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January 31, 2006

NASA's Top Climate Scientist Says He Is Being Censored Environment  Politics

NASA's top scientist on global warming issues says the Bush administration is trying to shut him up since he called for prompt greenhouse gas emissions reductions in a speech in December. NYT:

The top climate scientist at NASA says the Bush administration has tried to stop him from speaking out since he gave a lecture last month calling for prompt reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases linked to global warming.

The scientist, James E. Hansen, longtime director of the agency's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, said in an interview that officials at NASA headquarters had ordered the public affairs staff to review his coming lectures, papers, postings on the Goddard Web site and requests for interviews from journalists.

Dr. Hansen said he would ignore the restrictions. "They feel their job is to be this censor of information going out to the public," he said.

Dean Acosta, [NASA's] deputy assistant administrator for public affairs...[said] that policy statements should be left to policy makers and appointed spokesmen. [...]

Dr. Hansen, 63, a physicist who joined the space agency in 1967, directs efforts to simulate the global climate on computers at the Goddard Institute in Morningside Heights in Manhattan. [...]

He fell out of favor with the White House in 2004 after giving a speech at the University of Iowa before the presidential election, in which he complained that government climate scientists were being muzzled and said he planned to vote for Senator John Kerry.

But Dr. Hansen said that nothing in 30 years equaled the push made since early December to keep him from publicly discussing what he says are clear-cut dangers from further delay in curbing carbon dioxide. [...]

He said he was particularly incensed that the directives had come through telephone conversations and not through formal channels, leaving no significant trails of documents. [...]

The fresh efforts to quiet him, Dr. Hansen said, began in a series of calls after a lecture he gave on Dec. 6 at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco. In the talk, he said...that without leadership by the United States, climate change would eventually leave the earth "a different planet." [...]

After that speech and the release of data by Dr. Hansen on Dec. 15 showing that 2005 was probably the warmest year in at least a century, officials at the headquarters of the space agency repeatedly phoned public affairs officers, who relayed the warning to Dr. Hansen that there would be "dire consequences" if such statements continued, those officers and Dr. Hansen said in interviews.

Among the restrictions, according to Dr. Hansen and an internal draft memorandum he provided to The Times, was that his supervisors could stand in for him in any news media interviews. [...]

But Dr. Hansen and some of his colleagues said interviews were canceled as a result.

In one call, George Deutsch, a recently appointed public affairs officer at NASA headquarters, rejected a request from a producer at National Public Radio to interview Dr. Hansen, said Leslie McCarthy, a public affairs officer responsible for the Goddard Institute.

Citing handwritten notes taken during the conversation, Ms. McCarthy said Mr. Deutsch called N.P.R. "the most liberal" media outlet in the country. She said that in that call and others, Mr. Deutsch said his job was "to make the president look good" and that as a White House appointee that might be Mr. Deutsch's priority. [...]

Mr. Acosta, Mr. Deutsch's supervisor, said that when Mr. Deutsch was asked about the conversations, he flatly denied saying anything of the sort. Mr. Deutsch referred all interview requests to Mr. Acosta.

Ms. McCarthy, when told of the response, said: "Why am I going to go out of my way to make this up and back up Jim Hansen? I don't have a dog in this race. And what does Hansen have to gain?" [...]

In an interview on Friday, Ralph J. Cicerone, an atmospheric chemist and the president of the National Academy of Sciences, the nation's leading independent scientific body, praised Dr. Hansen's scientific contributions and said he had always seemed to describe his public statements clearly as his personal views.

"He really is one of the most productive and creative scientists in the world," Dr. Cicerone said. "I've heard Hansen speak many times and I've read many of his papers, starting in the late 70's. Every single time, in writing or when I've heard him speak, he's always clear that he's speaking for himself, not for NASA or the administration, whichever administration it's been."

The fight between Dr. Hansen and administration officials echoes other recent disputes. At climate laboratories of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, for example, many scientists who routinely took calls from reporters five years ago can now do so only if the interview is approved by administration officials in Washington, and then only if a public affairs officer is present or on the phone.

Where scientists' points of view on climate policy align with those of the administration, however, there are few signs of restrictions on extracurricular lectures or writing. [Emphasis added]

This is both infuriating and sickening, to put it mildly. We already know that the Bush administration is the most anti-science administration in living memory, but given what's at stake, stifling of debate on an issue like global warming is nothing short of criminal.

Scientists can only be interviewed in the presence of handlers. That's how totalitarian regimes operate. America ain't what it used to be.

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Tuesday Gumpagraph Gumpagraphs
Today's Gumpagraph. Kent is 'Gumpa' to his grandson Sebastian.
© Kent Tenney 

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Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

President Bush announced plans to personally get involved in the combat against bird flu. I guess we can expect him to run the operation from the Alabama National Guard again. — Will Durst

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January 30, 2006

Congressional Staffers Routinely Edit Wikipedia Entries Politics

I guess it was inevitable, but the Lowell Sun reports that Congressional staffers have made more than 1,000 edits of Wikipedia entries in just the past six months:

The staff of U.S. Rep Marty Meehan [D-MA] wiped out references to his broken term-limits pledge as well as information about his huge campaign war chest in an independent biography of the Lowell Democrat on a Web site that bills itself as the "world's largest encyclopedia," The Sun has learned.

The Meehan alterations on Wikipedia.com represent just two of more than 1,000 changes made by congressional staffers at the U.S. House of Representatives in the past six month. Wikipedia is a global reference that relies on its Internet users to add credible information to entries on millions of topics.

Matt Vogel, Meehan's chief of staff, said he authorized an intern in July to replace existing Wikipedia content with a staff-written biography of the lawmaker.

Your tax dollars at work.

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Skiing In The Desert Peak Oil

A reader sent me a set of photos that are, I think, a pretty near-perfect metaphor for where humanity stands at present. And we need all the metaphors we can get.

The photos depict an indoor ski slope built in the middle of the desert in the oil kingdom of Dubai — yes, it's for real. Click on any of the images to see a page of the full-size versions.

Dubai is swimming in oil — for now — so they can afford to build this thing in the middle of a 120-degree desert. But it doesn't take a lot of imagination to see what a crazy, doomed, obscenely wasteful project it is. How long before it's just an abandoned, rusting hulk? How long before the children and grandchildren of Dubai curse their forebears for pissing away their irreplaceable inheritance?

We have no trouble seeing the craziness of this thing. But how different is it, really, from building air-conditioned cities in the Arizona desert? Cities filled with high-rises whose windows cannot be opened? Suburbs with 50-mile commutes?

Skiing in the desert.

[Thanks, Clay]

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Monday Gumpagraph Gumpagraphs
Today's Gumpagraph. Kent is 'Gumpa' to his grandson Sebastian.
© Kent Tenney 

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Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

Justice Department prosecutors are not expected to try and link President Bush to either the Libby or Abramoff scandals. They realize "the President knows nothing" is a phrase with a lot of credibility with prospective jurors. — Will Durst

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January 29, 2006

UK On Iran: No Military Option Iran

It's hard to believe that even the Bush administration would be so reckless as to attack Iran. The world's just barely producing enough oil and natural gas as it is. An attack on Iran would disrupt supply, send prices through the roof, shock the world economy, and piss off every other nation on Earth.

Not even the UK would support us this time around. Today's Guardian (via John Robb):

Though world leaders agreed that strong measures were necessary to prevent Iran gaining nuclear weapon capacity, there was little consensus this weekend [at Davos] as to what those measures should be. Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, yesterday conceded that Britain and the US were divided over using military force.

Responding to comments by US politicians stressing the 'leverage' the military option allowed, Straw said such action was not under discussion. 'I understand that's the American position. Our position is different ... There isn't a military option. And no one is talking about it.'

Britain, along with most EU states, has been pursuing a policy of 'engagement' with the Iranians. Straw was speaking ahead of talks with Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency. [Emphasis added]

If the US (or Israel, acting as US proxy) attacks, we will know we truly are being led by self-destructive lunatics.

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A Truly Stunning Graph Energy  Peak Oil

As the Oil Drum says, this graph is a mind-blower:

Cement, of course, is used to make concrete, which in turn is used to make things like highways, factories, cities. All of which require enormous quantities of energy, both now (in their construction) and in the future (in their maintenance and use). If you think things are headed in a sustainable direction, look at that graph once more.

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Greening Your Diet Beats Greening Your Car Environment

According to research published in the New Scientist, switching to a vegan diet reduces greenhouse gas emissions more than switching to a hybrid car:

Thinking of helping the planet by buying an eco-friendly car? You could do more by going vegan, say Gidon Eshel and Pamela Martin of the University of Chicago.

They compared the amount of fossil fuel needed to cultivate and process various foods, including running agricultural machinery, providing food for livestock and irrigating crops. They also factored in emissions of methane and nitrous oxide produced by cows, sheep and manure treatment.

The typical US diet, about 28 per cent of which comes from animal sources, generates the equivalent of nearly 1.5 tonnes more carbon dioxide per person per year than a vegan diet with the same number of calories, say the researchers, who presented their results at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco last week.

By comparison, the difference in annual emissions between driving a typical saloon car and a hybrid car, which runs off a rechargeable battery and gasoline, is just over 1 tonne. If you don't want to go vegan, choosing less-processed animal products and poultry instead of red meat can help reduce the greenhouse load. [Emphasis added]

As it happens, I ordered a new Prius a few weeks ago (April delivery). Guess I won't be driving it to Burger King (not that I would anyway).

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Sunday Gumpagraph Gumpagraphs
Today's Gumpagraph. Kent is 'Gumpa' to his grandson Sebastian.
© Kent Tenney 

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Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

Dick Cheney was given a clear bill of health by doctors at the Bethesda Naval hospital. Bet he hasn't felt this relieved since getting his 5th deferment. — Will Durst

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January 28, 2006

Saturday Gumpagraph Gumpagraphs
Today's Gumpagraph. Kent is 'Gumpa' to his grandson Sebastian.
© Kent Tenney 

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Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

Inspiring developments — Democracy is on the march in the Middle East. Yesterday, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians hit the polls for the first parliamentary elections in ten years. Which democratically elected party walked away victorious? Oh — it's Hamas! Yes, Hamas the militant Islamic group that is very anti-American and calls for the destruction of Israel, and wants a theocracy in Palestine. Though, on the plus side, they have returned all the money given to them by Jack Abramoff. — Jon Stewart

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January 27, 2006

Summer Vacation Quotes

Has it really been twenty years since the Challenger disaster? Unreal. Reminds me of what the character Easy Wind had to say in Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead — a movie filled with wonderful speeches:

Remember when you was a kid and you would spend the whole year waiting for summer vacation and when it finally came it would fly by just like that? It's funny, Jimmy, life has a way of flying by faster than any old summer vacation. Really fucking does.

Guess so.

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World's Four Largest Oilfields Now In Decline Peak Oil

Via Jerome-a-Paris, an update on where we stand: the kind of thing that ought to be front-page news all over the world, but isn't.

You can't pump oil you haven't discovered. If discoveries have dried up and already-discovered oilfields have peaked, the handwriting's on the wall. So where do we stand?

Jeremy Leggett reminds us that so-called "super giant" oilfields are rare, and almost all were discovered decades ago:

Only around 50 super-giant oilfields have ever been found, and the most recent, in 2000, was the first in 25 years: the problematically acidic 9-12 billion barrel Kashagan field in Kazakhstan. [...]

In 2000 there were 16 discoveries of 500 million barrels of oil equivalent or bigger. In 2001 there were nine. In 2002 there were just two. In 2003 there were none. [Emphasis added]

So we stopped finding super-giant fields long ago. What about the super-giants currently in production?

Mexico — Mexico's Cantarrell, the third largest oilfield ever discovered, is now in decline. FT:

The Cantarell oil field, in the shallow waters of Campeche Bay, is regarded by Mexicans as their crown jewel. It is the second largest oil field in the world by production, behind Saudi Arabia's mammoth Ghawar oil field, pumping 2.2m barrels a day, the same amount as all the Kuwaiti fields together.

For that reason, Mexicans were recently dismayed when Petróleos Mexicanos, the state oil company, said that the field's production would decline this year, signalling a trend towards its depletion. [Emphasis added]

Russia — Russia's Samotlor, Russia's largest and the world's second largest, is also in decline. Jerome:

Next, we can talk about Samotlor, the largest Russia oil field, and the second largest ever found. From a peak of close to 2mb/d, its production is now down to less than 0.5mb/d. [According to BP's own data,] more than two thirds of the oil to be recovered, in the most optimistic scenarios, already has. [...]

In case you've never heard it, as most news in recent years talk about rapidly growing oil production in Russia, Russia's oil production peaked in the first half of the 1980s — what we witnessed in recent years was simply some catching up after the collapse of the early 90s which was not due to technical reasons but to the chaos in the early post-Sovier years. Russia is about to know a second, lower peak as its production is now stagnating again. [Emphasis added]

Kuwait — Kuwait's Burgan, one of the five largest oilfields in the world and until recently the world's number two in production, is in decline as well. See this post from a couple of months ago.

Saudi Arabia — Which leaves Saudi Arabia's Ghawar, the world's heavyweight champ. The Saudis haven't admitted it yet, but Ghawar, too, is almost certainly in decline. Here, for example, is Matthew Simmons, the oil industry's foremost investment banker, who has studied the Saudi situation in great detail:

Saudi's "king" of oil fields, Ghawar, is the world's largest oil field. Wildcat discoveries there from 1948 to 1952 proved reserves estimated at 170 billion barrels of oil in place and 60 billion barrels recoverable. Those numbers remained unchanged in Aramco's 1975 reserve estimates. Ghawar has accounted for 55 percent to 60 percent of all Saudi oil produced. If these numbers are correct, Ghawar's oil is 90 percent gone. [Emphasis added]

As Jerome concludes:

No super giant fields have been found in the past 25 years, and all the rock structures on the planet where such fields could be found are known.

We will not find more oil. We will squeeze more out of the existing fields, thus generating new "reserves" (in their economic definition), but we are already running out of the cheap and easy to produce stuff.

Peak oil is very real.

Nobody in authority wants to be the bearer of bad news. Nobody wants to get out ahead of the herd. But most people won't believe something until they hear it from authority figures. So, hand in hand, we're sleep-walking over a cliff.

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Friday Gumpagraph Gumpagraphs
Today's Gumpagraph. Kent is 'Gumpa' to his grandson Sebastian.
© Kent Tenney 

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Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

It was reported yesterday that Florida Gov. Jeb Bush reads three newspapers a day. Well, actually, he reads them to his brother George. — Jay Leno

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January 26, 2006

We're Number One 28! Environment


A pilot nation-by-nation study of environmental performance shows that just six nations — led by New Zealand, followed by five from Northern Europe — have achieved 85 percent or better success in meeting a set of critical environmental goals ranging from clean drinking water and low ozone levels to sustainable fisheries and low greenhouse gas emissions.

The study, jointly produced by Yale and Columbia Universities, ranked the United States 28th over all, behind most of Western Europe, Japan, Taiwan, Malaysia, Costa Rica and Chile, but ahead of Russia and South Korea.

The bottom half of the rankings is largely filled with the countries of Africa and Central and South Asia. Pakistan and India both rank among the 20 lowest-scoring countries, with overall success rates of 41.1 percent and 47.7 percent, respectively. [Emphasis added]

3 out of 4 Americans support doing "whatever it takes" to protect the environment, yet this is how we perform. Democracy, American-style.

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Quote For Today Quotes

I'm still on the road through tomorrow, but here's a quote for today from one of my heroes:

Rats and roaches live by competition under the laws of supply and demand; it is the privilege of human beings to live under the laws of justice and mercy. — Wendell Berry


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Thursday Gumpagraph Gumpagraphs
Today's Gumpagraph. Kent is 'Gumpa' to his grandson Sebastian.
© Kent Tenney 

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Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

Ultimately, Stephen Harper, the conservative, is the new prime minister, ending 13 years of liberal rule in Canada. They picked up not as many parliamentary seats as they thought they might, but they picked up quite a few, more than the liberals. Martin has resigned as liberal party head. But the real question on everybody's mind is, can we still stitch their flags on our backpacks to get through Europe? — Jon Stewart

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January 25, 2006

Quote For Today Quotes
Every tool is a weapon
     if you hold it right.

— Ani DiFranco

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Wednesday Gumpagraph Gumpagraphs
Today's Gumpagraph. Kent is 'Gumpa' to his grandson Sebastian.
© Kent Tenney 

Posted by Jonathan at 08:38 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

The Republican Congress is ready to push through lobbyist reform. Although direct deposit will still be a viable option. — Will Durst

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January 24, 2006

Nigerian Attacks On Oil Infrastructure Continue Global Guerrillas  Peak Oil  War and Peace

Following up on two earlier posts about the ability of global guerrillas to significantly impact the world-wide price of oil via attacks on oil infrastructure — now that the world has no spare oil production capacity to speak of — here's an item on the ongoing guerrilla campaign against Nigerian oil exports. AP:

Camouflage-clad attackers raided an Italian oil company's riverside offices in Nigeria on Tuesday, sparking a gunfight that left nine people dead before assailants fled by speedboat into the oil-rich delta's waterways.

The attack on Agip's offices in the southern oil center of Port Harcourt is the latest in a recent rash of violence across the restive Niger Delta that has killed nearly two dozen people, cut petroleum production in Africa's largest oil exporter and helped push up prices of crude worldwide. [Emphasis added]

They know exactly what they're doing and why: hitting the West where it's most vulnerable. We have to assume this is only the beginning.

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On The Road

I'm on the road this week — in Concord, MA on business. Posts may be spotty, but it's only temporary.

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Tuesday Gumpagraph Gumpagraphs
Today's Gumpagraph. Kent is 'Gumpa' to his grandson Sebastian.
© Kent Tenney 

Dogs on ice. Whee!

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Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

Osama bin Laden released his first new audio taped message in over a year. While there is some new material in the message, insiders say it's mostly a Greatest Threats collection. A White House spokesman says they plan to check out the message in its entirety, but they're too busy listening to your phone calls. — Tina Fey

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January 23, 2006

Molly Ivins Has Had It Up To Here Politics

You've probably seen this, but in case not, here's Molly Ivins on Hillary Clinton and the weak-kneed Democratic Party establishment:

I'd like to make it clear to the people who run the Democratic Party that I will not support Hillary Clinton for president.

Enough. Enough triangulation, calculation and equivocation. Enough clever straddling, enough not offending anyone. This is not a Dick Morris election. Sen. Clinton is apparently incapable of taking a clear stand on the war in Iraq, and that alone is enough to disqualify her. Her failure to speak out on Terri Schiavo, not to mention that gross pandering on flag-burning, are just contemptible little dodges.

The recent death of Gene McCarthy reminded me of a lesson I spent a long, long time unlearning, so now I have to re-learn it. It's about political courage and heroes, and when a country is desperate for leadership. There are times when regular politics will not do, and this is one of those times. There are times a country is so tired of bull that only the truth can provide relief. [...]

What kind of courage does it take, for mercy's sake? The majority of the American people (55 percent) think the war in Iraq is a mistake and that we should get out. The majority (65 percent) of the American people want single-payer health care and are willing to pay more taxes to get it. The majority (86 percent) of the American people favor raising the minimum wage. The majority of the American people (60 percent) favor repealing Bush's tax cuts, or at least those that go only to the rich. The majority (66 percent) wants to reduce the deficit not by cutting domestic spending, but by reducing Pentagon spending or raising taxes.

The majority (77 percent) thinks we should do "whatever it takes" to protect the environment. The majority (87 percent) thinks big oil companies are gouging consumers and would support a windfall profits tax. That is the center, you fools. WHO ARE YOU AFRAID OF? [...]

You [Washington Democrats] sit there in Washington so frightened of the big, bad Republican machine you have no idea what people are thinking. I'm telling you right now, Tom DeLay is going to lose in his district. If Democrats in Washington haven't got enough sense to OWN the issue of political reform, I give up on them entirely.

Do it all, go long, go for public campaign financing for Congress. I'm serious as a stroke about this — that is the only reform that will work, and you know it, as well as everyone else who's ever studied this. Do all the goo-goo stuff everybody has made fun of all these years: embrace redistricting reform, electoral reform, House rules changes, the whole package. Put up, or shut up. Own this issue, or let Jack Abramoff politics continue to run your town. [Emphasis added]

Hillary Clinton is an extraordinarily smart, talented woman. She could be a towering figure. Let's hope she gets a clue.

(One minor quibble with Ivins' piece: I'm not sure Eugene McCarthy was quite the hero people remember. Yes, it was inspiring when he stepped forward in 1968 and ran against the Vietnam War, and it made an important difference, but it's also hard not to see it as a piece of political opportunism: when he lost the nomination he completely disappeared from the antiwar scene. (By 1980, he was endorsing Ronald Reagan.) The antiwar movement did have real heroes: people who stayed in the struggle year after year after year, not just for the length of a primary campaign. None of which has anything to do with Ivins' critique. I'm just saying.)

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That Day Shall Come Activism

Matthew Klippenstein, a Canadian Green Party volunteer and PastPeak reader, sent me a link to a short speech he wrote for an election-eve Green Party rally yesterday in Vancouver.

I love the positive energy of it. A welcome respite. Go check it out.

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Economic Warfare By Targeting Systems Infrastructure War and Peace

More from John Robb. Iraq is teaching global guerrillas that the West's Achilles heel is systems disruption via targeted attacks against economically-important infrastructure. Robb:

Recent information indicates that the concept [of attacking the West by attacking economically-important infrastructure] has become the topic of widespread discussion among members of Jihadi forums. On these forums there is a growing realization that the only way to damage the West strategically (without a nuclear weapon) is through the destruction of critical global economic networks. Stephen Ulph of Jamestown summarizes recent activity on these forums. His group found detailed documents that provide explicit instructions on facilities and pipelines that are termed global "economic joints". For example, one set of instructions provided data on the Alaskan oil distribution infrastructure and recommendations for maximizing the value of the attack.

While this effort is still in its adolescence, Ulph has detected signs of the type of collaborative open source development we have seen among guerrilla groups in Iraq. If so, it will advance to maturity rapidly. As that happens, be prepared to see a growing emphasis on the selection of targets...that cause cascading system failures...

NOTE: It's important to remember that in this epochal war, the guerrillas don't need to achieve either an absolute moral or economic victory. All that is needed in this hyper-competitive globalized economic environment is an effort that damages the ability of the target state to compete — Adam Smith's invisible hand will quickly take care of the rest. [Emphasis added]

The most developed countries are the most vulnerable to this kind of attack, given their dependence on complex, tightly-coupled systems/networks. And given the enormous number of possible targets, defense is going to be very, very difficult.

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Monday Gumpagraph Gumpagraphs
Today's Gumpagraph. Kent is 'Gumpa' to his grandson Sebastian.
© Kent Tenney 

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Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

NASA launched its first-ever mission to Pluto, did you see this? The rocket took off to Pluto. President Bush is very excited about this. I didn't even know Pluto had oil. — Jay Leno

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The Thumb On The World's Jugular Future  Peak Oil  War and Peace

World oil production is barely keeping up with demand. There's no spare capacity, no slack in the system. John Robb points out an enormously significant consequence: from here on out, global guerrillas can control the price of oil via relatively minor disruptions in the supply system. This puts one hell of a weapon into their hands. Excerpt:

The control over the price of oil is in now in the hands of global guerrillas — the open source, system disrupting, transnational crime fueled, sons of global fragmentation covered by this author. These actors can now, at will, curtail the supply of oil through low tech attacks on facilities in Iraq, Nigeria, central Asia, and India. The amount of oil effectively under their control exceeds five million barrels a day, more than Saudi Arabia's two million barrels a day of swing production.

It's important to note that this capacity to disrupt production is substantially different than any terrorist threat we have faced in the past. With terrorism, the potential of damage has always been from single large attack on a major facility or node (extremely difficult to accomplish and relatively easy to recover from). Today's threat is based on sustainable disruption — ongoing, easy, low-tech attacks that are nearly impossible to defend against (everything from pipeline destruction to employee kidnapping). [...]

This situation is merely the first stage in the larger epochal war between non-state groups and nation-states. It is by no means the worst of what we will need to deal with...In the meantime, given that the demand for oil continues to increase (due to the growth of China and India primarily) combined with the inability to bring new supplies to market, the price of oil will continue to climb. $100 a barrel oil is not unforeseeable. [...]

The success of guerrillas to control production in Iraq and Nigeria will spawn similar developments in other locations. High on that list is Russia, the world's largest oil producer, and the Caspian Sea producers. [Emphasis added]

Guerrillas are already significantly curtailing oil exports from Iraq and Nigeria. And as Robb says, there's no stopping them. How are you going to guard thousands of miles of pipeline? Decentralized, freelance, non-state actors with their thumb on the jugular of the industrialized world. Welcome to the twenty-first century.

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January 22, 2006

Quote For Today Quotes
Bush, Cheney and Co. will continue to play the patriotic bully card just as long as you let them. War brings out the patriotic bullies. In World War I, they went around kicking dachshunds because they were "German dogs." They did not, however, go around kicking German shepherds. — Molly Ivins

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Sunday Gumpagraph Gumpagraphs
Today's Gumpagraph. Kent is 'Gumpa' to his grandson Sebastian.
© Kent Tenney 

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Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

A Texas paper is reporting that lobbyist Jack Abramoff charged a client $25,000 to have lunch with President Bush. Not surprisingly, this is the most anyone has ever payed for lunch at Chuck E. Cheese. — Conan O'Brien

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January 21, 2006

Kuwait's Oil Reserve Figures Cut In Half Peak Oil

Two months ago, it was reported that Kuwait's Burgan oil field, the world's 2nd largest, has peaked and gone into decline. Now it is being reported that Kuwait's remaining reserves are at most half what they have been claiming publicly. Reuters:

OPEC producer Kuwait's oil reserves are only half those officially stated, according to internal Kuwaiti records seen by industry newsletter Petroleum Intelligence Weekly (PIW).

"PIW learns from sources that Kuwait's actual oil reserves, which are officially stated at around 99 billion barrels, or close to 10 percent of the global total, are a good deal lower, according to internal Kuwaiti records," the weekly PIW reported on Friday.

It said that according to data circulated in Kuwait Oil Co (KOC), the upstream arm of state Kuwait Petroleum Corp, Kuwait's remaining proven and non-proven oil reserves are about 48 billion barrels. [...]

PIW said the official public Kuwaiti figures do not distinguish between proven, probable and possible reserves.

But it said the data it had seen show that of the current remaining 48 billion barrels of proven and non-proven reserves, only about 24 billion barrels are so far fully proven — 15 billion in its biggest oilfield Burgan. [Emphasis added]

OPEC countries have every incentive to exaggerate their reserves because their share of the OPEC quota is proportional to stated reserves. So Kuwait is almost certainly not the only country that's been lying about how much oil it has left.

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The Zeal Of Molecules Humor & Fun

Fun with chemistry: thermite vs. liquid nitrogen, thermite vs. a French car. Video (via John Robb).

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Quote For Today Quotes
Inspiration usually comes during work, rather than before it. — Madeleine L'Engle

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Saturday Gumpagraph Gumpagraphs
Today's Gumpagraph. Kent is 'Gumpa' to his grandson Sebastian.
© Kent Tenney 

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Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

According to a Finnish medical study, if you have a bad or incompetent boss, it increases your risk of a heart attack by 30%. More bad news for Dick Cheney. — Jay Leno

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January 20, 2006

Global Warming News Keeps Getting Worse Environment

Earlier this week, we had James Lovelock's grim essay on global warming. Now we have this. The news just keeps getting worse. From today's Independent:

The microscopic plants that underpin all life in the oceans are likely to be destroyed by global warming, a study has found.

Scientists have discovered a way that the vital plankton of the oceans can be starved of nutrients as a result of the seas getting warmer. They believe the findings have catastrophic implications for the entire marine habitat, which ultimately relies on plankton at the base of the food chain.

The study is also potentially devastating because it has thrown up a new "positive feedback" mechanism that could result in more carbon dioxide ending up in the atmosphere to cause a runaway greenhouse effect.

Scientists led by Jef Huisman of the University of Amsterdam have calculated that global warming, which is causing the temperature of the sea surface to rise, will also interfere with the vital upward movement of nutrients from the deep sea.

These nutrients, containing nitrogen, phosphorus and iron, are vital food for phytoplankton. If the supply is interrupted the plants die off, which prevents them from absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. [...]

The sea is one of nature's "carbon sinks", which removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and deposits the carbon in a long-term store - dissolved in the ocean or deposited as organic waste on the seabed. The vast quantities of phytoplankton in the oceans absorb huge amounts of carbon dioxide. When the organisms die they fall to the seabed, carrying their store of carbon with them, where it stays for many thousands of years - thereby helping to counter global warming. [...]

Warmer surface water caused by global warming causes greater temperature stratification, with warm surface layers sitting on deeper, colder layers, to prevent mixing of nutrients.

Professor Huisman shows in a study published in Nature that warmer sea surfaces will deliver a potentially devastating blow to the supply of deep-sea nutrients for phytoplankton.

His computer model of the impact was tested on real measurements made in the Pacific Ocean, where sea surface temperatures tend to be higher than in other parts of the world. He found that his computer predictions of how nutrient movement would be interrupted were accurate. [...]

Scientists had believed phytoplankton, which survives best at depths of about 100 metres, is largely stable and immune from the impact of global warming. "This model prediction was rather unexpected," Professor Huisman said. [...]

Microscopic plankton comes in animal and plant forms. The plants are known as phytoplankton. They lie at the base of the marine food chain because they convert sunlight and carbon dioxide into organic carbon - food for everything else.

...Without phytoplankton, the oceans would soon become marine deserts. [...]

Phytoplankton...acts as a carbon "sink" which takes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and deposits the carbon in long-term stores that can remain undisturbed for thousands of years. If the growth of phytoplankton is interrupted by global warming, this ability to act as a buffer against global warming is also affected - leading to a much-feared positive feedback. [Emphasis added]

It's impossible to overstate the importance of this finding. All sea life ultimately depends on phytoplankton. Without it, the world's oceans will become an enormous dead zone. And the feedback loop set in motion as the phytoplankton dies off (less phytoplankton leads to more atmospheric CO2 which leads to more global warming which leads to less phytoplankton, etc.) is only one of a number of recently discovered feedback loops that are likely to accelerate and amplify global warming. In other words, current computer models are, if anything, understating what we're up against.

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Friday Gumpagraph Gumpagraphs
Today's Gumpagraph. Kent is 'Gumpa' to his grandson Sebastian.
© Kent Tenney 

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Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

The government is scheduled to launch a mission to Pluto. Apparently this is President Bush's last chance to find those weapons of mass destruction.— Jay Leno

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January 19, 2006

Insider Trading By Frist And DeLay Staffers Alleged Politics

There is such a foul stench blowing out of Republican Washington these days.

In an Air America interview, Congressman Brian Baird says that staffers working for Bill Frist and Tom DeLay, and possibly others, have used insider information about provisions in upcoming bills to daytrade in the stocks of affected companies. In some cases, they did their own daytrading; in other cases, they passed the information on to allies. This isn't illegal, for some reason (Martha Stewart can't be happy about that), but it sure is unethical. Their gains came at the expense of other investors who lacked inside information.

Listen to the four-minute interview here (courtesy of AmericaBlog).

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The Dems Are Blowing It Politics

Digby makes a convincing case that the Dems, by following in the Republicans' footsteps and coming out with their own "corruption reform" package, are blowing it. The Republicans have been operating a corrupt criminal enterprise. The solution lies in the criminal justice system, not in assorted changes to the rules in Congress. That should be the message. Excerpt:

By coming up with this "reform package" we [Democrats] have managed to make people think this is about reforming arcane congressional rules when it is actually about a bribery and protection racket. And that is exactly what the Republicans wanted us to do. After all, if it's only a matter of changing a few rules, they can do that themselves and just move along. [...]

The problem is that Democrats listen to conventional wisdom and bad strategists who all insist that you have to have a positive agenda or people will hate you. This is because when they do focus groups people always say they hate all the negativity and they just want politicians to tell us what they are going to do to fix things.

That is bullshit. People say that because they think that's what they are supposed to say. They don't know how much they are being manipulated by all the negative images and so they simply say they don't like them. It doesn't mean they don't respond to them. It's subliminal. The Democratic party needs to hire a top psychologist to explain this to them — or find a politician who has good instincts. [...]

The problem is that Reid and the rest of the Democratic party believed that they had to "offer a solution" because otherwise the public would think they are just being negative...But had they simply said, "this is way beyond lobbying reform. Republicans like Tom DeLay and Jack Abramoff have been running a criminal enterprise out of the US congress," they could have framed the argument as Republican criminality instead of systemic problems that can be fixed with a few changes in the rules. [...]

[T]he Democrats have stepped on their own most potent argument — the Republicans are in charge and they are running a corrupt criminal enterprise out of the House and Senate. Even a Republican Justice department could not avert its eyes from the rampant criminality. Duke, DeLay, Abramoff, Rove, Libby, Safavian.... all of them and many more are either under indictment, pled guilty or remain under suspicion. This is not business as usual and the solution isn't another package of rules changes about who buys the pizza. [Emphasis added]

Have Washington Democrats been asleep for the past dozen years? Republicans impeached the President of the United States over a meaningless blowjob. They didn't worry about sounding negative. They hammered home the same basic message for years on end: Clinton is a liar and a cheat. And it worked for them. Just think if Clinton had actually been guilty of one-tenth of what the Republicans have been doing.

Maybe some Democrats think that playing hardball makes them no better than Republicans. Well, guess what. Duke, DeLay, Abramoff, Rove, Libby, Safavian, et al — unlike Clinton — are up to their eyeballs in serious crimes that need to be prosecuted. It's not some phoney Ken Starr witchhunt. And if they can do this kind of stuff and emerge with just a few minor bruises, then it's game over. The Democratic Party may just as well go out of business.

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Digging Into Google Rights, Law

The Justice Department has subpoenaed Google to turn over a database of all search queries entered by Google users in June and July of 2005. Justice claims the data is needed as part of an investigation into online porn.

Maybe. Or maybe they're trying to establish the precedent.

What's unknown is how much data Google actually retains. Their web servers know the network address of each computer making a query. If the person making the query is logged into Google mail, they can access the person's identity as well. They know what site the person came from to reach Google's site, and they may know what link the person clicked in the search results. If Google preserves that data — well, I don't know about you, but I don't want the government to have that kind of window into my activities online.

Google, to their credit, is fighting the subpoena.

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Suicide Note Iraq

So sad.

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Bracing The World For Peak Oil Peak Oil

The Independent reports on a Peak Oil conference Tuesday in London. Excerpt:

Chris Skrebowski, the editor of the Energy Institute's Petroleum Review, believes peak oil will occur in 2008, at which point the world will move into "a land without maps where we are all likely to be poorer".

For oil is essential to almost everything we do — 90 per cent of world transport is oil-dependent; all petrochemicals are produced from oil; 99 per cent of our food relies on oil in some way, either to grow it or get the produce to market; and 95 per cent of lubricants are oil-based. And, in many cases, oil is not easily replaceable. There are no realistic alternatives to oil for fuelling aircraft and ships, producing petrochemicals or powering cars, without massive investments in technology such as hydrogen. [...]

The peak oil debate tends to divide into two camps. On the one hand there are geologists who argue it is almost upon us or shortly will be, based on analysing past production and discovery rates and field exhaustion and extrapolating into the future. On the other there are economists, political scientists and the oil majors who believe that oil producers — be they governments or companies — will always find a way to meet demand, whether through cleverer ways of finding and extracting oil or greater fiscal incentives to discover and produce more.

Yesterday's conference in London, organised by the Dutch investment bank Insinger de Beaufort, represented both strands of opinion. Mr Skrebowski says that the world's big five oil majors all produced less in 2005 than they did in 2004, while North Sea oil production is declining so rapidly that it will halve in the next seven years.

According to the University of Reading's Dr Roger Bentley, the secretary of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil & Gas, the evidence is irrefutable. He points out that 64 of the world's 100 or so oil-producing countries are already past the point of peak production and on the downward slope. Although there may be a "mini-glut" as output is stepped up from Russia, the Caspian and Iraq and new sources come on stream such as deepwater oil and oilsands, the trend, he says is unmistakable. Dr Bentley believes that non-Opec production will reach a peak within the next 30 months while global output will start to decline between 2010 and 2015 or 2020 at the latest depending on the contribution from non-conventional sources such as oilsands. "Alongside global warming, this is one of the two extraordinary challenges facing mankind," he says. "The numbers may slip a little but the fundamental underlying direction does not change."

Dr Jeremy Leggett, an oil industry geologist turned environmental campaigner turned chief executive of a solar energy company, paints an even more apocalyptic scene. He believes that peak oil will occur some time this decade. That will not only produce "horrible economic pain" as oil prices rise to choke off demand but it will also precipitate environmental disaster as oil-consuming countries switch to coal and hasten global warming. "The shortfall between current expectations of oil supply and actual availability will be such that neither gas, nor renewables, nor liquids from gas and coal, nor nuclear, nor any combination thereof will be able to plug the gap in time to head off economic trauma," he warns. [...]

Despite the ingenuity of the oil industry in extracting oil from ever more hostile environments, it is, adds Dr Leggett, a quarter of a century since the world discovered more oil in one year than it produced. In 2000 there were 16 discoveries of giant fields containing 500 million barrels or more — in 2003 there were none. [Emphasis added]

I love the paragraph about the peak oil debate being divided into two camps. On the one side, the article says, there are petroleum geologists — i.e., people who actually know something about finding and extracting oil. On the other side, there are economists, political scientists and the oil majors — i.e., people who don't know anything about finding and extracting oil (economists and political scientists) and people who have a vested interest in reassuring markets, propping up their stock price, etc. (the oil majors). Who you gonna believe?

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Thursday Gumpagraph Gumpagraphs
Today's Gumpagraph. Kent is 'Gumpa' to his grandson Sebastian.
© Kent Tenney 

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Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

Supreme Court Nominee Samuel Alito has a blend of coffee named after him at a Newark, New Jersey, coffee roaster. Its called Bold Justice, although I think Right Wing Wake Up Call has a better ring. — Will Durst

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January 18, 2006

Global Guerrillas And Open-Source Warfare Future  Iraq  War and Peace

The article cited in the previous post, illustrating the adaptability of the Iraqi insurgents, is also linked to by John Robb of Global Guerrillas. Robb, counter-terrorism veteran and software entrepreneur, has lots of interesting things to say about the future of warfare. See his blog, here.

Central to Robb's thinking is the idea that insurgencies around the world are increasingly decentralized, loosely-coupled, networked affairs created by "global guerrillas" who employ rapidly evolving tactics, often based on systems disruption swarms. A hallmark of the global guerrilla is open-source warfare, where the analogy is to open-source software development. Global guerrillas innovate, and their innovations are rapidly disseminated in a decentralized, viral fashion facilitated by global communications and the Internet. They learn from one another in real-time. Robb writes:

[T]he insurgency isn't a fragile hierarchical organization but rather a resilient network made up of small, autonomous groups. This means that the insurgency is virtually immune to attrition and decapitation. It will combine and recombine to form a viable network despite high rates of attrition. Body counts — and the military should already know this — aren't a good predictor of success.

...[O]ut-innovating the insurgency will most likely prove unsuccessful. The insurgency uses an open-source community approach (similar to the decentralized development process now prevalent in the software industry) to warfare that is extremely quick and innovative. New technologies and tactics move rapidly from one end of the insurgency to the other, aided by Iraq's relatively advanced communications and transportation grid — demonstrated by the rapid increases in the sophistication of the insurgents' homemade bombs. This implies that the insurgency's innovation cycles are faster than the American military's slower bureaucratic processes (for example: its inability to deliver sufficient body and vehicle armor to our troops in Iraq).

The Pentagon is big, clunky, hierarchical Microsoft; the insurgency is Linux and the Internet: rapidly mutating, highly networked, decentralized, loosely-coupled, constantly learning. The Pentagon can't keep up. In the long run (or maybe not so very long), it doesn't stand a chance.

Global communications and the Internet are changing the world at an exponential pace. It was inevitable that they would change warfare, too.

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Insurgents Adapt With Aerial IEDs Iraq

The insurgents in Iraq (and elsewhere) adapt quickly. DefenseTech quotes Greg Grant of DefenseNews, who says that Iraqi insurgents have developed an aerial IED to attack US helicopters:

Insurgents, who place these aerial IEDs along known flight paths, trigger them when American helicopters come along at the typical altitude of just above the rooftops. The devices shoot 50 feet into the air, and a proximity fuze touches off a warhead that sprays metal fragments, said Brig. Gen. Edward Sinclair, commander of the Army's Aviation Center at Fort Rucker, Ala.

The bomb-builders may be obtaining radio-guided proximity fuzes from old Iraqi anti-aircraft and artillery shells and mortar rounds.

Sinclair said these aerial IEDs have been used against multiple U.S. helicopters. He declined to say whether such IEDs had damaged any aircraft.

The new weapon is one way insurgents are taking on Army aircraft, which come under fire between 15 and 20 times a month, Sinclair said. Other methods include small arms, rocket-propelled grenades and advanced shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles.

"The enemy is adaptive," Sinclair said. "They make changes in the way they fight; they respond to new flying tactics."

Three US helicopters have been downed in the last 10 days alone. Causes unknown.

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USAID: "Social Breakdown" In Iraq Iraq

USAID's assessment of the situation on the ground in Iraq is decidedly bleaker than the usual White House spin. Guardian (via Jerome-a-Paris):

An official assessment drawn up by the US foreign aid agency depicts the security situation in Iraq as dire, amounting to a "social breakdown" in which criminals have "almost free rein".

The "conflict assessment" is an attachment to an invitation to contractors to bid on a project rehabilitating Iraqi cities published earlier this month by the US Agency for International Development (USAid).

The picture it paints is not only darker than the optimistic accounts from the White House and the Pentagon, it also gives a more complex profile of the insurgency than the straightforward "rejectionists, Saddamists and terrorists" described by George Bush.

The USAid analysis talks of an "internecine conflict" involving religious, ethnic, criminal and tribal groups. "It is increasingly common for tribesmen to 'turn in' to the authorities enemies as insurgents — this as a form of tribal revenge," the paper says, casting doubt on the efficacy of counter-insurgent sweeps by coalition and Iraqi forces.

Meanwhile, foreign jihadist groups are growing in strength, the report said.

"External fighters and organisations such as al-Qaida and the Iraqi offshoot led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi are gaining in number and notoriety as significant actors," USAid's assessment said. "Recruitment into the ranks of these organisations takes place throughout the Sunni Muslim world, with most suicide bombers coming from Saudi Arabia and other countries in the region."

The assessment conflicted sharply with recent Pentagon claims that Zarqawi's group was in "disarray". [...]

The paper, whose existence was first reported by the Washington Post, argues that insurgent attacks "significantly damage the country's infrastructure and cause a tide of adverse economic and social effects that ripple across Iraq".

"In the social breakdown that has accompanied the defeat of Saddam Hussein's regime criminal elements within Iraqi society have had almost free rein," the document says. "In the absence of an effective police force capable of ensuring public safety, criminal elements flourish...Baghdad is reportedly divided into zones controlled by organised criminal groups-clans." [Emphasis added]

This was an official assessment by a US government agency. If anything, the actual situation is probably even worse.

[Thanks, Michael]

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Wednesday Gumpagraph Gumpagraphs
Today's Gumpagraph. Kent is 'Gumpa' to his grandson Sebastian.
© Kent Tenney 

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Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

Prime Minister Tony Blair admitted during an interview this week that he has smacked his children, though only because he believed reports that they were carrying weapons of mass destruction. — Tina Fey

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January 17, 2006

Lovelock: Global Warming Will Kill Billions Environment

James Lovelock, the environmental scientist who originated the Gaia Hypothesis that views terrestrial systems as a kind of self-regulating superorganism, has published a profoundly pessimistic assessment of humanity's prospects in the face of global warming. Excerpt:

This article is the most difficult I have written...My Gaia theory sees the Earth behaving as if it were alive, and clearly anything alive can enjoy good health, or suffer disease. Gaia has made me a planetary physician and I take my profession seriously, and now I...have to bring bad news.

...[C]limate specialists see [the Earth] as seriously ill, and soon to pass into a morbid fever that may last as long as 100,000 years. I have to tell you, as members of the Earth's family and an intimate part of it, that you and especially civilisation are in grave danger.

Our planet has kept itself healthy and fit for life, just like an animal does, for most of the more than three billion years of its existence. It was ill luck that we started polluting at a time when the sun is too hot for comfort. We have given Gaia a fever and soon her condition will worsen to a state like a coma. She has been there before and recovered, but it took more than 100,000 years. We are responsible and will suffer the consequences: as the century progresses, the temperature will rise 8 degrees centigrade in temperate regions and 5 degrees in the tropics.

Much of the tropical land mass will become scrub and desert, and will no longer serve for regulation; this adds to the 40 per cent of the Earth's surface we have depleted to feed ourselves.

Curiously, aerosol pollution of the northern hemisphere reduces global warming by reflecting sunlight back to space. This "global dimming" is transient and could disappear in a few days like the smoke that it is, leaving us fully exposed to the heat of the global greenhouse. We are in a fool's climate, accidentally kept cool by smoke, and before this century is over billions of us will die and the few breeding pairs of people that survive will be in the Arctic where the climate remains tolerable. [...]

Had it been known [in Darwin's time] that life and the environment are closely coupled, Darwin would have seen that evolution involved not just the organisms, but the whole planetary surface. We might then have looked upon the Earth as if it were alive, and known that we cannot pollute the air or use the Earth's skin — its forest and ocean ecosystems — as a mere source of products to feed ourselves and furnish our homes. We would have felt instinctively that those ecosystems must be left untouched because they were part of the living Earth.

So what should we do? First, we have to keep in mind the awesome pace of change and realise how little time is left to act; and then each community and nation must find the best use of the resources they have to sustain civilisation for as long as they can. Civilisation is energy-intensive and we cannot turn it off without crashing, so we need the security of a powered descent. [...]

We [in the UK] could grow enough to feed ourselves on the diet of the Second World War, but the notion that there is land to spare to grow biofuels, or be the site of wind farms, is ludicrous. We will do our best to survive, but sadly I cannot see the United States or the emerging economies of China and India cutting back in time, and they are the main source of emissions. The worst will happen and survivors will have to adapt to a hell of a climate.

Perhaps the saddest thing is that Gaia will lose as much or more than we do. Not only will wildlife and whole ecosystems go extinct, but in human civilisation the planet has a precious resource. We are not merely a disease; we are, through our intelligence and communication, the nervous system of the planet. Through us, Gaia has seen herself from space, and begins to know her place in the universe.

We should be the heart and mind of the Earth, not its malady. So let us be brave and cease thinking of human needs and rights alone, and see that we have harmed the living Earth and need to make our peace with Gaia. We must do it while we are still strong enough to negotiate, and not a broken rabble led by brutal war lords. Most of all, we should remember that we are a part of it, and it is indeed our home. [Emphasis added]

What can one say?

Lovelock understands the big picture better than most, and he isn't a doctrinaire environmental fundamentalist — he's a vocal proponent of nuclear power, for example. So his warning is not to be dismissed lightly. Meanwhile, here on the Titanic, there are lunatics at the helm. Somehow, we have to take control out of their hands (or at least launch lifeboats), and do it quickly. This is way past being a question of playing politics. The stakes couldn't be higher.

It's impossible to imagine, but somehow we must try to imagine the literally unfathomable sorrow and shame that will be ours if we let it all go up in smoke. Imagine it. Maybe it's already too late — but maybe it's not. We have no choice but to act as if it's not. But time is of the essence. We must act.

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Dogs Trained To Detect Cancer By Smell With 99% Accuracy Science/Technology

California clinicians have trained five dogs to detect cancer by sniffing the breath of patients. The remarkable thing is that the reported accuracy is better than any lab test. NYT:

In the small world of people who train dogs to sniff cancer, a little-known Northern California clinic has made a big claim: that it has trained five dogs — three Labradors and two Portuguese water dogs — to detect lung cancer in the breath of cancer sufferers with 99 percent accuracy.

The study was based on well-established concepts. It has been known since the 80's that tumors exude tiny amounts of alkanes and benzene derivatives not found in healthy tissue.

Other researchers have shown that dogs, whose noses can pick up odors in the low parts-per-billion range, can be trained to detect skin cancers or react differently to dried urine from healthy people and those with bladder cancer, but never with such remarkable consistency.

The near-perfection in the clinic's study, as Dr. Donald Berry, the chairman of biostatistics at M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, put it, "is off the charts: there are no laboratory tests as good as this, not Pap tests, not diabetes tests, nothing."

As a result, he and other cancer experts say they are skeptical, but intrigued. Michael McCulloch, research director for the Pine Street Foundation in Marin County, Calif., and the lead researcher on the study, acknowledged that the results seemed too good to be true. (For breast cancer, with a smaller number of samples, the dogs were right about 88 percent of the time with almost no false positives, which compares favorably to mammograms.)

"Yes, we were astounded, as well," Mr. McCulloch said. "And that's why it needs to be replicated with other dogs, plus chemical analysis of what's in the breath." [...]

In Mr. McCulloch's study, the five dogs, borrowed from owners and Guide Dogs for the Blind, were trained as if detecting bombs. They repeatedly heard a clicker and got a treat when they found a desired odor in many identical smelling spots. [...]

"The fact that dogs did this is kind of beside the point," he said. "What this proved is that there are detectable differences in the breath of cancer patients. Now technology has to rise to that challenge."

The next step, he said, will be to analyze breath samples with a gas chromatograph to figure out exactly which mixes of chemicals the dogs are reacting to. [Emphasis added]

I love these low-tech solutions.

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Tuesday Gumpagraph Gumpagraphs
Today's Gumpagraph. Kent is 'Gumpa' to his grandson Sebastian.
© Kent Tenney 

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Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

Last Thursday, the president tried to counter the growing criticism of his Iraq policy by gathering together 13 former secretaries of defense and state, a regular who's who of who's blown up what. Also on the guest list, Robert McNamara, defense secretary during the Vietnam era. The White House invited him to ensure that at least someone in the room had fu*ked up more than they have. — Jon Stewart

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January 16, 2006

Superpower No More Economy  Iraq  Politics

A post from last week pointed out that US GDP growth is being fueled entirely by debt. Old-school conservative Paul Craig Roberts (former Senior Research Fellow of the Hoover Institution, former associate editor of the Wall Street Journal, former Asst. Secretary of the Treasury under Reagan — which is to say, no liberal) agrees. He goes further, blaming the Bush administration and its disastrous war for bringing the US to the brink of an economic abyss. Excerpts:

President George W. Bush has destroyed America's economy, along with America's reputation as a truthful, compassionate, peace-loving nation that values civil liberties and human rights.

Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz and Harvard University budget expert Linda Bilmes have calculated the cost to Americans of Bush's Iraq war to be between $1 trillion and $2 trillion. This figure is five to 10 times higher than the $200 billion Bush's economic adviser Larry Lindsey estimated.

Lindsey was fired by Bush because his estimate was three times higher than the $70 billion figure that the Bush administration used to mislead Congress and the American voters about the burden of the war. You can't work in the Bush administration unless you are willing to lie for Dub-ya.

Americans need to ask themselves if the White House is in competent hands when a $70 billion war becomes a $2 trillion war. [...]

Stiglitz's $2 trillion estimate is OK as far as it goes. But it doesn't go far enough. My own estimate is a multiple of Stiglitz's.

Stiglitz correctly includes the cost of lifetime care of the wounded, the economic value of destroyed and lost lives, and the opportunity cost of the resources diverted to war destruction. What he leaves out is the war's diversion of the nation's attention away from the ongoing erosion of the U.S. economy. [...]

>In 2005, for the first time on record, consumer, business and government spending exceeded the total income of the country.>

America can consume more than it produces only if foreigners supply the difference. China recently announced that it intends to diversify its foreign exchange holdings away from the U.S. dollar. If this is not merely a threat in order to extort even more concessions from Bush, Americans' ability to consume will be brought up short by a fall in the dollar's value, as China ceases to be a sponge that is absorbing an excessive outpouring of dollars. Oil-producing countries might follow China's lead.

Now that Americans are dependent on imports for their clothing, manufactured goods and even high technology products, a decline in the dollar's value will make all these products much more expensive. American living standards, which have been treading water, will sink.

A decline in living standards is an enormous cost and will make existing debt burdens unbearable. Stiglitz did not include this cost in his estimate. [...]

The ladders of upward mobility are being rapidly dismantled by offshore production for U.S. markets, job outsourcing and importation of foreign professionals on work visas. [...]

This fact is made abundantly clear from the payroll jobs data over the past five years. December's numbers, released on Jan. 6, show the same pattern that I have reported each month for years. Under pressure from offshore outsourcing, the U.S. economy only creates low-productivity jobs in low-pay domestic services.

Only a paltry number of private sector jobs were created — 94,000. Of these 94,000 jobs, 35,800 — or 38 percent — are for waitresses and bartenders. Health care and social assistance account for 28 percent of the new jobs, and temporary workers account for 10 percent. These three categories of low-tech, nontradable domestic services account for 76 percent of the new jobs. This is the jobs pattern of a poor Third World economy that consumes more than it produces.

America's so-called First World superpower economy was only able to create in December a measly 12,000 jobs in goods-producing industries, of which 77 percent are accounted for by wood products and fabricated metal products — the furniture and roofing metal of the housing boom that has now come to an end. U.S. employment declined in machinery, electronic instruments, and motor vehicles and parts. [...]

When manufacturing leaves a country, engineering, R&D and innovation rapidly follow. Now that outsourcing has killed employment opportunities for U.S. citizens and even General Motors and Ford are failing, U.S. economic growth depends on how much longer the rest of the world will absorb our debt and finance our consumption.

How much longer will it be before "the world's only remaining superpower" is universally acknowledged as a debt-ridden, hollowed-out economy desperately in need of IMF bailout? [Emphasis added]

The guy sounds like James Kunstler. Kunstler has long insisted that the US economy consists nowadays of little more than the creation and servicing of suburban sprawl: construction, retail, hair cutting and fast food — the stuff that cannot be outsourced overseas. Roberts' figures bear this out, at least as regards new job creation. When the construction bubble bursts, what then?

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Quotes For MLK Day Quotes

Three quotes from Martin Luther King:

I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. That is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant. — Nobel Acceptance Speech, 1964
We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people. — "Letter From Birmingham Jail," 1964
Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. — Source unknown

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Monday Gumpagraph Gumpagraphs
Today's Gumpagraph. Kent is 'Gumpa' to his grandson Sebastian.
© Kent Tenney 

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Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

President Bush met with all the former secretaries of State and Defense for advice on Iraq. This is quite a change. This is the first time Bush has listened to anybody. Well, if you don't count the wiretaps. — Jay Leno

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January 15, 2006

Iranian Nukes: No Need For Panic Iran

Military historian Gwynne Dyer is a realist with a talent for the long view. He knows what he's talking about. He counsels that there's no reason to hit the panic button over Iran's nuclear program or Iran's president's recent statements about Israel. Dyer:

When the International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed last Tuesday that Iran had broken the seals on its nuclear research facility at Natanz, many people reacted as if the very next step was the testing of an Iranian nuclear weapon.

In the ensuing media panic, we were repeatedly reminded that Iran's radical new president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, declared just months ago that Israel should be "wiped off the map." [...]

But talk is cheap and not to be confused with actions or even intentions. Ahmadinejad was quoting directly from the founder of Iran's Islamic revolution, Ayatollah Khomeini. But neither during Khomeini's life nor in the 16 years since his death has Iran made any effort to wipe Israel off the map, because to do so could mean the virtual extermination of the Iranian people.

Israel has held a monopoly on nuclear weapons in the Middle East since shortly after Ahmadinejad was born and now possesses enough of them to strike every Iranian and every Arab city of more than 100,000 people simultaneously. [...]

Ahmadinejad was not joking about wanting Israel to vanish, but he was expressing a wish, not an intention, because Iran has been thoroughly deterred for all of his adult life by the knowledge of those hundreds of Israeli nuclear warheads.

And Iran would still be deterred if it had a few nuclear weapons of its own, just as [President] Reagan was deterred from striking the Soviet Union even though the United States had thousands of the things. [...]

For Iran, nuclear weapons fall into the class of "nice to have" rather than life-or-death necessity. Israel cannot invade it, and even the United States would be reluctant to do so: It is a very big, mountainous and nationalistic country.

So, the Iranians have chipped away at the task of building the scientific and technological basis for a nuclear-weapons program in a desultory way for several decades, without ever getting really serious about it.

That is still the pattern. When the IAEA demanded that Iran explain certain irregularities in its nuclear power research program three years ago, the regime did not respond like North Korea, which immediately abrogated its membership in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and went all out to build nuclear weapons as soon as possible.

Instead, Iran voluntarily allowed the IAEA to put seals on its nuclear research facilities.

Now it has removed those seals and plans to resume its research on nuclear power. This will also enhance its capacity to work on nuclear weapons eventually, but that can't be helped. [Emphasis added]

As Dyer points out, Iran has every legal right to remove the seals and resume nuclear power development. Of course, legality won't impress the Bush administration — but that's not the point. Where legality will matter is in the White House's attempts to once again use the United Nations as cover. Dyer:

The current American campaign to impose United Nations sanctions on Iran is doomed to fail, because it is not breaking the law.

As a signatory of the NPT, it is fully entitled to develop nuclear power for peaceful purposes, including the technology for enriching uranium, even though that also takes it much of the way to a nuclear-weapons capability. In any case, it is practically unimaginable that all the veto-holding powers on the UN Security Council would agree to impose sanctions on a major oil-producer on the mere suspicion that it ultimately intends to break the law.

And there is no need for such a dramatic confrontation. Iran has never been in a great rush to get nuclear weapons.

Even if the CIA is unduly optimistic in assuming that Tehran is still 10 years away from a bomb, there is still plenty of time and room for patient negotiation. And no need for the current histrionics. [Emphasis added]

The hype about Iran's nuclear program is as disonest as the hype about Iraq's nonexistent WMD. It's about manipulating public opinion. It's about pumping up our fear to make us fall in line. It's about distracting us from the many failures plaguing the White House and GOP here at home. But even this White House isn't crazy enough to actually attack Iran, are they?

If they do, we'll know we're truly in the hands of madmen.

[More from Dyer in this post.]

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Suicidally Dumb Politics

Boldly moving to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, the House Democratic Caucus has announced its choice to lead the Dems' Abramoff ethics probe: Rep. James Clyburn, who himself is under an ethics shadow for taking a junket on Abramoff's dime. It just doesn't get any dumber than this.

The only positive: the left blogosphere at least has the integrity not to make up some lame justification just to toe the party line. Here, for example, is Jane Hamsher:

We're not Michelle Malkin or the Powertools sitting here, please don't expect us to line up behind this shit just because you Say So. I'm not going to look for excuses to make this right. It undermines every argument we're trying to make about Abramoff and the architecture of the dirty GOP money machine.

This is just so stupid and wrong in so many ways I don't have words for it.

Me either.

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Quote For Today Quotes
I think the sky is blue because it's a shift from black through purple to blue, and it has to do with where the light is. You know, the farther we get into darkness, and there's a shifting of color of light into the blueness, and I think as you go farther and farther away from the reflected light we have from the sun or the light that's bouncing off this earth, uh, the darker it gets...I think if you look at the color scale, you start at black, move it through purple, move it on out, it's the shifting of color. We mentioned before about the stars singing, and that's one of the effects of the shifting of colors.

— Pat Robertson, "700 Club" telecast (via Pharyngula)

Renaissance man.

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Sunday Gumpagraph Gumpagraphs
Today's Gumpagraph. Kent is 'Gumpa' to his grandson Sebastian.
© Kent Tenney 

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Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

According to the Washington Post, Vice President Dick Cheney is limping today because he injured his foot. Cheney said "If you think my foot looks bad, you should see the old lady I was kicking." — Conan O'Brien

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January 14, 2006

Iraqn Iran

Shame to waste all those all perfectly good Iraq speeches collecting dust in the White House files. Recycle! Using Bush's UN speech from 2002, DeepBlade shows how it's done:

Today, Iraqn continues to withhold important information about its nuclear program — weapons design, procurement logs, experiment data, an accounting of nuclear materials and documentation of foreign assistance. Iraqn employs capable nuclear scientists and technicians. It retains physical infrastructure needed to build a nuclear weapon. Iraqn has made several attempts to buy high-strength aluminum tubes used to enrich uranium for a nuclear weapon. Should Iraqn acquire fissile material, it would be able to build a nuclear weapon within a year.

I keep thinking of the Dylan verse:

Now the rovin' gambler he was very bored
He was tryin' to create a next world war
He found a promoter who nearly fell off the floor
He said I never engaged in this kind of thing before
But yes I think it can be very easily done
We'll just put some bleachers out in the sun
And have it on Highway 61.

Middle East War, Revisited.

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A Fiery Wreck Politics

Atrios on the new Medicare prescription drug plan:

By all accounts a FIERY WRECK, unsurprisingly. Tried to warn you.

If I were the Democratic version of Grover Norquist, tasked with sending out their weekly telepathic talking points, every single Democrat would be fanning out throughout the land over the next couple of weeks demanding emergency legislation to overhaul the program and fix its problems. Town Halls with seniors, video with weeping granny unable to get her drugs from the local pharmacy, etc...

Right on.

Under a normal administration, the Medicare drug plan would be considered a major disaster and a blatant giveaway to Big Pharma. Front-page news. But these people have got so many major screwups active, it's hard to keep track. We can't let it go unnoticed.

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The Nonexistent Walmart Cell Phone Plot 9/11, "War On Terror"

Michelle Malkin is such an idiot.

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Quote For Today Quotes
The "environmental crisis" is a misnomer, since it is (of course) a crisis of ourselves, not of the environment. — Wendell Berry

[Thanks, Carita]

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Saturday Gumpagraph Gumpagraphs
Today's Gumpagraph. Kent is 'Gumpa' to his grandson Sebastian.
© Kent Tenney 

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Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

Doctors in Israel are now slowly drawing Prime Minister Ariel Sharon out of his coma to see what his remaining brain function is. Political experts say it is unlikely someone could run a country with a severe loss of brain activity. I beg to differ. — Jay Leno

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January 13, 2006

Quote For Today Quotes
We Americans are not usually thought to be a submissive people, but of course we are. Why else would we allow our country to be destroyed? Why else would we be rewarding its destroyers? Why else would we all — by proxies we have given to greedy corporations and corrupt politicians — be participating in its destruction? Most of us are still too sane to piss in our own cistern, but we allow others to do so, and we reward them for it. We reward them so well, in fact, that those who piss in our cistern are wealthier than the rest of us.

How do we submit? By not being radical enough. Or by not being thorough enough, which is the same thing.

— Wendell Berry, in "Compromise, Hell!"

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The Best Blonde Joke Ever Humor & Fun

Some of my best friends are blondes, but how could I not link to this: the best blonde joke ever.

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Army Finally Commits To Sending New Body Armor Iraq  Politics

As reported here recently, a secret Pentagon study leaked to the NYT found that some 80% of the approximately 340 US troops who've died from torso wounds in Iraq could have been saved if they'd had proper body armor.

Now, three years too late, the Army is finally committing to production of 230,000 new sets of ceramic body armor plates this year. It remains to be seen if they'll meet their goal.

These guys never seem to do anything without a political motivation. Troops die; they drag their feet. A front-page story appears in the New York Times; they swing into action. Draw your own conclusions.

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Nikon To Phase Out Film Cameras Science/Technology

Digital cameras have a lot of advantages, but the ones I've used have one fatal flaw: the lag between shutter press and image capture makes candid photography a hit-or-miss proposition, at best.

But venerable camera maker Nikon is joining the list of manufacturers who are obsoleting film-based equipment. That sure didn't take long.

The adoption rate for new technologies continues to shrink.

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Reid Compares GOP Corruption To Organized Crime Politics

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid says GOP lobbying-related corruption reminds him of his time fighting the mob in Nevada. And he says it in Tom DeLay's hometown paper, the Houston Chronicle (via Atrios):

In 1977, I was appointed chairman of the Nevada Gaming Commission. It was a difficult time for the gaming industry and Las Vegas, which were being overrun by organized crime. To that point in my life, I had served in the Nevada Assembly and even as lieutenant governor, but nothing prepared me for my fight with the mob.

Over the next few years, there would be threats on my life, bribes, FBI stings and even a car bomb placed in my family's station wagon. It was a terrifying experience, but at the end of the day, we cleaned up Las Vegas and ushered in a new era of responsibility.

My term on the gaming commission came to an end in 1981, and when it did, I thought I had seen such corruption for the last time. Unfortunately, that has not been the case. It is not quite the mafia of Las Vegas in the 1970s, but what is happening today in Washington is every bit as corrupt and the consequences for our country have been severe.

Our nation's capital has been overrun by organized crime — Tom DeLay-style.

The gangsters are the lobbyists, cronies and lawmakers who have banded together and abused their power to serve their own self-interest. The casinos are the Capitol, which has had its doors thrown open for special interests to waltz in and help themselves, and the victims, of course, are the American people. [Emphasis added]

For the particulars, read the rest. Give 'em hell, Harry.

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Friday Gumpagraph Gumpagraphs
Today's Gumpagraph. Kent is 'Gumpa' to his grandson Sebastian.
© Kent Tenney 

No comment.

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Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

Lobbyist Jack Abramoff's legal fees are going to be astronomical. He might even be forced to lay off a couple of Republican Senators. — Will Durst

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January 12, 2006

Your Phone Records Are For Sale Rights, Law

Your phone records are open to anyone who's got your phone number and a credit card. To prove a point, AmericaBlog bought three days of phone records for a cell phone belonging to General Wesley Clark.

You're a law enforcement agent who gets calls from informants, you're a journalist who gets calls from government insiders and whistleblowers — make up your own scenarios where access to this kind of information can cause problems ranging from embarrassing to life-threatening.

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Editorializing? Media

C-SPAN's website has carried the headline "Judicial Activism vs. Judicial Restraint" for the Alito hearings, throughout. What's up with that?

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Out Of Balance Economy

Jerome-a-Paris has some interesting data on the imbalances afflicting the US economy.

The story starts with China. Here are partial data for China's trade balance in 2005:

Total7626601442 24%102
Europe14077217 23%63
USA15651211 25%101
Japannana184 10%na

As Jerome says:

From the numbers above, the way world trade is setting itself up becomes clearer: Western companies invest in China, using Chinese labor and Asian parts (and Australian raw materials), and sell on their home markets. [...]

Western jobs are threatened in many sectors, but Western profits are boosted. Nice if your income comes from capital, and not from labor: profits are at record levels.

This arrangement is unsustainable. It depends on American consumption, for one thing, at the same time that it depresses American wages. Hard to consume when you're broke. For now, the US is getting by on foreign debt. This graph is a real eye-opener:

For the past five years, growth in net debt has exceeded growth in GDP. We're losing ground: for every dollar of GDP growth we've had to borrow more than a dollar from overseas. We're buying our GDP growth with borrowed money.

Meanwhile, the Commerce Dept. is projecting that the US personal savings rate will likely be negative for 2005, the first negative year since the Great Depression.

None of this is sustainable, and yet we plow blithely ahead.

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Thursday Gumpagraph Gumpagraphs
Today's Gumpagraph. Kent is 'Gumpa' to his grandson Sebastian.
© Kent Tenney 

Posted by Jonathan at 06:41 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

Supreme Court confirmation hearings are under way for Judge Samuel Alito. It's pretty interesting. Democrats want to know his position on privacy, while Republicans want to know his position on prison terms for bribery. — Jay Leno

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January 11, 2006

Alito, CAP, and ROTC Politics

Alito's repeated claims that his membership in the openly racist and sexist Concerned Alumni of Princeton (CAP) was based on his desire to defend ROTC and accord respect to the military not only doesn't ring true when he says it, it doesn't square with the record. See this.

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Wednesday Gumpagraph Gumpagraphs
Today's Gumpagraph. Kent is 'Gumpa' to his grandson Sebastian.
© Kent Tenney 

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Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

Things are so bad now the Iraqis are offering to help us restore democracy in Washington. — Jay Leno

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January 10, 2006

A Million Little Lies Media

If you are one of the millions of fans of Oprah Book Club selection A Million Little Pieces, you might want to go read this. In fact, even if you've never heard of the book, The Smoking Gun's investigation makes a fascinating story.

Great reporting. From a blog, no less.

Update: [Jan 11, 1:31PM] Random House apparently is offering to refund the money of anyone who bought the book directly from them.

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China Signals A Move Away From Dollars Economy

China's enormous trade surplus with the US provides it with lots of US dollars to invest. To date, China has invested most of those dollars in US Treasury bills and other dollar-based assets: the Chinese central bank holds more than half a trillion dollars worth of such assets. By buying dollar-based assets, China helps to prop up their value. But now, the Chinese are signalling an intention to move some of their money out of dollars, a move likely to depress the dollar's value. Today's WaPo:

China has resolved to shift some of its foreign exchange reserves — now in excess of $800 billion — away from the U.S. dollar and into other world currencies in a move likely to push down the value of the greenback, a high-level state economist who advises [China's] economic policymakers said in an interview Monday.

As China's manufacturing industries flood the world with cheap goods, the Chinese central bank has invested roughly three-fourths of its growing foreign currency reserves in U.S. Treasury bills and other dollar-denominated assets. The new policy reflects China's fears that too much of its savings is tied up in the dollar, a currency widely expected to drop in value as the U.S. trade and fiscal deficits climb.

China now boasts the world's second-largest cache of foreign exchange — behind only Japan — and is on pace to see its reserves climb past $1 trillion later this year. Even a slight diminishing of the dollar as a percentage of those holdings could exert significant pressure on the U.S. currency, many economists assert.

In recent years, the value of the dollar has been buoyed by major purchases of U.S. Treasury bills by Japan, China and oil-exporting countries — a flow of capital that has kept interests rates relatively low in the United States and allowed Americans to keep spending even as debts mount. Some economists have long warned that if foreigners lose their appetite for American debt, the dollar would fall, interest rates would rise and the housing boom could burst, sending real estate prices lower.

The comments of the Chinese senior economist, made on the condition of anonymity because the government disciplines those who speak to the press without express authorization, confirmed an analysis in Monday's Shanghai Securities News stating that China is inclined to shift some its savings into other currencies such as the euro and the yen, or into major purchases of commodities such as oil for a long-discussed strategic energy reserve. [...]

"We believe this adds to the downside pressure the USD [U.S. dollar] is currently facing," Green wrote. "It is the first official expression from [China] that they are looking at switching away" from the dollar. [Emphasis added]

China has to tread carefully or the value of their dollar holdings will fall, but, given the long-term imbalances in the US economy, one can hardly blame them for feeling nervous about piling up dollars ad infinitum.

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Tuesday Gumpagraph Gumpagraphs
Today's Gumpagraph. Kent is 'Gumpa' to his grandson Sebastian.
© Kent Tenney 

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Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

Lots of people are returning gifts this week, and that's just Congressmen...Even President Bush returned $6,000 given to him by that creepy Jack Abramoff guy. But Bush said he hadn't done anything with the money. In fact, it still had the original strings attached. — Jay Leno

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January 09, 2006

Alito The Freeper Politics

Go read Digby's take on Alito and his resentful ilk. Excellent.

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Just Breathtaking Future  Media  Science/Technology

Google has a product called Google Earth that you can download for free.

Thanks to WorldChanging, I'm discovering an absolutely breathtaking feature of Google Earth that I cannot recommend to you highly enough. Google has layered on top of the African continent hundreds of links to aerial photographs, National Geographic stories, videos, and interactive map features. Go explore.

Click to enlarge

Start by downloading and installing Google Earth. When you have it running, navigate to Africa, and zoom in until you see the yellow rectangles (links to National Geographic photos and stories) and red airplanes (links to aerial photographs). You have to zoom in quite a bit to see them all — i.e., keep zooming after you start to see them, and you'll see more.

Don't miss the links to the various videos and multimedia features. For instance, each of the aerial photo links (the little red airplanes) has a link to "Sights and Sounds of Africa Megaflyover". Take that link, and check out the videos. Don't miss the "Aerial Footage" videos. Stunning.

All-in-all, an astonishingly rich and beautiful resource — and these are no doubt just the very first baby steps. What's going to be available to us five years from now? Ten years? Twenty?

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Falwell: Alito Would Be Biggest Win In 30 Years Politics  Religion

As the Alito hearings open, Jerry Falwell tells us what's at stake:

Christian conservative leader Rev. Jerry Falwell said on Sunday that confirming Federal Appeals Court judge Samuel Alito to the U.S. Supreme Court U.S. Supreme Court would be the biggest victory for his constituency in three decades.

"What we‘ve worked on for 30 years, to mobilize people of faith and value in this country, what we've done through these years is coming to culmination right now," Falwell said at a rally on the eve of Alito's confirmation hearing.

"Now we're looking at what we really started on 30 years ago, reconstruction of a court system gone awry," Falwell said at a rally at a Baptist church in Philadelphia and broadcast on Christian radio and television.

"There could be a reconstruction of the U.S. Supreme Court in our immediate lifetime," said Falwell. [...]

"Go to the telephone, write your letter, get to your U.S. senators. Let's confirm this man, Judge Alito, to the U.S. Supreme Court," Falwell said. "And let's make one more step toward bringing America back to one nation under God." [Emphasis added]

Let's hope the Dems are listening.

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Monday Gumpagraph Gumpagraphs
Today's Gumpagraph. Kent is 'Gumpa' to his grandson Sebastian.
© Kent Tenney 

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Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

Congressmen are actually now returning illegal gifts. I called the weather bureau, and sure enough, hell has frozen over. — David Letterman

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January 08, 2006

IEA: UK Oil Production To Fall Short Of Demand 9/11, "War On Terror"  Iraq  Peak Oil

More on the worsening energy situation in the UK. As reported Friday, soaring natural gas prices have caused many British power stations and other gas users to switch to oil, and oil is now in short supply:

The Association of United Kingdom Oil Independents has told the government that its members had never experienced such protracted and widespread problems...Meanwhile, the Buncefield oil depot fire, the run on oil and other fuels due to cold weather, and a faster than expected rundown of North Sea supplies have caused chaos across the energy sector.

The underlying problem for the UK is that North Sea production has peaked and gone into steep decline (declining 10% in 2004 alone).

Now the International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that starting next spring British production will no longer be able to satisfy British demand. The UK will become a net importer of oil for the first time since 1992, and as bad as their oil & gas situation is now, it's all downhill from here. The Scotsman (via Oil Drum):

The world's top energy watchdog has warned that the UK economy will become a net importer of oil this year for the first time in more than a decade — three years earlier than the government has predicted. [...]

The IEA sees UK oil demand for 2007 of more than 1.8m barrels per day, which it expects North Sea production will only be able to match for the first three months of the year.

Output is projected to fall to 1.65m barrels per day between March and June, and to 1.55m barrels per day between July and September, before rebounding slightly to 1.66m barrels per day in the last three months.

The government's more optimistic forecasts do not see the UK becoming a net importer until 2010.

Fyfe said: "In the last three years production has declined every year more than 200,000 barrels per day or more. We are looking at the slate of projects coming up and we are not factoring in any of the unexpected outages which have happened in the past few years."

The IEA's warnings raise the prospect that the government may turn out to be as badly wrong-footed by the decline of UK oil production as it was by the decline of UK gas — a failure which has put the UK on the edge of a gas crisis this winter.

A couple of things to note. First, crunch time came quicker than anyone expected — i.e., it doesn't pay to rely on rosy government projections. Second, if you were wondering why the UK — even though British public opinion overwhelmingly opposed the war — followed the US into the Middle East, the above provides a clue.

Posted by Jonathan at 09:29 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Ministers Apply "Holy Oil" To Alito Hearing Seats Politics  Religion

Three evangelical ministers says they applied "holy oil" to the seats in the hearing room for Alito's confirmation hearings. WSJ (via AmericaBlog):

Insisting that God "certainly needs to be involved" in the Supreme Court confirmation process, three Christian ministers today blessed the doors of the hearing room where Senate Judiciary Committee members will begin considering the nomination of Judge Samuel Alito on Monday.

Capitol Hill police barred them from entering the room to continue what they called a consecration service. But in a bit of one-upsmanship, the three announced that they had let themselves in a day earlier, touching holy oil to the seats where Judge Alito, the senators, witnesses, Senate staffers and the press will sit, and praying for each of the 13 committee members by name.

"We did adequately apply oil to all the seats," said the Rev. Rob Schenck, who identified himself as an evangelical Christian and as president of the National Clergy Council in Washington.

Rev. Schenck called the consecration service the kick-off in a series of prayer meetings that will continue throughout the confirmation hearing.

Capitol Hill police said they weren't aware that the three had entered the hearing room earlier, but added that hearing rooms typically aren't locked because "they're not of interest to anyone." [...]

The three ministers insisted they weren't taking sides in the Alito debate. "This is not a pro-Alito prayer," insisted the Rev. Patrick Mahoney, director of the Christian Defense Coalition. With abortion, public prayer, gay marriage and right-to-life issues among those topping public debate, however, "God...is interested in what goes on" in the nomination hearing, Rev. Schenck said. [Emphasis added]


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Feingold Won't Rule Out Bush Impeachment Politics

Vermont Guardian (via BuzzFlash):

If Pres. George Bush broke laws when ordering wiretaps and secret spying on U.S. citizens, a key Senate Democrat said he would not rule out calling for his impeachment.

"I think there is an orderly and dignified way to find out what happened," said Russ Feingold of Wisconsin. "And, if there was a legal violation there needs to be accountability ... you can't put the cart before the horse, but I would not rule out any form of accountability."

That would include impeachment, Feingold told reporters. [Emphasis added]

You go, Russ.

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All That Glisters Environment

The days of the great gold rushes, when nuggets of gold could be plucked from the earth or panned from streams, are behind us. The easy gold's all been mined.

Today, to satisfy the world's appetite for gold — primarily for making jewelry — enormous open pit mining operations dig 30-100 tons of rock to capture a single ounce of gold. The rock is piled in gigantic mounds. Sprinkler systems are placed on top that drizzle cyanide onto the mounds — for years. The cyanide seeps down through the rock, taking gold with it. Once the gold has been extracted, what's left is a nightmare of toxic waste.

The mining companies work hand-in-glove with the World Bank, setting up operations in many of the world's poorest regions. Richer nations get gold jewelry, poorer nations get an environmental disaster. NYT:

The price of gold is higher than it has been in 17 years — pushing $500 an ounce. But much of the gold left to be mined is microscopic and is being wrung from the earth at enormous environmental cost, often in some of the poorest corners of the world. [...]

[T]he soaring demand for jewelry...consumes 80 percent or more of the gold mined today. [...]

Consider a ring. For that one ounce of gold, miners dig up and haul away 30 tons of rock and sprinkle it with diluted cyanide, which separates the gold from the rock. Before they are through, miners at some of the largest mines move a half million tons of earth a day, pile it in mounds that can rival the Great Pyramids, and drizzle the ore with the poisonous solution for years. [...]

Some metal mines, including gold mines, have become the near-equivalent of nuclear waste dumps that must be tended in perpetuity. Hard-rock mining generates more toxic waste than any other industry in the United States, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. The agency estimated last year that the cost of cleaning up metal mines could reach $54 billion. [...]

With the costs and scrutiny of mining on the rise in rich countries, where the best ores have been depleted, 70 percent of gold is now mined in developing countries like Guatemala and Ghana. It is there, miners and critics agree, that the real battle over gold's future is being waged. [...]

[E]nvironmental groups say companies are mining in ways that would never be tolerated in wealthier nations, such as dumping tons of waste into rivers, bays and oceans. [...]

This month a Philippine province sued the world's fifth-largest gold company, Canada-based Placer Dome, charging that it had ruined a river, bay and coral reef by dumping enough waste to fill a convoy of trucks that would circle the globe three times. [...]

[Gold] generates more waste per ounce than any other metal and yet has few industrial uses. [...]

[T]he largest sellers of gold are...Wal-Mart stores... [...]

Mountains have been systematically blasted, carted off by groaning trucks the size of houses and restacked into ziggurats of chunky ore. These new man-made mountains are lined with irrigation hoses that silently trickle millions of gallons of cyanide solution over the rock for years. The cyanide dissolves the gold so it can be separated and smelted.

At sites like Yanacocha, one ounce of gold is sprinkled in 30 tons of ore. But to get at that ore, many more tons of earth have to be moved, then left as waste. At some mines in Nevada, 100 tons or more of earth have to be excavated for a single ounce of gold... [...]

But much of those masses of disturbed rock, exposed to the rain and air for the first time, are also the source of mining's multibillion-dollar environmental time bomb. Sulfides in that rock will react with oxygen, making sulfuric acid.

That acid pollutes and it also frees heavy metals like cadmium, lead and mercury, which are harmful to people and fish even at low concentrations. The chain reaction can go on for centuries. [...]

And just as cyanide dissolves gold out of the rock, it releases harmful metals, too. [...]

Environmental risks from hard-rock mines often turn out to be understated and underreported, according to two recent studies. [...]

The environmental group Earthworks examined 22 mines for a report it will publish in November. Almost all of them had water problems, leading it to conclude that "water quality impacts are almost always underestimated" before mining begins. [...]

Today gold companies are striking out to remote corners of the globe led by a powerful guide: the World Bank. [...]

[T]he draft rules give mining companies even more latitude, said...group that monitors the bank. They will make it easier for companies to evict indigenous people and to mine in some of the globe's most treasured habitats... [...]

[In Guatemala,] Bishop Alvaro Ramazzini, a big burly man who mixes politics and religion with ease, doesn't understand why the World Bank lent $45 million to a rich multinational company for a gold mine in his impoverished region of Mayan farmers.

"Why not spend the money directly to help the people?" he asked. [...]

At the June 2004 board meeting of the International Finance Corporation, there was considerable skepticism about its $45 million loan to Glamis.

Members questioned why a $261 million project was creating only 160 long-term jobs and giving money to a "well capitalized" company like Glamis at all... [...]

Mr. Miller, of Glamis, said the mine was a winner for the people, and his company. In fact, he said, Glamis didn't need the bank, the bank came to Glamis.

Bank officials "were anxious to make some investments" in the region, he said.

This is a perfect example of an activity that seems economic (i.e., worth the cost) only because the costs are not borne by the people who reap the profits. As long as corporations are permitted to "externalize" the costs of environmental damage — i.e., push them off on the public — they will continue to leave enormous environmental damage behind. They'll take the money and run.

If gold companies had to pay to clean up their own mess, gold jewelry would be a lot more expensive, true. But as it is, the price of gold — and the profits of the gold mining companies — are subsidized by the people who pay for clean-up through taxes or who have to live with the uncleaned-up toxic mess. Why should one person have to subsidize another person's gold jewelry? And, like any subsidy, this subsidy distorts the market. It directs resources and labor into an activity that is better left undone.

As it is, the costs are public, the profits are private. It's a racket.

Posted by Jonathan at 04:07 PM | Comments (3) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Matt Simmons On Natural Gas Peak Oil

Future generations will think we were nuts. Matt Simmons (author of Twilight in the Desert):

[Natural gas is] the single best energy source we've ever had. It's too bad we didn't understand it. We've used up probably two thirds of the finest natural gas in the world through one of two reasons — we either flared it because we didn't have any idea what to do with it, or we sold it for 1/10th the amount we sold oil for — and we [were giving] oil away. It's not the emissions aspect of natural gas that makes it so unbelievably precious. It's the only source we have of instant heat.

I thought of this quote today when I heated water for tea. Turn a dial on a gas stove: instant heat. We take it for granted. We won't for much longer.

Posted by Jonathan at 04:02 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

2200 Iraq

US troop deaths in Iraq have passed another joyless milestone: 2200. No end in sight.

US troops killed in Iraq as of today: 2206.

And God knows how many Iraqis. For what?

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Dean Crushes Blitzer On Abramoff Politics

Oh, baby. Stop what you're doing and watch this video clip (via Atrios). Howard Dean leaves Wolf Blitzer sputtering.

I'll be back later with a transcript.

UPDATE: Ok, here's my transcript, but watch the video if you can to get the full effect.

BLITZER: Should Democrats who took money from Jack Abramoff, who's now pleaded guilty to bribery charges among other charges, a Republican lobbyist in Washington — should the Democrats who took money from him give that money to charity or give it back?

DEAN: There are no Democrats who took money from Jack Abramoff. Not one. Not one single Democrat. Every person named in this scandal is a Republican, every person under investigation is a Republican, every person indicted is a Republican. This is a Republican finance scandal. There is no evidence that Jack Abramoff ever gave any Democrat any money, and we've looked through all those FEC reports to make sure that's true.

BLITZER: [Stammering] But through various Abramoff-related organizations, and outfits, a bunch of Democrats did take money that presumably originated with Jack Abramoff.

DEAN: That's not true either. There's no evidence for that either, there's no evidence...

BLITZER: What about Senator, what about, what about, what about Senator Byron Dorgan?

DEAN: Senator Byron Dorgan and some others took money from Indian tribes. They're not agents of Jack Abramoff. There's no evidence that I've seen that Jack Abramoff directed any contributions to Democrats. I know the Republican National Committee would like to get the Democrats involved in this. They're scared. They should be scared. They haven't told the truth, and they have misled the American people, and now it appears they're stealing from Indian tribes. The Democrats are not involved in this.

BLITZER: [Long pause, apparently getting direction in his earpiece] [Sigh] Unfortunately, we, uh, Mr. Chairman, we've got to leave it right there.

I love how Blitzer says that money donated by Indian tribes "presumably originated with Jack Abramoff," with absolutely no evidence or basis in fact. Objective journalism at its finest.

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Sunday Gumpagraph Gumpagraphs
Today's Gumpagraph. Kent is 'Gumpa' to his grandson Sebastian.
© Kent Tenney 

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Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

Donald Trump running for president. I blame George Bush. He lowered the standard. — David Letterman

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January 07, 2006

The New Red, White, and Blue Energy  Environment  Peak Oil

I'm not a Thomas Friedman fan ordinarily, but this is good — and the guy does have clout. From WattHead, via WorldChanging, here's an excerpt from a stirring new Friedman piece that calls energy independence and environmental sustainability the top issue facing America today:

What's so disturbing about President Bush and Dick Cheney is that they talk tough about the necessity of invading Iraq, torturing terror suspects and engaging in domestic spying — all to defend our way of life and promote democracy around the globe.

But when it comes to what is actually the most important issue in U.S. foreign and domestic policy today — making ourselves energy efficient and independent, and environmentally green — they ridicule it as something only liberals, tree-huggers and sissies believe is possible or necessary.

Sorry, but being green, focusing the nation on greater energy efficiency and conservation, is not some girlie-man issue. It is actually the most tough-minded, geostrategic, pro-growth and patriotic thing we can do. Living green is not for sissies. Sticking with oil, and basically saying that a country that can double the speed of microchips every 18 months is somehow incapable of innovating its way to energy independence — that is for sissies, defeatists and people who are ready to see American values eroded at home and abroad.

Living green is not just a "personal virtue," as Mr. Cheney says. It's a national security imperative.

The biggest threat to America and its values today is not communism, authoritarianism or Islamism. Its petrolism. [...]

We need a persident and a Congress with the guts not just to invade Iraq, but to impose a gasoline tax and inspire conservation at home. That takes a real energy policy with longterm incentives for renewable energies — wind, solar, biofuels — rather than the welfare-for-oil-companies-and-special-interests that masqueraded last year as an energy bill.

Enough of this Bush-Cheney nonsense that conservation, energy efficiency and environmentalism are some hobby we can't afford. I can't think of anything more cowardly or un-American. Real patriots, real advocates of spreading democracy around the world, live green.

Green is the new red, white and blue. [Emphasis added]


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Al Qaeda Stopped Using Phones Long Ago 9/11, "War On Terror"  Politics  Rights, Law

9/11 changed everything. Al Qaeda terrorism demands warrantless eavesdropping. It's a dangerous new world, blah, blah, blah. Except for one little thing. Washington Times (via Digby):

U.S. law enforcement sources said that more than four years of surveillance by the National Security Agency has failed to capture any high-level al Qaeda operative in the United States. They said al Qaeda insurgents have long stopped using the phones and even computers to relay messages. Instead, they employ couriers.

"They have been way ahead of us in communications security," a law enforcement source said. "At most, we have caught some riff-raff. But the heavies remain free and we believe some of them are in the United States." [Emphasis added]

So, if it wasn't al Qaeda they were monitoring...

Posted by Jonathan at 07:18 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Big Brother's Got Computers 9/11, "War On Terror"  Rights, Law

And cameras, too. WaPo:

Britain, already the world's leader in video surveillance of its people, will soon be able to automatically track the movements of millions of cars on most of its major roads.

Law enforcement agencies are drastically increasing the number of cameras that read license plates and are building a national database that designers say will make it possible to determine in seconds whether a car zooming by has insurance, was stolen or was seen near a crime scene.

"It will revolutionize policing," said John Dean, the national coordinator of the Automatic Number Plate Recognition system, or ANPR. "Our aim is to deny criminals the use of the roads." [...]

Dean said the idea is to make it difficult, if not impossible, to travel by road without being captured by the cameras. [Emphasis added]

The system will track all vehicular traffic in real time.

It was terrorism (IRA bombing, and now the London subway bombings) that caused the Brits to acquiesce in becoming the most surveilled society on earth. But just as more people are killed by pigs each year than by sharks, many times more people are killed in traffic accidents than by terrorist attacks. It makes a lot more sense to be scared of driving your car than it does to be scared of terrorism.

Terrorism does scare people, though, so they say, here are my rights, take them. If they think about it all, they imagine it's a tradeoff between a horrible terrorist attack on the one hand, and the benign use of surveillance technology by honest, well-meaning public servants on the other.

The only way to remain free, however, is to have institutions with a built-in expectation of abuse, systems that don't depend on the honesty, good will, and benign intentions of the people who run them. That's the whole point of the American system of checks and balances: people inevitably abuse power unless they are checked. People on the right who bleat that if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear are fools. Giving governments the power to track everyone's movements (or to eavesdrop on their phone conversations) and expecting that power not to be abused is to ignore both history and human nature.

Posted by Jonathan at 06:27 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Thank You, Pat Robertson

The hosting service keeps statistics on which search phrases (in Google, Yahoo, etc.) most often bring people to Past Peak. The most popular search phrase?

Pat Robertson is an idiot.

Hey, glad to do my part.

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56% Say Get Warrants First Politics

Bush supporters ballyhooed a poll a couple of weeks ago that said:

Sixty-four percent (64%) of Americans believe the National Security Agency (NSA) should be allowed to intercept telephone conversations between terrorism suspects in other countries and people living in the United States.

But of course the question isn't whether the NSA should be allowed to do intercepts. The question is whether the NSA should be allowed do intercepts illegally — i.e., without warrants. A new AP poll shows most Americans think warrants should be required:

56 percent of respondents in an AP-Ipsos poll said the government should be required to first get a court warrant to eavesdrop on the overseas calls and e-mails of U.S. citizens when those communications are believed to be tied to terrorism. [...]

According to the poll, age matters in how people view the monitoring. Nearly two-thirds of those between age 18 to 29 believe warrants should be required, while people 65 and older are evenly divided.

Party affiliation is a factor, too. Almost three-fourths of Democrats and one-third of Republicans want to require court warrants. [Emphasis added]

Republicans fancy themselves to be the party of Liberty, the party of limited government, the party that wants to keep government out of people's lives, but here they are, by a two to one margin, voluntarily surrendering their rights. Whatever happened to "give me libery or give me death"?

At least young people still care about their rights, which is encouraging.

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2006 Bloggies

Nominations are open for the 2006 Bloggies, here. Lots of categories. Two you might consider Past Peak for: "Best Photography" and "Best-Kept-Secret". Nominations close January 10, so don't dilly-dally. Thanks!

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Saturday Gumpagraph Gumpagraphs
Today's Gumpagraph. Kent is 'Gumpa' to his grandson Sebastian.
© Kent Tenney 

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Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

According to a new poll, President Bush's approval rating, on the rise. Well, a lot of those polls are telephone polls. People are worried Bush is listening: Hello? What? I think he's doing a hell of a job! Yeah. — Jay Leno

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Supporting The Troops Iraq  Politics

Support the troops, blah, blah, blah. But actions speak so much louder than words. NYT:

A secret Pentagon study has found that at least 80 percent of the marines who have been killed in Iraq from wounds to their upper body could have survived if they had extra body armor. That armor has been available since 2003 but until recently the Pentagon has largely declined to supply it to troops despite calls from the field for additional protection, according to military officials. [...]

The vulnerability of the military's body armor has been known since the start of the war, and is part of a series of problems that have surrounded the protection of American troops. Still, the Marine Corps did not begin buying additional plates to cover the sides of their troops until this September, when it ordered 28,800 sets, Marine Corps officials acknowledge.

The Army, which has the largest force in Iraq, is still deciding what to purchase, according to Army procurement officials. They said the Army is deciding between various sizes of plates to give its 130,000 soldiers; the officials said they hope to issue contracts this month.

Additional forensic studies by the Armed Forces Medical Examiner's unit that were obtained by The Times indicate that about 340 American troops have died solely from torso wounds. [...]

The shortfalls in bulletproof vests are just one of the armor problems the Pentagon continues to struggle with as the war in Iraq approaches the three-year mark, The Times has found in an ongoing examination of the military procurement system. [...]

Almost from the beginning, some soldiers asked for additional protection to stop bullets from slicing through their sides. In the fall of 2003, when troops began hanging their crotch protectors under their arms, the Army's Rapid Equipping Force shipped several hundred plates to protect their sides and shoulders. Individual soldiers and units continued to buy their own sets. [...]

"Our preliminary research suggests that as many as 42 percent of the Marine casualties who died from isolated torso injuries could have been prevented with improved protection in the areas surrounding the plated areas of the vest," the study concludes. Another 23 percent might have been saved with side plates that extend below the arms, while 15 percent more could have benefited from shoulder plates, the report says. [Emphasis added]

The article has lots more on the extraordinary series of Pentagon screwups that continue to plague production of body armor and armored vehicles. The incompetence is stunning. It defies explanation. It's the icing on the cake of this whole Iraq disaster. An observer from Mars might conclude that the Pentagon's been taken over by a foreign power out to destroy the US military. They seem to be doing a pretty good job of it.

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January 06, 2006

Trouble In Britain Peak Oil

Since the 80s, the UK has been the beneficiary of its North Sea oil and gas holdings, but North Sea fields are now in steep decline — North Sea oil declined 10% in 2004 alone — and the Brits are having a rough winter. So rough, in fact, that you have to wonder why so little attention is being paid on this side of the Atlantic. Guardian:

The Major Energy Users' Council (MEUC) urged utilities such as British Gas to hold back plans to further increase bills and instead work cooperatively with "shell-shocked" customers.

Andrew Bainbridge, director general of the MEUC, said: "We need a moratorium because our members are already shell-shocked by a series of price rises and there is no way they are going to be able to claw back the extra costs.

"Further price increases will force companies out of business and suppliers must work in partnership with their customers through this difficult period."

More than 100 NHS hospitals are on interruptible gas contracts, which mean supplies can be switched off with only four hours' notice. [...]

As independent suppliers warned that they were themselves low on capacity, the Department of Health refused to give details of how long hospitals could survive without further deliveries of oil.

The Association of United Kingdom Oil Independents has told the government that its members had never experienced such protracted and widespread problems. The Russian gas stand-off with Ukraine and other factors leading to soaring prices have encouraged power stations and other gas users to switch to oil.

Meanwhile, the Buncefield oil depot fire, the run on oil and other fuels due to cold weather, and a faster than expected rundown of North Sea supplies have caused chaos across the energy sector. [...]

The price of gas has fallen in recent days on the back of a resolution of the row between Russia and Ukraine, plus warmer weather. But only last week British Gas's parent company, Centrica, warned that surging wholesale prices would force all suppliers to raise their bills during 2006 following double-digit increases last year. [...]

Industrial users have started to close facilities for extended winter breaks to save money.

Statistics released by the Department of Trade and Industry yesterday underlined the fast rundown of local energy supplies, with imports of gas up by 80% in the third quarter, compared with the same period in 2004. [Emphasis added]

Modern technology means that oil and gas can be extracted more quickly and efficiently, so depletion, when it comes, is precipitous. The British experience is a preview of our own future.

Conservatives credit Margaret Thatcher with rejuvenating the British economy during the 80s. Never considered, though, is the fact that the 80s are when North Sea oil production came online, creating an enormous windfall for the UK. Now that the North Sea is past peak and declining rapidly, the UK has tough times ahead.

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AP Poll: Bush And GOP Continue To Sink Politics

A new AP poll conducted January 3-5:

Direction of country — Wrong track: 65%

Bush's job approval — Disapprove: 59%

Bush's handling of economy — Disapprove: 59%

Bush's handling of domestic issues like health care, education and the environment — Disapprove: 62%

Bush's handling of foreign policy issues and the war on terrorism — Disapprove: 54%

Bush's handling of the situation in Iraq — Disapprove: 54%

Bush's handling of Social Security — Disapprove: 60%

Congress's job approval — Disapprove: 63%

If the election for Congress were held today, would you want to see the Republicans or Democrats win control of Congress? — Republicans: 36%, Democrats: 49%

If you think their backs are against the wall now, wait until the corruption indictments start coming in earnest. How long before they manufacture some new crisis, some new war? What else can they do? They can't offer us hope, or optimism, or solutions. Who would listen, who would believe them? They need us to be afraid. Fear's their only out.

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Friday Gumpagraph Gumpagraphs
Today's Gumpagraph. Kent is 'Gumpa' to his grandson Sebastian.
© Kent Tenney 

Posted by Jonathan at 10:30 AM | Comments (2) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

Our torture stance is very simple. We don’t torture people. Never have. Never will. We just don't want to rule it out. — Will Durst

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January 05, 2006

Climate Change May Take Tens Of Thousands Of Years To Dissipate Environment

Today's scariest news item has nothing to do with NSA wiretaps or the "war on terror". It's a study published today in Nature that has dire implications for global warming.

Scientists have found that a sudden warming period some 55 million years ago caused dramatic shifts in the world's ocean currents, causing climate shifts that stayed in place for tens of thousands of years. Such ocean current shifts have long been predicted by modern climate models and have begun to be observed. The Nature study shows that the effects may be very long-lasting indeed — for all practical purposes, permanent. AFP:

An extraordinary burst of global warming that occurred around 55 million years ago dramatically reversed Earth's pattern of ocean currents, a finding that strengthens modern-day concern about climate change, a study says.

The big event, the Palaeocene/Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM), saw the planet's surface temperature rise by between five and eight degrees Celsius (nine and 16.2 Fahrenheit) in a very short time, unleashing climate shifts that endured tens of thousands of years. [...]

Before the PETM, deep water upwelled in the southern hemisphere; over about 40,000 years, the source of this upwelling shifted to the northern hemisphere and it took another 100,000 years before recovering completely.

What unleashed the PETM is unclear. Most fingers of blame point to volcanic eruptions that disgorged gigatonnes of carbon dioxide, or coastal reservoirs of methane gas, sealed by icy soil, that were breached by warmer temperatures or receding seas.

The huge temperature rise may have occurred within just a few thousand years, but as [study authors] Nunes and Norris point out, the effects were enduring and the lesson for humans today is clear.

"Modern CO2 input to the biosphere from fossil fuel sources is approaching that estimated for the PETM, raising concerns about future climate and circulation change," they warned.

"The PETM example shows that anthropogenic (man-made) forces may have lasting effects not only in global climate but in deep-ocean circulation as well." [...]

[The concentration of atmospheric CO2 is] 380ppm [parts per million] today, which is already the highest concentration of CO2 for 650,000 years.

The higher the level, the greater the risk that a vicious circle of global warming could be unleashed, inflicting potentially irreversible damage to Earth's climate system, scientists said. [Emphasis added]

People talk, rightly, about the need to consider the effects of our actions for seven generations to come. What this study shows is that our activities right now, today, may have effects that are felt for thousands of generations — for many, many times the length of recorded history to date.

Yet the Titanic steams blithely on. Where are the words to express the depths of our denial and irresponsibility?

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O'Reilly On Letterman Media

Night before last, I linked to a short excerpt from Bill O'Reilly's appearance on Letterman. Letterman's site actually has the whole interview, which is well worth watching. Go here and click the link for "Dave and Bill O'Reilly 1/3/06".

The first anecdote O'Reilly tells, about Ridgewood Elementary School in Dodgeville, Wisconsin, is a fraud that was exposed as a fraud weeks ago. O'Reilly knows this, but he trots the story out again anyway. What a blowhard. What a liar. Just makes my skin crawl.

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Thursday Gumpagraph Gumpagraphs
Today's Gumpagraph. Kent is 'Gumpa' to his grandson Sebastian.
© Kent Tenney 

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Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

It's the start of a new year and President Bush wants to hit the ground bungling. — David Letterman

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Game, Set, Match Politics

Glenn Greenwald, sitting in for Digby, explains with devastating clarity why the phony legal justifications being marshalled in defence of Bush's illegal wiretaps are just that — phony. Go read it.

Case closed. Court adjourned.

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"Signing Statements" — The Law Means What The President Says It Means 9/11, "War On Terror"  Politics  Rights, Law

Courts often use "legislative intent" for guidance in interpreting laws: they look at statements legislators made during the discussion and debate accompanying a law's passage to flesh out what the legislators themselves intended the law to mean.

Twenty years ago, Bush's Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito suggested that presidents should similarly create a record of what they intend a law to mean when they sign it. WaPo:

As a young Justice Department lawyer, Supreme Court nominee Samuel A. Alito Jr. tried to help tip the balance of power between Congress and the White House a little more in favor of the executive branch.

In the 1980s, the Reagan administration, like other White Houses before and after, chafed at the reality that Congress's reach on the meaning of laws extends beyond the words of statutes passed on Capitol Hill. Judges may turn to the trail of statements lawmakers left behind in the Congressional Record when trying to glean the intent behind a law. The White House left no comparable record.

In a Feb. 5, 1986, draft memo, Alito, then deputy assistant attorney general in the Office of Legal Counsel, outlined a strategy for changing that. It laid out a case for having the president routinely issue statements about the meaning of statutes when he signs them into law.

Such "interpretive signing statements" would be a significant departure from run-of-the-mill bill signing pronouncements, which are "often little more than a press release," Alito wrote. The idea was to flag constitutional concerns and get courts to pay as much attention to the president's take on a law as to "legislative intent." [...]

The Reagan administration popularized the use of such statements and subsequent administrations continued the practice. (The courts have yet to give them much weight, though.)

President Bush has been especially fond of them, issuing at least 108 in his first term...Many of Bush's statements rejected provisions in bills that the White House regarded as interfering with its powers in national security, intelligence policy and law enforcement...

The Bush administration "has very effectively expanded the scope and character of the signing statement not only to address specific provisions of legislation that the White House wishes to nullify, but also in an effort to significantly reposition and strengthen the powers of the presidency relative to the Congress," [says historian Phillip J. Cooper]..."This tour d'force has been carried out in such a systematic and careful fashion that few in Congress, the media, or the scholarly community are aware that anything has happened at all." [Emphasis added]

Is this just a matter of academic interest? Hardly. Last week, Bush used Alito's technique to signal that he reserves the right to ignore the McCain bill outlawing torture of prisoners. Boston Globe:

When President Bush last week signed the bill outlawing the torture of detainees, he quietly reserved the right to bypass the law under his powers as commander in chief.

After approving the bill last Friday, Bush issued a "signing statement" — an official document in which a president lays out his interpretation of a new law — declaring that he will view the interrogation limits in the context of his broader powers to protect national security. This means Bush believes he can waive the restrictions, the White House and legal specialists said.

"The executive branch shall construe [the law] in a manner consistent with the constitutional authority of the President...as Commander in Chief," Bush wrote, adding that this approach "will assist in achieving the shared objective of the Congress and the President...of protecting the American people from further terrorist attacks."

Some legal specialists said yesterday that the president's signing statement, which was posted on the White House website but had gone unnoticed over the New Year's weekend, raises serious questions about whether he intends to follow the law. [...]

David Golove, a New York University law professor who specializes in executive power issues, said that the signing statement means that Bush believes he can still authorize harsh interrogation tactics when he sees fit.

"The signing statement is saying 'I will only comply with this law when I want to, and if something arises in the war on terrorism where I think it's important to torture or engage in cruel, inhuman, and degrading conduct, I have the authority to do so and nothing in this law is going to stop me,'" he said. "They don't want to come out and say it directly because it doesn't sound very nice, but it's unmistakable to anyone who has been following what's going on." [Emphasis added]

There's a real constitutional crisis underway here. It's time people in Congress and around the country step up and start calling it what it is.

The White House is engaged in a game of constitutional chicken. It pretends that Commander in Chief means not what the Framers clearly intended — Commander in Chief of the army and navy — but Commander in Chief of the nation. And, the White House claims, as a coequal branch of government, the Executive is not bound by the laws of Congress.

That's where this is headed. That's the claim. The president is trying to become a law unto himself: let Congress and the courts stop him if they can. And now one of the architects of this view of presidential power, Samuel Alito, is about to be elevated to the Supreme Court. If Congress doesn't act, and forcefully, it may be hard to stuff this particular genie back into the bottle ever again.

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January 04, 2006

Sixty Politics


"Mr. Abramoff says he has information that could implicate 60 lawmakers," the WSJ reports.

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Abramoff In A Nutshell Politics

The LA Times nails the Abramoff story:

The corruption investigation surrounding lobbyist Jack Abramoff shows the significant political risk that Republican leaders took when they adopted what had once seemed a brilliant strategy for dominating Washington: turning the K Street lobbying corridor into a cog of the GOP political machine.

Abramoff thrived in the political climate fostered by GOP leaders, including Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas), who have methodically tried to tighten the links between the party in Congress and business lobbyists, through what has become known as the "K Street Project."

GOP leaders, seeking to harness the financial and political support of K Street, urged lobbyists to support their conservative agenda, give heavily to Republican politicians and hire Republicans for top trade association jobs. Abramoff obliged on every front, and his tentacles of influence reached deep into the upper echelons of Congress and the Bush administration.

Now, in the wake of a plea agreement in which Abramoff will cooperate in an influence-peddling investigation that might target a number of lawmakers, some Republicans are saying that the party will need to take action to avoid being tarnished.

"This is going to be a huge black eye for our party," said Rep. Ray LaHood (R-Ill.)... [...]

Conservatives are worried about possible political fallout for all Republicans, not just those who might be implicated, once Abramoff starts cooperating with prosecutors.

"This is the one thing that could result in a change in who controls the Congress," said Paul Weyrich, a conservative activist. [...]

Abramoff did not just ply lawmakers with meals; he opened a restaurant and plied them with his meals. He did not simply hand out tickets to sporting events; he offered access to several luxury skyboxes. He did not arrange garden-variety golf outings; he brought golfers to the world's most exclusive courses. [...]

Critics of the campaign finance system say it would be a kind of rough justice if Republicans were hobbled by their relationships with a lobbyist, because they worked so hard to increase coordination between their party and K Street.

Republicans said their efforts were no different than what Democrats did for years to raise money and organize support from their constituencies, including labor unions and civil rights advocates. But Democratic critics said the GOP went much further in linking political money to policy outcomes, and that Abramoff was a master at maneuvering in a system that required lobbyists to "pay to play" on Capitol Hill.

"Jack Abramoff is a classic example of the pay-to-play system carried out in the extreme," said Fred Wertheimer, head of Democracy 21, a campaign-finance watchdog group. [Emphasis added]

That's it in a nutshell.

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Liberal Media Media  Politics

A partial list of newspapers who editorialized that Bill Clinton should resign for lying about sex:

USA Today

The Mobile Register
Montgomery Advertiser

Tucson Citizen

San Jose Mercury News
The Orange County Register
The North (San Diego) County Times
The Record, Stockton

The Denver Post

The Day of New London
Norwich Bulletin

The Washington Times

The Orlando Sentinel
The Tampa Tribune

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
The Augusta Chronicle

Chicago Tribune

The Indianapolis Star
Chronicle-Tribune of Marion
South Bend Tribune
The Times of Northwest Indiana

The Des Moines Register

The Topeka Capital-Journal

The Times-Picayune of New Orleans
The News-Star, Monroe

The Grand Rapids Press
Detroit Free Press

Post-Bulletin of Rochester

Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, Tupelo

Jefferson City News-Tribune

Lincoln Journal Star

Reno Gazette-Journal

The Trentonian, Trenton

Albuquerque Journal
The Santa Fe New Mexican

Sunday Freeman of Kingston
Utica Observer-Dispatch

The Herald-Sun of Durham
Winston-Salem Journal

The Repository, Canton
The Cincinnati Enquirer
The Cincinnati Post

The Daily Oklahoman, Oklahoma City
Tulsa World

Statesman Journal, Salem

The Philadelphia Inquirer
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The State, Columbia

Argus Leader, Sioux Falls

San Antonio Express-News
El Paso Times

Standard-Examiner, Ogden
The Spectrum, St. George
The Salt Lake Tribune, Salt Lake City
Deseret News, Salt Lake City

Daily Press of Newport News

The Seattle Times

The Post-Crescent, Appleton
The Journal Times, Racine

Clinton's mistake: he should have lied the country into war. Lied about weapons of mass destruction. Lied about torture. Lied about illegal surveillance of American citizens. Lied about leaks to smear his opponents. Anything. Just not about sex.

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Wednesday Gumpagraph Gumpagraphs
Today's Gumpagraph. Kent is 'Gumpa' to his grandson Sebastian.
© Kent Tenney 

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Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

President Bush says he is 100% sure he was right to wiretap. 100% sure that he was right to wiretap. And you know Bush, when he says he's 100% sure, he's always right. — David Letterman

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Bipartisan, My Ass Media  Politics

Much of the mainstream media's tying itself in knots trying to portray the Abramoff scandal as bipartisan. It's nonsense. They are caving in to what is doubtless crushing pressure from the Republicans, but Abramoff's operation was at the very core of the Republican political machine. Everybody in Washington knows it.

Go read Digby.

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Letterman: "60% Of What You Say Is Crap" Media

Dave Letterman takes on Bill O'Reilly. Video (via Atrios).

Letterman: "I'm very concerned about people like yourself who don't have nothing but endless sympathy for a woman like Cindy Sheehan. Honest to Christ. Honest to Christ."

Letterman: "I'm not smart enough to debate you point for point on this, but I have the feeling — I have the feeling — I have the feeling about 60% of what you say is crap."

Check it out.

(Oh, and O'Reilly — it's not "M16", you pompous ass. It's "MI6". MI, as in Military Intelligence.)

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January 03, 2006

Kunstler On 2006 Economy  Energy  Peak Oil

James Kunstler starts 2006 cheerful as ever. He's got a very long post, full of alarming predictions. The following is a scattering of highlights:

From 2001 through 2005, consumer spending and residential construction had together accounted for 90 percent of the total growth in GDP, while over two-fifths of all private sector jobs created since 2001 were in housing-related sectors, such as construction, real estate and mortgage brokering. Much of the money spent did not really exist except as credit — incomes as yet unearned, hallucinated liquidity, wished-for wealth, all based on the expectation that house values would continue to rise at 10 to 20 percent a year forever. It became a reckless racket, all predicated on sustaining an economy that had lost its other means for generating wealth — foremost its infrastructure for making things besides suburban houses. [...]

The velocity of change in the housing bubble (and the psychology involved) will be greatly affected by oil and gas prices. It seemed to many of us watching the energy markets that the world may indeed have passed through its all-time oil production peak in 2005. Production in 2005 was nearly flat over 2004. The world was producing and also using roughly 82 million barrels of oil a day. Oil coming into new production was not making up for signs of depletion showing among virtually all the world's major producers. Iran, Russia, Mexico, Venezuela, the North Sea, and, of course, the USA, were all past peak. The big mystery was Saudi Arabia, but their inability to boost production from the 50-year-old fields that comprised their main reserves suggested that they were topping out, too. Which left an energy-hungry world with the need to either A.) make other arrangements for powering industrial economies, or B.) contesting for control of the remaining oil reserves, which were substantially concentrated in the Middle East and Central Asia.

Here, I hasten to remind the reader that peak is peak, meaning right now we are all operating on the basis of a lot of oil flowing around the world. The comfort level is still high. The factories are still humming in China, and the six-lane commuting corridors are still full of big cars around Atlanta, Dallas, Denver, and Minneapolis. The problem is that the oil supply will soon steadily diminish at a rate of at least three percent a year, and that necking down of supply is likely to be expressed in greater geopolitical friction and turmoil between the great nations who crave oil. The US entered into the military phase of this turbulence before any other nation. We used our superpower status to set up a centrally-located Middle East garrison in Iraq, under the idealistic cover story that we were removing a dangerous head-of-state and helping to set up a model democracy that would invite us to stick around the vicinity indefinitely, and thus retain some control over the deportment of other oil-rich states in the region. [...]

High gasoline, heating oil, and methane gas prices will absolutely kill the housing bubble...The production home builders will be idle, stuck with huge inventories in places that never should have been suburbanized in the first place. A lot of Americans holding "creative" mortgages — no money down, interest only, adjustable rate, what-have-you — will be crushed by the expense of their obligations. Many of them will go bankrupt under new bankruptcy laws that leave no wiggle room for escaping partial repayment. Their houses will flood the real estate markets in an orgy of distress selling. [...]

With the cratering of the housing bubble, the US economy has to fall on its ass. [...]

The sheer falloff in new mortgages will send a tsunami through financial markets addicted to continuous supplies of new "money" to preserve the illusion of expansion. I'd called for a Dow-4000 late in 2005. I think that was just an error in timing, and still call for the Dow to sink into that range, or worse, in 2006. This will represent a moment of painful clarity for market professionals, as they realize that an industrial economy and the finance that serves it must be based on the expectation of generating real future wealth, not on zero-sum rackets, games of monetery musical chairs, or casino legerdemain. Hedge funds, which depend on predictable stability, will be especially vulnerable. They will certainly take some large banks down with them when they go. I'll call for the so-called government sponsored entities of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to groan under and then drown in a sea of non-performing loans, probably with overtones of criminal irresponsibility.

If these things occur, ugly things would happen to the dollar. [...]

The commercial airline industry is already whirling around the drain. 2006 will send it decisively down that drain. [...]

By similar reasoning, I see an excellent chance for General Motors and Ford to go out of business in 2006. Sales of their stupid SUVs were already tailing off in the second half of last year, and they are not positioned to offer much of anything else. [...]

As America roils in economic pain, factory workers in China will be thrown out of work. They will be extremely pissed off, and as their appeals go unappeased, they might start making political trouble in their country. That could easily stimulate Chinese leaders to divert their nation's attention with a compelling military project...Sooner or later, China eventually will go cuckoo from a shortage of fossil fuels. It only remains to be seen how this will express itself. [...]

Which brings us to the extremely sore subject of Iraq. I maintain that our reasons for being there have not changed one bit, namely to make sure that we don't lose access to Middle East oil in any shape or form. Now my stating that does not mean I think we will necessarily succeed...I predict that circumstances will impel us to withdraw from the Iraqi cities but that we will not give up large bases near the oil production areas of the north and south. [...]

Generally, I predict 2006 will see a shift in power to the big energy bear, Russia. [...]

Japan has nearly been forgotten. It now imports 95 percent of the fossil fuel it needs to run itself. God knows what they will do if geopolitical turmoil shuts down the shipping lanes that bring a steady stream of oil tankers to the islands. [...]

Meanwhile, Mexico's premier oil field, Canterall, has entered depletion. They depend on imports of natural gas from us, and under the rather insane terms of NAFTA, we in the US depend on imports of gas from Canada to make up for the stuff we have to sell to Mexico. [...]

Here in USA, I predict that we will be diverted by a fantastic circus of congressional hearings and court proceedings. It will be scandal-o-rama for the Bush administration and the Republican party. [Emphasis added]

There's lots more at the post, including predictions of $100/barrel oil, $4/gallon gasoline, and $20/million BTU natural gas at some point during 2006.

Kunstler seems to revel in making dire pronouncements, but his basic points are, I think, well taken. US economic growth truly has become something of a mirage, based on consumer spending and the housing bubble, financed by debt. The trade deficit tells the story. We no longer make what we need, we buy it from foreigners and pay for it with money loaned us by foreigners. Kunstler's stock market predictions may not pan out — there is a glut of capital worldwide, and it has to go somewhere — but the US can't go on forever with a negative savings rate and a living standard financed by going further and further into debt.

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Oil Price Spike Peak Oil

Oil prices finished 2005 above $61, an increase of 40% for the year. Natural gas prices surged an astonishing 80% on the year.

And oil prices have spiked sharply higher today. BusinessWeek:

Light sweet crude oil for February delivery was up $2.46, or 4 percent, to $63.50 a barrel in afternoon trade on the New York Mercantile Exchange. [Emphasis added]

Short-term fluctuations like today's spike prove nothing, but the longer-term trend is clear. High prices are here to stay, and price volatility is a new fact of life.

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Iraq's Oil Exports Hit New Low Iraq  Peak Oil

As noted earlier, Iraq's oil industry's in crisis. Oil exports in December were the lowest since the war began. AP:

Iraq's exports of oil hit their lowest level in December since the war, as the country's oil minister resigned in the wake of protests and riots over soaring gas prices and lengthening lines at the pump.

Only 34.4 million barrels were exported in December, or about 1.1 million barrels per day, the lowest average since Iraq resumed exports after the US-led invasion in March 2003, according to figures released Monday.

Almost all the oil was exported from Iraq's southern oil terminals because of continuing sabotage of the country's northern oil facilities. [Emphasis added]

Not exactly a sign of progress. Not unless the plan is to hang onto as much of Iraq's oil as possible as a hole card to be played when world oil shortages hit in earnest.

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2006 Off To A Promising Start Politics

Jack Abramoff has flipped. AP:

Lobbyist Jack Abramoff will plead guilty to federal charges in Washington and Miami, clearing the way for him to cooperate in a massive government investigation of influence peddling involving members of Congress, lawyers said Tuesday.

As part of the deal, prosecutors filed conspiracy, fraud and tax evasion charges against the embattled lobbyist. The filing outlined lavish gifts and contributions that it said Abramoff gave an unnamed House member, identified elsewhere as Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio, chairman of the House Administration Committee, in return for Ney's agreement to use his office to aid Abramoff clients. [...]

Abramoff will plead guilty to two of the six charges in a federal indictment...Four other charges in Florida will remain pending. [...]

Abramoff's travels with former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay are already under criminal investigation. The lobbyist's interactions with the Texas Republican's congressional office frequently came around the time of campaign donations, golf outings or other trips provided or arranged by Abramoff for DeLay and other lawmakers. In all, DeLay received at least $57,000 in political contributions from Abramoff, his lobbying associates or his tribal clients between 2001 and 2004. [Emphasis added]

You'd think these people would realize they're in the public eye and that the odds of exposure are therefore pretty good. It's like they just can't control themselves.

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Tuesday Gumpagraph Gumpagraphs
Today's Gumpagraph. Kent is 'Gumpa' to his grandson Sebastian.
© Kent Tenney 

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Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

Heating bills this winter are the highest they've been in five years, but President Bush has a plan to combat rising bills. It's called global warming. — Jay Leno

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January 02, 2006

Two Essential Points 9/11, "War On Terror"  Politics  Rights, Law

Two essential points about the illegal NSA domestic eavesdropping that hadn't occurred to me before.

First point. If the Bush administration truly is interested in finding and bringing to justice terrorists within our borders, illegal wiretaps hurt that effort, since they produce information that is inadmissible in court. Think Progress:

Today, President Bush attempted to justify his secret domestic spying program:
The NSA program is one that listens to a few numbers, called from the outside of the United States and of known al Qaeda or affiliate people. In other words, the enemy is calling somebody and we want to know who they’re calling and why.

In fact, according to this explanation, the program was not only illegal but unnecessarily puts the American people at risk. [...]

Why? Because evidence obtained by Bush's warrantless domestic spying program is probably not admissible in court. Convictions obtained with evidence from this program may be overturned. Suspected terrorists are already pursuing appeals. [Emphasis added]

Second point. FISA was enacted specifically to prevent the NSA from turning its eavesdropping technology against Americans. This directly refutes White House claims that we're in a new world, one that FISA could not have anticipated. From security expert Bruce Schneier:

Decades before 9/11, and the subsequent Bush order that directed the NSA to eavesdrop on every phone call, e-mail message, and who-knows-what-else going into or out of the United States, U.S. citizens included, they did the same thing with telegrams. It was called Project Shamrock, and anyone who thinks this is new legal and technological terrain should read up on that program. [...]

A lot of people are trying to say that it's a different world today, and that eavesdropping on a massive scale is not covered under the FISA statute, because it just wasn't possible or anticipated back then. That's a lie. Project Shamrock began in the 1950s, and ran for about twenty years. It too had a massive program to eavesdrop on all international telegram communications, including communications to and from American citizens. It too was to counter a terrorist threat inside the United States. It too was secret, and illegal. It is exactly, by name, the sort of program that the FISA process was supposed to get under control.

Twenty years ago, Senator Frank Church warned of the dangers of letting the NSA get involved in domestic intelligence gathering. He said that the "potential to violate the privacy of Americans is unmatched by any other intelligence agency." If the resources of the NSA were ever used domestically, "no American would have any privacy left.... There would be no place to hide.... We must see to it that this agency and all agencies that possess this technology operate within the law and under proper supervision, so that we never cross over that abyss. That is an abyss from which there is no return."

Bush's eavesdropping program was explicitly anticipated in 1978, and made illegal by FISA. There might not have been fax machines, or e-mail, or the Internet, but the NSA did the exact same thing with telegrams. [...]

This issue is not about terrorism. It's not about intelligence gathering. It's about the executive branch of the United States ignoring a law, passed by the legislative branch and signed by President Jimmy Carter: a law that directs the judicial branch to monitor eavesdropping on Americans in national security investigations.

It's not the spying, it's the illegality. [Emphasis added]

Interesting that you have to learn stuff like this from blogs.

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Sweden's PM: Fossil Fuel Independence By 2020 Peak Oil

Sweden's prime minister has declared his belief that peak oil is imminent and has initiated a project aimed at taking Sweden completely off of fossil fuels by 2020. Energy Bulletin:

The Swedish Prime Minister, Göran Persson, has founded a non-political committee with the intent of making Sweden fossil fuel-independent by 2020. [...]

[A December 13th] hearing began with a speech [by] the Prime Minister stating that we are about to experience the oil peak and so need to assess measures to mitigate its effects and to transform society to adapt to this, including looking on how transport and car use will look in the future. PM Persson underscored that Sweden is very fortunate to have vast agricultural and forestry resources, and to have excellent access to fresh water and no need for irrigation. [...]

The general theme of the hearing was one of Swedish style consensus and non-confrontation, and one can but assume that biofuels, both for transport and electricity generation and heating will be the focus of the committee's work.

Today Sweden gets almost all of its electricity from nuclear and hydroelectric power, and mostly relies on fossil fuels only for transport; most of the heating has been converted to electric space heating, biofuels and waste recycling, with a small percentage remains fossil fuelled. A 1980 referendum decided that nuclear power is to be phased out, although this has been severely delayed...

Recently there has been trend in Sweden towards increased sales of flexifuel E85 (ethanol) vehicles and fuel, and there are projects underway increase native production of ethanol and synthetic fuels from forest industry waste. [Emphasis added]

Fossil fuel independence by 2020 is obviously an extraordinarily agressive goal, but Sweden does have a headstart over other industrialized nations. In any case, it's encouraging to see a head of state acting like a grown-up and voluntarily taking action to accommodate the inevitable. A bit of good news.

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Living In A Pre-War Era Energy  Iran  Iraq  Peak Oil

A chilling note from diarist Stirling Newberry at dKos:

On this, the first working day of the New Year, we are already getting a good stiff taste of the running theme of 2006. If 2004 and 2005 saw resource inflation, 2006 is the year when resource rich countries begin using those resources as weapons, and resource poor countries begin taking aggressive steps to secure resources. The current world market approach to energy is going to break down, as more and more nations are forced to jostle for position.

Somewhere in the next two years it will dawn on the American public that we live in the pre-war, not post-war, era, and that Iraq was a foreshock. [Emphasis added]

With Iran in the crosshairs, Russia withholding natural gas shipments to the Ukraine, and Iraq facing an oil supply crisis, 2006 is off to an ominous start. Horrifying to contemplate: Iraq may be just the beginning.

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Monday Gumpagraph Gumpagraphs
Today's Gumpagraph. Kent is 'Gumpa' to his grandson Sebastian.
© Kent Tenney 

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Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

In a recent interview, President Bush said, this is a quote, "I know a lot of people who are glad that we're in Iraq." When asked who, the president said the leaders of North Korea and Iran. — Conan O'Brien

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January 01, 2006

Rumors Of War Iran

Global Guerrilla's John Robb on rumors of an impending US attack on Iran:

My two cents on how this attack would occur: it would rely on a combination of hard target destruction (facilities that don't contain nuclear material) and an EBO directed against Iranian cities. What this means is that there is no way to take out 300 dispersed facilities with airpower with any degree of confidence. Destruction of Iranian infrastructure through an effects-based attack (EBO) would be made to force them to allow inspectors in to supervise the dismantling of their program. It would de-modernize them until they complied.

This is a bold strategy for the mid-term elections. It would totally reverse public sentiment and provide new justification for the "Bush Doctrine."

Unfortunately, this system perturbation will only accelerate the instability already underway and drive oil prices through the roof... Anyone know of a good LEAP-like product for oil that I could buy? For global guerrillas in Iraq, this will be mana from heaven since it will allow Sunni guerrillas to make common cause with Shiite guerrillas against the US. In larger geopolitical terms, we would soon find ourselves in a fight with a global guerrilla virtual state factory that stretches from Israel to China. [Emphasis added]

Personally, I find it hard to believe that even this White House would be so reckless as to attack Iran, but as their political situation continues to deteriorate (with Jack Abramoff about to flip, for example) and as the 2006 elections draw near, who knows?

It would be a desperate gamble, for sure. The disruption of international oil markets could leave the US economy reeling, or worse. The US Army, already close to broken, could be reduced to a smoking ruin with the inevitable intensification of fighting in Iraq. Air power alone can only do so much.

It would be dumb beyond belief. But when has that stopped them before?

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Tales Of The Weird Politics

Let's face it. Our president is a strange, strange man. So strange it's scary. Digby knows.

(See also this blast from the past.)

Posted by Jonathan at 06:23 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Sunday Gumpagraph Gumpagraphs
Today's Gumpagraph. Kent is 'Gumpa' to his grandson Sebastian.
© Kent Tenney 

Posted by Jonathan at 04:54 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

You know President Bush and his father have nicknames for each other? President Bush calls his father 41, because he was the 41st president, and his father calls him 43, because that's his approval rating. — Jay Leno

Posted by Jonathan at 04:51 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb