Author: Alexey

On the outside, looking . . .

John Redwood, a Conservative member of Parliament, comments in the NY Times, on the future structure of a relationship of the United Kingdom to European nations staying in the euro zone:

If the euro countries decide they want to integrate more, our government should negotiate a new relationship with their emerging country (call it Euroland). If they want to govern themselves as one state ”” to provide central controls over taxing, spending and borrowing ”” that would be a different deal from the grouping of countries we joined in 1972 to create the European Common Market. Most people here have never wanted much more than trade and friendship with our neighbors in what is now the European Union. Among the large majority here, there is little appetite for more common government.

Let the Holiday Games Begin!


It’s deja vu all over again
[2010 version].
Senator Jim Inhofe won’t ride:

Oklahoma Sen. Jim Inhofe (R) says he won’t participate in Tulsa’s annual Holiday Parade Of Lights until the “forces of political correctness” put “Christmas” back in the title. “I’m not going to ride in a Christmas parade that doesn’t recognize Christmas,” he said.
…”I am deeply saddened and disappointed by this change.”

Is this a great country or what?


“All I know is just what I read in the newspapers.” – Will Rogers

Have you heard this one?

This is a joke found in the Comments section of an article named Rally to Restore Sanity: Jon Stewart Assesses The Risks. It was posted by Smugglez at Huffington Post

A woman in a hot air balloon realized she was lost so she lowered her altitude and spotted a man in a boat below. She shouted to him, “Excuse me, can you help me? I promised a friend I would meet him an hour ago, but I don’t know where I am.”

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Cool Whip Happenings

Most of you will probably laugh at me for having posted this. After all, I am maybe the Agonist Fluff Queen, or more probably, Agonist Fluff Scullery Maid.
The geniuses at Kraft Foods have added milk and cream to Cool Whip Original. Here is the most recent ingredients list, copied from the label:
INGREDIENTS: WATER, HYDROGENATED VEGETABLE OIL (COCONUT AND PALM KERNEL OILS), HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP, CORN SYRUP, SKIM MILK, LIGHT CREAM, CONTAINS LESS THAN 2% OF SODIUM CASEINATE, NATURAL AND ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR, XANTHAN AND GUAR GUMS, POLYSORBATE 60, SORBITAN MONOSTEARATE, BETA CAROTENE (COLOR).

Here is a link to the Kraft Foods Cool Whip webpage which lists the ingredients:
http://brands.kraftfoods.com/coolwhip/main.aspx?s=product&m=product/Product_display&Site=1&Product=4300000953

Some of us have physiological dietary restrictions; some may have religious dietary restrictions; some may be the type of vegans who exclude dairy from their diet. Caveat CoolWhiptor.


“All I know is just what I read in the newspapers.” – Will Rogers

Don't just stand or sit there – do something

Boycott BP — any way you can. A nickel here, a dollar there, and pretty soon you’re talkin’ ’bout – oh wait, that was something else, wasn’t it? Sorry, Sen. Dirksen.

Yes, I know that there is a Facebook page, but I dunwanna join Facebook.
A link to a Facebook petition is here.

I’m making my own list. And on that list is my favorite motor oil, Castrol. But, no more for me.

First off, BP’s website URL is bp.com. The list of their products URL is
http://www.bp.com/productsservices.do?categoryId=37&contentId=2007985 .
The easy way to get there is, of course, to go to bp.com, then click on “Products and Services”.

In the U.S., their fuel and convenience stores are
BP US Retail “Gas stations, a little better”
am/pm “Round-the-clock service for you”
ARCO “High octane gas with less harmful emissions”
Amoco Ultimate “More performance, less pollution”

In the U.S., their motor oil and lubricants are
BP Lubricants “Technology that stimulates innovation”
Castrol “It’s more than just oil, it’s liquid engineering”
Some oil-change places have Castrol as their house oil, so watch for that, too.

In the U.S., BP has gas and fuel cards
BP Visa, BP Fleet Fuel Cards, BP Gift Cards, ARCO Fleet Fuel Cards, ARCO PumpPASS.
There are only 8 other countries offering BP gas and fuel cards, so I’ll bet that most of BP’s retail activity is in these countries.
They are Germany, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Poland, Portugal, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom.

Using this information, each consumer can make a difference.

There are many commercial BP activities, including ARCO Aluminum, aromatics and acetyls, industrial lubricants. For these, see their website under, again, “Products and Services”. BP is very proud of what they do and has clear listings on their website of their activities.

In all fairness, also on their website — no, forget fairness. They did.


“All I know is just what I read in the newspapers.” – Will Rogers

China, new unilateralist world superpower, blocks progress at Copenhagen

Here’s a very different perspective on what happened at the table where the Copenhagen ‘accord’ was hammered to death out by a journalist who, in his own words “was in the room and saw it happen.”

How do I know China wrecked the Copenhagen deal? I was in the room
by Mark Lynas, published in the guardian.co.uk
http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/dec/22/copenhagen-climate-change-mark-lynas

(Mark Lynas is a freelance writer working full-time on climate change)

“Copenhagen was much worse than just another bad deal, because it illustrated a profound shift in global geopolitics. This is fast becoming China’s century, yet its leadership has displayed that multilateral environmental governance is not only not a priority, but is viewed as a hindrance to the new superpower’s freedom of action.”

A couple of things strike me about the article that caused a shift in my perspective:
< !--break-- >
1. The astute observations of how the Chinese government uses it’s status as both an economic superpower, AND a developing nation, to simultaneously bully around the delegations of countries from BOTH groups of nations, giving them a uniquely powerful position from which to push through their own agenda.

2. Why a climate deal – ANY climate deal – would not be in the interests of China’s major indutrial (read: coal) companies. Yes, China is moving forward with some good environmental initiatives. But they are still very dependent on their dirty (by which I mean old-fashioned) coal industry, and the captains of that industry carry serious political clout in Beijing.

3. How helpless Obama was. You may not buy this, because the popular slant is that it’s Obama’s fault that the talks failed. The truth is a little more complex than that. Obama failed because the USA, thanks to our Wall Street geniuses, has no economic clout left. If China says,”no deal”, we have no leverage from which negotiate because 1. we are broke and over our necks in debt, and 2. the Chinese control that debt, as well as access to key resources that the ‘green’ industry needs, such as rare earth metals for hybrid electric car engines and wind turbines.

In Lynas’ words “I saw Obama fighting desperately to salvage a deal, and the Chinese delegate saying “no”, over and over again. Monbiot even approvingly quoted the Sudanese delegate Lumumba Di-Aping,” whom, you’ll recall, compared the Copenhagen accord to the Nazi Holocaust.
< !--break-- >
Here are the main points Lynas makes, quickly:

“China’s strategy was simple: block the open negotiations for two weeks, and then ensure that the closed-door deal made it look as if the west had failed the world’s poor once again. And sure enough, the aid agencies, civil society movements and environmental groups all took the bait.”

and

“What I saw was profoundly shocking. The Chinese premier, Wen Jinbao, did not deign to attend the meetings personally, instead sending a second-tier official in the country’s foreign ministry to sit opposite Obama himself. The diplomatic snub was obvious and brutal, as was the practical implication: several times during the session, the world’s most powerful heads of state were forced to wait around as the Chinese delegate went off to make telephone calls to his “superiors”.

“This does not mean China is not serious about global warming. It is strong in both the wind and solar industries. But China’s growth, and growing global political and economic dominance, is based largely on cheap coal. China knows it is becoming an uncontested superpower; indeed its newfound muscular confidence was on striking display in Copenhagen. Its coal-based economy doubles every decade, and its power increases commensurately. Its leadership will not alter this magic formula unless they absolutely have to.

Meet the new boss.

A Wrenching Op-Ed: Home Fires Section

This Opinion item is one of the saddest articles I have read this year…not just of itself, but also because it represents events happening to too many of our people these years. It can’t be said often enough, that “War is truly Hell”.

Returning to the U.S., I wanted to feel pride, relief, and peace. But it was impossible. I went on road trips to Maine, Ohio, and Texas to deliver memorial plaques signed by my platoon to the families of my fallen soldiers. Paying my respects at somber gravesides, leafing through childhood photos, and watching lighthearted home movies, I spent much of the time sobbing uncontrollably. Mourning in combat was difficult. However, I didn’t register the full extent of the tragedy until these gnawing visits at home.

The article is in the Home Fires section of the Opinionator of the NYTimes. The Home Fires section features the writing of men and women who have returned from wartime service in the United States military.

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Uncle John McCain is at it again

The old duffer that just keeps coming back for more, John Mccain, is ba-a-a-ack. And this time he’s funded by his new darlings, cable and telco companies, who have apparently loaded him up with funding to go smack down that pesky FCC and its net neutrality rules.

From Reuters (in a reprint from a PC World piece byMark Sullivan):
Surprise: McCain Biggest Beneficiary of Telco/ISP Money
http://tinyurl.com/yjmh5bd

Senator John McCain (R-AZ) is the top recipient of campaign contributions from large Internet service providers like AT&T, Verizon and Comcast over the past two years, according to a new report from the Sunlight Foundation and the Center for Responsive Politics. McCain has taken in a total of $894,379 (much of that money going to support his failed 2008 bid for the presidency), more than twice the amount taken by the next-largest beneficiary, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. ($341,089).
Meanwhile, McCain has emerged as the ISPs’ biggest champion against new “network neutrality” rules from the Federal Communications Commission, which voted Thursday to move forward in the process to adopt such rules. Shortly after the FCC vote, McCain introduced a bill (the “Internet Freedom Act”) that would block regulation of the nation’s largest broadband networks.

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Has Obama organized a good foreign policy team?

Columnist David Broder thinks so:
President Obama has assembled a highly effective national-security team
http://tinyurl.com/yexh7be

I generally agree with Mr. Broder. here’s my comment on the reprint of the article in the Seattle Times:

I agree with Mr Broder. I think Obama has done well and chosen his team on their merits, and so far they have all agreed to work together without much infighting. This is exactly what America needed.

He also realizes that the purpose of foreign policy is not simply to increase the profit margin of private defense contractor companies. He seems to get that the global security situation needs to be stabilized, so the world can work on problems like the international economy and climate change. Whereas he has made it clear that he will use force if necesssary to protect American/western interests, he has also made it clear that his foreign policy will not be based on whipping up and creating wars, like Bush’s was.

Have at it, Agonistas. What do you think of Obama’s foreign policy team? Do you think he is making the right moves on the international scene?
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Are US taxpayers funding the Taliban?

KABUL ”” The United States Agency for International Development has opened an investigation into allegations that its funds for road and bridge construction in Afghanistan are ending up in the hands of the Taliban, through a protection racket for contractors.

Selected quotes from the article:

– “USAID’s Inspector General has only one investigator in Afghanistan and two auditors tracking the billions of tax payers’ dollars that go to NGOs in that troubled country.”

– “One source, with direct knowledge of such payments, estimated the Taliban can take upwards of 20 percent from many contracts awarded in unstable areas, which would include about half of the country.”

– “Precise amounts are almost impossible to pin down, but it is, according to those knowledgeable of the process, a conservative estimate that the amount going to the Taliban is in the tens of millions of dollars a year. If the allegation that the Taliban takes 20 percent off big contracts is true, it is possible the Taliban is receiving as much money from the billions of dollars in assistance funds as it does from what traditionally has been its leading source of income: drugs.”

Opposition Party Wins by a Landslide in Japan

Breaking a half-century hammerlock of one-party rule in Japan, the opposition Democratic Party won a crushing election victory on Sunday with pledges to revive the country’s stalled economy and steer a foreign-policy course less dependent on the United States.

But it was pent-up voter anger, not campaign promises, that halted 54 years of near-continuous dominance by the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). The party had become a profoundly unpopular, but deeply entrenched governing force which so feared that it would be swept from power that it had put off a national election for nearly three years.