Obama’s channeling Ronald Reagan — says Venezuela national security threat

The White House took a new step toward the theater of the absurd by “declaring a national emergency with respect to the unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States posed by the situation in Venezuela,” as President Barack Obama put it in a letter to House Speaker John Boehner.

It remains to be seen whether anyone in the White House press corps will have the courage to ask what in the world the nation’s chief executive could mean by that. Is Venezuela financing a coming terrorist attack on U.S. territory? Planning an invasion? Building a nuclear weapon?

Who do they think they are kidding? Some may say that the language is just there because it is necessary under U.S. law in order to impose the latest round of sanctions on Venezuela. That is not much of a defense, telling the whole world the rule of law in the United States is something the president can use lies to get around whenever he finds it inconvenient.

That was the approach of President Ronald Reagan in 1985 when he made a similar declaration in order to impose sanctions — including an economic embargo — on Nicaragua. Like the White House today, he was trying to topple an elected government that Washington didn’t like. He was able to use paramilitary and terrorist violence as well as an embargo in a successful effort to destroy the Nicaraguan economy and ultimately overturn its government. (The Sandinistas eventually returned to power in 2007 and are the governing party today.)

The world has moved forward, even though Washington has not. Venezuela today has very strong backing from its neighbors against what almost every government in the region sees as an attempt to destabilize the country.

“The Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) reiterates its strong repudiation of the application of unilateral coercive measures that are contrary to international law,” read a statement from every country in the hemisphere except for the U.S. and Canada on Feb. 11. They were responding to the U.S. sanctions against Venezuela that Obama signed into law in December.

Didn’t read any of this in the English-language media? Well, you probably also didn’t see the immediate reaction to yesterday’s White House blunder from the head of the Union of South American Nations, which read, “UNASUR rejects any external or internal attempt at interference that seeks to disrupt the democratic process in Venezuela.”

RTFA for a history lesson if nothing else. The era of the United States overthrowing Latin American governments and putting little obedient puppets in place ran out of staying power in VietNam. Even if we spent the last decade or so playing at regime change in the Middle East. We all know how well that’s worked out – under a Republican president and under a Democrat.

Along with the mantle of sole superpower on Earth at the end of the World War 2, we acquired the imperial arrogance that comes with the job. During the Cold War years – and nowadays – our government still plays God or at least the chief cop of the world. Pretty much all the inhabitants of the White House over the last seventy years have had no qualms about murdering hundreds of thousands of furriners in the name of American democracy.

The first two examples of imperial gangsterism after the war were overthrowing a democratically-elected government in Guatemala – then doing the same to the first democratically-elected government in the whole of the Middle East – Iran. No one in Latin America or the Middle east needs reminding. Though it seems that Mr. Obama is as poor at recalling the results as George W. Bush.

And politicians that don’t learn anything from history are always doomed to repeat it. Which means sending Americans to kill other folks – who then keep on killing those Americans until we leave their country.

Mattel ready to introduce Creepy Barbie

Creepy Barbie
Click to enlarge

Child advocates want toymaker Mattel to pull the plug on a new interactive Barbie doll that records children’s voices and uploads them to a cloud server.

The Hello Barbie doll – expected to arrive in stores this fall – uses WiFi to hold two-way conversations by “listening” to a child’s words and responding appropriately.

In a videotaped demonstration of the doll at the New York Toy Fair last month, a saleswoman chatted with Barbie about New York City. “I love New York, don’t you?” Barbie gushes. “Tell me, what’s your favorite part about the city?”

When the saleswoman says she enjoys Italian restaurants, Barbie says, “You have to take me to try it!”

Susan Linn, executive director of the nonprofit Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, says the doll is “creepy” and “dangerous.” The group is calling on Mattel to stop all production and marketing of Hello Barbie…

Mattel says Hello Barbie was developed in response to the wishes of girls from around the world, whose top request was to be able to have a conversation with Barbie.

Hello Barbie conforms to government standards and employs safeguards to protect children’s data from access by “unauthorized users,” Mattel said in a statement.

The last thing I have any confidence in is United States government standards about creepiness and privacy.

Mass deaths in the Americas signaled start of the Anthropocene Epoch

The atmosphere recorded the mass death, slavery and warfare that followed 1492. The death by smallpox and warfare of an estimated 50 million native Americans—as well as the enslavement of Africans to work in the newly depopulated Americas—allowed forests to grow in former farmland. By 1610, the growth of all those trees had sucked enough carbon dioxide out of the sky to cause a drop of at least seven parts per million in atmospheric concentrations of the most prominent greenhouse gas and start a little ice age. Based on that dramatic shift, 1610 should be considered the start date of a new, proposed geologic epoch — the Anthropocene, or recent age of humanity — according to the authors of a new study…

Simon Lewis and Mark Maslin, a geologist at UCL, dub the decrease in atmospheric carbon dioxide the “Orbis spike,” from the Latin for world, because after 1492 human civilization has progressively globalized. They make the case that human impacts on the planet have been dramatic enough to warrant formal recognition of the Anthropocene epoch and that the Orbis spike should serve as the marker of the start of this new epoch in a paper published in Nature on March 12…

The Anthropocene is not a new idea. As far back as the 18th century, the first scientific attempt to lay out a chronology of Earth’s geologic history ended with a human epoch. By the 19th century, the idea was commonplace, appearing as the Anthropozoic (“human life rocks”) or the “Era of Man” in geology textbooks. But by the middle of the 20th century, the idea of the Holocene—a word which means “entirely recent” in Greek and designates the most recent period in which the great glacial ice sheets receded — had come to dominate, and incorporated the idea of humans as an important element of the current epoch but not the defining one.

That idea is no longer sufficient, according to scientists ranging from geologists to climatologists. Human impacts have simply grown too large, whether it’s the flood of nitrogen released into the world by the invention of the so-called Haber-Bosch process for wresting the vital nutrient from the air or the fact that civilization now moves more earth and stone than all the world’s rivers put together…

The CO2 drop coincides with what climatologists call the Little Ice Age. That cooling event may have been tied to regenerated forests and other plants growing on some 50 million hectares of land abandoned by humans after the mass death brought on by disease and warfare, Lewis and Maslin suggest. And it wasn’t just the death of millions of Americans, as many as three-quarters of the entire population of two continents. The enslavement (or death) of as many as 28 million Africans for labor in the new lands also may have added to the climate impact. The population of the regions of northwestern Africa most affected by the slave trade did not begin to recover until the end of the 19th century. In other words, from 1600 to 1900 or so swathes of that region may have been regrowing forest, enough to draw down CO2, just like the regrowth of the Amazon and the great North American woods, though this hypothesis remains in some dispute…

The changes wrought by humans over the course of the last several centuries, if not longer, will echo in the future, whether in the form of transplanted species, like earthworms or cats, crop pollen in lake sediments or even entire fossilized cities. Still, whether the Anthropocene started tens, hundreds or thousands of years ago, it accounts for a minute fraction of Earth’s history. And this new epoch could end quickly or endure through millennia, depending on the choices our species makes now. “Embracing the Anthropocene reverses 500 years of scientific discoveries that have made humans more and more insignificant,” Maslin notes. “We argue that Homo sapiens are central to the future of the only place where life is known to exist.”

Lewis and Maslin are scientists and, as such, have submitted their study for peer review. From the viewpoint of a lifetime student of science this sounds pretty reasonable. I look forward to reading some of the discussion to see where it all leads. Unless you, too, do that – this will be nothing more than a passing footnote to the overwhelming body of climate science thoroughly vetted and endorsed by the science community worldwide – and completely ignored except to revile as a commie plot by the ignoranuses inhabiting Congress and staffing the Koch Bros Legions.

American mass media being what it is – the only ongoing journalistic interest will come from that narrow band of the American Left that inhabits the danger zone beyond The Beltway and network/cable TV safety net. Perhaps, some time in the vaguely distant future when science is considered – along with civics – a source of enlightenment for Americans, the term will be allowed in public.