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June 30, 2006

Bumper Sticker Activism

Seen in traffic:

Without dissent, it isn't America

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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

A powerful storm in Washington, D.C. knocked over a 100-year-old Elm tree on the White House lawn. President Bush was not hurt because he was playing in a different tree at the time. — Conan O'Brien

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June 29, 2006

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

The White House is mad at the New York Times because they broke the story that the White House is secretly tracking our banking transactions. They're looking out for when people suddenly withdraw large amounts of cash — you know, either terrorists or people who need to fill up their SUV. In fact, President Bush is so angry at the New York Times he said today he's not even going to pretend to read it anymore. — Jay Leno

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June 28, 2006

Posts Will Be Sparse For A Few Days Environment

Saw "An Inconvenient Truth" again tonight, this time with my daughters. It's a masterpiece of explication. See it if you can. It's most important message: global warming is happening now.

I'll be leaving in the morning to drive to Pennsylvania with my younger daughter Molly to visit my ailing father. Internet access will be intermittent, so I don't know how much posting I'll be doing over the next few days. We'll be staying in Reading, one of the Pennsylvania cities hit by the flooding. I expect that to be sobering and eerie, after seeing Gore explain how global warming models predict exactly the kind of unusually heavy rains and flooding that we're seeing. Welcome to the future.

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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

The flooding was so bad in Washington that New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin called the president and said, "You're on your own pal." — Jay Leno

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June 27, 2006

The Real WMD Activism  Environment

Parade Magazine, which reaches 75 million people, began its Sunday cover story "How Climate Change Affects You Right Now" with this bold sentence:

As we learned last year in New Orleans, weather can be a weapon of mass destruction.

Momentum is building.

Global warming: the real WMD. Pass it on.

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AIT Activism

Reaching the young. Yes!

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Bumper Sticker Humor & Fun

Bumper sticker I saw tonight:

BILLIONAIRES FOR BUSH
Tax cuts for the rich create jobs. Honest.

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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

Heavy rains caused so much flooding in Washington, D.C. today that they had to close down the National Archives where they keep the Constitution. They had to close it down. Luckily, the Bush administration isn't using the Constitution anymore. — Jay Leno

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June 26, 2006

DC Tastes Its Future Environment

If you've seen Al Gore's movie, you know that global warming is expected to produce torrential rains and flooding in some locales, drought in others. Today, the pols in Washington got a preview, as the capital got more than a foot of rain, with more rain forecast for the remainder of the week.

It's clear that somebody at ABC saw the movie. Excerpt:

The massive downpours this morning shorting out government buildings with flooded basements, seizing up legislative communications, snarling traffic access to white columned buildings, fit exactly the pattern predicted decades ago as a consequence of global warming.

It's a simple fourth grade science lesson: the warmer the air, the more moisture it can hold.

Winds suck up more water vapor from oceans and farmlands — leaving more agricultural drought behind — and when they finally do dump that moisture out as rain, the downpours are much heavier.

Not just in the United States. Worldwide, such downpours have been increasing markedly over recent decades — exactly as predicted by scientists.

In the 1980's, leading American climatologists stood in front of Congress, trying to get across the reality of this planetary threat.

One of the world's most resepected climatologists, NASA's James Hansen, even used a dice metaphor to make it clear.

If you paint one side of the die red, you'll roll red about one in six times. Paint four red, and you'll roll red on average four in six times.

Manmade greenhouse gas emissions, Hansen explained, were loading the dice so that we'd have such extreme weather far more frequently. And, exactly as predicted, we and the world have — well above what the frequency of any natural weather cycles can explain. [...]

And the president amid this morning's wind and rain?

In the White House, only hours after that old elm had fallen, Bush was addressed by a reporter, thus: "I know that you are not planning to see Al Gore's new movie, but do you agree with the premise that global warming is a real and significant threat to the planet?"

"I have said consistently," answered Bush, "that global warming is a serious problem. There's a debate over whether it's manmade or naturally caused. We ought to get beyond that debate and start implementing the technologies necessary ... to be good stewards of the environment, become less dependent on foreign sources of oil..."

The President — as far as the extensive and repeated researches of this and many other professional journalists, as well as all scientists credible on this subject, can find — is wrong on one crucial and no doubt explosive issue. When he said — as he also did a few weeks ago — that "There's a debate over whether it's manmade or naturally caused" ... well, there really is no such debate.

At least none above what is proverbially called "the flat earth society level."

Not one scientist of any credibility on this subject has presented any evidence for some years now that counters the massive and repeated evidence — gathered over decades and come at in dozens of ways by all kinds of professional scientists around the world — that the burning of fossil fuels is raising the world's average temperature.

Or that counters the findings that the burning of these fuels is doing so in a way that is very dangerous for mankind, that will almost certainly bring increasingly devastating effects in the coming decades.

One small group of special interest businesses leaders — those of some fossil fuel companies — have been well documented by journalist Ross Gelbspan and others to have been fighting a PR campaign for 15 years to keep the American public confused about the wide and deep scientific consensus on this.

They've aimed, as Gelbspan explains, to keep us thinking that (to borrow the president's words this morning) "There's a debate over whether it's manmade or naturally caused" — though no open and thorough journalism this reporter knows of can find any such thing. [...]

Meteorologists predict more heavy rain this week along the mid-Atlantic seaboard.

Climatologists predict much the same for the coming decades. [Emphasis added]

If you haven't seen Gore's extraordinary movie yet, you should. Your survival may ultimately depend on it. Before long, the irresponsibility of Bush and the rest of the puerile know-nothings will be seen for what it is. Hopefully, before it's too late.

New Orleans was only the beginning.

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

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Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

President Bush got back tonight from his very brief trip to Europe. Boy, remember the old days when it used to take longer than two days to visit all of our allies? — Jay Leno

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June 25, 2006

James Hansen On Global Warming Environment

James Hansen, probably America's top climate scientist, has an excellent article on global warming in the The New York Review of Books.

Recommended reading.

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Audi Diesel Wins At Le Mans Science/Technology

Americans tend to think diesel engines are sluggish, stinky, and slow. As a result, diesel cars, despite their superior fuel efficiency, have never caught on here.

Audi's out to change public thinking about diesels. Their R10 turbo direct-injection (TDI) diesel race car won the storied 24-hour race at Le Mans this past weekend. The Audi R10 also won the 12-hour race at Sebring earlier in the year.

The Audi car benefits from greater fuel efficiency — which translates to fewer pit stops — but it's very fast as well. The winning R10 at Le Mans posted the fastest lap, had the fewest pit stops, and completed the most laps in the race's history.

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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

President Bush is in Austria. He's trying to convince European leaders to eliminate agricultural subsidies in order to promote global free trade. Yeah, he has no idea what that means either." — David Letterman

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June 24, 2006

Bill Clinton On Peak Oil Peak Oil

From Straight Talk, via Oil Drum, a warning from Bill Clinton on Peak Oil:

Former U.S. president Bill Clinton has urged newspaper editors to focus more attention on the depletion of the world's oil reserves. In a June 17 speech to the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies convention in Little Rock, Arkansas, Clinton said a "significant number of petroleum geologists" have warned that the world could be nearing the peak in oil production.

Clinton suggested that at current consumption rates (now more than 30 billion barrels per year, according to the International Energy Agency), the world could be out of "recoverable oil" in 35 to 50 years, elevating the risk of "resource-based wars of all kinds."

During a question-and-answer period, the Georgia Straight asked Clinton if he believed that Saudi Arabia, Iran, Kuwait, and United Arab Emirates had exaggerated claims about their proven oil reserves. The four Persian Gulf states are among the six nations with the greatest listed proven reserves. (Canada and Iraq are the other two.)

"I don’t know if they're overstating their reserves," Clinton replied. He added that he expects oil prices will reach US$100 per barrel "in five years or less." [...]

At the AAN convention, Clinton delivered a detailed scientific explanation of some of the problems with the Ghawar oil reservoir [in Saudi Arabia, the world's largest]. Clinton echoed [Matthew] Simmons's claim that massive amounts of water have been injected into Ghawar to maintain oil pressure. "It implies less oil than we previously thought," Clinton said.

Clinton also recommended that everyone at the convention read The Empty Tank: Oil, Gas, Hot Air, and the Coming Global Financial Catastrophe, by Jeremy Leggett, a petroleum geologist and international campaigner for Greenpeace...Clinton also emphasized the importance of developing the alternative-energy industry and weaning his country off its dependence on imported oil. He claimed that promoting renewable power would also stimulate the American economy.

"Unlike us, the U.K. has found a source of new jobs in this decade," he said, referring to the Blair government's efforts in this area. "The implications are dire if we don't do something." [Emhpasis added]

Somebody tell Dubya.

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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

This is a little frightening. The White House says North Korea has missiles with the capability of being launched in North Korea and landing on the west coast of the United States...I was thinking about this and I was like, "Oh hell, that's Leno's problem." — David Letterman

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June 23, 2006

Uniforms, And Shoes 9/11, "War On Terror"

This "home-grown terrorist" story is a laugh. What's not funny, though, is the way people have been acting like these guys are for real. Knight-Ridder:

Federal officials framed the case as one against "homegrown terrorists" who were infiltrated by an informant before they could take action, but said the seven could have posed a significant danger.

[Group leader Narseal] Batiste called them "soldiers" in an "Islamic army" that would wage a "full ground war" against the United States, according to the indictment. The suspects called the Liberty City warehouse in which they met "the embassy," officials said.

Batiste allegedly said he wanted to attend al Qaeda training, along with five of his "soldiers," during the second week of April.

He was known to his alleged followers as Brother Naz and Prince Manna, according to the indictment.

"Left unchecked, these homegrown terrorists may prove to be as dangerous as groups like al Qaeda...," Gonzales said, comparing them to terrorists in Madrid, London and Toronto. "What we had was a situation where individuals in America made plans to hurt Americans."

Woo woo. Scary stuff. But:

They were not able to obtain explosives and no weapons were found, according to authorities.

"It was more aspirational than operational," said Pistole, the FBI's deputy director.

The group, however, asked the supposed al Qaeda representative to provide machine guns, boots, uniforms and vehicles, the indictment said.

Uniforms? Oops. There's more:

Batiste gave the supposed al Qaeda representative a shopping list of materials he needed — boots, uniforms, machine guns, radios and vehicles.

Six days later, Batiste outlined his mission to wage war against the U.S. government from within using an army of his "soldiers" to help destroy the Sears Tower. He also gave the informant a list of shoe sizes for his soldiers.

On Dec. 29, the informant delivered the military boots to Batiste, who expanded his shopping list to include radios, binoculars, bulletproof vests, firearms, vehicles and $50,000 in cash. [Emphasis added]

Because when you're getting ready to destroy the Sears Tower, what could be more important than getting yourself some of them al Qaeda uniforms, and some shoes.

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Bill Of Particulars Iraq

Are Iraqis better off because of the US invasion? William Blum has compiled a list of the many ways they're worse off. It's a long list.

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

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Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

It was so hot today that President Bush met with European leaders just for the chilly reception. — David Letterman

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June 22, 2006

Crackpots 9/11, "War On Terror"  Politics

Reading Ron Susskind's The One Percent Doctrine, I came across the following anecdote that pretty much sums up the crackpot flailing of the Bush White House in its "war on terror":

The result [of 9/11]: potent, wartime autority was granted to those guiding the ship of state...In the wide, diffuse "war on terror," so much of it occurring the shadows — with no transparency and perfunctory oversight — the administration could say anything it wanted to say. That was a blazing insight of this period [2002]. The administration could create whatever reality was convenient. [...]

What, for instance, did all of this mean upon the capture of [Abu] Zubaydah? A freeing of rhetoric for the "wartime" President to say what he felt desperately needed to be said.

Which Bush did, first, in a speech...on April 9, 2002. "The other day we hauled in a guy named Abu Zubaydah. He's one of the top operatives plotting and planning death and destruction on the United States. He's not plotting and planning anymore. He's where he belongs," the President said to raucous cheers from a room full of Republican Party contributors. [...]

This message — and the characterizing of Zubaydah as the "chief of operations" for all of al Qaeda, a putative "number three" to bin Laden and Zawahiri — would be a drum the President, the Vice President,...Condoleezza Rice, and others would beat relentlessly that April and the months to follow.

Meanwhile, Dan Coleman and other knowledgeable members of the tribe of al Qaeda hunters at CIA were reading Zubaydah's top secret diary and shaking their heads.

"This guy is insane, certifiable, split personality," Coleman told a top official at FBI after a few days reviewing the Zubaydah haul. "That's why they let him fly all over the world doing meet and greet. That's why people used his name on all sorts of calls and e-mails. He was like a travel agent, the guy who booked your flights. You can see from what he writes how burdened he is with all these logistics — getting families of operatives, wives and kids, in and out of countries. He knew very little about real operations, or strategy. He was expendable, you know, the greeter...Joe Louis in the lobby of Caesar's Palace, shaking hands."

This opinion was echoed at the top of the CIA and was, of course, briefed to the President and Vice President. While Bush was out in public claiming Zubaydah's grandiose malevolence, his private disappointment fell, as it often would, on [CIA Director] Tenet...

"I said he was important," Bush said to Tenet at one of their daily briefings. "You're not going to let me lose face on this, are you?"

"No sir, Mr. President."

Back in Langley, Tenet pressed subordinates over what could be done to get Zubaydah to talk. His injuries were serious, but...[the CIA] found [him] some of the finest medical professionals in America. CIA agents alighted at their medical offices and soon they were on flights to Pakistan.

"He received the finest medical attention on the planet," said one CIA official. "We got him in very good health, so we could start to torture him." [...]

"Around the room a lot of people [at CIA] just rolled their eyes when we heard comments from the White House. I mean, Bush and Cheney knew what we knew about Zubaydah. The guy had psychological issues. He was, in a way, expendable. It was like calling someone who runs a company's in-house travel department the COO," said one top CIA official. {...]

According to CIA sources, [Zubaydah] was water-boarded, a technique...creating the sensation of drowning. He was beaten, though not in a way to worsen his injuries. He was repeatedly threatened, and made certain of his impending death. His medication was withheld. He was bombarded with deafening, continuous noise and harsh lights. [...]

Under this duress, Zubaydah told them that shopping malls were targeted by al Qaeda. That information traveled the globe in an instant. Agents from the FBI, Secret Service, Customs, and various related agencies joined local police to surround malls. Zubaydah said banks &mdash yes, banks — were a priority. FBI agents led officers in a race to surround and secure banks. And also supermarkets — al Qaeda was planning to blow up crowded supermarkets, several at one time...And the water system — a target, too. Nuclear plants, naturally. And apartment buildings.

Thousands of uniformed men and women raced in a panic to each flavor of target. Of course, if you multiplied by ten, there still wouldn't be enough public servants in America to surround and secure the supermarkets. Or the banks. But they tried. [Emphasis added]

The stuff of some particularly vicious satire. They pick up a mentally ill nobody, pump him up in public statements as al Qaeda's number three, then, to save face for Bush, they act as if it were actually true. They give him medical treatment to get him well enough to torture, and under torture he starts spewing out every conceivable plot under the sun. Then, the final insanity: thousands of agents and law enforcement officers are sent scrambling to Zubaydah's imaginary targets, when they presumably could have been doing something useful.

These jokers have our collective futures in their hands. It's embarrassing.

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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

President Bush is creating a Marine sanctuary in the Pacific Ocean off the northwest islands of Hawaii. You know what that means? No oil there. — Jay Leno

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June 21, 2006

Neurons Regenerate After All Science/Technology

This is a surprise. For as long as I can remember, I've read that adult humans don't grow new brain cells. Whatever we've got, going into adulthood, we're stuck with. Apparently, not so. It depends on your environment. Barbara Ehrenreich, in the current issue of The Progressive:

[A] recent article in the new pop-science magazine, Seed, makes me think that our office environments [cubicles and windowless offices] may be more damaging than I suspected. The article is about neurogenesis, the generation of new neurons within adult brains. According to longstanding neuroscientific belief, this is impossible: Neurons cannot regenerate, and we are stuck with the number we were born with, minus those lost to alcohol or Alzheimer's. Princeton psychologist Elizabeth Gould has shown otherwise: Neurons can regenerate. The reason this hadn't been observed before is that the animals studied lived out their short lives in plain laboratory metal cages.

Gould studies little rat-sized monkeys called marmosets. Put them in metal cages, kill them, and slice their brains for microscopy, and you find very little neurogenesis. But if you let them live in an "enriched enclosure" — the marmoset equivalent of Versailles, featuring "branches, hidden food, and a rotation of toys" — neurogenesis kicks in, along with an increase in the number and strength of synaptic connections.

Another scientist, Fernando Nottebohm, working at my alma mater, Rockefeller University, has found a similar effect in birds. Keep finches and canaries in metal cages and you get listless, tuneless, birds with equally dull brain tissue. Only when studied in the wild do the birds sing and, not coincidentally, generate a profusion of new brain cells. [Emphasis added]

Neurons being regenerated. That's a pretty fundamental thing to have been missed for all these years.

Here's something to consider. Much of our understanding of biology and medicine comes from experiments involving animals held in the bleakest conditions of unhappy captivity. You have to wonder the extent to which that's skewed our understanding across the board. It's like trying to arrive at a balanced understanding of human organisms by studying only the inmates of Auschwitz. It's a measure of the erosion of our basic common sense that any of this comes as a surprise.

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To See Ourselves As Others See Us Iran  Iraq  Palestine/Middle East

Who's the biggest threat to world peace? We are, according to a poll spanning 15 nations. Guardian, via CommonDreams:

George Bush's six years in office have so damaged the image of the US that people worldwide see Washington as a bigger threat to world peace than Tehran, according to a global poll.

The Washington-based Pew Research Centre, in a poll of 17,000 people in 15 countries between March and May, found more people concerned about the US presence in Iraq than about Iran's alleged nuclear weapons ambitions. [...]

The survey, carried out annually, shows a continued decline in support for the US since 1999. [...]

But even in the UK, Washington's closest ally, favourable ratings have slumped from 83% in 1999 to 56% this year. The pattern is similar in France, down from 62% to 39%, Germany 78% to 37%, and Spain 50% to 23%.

In Muslim countries with which the US has traditionally enjoyed a good relationship, such as Turkey - a member of Nato - and Indonesia, there have also been slumps. In Indonesia favourable ratings for the US have dropped from 75% to 30%, and in Turkey from 52% to 12%.

"It's all [because of] Iraq," Carroll Doherty, associate director of the Pew Centre, said. [...]

Favourable ratings of the US in India dropped over the year from 71% to 56%. [...]

Throughout the period the poll was conducted the crisis over Iran's nuclear programme, intensified by hardline comments from its president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was repeatedly in the news. Iraq, too, has been in the news on an almost daily basis, with the formation of a new Iraqi government being accompanied by fears of a civil war.

Only in the US and Germany is Iran seen as a greater danger than the US in Iraq. Public opinion in 12 of the other countries - Britain, France, Spain, Russia, Indonesia, Egypt, Jordan, Turkey, Pakistan, Nigeria, India and China - cite the US presence in Iraq as being the greater danger. Opinion in Japan was evenly divided.

As well as Iraq and Iran, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is also high on the list of issues that present a danger to world peace. Public opinion in about a third of the countries polled put it at the top of their list of threats. [...]

By contrast, concern about Iran has almost doubled in the US over the past two years. Some 46% of Americans view Mr Ahmadinejad's government as "a great danger" to stability in the Middle East and world peace, up from 26% in 2003. The concern in the US is shared in Germany, where 51% see Iran as a great danger to world peace, against 18% three years ago. [...]

Those are remarkable numbers: US approval cut more or less in half under Bush. Meanwhile, the media blitz here in the US has done its work: nearly half of Americans now view Iran as "a great danger". They didn't arrive at that conclusion on their own. It's disheartening to realize what sheep we are. Small wonder that media ownership and control is such a priority for elites here and elsewhere.

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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

Republicans in the House of Representatives forced everyone to spend an entire day discussing a non-binding resolution praising the troops and labeling Iraq part of the War on Terror. Later they will debate a resolution declaring kittens "adorable". — Jon Stewart

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June 20, 2006

Iraq: Millions Of Barrels Dumped Disasters  Environment  Global Guerrillas  Iraq

So, how's that Iraqi reconstruction coming along? Check this out. NYT:

An environmental disaster is brewing in the heartland of Iraq's northern Sunni-led insurgency, where Iraqi officials say that in a desperate move to dispose of millions of barrels of an oil refinery byproduct called "black oil," the government pumped it into open mountain valleys and leaky reservoirs next to the Tigris River and set it on fire.

The resulting huge black bogs are threatening the river and the precious groundwater in the region, which is dotted with villages and crisscrossed by itinerant sheep herders, but also contains Iraq's great northern refinery complex at Baiji.

The fires are no longer burning, but the suffocating plumes of smoke they created carried as far as 40 miles downwind to Tikrit, the provincial capital that formed Saddam Hussein's base of power.

An Iraqi environmental engineer who has visited the dumping area described it as a kind of black swampland of oil-saturated terrain and large standing pools of oil stretching across several mountain valleys. The clouds of smoke, said the engineer, Ayad Younis, "were so heavy that they obstructed breathing and visibility in the area and represent a serious environmental danger." [...]

...He added that at least some of the black oil was already seeping into the river.

Exactly how far those pollutants will travel is unknown, but the Tigris passes through dozens of population centers from Baghdad to Basra. In the past, oil slicks created when insurgents struck oil pipelines in the Baiji area have traveled the entire length of the river.

As much as 40 percent of the petroleum processed at Iraq's damaged and outdated refineries pours forth as black oil, the heavy, viscous substance that used to be extensively exported to more efficient foreign operations for further refining. But the insurgency has stalled government-controlled exports by taking control of roadways and repeatedly hitting pipelines in the area, Iraqi and American officials have said.

So the backed-up black oil — known to the rest of the world as the lower grades of fuel oil — was sent along a short pipeline from Baiji and dumped in a mountainous area called Makhul.

A series of complaints handed up the Iraqi government chain were conveyed to oil industry officials, and as of last weekend the fires had at least temporarily stopped, but black oil was still being poured into the open valleys, according to Mr. Younis, who works in the province's Department of Environment and Health Safety. [...]

But with few options for disposing of Baiji's current production of black oil and so much at stake for the Iraqi economy, it is unclear whether the government will even be able to hold the line on the burning at Makhul. A United States official in Baghdad, speaking anonymously according to official procedure, said earlier this month that Baiji was still turning out about 90,000 barrels a day of refined products, which would yield about 36,000 barrels a day of black oil.

Iraq's refineries will grind to a halt if the black oil does not go somewhere. "Unless we find a way of dealing with the fuel oil, our factories will not work," said Shamkhi H. Faraj, director of economics and marketing at the Iraqi Oil Ministry.

The dumping and burning has embarrassed ministry officials and exposed major gaps in the American-designed reconstruction program, even as President Bush appeals to the international community for much more rebuilding money in the wake of his visit to Baghdad. [Emphasis added]

This is how a modern insurgency can bring a country to its knees: isolated, relatively low-risk actions by small teams that hit the country's economic infrastructure at key points where the effects cascade and are magnified manyfold. Blow up an oil pipeline here, sabotage a refinery there, and in the end, you've got the government dumping millions of barrels of heavy oil into valleys and reservoirs. The downward spiral feeds on itself.

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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

Good news from President Bush. At a press conference yesterday, he was upbeat, he was cheerful, he was optimistic. Yeah, that's right. He's drinking again. ... They say he's having a pretty good week and you got to give him credit because, earlier in the week, President Bush quietly sneaked into Iraq. Here's an idea: Why don't we quietly sneak out of Iraq? — David Letterman

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June 19, 2006

US Rejected Iranian Proposal In 2003 Iran  Politics

The Washington Post reported yesterday that in 2003 Iran sought to open a dialogue with the US, but the administration rejected the proposal out of hand. Excerpt:

Just after the lightning takeover of Baghdad by U.S. forces three years ago, an unusual two-page document spewed out of a fax machine at the Near East bureau of the State Department. It was a proposal from Iran for a broad dialogue with the United States, and the fax suggested everything was on the table — including full cooperation on nuclear programs, acceptance of Israel and the termination of Iranian support for Palestinian militant groups.

But top Bush administration officials, convinced the Iranian government was on the verge of collapse, belittled the initiative. Instead, they formally complained to the Swiss ambassador who had sent the fax with a cover letter certifying it as a genuine proposal supported by key power centers in Iran, former administration officials said.

Last month, the Bush administration abruptly shifted policy and agreed to join talks previously led by European countries over Iran's nuclear program. But several former administration officials say the United States missed an opportunity in 2003 at a time when American strength seemed at its height — and Iran did not have a functioning nuclear program or a gusher of oil revenue from soaring energy demand.

"At the time, the Iranians were not spinning centrifuges, they were not enriching uranium," said Flynt Leverett, who was a senior director on the National Security Council staff then and saw the Iranian proposal. He described it as "a serious effort, a respectable effort to lay out a comprehensive agenda for U.S.-Iranian rapprochement." [...]

Parsi said the U.S. victory in Iraq frightened the Iranians because U.S. forces had routed in three weeks an army that Iran had failed to defeat during a bloody eight-year war.

The document lists a series of Iranian aims for the talks, such as ending sanctions, full access to peaceful nuclear technology and a recognition of its "legitimate security interests." Iran agreed to put a series of U.S. aims on the agenda, including full cooperation on nuclear safeguards, "decisive action" against terrorists, coordination in Iraq, ending "material support" for Palestinian militias and accepting the Saudi initiative for a two-state solution in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The document also laid out an agenda for negotiations, with possible steps to be achieved at a first meeting and the development of negotiating road maps on disarmament, terrorism and economic cooperation. [...]

Leverett said Guldimann included a cover letter that it was an authoritative initiative that had the support of then-President Mohammad Khatami and supreme religious leader Ali Khamenei. [...]

Paul R. Pillar, former national intelligence officer for the Near East and South Asia, said that it is true "there is less daylight between the United States and Europe, thanks in part to Rice's energetic diplomacy." But he said that only partially offsets the fact that the U.S. position is "inherently weaker now" because of Iraq. He described the Iranian approach as part of a series of efforts by Iran to engage with the Bush administration. "I think there have been a lot of lost opportunities," he said, citing as one example a failure to build on the useful cooperation Iran provided in Afghanistan. [...]

Parsi said that based on his conversations with the Iranian officials, he believes the failure of the United States to even respond to the offer had an impact on the government. Parsi, who is writing a book on Iran-Israeli relations, said he believes the Iranians were ready to dramatically soften their stance on Israel, essentially taking the position of other Islamic countries such as Malaysia. Instead, Iranian officials decided that the United States cared not about Iranian policies but about Iranian power.

The incident "strengthened the hands of those in Iran who believe the only way to compel the United States to talk or deal with Iran is not by sending peace offers but by being a nuisance," Parsi said. [Emphasis added]

The gang that couldn't think straight. Have they ever been right about anything?

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

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Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

The Supreme Court has ruled that with a warrant, police no longer have to knock before kicking your door in. Unless, of course, you're the Vice President of the United States and we're talking about shooting a man in the face. Then you can come back tomorrow. — Jay Leno

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June 18, 2006

Something Doesn't Add Up Iraq

Amid all the hoopla surrounding the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, no one but Patrick Cockburn (one of the most courageous Western journalists covering Iraq) has thought to ask how it was that al-Zarqawi, supposed terrorist arch-villain and mastermind, was living virtually unguarded with five companions that included two women and an eight-year-old girl. It doesn't add up. Cockburn:

In the days before he was tracked down and killed by US laser-guided bombs Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was living with almost no guards and only five companions, two of whom were women and one an eight year old girl. [...]

The ease with which Iraqi police and US special forces were able to reach the house after the bombing without encountering hostile fire showed that Zarqawi was never the powerful guerrilla chieftain and leader of the Iraqi resistance that Washington has claimed for over three years.

Amid the broken slabs of concrete and twisted metal was a woman's leopard skin nightgown, a magazine with a picture of Franklin Roosevelt and a leaflet apparently identifying a radio station in Latafiyah which might be a potential target for attack. It is not clear how long the little group had been in the house. [...]

The only resistance encountered by black-clad American commandos was from local Sunni villagers in the village of Ghalabiya, near Hibhib, who thought the strangers were members of a Shia death squad. Villagers who were standing guard fired into the air on seeing the commandos who in turn threw a grenade that killed five of the guards. American regular army troops later came to Ghalabiya to apologise and promise compensation to the families of the dead men.

The manner in which Zarqawi died confirms the belief that his military and political importance was always deliberately exaggerated by the US. He was a wholly obscure figure until he was denounced by US Secretary of State Colin Powell before the UN Security Council on 5 February 2003. Mr Powell identified Zarqawi as the link between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein though no evidence for this was ever produced.

Iraqi police documents were later discovered showing that Saddam Hussein's security forces, so far from collaborating with Zarqawi, were trying to arrest him. In Afganistan Zarqawi had led a small group hostile to al Qa'ida. Arriving in Iraq in 2002 hee had taken refuge in the mountain hide out of an extreme Islamic group near Halabja in Kurdistan in an area which the Iraqi government did not control.

Over the last three years Zarqawi has had a symbiotic relationship with US forces in Iraq. After the capture of Saddam Hussein in December 2003 Zarqawi was once again heavily publicised by US military and civilian spokesmen as the preeminent leader of the resistance. His name was mentioned at every press conference in Baghdad. Dubious documents were leaked to the US press. The aim of all this from Washington's point of view was to show that by invading Iraq President Bish was indeed fighting international terrorism.

US denunciations and Zarqawi's own videos of himself beheading western hostages together spread his fame throughout the Muslim world enabling him to recruit men and raise money easily. But, for all his vaunted importance, the US spokesmen admitted that Zarqawi's suicide bombers concentrated almost entirely on soft targets and were responsible for very few of the 20,000 American casualties in Iraq. [...]

It is not clear how far American or Iraqi government statements about how they located him should be believed. It appears unlikely that he was having meeting with his lieutenants, as was first suggested, given that only two other men died with him. [...]

The myth of Zarqawi, which may originally have been manufactured by Jordanian and Kurdish intelligence in 2003, was attractive to Washington because it showed that anti-occupation resistance was foreign inspired and linked to al Qa'ida. In reality the insurgency was almost entirely homegrown, reliant on near total support from the five million strong Sunni community. Its military effectiveness was far more dependant on former officers of the Iraqi army and security forces than on al-Qa'ida. They may also have helped boost Zarqawi's fame because it was convenient for them to blame their worst atrocities on him. [...]

The killing of Zarqawi is a boost for the newly formed government of Nouri al-Maliki, but Iraqis noticed that when announcing it he stood at the podium between Gen George Casey, the top US commander in Iraq, and Zilmay Khalilzad, the US ambassador. "It showed the limits of Maliki's independence from the Americans," noted one Iraqi commentator. "It would have been better if they had let him make the announcement standing alone." [Emphasis added]

Why do we buy that al-Zarqawi was everything they say he was? After they've lied about everything else?

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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

Today in Iraq, the new prime minister instituted a ban on guns. Hey, good luck with that. — Jay Leno

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June 17, 2006

Desert Dunkirk? Iraq

Nicholas von Hoffman, writing in The Nation, speculates that the US military in Iraq may be facing a nightmare scenario: an overstretched and exhausted force that is forced, finally, to abandon its bases and equipment and make a desperate evacuation under fire, a la Dunkirk. Excerpts:

We could be moving toward an American Dunkirk [in Iraq]. In 1940 the defeated British Army in Belgium was driven back by the Germans to the French seacoast city of Dunkirk, where it had to abandon its equipment and escape across the English Channel on a fleet of civilian vessels, fishing smacks, yachts, small boats, anything and everything that could float and carry the defeated and wounded army to safety.

Obviously, our forces in Iraq will not be defeated in open battle by an opposing army as happened in 1940, but there is more than one way to stumble into a military disaster. Fragmented reports out of Iraq suggest we may be on our way to finding one of them. Defeat can come from overused troops. It does not help that one by one, the remaining members of the Coalition of the Willing give every appearance of sneaking out of town. [...]

Filtering out from Iraq are indicators of a military organization in danger of creeping disintegration. For three years our troops have been in a foreign land fighting God knows who for God knows why for God knows how long and God knows how many times. This now well-quoted paragraph from the June 12 edition of Newsweek hints at the price paid in order and morale: "The wife of a staff sergeant in the 3/1 battalion — members of which are currently accused of murdering Iraqi citizens in Haditha — says that there was "a total breakdown" in discipline and morale after Lt. Col. Jeffrey Chessani took over as battalion commander when the unit returned from Fallujah at the start of 2005.... 'There were problems in Kilo Company with drugs, alcohol, hazing, you name it,' she tells Newsweek..."I think it's more than possible that these guys were totally tweaked out on speed or something when they shot those civilians in Haditha." [...]

The Internet is alive with pessimistic stories and opinions about what may be happening, one of which informs its readers, "Military commanders in the field in Iraq admit in private reports to the Pentagon the war 'is lost' and that the U.S. military is unable to stem the mounting violence killing 1,000 Iraqi civilians a month. Even worse, they report the massacre of Iraqi civilians at Haditha is 'just the tip of the iceberg' with overstressed, out-of-control American soldiers pushed beyond the breaking point both physically and mentally."

The New York Times's John Burns, a good-to-go-to-war man from before the first American smart bomb fell on Baghdad, was on the air the other night warning that, in effect, the invading army had lost both the initiative and control. Readers of Juan Cole's authoritative Informed Comment blog get a daily summing-up of deaths, murders and atrocities not available to TV viewers and ordinary newspaper readers. The simple numbers tell the story of a large and growing bloodbath. [...]

The Defense Department is not telling what it knows but no wartime government ever, ever tells the truth. Even Abraham Lincoln did not let on how badly things were going, even when they were very bad indeed.

In the south of Iraq, in the Basra region, the British who occupy that sector have all but given up aggressive patrol. They are holed up in their encampments on the defensive. Some reports have it that it is now too dangerous for them to fly helicopters by day. At the point when they must choose between being overrun or withdrawing, the small contingent of British troops facing unknown numbers of militia hidden in and among a hostile population should be able to evacuate the port of Basra even under fire.

The situation for American troops may be even more precarious. While our forces are still able to carry out aggressive patrolling, it nets little except to increase popular hostility, which, of course, makes it yet easier for the various insurgents and guerrilla groups to operate against us. It appears that in many places our people may have simply hunkered down to stay out of trouble. The vast construction projects of a few years ago are all but closed down, too, as the American forces appear to be doing less and less of anything but holding on and holding out.

The shortage of troops, which three years ago was a restraining factor, has become a potential disaster, with the ever-rising level of hostility to the American presence. [...]

Air evacuation would mean abandoning billions of dollars of equipment. There is no seaport troops could get to, so the only way out of Iraq would be that same desert highway to Kuwait where fifteen years ago the American Air Force destroyed Saddam Hussein's army.

Dunkirk in the desert. [Emphasis added]

Will it come to that? The end may not be so precipitous as von Hoffman imagines, but nothing suggests the situation is likely to improve, either. Barring a military draft, the US may indeed run out of capable troops. The insurgency simply has to outlast the occupation forces. That's true of insurgencies everywhere, which is why, as Gwynne Dyer noted, "In anti-colonial guerrilla wars, the locals always win." Always. Eventually.

Always.

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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

Republicans in the Senate have announced they are moving on from gay marriage to a constitutional amendment to ban flag burning. We would join the only three other countries who have banned flag burning: China, Cuba and Iran. We can stand with our brothers on this issue. — Jay Leno

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June 16, 2006

Filthy, Greedy Bastards Corporations, Globalization

You know all those stories where a guy invents an engine that runs on water and the oil companies bury the invention? Or somebody comes up with a dirt cheap cure for cancer and the drug companies buy her out? That kind of stuff doesn't happen in real life, though. Right? Prepare to be outraged. Guardian:

A major drug company is blocking access to a medicine that is cheaply and effectively saving thousands of people from going blind because it wants to launch a more expensive product on the market.

Ophthalmologists around the world, on their own initiative, are injecting tiny quantities of a colon cancer drug called Avastin into the eyes of patients with wet macular degeneration, a common condition of older age that can lead to severely impaired eyesight and blindness. They report remarkable success at very low cost because one phial can be split and used for dozens of patients.

But Genentech, the company that invented Avastin, does not want it used in this way. Instead it is applying to license a fragment of Avastin, called Lucentis, which is packaged in the tiny quantities suitable for eyes at a higher cost. Speculation in the US suggests it could cost £1,000 per dose instead of less than £10. The company says Lucentis is specifically designed for eyes, with modifications over Avastin, and has been through 10 years of testing to prove it is safe.

Unless Avastin is approved in the UK by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (Nice) it will not be universally available within the NHS. But because Genentech declines to apply for a licence for this use of Avastin, Nice cannot consider it. In spite of the growing drugs bill of the NHS, it will appraise, and probably approve, Lucentis next year. [...]

New drugs for the condition are badly needed: those we have now only slow the progression to blindness. With Avastin, many patients get their sight back with just one or two injections. [...]

Avastin was first used on human eyes by Philip Rosenfeld, an ophthalmologist in the US, who was aware of animal studies carried out by Genentech that showed potential in eye conditions. This unlicensed use of Avastin has spread across continents entirely by word of mouth from one doctor to another. It has now been injected into 7,000 eyes, with considerable success.

Professor Rosenfeld has published his results and a website has been launched in the US to collate the experiences of doctors from around the world. But although the evidence is good, regulators require randomised controlled trials before they grant licences, which generally only the drug companies can afford to carry out.

Prof Rosenfeld said the real issue was drug company profits. "This truly is a wonder drug," he said. "This shows both how good they [the drug companies] are and on the flip side, how greedy they are." He would like to see governments fund clinical trials of drugs such as Avastin in the public interest. [...]

About 20,000 people are diagnosed with age-related macular degeneration in the UK each year. "From the patient's point of view, if they have an eye condition that deteriorates very quickly, there is no question of waiting," said Professor Wong. "We're talking about days and weeks, rather than months. The question is should we do nothing and say there is no randomised controlled trial to prove Avastin is of value?" He called for primary care trusts to agree to pay for the planned phasing-in of new drugs for the condition.

Pharmaceutical firms say they need to launch drugs at high prices because of the hundreds of millions of pounds spent on developing them. Critics point out that the company's calculations also include the marketing budget. [Emphasis added]

How do these people sleep at night? Really. How? This isn't just numbers on a spreadsheet. This is real people going blind unnecessarily.

If the drug company won't pay for clinical trials, somebody else should. Bill Gates, you listening?

[Thanks, Maurice]

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2500 Iraq

US troops killed in Iraq as of today: 2500.

And God knows how many Iraqis. For what?

No end in sight.

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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, you] were in Baghdad for six hours. You weren't even in the real Baghdad. You were in the Green Zone. That's like going to the Olive Garden and saying you've been to Italy. — Jon Stewart

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June 15, 2006

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

The president was [in Iraq] for five hours. The first fifteen minutes were spent with the new prime minister, then a quick power nap to sleep off jet lag. That took two hours. Quick chat with the troops, judged a local humus cook-off and then...with an international flight, you kind of want to get to the airport two hours ahead. You got the check-in, security, duty free shopping...He picked up a bottle of perfume for Laura — Ahmed Chalabi's "Desperation." It's an intoxicating blend of Sunni and Shiite aroma — smells awful...Just his being there for five hours makes a statement. It told the Iraqi people, "I'm with you. I stand behind you. And now if you'll excuse me, I'm getting the f**k out of here." — Daily Show correspondent Rob Corddry

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June 14, 2006

Robert Newman's History Of Oil Activism  Humor & Fun  Media  War and Peace

This is absolutely, bar none, the most brilliant piece of political video ever. Also the funniest. No contest.

Learn the real cause of the First World War. Learn what Salvador Dali's checkbook has to do with the Axis of Evil and the current invasion of Iraq. And many more things besides.

It's genius.

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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

Last week, we did lose one of the best. Tom DeLay gave his farewell speech to the House of Representatives. A brilliant speech and I believe some day DeLay's final address to Congress will be mentioned in the same breath as the preamble to the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence and the Gettysburg Address. In fact, I just did it. That some day is today. — Stephen Colbert

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June 13, 2006

Bush Administration Slashing Energy Efficiency R&D Programs Environment  Politics

More lunacy on the energy front. CSM:

A few years ago a little-known US Energy Department program helped produce a design technology for lightweight cars and trucks that in 2004 alone saved the nation 122 million barrels of oil, or about $9 billion.

Even without that breakthrough, the tiny Industrial Technologies Program routinely saves the United States $7 worth of energy for each dollar it spends, proponents say.

So, with energy prices spiking and President Bush pushing for more energy research, the ITP would seem a natural candidate for more funding. In fact, its budget is set to get chopped by a third from its 2005 level. It's one of more than a dozen energy-efficiency efforts that the Energy Department plans to trim or eliminate in a $115 million cost-saving move.

[T]he Bush administration is anxious to fund its new Advanced Energy Initiative — long-term research into nuclear, coal, wind, solar, and hydrogen power. But to accomplish that, it is cutting lesser-known programs like ITP whose payoffs are far more near-term. [...]

If Congress accepts the Energy Department's proposed 2007 budget, it will cut $152 million — some 16 percent — from this year's budget for energy-efficiency programs. Adjusting for inflation, it would mean the US government would spend 30 percent less on energy efficiency next year than it did in 2002, the ACEEE says. [...]

One energy-efficiency program on the chopping block is the Heavy Vehicle Propulsion and Ancillary Subsystems. It helps improve the fuel efficiency of heavy-duty trucks, one of the nation's biggest oil consumers. That program is "zeroed out" in the 2007 budget request.

The same fate awaits the $4.5 million Building Codes Implementation Grants program. It helps states adopt more energy-efficient requirements for new buildings, the nation's largest consumer of electricity and natural gas. [...]

Dr. Muller's Industrial Assessment Centers program annually conducts about 600 energy audits and trains a new crop of about 250 new energy-efficiency engineers. The $7 million program, which is estimated to save enough power to supply half a million homes each year, wins plaudits from the small businesses that have been able to reduce their costs.

But budget cuts slated for 2007 would trim the program by a third, slashing the number of its university-based auditing and training programs from 23 to 16. Savings: about $2.4 million. [...]

These programs are minuscule compared with the big-ticket research programs envisioned by the White House. Mr. Bush's Hydrogen Fuel Initiative, for example, would cost $1.2 billion over five years.

Proponents of the small-scale efficiency programs point out that the ITP, with 1/20th of the budget, has already saved more oil than the hydrogen-fuel program would save, if successful, by 2025. [...]

One of the nation's priorities is improving the security and reliability of the electric grid. One option for doing that sooner, rather than later, is the emerging technology of "distributed generation." Under that approach, the nation would build more but much smaller power plants so that small businesses and even individual homes could have them.

True, such systems would burn costly natural gas — but at twice the energy efficiency of today's grid — to produce both heat and electricity for homeowners. If such systems caught on, they could vastly reduce load demand on central power stations and slash the need to build new power plants.

But that vision of the future may be delayed, since the DOE's "distributed energy" program has been cut in half and the remainder is being heavily earmarked by federal lawmakers for specific projects that they favor. The program is slated to be terminated in 2008, observers say.

"Hurricanes, terrorism, and blackouts have given us so many reasons to emphasize distributed generation, and instead we're putting emphasis on new forms of centralized power," says John Jimison, executive director of the US Combined Heat and Power Association, a Washington advocacy group. "It's too bad it's getting cut because it was a very modest program."

There may be a glimmer of hope for energy-efficiency programs. The House Committee for Energy and Water Development subcommittee moved last week to restore some funding to ITP and hybrid technology for heavy trucks. The committee voted earlier this month to fully fund the president's $2.1 billion Advanced Energy Initiative. [Emphasis added]

It takes your breath away. Energy efficiency is the low-hanging fruit. It doesn't require massive, centralized capital investment. It has proven that it works and yields enormous returns on investment. But it's not sexy, somehow. It's what grownups would do, but grownups are in short supply in this administration. And everybody wants their own back scratched. Everybody wants to bring home some pork. Who cares what really works. Fiddling while the world burns.

The Iraq War is proving to be expensive in ways people never dreamed of. Think opportunity cost. All those billions that could have been used to do something about energy, peak oil, and global warming, instead are being used to blow stuff up. Suicidal insanity.

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Politics And NIMBY Stop Wind Farm Development Environment  Politics

It takes some energy to build, transport, install, and maintain wind turbines, yes, but after that wind power is basically energy for free. No carbon emissions, no pollution. Who could oppose it? Chicago Tribune:

The federal government has stopped work on more than a dozen wind farms planned across the Midwest, saying research is needed on whether the giant turbines could interfere with military radar.

But backers of wind power say the action has little to do with national security. The real issue, they say, is a group of wealthy vacationers who think a proposed wind farm off the coast of Cape Cod in Massachusetts would spoil the view at their summer homes.

Opponents of the Cape Wind project include several influential members of Congress. Critics say their latest attempt to thwart the planting of 130 turbines in Nantucket Sound has led to a moratorium on new wind farms hundreds of miles away in Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota.

Federal officials declined to reveal how many stop-work orders have been sent out. But developers said that at least 15 wind farm proposals in the Midwest have been shut down by the Federal Aviation Administration since the start of the year.

The list of stalled projects includes one outside Bloomington, Ill., that would be the nation's largest source of wind energy, generating enough juice to power 120,000 homes in the Chicago area. The developer had planned to begin installing turbines this summer and start up the farm next year. [...]

[D]espite the government's recent concern about proposed wind projects, it is allowing dozens of current wind farms to continue to operate within sight of radar systems. [...]

Critics of Cape Wind include members of the Kennedy family, whose summer compound is on Cape Cod. Both U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and his nephew, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., have said the turbines would spoil the ocean views, threaten the local tourist economy and endanger migratory birds.

The younger Kennedy, an environmental lawyer and activist who has supported wind power in other parts of the country, said putting a wind farm in Nantucket Sound would be akin to placing one in the Grand Canyon or Yellowstone National Park. [...]

Another opponent is U.S. Sen. John Warner (R-Va.), who has tried several times to block the Cape Wind project. In a 2002 letter to the Army Corps of Engineers, Warner included a handwritten note saying he often visits Cape Cod, which he called a "national treasure."

But the project continued to move forward until late last year, when Warner, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, slipped an amendment into a military spending bill. The one-sentence congressional order directs the Defense Department to study whether wind towers could mask the radar signals of small aircraft.

Since then, at the Defense Department's behest, the FAA has been blocking any new wind turbines within the scope of radar systems used by the military. [Emphasis added]

It's stuff like this that makes me despair for our prospects. As noted the other day, the time for "grudging incrementalism" is over, but people just don't get it yet. By the time global climate change has gotten so bad that nobody can doubt it's seriousness and urgency, it will be too late. By then, feedback loops will have been set in motion that will push the global climate much, much farther into disastrous new territory, no matter what we do. The time to act is right now, and we need to act with urgency and determination.

Wind farms are an obvious good. I don't really understand this idea that they spoil the view. When I see a wind farm, it makes me feel good. It connotes a peaceful future, a harmonious relationship with the Earth. The turbines are quiet and graceful, beautiful in more ways than one. You might even say they're a gesture of love for our Mother Earth.

The time for NIMBY is over. Every site is in somebody's backyard, but global warming puts many millions of lives at risk. NIMBY is for a different world than the one we're living in. NIMBY is obsolete.

Feel free to build a wind farm in my backyard.

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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 FBI says it wants Zarqawi's DNA so they can compare it with samples found in other terrorist safe houses and to establish the extent of his influence. And if need be, clone him so he can be killed again closer to the midterm elections. — Jon Stewart

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June 12, 2006

Fixin' To Stay, And Stay, And Stay Iraq

Via BillMon:

The impression that's left around the world is that we plan to occupy the country, we plan to use their bases over the long period of time, and it's flat false. — Donald Rumsfeld, Press Conference, April 21, 2003

Yesterday, the Senate unanimously passed an amendment to the Iraq supplemental spending bill...that would require the Bush administration not to use any appropriated funds for the construction of permanent bases in Iraq. — Think Progress, Congress Has Spoken: No Permanent Military Bases In Iraq, May 4, 2006

I've told the American people I'd like to get our troops out as soon as possible. — George W. Bush, Press Conference, June 9, 2006

Congressional Republicans killed a provision in an Iraq war funding bill that would have put the United States on record against the permanent basing of U.S. military facilities in that country...Senate aides said Republican staffers removed the provisions from the bills before House and Senate negotiators convened this week in a late-night work session to write a compromise spending bill. — Reuters, Iraq war bill deletes US military base prohibition, June 10, 2006

Mr. Bush on Friday made clear that the American commitment to the country will be long-term. Officials say the administration has begun to look at the costs of maintaining a force of roughly 50,000 troops there for years to come, roughly the size of the American presence maintained in the Philippines and Korea for decades after those conflicts. — New York Times, U.S. Seeking New Strategy for Buttressing Iraq's Government, June 11, 2006

To achieve lasting peace in Iraq, America will have to make concessions, including an explicit commitment not to seek permanent military bases in Iraq. Perhaps no issue in the coming years will more clearly expose the real purpose of the Bush administration's postwar mission in Iraq: to build democracy or to obtain a new, regional military platform in the heart of the Arab world. — Larry Diamond, The seeds of insurgency, June 30, 2005

And yet all you hear in US public discourse is that the White House is trying to establish democracy in Iraq. That's a given. The only debate is about whether it's working.

It's not about oil. It's not about putting the US military's thumb on the world's oil jugular. There happens to be oil there, but that's not the point. It's about democracy.

Idiotic nonsense. Only a professional pundit would believe it.

Posted by Jonathan at 08:00 PM | Comments (1) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

The al-Zarqawi Bounce Iraq  Politics

We're supposed to think the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is some sort of turning point in Iraq. But people aren't buying it.

CBS poll:

80% of Americans think attacks on US troops will increase (30%) or stay the same (50%) in the aftermath of al-Zarqawi's death. Only 16% think attacks will decrease.

83% think the terrorist threat against the US will increase (22%) or stay the same (61%). Only 13% think it will decrease.

Bush's approval rating: 33%, down from 35% last month.

It's really got to suck to be Dubya.

Posted by Jonathan at 07:38 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

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

Posted by Jonathan at 10:53 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

Did you hear about this? Homeland Security is cutting funding to New York City ... and raising funding for Nebraska. Well, at least the corn will sleep better. — David Letterman

Let's begin tonight right here in New York, New York. The city's so nice, it was attacked by international terrorists twice. So naturally, last week, the Department of Homeland Security announced a cut in anti-terrorism grants to New York and Washington, D.C. by 40%. Now to some, cutting anti-terror money to the two cities that have already suffered major terrorist attacks might sound, I don't know, insane. So, if New York's funding is being slashed, where is all the money going? Apparently, it's being used to boost the defense budgets of terrorist hot spots like Charlotte, Louisville and Omaha, Nebraska. Apparently, Homeland Security distributes the terror funds on the basis of what item your city has the world's largest ball of. — Jon Stewart

Posted by Jonathan at 10:51 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

June 11, 2006

Al At The Movies Activism  Environment  Media

Who wants to see an Al Gore documentary about global warming? Lots of people, apparently. Weekend box office (via Atrios), per screen:

MoviePer Screen
Average
Cars$15,759
An Inconvenient Truth$12,073
The Break-Up$6,669
A Prairie Home Companion$6,146
The Omen$5,673
X-Men: The Last Stand$4,225
The Da Vinci Code$3,103
Over the Hedge$2,920
Keeping Up with the Steins$2,037
Mission: Impossible III$1,592
RV$1,233
Poseidon$1,067

Not too shabby.

122 screens this weekend, 400 next. Opens here in Madison Friday. Be there or be square.

Posted by Jonathan at 10:43 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Jonathon Porritt On Climate Change Environment

The UK Oil Drum reports on a recent talk by Jonathon Porritt, chair of the Sustainable Development Commission that advises the UK government on sustainability. Porritt presented four main points on where we stand with respect to global warming:

  • Everything is moving a great deal faster than [scientists] thought it was moving, even two years ago. When you talk to scientists in the science community they will tell you the last two years have been deeply shocking, in terms of the volume and the authority of the data that has come forward on a number of different climate phenomenon.
  • We shouldn't think about climate change as a gradually unfolding set of phenomena, all gradually increasing within our midst. The climate record tells us very clearly this is as much about sharp discontinuities in patterns of climate as gently rising changes.
  • We should be thinking about systems not symptoms. We still focus on individual symptoms, we focus on the permafrost, disappearing sea-ice, melting glaciers or increased intensity of hurricanes. We keep looking at these individual phenomena, epiphenomena, and what we're not looking at is the big systems stuff.
  • This means nothing less than a radical break in the way we create and distribute wealth in the world today. I still hear people talk about climate change as something which can be managed in the dominant orthodox economic paradigm. I don't believe them, I just don't believe that is the case, I don't see how we’re going to be able to manipulate those conventional aspects of growth bound consumer driven economy and cope with climate change in the way that we actually need to. [Emphasis added]
  • Porritt noted as well that we need to "shock this still complacent, inert system into a state of radical response rather than grudging incrementalism, which is what we have today."

    How do we get from here to there? In the short time frame available to us before climate change passes a tipping point? It's going to take something that's never happened before: the most advantaged segments of the human population are going to have to turn away from the path of least resistance. The people with the most are going to have to cease the constant pursuit of more. The dominant capitalist culture, all across the board, is going to have to voluntarily forego short-term wealth accumulation in the interest of long-term sustainability. And do it quickly.

    Even if people in the West make that shift, already the longest of long shots, does anyone really think people in China and India will be content to stop where they are and not try to have what people in the West have? It may be that our past greed — the example we've already set for the rest of the world — has doomed us. I.e., even if we somehow leave our own greed behind, we've already taught the rest of the world how to live a life of greedy unsustainability. They want their turn.

    We have no choice but to proceed as if there's still time, as if success is still possible. Let's have no illusions, though, about what we're up against. As Porritt said, "grudging incrementalism" just won't cut it. The dramatic acceleration of climate change in just the last few years is the Earth's way of telling us that time is running out.

    Posted by Jonathan at 08:42 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 10:25 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

    [Clip of Bush: "America is a free society, which limits the role of government in the lives of our citizens. In this country, people are free to choose how they live their lives."] And that's why I want to ban gay people from getting married. — Jon Stewart

    Posted by Jonathan at 10:22 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    June 10, 2006

    Oil Sands To The Rescue — Not Peak Oil

    Peak Oil optimists often point to Canadian oil sands as the deus ex machina that will save us. A new academic study from Uppsala University, Sweden, however, concludes that even a crash program to develop Canadian oil sands will cover only a few percent of the world's oil needs. Here's the abstract from the full paper:

    The report Peaking of World Oil Production: Impacts, Mitigation and Risk Management, by Robert L. Hirsch et al., concludes that Peak Oil is going to happen and that worldwide large-scale mitigation efforts are necessary to avoid its possible devastating effects for the world economy. These efforts include accelerated production, referred to as crash program production, from Canada's oil sands. The objective of this article is to investigate and analyse what production levels that might be reasonable to expect from a crash program for the Canadian oil sands industry, within the time frame 2006-2018 and 2006-2050. The implementation of a crash program for the Canadian oil sands industry is associated with serious difficulties. There is not a large enough supply of natural gas to support a future Canadian oil sands industry with today's dependence on natural gas. It is possible to use bitumen as fuel and for upgrading, although it seems to be incompatible with Canada's obligations under the Kyoto treaty. For practical long-term high production, Canada must construct nuclear facilities to generate energy for the in situ projects. Even in a very optimistic scenario Canada's oil sands will not prevent Peak Oil. A short-term crash program from the Canadian oil sands industry achieves about 3.6 mb/d by 2018. A long-term Crash program results in a production of approximately 5 mb/d by 2030. [Emphasis added]

    People read estimates of the total amount of oil contained in Canadian oil sands and say, wow, it's another Saudi Arabia. The important question, though, is not how much total oil the oil sands contain, but how quickly it can be turned into usable oil. Answer: nowhere near quickly enough to offset declines in conventional production elsewhere or the rapid growth in worldwide demand. The fundamental problem is the colossal scale of the world's appetite for oil. Next to that, non-conventional oil is a drop in the bucket. Instead of hoping for new sources of supply, we need to concentrate on reducing demand. We have to learn to use less oil — much less.

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

    Information Media

    This is amazing.

    Posted by Jonathan at 09:13 AM | 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 09:07 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

    Do you notice gay marriage didn't become a big Republican priority until all their members started going to prison? — Jay Leno

    Posted by Jonathan at 09:03 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    June 09, 2006

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

    Posted by Jonathan at 11:16 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

    Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was the world's most unhinged lunatic. He's now dead, so that moves Ann Coulter up to first place. — David Letterman

    Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said al-Zarqawi was "mean, vicious, and hateful." So you know what that means? Ann Coulter could be next. — Jay Leno

    Posted by Jonathan at 11:06 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    June 08, 2006

    Michael Berg On CNN Iraq

    CNN's Soledad O'Brien today interviewed Michael Berg, father of Nick Berg, who's videoed beheading was attributed to al-Zarqawi. Berg's reaction is a model of maturity:

    O'BRIEN: Mr. Berg, thank you for talking with us again. It's nice to have an opportunity to talk to you. Of course, I'm curious to know your reaction, as it is now confirmed that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the man who is widely credited and blamed for killing your son, Nicholas, is dead.

    MICHAEL BERG: Well, my reaction is I'm sorry whenever any human being dies. Zarqawi is a human being. He has a family who are reacting just as my family reacted when Nick was killed, and I feel bad for that.

    I feel doubly bad, though, because Zarqawi is also a political figure, and his death will re-ignite yet another wave of revenge, and revenge is something that I do not follow, that I do want ask for, that I do not wish for against anybody. And it can't end the cycle. As long as people use violence to combat violence, we will always have violence.

    O'BRIEN: I have to say, sir, I'm surprised. I know how devastated you and your family were, frankly, when Nick was killed in such a horrible, and brutal and public way.

    BERG: Well, you shouldn't be surprised, because I have never indicated anything but forgiveness and peace in any interview on the air.

    O'BRIEN: No, no. And we have spoken before, and I'm well aware of that. But at some point, one would think, is there a moment when you say, 'I'm glad he's dead, the man who killed my son'?

    BERG: No. How can a human being be glad that another human being is dead? [...]

    Now, take someone who in 1991, who maybe had their family killed by an American bomb, their support system whisked away from them, someone who, instead of being 59, as I was when Nick died, was 5-years-old or 10-years-old. And then if I were that person, might I not learn how to fly a plane into a building or strap a bag of bombs to my back?

    That's what is happening every time we kill an Iraqi, every time we kill anyone, we are creating a large number of people who are going to want vengeance. And, you know, when are we ever going to learn that that doesn't work? [...]

    O'BRIEN: There's a theory that a struggle for democracy, you know...

    BERG: Democracy? Come on, you can't really believe that that's a democracy there when the people who are running the elections are holding guns. That's not democracy. [Emphasis added]

    That's how a grownup talks.

    Posted by Jonathan at 04:18 PM | Comments (3) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Al-Zarqawi Killed Iraq

    The lesson we are about to learn from the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is that the insurgency is anything but a top-down monolithic organization. Instead, it's a decentralized, loosely-knit affair, with any number of small ad hoc groups acting independently, learning from one another in "open source" fashion. Al-Zarqawi's death is unlikely to matter much at all.

    The guy to read on this subject is John Robb of Global Guerrillas.

    Posted by Jonathan at 11:18 AM | 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 10:55 AM | Comments (1) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

    Ah, a constitutional process to ban gay marriage. And yet [the 2004 election campaign] was the only time he mentioned it until now. It's as though marriage in our country is only threatened during even numbered years. It's the cultural version of raising the terror alert. — Jon Stewart

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

    June 07, 2006

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

    Posted by Jonathan at 09:33 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

    You know what's interesting about this whole thing? According to polls, 51 percent of Americans do not approve of gay marriage, but 70 percent of Americans do not approve of President Bush. So gay marriage is actually more popular than he is. — Jay Leno

    Posted by Jonathan at 09:31 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    June 06, 2006

    Blastocysts Are Not People Ethics  Religion

    I happened to catch The Daily Show the other night when the guest was one Ramesh Ponnuru (video), author of a nasty little tome called The Party of Death. The party in question, in case you were wondering, is the Democratic Party. "Of Death" because of abortion, on which this Ponnuru takes an absolutist all-abortion-is-murder-from-the-moment-of-conception position. Ditto for using 5-day-old embryos for stem cell research.

    The American Prospect, however, points out that even The Wall Street Journal's reviewer finds Ponnuru's position extreme. Quoting the WSJ review:

    It doesn't matter to Mr. Ponnuru that this argument flies in the face of a complex intuition that seems to underlie the American ambivalence: Invisible to the naked eye, lacking body or brain, feeling neither pleasure nor pain, radically dependent for life support, the early embryo, though surely part of the human family, is distant and different enough from a flesh-and-blood newborn that when the early embryo's life comes into conflict with other precious human goods or claims, the embryo's life may need to give way. [Emphasis added]

    Wow. I never thought I'd say it, but good for the Wall Street Journal.

    As I watched Jon Stewart's interview with Ponnuru, here's the question I was dying for him to ask:

    Imagine you are walking by a stem cell laboratory and you see that a fire is raging inside. You see a person lying unconscious on the floor inside and, nearby, a tank containing some number of five-day-old embryos (blastocysts). Which do you save, the person or the embryos?

    Or, to make the scenario even more clear-cut. Suppose what you see are a dozen trapped children and a petri dish containing 13 five-day-old embryos. There are more embryos than children. Which do you save, the children or the embryos?

    I would have loved to watch Ponnuru stammer his way through that one. People who haven't surrendered their basic common sense understand that a fully developed human being and a nearly microscopic flyspeck are simply not equivalent. What could be more obvious?

    And, as I pointed out in an earlier post, when it comes to stem cell research the which-do-you-save question is more than just hypothetical, since it "illustrates exactly the choice that faces us. I.e., there are living human beings with a variety of maladies who could be saved by research and therapy utilizing stem cells. Do we save them, or do we save the five-day-old embryos?"

    Posted by Jonathan at 05:27 PM | Comments (1) | 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 09:57 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

    I don't know about you guys, but I am so sick and tired of these lying, thieving, holier-than-thou, rightwing, cruel, crude, rude, gauche, coarse, crass, cocky, corrupt, dishonest, debauched, degenerate, dissolute, swaggering, lawyer shooting, bullhorn shouting, infra-structure destroying, buck passing, hysterical, criminal, history defying, finger pointing, puppy stomping, roommate appointing, pretzel choking, collateral damaging, aspersion casting, wedding party bombing, clearcutting, torturing, jobs outsourcing, torture out-sourcing, election fixing, women’s rights eradicating, Medicare cutting, uncouth, spiteful, boorish, vengeful, jingoistic, homophobic, xenophobic, xylophonic, racist, sexist, ageist, fascist, cashist, audaciously stupid, brazenly selfish, lethally ignorant, journalist purchasing, genocide ignoring, corporation kissing, poverty inducing, crooked, coercive, autocratic, primitive, uppity, high-handed, domineering, arrogant, inhuman, inhumane, inbred, inept, insipid, incapable, incompetent, ineffectual, insolent, insincere, know-it-all, snotty, pompous, contemptuous, supercilious, gutless, spineless, shameless, avaricious, noxious, poisonous, imperious, merciless, graceless, tactless, brutish, brutal, Karl Roving, backward thinking, persistent vegetative state grandstanding, nuclear option threatening, evolution denying, irony deprived, consciously depraved, conceited, perverted, peremptory invading, thirty-five day vacation taking, bribe soliciting, hellish, smarty pants, loudmouth, bullying, swell headed, ethics eluding, domestic spying, medical marijuana busting, Halliburtoning, narcissistic, undiplomatic, blustering, malevolent, demonizing, Duke Cunninghamming, hectoring, dry drunk, Muslim baiting, hurricane disregarding, oil company hugging, judge packing, science disputing, faith based advocating, armament selling, nonsense spewing, education ravaging, whiny, insane, unscrupulous, lily livered, greedy (exponential factor fifteen), fraudulent, delusional, CIA outing, redistricting, anybody who disagrees with them slandering, fact twisting, ally alienating, betraying, chickenhawk, sell out, quisling, god and flag waving, scare mongering, Cindy Sheehan libeling, smirking, bastardly, voting machine tampering, sociopathic, cowardly, treasonous, Constitution shredding, oppressive, vulgar, antagonistic, trust funding, nontipping, tyrannizing, peace hating, water and air and ground and media polluting (which is pretty much all the polluting you can get), deadly, traitorous, con man, swindling, pernicious, lethal, illegal, haughty, venomous, virulent, mephitic, egotistic, bloodthirsty, yellowbelly, hypocritical, Oedipal, did I say evil, I’m not sure if I said evil, because I want to make sure I say evil . . . EVIL, cretinous, slime buckets in the Bush Administration that I could just spit. Impeachment? Hell no. Impalement. Upon the sharp and righteous sword of the people's justice. Make it a curtain rod. Because it would hurt more. — Will Durst

    Xylophonic?

    Posted by Jonathan at 09:51 AM | Comments (1) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    June 05, 2006

    Evolution Of Dance Humor & Fun

    This is great fun. Make sure your computer's sound is turned on.

    Posted by Jonathan at 11:15 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Rule Of Law Politics  Rights, Law

    What good is a law if the Bush administration refuses to enforce it? WaPo:

    In the three years since Americans gained federal protection for their private medical information, the Bush administration has received thousands of complaints alleging violations but has not imposed a single civil fine and has prosecuted just two criminal cases.

    Of the 19,420 grievances lodged so far, the most common allegations have been that personal medical details were wrongly revealed, information was poorly protected, more details were disclosed than necessary, proper authorization was not obtained or patients were frustrated getting their own records.

    The government has "closed" more than 73 percent of the cases — more than 14,000 — either ruling that there was no violation, or allowing health plans, hospitals, doctors' offices or other entities simply to promise to fix whatever they had done wrong, escaping any penalty. [...]

    The debate has intensified amid a government push to computerize medical records to improve the efficiency and quality of health care. Privacy advocates say large centralized electronic databases will be especially vulnerable to invasions, making it even more crucial that existing safeguards be enforced. [Emphasis added]

    Congress wrote penalties into the law for a reason. But the health care industry is a big source of campaign contributions to Republicans, the people complaining about privacy violations are not. End of story.

    [Thanks, Maurice]

    Posted by Jonathan at 08:16 PM | Comments (1) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Global Warming "Journalism" Environment  Media

    In her recent interview of Al Gore, NPR's Terry Gross pointed out the following jaw-dropping facts:

    Let me mention a study that you cite in your documentary and your book, An Inconvenient Truth. This is a study from the University of California at San Diego. A scientist there named Dr. Naomi Oreskes published in Science magazine a study of every peer-reviewed journal article on global warming from the previous 10 years, and then in her random sample of 928 articles, she found that no articles disagreed with the scientific consensus on global warming. Then another study on articles on global warming that were published in the previous 14 years in the press, specifically published in The New York Times, Washington Post, LA Times and Wall Street Journal found that more than half of those stories gave equal weight to the scientific consensus and to the view that human beings played no role in global warming.

    So just to sum up: the scientific journals, the scientists agreed about global warming, but in these four, you know, major American newspapers, equal weight was given in half the articles to the opposing view that human beings are not causing global warming.

    Staggering — yet, in a sad way, unsurprising. This is what it has come to. Scientists publishing in peer-reviewed journals are 100% unanimous, have been for years, but readers of the newspapers of record would have no way of knowing that. No wonder people are confused. Journalists who insist on reporting the world-is-flat "side" of the "argument" have a lot to answer for.

    The Daily Show (as usual) perfectly captured the essence of this kind of "journalism" back in August, 2004:

    JON STEWART: Here's what puzzles me most, Rob. John Kerry's record in Vietnam is pretty much right there in the official records of the US military, and haven't been disputed for 35 years?

    ROB CORDDRY: That's right, Jon, and that's certainly the spin you'll be hearing coming from the Kerry campaign over the next few days.

    STEWART: Th-that's not a spin thing, that's a fact. That's established.

    CORDDRY: Exactly, Jon, and that established, incontrovertible fact is one side of the story.

    STEWART: But that should be — isn't that the end of the story? I mean, you've seen the records, haven't you? What's your opinion?

    CORDDRY: I'm sorry, my opinion? No, I don't have 'o-pin-i-ons'. I'm a reporter, Jon, and my job is to spend half the time repeating what one side says, and half the time repeating the other. Little thing called 'objectivity' — might wanna look it up some day.

    STEWART: Doesn't objectivity mean objectively weighing the evidence, and calling out what's credible and what isn't?

    CORDDRY: Whoa-ho! Well, well, well — sounds like someone wants the media to act as a filter! [high-pitched, effeminate] 'Ooh, this allegation is spurious! Upon investigation this claim lacks any basis in reality! Mmm, mmm, mmm.' Listen buddy: not my job to stand between the people talking to me and the people listening to me.

    It just makes you want to scream. Global warming is an issue where many millions of lives hang in the balance. Everlasting shame on all the big-shot reporters who comfort themselves with self-interested rationalizations about "objectivity". Their brand of "objectivity" is going to get a lot of people killed.

    Posted by Jonathan at 07:57 PM | Comments (1) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

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

    Posted by Jonathan at 10:20 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

    A Senate committee on Thursday approved a constitutional amendment banning same sex marriage, apparently forgetting that our forefathers wore wigs and satin Capri pants. — Tina Fey

    Posted by Jonathan at 10:07 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    June 04, 2006

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

    Posted by Jonathan at 12:35 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

    A survey of our troops in Iraq says 70% of them support a pullout within a year. Don’t these guys realize that when they say stuff like this it endangers our troops? — Will Durst

    Posted by Jonathan at 12:29 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    June 03, 2006

    The Bigotry-Based Campaign Politics

    This being an election year, they're back at it again. WaPo:

    [President] Bush has invited some of the nation's leading social conservatives to the Rose Garden on Monday, to cheer him on as he strongly endorses a proposed constitutional amendment that would ban gay marriage.

    Reaction from CNN's Jack Cafferty:

    Guess what Monday is? Monday is the day President Bush will speak about an issue near and dear to his heart and the hearts of many conservatives. It's also the day before the Senate votes on the very same thing. Is it the war? Deficits? Health insurance? Immigration? Iran? North Korea?

    Not even close. No, the president is going to talk about amending the Constitution in order to ban gay marriage. This is something that absolutely, positively has no chance of happening, nada, zippo, none. But that doesn't matter. Mr. Bush will take time to make a speech. The Senate will take time to talk and vote on it, because it's something that matters to the Republican base.

    This is pure politics. It has nothing to do with whether or not you believe in gay marriage. It's blatant posturing by Republicans, who are increasingly desperate as the midterm elections approach. There's not a lot else to get people interested in voting for them, based on their record of the last five years.

    But if you can appeal to the hatred, bigotry, or discrimination in some people, you might move them to the polls to vote against that big, bad gay married couple that one day might move in down the street.

    And AmericaBlog's Joe Sudbay:

    What leaders will be there? How about Dick and Lynn Cheney? Will they join the gay bashing? How about all the homos working at the White House and the RNC? Will all of them — and there are plenty — be there to cheer on the homophobic president?

    Your modern Republican Party: appealing, as always, to people's bigotry, fear, and ignorance.

    Posted by Jonathan at 10:32 AM | 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 09:50 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

    The Senate voted 63 to 34 to make English the official language of the United States, but they say as a largely symbolic amendment with no real effect. You know, kind of like that ethics bill. — Jay Leno

    Posted by Jonathan at 09:49 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    June 02, 2006

    Memorial Day Poetry  War and Peace

    One more from Jay Leeming.

    Let me set the scene. This past Monday morning, Memorial Day, on the lakeside terrace at the Hotel Cheguamegon in Ashland, Wisconsin, on the shore of Lake Superior. A glorious breakfast with my daughter Molly and a dozen or so dear friends, some old, some new, the capstone to a wonderful celebratory weekend together. Our friend Mary has already read aloud this hilarious Leeming poem, and everyone is in high spirits. Meanwhile, in the park next door, Memorial Day festivities are underway: on the stage in the bandshell, aging veterans in VFW hats, occasional volleys as the color guard fires its salutes.

    Then Mary reads this:

    Supermarket Historians

    All historians should be supermarket cashiers.
    Imagine what we'd learn;
    "Your total comes to $10.66,
    and that's the year the Normans invaded Britain."
    Or, "That'll be $18.61, the year
    the Civil War began."

    Now all my receipts are beaches
    where six-year-olds find bullets in the sand.
    My tomatoes add up to Hiroshima,
    and if I'd bought one more carton of milk
    the cashier would be discussing the Battle of the Bulge
    and not the Peloponnesian War.

    But I'm tired of buying soup cans
    full of burning villages,
    tired of hearing the shouts of Marines
    storming beaches in the bread aisles.
    I want to live in a house
    carved into a seed
    inside a watermelon —
    to look up at the red sky
    as shopping carts roll through the aisles
    like distant thunder.

    The first stanza is greeted with delighted laughter, but the laughter soon fades as the awareness grows that pretty much any number one can think of — up through 2006, anyway — corresponds to some horrific battle in some unimaginably savage war.

    What a strange species we are. Isn't it time we grow up?

    Posted by Jonathan at 10:59 PM | Comments (1) | 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 10:01 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

    The Senate has passed a resolution to make English the official language of the United States. Today President Bush said this is the "goodest news" he's heard in a long time. — Jay Leno

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

    June 01, 2006

    Gore In 2008 Politics

    I have no idea if this is authoritative, but it's interesting:

    A new behavior prediction tool is forecasting a landslide victory for former Democratic Vice President Al Gore in the 2008 presidential election. However, should Hillary Clinton gain the Democratic nomination, any potential Republican challenger will win the presidency.

    These are among the surprising findings reported by Dr. James N. Herndon, a media psychologist with Media Psychology Affiliates. Using a new research tool called Affective Encryption Analysis, Dr. Herndon led an investigation into the likely outcome of the 2008 Presidential election.

    "Affective Encryption Analysis is a new behavior forecasting tool that looks at how our feelings and emotions can influence our long-term actions," explains Dr. Herndon. "Traditional survey techniques are not very good at predicting trends. Affective Encryption Analysis was developed to dig deeper into the emotional factors that control our future behaviors."

    Although created as a potential tool for the intelligence community, Affective Encryption Analysis has seen its early uses in the political arena.

    "Voter behavior is not primarily issue-driven," states Dr. Herndon. "Subtle emotional factors drive our actions at the ballot box. When we decided to study the potential outcome of the 2008 Presidential election, we had no preconceptions about what we’d find. Nonetheless, there were some surprises."

    Among the surprises was the overall weakness of potential Democratic presidential challengers.

    "Despite the widespread public dissatisfaction with the George W. Bush administration, our results showed even greater ill-feelings toward potential Democratic challengers," says Dr. Herndon. "But there was one exception: Al Gore."

    "With a predictive accuracy of 93%, our results showed that Al Gore would easily defeat any Republican challenger in 2008. However, he is the only Democrat on the scene today who has the ability to defeat the likely Republican challengers, who we believe will be either John McCain or Jeb Bush."

    Results were not rosy for Hillary Clinton. "Hillary Clinton would suffer a disastrous defeat at the hands of any Republican who receives the nomination," states Dr. Herndon.

    Should Al Gore decide not to seek the 2008 nomination, the Democrats "have their work cut out for them," according to Dr. Herndon.

    "Our results suggest that a potentially successful Democratic nominee may be lurking in the entertainment industry. Does this sound strange? Maybe. But when it comes to politics, we may have to get used to a future full of surprises." [Emphasis added]

    Who knows if this "Affective Encryption Analysis" has any merit, but my gut feeling is that the conclusions are probably correct. I think Al Gore, who has shed the robotic stiffness and air of superiority that alienated voters in 2000, would be a very formidable candidate indeed, especially given rising public anxiety around the global climate and peak oil issues. People want a reason to hope, and his "loss" in 2000 and subsequent redemption make him a sympathetic figure. I also think Hillary would get creamed. I'd love to see Feingold in the White House, of course, but I'm afraid that remains the longest of long shots.

    Posted by Jonathan at 09:28 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 10:31 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

    Earlier today, the Capitol building in Washington, D.C. was on lock down because someone heard gunshots coming from the parking lot. When the Capitol police heard this, they all said the same thing: "Cheney." — Jay Leno

    Posted by Jonathan at 10:28 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb