenn Greenwald,

The bipartisan Senate Armed Services Committee report issued on Thursday -- which documents that "former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other senior U.S. officials share much of the blame for detainee abuse at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba" and "that Rumsfeld's actions were 'a direct cause of detainee abuse' at Guantanamo and 'influenced and contributed to the use of abusive techniques ... in Afghanistan and Iraq'" -- raises an obvious and glaring question: how can it possibly be justified that the low-level Army personnel carrying out these policies at Abu Ghraib have been charged, convicted and imprisoned, while the high-level political officials and lawyers who directed and authorized these same policies remain free of any risk of prosecution? The culpability which the Report assigns for these war crimes is vast in scope and unambiguous:

The executive summary also traces the erosion of detainee treatment standards to a Feb,. 7, 2002, memorandum signed by President George W. Bush stating that the Geneva Convention did not apply to the U.S. war with al Qaeda and that Taliban detainees were not entitled to prisoner of war status or legal protections.

"The president's order closed off application of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, which would have afforded minimum standards for humane treatment," the summary said. too about the 25-yo detainee who died just yesterday of a 'heart attack'...

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Universal Declaration of Human Rights 60th Anniversary

Human Rights ... for Whom?

by: Robin Willoughby, Share The World's Resources

The 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights will be rightly lauded as a landmark in international attempts to formalize the rights and responsibilities between governments and their citizens. If we ask if the Declaration has proven a success, however, we need only glance at a few statistics; almost three billion people live in poverty on less than US$2.50 a day, and the number of hungry people actually increased this year to nearly one billion people.[1] As the world reaped record levels of harvests in 2008, the most basic right to food is still denied to around 1 in 6 people on the planet.[2] But how did we get to this situation?

An answer to this can be simply put: on the international stage, the world's most powerful nations have prioritised those human rights associated with political freedom and peace and security, at the expense of those rights related to economic justice.

To read the full article...

Thursday, November 13, 2008


The overall topography includes wide river valleys irrigated by big hydraulic projects directing the copious Andean runoff, separated by semi-arid, desertified stretches resembling the American Southwest. The long transit from Rioja to Belen impressed me with the vast open empty spaces that exist between the major cities. In some respects, the Western part of this country is like my home state of Arizona at about 1950 writ very large. The desert looks very much like the Sonoran desert, with a bit more precipitation. There are analogues to Mesquite, Palo Verde and Creosote Bush. Goats, sheep, cattle are in the unirrigated regions. The farmland irrigated by the rivers is reminiscent of the agricultural areas around Phoenix.

The people are gracious, friendly and proud. I've had no inappropriate requests for money at any of the police checkpoints. They seem to be focused on the many very old, tiny little cars from the 1950's that are still on the road. Those old cars and the ubiquitous motorbikes make driving very hazardous, although the highways are maintained to the US standard. No potholes on state or federal highways.

There are a few noticeable negatives to living in Argentina that I have identified: It appears that property crimes are endemic. Bars on windows and barbed-wire (or broken glass!) topped walls are a commonplace.

Other features I have noticed:

1. There are distinct cultural differences. Immediately noticeable is the openness of people to socialize and be generous and helpful. National pride is a subtext. Even strangers will kiss you on the cheeks.

2. English speakers are rare outside BA. (Needless to say, I need to refresh my Spanish after 40 years of neglect.)

3. Imported goods are not as common as in the US.

4 There is apparently a moderate state subsidy for diesel—approximately 75 cents per gallon, and

5. Business hours are approximately 8:00 am to 12:30, closed until 4:00 or 4:30 then open until 8 pm. Restaurants start serving dinner about 8:30 or 9:00 pm and go till midnight.

In sum, this is a wonderful country, particularly if you have facility in Spanish, and don’t need to be deeply integrated into the local social scene. Reports from people who’ve immigrated here a decade ago can be summarized: beyond the overall friendliness, the process of developing a familial level of closeness with the locals is slow.

Theory of Art

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Post 16: Quirky stuff...

Being a blog, our trip is in reverse order. Have fun!

The ubiquitous 'cafe chica'. (that cup is about 2" tall)

The national drink, cafe chica is espresso. The other national drink is cafe de leche. Then there's mate (mah-tay) tea...we tried it and it tasted like field grass. Haven't quite developed a taste for it yet...

Dozens of bird nests. A real community of purpose here.

Behind every older home was a bake oven. And used.

These two pics are of brick works. The semi-pyramids smoke during firing. We saw lots of them everywhere. Most all buildings are brick.

Post 15: Tucuman to Cordoba

We're heading back to Cordoba for our flight to Buenos Aires, transfer airports and onto a plane for Miami.

This was the food basket of Argentina. Very lush.

We saw this thunderstorm from a distance and then drove through it. Really beautiful.

Jeez, those feet just never leave.

Post 14: Tucuman

Tucuman was beautiful, hot and humid. These are all buildings around the main town square.

(Two catholic churches.)

Government building.

Tucuman's concept of Liberty in their main square. She was beautiful.

Here's the view from our hotel room onto the main square in Tucuman. A four star hotel for an equivalent of $80US per night.

The other of two Catholic churches on the town square. The interior was unbelievable but we didn't feel comfortable taking pics while they were doing the mass.

Tucuman is an economically vibrant, substantial city. The old center is especially overcrowded with chaotic traffic. Based on a couple of conversations with locals, the mountain valleys to the West of the city are very verdant and somewhat cooler than this subtropical city.

Post 13: Belen to Tucuman

Monday was a very arduous transit from Belen, Northwest of Catamarca up to Tucuman. It was six solid hours on rough dirt two-lane road, starting with passage though extremely dry, hot low back country that supported a few goat ranches until we reached Andalgala.

Just outside that tiny dusthole, we began a long grinding series of switchbacks up a steep pitch, gaining 5,000 feet in no more than ten kilometers of horizontal travel on the map. Along the way we met a regularly scheduled passenger bus traveling to Andalgala from Adumbrera! I don´t know how he negotiated some of the hairpins.

At the top of the long climb, the environment quickly transitioned from the dry hillside to scenic farmland and quaint villages. Unfortunately, our camera batteries ran out about the time we reached to top of the desert side. Twenty kilometers or so further the mountain became much wetter and soon we were in subtropical forest as we descended from the ridges. Beautiful lush valleys visible from the road thousands of feet below.

The descent was also arduous switchbacking for over an hour, but it was much cooler and wetter. Finally got to pavement at Concepcion, about 50K outside Tucuman. Lush farmland all the way into the city. Beginning of sugarcane and banana agriculture. Tucuman is warm now and humid. Gets to upper 90´s with over 50% humidity in summer months.

Post 12: Mendoza to Belen

Passing on the right.

The bright colors didn't come through here, but this is a cemetery along the highway. It looked like a miniature town.

Old doors/buildings are everywhere.

Maybe they want to keep the goats out??

Southern Arizona redux:

Here they come...

...and there they go.

Tree breaks are planted everywhere.

More views from the highway.

It's hard to see, but in this pic there are goats, sheep, cows and horses. The only thing missing was the chickens.

Belen was the first town we saw that was poor. The northern regions have the largest indigenous populations. They have a longstanding history, were taken over by the Incas in 1000s and then survived a US West-like slaughter in the 1600-1800s.

We stayed the night in a hostel-type hotel and it was probably the best lodging in town. Their rock work was amazing. Old and new.