Tuesday, July 24, 2007

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Depressing Politics

Alberto Gonzales "testified" at the Senate today, with Senators of both parties not even bothering to imply that he is a serial liar and/or incompetent on important matters and functions of his office as Attorney General--they just said it outright. President Bush is at all time lows in national polls--25% approval in one. Yet he gave a long speech today demonizing his enemies and asserting his Iraq war policy, with administration suggesting that it could well go on to at least 2009.

Nevertheless, Gonzales is intent on remaining Attorney General of the U.S., and Bush retains all the powers of the Presidency. And there's not a damn thing anybody is doing about any of it. Though the talk about impeaching all of them--Bush, Cheney and Gonzales--is increasing, it is still just talk.

Apart from present miseries and outrages, what does this say about the future? That a virtual dictator can succeed in the U.S. Everyone but a few fringe characters are counting on Bush and Cheney being gone when their term expires, and they probably will leave. But the next time? I wouldn't count on it. Nixon pushed the powers of the executive so far and was pushed back, but not all the way. Reagan pushed them further. Bush II has pushed them beyond what anyone in previous decades would have believed possible. And so the next elected dictator has not very far to go to negate the last pretense of constitutional democracy, the elections. (As Kurt Vonnegut alluded in his famous quote, Hitler was elected, though it's not clear that Bush ever was.)

The 2008 campaign is also less than inspiring so far. Every time I start warming a little to the idea of Hillary as the Democratic candidate, she or her staff does something else that puts me off big time. Today it's the highly and transparently "political" and otherwise stupid and dishonest criticism of something Barack Obama said in the debate last night. There's no real disagreement--it's pure opportunism, and that's really depressing. Moreover, there's little hope for the future with that kind of politics.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Noah's Radio

Droughts are long, heat waves kill the most vulnerable and least visible, but of all the more obvious climate crises effects, floods affect the most people most dramatically in the shortest time, and in a defined area.

The floods that have attacked remote third world lands don't make the news, and even the ones earlier this summer in Texas passed without much notice, but perhaps two separate and quite large incidents this weekend will obtain some media focus.

In China, storms are expected to continue battering the Yangtze and Huai river valleys, where 150 people died last week because of floods. As reported by a Chinese news agency, floods have affected nearly half of China since May, with some 400 dead. Now there are the heavy storms themselves, with lightning and hail, causing landslides as well as flooding.

In England, the Guardian reports: More than 350,000 people are facing days without fresh water supplies and a clean-up operation lasting months as devastating floods this weekend left communities cut off across central and southern England. The disasters required emergency help from the RAF in "one of its largest peacetime operations", but though the response seems a lot better than the US government managed in the Katrina debacle, there's controversy about preparedness and government actions, especially as the rains--two months worth in one day--were forecast two days ahead of time. "The government defended its handling of the crisis, but the chief executive of the Environment Agency, Lady Young, said it would cost £1bn a year to prevent further flooding, and predicted worsening conditions in future due to climate change;"

Meanwhile, weather services in Denmark and Sweden issued warnings of heavy rainfall that could cause flooding.