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April 30, 2006

Peace Takes Courage Activism  Iraq

Alabama native Ava Lowery, 15, has produced an excellent set of Flash animation videos against the Iraq war.

WWJD (What Would Jesus Do) is a powerful piece that provoked a lot of positive response, but also death threats and other vicious emails, as reported by my friend Matt Rothschild of The Progressive. Undaunted, Ava pieced together many of those comments for a new video, The 32%. As Ava says, peace takes courage.

Perhaps most poignant of all is No More Broken Promises, that looks at the heartbreak from American soldiers' families' point of view. Hard to watch without weeping.

Be sure to have the sound turned on.

[Thanks, Kent]

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Bush: I Decide What's Law Politics  Rights, Law

President Bush, alone among modern presidents, has never vetoed a bill. Why veto bills when he can just disobey them? Boston Globe:

President Bush has quietly claimed the authority to disobey more than 750 laws enacted since he took office, asserting that he has the power to set aside any statute passed by Congress when it conflicts with his interpretation of the Constitution.

Among the laws Bush said he can ignore are military rules and regulations, affirmative-action provisions, requirements that Congress be told about immigration services problems, "whistle-blower" protections for nuclear regulatory officials, and safeguards against political interference in federally funded research.

Legal scholars say the scope and aggression of Bush's assertions that he can bypass laws represent a concerted effort to expand his power at the expense of Congress, upsetting the balance between the branches of government. The Constitution is clear in assigning to Congress the power to write the laws and to the president a duty "to take care that the laws be faithfully executed." Bush, however, has repeatedly declared that he does not need to "execute" a law he believes is unconstitutional.

Former administration officials contend that just because Bush reserves the right to disobey a law does not mean he is not enforcing it: In many cases, he is simply asserting his belief that a certain requirement encroaches on presidential power.

But with the disclosure of Bush's domestic spying program, in which he ignored a law requiring warrants to tap the phones of Americans, many legal specialists say Bush is hardly reluctant to bypass laws he believes he has the constitutional authority to override.

Far more than any predecessor, Bush has been aggressive about declaring his right to ignore vast swaths of laws — many of which he says infringe on power he believes the Constitution assigns to him alone as the head of the executive branch or the commander in chief of the military.

Many legal scholars say they believe that Bush's theory about his own powers goes too far and that he is seizing for himself some of the law-making role of Congress and the Constitution-interpreting role of the courts.

Phillip Cooper, a Portland State University law professor who has studied the executive power claims Bush made during his first term, said Bush and his legal team have spent the past five years quietly working to concentrate ever more governmental power into the White House.

"There is no question that this administration has been involved in a very carefully thought-out, systematic process of expanding presidential power at the expense of the other branches of government," Cooper said. "This is really big, very expansive, and very significant."

...[T]wice in recent months, Bush drew scrutiny after challenging new laws: a torture ban and a requirement that he give detailed reports to Congress about how he is using the Patriot Act. [...]

[The administration says] "the president will faithfully execute the law in a manner that is consistent with the Constitution."

But the words "in a manner that is consistent with the Constitution" are the catch, legal scholars say, because Bush is according himself the ultimate interpretation of the Constitution. And he is quietly exercising that authority to a degree that is unprecedented in US history.

Bush is the first president in modern history who has never vetoed a bill, giving Congress no chance to override his judgments. Instead, he has signed every bill that reached his desk, often inviting the legislation's sponsors to signing ceremonies at which he lavishes praise upon their work.

Then, after the media and the lawmakers have left the White House, Bush quietly files "signing statements" — official documents in which a president lays out his legal interpretation of a bill for the federal bureaucracy to follow when implementing the new law. The statements are recorded in the federal register.

In his signing statements, Bush has repeatedly asserted that the Constitution gives him the right to ignore numerous sections of the bills — sometimes including provisions that were the subject of negotiations with Congress in order to get lawmakers to pass the bill. He has appended such statements to more than one of every 10 bills he has signed.

"He agrees to a compromise with members of Congress, and all of them are there for a public bill-signing ceremony, but then he takes back those compromises — and more often than not, without the Congress or the press or the public knowing what has happened," said Christopher Kelley, a Miami University of Ohio political science professor who studies executive power.

Many of the laws Bush said he can bypass — including the torture ban — involve the military.

The Constitution grants Congress the power to create armies, to declare war, to make rules for captured enemies, and "to make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces." But, citing his role as commander in chief, Bush says he can ignore any act of Congress that seeks to regulate the military.

On at least four occasions while Bush has been president, Congress has passed laws forbidding US troops from engaging in combat in Colombia, where the US military is advising the government in its struggle against narcotics-funded Marxist rebels.

After signing each bill, Bush declared in his signing statement that he did not have to obey any of the Colombia restrictions because he is commander in chief. [...]

In October 2004, five months after the Abu Ghraib torture scandal in Iraq came to light, Congress passed a series of new rules and regulations for military prisons. Bush signed the provisions into law, then said he could ignore them all. [...]

[A] new law also created the position of inspector general for Iraq. But Bush wrote in his signing statement that the inspector "shall refrain" from investigating any intelligence or national security matter, or any crime the Pentagon says it prefers to investigate for itself.

Bush had placed similar limits on an inspector general position created by Congress in November 2003 for the initial stage of the US occupation of Iraq. The earlier law also empowered the inspector to notify Congress if a US official refused to cooperate. Bush said the inspector could not give any information to Congress without permission from the administration. [Emphasis added]

Hello? Why do we even have a Congress anymore if Bush can ignore its laws? Why do we have a Supreme Court if Bush decides what's Constitutional? Is The Decider now Der Fuehrer?

Posted by Jonathan at 04:49 PM | Comments (2) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Stephen Colbert Has Brass Balls Humor & Fun  Politics

Stop what you're doing and go watch Stephen Colbert at last night's White House Correspondents dinner. Seriously. Stop what you're doing and go watch.

The clip is only the second half of his performance, but it's stunning. Bush was not amused, nor were many of the White House correspondents present.

The truth hurts.

Posted by Jonathan at 04:17 PM | Comments (1) | 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 12:49 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

President Bush said this week to help with gas prices he will temporarily ease environmental regulations. Great. Not only will you not be able to drive, you won't be able to breathe either. — Jay Leno

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April 29, 2006

2400 Iraq

US troops killed in Iraq as of today: 2400.

And God knows how many Iraqis. For what?

No end in sight.

Posted by Jonathan at 03:13 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

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

Posted by Jonathan at 03:12 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

The long-rumored merger between Fox News and the White House was made official this week, with the hiring of Fox News commentator Tony Snow to serve as the president's press secretary. A rebranding is in the works, and the new company will be called Integralux. The new way to govern. The company's expected to go public, uh, never. — Jon Stewart

TV's Tony Snow becomes the White House press secretary. How will he make the difficult transition from Fox News reporter to Republican apologist?...Mr. President, it is time to hire the folks who've never let you down. Limbaugh at Health and Human Services. Hannity at State. Then give Rummy the Medal of Freedom and install Bill O'Reilly as secretary of defense. Only problem, you might find yourself invading Vermont. And I'll replace Chertoff at Homeland Security. — Stephen Colbert

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April 28, 2006

Whose Cultural Heritage? Politics

One of Digby's readers asks:

Please tell us again why the Spanish translation of the National Anthem is making wingnut heads explode when they all but genuflect at the waving of the Confederate Rebel flag?

Tell me please, which of these was meant to turn hearts to America, and which is meant to tear the country apart?

Good question.

Posted by Jonathan at 10:06 PM | Comments (2) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Costlier Than Vietnam, By Far Iraq

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan taken together are going to cost far more, in constant dollars, than Vietnam. WaPo:

The cost of the war in Iraq will reach $320 billion after the expected passage next month of an emergency spending bill currently before the Senate, and that total is likely to more than double before the war ends, the Congressional Research Service estimated this week. [...]

Once the war spending bill is passed, military and diplomatic costs will have reached $101.8 billion this fiscal year, up from $87.3 billion in 2005, $77.3 billion in 2004 and $51 billion in 2003, the year of the invasion, congressional analysts said. Even if a gradual troop withdrawal begins this year, war costs in Iraq and Afghanistan are likely to rise by an additional $371 billion during the phaseout, the report said, citing a Congressional Budget Office study. When factoring in costs of the war in Afghanistan, the $811 billion total for both wars would have far exceeded the inflation-adjusted $549 billion cost of the Vietnam War.

"The costs are exceeding even the worst-case scenarios," said Rep. John M. Spratt Jr. (S.C.), the ranking Democrat on the House Budget Committee. [Emphasis added]

Amazing. Has any American administration in history done so much damage to the country in so little time? And note the year-to-year trend: 51 billion, 77.3, 87.3, 101.8. Remember Mission Accomplished?

Posted by Jonathan at 09:59 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

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

Posted by Jonathan at 10:41 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

President Bush has picked FOX newsman Tony Snow to be his press secretary. Snow once said that President Bush was an embarrassment, a leader who has lost control of the federal budget, and the architect of a listless domestic policy. Good thing for Snow Bush doesn't read the newspapers. — Jay Leno

Posted by Jonathan at 10:29 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

April 27, 2006

What's In A Name? Politics

This is just weird.

According to a CNN poll, people's opinion of Hillary depends significantly on whether she's refered to as Hillary Clinton or Hillary Rodham Clinton. Among Republicans, 16% approve of HC, but 23% approve of HRC. Among Independents, 42% approve of HC, but 48% approve of HRC. Tell me people aren't that clueless.

Posted by Jonathan at 11:26 PM | Comments (1) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Oil Drum To Politicians: Get A Clue Peak Oil  Politics

The political posturing — on both sides of the aisle — in response to rising oil/gas prices is both disheartening and disgusting. Politicians of both parties seem to think the answer is to scapegoat oil companies with a lot of blather about price gouging and oil company profits. Yes, oil profits are obscenely large, but they are effect, not cause, of high oil prices. American oil companies control neither the futures markets nor the rate of oil production in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere. Apparently, almost no one in Washington understands where oil comes from.

The Oil Drum has written an important press release on this topic. It's so good I'm just going to quote it at length:

We strongly feel that the leaders of both political parties are not only headed in the wrong direction with respect to gas prices, but we also worry that they fundamentally misunderstand the factors behind the current situation at gasoline stations around the US. Public statements by political figures over the past several days would seem to suggest that oil companies and their record profits are the sole factor determining the price of gasoline. Not only is this untrue, but it is dangerous to give the American people the impression that only oil companies are to blame. The American people need to understand that the phenomenon of high gas prices cannot be attributed to a single source. They also need to understand that no one political party will be able to fix our current woes.

The major factor that determines gas prices is the price of crude oil from which gasoline is derived. When crude oil prices are high, so are gas prices. The following are just a few factors that affect the price of a barrel of oil:


  1. Oil companies do not single-handedly determine the price of oil. The price of oil is set on the crude oil futures market. Simply put, these prices are affected by supply and demand because, at present, oil trades in a global commodity market where increased demand or reduced supply in one place instantly translates into price shifts everywhere. A variety of publicly available information sources show that supply is relatively static at the moment, while world demand continues to grow as economies grow.
  2. We have provided evidence many times at The Oil Drum that the output of major oilfields is declining and that we may now have reached a peak or plateau in global oil supply. Oil companies have not been able to increase production for a number of years, and it is unclear that OPEC is accurately reporting their reserves. Even if there were significant sources of high quality oil remaining, it is getting increasingly difficult and expensive to drill. These factors, along with aging infrastructure for oil exploration and a retiring workforce are also contributing to high oil prices.
  3. The geopolitical situation is volatile, and...every time there is news from Nigeria or Iran, the price of oil goes up because of the potential and real effects of these situations on world oil supply. Again, oil traders are fearful that the supply will not remain stable forever.
  4. Countries like China and India are industrializing at a great pace...China is working furiously to secure new oil supplies...

These points demonstrate that disruptions in the supply of oil that affect the price of gasoline at the pump are not just a temporary glitch. For various reasons — decreased discoveries of new oilfields, geopolitical instability, international competition for oil supply — we can no longer assume that we will be able to consume as much oil as possible, or ever get it again for $1.50 a gallon.

Demagoguery and grandstanding are not strategies for addressing our energy problems. As an alternative, the editors of The Oil Drum put forth the following recommendations:


  1. It is nonsensical for political leaders of both parties to eliminate the gas tax temporarily or permanently as this will only worsen our dependence on oil by disincentivizing the innovation of oil alternatives and oil conservation efforts.
  2. Both mainstream American political parties are doing their country a disservice by accusing convenient scapegoats of price gouging or price fixing instead of educating the public about how the price of gas is actually set.
  3. Right now, governments should be focused on helping us cure our "addiction to oil." The answer does not lie in lowering gas prices, which will only encourage people to drive more and further waste our valuable resources. As the Department of Energy funded Hirsch Report on Peak Oil laid out, the consequences of not taking steps to transition away from oil could be dramatic to our economic system. Appropriate solutions include large-scale research, development, and implementation programs to improve the scalability of alternative sources of energy, other projects geared towards improving mass transit and carpooling programs across the country, providing incentives to buy smaller and more fuel efficient vehicles, and promoting a campaign to increase awareness about conservation.

The political discourse on this topic is simply so devoid of fact, and constructive discourse so buried and out of the mainstream, that we felt we needed to raise a voice of reason. Public officials will continue to misinform and obfuscate if we allow it.

The only solution is to educate the public about the most important problem we face as a generation. We, the citizens of the US and the world, must move our attention to this the issue of energy more than any other. We must hold our representative governments accountable for having an open and honest debate on the subject.

Simply put, we must learn more about where our energy comes from. [Emphasis added]

Last summer, I had the opportunity to talk with Senator Feingold for a few minutes, and I quickly outlined for him the evidence on peak oil. I was somewhat taken aback that it seemed like news to him. And he's one of the good guys.

All the price gouging posturing is worse than useless, it's harmful. It perpetuates myths about what are the causes and what, therefore, are the cures. It's time for politicians to get a clue, start acting like grownups, and tell people the honest truth. The world energy situation is not a temporary hiccup. We are faced with an extraordinarily serious long-term problem. Given the sheer scale of world energy use, solutions will require a long lead time. When the crisis hits in full force, it will already be too late.

If you ask me, there's a real opportunity here for Progressives, Greens, and Democrats. People are hungry for some politicians who actually speak the unvarnished truth. And we never needed the truth more than we do now.

Posted by Jonathan at 09:56 PM | Comments (2) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

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

Posted by Jonathan at 11:04 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

Republicans in Congress are demanding that President Bush investigate whether oil companies are now gouging consumers on these gas prices. That's a good idea, Republicans asking Republicans to investigate other Republicans. And you know who they're going to blame? The Democrats. — Jay Leno

Posted by Jonathan at 11:02 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

April 26, 2006

Class Cleansing Disasters  Politics

In the immediate aftermath of Katrina, I wrote that New Orleans was going to be subject to a deliberate policy of ethnic cleansing. Black neighborhoods were going to be razed and replaced by a Disney-fied New Orleans for yuppies. Some readers thought that was over the top: surely, once the smoke cleared, poor Blacks would be allowed to return to the city.

Guess again. From the New Orleans Times-Picayune, yesterday:

U.S. Housing Secretary Alphonso Jackson shed little light Monday on the future of public housing in hurricane-battered New Orleans, but said that "only the best residents" of the former St. Thomas housing complex should be allowed into the new mixed-income development that replaced it.

In a wide-ranging interview with reporters, Jackson was asked about the relatively small number of apartments in the 60-acre River Gardens development in Uptown that have been set aside for former residents of St. Thomas. Jackson estimated it was 18 percent to 20 percent, although housing advocates said it is less.

"Some of the people shouldn't return," Jackson said. "The (public housing) developments were gang-ridden by some of the most notorious gangs in this country. People hid and took care of those persons because they took care of them. Only the best residents should return. Those who paid rent on time, those who held a job and those who worked."

The blunt-spoken Jackson, who is black, acknowledged his comments might be seen as racially offensive because virtually all of the former St. Thomas residents were African-American. He told a white reporter, "If you said this, they would say you were racist."

He went on to say, "I don't care what color they are, if they are devastating a community, they shouldn't be allowed to return." [...]

[Housing Authority of New Orleans] spokesman Adonis Expose also confirmed Monday that the agency is considering a long-rumored policy change that would require all public housing residents in New Orleans to have a job or be in a job-training program.

Eight months after Hurricane Katrina, the future of the 10 public housing complexes in New Orleans remains an open question. Times have never been tougher for low-income people, as a shortage of rental housing after Hurricane Katrina has seen rents rise to historic levels.

While HUD has reopened some complexes, such as Iberville, most remain closed and surrounded by fencing. Eager to return, former residents have marched in protest to force the government to open more, but HUD has refused. [Emphasis added]

These are American citizens who want to return to their homes, but the Federal government thinks it gets to decide who's good enough to come home. Where are the rest supposed to live? In government camps and trailer parks, forever? Maybe ethnic cleansing isn't exactly the right term. It's more like class cleansing, though in New Orleans, as in much of America, that turns out to be pretty much the same thing.

Posted by Jonathan at 09:53 PM | Comments (1) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

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

Posted by Jonathan at 10:52 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

President Bush announced his plan to increase the number of barrels (of oil) produced. You hear his plan? He wants to make smaller barrels. — Jay Leno

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April 25, 2006

Political Instability And The Price Of Gas Energy  Peak Oil  Politics

As gas prices move higher, Republican politicians are sweating. With good reason. The graph below (from Professor Pollkatz, whom we first linked to back in 2004) plots Bush's approval rating in blue and the price of gasoline (inverted — i.e., lower on the graph means higher in price) in red (click to enlarge). Talk about correlation.

And so we're treated to Republican Bush today posed in front of a backdrop more befitting a granola-eating, Birkenstock-wearing Green, speaking about investigating Big Oil for price-gouging.

Republicans in both houses of Congress are jumping on the bandwagon. WaPo:

Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) said this week that a windfall-profits tax on oil companies is "worth considering."

Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex.), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, joined other lawmakers yesterday in condemning high oil prices by taking aim at oil companies. Barton said his committee will hold hearings into the imbalance of supply and demand. He added that "it troubles me" that Exxon Mobil Corp.'s chief executive received a large pay and retirement package "while refinery capacity continues to lag behind demand in this country."

Republicans talking about taxing profits, of all things.

It would be nice if the Dems would use the opportunity to take the high ground via straight talk about the world supply future and the urgent need to take serious steps on fuel efficiency and development of alternatives. But, as usual, their proposals are mostly Republican Lite. (Although Bill Clinton, at least, did recently acknowledge Peak Oil in a speech in London.)

Meanwhile, the inverse correlation between gas prices and political fortunes bodes ill for our political future. So long as Americans are addicted to oil, the US political picture is going to be increasingly unstable. Billmon has a good post on this. Excerpt:

It's a little disconcerting to think that gas prices — not Iraq, not Katrina, not the extra-constitutional power grabs — could decide whether Shrub's presidency recovers or collapses into complete irrelevancy for the next three years. [...]

[The inverse correlation between gas prices and political fortunes] should be enough to make any would-be president (Demopublican or Republicrat) extremely nervous, since it seems high energy prices are likely to be a major fact of life for years to come — and maybe forever. If that turns out to be the case, then an absolutely necessary condition for future presidential success, or even survival, might be making sure the go juice keeps flowing at prices that won't drive the average American SUV owner onto the war path.

But that isn't going to be easy — not in a world in which everybody and their Chinese cousin is scrambling to lock up the available supply, where a number of major oil producing countries are a coup away from becoming failed states (if they're not there already), and that is already producing about as much of the light, sweet cheap stuff as it ever will.

Given the political incentives, it's possible to look a ways down the road — not a long ways — and see a U.S. military policy (formerly known as a foreign policy) that begins and ends with the protection of the oil lifeline. [...]

America's oil lifeline spans the earth...All of it has to be watched and guarded, stabilized and supervised. Even a partial loss of control could turn into a disaster, since in a global market supply disruptions anywhere can send prices soaring everywhere. And yet some of the most serious threats — like the separatist movement in the Niger delta — are outside the U.S. security "umbrella," traditionally defined.

What this implies, of course, is a terrible case of imperial overstretch, one which technology, firepower and Special Forces mojo may not be able to cure, no matter how much money gets thrown at the Pentagon. When the objective is to protect vital economic infrastructures, rather than blow them up, the U.S. military machine clearly lacks many of the right tools — like an adequate number of combat boots with soldiers' feet inside them.

For those who fear above all else the threat of hostile Middle Eastern regimes armed with WMD, this is potentially very bad news, at least in the long run. Unless stopping the (insert nationality here) Hitler can be done in a way that doesn't jack up the price of a gallon of regular, future U.S. administrations may be unwilling, or politically unable, to risk it.

Unfortunately, in the short run this could be even worse news for those of us who fear a wider war in the Middle East more than the future possibility of a nuclear Iran. Having seen what high gas prices have done to his popularity ratings, Bush may feel confirmed in his reported conviction that no future president will have the guts to take down Tehran. And having fallen into Jimmy Carter territory, he may also feel he has nothing left to lose, at least politically, by doing it himself. [Emphasis added]

Billmon goes on to suggest that Bush's failure may lead future administrations to return to a more cautious and prudent posture. I wonder.

At the end of the film 1975 Three Days of the Condor, Robert Redford's character, a CIA analyst, confronts his superior, played by Cliff Robertson. Remember, this was 1975:

Turner (Robert Redford): "Do we have plans to invade the Middle East?"

Higgins (Cliff Robertson): "Are you crazy?"

Turner: "Am I?"

Higgins: "Look, Turner..."

Turner: "Do we have plans?"

Higgins: "No. Absolutely not. We have games. That's all. We play games. What if? How many men? What would it take? Is there a cheaper way to destabilize a régime? That's what we're paid to do."

Turner: "Go on. So Atwood just took the game too seriously. He was really going to do it, wasn't he?”

Higgins: "It was a renegade operation. Atwood knew 54-12 would never authorize it. There was no way, not with the heat on the Company.”

Turner: "What if there hadn't been any heat? Supposing I hadn't stumbled on a plan? Say nobody had?"

Higgins: "Different ball game. The fact is there was nothing wrong with the plan. Oh, the plan was alright. The plan would have worked."

Turner: "Boy, what is it with you people? You think not getting caught in a lie is the same thing as telling the truth?"

Higgins: "No. It's simple economics. Today it's oil, right? In 10 or 15 years - food, Plutonium. And maybe even sooner. Now what do you think the people are gonna want us to do then?

Turner: "Ask them."

Higgins: "Not now - then. Ask them when they're running out. Ask them when there's no heat in their homes and they're cold. Ask them when their engines stop. Ask them when people who've never known hunger start going hungry. Do you want to know something? They won't want us to ask them. They'll just want us to get it for them." [Emphasis added]

The correlation between oil prices and political fortunes will, as prices inevitably climb higher, open the door to opportunistic demagogues and hardliners, here in the US and throughout the world. Reason number 1,001 why we need to conserve — now.

Posted by Jonathan at 09:02 PM | Comments (1) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Slobbering Honey-Baby Activism  Humor & Fun

Five students, ages 7-10, wrote speeches they'd like to hear from President Bush, assuming he somehow came to see the error of his ways.

Go here to hear them read by Bush impersonator Jim Meskimen. Great stuff.

[Thanks, Kevin]

Posted by Jonathan at 04:10 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

A Great Way To Spend $50 Activism  Iraq  Media

Documentary filmmaker Robert Greenwald of Brave New Films, who made Outfoxed, Uncovered, and Wal-Mart, is starting production on a new documentary, Iraq for Sale: The War Profiteers.

This is from an email from Brave New Films:

Hello friends and brave new supporters,

Some exciting news at Brave New Films. We're ready to start production on Robert's new documentary: "Iraq for Sale: The War Profiteers." Over the last few months we've recruited a core team, and with the help of our volunteer field producers, have uncovered some devastating and powerful material that hasn't been seen before. We need your help to make it, more about that in a minute.

We can't tell you anything more specific about the film yet, but I can assure you it will have an enormous impact when it comes out shortly before the elections this November.

War time is about sacrificing for the common good. So many soldiers and families have paid unimaginable sacrifices, and for some to profit OBSCENELY from that sacrifice is one of the worst crimes possible. It's a crime against all of us, not just as Americans, but as human beings.

IRAQ FOR SALE: The War Profiteers will hold these corporations accountable for crimes against humanity. Watch the teaser trailer and a message from Robert here:

http://iraqforsale.org/

To start shooting, we need money. Overall, the film will cost about $750,000. We can expect about $450,000 of it to be offset by DVD sales, selling foreign rights, and an advance from our retail store distributor, but we still need $300,000.

A generous donor just stepped up and will contribute $100,000 if we can match it with $200,000 from someone else.

That someone else is you! 4000 people giving $50 each. We'll put everyone's name in the credits. You can give these donations as gifts in someone's name or in memory of a loved one if you'd like.

http://iraqforsale.org/donate.php

Imagine that. 4000 names scrolling by at the end of the film. Almost as many people as in the Lord of the Rings credits!

More importantly, this is people standing up to corporations. It's a clear message... a beautiful thing and exactly what the film is about. Every newspaper article written will talk about how IRAQ FOR SALE was funded by YOU.

This is 50 bucks well spent. I would love to see this film come out before the elections, and I'd love to know I helped make it possible. So I gave my $50, and I urge you to do the same.

This is extremely important material. So long as people in high places make a killing off of war, they'll continue to see war as a good idea. The best way to stop them is to expose them.

50 bucks. That's not even a tank of gas anymore. And how cool will it be to see your name in the credits (and on their web site). Go chip in.

Posted by Jonathan at 02:53 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

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

Posted by Jonathan at 10:45 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

The Minutemen, the vigilante group that's on the border, they gave Bush an ultimatum. They said, "Either you build a wall along the border, Mr. President, or we will." I say let them try, because if there's one thing that will change your mind about immigration, it's trying to build a 2,000-mile fence without the help of Mexicans. — Bill Maher

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April 24, 2006

Highway Robbery Corporations, Globalization  Media  Politics

Congress is getting ready to hand control of the information superhighway over to the giant telecom carriers like AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast. Carriers heretofore have adhered to the principle of net neutrality, which says that all data on the Internet is to be treated equally; carriers don't discriminate based on content. My lowly blog has as much right to a fair share of Internet bandwidth as any giant commercial site.

The big carriers want to do away with net neutrality, however, so they can create a two-tiered Internet. Commercial sites that can pay the freight will get to use the "fast lane." Everybody else will be relegated to the "slow lane." Congress is getting ready to grant their wish via a bill with the Orwellian name of COPE: Communications Opportunity, Promotion, and Enhancement Act of 2006. Read more about it here, here, and here.

Funny how these huge giveaways to corporate America always go unmentioned in the mainstream media until it's already too late.

Voting is scheduled for Wednesday. Contact your House members and tell them to vote NO. The Internet is not the private property of a handful of corporations, no matter how big their campaign contributions.

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Slip Slidin' Away Politics

A new CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll has Bush's approval rating at 32%, a new low.

Only 40% rate Bush as "honest and trustworthy".

If the Congressional elections were held today, 50% would vote Democratic, 40% Republican.

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

Posted by Jonathan at 11:09 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

Vice President Cheney is still getting a lot of flack for throwing that first pitch into the dirt [at the Washington Nationals home opener] — whereas when President Bush threw out the first pitch in Cincinnati the week before, it was a perfect strike. But then, on the other hand, Cheney can read. — Jay Leno

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April 23, 2006

Peak Tires Economy  Energy  Peak Oil

Economists look at peak oil (and peak copper, peak nickel, and peak everything else) and say the market will provide. As commodity prices rise, producers will be able to make a profit extracting resources from places that previously were unprofitable, in effect increasing the supply.

But it's not that simple. The fundamental problem is the sheer scale of world resource use. It takes more than money. There are physical constraints on how quickly some things can be done. There's a lot of oil in Canadian tar sands, for example, but no amount of investment capital is going to make it possible to extract more than a few million barrels a day in the foreseeable future. Likewise, producers of conventional oil (i.e., oil from wells, not from tar sands or shale) may want to drill lots more wells, but all of the world's oil rigs are already in use. Building more will take time. And there are only a finite number of people with the needed expertise to make these things happen. Training more will take even more time.

Part of the problem is that price signals arrive too late. What causes prices to rise is a shortage in current production. Draining the world's reservoirs doesn't get reflected in prices until the situation has become so dire that producers can no longer pump oil fast enough. By then, it's too late. Investment in alternatives has a long lead time, so it should have started long before shortages show up in prices.

All of which is preamble to the following NYT story (via EuroTrib):

The worldwide thirst for stuff from the ground — materials as diverse as copper and coal, gold and oil — has set off a stunning boom in just about every commodity market. But there is one item that lately has dealers in the global mining industry really scrambling: the supersize tire.

Mining companies are complaining about a shortfall in the supply of the giant tires that go on large dump trucks and other heavy equipment. These outsize tires stand as tall as 12 feet tall and can spread 4 feet wide.

They are used prominently everywhere from the Canadian tar sands to open-air coal mines in the United States and China, but lately they have become almost as precious as gold and silver: prices have quadrupled for some of them in the last year to more than $40,000 a tire.

"This has never happened in the 35 years I've been in this business," said Michael Hickman, 63, who, together with his son, owns H & H Industries in Oak Hill, Ohio, one of the nation's largest retreaders of used mining tires.

"Right now the entire mining industry is going berserk, and we're feeding into it," said Mr. Hickman, whose company has tripled its work force to 160 in the last two years. [...]

[M]ining companies and tire manufacturers say the biggest reason is the rapid industrialization of China, India and other developing countries, which is expanding the appetite for basic commodities. [...]

Given the stress the commodities boom has unexpectedly created in an arcane area of the mining supply chain, some experts suggest that the tire shortage may keep prices higher longer than expected by limiting the ability of mining companies to meet the explosive demand for their products. But in the end, they say, there is little to worry about.

"This tire issue is, I believe, more a symptom of the mining industry's strength than its weakness," said Tibor Rozgonyi, head of the mining engineering department at the Colorado School of Mines. "It may be an acute concern at this moment, but the market has a way of taking care of these imbalances." [Emphasis added]

Eventually, the market will take care of the imbalances, it's true, but not necessarily by continuing to provide more of everything, forever. It may do it via ever-rising prices, which will price a lot of people out of the market. Demand destruction, as it's called. Meanwhile, we plow full steam ahead, as if the current way of doing things can continue indefinitely.

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

Posted by Jonathan at 12:39 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

A UCLA study shows 7% of people still believe in the Easter Bunny. I believe these are the same people who believe President Bush is doing a good job in Iraq. — Jay Leno

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April 22, 2006

The Biggest Embassy In The World — By Far Iraq

A remarkable feature of US public discourse is the extent to which discussion is based on what the government says, not what it does. For example: in all the discussion of Iraq — what the US war aims really are, whether the US intends to stay in Iraq long-term, whether the US ever intends to let Iraq have an independent democracy, instead of a puppet government — people mostly ignore certain glaring facts on the ground. There are the enormous military bases the US is constructing in various locations in Iraq. Even more glaring, because it's located in the center of Baghdad itself, is the new US embassy currently under construction. It's going to be colossal, the largest embassy anywhere in the world. By far. AP (via CounterCurrents):

The fortress-like compound rising beside the Tigris River here will be the largest of its kind in the world, the size of Vatican City, with the population of a small town, its own defense force, self-contained power and water, and a precarious perch at the heart of Iraq's turbulent future.

The new U.S. Embassy also seems as cloaked in secrecy as the ministate in Rome.

"We can't talk about it. Security reasons," Roberta Rossi, a spokeswoman at the current embassy, said when asked for information about the project.

A British tabloid even told readers the location was being kept secret — news that would surprise Baghdadis who for months have watched the forest of construction cranes at work across the winding Tigris, at the very center of their city and within easy mortar range of anti-U.S. forces in the capital, though fewer explode there these days.

The embassy complex — 21 buildings on 104 acres, according to a U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee report — is taking shape on riverside parkland in the fortified "Green Zone," just east of al-Samoud, a former palace of Saddam Hussein's, and across the road from the building where the ex-dictator is now on trial. [...]

The 5,500 Americans and Iraqis working at the [current] embassy, almost half listed as security, are far more numerous than at any other U.S. mission worldwide. They rarely venture out into the "Red Zone," that is, violence-torn Iraq.

This huge American contingent at the center of power has drawn criticism.

"The presence of a massive U.S. embassy — by far the largest in the world — co-located in the Green Zone with the Iraqi government is seen by Iraqis as an indication of who actually exercises power in their country," the International Crisis Group, a European-based research group, said in one of its periodic reports on Iraq.

State Department spokesman Justin Higgins defended the size of the embassy, old and new, saying it's indicative of the work facing the United States here.

"It's somewhat self-evident that there's going to be a fairly sizable commitment to Iraq by the U.S. government in all forms for several [sic] years," he said in Washington.

Higgins noted that large numbers of non-diplomats work at the mission — hundreds of military personnel and dozens of FBI agents, for example, along with representatives of the Agriculture, Commerce and other U.S. federal departments.

...[N]ext year embassy staff will move into six apartment buildings in the new complex, which has been under construction since mid-2005 with a target completion date of June 2007.

Iraq's interim government transferred the land to U.S. ownership in October 2004, under an agreement whose terms were not disclosed.

"Embassy Baghdad" will dwarf new U.S. embassies elsewhere, projects that typically cover 10 acres. The embassy's 104 acres is six times larger than the United Nations compound in New York, and two-thirds the acreage of Washington's National Mall. [...]

The designs aren't publicly available, but the Senate report makes clear it will be a self-sufficient and "hardened" domain, to function in the midst of Baghdad power outages, water shortages and continuing turmoil.

It will have its own water wells, electricity plant and wastewater-treatment facility, "systems to allow 100 percent independence from city utilities," says the report, the most authoritative open source on the embassy plans.

Besides two major diplomatic office buildings, homes for the ambassador and his deputy, and the apartment buildings for staff, the compound will offer a swimming pool, gym, commissary, food court and American Club, all housed in a recreation building.

Security, overseen by U.S. Marines, will be extraordinary: setbacks and perimeter no-go areas that will be especially deep, structures reinforced to 2.5-times the standard, and five high-security entrances, plus an emergency entrance-exit, the Senate report says. [Emphasis added]

Obviously, they don't plan on leaving anytime soon. They think they're building an empire, and the Iraq embassy is to be the command center from which they hope to rule the Middle East. Iraq was just the first stop.

Events on the ground haven't turned out like they thought, though, so it remains to be seen if the US really can manage to hang on in Baghdad. What's ominous, though, is what the embassy says about the administration's mindset. They'll escalate before they retreat, compounding the disaster.

[Thanks, Cedar]

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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

President Bush met with the president of China at the White House. The arrival ceremony was interrupted by a protester who started yelling, "Stop the persecution, stop the torture!" President Bush had to ask, "Which one of us are you talking to?" — Jay Leno

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April 21, 2006

Rainbow Magic

Who doesn't love a rainbow? (Scroll down)

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Oil Tops $74 $75 Peak Oil

As I write this, oil's at $74.10 a barrel on the NY Mercantile Exchange. First time it's hit $74.

Update: [12:27 PM] — $74.25

Update: [12:54 PM] — $74.80

Update: [ 1:43 PM] — $74.95

Update: [ 1:55 PM] — $75.10

Update: [ 2:15 PM] — $75.21

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

Posted by Jonathan at 10:29 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

President Bush is creating thousands of new jobs. The bad news, they're all in the White House. As you know, staff members have been leaving the White House in droves. Today, press secretary Scott McClellan stepped down. He said he wanted to spend more time lying to his family. — Jay Leno

There is no word yet on who will fill McClellan's shoes, although one rumored candidate is Tony Snow, a correspondent at Fox News. In other words, the White House is considering paying a Fox News reporter to tell the public what they want the public to hear. I hope he's up to the job. — Jon Stewart

[The Bush administration reads] the poll numbers, they know most Americans think their policies are failing, so they've responded by changing the person who tells us those policies. It's quite a bold move...Every house cleaning starts by replacing the doormat. — Daily Show correspondent Ed Helms

Posted by Jonathan at 10:26 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

April 20, 2006

Newsweek Does Peak Oil Peak Oil

A regular reader alerted me to this opinion piece in Newsweek. It's a remarkably frank look at peak oil, without ever using that term. Excerpts:

The U.S. lives in an energy trap. We fell into it gladly, dug it deeper and sit fat and happy, with blinders on. We're fed daily meals of imported oil, from countries we pay in IOUs and think we can push around. [...]

For years to come, we'll be in the hands of some of the most dysfunctional governments in the world....We'll be paying in both treasure and blood, as we fight and parley to keep ever-tighter supplies of world oil flowing our way.

What has changed in the world? We're running out of the capacity to produce surpluses of oil. Demand for crude is expected to rise much faster than new supplies....[M]ost producer nations can't find enough new oil, or drill out more from their reserves, to replace what we're using up. Production from most of the large, older fields is in irreversible decline. [...]

That puts the oil-dependent countries in a serious bind. We're all jockeying for control of oilfields, in a vast game that runs the risk of turning mean. China and Japan are running warships near disputed oil and natural-gas deposits in the East China Sea. China is doing deals in Sudan, Venezuela and Iran (our "bad guys"). Russia looks less friendly as we continue to invest in the oil countries around the Caspian Sea — Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan.

Nobody really knows how much oil there is. State-run companies don't disclose their true reserves. But clearly there's not enough to cover long supply disruptions, and that puts future economic development at increasing risk. "Terrorists have identified oil as the Achilles' heel of the West," says Gal Luft, head of the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security. The world market is losing maybe 1.5 million barrels a day to political sabotage. In February, the Saudis foiled an attack on one of their major oil installations. Had it succeeded, it could have been an "energy Pearl Harbor," Luft says. [...]

This throws our Iraq wars into a different light. To an extent that most Americans don't yet understand, the U.S. military has become a "global oil-protection force," says Michael Klare, an expert on natural-resource wars and author of the book "Blood and Oil."...Today, we patrol tanker routes not only in the gulf, but in the Indian Ocean and South China Sea. Troops and advisers help protect pipelines in chaotic countries such as Colombia and the Republic of Georgia. We're planting military bases near oil supplies in Asia and Africa. Gulf War I was billed as a war to save Saudi oilfields from Saddam Hussein. Gulf War II was elevated to a "war against terror." But it's arguably still about oil...One of the prizes in Iraq was to have been British and American access to its huge and unexploited oil reserves, Klare says. [...]

On paper, we have alternatives, such as liquefied coal, oil sands from Canada and ethanol. But they're not anywhere close to production on a massive scale. For a smooth transition, mega-energy projects need to get started at least 20 years before oil supplies decline, writes Robert Hirsch of the consulting firm SAIC in a study prepared for the U.S. Department of Energy. If we don't get a running start on the problem, he says, "the economic consequences will be dire." We're probably already behind. It takes leadership to address a potential crisis in advance.

Unfortunately, we're investing in war, not in crash projects to develop new energy sources. Maybe there's time to spare. But some events, like true civil war and collapse in Iraq, could change everything in a day. We're running a faith-based energy policy — still addicted to oil. If something goes wrong, it will go wrong big. [Emphasis added]

The good news: awareness is increasing and going mainstream. The bad news: it has yet to find its way into rational, forward-looking policy. But, as Newsweek says, that takes leadership.

[Thanks, Michael]

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Freefallin' Politics

Fox News:

President Bush's job approval rating slipped this week and stands at a new low of 33 percent approve, down from 36 percent two weeks ago and 39 percent in mid-March. A year ago this time, 47 percent approved and two years ago 50 percent approved (April 2004).

Approval among Republicans is below 70 percent for the first time of Bush's presidency. Two-thirds (66 percent) approve of Bush's job performance today, down almost 20 percentage points from this time last year when 84 percent of Republicans approved. Among Democrats, 11 percent approve today, while 14 percent approved last April. [Emphasis added]

Need I say it? Worst. President. Ever.

Posted by Jonathan at 03:48 PM | Comments (1) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Where Did People Come From? Religion

From PollingReport:

CBS News Poll. April 6-9, 2006. Adults nationwide.

"Which of the following statements comes closest to your views on the origin of human beings? (1) Human beings evolved from less advanced life forms over millions of years, and God did not directly guide this process. (2) Human beings evolved from less advanced life forms over millions of years, but God guided this process. (3) God created human beings in their present form."

Not directly guided by God17%
Guided by God23%
God created in present form53%

"Which of the following statements comes closest to your views on the origin of human beings? (1) Human beings evolved from less advanced life forms over millions of years, and God did not directly guide this process. (2) Human beings evolved from less advanced life forms over millions of years, but God guided this process. (3) God created human beings in their present form within the last ten thousand years."

Not directly guided by God17%
Guided by God30%
Created by God within the last 10,000 years44%

I'm guessing that a lot of people who say God created humans in their present form within the last 10,000 years are giving the answer that they think puts them on God's team. I.e., it's not that they've thought about it all that much; they just know what answer a "good" person is supposed to give. And they probably have a superstitious fear of pissing God off. But still, you either have to be deeply ignorant, or have never developed a mental habit of noticing logical inconsistencies, to be able to profess something that so flies in the face of all the evidence in the real world. I really wonder what that's like, to be inside their heads.

Meanwhile, as Lewis Black says, "Our side has fossils. We win."

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

Posted by Jonathan at 11:08 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

A retired Air Force colonel said that U.S. military operations are already under way in Iran. You know what that means, time to break out the old "Mission Accomplished" banner. — Jay Leno

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April 19, 2006

Snake With Legs Science/Technology

More bad news for foes of evolution. The "missing links" just keep coming. Pharyngula:

It's a busy time for transitional fossil news — first they find a fishapod, and now we've got a Cretaceous snake with legs and a pelvis. [This fishapod is] in the process of gaining legs, the [snake] is in the early stages of losing them.

Najash rionegrina was discovered in a terrestrial fossil deposit in Argentina, which is important in the ongoing debate about whether snakes evolved from marine or terrestrial ancestors. The specimen isn't entirely complete (but enough material is present to unambiguously identify it as a snake), consisting of a partial skull and a section of trunk. It has a sacrum! It has a pelvic girdle! It has hindlimbs, with femora, fibulae, and tibiae! It's a definitive snake with legs, and it's the oldest snake yet found. [Emphasis added]

The oldest snake fossil still has legs. Later snakes don't. Evolution.

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Peace Is Healthy Science/Technology

Ohio State researchers inflicted small blister wounds on couples and measured how quickly they healed. They found that couples who were chronic quarrelers healed at only 60% the rate of couples with low levels of hostility. The stress of fighting causes unhealthy hormone levels in the blood, interfering with healing.

Even a single 30-minute argument was enough to delay healing by a full day.

Peace is good for you.

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Uncertainty Is No Excuse Environment  Politics

Bush says the jury's still out on whether human activity causes global warming. Even if that were true (it isn't), as Nicholas Kristof (via RealClimate) noted in yesterday's NYT, it's no excuse for doing nothing. The real world is always subject to uncertainty. Excerpt:

The White House has used scientific uncertainty as an excuse for its paralysis. But our leaders are supposed to devise policies to protect us even from threats that are difficult to assess precisely — and climate change should be considered even more menacing than a nuclear-armed Iran....The best reason for action on global warming remains the basic imperative to safeguard our planet in the face of uncertainty, and our leaders are failing wretchedly in that responsibility. [Emphasis added]

There's no such thing as a sure thing, not even in science. But there is such a thing as taking prudent measures based on the best available evidence and analysis. Assuming, that is, that one cares about doing the right thing, rather than the thing that provides short-term rewards to one's political base.

Posted by Jonathan at 05:19 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

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

Rumsfeld is defiant. He says he is not backing down and he says he's going to stick around and let people criticize him for the Iranian invasion. — David Letterman

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April 18, 2006

Clueless In DC Iran  Politics

American Prospect posted an extraordinary article yesterday on VP Cheney's enormously secretive and powerful staff. I hope to comment on it at some length, but in the meantime, check out this quote:

[O]fficials who have opposed Cheney believe that President Bush has "views" only about basic principles, and that in making dozens of complex decisions he relies on pre-determined staff papers. Says one insider deeply involved in U.S. policy toward North Korea: "The president is given only the most basic notions about the Korea issue. They tell him, 'Above South Korea is a country called North Korea. It is an evil regime.'...So that translates into a presidential decision: Why enter into any agreement with an evil regime?" [Emphasis added]

Bush says he's a decider and a delegator, but that's wishful thinking. He thinks he doesn't have to know anything, he can just listen to his "gut." He's a C-minus frat boy who never grew up, and he's in over his head like few people in history. Watch him take some new reckless course (think, Iran) to try to prove that he's a "decider" and a bold leader.

Posted by Jonathan at 10:07 PM | Comments (1) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Oil Price Jumps To New High Peak Oil

The price of oil set a new record today, surpassing the post-Katrina spike.

Get ready for $3 gas.

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

Posted by Jonathan at 11:10 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

But not all the generals are against Rumsfeld. He still has the support of a lot of generals: General Electric, General Dynamics, General Motors. — Jay Leno

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April 17, 2006

Running Up To Iran Iran

I knew the ongoing run-up to war with Iran reminded me of something. Thanks to Glenn Greenwald, I now know what it was:

Fool me once, shame on you...

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Imagine War and Peace

Imagine George Bush reciting John Lennon's "Imagine." Or, watch it here. The bitterest sort of irony.

[Via Pharyngula]

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NYT Hypes Iran Fears Iran

Talk about depressing. The New York Times cranks up the Fear Wurlitzer for an attack on Iran.

War with Iran is just a crazy, crazy idea. Could anything be more obvious?

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

Posted by Jonathan at 10:42 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

It's tax time and President Bush is saving a lot on taxes this year. He's writing off his entire second term. — David Letterman

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April 16, 2006

Looting The Treasury Politics

Here's what Bush had to say in his weekly radio address yesterday as he argued for making his tax cuts permanent:

Monday is tax day, and that means many of you are busy finishing up your tax returns. The good news is that this year Americans will once again keep more of their hard-earned dollars because of the tax cuts we passed in 2001 and 2003.

Maybe he thinks only rich people listen to the radio. NYT:

The first data to document the effect of President Bush's tax cuts for investment income show that they have significantly lowered the tax burden on the richest Americans, reducing taxes on incomes of more than $10 million by an average of about $500,000.

Citizens for Tax Justice (click to enlarge):

If you're a millionaire, don't you think you already have enough? And for the rest of us: we're being robbed. They're looting the Treasury, in broad daylight.

[Via DailyKos]

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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

It was so nice down in Washington, D.C. today that President Bush was leaking classified documents in the park. — David Letterman

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April 15, 2006

Nice Work If You Can Get It Corporations, Globalization

ThinkProgress:

Last year, [Exxon CEO Lee] Raymond made do with "a total compensation package" of just $69.7 million or $190,915 a day, including weekends.

After his haul in 2005, Raymond has decided to retire. It's seems that, for Raymond, not working is even more lucrative than working:

Exxon is giving Lee Raymond one of the most generous retirement packages in history, nearly $400 million, including pension, stock options and other perks, such as a $1 million consulting deal, two years of home security, personal security, a car and driver, and use of a corporate jet for professional purposes.

Absurd.

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

Posted by Jonathan at 09:58 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

The president of Iran has announced, "We are a nuclear country." ... You know what's scary about that? The president of Iran knows how to pronounce nuclear. — David Letterman

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April 14, 2006

Bush And Rumsfeld's Secret War Iran  Politics

What's behind the generals' revolt?

Six retired generals, including three who commanded troops in Iraq under Rumsfeld's leadership, have publicly stated their criticism of Rumsfeld's leadership and called for his resignation.

And Bush's stubborn support?

"Secretary Rumsfeld's energetic and steady leadership is exactly what is needed at this critical period. He has my full support and deepest appreciation," Bush said in a statement.

Go read Digby. He quotes Colonel Sam Gardiner, retired, who taught at the National War College, the Air War College and the Naval Warfare College. Gardiner appeared on CNN today:

GARDINER: Actually,...I would say — and this may shock some — I think the decision has been made and military operations are under way [in Iran]. [...]

[T]he Iranians have been saying American military troops are in there, have been saying it for almost a year. I was in Berlin two weeks ago, sat next to the ambassador, the Iranian ambassador to the IAEA. And I said, "Hey, I hear you're accusing Americans of being in there operating with some of the units that have shot up revolution guard units."

He said, quite frankly, "Yes, we know they are. We've captured some of the units, and they've confessed to working with the Americans."

The evidence is mounting that that decision has already been made, and I don't know that the other part of that has been completed, that there has been any congressional approval to do this.

My view of the plan is, there is this period in which some kinds of ground troops will operate inside Iran, and then what we're talking about is the second part, which is this air strike. [...]

CNN: If they do decide on a military option...

GARDINER: Right?

CNN: ... what's the realistic chance of success? What's your — your prognosis for that kind of reaction here?

GARDINER: Yes. Let me give you two answers to that. First of all, the chance of getting the facilities and setting back the program, I think the chances go from maybe two years to actually accelerating the program. You know, we could cause them to redouble their efforts. That's on one side.

The other side is this sort of horizontal escalation by the Iranians.

My assessment is — and it's because of regime problems at home — that if we strike, they're likely to want to blame Israel. Now that's — because that sells well at home.

Blaming Israel means that there's a chance that we could see Hezbollah, Hamas targeting Israel. We could very easily see this thing escalate into a broader Middle East war, particularly when you add Muslim rage.

You know, if you take the cartoon problem and multiply it times a hundred — you know, the Danish cartoons, you could see how we could end up very quickly with a very serious problem in the Middle East. [Emphasis added]

As Digby points out, what it boils down to is this: Bush, Rumsfeld, et al are running a secret war in Iran. The operation's already underway, and has been for some time. They're doing it all on their own, without even a semblance of Congressional approval. It's treason. The generals are desperately throwing themselves in front of the runaway train. Meanwhile, not a peep from Congress.

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Quote For Today Quotes
When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross. — Sinclair Lewis

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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

Did you see Cheney the other day? He threw out the first pitch at the Washington Nationals home game. It was low and in the dirt — kind of like his approval rating...Whose idea was it to use Cheney to throw out the first pitch? I mean, this guy's not known for his aim. — Jay Leno

When Cheney came out on the field, he was booed. Cheney said he was very surprised. He thought he'd be greeted as a liberator with flowers and candy. — David Letterman

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April 13, 2006

Immigration Polling Politics

A regular reader of Past Peak, who describes himself as conservative-leaning, wrote me earlier today to suggest that poll results on illegal immigration might have a different interpretation than what I wrote yesterday. Namely, he suggested, respondents may disapprove of Bush's handling of the issue not because they have a less punitive view than Bush's, but rather because they have a more punitive view. Bush talks about amnesty. Maybe poll respondents want to see all illegals deported.

Certainly possible, and definitely worth looking into. So what do the polls show? Polling Report collects the results of a number of recent polls here. The picture that emerges is murky and a bit contradictory, but I think overall it's clear that most Americans do not favor drastic punitive action. They see illegal immigration as a significant problem, but they oppose blanket deportation and favor a program that would allow law-abiding immigrants to stay.

USA Today/Gallup Poll. April 7-9, 2006

Immigration should be...
kept at its present level or increased: 50%
decreased: 47%

Illegal immigration is...
out of control: 81%
not out of control: 16%

Illegal immigrants currently residing in the US should be...
all deported: 18%
allowed to remain for a limited time: 17%
allowed to remain if they meet certain requirements: 63%

Effectiveness of ways to reduce illegal immigration:

 Very
effective
Some-
what
Not
very
Not
at all
Penalties on employers52%32%9%5%
More border patrol officers37%44%13%5%
Bar access to schools, hospitals30%30%20%17%
Raise living standards abroad28%39%16%15%
Build wall on Mexico border18%30%19%30%

FOX News/Opinion Dynamics Poll. April 4-5, 2006

Do immigrants help the country and make it a better place to live or hurt it and make it worse?
Help: 42%
Hurt: 30%
It depends: 20%

How serious a problem is illegal immigration?
Very: 60%
Somewhat: 30%
Not very: 6%

How serious a problem is illegal immigration in your community?
Very: 23%
Somewhat: 24%
Not very: 26%
Not at all: 24%

That last item is intriguing. People say illegal immigration is a very serious problem in the abstract. But in their community, not so much. This may be because some communities just don't have many illegals residing there, but I'd like to think it's also because when people actually come into contact with the immigrants around them, they find that the overwhelming majority are hard-working, decent folks.

It will be very interesting to see the results of polls conducted after the nationwide marches on Monday (the polls cited above were taken before the marches). Some conservative pundits have predicted a backlash. I'm inclined to think the opposite. On Monday, people got to see that immigrants and their supporters are peaceful, law-abiding people with families to support. Time will tell.

[Thanks, Mike]

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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

According to Washington insiders, White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan could be the next official to leave the Bush administration. McClellan says he'd like to spend more time lying for his family. — Amy Poehler

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April 12, 2006

Americans Reject GOP, Bush On Immigration Politics

Republicans thought immigration was going to be a winning wedge issue for them, but they were wrong. Spectacularly so. WaPo:

[I]n the new Post-ABC News poll, completed Sunday [i.e., before Monday's massive peaceful demonstrations], 50 percent of respondents said they trusted the Democrats to better handle the immigration issue, while 38 percent trusted Republicans. A third of Americans approved of the president's handling of the immigration issue, while 61 percent disapproved. Only his handling of gas prices showed lower approval ratings.

Three-quarters of those responding said the United States is not doing enough to secure its borders, but they appeared to have rejected the argument that immigrants are an economic threat. About 68 percent said illegal immigrants are filling jobs Americans do not want, compared with 29 percent who believe they are taking jobs from Americans. [Emphasis added]

Americans are proving themselves to be fundamentally decent and compassionate on this issue. Republicans bet on xenophobia, economic resentment, and racism, and it's a bet they're losing. The immigrants who are targeted by the GOP are overwhelmingly upstanding, honorable, incredibly hard-working people. We know them. They're all around us. They're good folks who are making enormous sacrifices to help their families, and they're a true credit to their adopted country. The GOP's attack is contemptible, and for once they're not getting away with it.

And while we're at it, since the Republicans try to convince us they're God's Own Party, let's ask ourselves which side of this issue Jesus would be on. Could the Republican position possibly be any more un-Christian?

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"Casualness And Swagger" Iraq  Politics

Three-star General Gregory Newbold, retired director of operations at the Pentagon's military joint staff, writes in Time magazine (via Sojourners):

From 2000 until October 2002, I was a Marine Corps lieutenant general and director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. After 9/11, I was a witness and therefore a party to the actions that led us to the invasion of Iraq — an unnecessary war. Inside the military family, I made no secret of my view that the zealots' rationale for war made no sense. And I think I was outspoken enough to make those senior to me uncomfortable. But I now regret that I did not more openly challenge those who were determined to invade a country whose actions were peripheral to the real threat — al-Qaeda. I retired from the military four months before the invasion, in part because of my opposition to those who had used 9/11's tragedy to hijack our security policy. Until now, I have resisted speaking out in public. I've been silent long enough.

I am driven to action now by the missteps and misjudgments of the White House and the Pentagon, and by my many painful visits to our military hospitals. In those places, I have been both inspired and shaken by the broken bodies but unbroken spirits of soldiers, Marines and corpsmen returning from this war. The cost of flawed leadership continues to be paid in blood. The willingness of our forces to shoulder such a load should make it a sacred obligation for civilian and military leaders to get our defense policy right. They must be absolutely sure that the commitment is for a cause as honorable as the sacrifice. [...]

I will admit my own prejudice: my deep affection and respect are for those who volunteer to serve our nation and therefore shoulder, in those thin ranks, the nation's most sacred obligation of citizenship. To those of you who don't know, our country has never been served by a more competent and professional military. For that reason, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's recent statement that "we" made the "right strategic decisions" but made thousands of "tactical errors" is an outrage. It reflects an effort to obscure gross errors in strategy by shifting the blame for failure to those who have been resolute in fighting. The truth is, our forces are successful in spite of the strategic guidance they receive, not because of it.

What we are living with now is the consequences of successive policy failures. Some of the missteps include: the distortion of intelligence in the buildup to the war, McNamara-like micromanagement that kept our forces from having enough resources to do the job, the failure to retain and reconstitute the Iraqi military in time to help quell civil disorder, the initial denial that an insurgency was the heart of the opposition to occupation, alienation of allies who could have helped in a more robust way to rebuild Iraq, and the continuing failure of the other agencies of our government to commit assets to the same degree as the Defense Department. My sincere view is that the commitment of our forces to this fight was done with a casualness and swagger that are the special province of those who have never had to execute these missions — or bury the results. [Emphasis added]

It really does matter when you put a bunch of empty suits in power. These people are superficial, immature, and deeply, deeply foolish. High time for grownups to take back the reins.

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Lies, Lies, Lies Iraq  Politics

WaPo:

On May 29, 2003, 50 days after the fall of Baghdad, President Bush proclaimed a fresh victory for his administration in Iraq: Two small trailers captured by U.S. and Kurdish troops had turned out to be long-sought mobile "biological laboratories." He declared, "We have found the weapons of mass destruction."

The claim, repeated by top administration officials for months afterward, was hailed at the time as a vindication of the decision to go to war. But even as Bush spoke, U.S. intelligence officials possessed powerful evidence that it was not true.

A secret fact-finding mission to Iraq — not made public until now — had already concluded that the trailers had nothing to do with biological weapons. Leaders of the Pentagon-sponsored mission transmitted their unanimous findings to Washington in a field report on May 27, 2003, two days before the president's statement.

The three-page field report and a 122-page final report three weeks later were stamped "secret" and shelved. Meanwhile, for nearly a year, administration and intelligence officials continued to publicly assert that the trailers were weapons factories. [Emphasis added]

All governments lie. But this government seems to lie about absolutely everything.

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Going Nuclear Iran  War and Peace

[Originally posted 4/11, but re-posted to bring it back to the top.]

If the US uses nuclear weapons against Iran, as US planners are reportedly contemplating, the real purpose will almost certainly be to break the long-standing taboo against the use of nukes. Why? Because the US is pushing hard to establish a first-strike nuclear capability vis-a-vis Russia and China. Making that threat credible requires that Russia and China be made to believe that the US is prepared to go nuclear.

An article in the current issue of Foreign Affairs explains the US's new-found nuclear primacy. It would be hard to overstate the importance of this material. You may have thought that US nuclear weapons development has been on hold since the end of the Cold War. Far from it. Out of public view, tectonic shifts in US nuclear policy and capability are underway. I've excerpted the article at some length, but I urge you to read on:

For almost half a century, the world's most powerful nuclear states have been locked in a military stalemate known as mutual assured destruction (MAD). By the early 1960s, the nuclear arsenals of the United States and the Soviet Union had grown so large and sophisticated that neither country could entirely destroy the other's retaliatory force by launching first, even with a surprise attack. Starting a nuclear war was therefore tantamount to committing suicide. [...]

[T]he age of MAD is nearing an end. Today, for the first time in almost 50 years, the United States stands on the verge of attaining nuclear primacy. It will probably soon be possible for the United States to destroy the long-range nuclear arsenals of Russia or China with a first strike. This dramatic shift in the nuclear balance of power stems from a series of improvements in the United States' nuclear systems, the precipitous decline of Russia's arsenal, and the glacial pace of modernization of China's nuclear forces. Unless Washington's policies change or Moscow and Beijing take steps to increase the size and readiness of their forces, Russia and China — and the rest of the world — will live in the shadow of U.S. nuclear primacy for many years to come. [...]

Since the Cold War's end, the U.S. nuclear arsenal has significantly improved. The United States has replaced the ballistic missiles on its submarines with the substantially more accurate Trident II D-5 missiles, many of which carry new, larger-yield warheads. The U.S. Navy has shifted a greater proportion of its SSBNs to the Pacific so that they can patrol near the Chinese coast or in the blind spot of Russia's early warning radar network. The U.S. Air Force has finished equipping its B-52 bombers with nuclear-armed cruise missiles, which are probably invisible to Russian and Chinese air-defense radar. And the air force has also enhanced the avionics on its B-2 stealth bombers to permit them to fly at extremely low altitudes in order to avoid even the most sophisticated radar. Finally, although the air force finished dismantling its highly lethal MX missiles in 2005 to comply with arms control agreements, it is significantly improving its remaining ICBMs by installing the MX's high-yield warheads and advanced reentry vehicles on Minuteman ICBMs, and it has upgraded the Minuteman's guidance systems to match the MX's accuracy.

Even as the United States' nuclear forces have grown stronger since the end of the Cold War, Russia's strategic nuclear arsenal has sharply deteriorated. Russia has 39 percent fewer long-range bombers, 58 percent fewer ICBMs, and 80 percent fewer SSBNs than the Soviet Union fielded during its last days. The true extent of the Russian arsenal's decay, however, is much greater than these cuts suggest. [...]

Compounding these problems, Russia's early warning system is a mess...If U.S. submarines were to fire missiles from areas in the Pacific, Russian leaders probably would not know of the attack until the warheads detonated. [...]

To determine how much the nuclear balance has changed since the Cold War, we ran a computer model of a hypothetical U.S. attack on Russia's nuclear arsenal using the standard unclassified formulas that defense analysts have used for decades. We assigned U.S. nuclear warheads to Russian targets on the basis of two criteria: the most accurate weapons were aimed at the hardest targets, and the fastest-arriving weapons at the Russian forces that can react most quickly. Because Russia is essentially blind to a submarine attack from the Pacific and would have great difficulty detecting the approach of low-flying stealthy nuclear-armed cruise missiles, we targeted each Russian weapon system with at least one submarine-based warhead or cruise missile. An attack organized in this manner would give Russian leaders virtually no warning.

This simple plan is presumably less effective than Washington's actual strategy, which the U.S. government has spent decades perfecting. The real U.S. war plan may call for first targeting Russia's command and control, sabotaging Russia's radar stations, or taking other preemptive measures — all of which would make the actual U.S. force far more lethal than our model assumes.

According to our model, such a simplified surprise attack would have a good chance of destroying every Russian bomber base, submarine, and ICBM. This finding is not based on best-case assumptions or an unrealistic scenario in which U.S. missiles perform perfectly and the warheads hit their targets without fail. Rather, we used standard assumptions to estimate the likely inaccuracy and unreliability of U.S. weapons systems. Moreover, our model indicates that all of Russia's strategic nuclear arsenal would still be destroyed even if U.S. weapons were 20 percent less accurate than we assumed, or if U.S. weapons were only 70 percent reliable, or if Russian ICBM silos were 50 percent "harder" (more reinforced, and hence more resistant to attack) than we expected. (Of course, the unclassified estimates we used may understate the capabilities of U.S. forces, making an attack even more likely to succeed.)

To be clear, this does not mean that a first strike by the United States would be guaranteed to work in reality; such an attack would entail many uncertainties. Nor, of course, does it mean that such a first strike is likely. But what our analysis suggests is profound: Russia's leaders can no longer count on a survivable nuclear deterrent. And unless they reverse course rapidly, Russia's vulnerability will only increase over time.

China's nuclear arsenal is even more vulnerable to a U.S. attack. A U.S. first strike could succeed whether it was launched as a surprise or in the midst of a crisis during a Chinese alert. China has a limited strategic nuclear arsenal. The People's Liberation Army currently possesses no modern SSBNs or long-range bombers. Its naval arm used to have two ballistic missile submarines, but one sank, and the other, which had such poor capabilities that it never left Chinese waters, is no longer operational. China's medium-range bomber force is similarly unimpressive: the bombers are obsolete and vulnerable to attack. According to unclassified U.S. government assessments, China's entire intercontinental nuclear arsenal consists of 18 stationary single-warhead ICBMs. These are not ready to launch on warning: their warheads are kept in storage and the missiles themselves are unfueled. (China's ICBMs use liquid fuel, which corrodes the missiles after 24 hours. Fueling them is estimated to take two hours.) The lack of an advanced early warning system adds to the vulnerability of the ICBMs. It appears that China would have no warning at all of a U.S. submarine-launched missile attack or a strike using hundreds of stealthy nuclear-armed cruise missiles. [...]

Given the history of China's slow-motion nuclear modernization, it is doubtful that a Chinese second-strike force will materialize anytime soon. The United States has a first-strike capability against China today and should be able to maintain it for a decade or more.

Is the United States intentionally pursuing nuclear primacy? Or is primacy an unintended byproduct of intra-Pentagon competition for budget share or of programs designed to counter new threats from terrorists and so-called rogue states? Motivations are always hard to pin down, but the weight of the evidence suggests that Washington is, in fact, deliberately seeking nuclear primacy. For one thing, U.S. leaders have always aspired to this goal. And the nature of the changes to the current arsenal and official rhetoric and policies support this conclusion. [...]

Some may wonder whether U.S. nuclear modernization efforts are actually designed with terrorists or rogue states in mind. Given the United States' ongoing war on terror, and the continuing U.S. interest in destroying deeply buried bunkers (reflected in the Bush administration's efforts to develop new nuclear weapons to destroy underground targets), one might assume that the W-76 upgrades are designed to be used against targets such as rogue states' arsenals of weapons of mass destruction or terrorists holed up in caves. But this explanation does not add up. The United States already has more than a thousand nuclear warheads capable of attacking bunkers or caves. If the United States' nuclear modernization were really aimed at rogue states or terrorists, the country's nuclear force would not need the additional thousand ground-burst warheads it will gain from the W-76 modernization program. The current and future U.S. nuclear force, in other words, seems designed to carry out a preemptive disarming strike against Russia or China.

The intentional pursuit of nuclear primacy is, moreover, entirely consistent with the United States' declared policy of expanding its global dominance. The Bush administration's 2002 National Security Strategy explicitly states that the United States aims to establish military primacy: "Our forces will be strong enough to dissuade potential adversaries from pursuing a military build-up in hopes of surpassing, or equaling, the power of the United States." To this end, the United States is openly seeking primacy in every dimension of modern military technology, both in its conventional arsenal and in its nuclear forces.

Washington's pursuit of nuclear primacy helps explain its missile-defense strategy, for example. Critics of missile defense argue that a national missile shield, such as the prototype the United States has deployed in Alaska and California, would be easily overwhelmed by a cloud of warheads and decoys launched by Russia or China. They are right: even a multilayered system with land-, air-, sea-, and space-based elements, is highly unlikely to protect the United States from a major nuclear attack. But they are wrong to conclude that such a missile-defense system is therefore worthless — as are the supporters of missile defense who argue that, for similar reasons, such a system could be of concern only to rogue states and terrorists and not to other major nuclear powers.

What both of these camps overlook is that the sort of missile defenses that the United States might plausibly deploy would be valuable primarily in an offensive context, not a defensive one — as an adjunct to a U.S. first-strike capability, not as a standalone shield. If the United States launched a nuclear attack against Russia (or China), the targeted country would be left with a tiny surviving arsenal — if any at all. At that point, even a relatively modest or inefficient missile-defense system might well be enough to protect against any retaliatory strikes, because the devastated enemy would have so few warheads and decoys left. [Emphasis added]

While we're worrying about Iraq, and maybe Iran, they're playing many moves ahead. One is reminded of Ron Susskind's quote:

[A senior administration aide told me] that guys like me were "in what we call the reality-based community," which he defined as people who "believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality." I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. "That's not the way the world really works anymore," he continued. "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors...and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do." [Emphasis added]

These people are preparing to take us down a very dark path indeed. As Bill Hicks used to ask, "How does it feel to find out we are the Evil Empire?"

Update: [11:14 PM] Consider for a moment how utterly devoid all this is of any form of democratic input. We can only discern our own country's policy with respect to something as momentous and horrific as a nuclear first-strike (and we're talking here about attacks that would, in the case of a country like Russia, have to involve many hundreds or thousands of nuclear weapons) by doing what we would do to discern another country's policy: we have to look at what kind of weapons are being developed and reverse-engineer their intended purpose.

All of this is happening far from public view, with exactly zero public input. No doubt it's entirely obvious to the Russians and Chinese what's going on. It's no secret to them. It's a secret only to the American public, and it is completely out of our control. So much for democracy.

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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

Tom DeLay announced that he will not run for re-election. However, he said he would continue to serve the people of his state by making them license plates. — Jay Leno

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April 11, 2006

Heckuva Job Disasters  Politics

They're still finding bodies in New Orleans. The USA just ain't what it used to be. NYT:

The bodies of storm victims are still being discovered in New Orleans — in March alone there were nine, along with one skull. Skeletonized or half-eaten by animals, with leathery, hardened skin or missing limbs, the bodies are lodged in piles of rubble, dangling from rafters or lying face down, arms outstretched on parlor floors. [...]

A landlord in the Lakeview section put a "for sale" sign outside a house, unaware that his tenant's body was in the attic. Two weeks ago, searchers in the Lower Ninth Ward found a girl, believed to be about 6, wearing a blue backpack. Nearby, they found part of a man who the authorities believe might have been trying to save her.

On Friday, contractors found a body in the attic of a home in the Gentilly neighborhood that had been searched twice before, officials said.

This, in a major city in what is supposedly the most prosperous and powerful nation on Earth. If the victims were rich, white Republicans, does anyone doubt that somebody would have bothered to locate their bodies before now?

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Everybody's Crying Mercy Culture

Mose Allison's Everybody's Crying Mercy just came up on my iPod. I posted the lyrics once before, but it's worth doing again. Written over 35 years ago, but it could have been yesterday:

I can't believe the things I'm seein'
I wonder 'bout some things I've heard
Everybody's crying mercy
When they don't know the meaning of the word

A bad enough situation
Is sure enough getting worse
Everybody's crying justice
Just as long as there's business first

Toe to toe, touch and go
Give a cheer, get your souvenir

People running round in circles
Don't know what they're headed for
Everybody's crying peace on earth
Just as soon as we win this war

Straight ahead, knock em dead
Pack your kit, choose your hypocrite

You don't have to go to off-Broadway
To see something plain absurd
Everybody's crying mercy
When they don't know the meaning of the word

Nobody knows the meaning of the word

Everybody's crying justice — just as long as there's business first.

Everybody's crying peace on earth — just as soon as we win this war.

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US-Mexico Income Gradient Corporations, Globalization

Here's why an enforcement approach will never stop illegal immigration from Mexico, the source of 70% of all illegal immigration into the US (WaPo):

"The income gap between the United States and Mexico is the largest between any two contiguous countries in the world," writes Stanford historian David Kennedy. That huge disparity is producing massive demand in the United States and massive supply from Mexico and Central America. Whenever governments try to come between these two forces — think of drugs — simply increasing enforcement does not work. [Emphasis added]

Nature abhors a gradient. (See also this).

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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

The scandal of the week for the White House is that Dick Cheney's main man Scooter Libby says that it was Bush himself who approved leaking classified information. I find that hard to believe — that President Bush is allowed to see classified information. — Bill Maher

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April 10, 2006

Un Día Con Latinos Activism

I took the day off from work today to go to Madison's contribution to the nation-wide "Un Día Sin Latinos" demonstrations. It was glorious, a total blast. Many thousands of people turned out on an absolutely perfect spring day. For those of you who know Madison, the overwhelmingly Latino crowd filled one side of West Washington Ave. from Brittingham Park all the way up to the Capitol. It was something to see. Young people, whole families, high spirits, laughter and smiles galore. Lots of Spanish, always music to my ears.

I looked around at the crowd, and I thought, wow!, what a great bunch of Americans! And what a shot in the arm to American democracy. I'd like to know how they pulled it off: simultaneous demonstrations in more than 140 cities in at least 39 states, according to CNN. They could teach the rest of us a thing or two about organizing. (But what's up with CNN's online headline: "Illegal immigrants unite to demand rights"? Are all Latinos "illegal immigrants" to them?)

Alert reader Charyn (she likes it when I call her "alert reader" Charyn) sent me this photo. I'm the guy pretty much dead center with the red shirt over a black Democracy Now! t-shirt. Hard to tell, but I'll bet you I was smiling.

¡El pueblo unido jamás será vencido!

¡Sí, se puede!

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

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Today Bush Joke Humor & Fun

In an effort to make the Bush environmental record look good, Interior Secretary Gale Norton announced that under the Bush administration, there are now more wetlands than any time since 1954. Well yeah, if you count New Orleans. — Jay Leno

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April 09, 2006

World Oil Production Cannot Grow Fast Enough Peak Oil

The reason peak oil — the point at which world production peaks and begins to decline — matters is that it is self-evidently a point at which world production will no longer satisfy global demand. But there is no reason we cannot reach a point of insufficient production prior to peak: i.e., with production still growing, just not growing fast enough. Times Online:

The world lacks the means to produce enough oil to meet rising projections of demand for fuel over the next decade, according to Christophe de Margerie, head of exploration for Total and heir presumptive to the leadership of the French energy multinational.

The world is mistakenly focusing on oil reserves when the problem is capacity to produce oil, M de Margerie said in an interview with The Times. Forecasters, such as the International Energy Agency (IEA), have failed to consider the speed at which new resources can be brought into production, he believes.

"Numbers like 120 million barrels per day will never be reached, never," he said.

The IEA predicted in its World Energy Outlook that global demand for crude oil would reach 121 million barrels per day by 2030, of which more than half would be supplied by Opec. The agency predicted that more than $3 trillion (£1.72 trillion) of investment in wells, pipelines and refineries would be needed to raise output to such levels.

However, Total’s exploration chief reckons the output rise is impossible, given available resources and geopolitical constraints on gaining access to reserves in Opec countries.

M de Margerie argued that the resources were simply not available. He said: "Take Qatar. How many projects can you have at the same time? You have more than 100,000 people working on sites. It's a big city of contractors. Now they have the problem of having to build a new power plant to supply a city of contractors."

The IEA was mistaken in using recovery factors that failed to consider the timing of new resources coming on stream. M De Margerie said. The world was confusing the issue of reserves with the scale of the problem in producing those reserves. He said: "The oil reserves are there, that is the good news, but what we can bring on today to meet demand is limited by factors other than what scientists see in a lab or think-tanks." [Emphasis added]

As reserves dwindle, it will take more wells to produce a given amount of oil, but all existing rigs are already in use. It will take time and a lot of money to add more. And then there's the problem of refining capacity. It's not just a question of money; building the infrastructure takes time. But world production is already maxed out. There's no slack left in the system, no breathing room, which means the needed time just isn't available.

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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 new study involving 1800 patients and six major hospitals failed to prove the healing power of prayer. They said prayer does not work in healing. There goes the Republican health care plan. — Jay Leno

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April 08, 2006

Elvis Didn't Do No Drugs! Humor & Fun  Religion

Penn & Teller take on the Bible (via The Atheist Jew):

Hilarious.

Fair warning: contains rational thought and, uh, profane language.

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

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Today Bush Joke Humor & Fun

This 56-year-old guy named Brian Doyle, the deputy press secretary of the Homeland Security Department, was arrested on 23 counts of using his government computer and cell pone to try and have sex with a 14-year-old girl. He would send these girls porno on the Web cam. Nice to see our surveillance cameras being used non-stop in the war against terror. — Jay Leno

A second Homeland Security official has been arrested, a 49-year-old guy named Frank Figueroa, he was caught exposing and fondling himself to a teenage girl in a shopping mall in Florida. Do you realize? If Osama bin Laden was a 14-year old girl, we would have had him by now...Who is going to start protecting us from the Department of Homeland Security?...It kind of makes you long for the good old wholesome days of the Clinton administration. — Jay Leno

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April 07, 2006

Moving The Goalposts Religion  Science/Technology

You may have seen the reports yesterday of the discovery of a rather spectacular fossil: a transitional form intermediate between a fish and the first four-legged land-dwelling vertebrates. Scientific American:

Paleontologists working in the Canadian Arctic have discovered the fossilized remains of an animal that elucidates one of evolution's most dramatic transformations: that which produced land-going vertebrates from fish. Dubbed Tiktaalik roseae, the large, predatory fish bears a number of features found in four-limbed creatures, a group known as tetrapods. [...]

Like all fish, Tiktaalik possesses fins and scales. But it also has a number of distinctly un-piscine characteristics, including a neck, a flat, crocodilelike skull, and robust ribs. As such Tiktaalik neatly fills the gap between previously known tetrapodlike fish such as Panderichthys, which lived some 385 million years ago, and the earliest tetrapods, Ichthyostega and Acanthostega, which lived about 365 million years ago. "Tiktaalik blurs the boundary between fish and land animals," Shubin observes. "This animal is both fish and tetrapod; we jokingly call it a 'fishapod.'"

Especially significant is the anatomy of Tiktaalik's pectoral fin, which contains the makings of a proper tetrapod arm...."Most of the major joints of the fin are functional in this fish," Shubin notes. "The shoulder, elbow and even parts of the wrist are already there and working in ways similar to the earliest land-living animals." [...]

Tiktaalik is already drawing comparisons to the iconic early bird, Archaeopteryx, for its explanatory power as a transitional fossil. But it certainly leaves room for more discoveries, especially those bridging the new gap between it and the first tetrapods, along with those that contain clues to the origin of the tetrapod hindlimb. [Emphasis added]

Creationists have long pointed to the scarcity of such "missing links" in the fossil record as (allegedly) evidence against evolution. So how do they react when such fossils are found? Here's what Robert Crowther had to say on a blog of the anti-evolution Discovery Institute (via Pharyngula):

"This latest fossil find poses no threat to intelligent design." So says Discovery Institute senior fellow and leading intelligent design theorist Dr. William Dembski, adding:

"Intelligent design does not so much challenge whether evolution occurred but how it occurred. In particular, it questions whether purposeless material processes — as opposed to intelligence — can create biological complexity and diversity."

The fossil poses no threat to Intelligent Design because nothing can pose a threat to ID. There is no conceivable finding that can disprove ID, because ID proponents can always say that whatever evolution did it did because the Intelligent Designer designed it that way. Which is why ID is not science. As Karl Popper pointed out long ago, the hallmark of a scientific theory is that it can be tested and disproved. Claims that cannot be falsified are necessarily unscientific.

Crowther goes on to say:

Even though this find does not challenge intelligent design, there may be good reasons to be skeptical about it.

These fish are not neccesarily intermediates, explain Discovery Institute scientists I queried about the find. Tiktaalik roseae is one of a set of lobe-finned fishes that include very curious mosaics — these fishes have advanced fully formed characteristics of several different groups. They are not intermediates in the sense that have half-fish/half-tetrapod characteristics. Rather, they have a combination of tetrapod-like features and fish-like features. Paleontologists refer to such organisms as mosaics rather than intermediates. [...]

According to DI Fellows a number of these fishes — Ichthyostega, Elpistostege, Panderichthys — have been hailed in the past as the "missing link." Maybe one is a missing link; maybe none are. What remains unexplained is how natural selection and random mutation could produce the many novel physiological characteristics that arise in true tetrapods. [Emphasis added]

This is just plain dumb. First of all, transitional forms should be mosaics. That's what evolutionary theory predicts. Second, scientists don't talk about "missing links", Creationists do. Scientists certainly don't talk about the missing link. What would that even mean? There are any number of transitional forms — indeed, one could argue that all species are transitional forms, since species are constantly in flux — and the idea of the missing anything is absurd.

But, that aside, the whole response shows how intellectually dishonest the Creationist position is. They decry the lack of "missing links," but whenever a transitional form is found they move the goalposts and say, you may have found that one, but there are still others you haven't found. But of course the fossil record will forever be incomplete. Only an infinitesimal fraction of creatures are fossilized when they die. Even so, the fossil record is constantly being added to and refined. You'd have to be a Creationist not to see that.

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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

President Bush is a huge baseball fan. Did you know he once wanted to be a professional baseball player? He just didn't have the ability. Luckily, that's not a requirement to be president. — Jay Leno

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April 06, 2006

Energy Execs To Senate: Cap Us! Activism  Energy  Environment  Politics

In a Senate hearing Tuesday, executives representing a number of major energy companies actually requested federal legislation that would place caps on carbon emissions. Why? They're afraid of local and regional regulations that are gaining momentum. Grist:

Tuesday saw a tectonic shift in the climate-change debate during an all-day Senate conference on global-warming policy. A group of high-powered energy and utility executives for the first time issued this directive to Washington: Bring on the carbon caps!

The Energy and Natural Resources Committee heard statements from leaders representing eight big energy companies, including General Electric, Shell, and the two largest owners of utilities in the U.S., Exelon and Duke Energy. Six of the eight said they would either welcome or accept mandatory caps on their greenhouse-gas emissions. Wal-Mart too spoke in favor of carbon caps. The two outliers from the energy sector, Southern Company and American Electric Power, delivered pro forma bids for a voluntary rather than mandatory program, but they, too, broke with tradition by implicitly acknowledging that regulations may be coming, and offering detailed advice on how they should be designed.

Many industry players are increasingly concerned about the inconsistent patchwork of climate regulations that are being proposed and adopted throughout the U.S., from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative that seven Northeastern states put forward in December to plans for greenhouse-gas caps unveiled in California this week. Worried companies say federal regulations would bring stability and sureness to the market. [...]

Senate hearings rarely manage to draw a crowd of 60, but for this one some 300 members of Congress, lobbyists, and advocates crammed themselves into the hearing room...and more watched via a live webcast.

"It's the most widely attended hearing that I've ever been to for this committee," said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), "and that shows the gravity of this issue."

Said John Stanton, a vice president of National Environmental Trust, "I began the morning far more cynical than I felt at the end of the day." The conference was "remarkably devoid of the climate-skeptic malarkey that usually derails the debate at these sorts of events," he said. "You actually had real experts making real progress — hashing out the nitty-gritty of exactly how this emissions-trading system could be implemented."

Of course, there are still plenty of energy companies that oppose caps, and the conference didn't hear from anyone in the auto industry, a major contributor to greenhouse-gas emissions and a major opponent of moves to curb them. [Emphasis added]

Take note: local and regional activism matters! Getting local/regional regulations enacted forces the feds to act on the national level. That's the good news. The bad news is that federal legislation may turn out to be a watered-down version of what local/regional activists accomplished. Still, it's good to see the beginnings of movement on this front.

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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

Indicted former Republican majority leader Tom DeLay announced he is resigning from Congress and he will not run for re-election. People were shocked. A Republican with an exit plan? ... They say this will be the first time Tom DeLay actually takes a vacation he pays for himself. — Jay Leno

I'm going to miss him, too. Another classy move from a classy guy. The man who stood tall even as his staffers dropped like laundered nickels from an Indian casino slot machine. ... He's doing it right folks — going out at the top of his game in the middle of a criminal investigation. — Stephen Colbert, on Tom DeLay

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April 05, 2006

The Onion Does DeLay Humor & Fun  Politics

The Onion on Tom DeLay:

Tom DeLay To Pursue Corruption In Private Sector

Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, who is facing several ethics violations and felony charges, announced Tuesday that he will resign from Congress in order to concentrate on corruption in the private sector. "I can say with a clear lack of conscience that, after 21 years of public disservice, I have done everything I could to the American people," DeLay said in a televised statement to constituents. "I have a lot to offer the corporate world, such as money laundering and influence-peddling."

Or, he'll do a Chuck Colson and come out of prison and declare himself to be a born-again preacher. At which point, if DeLay isn't instantly struck by lightning where he stands, we will have final proof of God's non-existence.

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Green Tea Good, Loneliness Bad Science/Technology

Two keys to healthy aging: green tea and friends/family.

A study reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (abstract) looked at a population of Japanese people 70 or more years old. After correcting for other factors, the study found that people who drank 2 or more cups of green tea (with all its anti-oxidants) daily were about as half as likely to develop cogitive impairment as were people who drank no more than 3 cups a week. An astonishing result.

A study published in Psychology and Aging found that loneliness in elderly people is a killer: it is a more potent cause of high blood pressure than any other social or psychological factor. Live Science:

In a new University of Chicago study of men and women 50 to 68 years old, those who scored highest on measures of loneliness also had higher blood pressure. And high blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease, the number one killer in many industrialized nations and number two the United States.

Lonely people have blood pressure readings as much as 30 points higher than non-lonely people, said the study leaders Louise Hawkley and Christopher Masi. Blood pressure differences between lonely and non-lonely people were smallest at age 50 and greatest among the oldest people tested.

Richard Suzman of the National Institute on Aging, which funded this research, said he was "surprised by the magnitude of the relationship between loneliness and hypertension in this well-controlled, cross-sectional study."

The researchers separated loneliness out from depression, age, race, gender, weight, alcohol consumption, smoking, blood pressure medications, hostility, stress, social support and other factors. [...]

Loneliness was worse for blood pressure than any other psychological or social factor the researchers studied.

Weight loss and physical exercise reduce blood pressure by the same amount that loneliness increases it. Hawkley said this finding especially surprised her.

"It's comparable to the effects you see for the health benefits that are so often advocated such as exercise [to] keep your blood pressure under control," Hawkley told LiveScience.

About one in five Americans is lonely, a gnawing emotional state that is a patchwork of feeling unhappy, stressed out, friendless and hostile.

The main psychological difference between lonely and non-lonely people is that the former perceive stressful circumstances as threatening rather than challenging and cope passively and withdraw from stress rather than trying to solve the problem, said study co-author John T. Cacioppo.

Lonely people who are middle-aged and older tend to also have problems with alcoholism, depression, weak immune system responses to illness, impaired sleep and suicide.

Some psychologists think that associations between loneliness and health or physiology are just part of a generic stress response, but this new research suggests loneliness has a unique impact.

Social trends in the United States suggest a recipe for greater loneliness and thus higher blood pressure and risk of heart disease. The population is aging and more people move around and live alone than ever, contributing to greater separation from caring friends and family. [Emphasis added]

So, as your blogger, I advise you to go have some green tea with friends.

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Fuzzy Math Environment  Politics

Is there anything they won't lie about?

Last week the Interior Department made news by claiming that the nation's wetlands had actually increased, the first time that's happened. Except it's a lie. Real wetlands continue to shrink, but the administration now counts artificial ponds — water hazards on golf courses, for example — as wetlands. St. Petersburg Times:

By counting golf course ponds and ornamental lakes as wetlands, the federal government announced Thursday a massive gain in the number of wetlands nationwide, the first such gain ever reported.

But a chorus of critics called the report misleading, saying the nation lost wetlands without those man-made bodies of water.

More than 520,000 acres of wetlands were wiped out from 1998 to 2004, according to the study done by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

But the report contends that the losses were offset by creating more than 715,000 acres of new wetlands, mainly artificial ponds that do not provide the same environmental benefit as wetlands.

Federal officials hailed the results as a positive sign.

"Although the overall state of our wetlands is still precarious, this report suggests that nationwide efforts to curb losses and restore wetlands habitats are on the right track," said outgoing Interior Secretary Gale Norton.

And as for the ponds, Norton said: "People like having ponds as an amenity...Even ponds that are not a high quality of wetlands are better than not having wetlands." [...]

Not even the federal agency in charge of protecting wetlands, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, considers such ponds to be a replacement for wetlands, and neither do the state agencies in charge of regulating wetland losses. [...]

Wetlands - marshes, swamps, bogs, salt flats and dozens of areas that have wet soil and plants that thrive there - are supposed to be protected under the Clean Water Act because they are vital for water supplies, flood control, pollution filtering and wildlife habitat.

In 1989 President George Bush declared the nation's policy on wetlands would be No Net Loss - whatever is wiped out will be replaced. The policy proved so popular that it has been embraced by both Presidents Clinton and Bush. President Bush two years ago promised to go beyond No Net Loss and add millions of acres more wetlands.

But a study by an arm of the National Academies of Science pointed out five years ago that no one knows how well No Net Loss is working because no agency has complete and reliable data on the nation's wetlands. And most of the efforts to make up for wetland losses end in failure, the scientific study found.

Mitigation - making up for wetlands losses - is the linchpin of the No Net Loss policy. Even research by the corps paints a dim picture on what's being done to offset losses.

In New England, researchers for the corps found that forested wetlands that were being destroyed by development were most often replaced with shallow ponds, devoid of the trees that were lost. Other corps studies found projects that were supposed to make up for wetlands losses lacked any wetlands at all. [Emphasis added]

This is a wetland:

In the real world that most of us inhabit, this is not:

Something I don't understand: why do so many self-styled "conservatives" have such utter disregard for conservation of the environment? And why, for that matter, are they such liars? Some adolescent minds at the Interior Department thought this was a clever gimmick. Did they really think no one would notice? Did they really think these issues don't matter?

Do these people have no regard for the truth? Have they, when all is said and done, no desire to do the right thing? No notion of the common good? No awareness of their posterity? No conscience? Are there no grownups among them?

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

Happy Birthday, Buddha.

[Thanks, Charyn]

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Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

He just gave a promotion to the guy who was in charge of our nine trillion dollar debt. You know what? I really think if you walked into a cabinet meeting and started hurling your feces at the wall, Bush would name a state after you. — Jon Stewart, on Bush naming Joshua Bolten his new chief of staff

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April 04, 2006

Iraqi Civilian Deaths Surging (AP) In Civil War (UPI) Iraq

AP reports that its count shows Iraqi civilian deaths surging in recent months. Their figures:

MonthIraqi Civilian Deaths
Dec375
Jan608
Feb741
Mar1,038

UPI Senior News Analyst Martin Sieff says the sharp increase in sectarian violence shows that Iraq is in the midst of a civil war:

Despite President Bush's repeated denials, the figures are clear: 900 sectarian killings in a single month in Iraq means a civil war is well under way. [Emphasis added]

US media outlets have so far avoided calling the conflict a civil war, but that's probably about to change — much to the distress of the White House. Some things are too obvious even for the anemic US media to ignore.

Posted by Jonathan at 08:56 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Hans Blix: Iran At Least 5 Years From Bomb Energy  Iran

Hans Blix, former UN chief weapons inspector and former head of the IAEA, says Iran is at least five years from developing a nuclear bomb. AP:

Former U.N. chief weapons inspector Hans Blix said Monday that Iran is a least five years away from developing a nuclear bomb, leaving time to peacefully negotiate a settlement.

Blix, attending an energy conference in western Norway, said he doubted the U.S. would resort to invading Iran.

"But there is a chance that the U.S. will use bombs or missiles against several sites in Iran," he was quoted...as saying. "Then, the reactions would be strong, and would contribute to increased terrorism."

Blix said there is still time for dialogue over Iran's nuclear enrichment program, which Tehran insists is for peaceful purposes but the West fears is part of a secret nuclear weapons program.

"We have time on our side in this case. Iran can't have a bomb ready in the next five years," Blix was quoted as saying.

Blix, also a former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, urged the United States to take its time, as it is doing in a similar nuclear standoff with North Korea.

"The U.S. has given itself time and is negotiating with North Korea, while Iran got a very short deadline," he was quoted as saying. [Emphasis added]

It cannot be stated often enough: Iran (unlike US friends India, Pakistan, and Israel, which actually have nuclear weapons) is a signatory of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and is acting in accordance with its provisions.

Meanwhile, the US is patient with North Korea (which claims to already have the bomb), but not with Iran, which is years away. But then Iran is sitting on 10% of the world's proven oil reserves, according to Wikipedia, and the world's second largest natural gas reserves. Energy policy, à la Bush.

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

Posted by Jonathan at 09:47 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

Saturday was April Fool's Day and President Bush had a great April Fool's joke planned. He thought he'd put out that old "Mission Accomplished" banner. — David Letterman

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April 03, 2006

DeLay Out Politics

O how the mighty have fallen. CNN reports that Tom DeLay won't seek reelection.

Tom-freakin-DeLay. Used-to-be Master of the Universe. Sweet!

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Dump Rummy Iraq

Who should resign over the mistakes made in Iraq? Rumsfeld, for starters, say two retired generals. NYT:

For the second time in two weeks, a former general has called for the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld over what both generals described as serious mistakes made in the war in Iraq.

In remarks Sunday on the NBC News program "Meet the Press," Gen. Anthony C. Zinni, who once led the United States Central Command and retired from the Marines in 2000, said Mr. Rumsfeld, among others, should be held accountable for tactical mistakes in Iraq.

When asked who should resign, General Zinni said, "Secretary of Defense, to begin with," adding that resignations should also come from others responsible for planning the war efforts and from military officials who sat by without pointing out potential problems.

On March 19, similar sentiments were expressed by Paul D. Eaton, a retired Army major general in charge of training the Iraqi military from 2003 to 2004. In an Op-Ed article in The New York Times, General Eaton criticized Mr. Rumsfeld's handling of the war and said that "President Bush should accept the offer to resign that Mr. Rumsfeld says he has tendered more than once."

Several days later, Mr. Bush dismissed calls for Mr. Rumsfeld to step down, saying he was satisfied with his job performance. [Emphasis added]

Not that firing Rumsfeld would do much to turn things around, at this point, but it can never hurt to affirm the principle that job performance matters, especially in something as serious as a war. In a just world, Rumsfeld wouldn't just resign, he'd resign in disgrace, with war crimes trials to follow. And he wouldn't be the only one.

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Jackie McLean Culture

Alto saxophonist Jackie McLean died Friday. In his youth, McLean played with nearly all of the jazz giants: Bird, Miles, Monk, Mingus, Bud Powell. He was one of the last remaining links to that magnificent era. Some others remain — Sonny Rollins, Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock — but their numbers are dwindling.

I'm an alto player myself (strictly amateur), and Jackie McLean has always been one of my favorite players. He had a truly distinctive sound, making him one of those players (like Coltrane, say, or Stan Getz) whom you can identify after hearing only a note or two. He was a native of New York City, and his sound always seemed to me to be unmistakably urban — insistent, urgent, cutting, often aggressive, even tough — a true New York City sound. His playing always makes me want to jump to my feet. And man could he play the blues.

My favorite McLean recording is Let Freedom Ring, especially the cut "Melody for Melonae" that McLean wrote for his daughter. I remember one sunny summer vacation afternoon years ago, driving through Telluride, Colorado with my own daughter, Ali, the car windows open, the breeze blowing through, and "Melody for Melonae" on at top volume. The song starts with a somewhat funereal intro, but then McLean launches into a solo that begins with what for me are five of the most exciting notes in jazz. McLean's emphatic solo is propelled along by Billy Higgins' restless, kinetic drumming, and the result never fails to excite, even all these years later. That day in Telluride, Ali was still pretty young and she has doubtless forgotten all about it, but it was a moment I will always remember. Because of the song.

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

Posted by Jonathan at 11:30 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

Last week, in parts of the world, there was a total eclipse of the sun. President Bush said that the eclipse of the sun proves the unreliability of solar power. — David Letterman

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April 02, 2006

Polluting The Poor Environment

It's probably no surprise that poor and non-White communities are subjected to much greater levels of pollution and toxic waste than affluent, White communities. The magnitude of the discrepancy, however, is shocking. Rachel's News reports on a detailed demographic study of pollution in Massachusetts. Excerpt:

[Study authors] Faber and Krieg tallied up all the various toxic exposures for each of the 250 cities and towns (and 12 neighborhoods of Boston) in the entire state of Massachusetts and divided them by the land area of each community. The resulting 'exposure index' is an estimate of how contaminated each community is and takes into account different types of exposure — recycling centers are more hazardous than closed landfills, which are more hazardous than small industry.

Not surprisingly, poor communities and communities of color scored much higher (more toxic) than wealthy and white communities. These communities averaged 35.3 points while the wealthiest communities averaged just 8.5 points. Communities of color averaged 87.7 points compared to just 4.3 points for white communities. So its four times as dangerous to be poor and twenty times as dangerous to live in a community of color.

Faber and Krieg sum it up this way, "...if you live in a white community, then you have a 1.8 percent chance of living in the most environmentally hazardous communities in the state... However, if you live in a community of color, then there is a 70.6 percent chance that you live in one of the most hazardous towns. In short, if you live in a community of color, you are thirty-nine times more likely to live in one of the most environmentally hazardous communities in Massachusetts."

The market differs from democracy in that the market operates on a basis of one-dollar-one-vote, not one-person-one-vote. The US political system has become so heavily dependent on money that it, too, is pretty much a one-dollar-one-vote affair. Which is no accident.

Toxic waste sites and polluting industries are located where they are because of a combination of market factors and political factors. So it's no surprise that communities with the least money get the most screwed. It is shocking, though, to see the extent to which race is a much more potent factor than wealth (class). Racism is built into the very structure of the system, evidently.

Nobody would countenance a policy that caused poor, non-White people to be lined up against a wall and publicly shot as a side-effect of industrial activity. But pollution kills slowly and silently. No matter how unjust the situation, it's a case of out of sight, out of mind.

Posted by Jonathan at 08:24 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 

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Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

The latest in Iraq: the government has ceased to function. It's kind of like the White House, but with more oil. — Jay Leno

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April 01, 2006

Antarctic Air Warming Is Earth's Fastest Environment

Another day, another horrifying global warming story. Times of UK:

Air temperatures above the entire frozen continent of Antarctica have risen three times faster than the rest of the world during the past 30 years.

While it is well established that temperatures are increasing rapidly in the Antarctic Peninsula, the land tongue that protrudes towards South America, the trend has been harder to confirm over the continent as a whole.

Now analysis of weather balloon data by scientists at the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) has shown that not only are the lower reaches of the Antarctic atmosphere warming, but that they are doing so at the fastest rate observed anywhere on Earth.

Temperatures in the troposphere — the lowest 8km (5 miles) of the atmosphere — have increased by between 0.5C and 0.7 C (0.9F and 1.3F) per decade over the past 30 years.

This signature of climate change is three times stronger than the average observed around the world, suggesting that global warming is having an uneven impact and that it could be greater for Antarctica. [...]

The new research, led by John Turner, of the BAS, shows that the air above the surface of Antarctica is definitely warming, in ways that are not predicted by climate models and that cannot yet be explained. The results are published today in the journal Science.

“The rapid surface warming of the Antarctic Peninsula and the enhanced global warming signal over the whole continent shows the complexity of climate change,” Dr Turner said.

“Greenhouses gases could be having a bigger impact in Antarctica than across the rest of the world and we don’t understand why.

“The warming above the Antarctic could have implications for snowfall across the Antarctic and sea level rise. Current climate model simulations don’t reproduce the observed warming, pointing to weaknesses in their ability to represent the Antarctic climate system. Our next step is to try to improve the models.” [...]

The study is the third to be published this month to suggest that the effects of global warming on Antarctica are likely to be more pronounced than has often been predicted.

Research has indicated that the melting of the Greenland ice-cap in the Arctic could produce sea level rises that destabilise Antarctic ice-shelves, and Nasa satellite data have shown the internal Antarctic ice-sheets to be thinning. [Emphasis added]

There's a disturbing trend in all these stories. Where observations fail to match current climate models, the discrepancies all seem to be going one way: the actual situation is considerably more grave than the models predict. The models are bad enough. Reality is shaping up to be a good deal worse.

Somebody's got to figure out how to turn these stories into compelling video, so they can get a toehold on the evening news.

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

Posted by Jonathan at 09:05 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

Vice President Dick Cheney said the other day that Democrats are not competent to fight the war in Iraq — this coming from a guy who shot a bird and hit a lawyer. — Jay Leno

Posted by Jonathan at 09:02 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb