Wednesday, November 16, 2005

White Phosphorous

If there was any question whether White Phosphorous is a banned chemical weapon under the Chemical Weapons Convention, "to which the U.S. is a party", this ought to clear it up:

The CWC is monitored by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, based in The Hague. Its spokesman Peter Kaiser was asked if WP was banned by the CWC and he had this to say:

"No it's not forbidden by the CWC if it is used within the context of a military application which does not require or does not intend to use the toxic properties of white phosphorus. White phosphorus is normally used to produce smoke, to camouflage movement.

"If that is the purpose for which the white phosphorus is used, then that is considered under the Convention legitimate use.

"If on the other hand the toxic properties of white phosphorus, the caustic properties, are specifically intended to be used as a weapon, that of course is prohibited, because the way the Convention is structured or the way it is in fact applied, any chemicals used against humans or animals that cause harm or death through the toxic properties of the chemical are considered chemical weapons."

Before I speak too soon, however, we have this caveat, which, though not noble by any measure, needs to be considered in determining whether the CAC has been violated:

The US can say therefore that this is not a chemical weapon and further, it argues that it is not the toxic properties but the heat from WP which causes the damage. And, this argument goes, since incendiary weapons are not covered by the CWC, therefore the use of WP against combatants is not prohibited...the United States has not signed up to a convention covering incendiary weapons which seeks to restrict their use.

This convention has the cumbersome title "Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons." Agreed in 1980, its Protocol III covers "Prohibitions or Restrictions on use of Incendiary Weapons."

This prohibits WP or other incendiaries (like flamethrowers) against civilians or civilian objects and its use by air strikes against military targets located in a concentration of civilians. It also limits WP use by other means (such as mortars or direct fire from tanks) against military targets in a civilian area. Such targets have to be separated from civilian concentrations and "all feasible precautions" taken to avoid civilian casualties.

One can imagine that the use of White Phosphorous was not random, and instead was strategized and ordered, and thus vetted by our ever-clever military legal advisors, with the understanding that it would be best if the use of WP was not to become generally known, but, if it did, there was a fallback legal position.

My take is that it is wrong (if not evil) to use a chemical weapon that indiscriminately melts the skin off anyone unfortunate enough to be in the ordinance zone. I'm not saying this in light of the history of war, which has employed much more savage efforts (including our own use of nuclear weapons), but in the language of right conduct and morality, whether true to Christian or other ideals.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Daily News & Commentary

For the best grassroots review of the previous day's news and commentary on the blogosphere, none is better than Cursor.

Check 'em out.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Rebuttal To Krauthammer Still To Come

Totally got sidetracked on the Krauthammer piece proclaiming the victory of neoconservatism, so I'll have to go back and review that and put it together, as promised. My recollection is that there really wasn't much to rebut in Krauthammer's piece, due mainly to its near-total triumphalism, full of pronouncements but with little substance to actually criticize. One can always criticize pronouncments as well, by undermining them with rival pronouncements, so that's what I'll probably do. We'll see...

The Bush Pushback

The Bush Administration is now trying to save its reputation. Having realized that the American people have come to their senses, and concluded that our leadership has brought "shame to our nation", Bush is in damage control mode. His ratings are in the basement, a majority of Americans do not trust him or his leadership, the Democrats are making gains at GOP expense in local races, and his assistant and Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, Scooter Libby, has been indicted for lying about his central role in the Plame leak. In a parliamentary system, Bush would have already been forced to step down or call for new elections. As is, we are not a parliamentary system, and don't want to be, so how best to proceed with a lame duck president who nobody trusts?

This is a tricky issue, because obviously one can look favorably at 2006 prospects for the opposition party to bring some balance to Washington, but ultimately we are conducting an occupation in Iraq and pursuing a campaign against terrorism, and the stakes are high. Are we really to pursue and conduct these activities with a stained, corrupt, and incompetent president unable to lead and govern effectively? To be short, that looks to be the case, but by changing Washington in 2006, and keeping the pressure on the Bush Administration, we can likely demand more accountability and hopefully influence a change of course in our pressing global challenges, which includes far more than neutralizing terrorism, especially in the case of urgent action needed in the global commons as regards climate change, dwindling rainforests, and other ecological crises.

I will be focusing on these issues in my latest return, which hopefully lasts longer than a few days.

Monday, August 15, 2005

The Rival Project To PNAC Returns

This blog has always been my platform for criticism of the Project For A New American Century. Thus, I named it Project For A New Century of Freedom. The difference is that it's not reserved for Americans, or for American dominance. Rather, it reflects the very American idea that all human beings are born equal, with inalienable rights. Does that mean I'm going to start a crusade to ensure that for the whole world? No, at least not a military crusade. Not aggression, but persuasion. And, believe me, I'm skeptical, and am perfectly happy with a steady expansion of the circle of liberty and democracy.

The subname of the blog, "raising the twin towers of reason and compassion", is an allusion to constructing a world that is less dominated by instrumental reason and technocracy, and better balanced with emphasis on human compassion, decency, and justice. If that sounds postmodern to you, you're right. I'm well acquainted with all of the philosophical schools, including postmodernism, and though I still greatly value solid logic, reasoning, and rhetoric, that does not mean that the choice of frame through which to use our reason is neutral or equal.

Last, this all started because of the approaching war in Iraq, for otherwise I would have paid little attention to the PNAC'ers, assuming their grandiose ambitions were too radical for anybody to get behind. But, lo and behold, 9-11 happened, and hysteria hit the homeland. It was my patriotic duty to play whatever part I could in breaking the spell of the fearmongers, and getting us to focus on the real threats to civilization and humanity.

And, in perfectly synchronicitous timing, Charles Krauthammer is claiming victory for the neoconservatives (PNAC) today, which is simply absurd (I'd felt less compelled to write everyday comfortable that the neoconservatives were digging their own grave, after having proved unable to listen). All I need is motivation, and world events certainly provide them, not to mention easy targets like Krauthammer, which will be the substance of the next post.

Friday, April 08, 2005

The Pope

He seemed to look out and care for the little guy more than most powerful leaders of powerful organizations, and he was a strong voice in dissent against elective wars. May he rest in peace.

God bless.

IMF Says Get Ready For High Oil Prices...For Good

The world faces “a permanent oil shock” and will have to adjust to sustained high prices in the next two decades, the International Monetary Fund said on Thursday in the starkest official warning yet about the long-term outlook for energy supplies.

Predicting surging demand from emerging countries and limited new supplies from outside the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries after 2010, Raghuram Rajan, IMF chief economist, said: “We should expect to live with high oil prices.”

“Oil prices will continue to present a serious risk to the global economy,” he added.

Here is a classic example of our failure to act, from a combination of largely individual (citizen) inattention and entrenched special interests dominating social decision-making, on available information pointing to a more optimal (or satisficing) path for us in terms of energy policy and investment.

As it is, we are behind the Japanese and Europeans when it comes to relative investment in alternative energy sources and technologies aside from oil, and we further are conditioned (microeconomically at least), in our daily lives, to artificially low oil prices (for use in our cars and heating our homes).

The result could be disastrous for consumer spending and our economy, not to mention ominous for those who already struggle to pay rent and utilities each month. If we fairly suddenly start paying higher prices for oil-based products, like gas and heating, we are going to have less discretionary income for spending. The effects, if not managed effectively, could lead to a downward spiral for spending, investment, jobs, quality of life, and consumer confidence.

With this in mind, ask yourself how we've backed ourselves into this corner. Why have we not followed the eloquent suggestions of people like Paul Hawken or Amory Lovins?

First, we are not doing a good job at raising and educating citizens in our country. Instead, we seem more focused on producing consumers and specialist labor.

Second, special interests and the oil lobby dominate our politics. Oil, military, and other big industries are allowed to influence our political process and social decision-making in pathological ways. It's time we change.

How do we change though? Do enough of us care or are aware of the problem? That's one issue. And, even if we raise a critical mass, how can we make government more responsive to citizens?

We need to come up with some answers, and hopefully they will result in a new energy direction that honors both economics and ecology (not to mention ethics).

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Slowly But Surely Coming Back

I'm pretty amused about my last post in February, explaining how fired up I am about my imminent return to the blogosphere. Oh well. Here we are in April, and I'm slowly getting around to posting again. Yes, I've been very busy...

So, here are some notes to break the ice again, and I'll be around each day with a new post or two into the future.


punish destruction of documents to impede criminal investigation by 20 years, and offer $1 million award for whistleblowers who can prove document destruction occurred
that would fix the problem


"The EPA's own Children's Health Protection Advisory Committee wrote last year that the proposed EPA rule 'does not sufficiently protect our nation's children.'"

Susan West Marmagas (Physicians For Social Responsibility)

"This rule flies in the face of the best science, the best experts and the public."


Pentagon audit calls "illogical" Halliburton's billing of $27.5 million for delivery of $82,000 in petroleum - suggests bookkeeping error and recommends Halliburton review matter (Halliburton has already defended such billing by labeling as mission-critical in dangerous environment)


ANWAR - government estimates 6-16 million barrels of oil could be potentially tapped - America used 7 million barrels a year - all this controversy over a relatively small and insignifigant amount of oil - and environmentalists contend that far less than the annual oil usage can economically be extracted, not to mention while spoiling undeniable value of the wilderness, and endangering the wildlife therein)

Thursday, February 17, 2005

A Healthy Hiatus...Ends

It's been 5 months since I've left this blog on hiatus. Duty called elsewhere. Occasionally, I would still pop around elsewhere in the blogosphere, but for the most part I was idle. Idle in this environment, that is. I've still been following current events, the Bush victory, reading like mad, formulating plans, and synthesizing doctrines, along with just living and working, and it's good. The break has been refreshing, but now is the time to reengage.

This evening I'll start putting up posts again - on social security, on media issues (consolidation/control/propaganda), on the freedom of information, on ecological sanity and economics, on political and economic stewardship [i.e. presidential, congressional, and grassroots leadership] that puts people first - and I hope it will contribute something.

On a parallel track, I'll be rolling out the new format for this blog, which will allow for greater organization and search capability of past posts, and will incorporate a few new sections, like book reviews, that fit better with a topical organization than the linear chronological diary format.