July 31, 2006
|Chicago Trib: Twilight Of The Oil Age||Peak Oil|
I watched some of the documentary over the weekend and liked it. Salopek has done his homework. Check it out.
|Morons In High Places||Politics|
Can the Bush people really be as dumb as they seem? I go back and forth. The incompetence defense sure has come in handy, after all. But then I read something like this. It takes your breath away.
|© Kent Tenney|
|Today's Bush Joke||Humor & Fun|
In a speech, Vice President Dick Cheney said, "Either we are serious about this war or we are not." Of course, people didn't know if he meant the war in Iraq, the war in Afghanistan, the war against people who disagree with him. — Jay Leno
|Rumsfeld "In A Parallel Universe And Slightly Deranged"||Iraq Palestine/Middle East Politics|
Newsweek editor Fareed Zakaria on ABC Sunday (via ThinkProgress):
If I were a Democrat, I would make up a campaign commercial almost entirely of Donald Rumsfeld’s press conferences, because the man is looking — I mean, it's not just that he seems like a bad Secretary of [Defense]. He seems literally in a parallel universe and slightly deranged as a result. If you listen to what he said last week about Iraq, he's living in a different world, not a different country. [Emphasis added]
Rumsfeld and Cheney both. They're delusional men with enormous egos and enormous power. Not a happy combination. Incapable of admitting error or defeat, they will continue to escalate. Bush won't stop them and they won't stop themselves. They'll go to their graves convinced that they were right. The only question is whether they will take the rest of us with them.
July 30, 2006
|Doubling Down||Iran Iraq Palestine/Middle East War and Peace|
[Israeli] Defense officials told the Post last week that they were receiving indications from the United States that the US would be interested in seeing Israel attack Syria. [Emphasis added]
He goes on to say:
[T]here do appear to be forces in Washington — seemingly the stronger ones, with Rice just a facade — who see this whole thing as an opportunity for a grand call of double or nothing to get out of the disaster they've created in the region. Go into Syria, maybe Iran. Try to roll the table once and for all. No failed war that a new war can't solve. [Emphasis added]
That's my fear as well, that the Bush/Cheney regime has painted itself into such a desperate corner that doubling down may seem, as Billmon put it a few months back, "like the only move left on the board." Billmon:
What we are witnessing...may be an example of what the Germans call the flucht nach vorne – the "flight forward." This refers to a situation in which an individual or institution seeks a way out of a crisis by becoming ever more daring and aggressive (or, as the White House propaganda department might put it: "bold") A familar analogy is the gambler in Vegas, who tries to get out of a hole by doubling down on each successive bet.
Classic historical examples of the flucht nach vornes include Napoleon's attempt to break the long stalemate with Britain by invading Russia, the decision of the Deep South slaveholding states to secede from the Union after Lincoln's election, and Milosevic's bid to create a "greater Serbia" after Yugoslavia fell apart.
As these examples suggest, flights forward usually don't end well — just as relatively few gamblers emerge from a doubling-down spree with their shirts still on their backs.
It's depressing to think how much human suffering is caused by a handful of men with big egos. Some guys would rather take us all down in flames than admit error or defeat. But there's something unbelievably archaic about issues like war and the fate of nations being held hostage to the pyschopathology of individual men (and maybe a few women) in leadership positions. It's like we think we're still a small band of primates living in the forest somewhere: the alpha males call the shots. Time to grow up.
|© Kent Tenney|
|Today's Bush Joke||Humor & Fun|
The heat wave is breaking records all across America. It was so hot in Washington, people are sweating like President Bush trying to spell Hezbollah. — Jay Leno
July 29, 2006
|From Lebanon To Iran||Iran Iraq Palestine/Middle East|
As I wrote in an earlier post, if US forces are inserted into southern Lebanon, the inevitable Hezbollah attacks on those troops are sure to lead to a wider war pitting the US and Israel against Syria and/or Iran.
John Robb agrees, but believes the target will be Iran:
If the US sends troops to Lebanon as peacekeepers and/or as a force to disarm Hezbollah, we will see a quick escalation. Any attack (and it would be inevitable) on US forces by the Hez would be seen as a direct attack on the US by Syria and Iran. This would lead to an immediate expansion of hostilities (to include an EBO [effects based operation] against both countries as a means of punishment). From that point on, the situation would be beyond repair. [...]
I do not think I am overstating the danger here. Once momentum starts moving in that direction, we might soon find ourselves in another situation where stubborn pride, as much as anything else, would make it hard for us to modify our rhetoric and admit our inability and that of our Israeli allies to disarm and dismantle the military arm of Hizballah. It's a proxy war right now, but if our surrogates (the Israelis) fail to achieve their objectives, they will attempt very purposefully to broaden the conflict into a much larger one directly involving the United States and Iran. [Emphasis in the original]
Robb cites former CIA analyst Ray Close, who writes:
My source confirmed in detail the fact that intelligence being produced for the Bush Administration by the Pentagon strongly supports the thesis that Hizballah operations are directly controlled and closely managed from Teheran. My source considers this an exaggerated picture of the real situation. He believes that this assessment contributes to an unhealthy and even dangerous mindset in Washington, leading to potentially serious miscalculations and errors of judgment by President Bush and his closest advisors at this very critical time. [Emphasis added]
These people have their heads in a bubble, and they are going to get a lot of people killed. The idea that Hezbollah is being "directly controlled and closely managed" by Iran is as outmoded as the idea that the opposition in Iraq is just a bunch of foreign jihadists and Baathist dead-enders. And we know how that turned out. If the US allows itself to be drawn into a war with Iran, we will look back on our current difficulties with nostalgia.
|State Of The Union||Politics|
As a kind of follow-on to the previous post, here are excerpts from an interview with Gore Vidal in the current issue of The Progressive:
The people don't matter to this gang. They pay no attention. They think in totalitarian terms. They've got the troops. They've got the army. They've got Congress. They've got the judiciary. Why should they worry? Let the chattering classes chatter. Bush is a thug. I think there is something really wrong with him. [...]
What is it going to take to stop the Bush onslaught? Economic collapse. We are too deeply in debt...I think the Chinese will say the hell with you and pull their money out of the United States. That's the end of our wars. [...]
We've never had a government like this. The United States has done wicked things in the past to other countries but never on such a scale and never in such an existentialist way. It's as though we are evil. We strike first. We'll destroy you. This is an eternal war against terrorism. It's like a war against dandruff. There's no such thing as a war against terrorism. It's idiotic. These are slogans. These are lies. It's advertising, which is the only art form we ever invented and developed.
But our media has collapsed. They've questioned no one. One of the reasons Bush and Cheney are so daring is that they know there's nobody to stop them. Nobody is going to write a story that says this is not a war, only Congress can declare war. And you can only have a war with another country. You can't have a war with bad temper or a war against paranoids. Nothing makes any sense, and the people are getting very confused. The people are not stupid, but they are totally misinformed.
[Our rulers] don't want us to know anything. When you've got a press like we have, you no longer have an informed citizenry. [...]
A huge number of Americans still believe that Saddam Hussein was responsible for 9/11. You have a people that don't know anything about the rest of the world, and you have leaders who lie to them, lie to them, and lie to them.
It's so stupid, everything that they say. And the media take on it is just as stupid as theirs, sometimes worse. They at least have motives. They are making money out of the republic or what's left of it. It's the stupidity that will really drive me away from this country. [...]
We certainly are not warlike. We don't want [military service]. We want to make money, which I always thought was one of the most admirable things about Americans. We didn't want to go out and conquer other countries. We wanted to corner wheat in the stock market or something sensible like that. So we are very unbelligerent. [...]
[The Democrats aren't] an opposition party. I have been saying for the last thousand years that the United States has only one party — the property party. It's the party of big corporations, the party of money. It has two right wings; one is Democrat and the other is Republican. [...]
The tactic [to energize democracy] would be to go after smaller offices, state by state, school board, sheriff, state legislatures. You can turn them around and that doesn't take much of anything. Take back everything at the grassroots, starting with state legislatures. That's what Madison always said. I'd like to see a revival of state legislatures, in which I am a true Jeffersonian. [...]
I hope [Newton's Third Law] is still working. American laws don't work, but at least the laws of physics might work. And the Third Law is: There is no action without reaction. There should be a great deal of reaction to the total incompetence of this Administration. It's going to take two or three generations to recover what we had as of twenty years ago. [Emphasis added]
Not a pretty picture, but who can argue with it? Lots of chickens coming home to roost, sooner or later.
|Summer Rerun||Iraq Media|
Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. Boy, are they ever. E&P:
An analysis released today by Frank Newport, director of The Gallup Poll, shows that current public wishes for U.S. policy in the Iraq war eerily echo attitudes about the Vietnam war in 1970.
The most recent Gallup poll this month found that 52% of adult Americans want to see all U.S. troops out of Iraq within a year, with 19% advocating immediate withdrawal. In the summer of 1970, Gallup found that 48% wanted a pullout within a year, with 23% embracing the "immediate" option. Just 7% want to send more troops now, vs. 10% then.
At present, 56% call the decision to invade Iraq a "mistake," with 41% disagreeing. Again this echoes the view of the Vietnam war in 1970, when that exact same number, 56%, in May 1970 called [Vietnam] a mistake in a Gallup poll.
While the U.S. involvement in the Korean war is often labeled unpopular, the highest number calling it a mistake in a Gallup poll was 51% in early 1952. That number actually declined to 43% by the end of that year. [Emphasis added]
So, the Iraq war is now tied for most unpopular American war ever.
There's one essential difference between now and 1970, though. Back then, opposition to the war had become a somewhat respectable position, openly advocated by the likes of Walter Cronkite and Bobby Kennedy. Today, if all you did was watch tv, you'd think it's only fringe elements who want the US to pull out of Iraq. Instead, it's a majority of Americans. Liberal media.
|© Kent Tenney|
|Today's Bush Joke||Humor & Fun|
Humanitarian aid in the U.S. has begun arriving in Lebanon. The U.S. Government sent 10,000 medical kits, 20,000 blankets, $30 million cash and today the people of New Orleans said: "They did what?" — Jay Leno
July 28, 2006
|Lebanese Now Overwhelmingly Back Hezbollah||Palestine/Middle East|
The ferocity of Israel's onslaught in southern Lebanon and Hizbullah's stubborn battles against Israeli ground forces may be working in the militant group's favor.
"They want to shatter the myth of Israeli invincibility," says Amal Saad-Ghorayeb, a leading Lebanese expert on Hizbullah. "Being victorious means not allowing Israel to achieve their aims, and so far that is the case."
Still, the intensity of the Israeli bombing campaign appears to have taken Hizbullah aback. Mahmoud Komati, the deputy head of Hizbullah's politburo told the Associated Press, "the truth is — let me say this clearly — we didn't even expect [this] response...that [Israel] would exploit this operation for this big war against us."
When Hizbullah guerrillas snatched two Israeli soldiers from across the border, it appeared to be a serious miscalculation. In the days that followed the July 12 capture, Israel unleashed its biggest offensive against Lebanon since its 1982 invasion, smashing the country's infrastructure, creating 500,000 refugees, and so far killing more than 400 civilians. [...]
In a televised address Tuesday, Hassan Nasrallah, Hizbullah's secretary general, said the Israeli onslaught was an attempt by the US and Israel to "impose a new Middle East" in which Lebanon would be under US hegemony. [...]
The stakes are high for Hizbullah, but it seems it can count on an unprecedented swell of public support that cuts across sectarian lines. According to a poll released by the Beirut Center for Research and Information, 87 percent of Lebanese support Hizbullah's fight with Israel, a rise of 29 percent on a similar poll conducted in February. More striking, however, is the level of support for Hizbullah's resistance from non-Shiite communities. Eighty percent of Christians polled supported Hizbullah along with 80 percent of Druze and 89 percent of Sunnis.
Lebanese no longer blame Hizbullah for sparking the war by kidnapping the Israeli soldiers, but Israel and the US instead.
The latest poll by the Beirut Center found that 8 percent of Lebanese feel the US supports Lebanon, down from 38 percent in January. [...]
Ghassan Farran, a doctor and head of a local cultural organization, gazes in disbelief at the pile of smoking ruins which was once his home. Minutes earlier, an Israeli jet dropped two guided missiles into the six-story apartment block in the centre of Tyre.
"Look what America gives us, bombs and missiles," says this educated, middle-class professional. "I was never a political person and never with Hizbullah but now after this I am with Hizbullah." [Emphasis added]
The leaders of the US and Israel don't view their adversaries fully as people, so it's not all that surprising that they fail to understand that they will react like people do everywhere when their homes are bombed and their loved ones killed and maimed. If the US/Israeli aim is to create generations of people who bear us nothing but ill will, mission accomplished.
Commenter Michael pointed to this quote from former CIA analyst Tom Whipple, who usually writes on peak oil issues:
The Israelis, of course, will heartily approve the arrival of outside peacekeepers in southern Lebanon as they can turn the whole mess over to somebody else. Hezbollah, of course, will find that Jihad and martyrdom will work against peacekeepers just as well as Israelis. It is difficult to conceive the current level of conflict going on for long without dragging in some Middle East country with oil wells and then, the world will change. [Emphasis added]
There is no supply cushion in the oil markets anymore. Any disruption in the flow of Middle Eastern oil will be felt immediately and powerfully by the world's economy.
Meanwhile, the neocons here and in Israel seem determined to widen the war, to bend Syria and Iran to their will. All of this is proceeding without anyone asking us what we want, here in what used to like to think of itself as a democracy.
How can this not end badly?
|© Kent Tenney|
|Today's Bush Joke||Humor & Fun|
A Tomahawk cruise missile fell off a truck in the Bronx this week. A cruise missile, isn't that unbelievable? You know what that means? There are now more weapons of mass destruction in the Bronx than there were in Iraq. — Jay Leno
|Republican McCloskey Says Vote Democratic||Politics|
Former Republican Congressman and Presidential wannabe Pete McCloskey has written a long letter explaining why Republicans should vote for Democrats this fall. A short excerpt (read the rest at Seeing the Forest):
I am a Republican, intend to remain a Republican, and am descended from three generations of California Republicans. [...]
It has been difficult, nevertheless, to conclude as I have, that the Republican House leadership has been so unalterably corrupted by power and money that reasonable Republicans should support Democrats against DeLay-type Republican incumbents in 2006. [...]
These Republican incumbents have brought shame on the House, and have created a wide-spread view in the public at large that Republicans are more interested in obtaining campaign contributions from corporate lobbyists than they are in legislating in the public interest. [...]
I have therefore reluctantly concluded that party loyalty should be set aside, and that it is in the best interests of the nation, and indeed the future of the Republican Party itself, to return control of the House to temporary Democrat control, if only to return the House for a time to the kind of ethics standards practiced by Republicans in former years. [Emphasis added]
Guess who won't be doing any McCloskey fundraisers.
July 27, 2006
|How's The Weather?||Environment|
Something's up with the weather. Here in Madison, the summer's been a freaky succession of highly localized, unusually potent storms leaving trails of downed trees and power outages. Here's a parking lot near downtown Madison, lunchtime today, after one of these micro cloudbursts:
That ain't normal.
Elsewhere, it's hot. Record high temperatures are being recorded in the UK, France, Germany, and the Netherlands. Here in the US, hundreds of thousands of people have been subjected to heat-related power outages lasting many days in NYC, St. Louis, and California. Scores if not hundreds of people have died. There was a time when it would have seemed like a big deal; now it's just the way things are. The public infrastructure is unraveling, and we're already getting hardened to it. Like New Orleans, only less so. Sign of the times.
Meanwhile, the weather just doesn't feel normal. I know, I know — individual weather events prove nothing about larger patterns (so you can spare me the usual comments and emails). Still, are we not to credit the evidence of our own senses? How's the weather where you are?
|Killing Hostages||Palestine/Middle East|
I hate to say this but I will say it. I think what the Israelis are doing today for example in Lebanon is in effect, in effect — maybe not in intent — the killing of hostages. The killing of hostages.
Because when you kill 300 people, 400 people, who have nothing to do with the provocations Hezbollah staged, but you do it in effect deliberately by being indifferent to the scale of collateral damage, you're killing hostages in the hope of intimidating those that you want to intimidate. And more likely than not you will not intimidate them. You'll simply outrage them and make them into permanent enemies with the number of such enemies increasing. [Emphasis added]
Who ever thought Brzezinski would wind up looking like one of the sane ones?
|© Kent Tenney|
|Today's Bush Joke||Humor & Fun|
George Bush is a "Wheel of Fortune" President in a "Jeopardy" world. — Will Durst
July 26, 2006
|Dead Man's Curve||Palestine/Middle East|
John Robb, who understands fourth generation war as well as anyone, is worried. Very.
Update: [7/27 8:49AM] - More from John Robb here.
|Betting The Ranch||Palestine/Middle East|
There's much discussion of putting a multinational, NATO-led force in southern Lebanon as part of a ceasefire agreement in the Israel–Lebanon conflict, but Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, according to a story in the Washington Post, has said that she does "not think that it is anticipated that U.S. ground forces...are expected for that force." [A non-denial denial - PP] However, a well-connected former CIA officer has told me that the Bush Administration is in fact considering exactly such a deployment.
The officer, who had broad experience in the Middle East while at the CIA, noted that NATO and European countries, including England, have made clear that they are either unwilling or extremely reluctant to participate in an international force. Given other nations' lack of commitment, any "robust" force — between 10,000 and 30,000 troops, according to estimates being discussed in the media — would by definition require major U.S. participation. According to the former official, Israel and the United States are currently discussing a large American role in exactly such a "multinational" deployment, and some top administration officials, along with senior civilians at the Pentagon, are receptive to the idea.
The uniformed military, however, is ardently opposed to sending American soldiers to the region, according to my source. "They are saying 'What the fuck?'" he told me. "Most of our combat-ready divisions are in Iraq or Afghanistan, or on their way, or coming back. The generals don't like it because we're already way overstretched." [...]
The former CIA officer said that the Bush Administration seems not to understand Hezbollah's deep roots and broad support among Lebanon's Shiites, the country's largest single ethnic bloc. "...Once you start fighting in a place like that you're basically at war with the Shiite population. That means that our soldiers are going to be getting shot at by Hezbollah. This would be a sheer disaster for us."
The scenario of an American deployment appears to come straight out of the neoconservative playbook: send U.S. forces into the Middle East, regardless of what our own military leaders suggest, in order to "stabilize" the region. The chances of success, as we have seen in Iraq, are remote. So what should be done? My source said the situation is so volatile at the moment that the only smart policy is to get an immediate ceasefire and worry about the terms of a lasting truce afterwards. [Emphasis added]
What is it that they imagine they're doing? What scenario can they have in mind?
A US force in Southern Lebanon would have an enormous bulls-eye on its back, putting it mildly. It couldn't help but take significant casualties from Hezbollah and others (who could be portrayed as puppets of Syria and/or Iran, as needed). Sooner or later, we'd wind up with US and Israeli forces fighting side by side, the forces of radical Islam arrayed against them — the clash of civilizations, or at least that's how it would play on Fox News. US and Israeli forces fighting together, taking casualties together — the precedent would be set. Next stop, Damascus? Tehran?
Putting a substantial US force in southern Lebanon would be reckless in the extreme. You know that, I know that. Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld must know it, too. That they're even contemplating such a move shows how big of a gamble they're still prepared to take. How could a US troop presence in southern Lebanon not lead to a much-expanded regional war? How can the administration imagine such a war to be winnable? Nukes?
|Learning From Geckos||Science/Technology|
Taking a little respite from the world's troubles. Here's a cool little tech story. BBC:
Just one metre square of a new super-sticky material inspired by gecko feet could suspend the weight of an average family car, say its inventors. [...]
Like the reptile's foot, the polymer is covered in millions of tiny mushroom-like hairs that provide grip.
Future applications could include an adhesive to repair aircraft, skin grafts or even a Spiderman-style suit.
"It would mean that your local window cleaner could dispense with his ladders and climb up the side of your house," says Dr Sajad Haq a principle research scientist at the company's Advanced Technology Centre in Filton, Bristol.
"There's a whole host of applications. It's just a question of your imagination." [...]
The cumulative attractive force of billions of setae allows geckos to scurry up walls and even hang upside down on polished glass.
The grip is only released when the animal peels its foot off the surface. [...]
Although the material has fantastic adhesive properties it does not feel "sticky".
"It's only when you press the material to the substrate that it actually sticks," says Dr Haq. "It's the molecular interaction that causes it to stick." [...]
So far, the team have manufactured several different materials with different sized mushrooms to try to optimise its "stickiness".
They have produced several samples up to 100mm in diameter which stick to almost any surface, including those covered in dirt.
However the team cannot quite match the performance of the nimble footed reptile.
"The material we have made so far will hold a family car to a roof, or an elephant if you wish," says Dr Haq. "[But we're] not quite at the level of mimicking the sticking power of the gecko." [Emphasis added]
The adhesion involves no liquids or gases, so it can be used in the vacuum of space.
The technologies for studying and manipulating materials at nano scales are developing at exponential rates, so we can expect lots more of these kinds of stories. Nature has had a very long time to find optimal solutions to problems, and humanity increasingly is in a position to capitalize on Nature's "intellectual property".
|World's Funniest Joke||Humor & Fun|
Two hunters are out in the woods in New Jersey when one of them collapses. He doesn't seem to be breathing and his eyes are glazed.
The other guy whips out his phone and calls the emergency services. He gasps "My friend is dead! What can I do?" The operator says: "Calm down, I can help. First, let's make sure he's dead." There is a silence, then a shot is heard. Back on the phone, the guy says "OK, now what?"
Got a better one? Leave it in the comments.
|© Kent Tenney|
|Today's Bush Joke||Humor & Fun|
We're still on the road to World War III. Things were looking a little grim last week — all those countries pressuring us to call for an immediate cease-fire, but we stayed strong. Sure, we sent over Condi Rice to negotiate, but she's not there for a cease-fire. No, she's there for a "sustainable cease-fire," which considering the Middle East, is like sending her to bring back Jimmy Hoffa on a unicorn. — Stephen Colbert
July 25, 2006
|Oh. My. God.||Environment|
Pretty clearly the worst news yet. Words fail me. The Independent:
The vast Amazon rainforest is on the brink of being turned into desert, with catastrophic consequences for the world's climate, alarming research suggests. And the process, which would be irreversible, could begin as early as next year.
Studies by the blue-chip Woods Hole Research Centre, carried out in Amazonia, have concluded that the forest cannot withstand more than two consecutive years of drought without breaking down.
Scientists say that this would spread drought into the northern hemisphere, including Britain, and could massively accelerate global warming with incalculable consequences, spinning out of control, a process that might end in the world becoming uninhabitable.
The alarming news comes in the midst of a heatwave gripping Britain and much of Europe and the United States. Temperatures in the south of England reached a July record of 36.3C on Tuesday. And it comes hard on the heels of a warning by an international group of experts, led by the Eastern Orthodox "pope" Bartholomew, last week that the forest is rapidly approaching a "tipping point" that would lead to its total destruction.
The research, carried out by the Massachusetts-based Woods Hole centre in Santarem on the Amazon river, has taken even the scientists conducting it by surprise. When Dr Dan Nepstead started the experiment in 2002, by covering a chunk of rainforest the size of a football pitch with plastic panels to see how it would cope without rain, he surrounded it with sophisticated sensors, expecting to record only minor changes.
The trees managed the first year of drought without difficulty. In the second year, they sunk their roots deeper to find moisture, but survived. But in year three, they started dying. Beginning with the tallest, the trees started to come crashing down, exposing the forest floor to the drying sun.
By the end of the year the trees had released more than two-thirds of the carbon dioxide they have stored during their lives, helping to act as a break on global warming. Instead they began accelerating the climate change.
[T]he Amazon now appears to be entering its second successive year of drought, raising the possibility that it could start dying next year. The immense forest contains 90 billion tons of carbon, enough in itself to increase the rate of global warming by 50 per cent.
Dr Nepstead expects "mega-fires" rapidly to sweep across the drying jungle. With the trees gone, the soil will bake in the sun and the rainforest could become desert.
Dr Deborah Clark from the University of Missouri, one of the world's top forest ecologists, says the research shows that "the lock has broken" on the Amazon ecosystem. She adds: the Amazon is "headed in a terrible direction". [Emphasis added]
I don't know words strong enough to say how significant this is. If you're not scared yet, you should be.
|Ignoring Congress||Politics Rights, Law|
The White House continues to flout the will of Congress. Congress won't repeal the estate tax, so what does the White House do? They fire the IRS lawyers who enforce it. NYT:
The federal government is moving to eliminate the jobs of nearly half of the lawyers at the Internal Revenue Service who audit tax returns of some of the wealthiest Americans, specifically those who are subject to gift and estate taxes when they transfer parts of their fortunes to their children and others. [...]
[S]ix I.R.S. estate tax lawyers whose jobs are likely to be eliminated said in interviews that the cuts were just the latest moves behind the scenes at the I.R.S. to shield people with political connections and complex tax-avoidance devices from thorough audits.
Sharyn Phillips, a veteran I.R.S. estate tax lawyer in Manhattan, called the cuts a "back-door way for the Bush administration to achieve what it cannot get from Congress, which is repeal of the estate tax." [Emphasis added]
Refusing to enforce a law is one way Bush has circumvented Congress. So-called "signing statements" are another. Yesterday, the American Bar Association weighed in on Presidential signing statements, calling them "contrary to the rule of law and our constitutional system of separation of powers." The Nation:
[Monday], a bipartisan American Bar Association task force released its report challenging George Bush's flagrant misuse of signing statements to circumvent the constitutional separation of powers.
Bush has issued more than 800 challenges to provisions of passed laws (more than all previous presidents combined) and he has asserted "his right to ignore law." Among the areas of laws Bush has threatened through this "shortcut veto" are the ban on torture, affirmative action, whistleblower protection, and limits on use of "illegally collected intelligence."
The 10 member ABA panel includes three well-known conservatives, including Mickey Edwards – a former Republican Congressman who places protecting the Constitution above lock-step partisanship. Edwards, a former chair of the American Conservative Union and a founding trustee of the Heritage Foundation, is a true maverick whose recent article in The Nation signals his commitment to protecting our constitutional design. "The President. " Edwards wrote, [has] "chosen not to veto legislation with which he disagreed – thus giving Congress a chance to override his veto – but simply to assert his right to ignore the law, whether a domestic issue or a prohibition against torturing prisoners of war."
Task force member Bruce Fein, who served in the Reagan administration, concurs: "When the president signs a bill and says he is not going to enforce parts of a bill that he finds unconstitutional, it is in effect an absolute veto, because the Congress has no power to override him."
According to The Washington Post, panel members wrote: "The President's constitutional duty is to enforce laws he has signed into being unless and until they are held unconstitutional by the Supreme Court or a subordinate tribunal. The Constitution is not what the President says it is." [Emphasis added]
Bush has issued more than 800 signing statements, a couple of hundred more than all previous presidents combined.
The ABA panel optimistically recommends "that Congress pass laws enabling judicial review of any instances in which the President claims authority to refuse to enforce legislation against the clear intent of Congress." No word on what happens when such a law is itself met with a signing statement, as one assumes it will be.
|© Kent Tenney|
|Today's Bush Joke||Humor & Fun|
President Bush says he is personally working on a solution for global warming. He says thanks to Republicans, soon every American will receive a voucher for a free popsicle. — Jay Leno
July 24, 2006
|Cantarell's Steep Decline||Peak Oil|
Grim news. Mexico's Cantarell oil field, the world's second largest producer, is apparently in free fall. LA Times:
Output at Mexico's most important oil field has fallen steeply this year, raising fears that wells there that generate 60% of the country's petroleum are in the throes of a major decline.
Production at Cantarell, the world's second-largest oil complex, in the shallow gulf waters off the shore of Mexico's southern Campeche state, averaged just over 1.8 million barrels a day in May, according to the most recent government figures. That's a 7% drop from the first of the year and the lowest monthly output since July 2005, when Hurricane Emily forced the evacuation of thousands of oil workers from the region.
Though analysts have long forecast the withering of this mature field, a rapid demise would pose serious challenges for the world's No. 5 oil producer. The oil field has supplied the bulk of Mexico's oil riches for the last quarter of a century, and petroleum revenue funds more than a third of federal spending.
"Cantarell is going to fall a lot, and quickly," said independent consultant Guillermo Cruz Dominguez Vargas, a former executive with Mexico's state-owned oil monopoly, Petroleos Mexicanos, known as Pemex. "I can't imagine the strain on this society if there is nothing to replace it."
It would also be bad news for the United States, for which Mexico is the No. 2 petroleum supplier, behind Canada. And it could exacerbate tight global supplies that have kept oil at record prices. [...]
Exceeded in size only by Saudi Arabia's leviathan Ghawar field, Cantarell is a prolific giant that is past its prime. Monthly production peaked in late 2004 at just over 2.1 million barrels a day and has fallen more than 15% since then. Experts agree it has nowhere to go but down. [...]
Seawater is threatening to swamp the wells of Cantarell as the field's pressure diminishes, a debilitating symptom of old age that makes it tougher to extract the remaining oil. Leaked internal reports of Pemex's own worst-case scenarios published in Mexican newspapers show production plummeting to about 520,000 barrels a day by the end of 2008 — a 71% free-fall from May levels in less than three years.
Mexico City energy analyst David Shields said the swift drop over the first five months of 2006, and conversations with Pemex insiders have convinced him that prospects at Cantarell are worse than officials will admit publicly. June figures for the field won't be available until later this month. But Mexico's overall crude production fell in June, the third straight monthly decline, making it unlikely that Cantarell staged a revival.
"It's doing very badly," said Shields, general manager of Energia a Debate, an industry trade publication, and the author of two books on Pemex. "My reading of the situation is that it's dire." [Emphasis added]
Sign of the times. Producers have every incentive to hide their problems until they cannot be hidden any longer. As a result, declines, when they come, will tend to come suddenly and precipitously. In other words, we are almost certainly in worse trouble than we know. How long before we get similar news from Ghawar?
|Freedom-Haters||Politics Rights, Law|
When school was canceled to accommodate a campaign visit by President Bush, the two 55-year-old teachers reckoned the time was ripe to voice their simmering discontent with the administration's policies.
Christine Nelson showed up at the Cedar Rapids rally with a Kerry-Edwards button pinned on her T-shirt; Alice McCabe clutched a small, paper sign stating "No More War." What could be more American, they thought, than mixing a little dissent with the bunting and buzz of a get-out-the-vote rally headlined by the president?
Their reward: a pair of handcuffs and a strip search at the county jail.
Authorities say they were arrested because they refused to obey reasonable security restrictions... [Emphasis added]
What a bunch of cowardly, un-American weasels. Tom Paine spins in his grave.
|Oil Back Above $75||Energy Peak Oil|
Oil's back above $75 a barrel — $75.16 as I write this.
Excellent post by Billmon. Go read it.
|© Kent Tenney|
|Today's Bush Joke||Humor & Fun|
People still talking about President Bush's use of a four-letter word at the G-8 Summit. It's not a big deal, President Bush using a four-letter word. Now if President Bush used a four-syllable word... — Jay Leno
July 23, 2006
|The Meaning Of Democracy||Palestine/Middle East|
Yesterday, it was Alan Dershowitz. Today, it's Noah Feldman, NYU law professor and adjunct senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. A couple of law professors arguing that up is down and black is white. Billmon highlights these passages:
For its part, Israel is gambling that the right strategy is to make the people who elected Hamas and a government that includes Hezbollah reckon the costs of their representatives' recklessness. That is why Israel has targeted not only Hezbollah leaders and strongholds but has also bombed infrastructure that sustains daily life for everybody in Lebanon. From Israel's standpoint, this is no longer a fight with nonstate terrorists who are holding their fellow citizens hostage to their tactics. It is, rather, war between Israel and countries that are pursuing (or tolerating) violent policies endorsed (or at least accepted) by their electorates. [...]
Democracy can no longer be seen as an end in itself, and the fate of peoples lies in their own hands. [Emphasis added]
Translation: you can vote, but if we don't like who you vote for we have the right to bomb you. So much for our much-vaunted eagerness to spread democracy in the Middle East.
It's staight out of Chomsky: public "intellectuals" tying themselves in knots to justify the crimes of empire. It's seldom so appallingly, nakedly obvious, though. So I guess we can at least thank Dershowitz and Feldman for that: they've laid it bare for all to see.
As for Feldman's argument, one is reminded of Henry Kissinger's famous statement regarding US support for the coup that resulted in the overthrow and death of democratically-elected Chilean president Salvador Allende, and his replacement by the monstrous Augusto Pinochet:
I don't see why we need to stand by and watch a country go communist due to the irresponsibility of its own people. The issues are much too important for the Chilean voters to be left to decide for themselves.
Democracy, get it?
|Meanwhile In Iraq||Iraq|
How many corners have we turned now in Iraq? Most recently, there was the election of the national unity government. And the killing of al-Zarqawi. American troop drawdowns were said to be in the offing. But reality doesn't watch Fox News. AP:
The deteriorating security situation — especially in Baghdad — has alarmed U.S. officials, who had hoped that the new national unity government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki would be able to ease tensions so that the U.S. and its international partners could begin removing troops this year.
But the situation has gotten worse since al-Maliki took office May 20. Security is likely to top the agenda when al-Maliki visits the White House this coming week.
The Baghdad area recorded an average of 34 major bombings and shootings [daily] for the week ending July 13, the U.S. military said. That was up 40 percent from the daily average of 24 registered between June 14 and July 13.
Much of the violence was due to sectarian attacks. Months of worsening violence has deepened the distrust between Iraq's Shiites and Sunnis.
Instead of cutbacks, a senior U.S. defense official said the Pentagon was moving ahead with scheduled deployments to Iraq next month and was moving one battalion to Baghdad from Kuwait, where it was in reserve, U.S. officials said.
The U.S. command had drawn up plans to reduce the number of U.S. combat brigades in Iraq from 14 to 12 by September. But that plan has been shelved for the time being because of the security crisis in the capital. [Emphasis added]
The invasion of Iraq didn't work out as planned. So what do they do? They widen the war. Lunatics.
|© Kent Tenney|
|Today's Bush Joke||Humor & Fun|
The stem cell research bill passed both houses of Congress, but yesterday, the president vetoed the bill surrounded by the so-called snowflake children. So named because no two are alike, and they're all white...Snowflake children are the product of frozen embryos that were adopted rather than discarded. They were there to illustrate why embryonic stem cell research is wrong — even though those children wouldn't exist if not for intensive embryonic research, but let's not think about it. — Jon Stewart
On White House press secretary Tony Snow classifying civilian casualties as a lamentable side effect of war: "It's not murder, it's a lamentable side effect. The upset stomach and diarrhea of freedom, if you will. — Jon Stewart
July 22, 2006
|Centripetal Force||Palestine/Middle East|
In mosques from Mecca to Marrakesh, sermons at Friday Prayer services underscored both the David-versus-Goliath glamour many Arabs associate with Hezbollah’s fight against Israel and their antipathy toward the United States and its allies in the region for doing so little to stop yet another Arab country from collapsing into bloodshed. [...]
In mosques across the region, virtually every prayer leader used the traditional call-and-response period after the main sermon to ask God to grant a victory to the Muslims. "Amen," responded the congregations in one voice. [Emphasis added]
And if they were angry before, wait until they get a load of this:
The Bush administration is rushing a delivery of precision-guided bombs to Israel, which requested the expedited shipment last week after beginning its air campaign against Hezbollah targets in Lebanon, American officials said Friday.
The decision to quickly ship the weapons to Israel was made with relatively little debate within the Bush administration, the officials said. Its disclosure threatens to anger Arab governments and others because of the appearance that the United States is actively aiding the Israeli bombing campaign in a way that could be compared to Iran's efforts to arm and resupply Hezbollah.
The munitions that the United States is sending to Israel are part of a multimillion-dollar arms sale package approved last year that Israel is able to draw on as needed, the officials said. But Israel's request for expedited delivery of the satellite and laser-guided bombs was described as unusual by some military officers, and as an indication that Israel still had a long list of targets in Lebanon to strike. [Emphasis added]
Comparing the US's massive role in arming Israel to Iranian support for Hezbollah, as if there is some equivalence there, is simply obscene.
Something we need to cure ourselves of: taking anything Condi or anyone else in the administration says publicly about Israel at face value. Condi says something about Israel needing to show restraint, and people take that as evidence that the White House is conflicted about what Israel is doing. But all along, the White House has been rushing them more bombs. And now everyone in the world knows it.
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed...
It is hard to escape the feeling that things are spinning out of control. If the White House and Israel aren't trying to provoke a wider war, it's hard to imagine what it is they think they're doing.
|Awesome Video||Activism Media|
(For links, see the comments)
Let the contortions begin. Alan Dershowitz:
We need a new vocabulary to reflect the realities of modern warfare. A new phrase should be introduced into the reporting and analysis of current events in the Middle East: "the continuum of civilianality." Though cumbersome, this concept aptly captures the reality and nuance of warfare today and provides a more fair way to describe those who are killed, wounded and punished. [...]
The Israeli army has given well-publicized notice to civilians to leave those areas of southern Lebanon that have been turned into war zones. Those who voluntarily remain behind have become complicit. Some — those who cannot leave on their own — should be counted among the innocent victims. [Emphasis added]
If Israel orders the citizens of another sovereign nation to flee their homes and they fail to comply, they are, ipso facto, complicit in terrorism and deserve to die.
A formulation worthy of the Third Reich. Quite literally. Call me naive, but I confess to being shocked. That it's come to this.
|Not A Domino||9/11, "War On Terror" Iraq Palestine/Middle East Peak Oil|
The following was written a year and a half ago, but it is, if anything, more timely today with the war widening. Jeff Wells:
The Mosul bombing likely has some Americans thinking, as they do only when the media reports a mass US casualty event, that Iraq could be Vietnam redux. I wish they'd stop that; this is no time for vainglorious optimism. Iraq is much worse.
It's not just about the clicking of the casualty counter, though it did take the better part of a decade for American casualties in Vietnam to reach the level of "sustainable losses" the US military is now taking in Iraq. [...]
We need to remember that Vietnam was a "domino." It was a piece in a geopolitical game, and not a very important one at that. Vietnam [lay] on the fringe of America's sphere of interest. And still it took 58,000 American and millions of Vietnamese lives before it was over. [...]
Iraq will never be over, because it's not a domino. Dominating the diminishing oil reserves of the Middle East is not a sideshow; it is the essence of US strategic interest. We're talking about the centerpiece of empire in the New American Century. So this war — and it will not be contained to Iraq — will not be over until the American Empire falls.
Iraq is not Vietnam, because the war won't end with a dash for the helicopter on the roof of the Baghdad embassy. It will end with a dash for Marine One on the grounds of the White House. [Emphasis added]
Dick Cheney, yesterday:
This conflict is a long way from over. It's going to be a battle that will last for a very long time. It is absolutely essential that we stay the course.
I didn't sign up for this. Did you?
|"Birth Pangs"||Palestine/Middle East|
Digby's right about this:
The Bush administration are monsters. That is not hyperbole. There can be no other explanation as to why the secretary of state, the person in charge of American diplomacy, would be so crude and stupid.
Consider this. Maureen Dowd:
Condi doesn’t want to talk to Hezbollah or its sponsors, Syria and Iran — "Syria knows what it needs to do," she says with asperity — and she doesn't want a cease-fire. She wants "a sustainable cease-fire," which means she wants to give the Israelis more time to decimate Hezbollah bunkers with the precision-guided bombs that the Bush administration is racing to deliver. [...]
Like her boss, [Condi] does not show any sign of tension over the fact that all of their schemes to democratize the Middle East ended up creating more fundamentalism, extremism, terrorism and anti-Americanism. [...]
Like a professor who has grown so frustrated with one misbehaving student that she turns her focus on another, Condi put aside the sulfurous distraction of Iraq and enthused over the need to make the fragile democracy in Lebanon a centerpiece of the "new Middle East."
She said that the carnage there represented the "birth pangs of a new Middle East, and whatever we do we have to be certain that we are pushing forward to the new Middle East, not going back to the old one."
"Birth pangs." Monstrous.
Read Robert Fisk's heart-breaking Elegy for Beirut:
I lived here [in Beirut] through 15 years of civil war that took 150,000 lives, and two Israeli invasions and years of Israeli bombardments that cost the lives of a further 20,000 of its people. I have seen them armless, legless, headless, knifed, bombed and splashed across the walls of houses. Yet they are a fine, educated, moral people whose generosity amazes every foreigner, whose gentleness puts any Westerner to shame, and whose suffering we almost always ignore.
They look like us, the people of Beirut. They have light-coloured skin and speak beautiful English and French. They travel the world. Their women are gorgeous and their food exquisite. But what are we saying of their fate today as the Israelis — in some of their cruellest attacks on this city and the surrounding countryside — tear them from their homes, bomb them on river bridges, cut them off from food and water and electricity? We say that they started this latest war, and we compare their appalling casualties — 240 in all of Lebanon by last night — with Israel's 24 dead, as if the figures are the same.
And then, most disgraceful of all, we leave the Lebanese to their fate like a diseased people and spend our time evacuating our precious foreigners while tut-tutting about Israel's "disproportionate" response to the capture of its soldiers by Hizbollah.
I walked through the deserted city centre of Beirut yesterday and it reminded more than ever of a film lot, a place of dreams too beautiful to last, a phoenix from the ashes of civil war whose plumage was so brightly coloured that it blinded its own people. This part of the city — once a Dresden of ruins — was rebuilt by Rafiq Hariri, the prime minister who was murdered scarcely a mile away on 14 February last year. [...]
At the empty Etoile restaurant — best snails and cappuccino in Beirut, where Hariri once dined Jacques Chirac — I sat on the pavement and watched the parliamentary guard still patrolling the façade of the French-built emporium that houses what is left of Lebanon's democracy. So many of these streets were built by Parisians under the French mandate and they have been exquisitely restored, their mock Arabian doorways bejewelled with marble Roman columns dug from the ancient Via Maxima a few metres away.
Hariri loved this place and, taking Chirac for a beer one day, he caught sight of me sitting at a table. "Ah Robert, come over here," he roared and then turned to Chirac like a cat that was about to eat a canary. "I want to introduce you, Jacques, to the reporter who said I couldn't rebuild Beirut!"
And now it is being un-built. The Martyr Rafiq Hariri International Airport has been attacked three times by the Israelis, its glistening halls and shopping malls vibrating to the missiles that thunder into the runways and fuel depots. Hariri's wonderful transnational highway viaduct has been broken by Israeli bombers. Most of his motorway bridges have been destroyed. The Roman-style lighthouse has been smashed by a missile from an Apache helicopter. Only this small jewel of a restaurant in the centre of Beirut has been spared. So far.
It is the slums of Haret Hreik and Ghobeiri and Shiyah that have been levelled and "rubble-ised" and pounded to dust, sending a quarter of a million Shia Muslims to seek sanctuary in schools and abandoned parks across the city. Here, indeed, was the headquarters of Hizbollah, another of those "centres of world terror" which the West keeps discovering in Muslim lands. Here lived Sayed Hassan Nasrallah, the Party of God's leader, a ruthless, caustic, calculating man; and Sayad Mohamed Fadlallah, among the wisest and most eloquent of clerics; and many of Hizbollah's top military planners — including, no doubt, the men who planned over many months the capture of the two Israeli soldiers last Wednesday.
But did the tens of thousands of poor who live here deserve this act of mass punishment? For a country that boasts of its pin-point accuracy — a doubtful notion in any case, but that's not the issue — what does this act of destruction tell us about Israel? Or about ourselves?
In a modern building in an undamaged part of Beirut, I come, quite by chance, across a well known and prominent Hizbollah figure, open-neck white shirt, dark suit, clean shoes. "We will go on if we have to for days or weeks or months or..." And he counts these awful statistics off on the fingers of his left hand. "Believe me, we have bigger surprises still to come for the Israelis — much bigger, you will see. Then we will get our prisoners and it will take just a few small concessions."
I walk outside, feeling as if I have been beaten over the head. Over the wall opposite there is purple bougainvillaea and white jasmine and a swamp of gardenias. The Lebanese love flowers, their colour and scent, and Beirut is draped in trees and bushes that smell like paradise.
As for the huddled masses from the powder of the bombed-out southern slums of Haret Hreik, I found hundreds of them yesterday, sitting under trees and lying on the parched grass beside an ancient fountain donated to the city of Beirut by the Ottoman Sultan Abdul-Hamid. How empires fall.
Far away, across the Mediterranean, two American helicopters from the USS Iwo Jima could be seen, heading through the mist and smoke towards the US embassy bunker complex at Awkar to evacuate more citizens of the American Empire. There was not a word from that same empire to help the people lying in the park, to offer them food or medical aid. [...]
When part of an aircraft — perhaps the wing-tip of an F-16 hit by a missile, although the Israelis deny this — came streaking out of the sky over the eastern suburbs at the weekend, I raced to the scene to find a partly decapitated driver in his car and three Lebanese soldiers from the army's logistics unit. These are the tough, brave non-combat soldiers of Kfar Chim, who have been mending power and water lines these past six days to keep Beirut alive.
I knew one of them. "Hello Robert, be quick because I think the Israelis will bomb again but we'll show you everything we can." And they took me through the fires to show me what they could of the wreckage, standing around me to protect me.
And a few hours later, the Israelis did come back, as the men of the small logistics unit were going to bed, and they bombed the barracks and killed 10 soldiers, including those three kind men who looked after me amid the fires of Kfar Chim.
And why? Be sure — the Israelis know what they are hitting. That's why they killed nine soldiers near Tripoli when they bombed the military radio antennas. But a logistics unit? Men whose sole job was to mend electricity lines? And then it dawns on me. Beirut is to die. It is to be starved of electricity now that the power station in Jiyeh is on fire. No one is to be allowed to keep Beirut alive. So those poor men had to be liquidated. [Emphasis added]
"Birth pangs." Unspeakable.
Chris Allbritton, who lives in Lebanon when he's not in Iraq:
Before this damn war, Hizbullah was losing support. It wasn’t draining, but it was ebbing. The political process was stuttering along, but it was moving. Many people here hated Hizbullah… Many people also loved it. The society was split but there was a consensus the problem had to be settled judiciously and politically because no one wanted another civil war.
When the first Israeli bombs fell, some Shi'ites even blamed Hizbullah. I met a guy in the southern suburbs last Saturday, just four days after things started. He's a Shi'ite from Nabatiyeh in the south and hated Hizbullah. He thought they'd screwed up big-time. These days, when I talk to him, he says he hopes Hizbullah rips the Israelis apart. Another friend of mine, one of those upper-crust Christians, told me last night that as much as he hates Hizbullah, he hates the Israelis even more now. [Emphasis added]
Digby's right, they're monsters, but he's wrong about this:
I continue to suspect [the Israelis] did not expect that the US would give them the green light on this (it is insane, after all) and now they have no face saving way out. America did not do its job and now things are deteriorating beyond anyone's control.
We need to clear our minds once and for all of the myth of Israel as a victim that acts only in reluctant self-defense.
I'm no expert, but everything about the Israeli bombing campaign says a premeditated, long-planned, ruthless effects-based operation targeting the civilian infrastructure to disrupt and destroy the systems of civil life, to drastically weaken the Lebanese state, if not to push it back into civil war and failed state status.
Patrick McGreevy, writing from Beirut:
We understand that the Israelis have decided to stop hitting Lebanese infrastructure, perhaps because there no longer is any infrastructure [to hit].
As Fisk says, Lebanon was being rebuilt and reborn. It was trying to re-emerge as a prosperous, civilized democracy. Israel is systematically undoing all that progress, as if it wishes to erase the example of a prosperous, peaceful, Arab democracy. The legacy of Rafiq Hariri is being obliterated, and now, perhaps, it's time to reconsider Hariri's assassination and ask who it was who really wanted to see him dead.
|© Kent Tenney|
|Today's Bush Joke||Humor & Fun|
[A]fter six years of silence, [President Bush] finally stood up and testified at the NAACP Convention in Washington. Now a lot of people assumed the president would get a chilly reception. Wrong. The NAACP embraced him. The man got huge applause. Take a look [on screen: Bush receiving applause after saying, "I understand many African Americans distrust my political party"]. Showered with love. — Stephen Colbert
For the first time in his presidency, President Bush addressed the NAACP convention. For five years he was asked to appear at the NAACP, but didn't make it. Well, that's nothing. He was asked to appear at the National Guard for six years and never made any of those either. — Jay Leno
Actually, it almost didn't happen. When President Bush overheard a couple of staff members saying he was going to give a speech at the NAACP, Bush got mad. He said, "You can't fool me, I know what that spells." — Jay Leno
July 21, 2006
|Brain Food||Economy Environment Science/Technology|
When I was a kid, I used to hear that fish is "brain food." I don't know if people still say that, but they should. George Monbiot:
The more it is tested, the more compelling the hypothesis becomes. Dyslexia, ADHD, dyspraxia and other neurological problems seem to be associated with a deficiency of omega-3 fatty acids, especially in the womb. The evidence of a link with depression, chronic fatigue syndrome and dementia is less clear, but still suggestive. None of these conditions are caused exclusively by a lack of these chemicals, or can be entirely remedied by their application, but it's becoming pretty obvious that some of our most persistent modern diseases are, at least in part, diseases of deficiency.
Last year, for example, researchers at Oxford published a study of 117 children suffering from dyspraxia. Dyspraxia causes learning difficulties, disruptive behaviour and social problems. It affects about 5% of children. Some of the children were given supplements of omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, others were given placebos. The results were extraordinary. In three months the reading age of the experimental group rose by an average of 9.5 months, while the control group's rose by 3.3. Other studies have shown major improvements in attention, behaviour and IQ.
This shouldn't surprise us. During the Palaeolithic, human beings ate roughly the same amount of omega-3 fatty acids as omega-6s. Today we eat 17 times as much omega-6 as omega-3. Omega-6s are found in vegetable oils, while most of the omega-3s we eat come from fish. John Stein, a professor of physiology at Oxford who specialises in dyslexia, believes that fish oils permitted humans to make their great cognitive leap forwards. [...]
Stein believes that when the cells which are partly responsible for visual perception — the magnocellular neurones — are deficient in omega-3s, they don't form as many connections with other cells, and don't pass on information as efficiently. Their impaired development explains, for example, why many dyslexic children find that letters appear to jump around on the page.
So at first sight the [British] government's investigation into the idea of giving fish oil capsules to schoolchildren seems sensible. The food standards agency is conducting a review of the effects of omega-3s on childrens' behaviour and performance in school. [...]
There is only one problem: there are not enough fish. In March an article in the British Medical Journal observed that "we are faced with a paradox. Health recommendations advise increased consumption of oily fish and fish oils within limits, on the grounds that intake is generally low. However...we probably do not have a sustainable supply of long chain omega 3 fats." Our brain food is disappearing.
If you want to know why, read Charles Clover's beautifully-written book The End of the Line. Clover travelled all over the world, showing how the grotesque mismanagement of fish stocks has spread like an infectious disease. Governments help their fishermen to wipe out local shoals, then pay them to build bigger and more powerful boats so they can go further afield. When they have cleaned up their own continental shelves, they are paid by taxpayers to destroy other people's stocks. The European Union, for example, has bought our pampered fishermen the right to steal protein from the malnourished people of Senegal and Angola. West African stocks are now going the same way as North Sea cod and Mediterranean tuna.
I first realised just how mad our fishing policies have become when playing a game of ultimate frisbee in my local park. Taking a long dive, I landed with my nose in the grass. It smelt of fish. To the astonishment of passers-by, I crawled across the lawns, sniffing them. The whole park had been fertilised with fishmeal. Fish are used to feed cattle, pigs, poultry and other fish — in the farms now proliferating all over the world. Those rearing salmon, cod and tuna, for example, produce about half as much fish as they consume....Now I have discovered that the US Department of Energy is subsidising the conversion of fish oil into biodiesel...It describes them as "a sustainable energy supply".
Three years after Ransom Myers and Boris Worm published their seminal study in Nature, showing that global stocks of predatory fish have declined by 90%, nothing has changed. The fish stall in my local market still sells steaks from the ocean’s charismatic megafauna: swordfish, sharks and tuna, despite the fact that their conservation status is now, in many cases, similar to that of the Siberian tiger. [...]
If fish stocks were allowed to recover and fishing policies reflected scientific advice, there might just about be enough to go round. To introduce mass medication with fish oil under current circumstances could be a recipe for the complete collapse of global stocks. Yet somehow we have to prevent many thousands of lives from being ruined by what appears to be a growing problem of malnutrition.
Some plants — such as flax and hemp — contain omega-3 oils, but not of the long-chain varieties our cell membranes need. Only some people can convert them, and even then slowly and inefficiently. But a few weeks ago, a Swiss company called eau published a press release claiming that it has been farming "a secret strain of algae called V-Pure" which produces the right kind of fatty acids. It says it's on the verge of commercialising a supplement...The oils produced by some species of algae...are chemically identical to those found in fish: in fact this is where the fish get from them from. [...]
[The algae] had better work. Otherwise the human race is destined to take a great cognitive leap backwards. [Emphasis added]
The race to deplete the fish of the sea is a stark illustration of a fundamental problem with unregulated capitalism: it may be more profitable to destroy the world than to save it. Destroying the world is bad business in the long run, of course. But a population of perfectly rational people out to maximize short term profit can bring about ultimate collapse, even though each of them acted in perfect accord with capitalist economic theory every step of the way.
A combination of factors come into play. There's the "tyranny of small decisions" — the cumulative effect of a number of small decisions can lead to a result that no one wants. So I may think, what's a few fish more or less? But if everyone thinks that way, before long the fish are gone. Forever.
There's the "tragedy of the commons" — when resources are "free", like the air, or the oceans, or the fish in the sea, there is no disincentive to overexploitation. There is, in fact, an incentive to exploit them as quickly as possible: if I don't take the fish, someone else will.
There's the problem that money grows faster than trees, or fish, or what have you. A forest may grow at a rate of 2% per year. That means that if I cut only 2% of it a year, my forest lasts forever. But if I clear-cut it today and invest the proceeds, my forest may be gone, but my money will grow a lot faster than 2% per year. So the economically rational thing is to monetize everything. Right up until the moment when it's all gone.
But, as Wendell Berry said:
Rats and roaches live by competition under the laws of supply and demand; it is the privilege of human beings to live under the laws of justice and mercy.
It is rapidly changing from a privilege to a necessity.
(See also this.)
|© Kent Tenney|
|Today's Bush Joke||Humor & Fun|
A lot of people are complaining about how long it's taking to evacuate Americans from Lebanon. Lebanon? We couldn't even evacuate Americans from New Orleans. — Jay Leno
The Middle East crisis continues right now. Everyone's trying to leave the area. Americans stuck in Lebanon say they're frustrated because other countries seem to be evacuating their citizens faster. On the bright side, we're almost finished evacuating New Orleans. — Conan O'Brien
|1500 Days||Peak Oil|
ASPO, the Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas, is holding its annual conference. Here's an account of remarks by Chris Skrebowski, editor of Petroleum Review, former editor of Petroleum Economics. Skrebowski used to argue against Peak Oil. No longer. From the ASPO-5 blog:
"We have 1,500 days until peak and tomorrow we'll have one day less," Chris Skrebowski, the editor of Petroleum Review, told the ASPO-5 crowd today. Skrebowski's projections, which focus on oil flows instead of reserves, has the world peaking at between 92 and 94 million barrels per day. Unfortunately, he said, "collectively we're still in denial."
It's a tricky job to work up reliable projections, Skrebowski explained. "Decoding IEA statistics is like decoding the Da Vinci code." Complicating the matter is the overwhelming tendency among industry and government officials to propagate optimistic scenarios. "We've deceived ourselves, albeit with good intentions, but with disastrous results." The key he said is to examine what oil producers "are doing, not what the chairmen and CEOs are saying."
Skrebowski said the idea of peak oil is straightforward: "It's real, it's imminent and it's going to be unpleasant." Known for his detailed "Megaprojects" report that looks at new oil fields coming on line, Skrebowski emphasized the importance of focusing on oil "flows" rather than underground stocks or reserves. "If you go down to fill up your car and were told to come back six hours later — or a month later — you get a sense for the problem. Reserves are only important when we can turn them into flows. Otherwise they are just an academic concept. The fact that huge amounts can be produced over time doesn't mean it can meet the flow needs today."
Skrebowski joins a growing group that sees the peak occurring earlier than later. "It can't be far off," he said. And the consequences couldn't be more profound. "We've built are entire society around oil. Everything depends on cheap and plentiful oil. We will have to change everything we do."
The massive jump of oil prices since 2002 corroborates the emerging reality of tightening supplies, Skrebowski said. "What is the price telling us? Desperately it's saying 'send us more oil.' That's what economics does."
But new supplies aren't coming forth, he said. Nor is demand being appreciatively destroyed. "Neither is working. New supplies are not coming on line and demand is not falling, with the exception of the third world, which is getting priced out of the market. It just hasn't hit us yet."
Ultimately, though, demand destruction will hit the industrial economies because hopes for boosting production are long gone. "We're not finding it fast enough, the fields are old and weary, we've fired too many people in the industry, and costs are going through the roof," he said. [...]
He dismisses optimistic projections from organizations such as Cambridge Energy Associates (CERA) as "utter tosh."
Skrebowski says that mitigation efforts won't affect the peak date by much — a few months or a year at the most. Oil-producing countries, for example, could decide to divert more supplies to domestic consumption, tightening the price noose on industrialized nations. "It's an exquisite form of torturing us." And the result could lead to an interesting sight: "SUVs on the streets of Mexico and Smart Cars in Houston." [Emphasis added]
Skrebowski's point about flows is crucial. All the reserves in the world won't do you any good if you can't get it out of the ground fast enough. That's the mistake the people who think Canadian oil sands will save us make.
1500 days is not a lot of time. Tomorrow it'll be one day less. There's nothing that can happen in that kind of time frame that will postpone peak enough to matter. We can't postpone peak, but we can mitigate the post-peak impact. We need to do what we can. We'll be living in a post-peak world for a long, long time.
We have a choice to make. We can fight over the oil that's left; we can sell it to the highest bidder; or the nations of the world can voluntarily agree to reduce consumption by at least the worldwide depletion rate, roughly 2.5% per year. The latter approach is called the Oil Depletion Protocol. More on that in a future post.
July 20, 2006
|A 9/11 Every Month||Iraq|
While Israel's attack on Lebanon dominates the news, the violence in Iraq continues to escalate. The number of Iraqi civilians killed every month is now approximately equal to the total number of Americans killed on 9/11. CNN:
More than 14,000 civilians have been killed in Iraq in the first half of this year, an ominous figure reflecting the fact that "killings, kidnappings and torture remain widespread" in the war-torn country, a United Nations report says.
Killings of civilians are on "an upward trend," with more than 5,800 deaths and more than 5,700 injuries reported in May and June alone, it says. [Emphasis added]
Those are civilian casualties, not insurgents or other combatants. A 9/11 every month. Actually, in proportion to Iraq's population, a 9/11 every two or three days. Do the math.
We in the US, spoiled as we are, have acted as if the events of 9/11 put us into a whole different category from the rest of the world, entitling us to go on a rampage. Why do we imagine the people of Iraq (and elsewhere) won't react similarly to the suffering we cause them? The reverberations of what we do now will be felt for years, if not for generations.
|Toyota To Develop A Plug-In Hybrid||Environment|
Now that I've got my Prius (which I adore), Toyota has announced plans to develop a plug-in hybrid. They're looking at bringing flex fuel cars to the US as well. Grist:
Toyota plans to develop a plug-in hybrid vehicle, the company announced this week. Rechargeable via any typical electrical outlet, a plug-in would be able to "travel greater distances without using its gas engine, ... conserve more oil, and slice smog and greenhouse gases to nearly imperceptible levels," said Jim Press, president of Toyota's North American subsidiary. The technology is far from ready, and the automaker has no timeline for offering the cars for sale, but hey — we'll give it points for pressing forward with the R&D while other companies dawdle. Toyota is also taking a serious look at bringing flex-fuel cars capable of running on an E85 ethanol blend to the U.S. market, putting pressure on America's beleaguered Big Three automakers, who recently announced that they will double production of flex-fuel vehicles. Toyota already produces E85-capable vehicles in Brazil. Toyota, which dominates the regular hybrid market, also plans to introduce hybrid versions of all its current vehicle models. [Emphasis added]
The "slice smog and greenhouse gases to nearly imperceptible levels" is a bit of a cheat since the electricity used to charge the car will come largely from fossil fuels, but let's not quibble.
Meanwhile, you wouldn't believe how many Priuses are on the road here in Madison these days. They're everywhere. My daughter Molly and I recently drove out to Philadelphia and back, and we didn't see anywere near as many Priuses anywhere else, sorry to say.
Only a woman, after all.
|© Kent Tenney|
|Today's Bush Joke||Humor & Fun|
So hot today down in Washington, D.C., President Bush said, "Maybe there is something to this global warming sh*t." — David Letterman
July 19, 2006
|With A Stroke Of His Pen||Ethics Politics|
What's scarier than a country ruled by know-nothing fundamentalist fanatics who inhabit a pre-scientific mental world, fanatics who place a greater value on rigid extremist dogma than they do on the rights and well-being of their fellow humans? WaPo:
President Bush today used the first veto of his presidency to stop legislation that would have lifted restrictions on federally funded human embryonic stem cell research.
"This bill would support the taking of innocent human life in the hope of finding medical benefits for others," Bush said at the White House, following through on his promise to veto the bill. "It crosses a moral boundary that our decent society needs to respect. So I vetoed it." [Emphasis added]
But, but, but — "acceptable losses" due to "collateral damage" in an elective, pre-emptive war of aggression founded on a deliberate campaign of lies — no moral boundary there. And so, to make political hay with his base, Bush condemns countless people with Parkinson's, diabetes, spinal cord injuries, etc., etc., to continued suffering and death. Has the guy ever been right — about anything?
For a discussion of the morality of stem cell research, please see this.
|Reality Begs To Differ||9/11, "War On Terror" Iraq|
She can have her opinion, but the facts refute her completely. Stubborn thing, reality.
|© Kent Tenney|
|Today's Bush Joke||Humor & Fun|
Valerie Plame. You know who she is? She was the CIA agent whose name was leaked to the press and is now suing Vice President Dick Cheney for violating her constitutional rights. She's suing Dick Cheney. Is that smart? Even the guy who Dick Cheney shot in the face isn't suing him — and he's a lawyer. — Jay Leno
July 18, 2006
|Terrorists||9/11, "War On Terror" Palestine/Middle East|
[Hamas and Hezbollah] are not terrorists. They carry out terrorist attacks, but they are not terrorists. They are something far more dangerous. They are fully functioning political, social, religious, and military organizations that use terrorism tactics, but they are far more formidible than terrorist groups like Al Qaeda or the Basque Terrorist Organization. They do have the resources and the personnel to project force, sustain operations, and cannot be easily defeated. Unlike the Egyptian and Syrian armies in 1973, Hamas and Hezbollah will not easily fold and cannot be defeated in a seven day war. If that is the assumption among some Israeli military planners it is a crazy fantasy.
While most folks in the United States buy into the Hollywood storyline of poor little Israel fighting for it's survival against big, bad Muslims, the reality unfolding on our TV screens shows something else. Exodus, starring Paul Newman, is ancient history. Hamas and Hezbollah attacked military targets — kidnapping soldiers on military patrols may be an act of war and a provocation, but it is not terrorism. (And yes, Hezbollah and Hamas have carried out terrorist attacks in the past against Israeli civilians. I'm not ignoring those acts, I condemn them, but we need to understand what the dynamics are right now.) Israel is not attacking the individuals who hit their soldiers. Israel is engaged in mass punishment.
How did Israel respond? They bombed civilian targets and civilian infrastructure and have killed many civilians. Let's see if I have this right. The Arab "terrorists" attack military units, destroy at least one tank, and are therefore terrorists. Israel retaliates by launching aerial, naval, and artillery bombardments of civilian areas and they are engaging in self-defense. If we are unable to recognize the hypocrisy of this construct then we ourselves are so enveloped by propaganda and emotion that, like the Israelis, Hezbollah, and Hamas, we can't think rationally. We can only think in terms of tribalism and revenge. [Emphasis added]
Language matters. Not everyone who opposes the US or who opposes Israel is a terrorist. But the T-word is used indiscriminately in order to condition us to lump everyone so labeled into a single undifferentiated, faceless mass of dark, feral creatures with incomprehensible motives. Evil-Doers. Freedom-Haters. Terrorists. All such labels are the enemy of rational thought. These days rational thought is in dangerously short supply.
|"As Ludicrous As The Easter Bunny"||Palestine/Middle East|
Stan Goff is a veteran of the US Army Rangers, Airborne, Delta Force, and Special Forces. He served in Vietnam, El Salvador, Grenada, Panama, Honduras, Venezuela, Colombia, Peru, Somalia, and Haiti. Which is to say, he knows a whole lot more about combat than you or I.
Here's his take on the story that Hezbollah raiders came across the Lebanese border into Israel to kidnap Israeli soldiers:
The border of Southern Lebanon and Israel is a seamless web of intervisible Israeli outposts with night vision devices, tied together with ground surveillance radar, plowed-flat and raked daily to see footprints, and backed by quick reaction forces. Israelis routinely make incursive patrols into Lebanon. It is nearly impossible for an organized group of Hezbolla or anyone else to cross the border south, much less capture prisoners there. The very notion that this was an incursion INTO Israel is propped up solely by the credulity of the general public that knows nothing about military operations. In reality, the idea is as ludicrous as the Easter Bunny.
Israel's ongoing killing and wounding of hundreds of Lebanese civilians and its dismantling of Lebanon's civil infrastructure are said to be justified by Hezbollah's kidnapping, on Israeli soil, of two Israeli soldiers. (A most convenient kidnapping from the perspective of Israeli hardliners.)
If Goff is right, it must have been the Israelis who made the cross-border incursion and Hezbollah encountered them on Lebanese soil, which is a whole different kettle of fish. Not that it's going to change anything, but wouldn't it be nice, for once, not to be lied to?
|© Kent Tenney|
|Today's Bush Joke||Humor & Fun|
When it gets hot, so hot you can't stand it and the steam is rising from your scalp, do you worry about global warming? Well, George Bush is now also worried about global warming, but he has a plan. He's going to invade the sun. — David Letterman
July 17, 2006
|Courting Disaster||Palestine/Middle East|
This is a truly bad idea.
Hezbollah has already used missiles to damage an Israeli warship and sink a Cambodian merchant vessel. So now the Bush regime wants to use a cruise ship to evacuate some 5000 US citizens from Lebanon. A big, fat, slow-moving cruise ship. MSNBC:
U.S. Marines raced Monday to complete naval and air evacuation plans for thousands of Americans in Lebanon — an operation U.S. military official said carries "some risk."
The Orient Queen, a commercial ship hired by the government, will sail into a Beirut port Tuesday escorted by the destroyer USS Gonzales and possibly the USS Iwo Jimato. The cruise ship will try to rescue the estimated 5,000 citizens who are so far wanting to leave.
Imagine the stampede for war if this cruise ship is struck and lots of Americans are killed. As Steven Clemons says:
[T]here are players on all sides of this conflict that may find a floating, slow, and poorly defended elephant of a ship too tempting of a target. Real or contrived, any potential attack would look like a Hezbollah attack.
...[S]erious planners have to be worried about sending a cruise ship, a slow moving huge target, into a war zone.
A variety of forces would love to see the war escalate. Any one of them can get its wish with a well-placed missile or bomb, and Hezbollah, Syria, and Iran will be left holding the bag. It's an open invitation to disaster. Or is that the point?
Condoleezza Rice yesterday said it was "grotesque" to suggest that the US attack on Iraq has contributed to reqional instability:
STEPHANOPOULOS: But before the war in Iraq many argued that going into Iraq would stir up a hornet's nest...Extremists now appear to have been emboldened. The moderates appear to be in retreat. There is no peace process. There is war. How do you answer administration critics who say that the administration's actions have unleashed, have helped unleash the very hostilities you hoped to contain?
RICE: Well, first of all, those hostilities were not very well contained as we found out on September 11th, so the notion that policies that finally confront extremism are actually causing extremism, I find grotesque. [Emphasis added]
I'll tell you what's grotesque. People who can — after all the killing and dying and in spite of their own culpability — look straight into the camera and say such nonsense.
|A Clean Break||Palestine/Middle East|
Sometimes people do exactly what they say they're going to do. The Project for a New American Century comes to mind.
In 1996, a group of American neoconservative supporters of Israel's Likud party, including Richard Perle and Douglas Feith, among others, authored a policy paper for Likud candidate Benjamin Netanyahu calling for A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm. It advocated the removal of Saddam Hussein, followed by Israel's seizure of "the strategic initiative along its northern borders by engaging Hizballah, Syria, and Iran." The goal of the latter initiative was to be a "rollback" of Syria and the eventual end to Syria's "territorial integrity" — which is to say, an end to Syria — and "a redrawing of the map of the Middle East." Excerpts:
Syria challenges Israel on Lebanese soil. An effective approach, and one with which American can sympathize, would be if Israel seized the strategic initiative along its northern borders by engaging Hizballah, Syria, and Iran, as the principal agents of aggression in Lebanon, including by...striking Syrian military targets in Lebanon, and should that prove insufficient, striking at select targets in Syria proper. [...]
Given the nature of the regime in Damascus, it is both natural and moral that Israel abandon the slogan "comprehensive peace" and move to contain Syria, drawing attention to its weapons of mass destruction program, and rejecting "land for peace" deals on the Golan Heights. [...]
Israel can shape its strategic environment, in cooperation with Turkey and Jordan, by weakening, containing, and even rolling back Syria. This effort can focus on removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq — an important Israeli strategic objective in its own right — as a means of foiling Syria's regional ambitions. [...]
...Syria enters this conflict with potential weaknesses...Damascus fears that the 'natural axis' with Israel on one side, central Iraq and Turkey on the other, and Jordan, in the center would squeeze and detach Syria from the Saudi Peninsula. For Syria, this could be the prelude to a redrawing of the map of the Middle East which would threaten Syria's territorial integrity. [...]
Israel's new agenda can signal a clean break by...reestablishing the principle of preemption, rather than retaliation... [Italics in the original; bold added]
It's all going according to plan. Well, sort of. The paper's authors were unlikely to foresee that all this would be going on with US forces caught in the middle between Syria and Iran, pinned down in a protracted war in Iraq. With US forces caught in the middle, it's hard to see how the plan can come to fruition without the US being pulled into a wider war.
Meanwhile, people insist on thinking that a well-meaning Israel is only reacting to the kidnapping of three of its troops as it proceeds methodically to dismantle the civil infrastructure of Lebanon. Some people just don't know when they're getting played.
|© Kent Tenney|
|Today's Bush Joke||Humor & Fun|
President Bush has gone to the G8 Summit in Russia. The White House says he's going to try and convince other world leaders to develop nuclear power. Apparently, it's working, because so far, Bush has convinced Iran and North Korea. — Conan O'Brien
July 16, 2006
|Voto Por Voto||Vote Fraud|
Another election, another stolen result. This time, for President of Mexico. Greg Palast went to Mexico to look into what happened, and his 15-minute documentary video is available at Democracy Now. Here are excerpts from Democracy Now's transcript:
GREG PALAST: So my first stop was to meet one of Mexico's top numbers experts, statistician Victor Romero of Mexico's National University. Dr. Romero had charted the official government elections returns from each of Mexico's 113,000 voting stations. [...]
On a computer printout, Dr. Romero showed how the official tallies matched the exit polls, with challenger Lopez Obrador ahead by 2% all night. That is, until the very end, when several precincts came in for the ruling party by 10-to-1, and then 100-to-1, putting their candidate Felipe Calderon over the top, literally in the last minutes. The doctor found that statistically improbable.
VICTOR ROMERO: We reached the point I said, "It's over." But then, from 71% 'til the very end, there was not a single moment in which the difference from one report to the next became bigger.
GREG PALAST: So it didn't change at all. Just was perfect.
VICTOR ROMERO: Perfect, perfect. And so we just couldn't believe it. I mean, it fell — with 5% to go, it fell one full point. [...]
GREG PALAST: The results may not seem so miraculous if you take a look at these voter sheets. This is from a district in Guanajuato, which shows that Calderon picked up 192 votes, but Obrador, the challenger, got only 12. And here's how this miraculous total can be explained. We were given a videotape of a poll worker, seen here stuffing ballots into the unguarded cardboard ballot box. Mexico has virtually zero ballot security in rural areas. There is no system for accounting for unused paper ballots. Stuffing them into the cardboard boxes is absurdly easy.
Despite the evidence of ballot stuffing, the conflict with exit polls and the miraculous returns, the Federal Election Commission in Mexico named Calderon the winner by a margin thin as a tortilla, by less than 0.5%. The rush to announce a winner was all the more surprising given the wave of other reported irregularities. This is Cesar Yanez who directed the campaign for Lopez Obrador’s party, the PRD. He noted there were 300,000 fewer votes for president than for senator, a drop-off that voting experts say never happens without fraud. Yanez guessed maybe they ate their votes.
The Federal Election Commission's rush to announce a winner caught my attention because of the astonishingly high pile of supposedly uncountable votes: nearly one million blank unreadable ballots, four times the alleged margin of victory. The smell of Florida was unmistakable. In the 2000 U.S. election, Florida's Secretary of State Katherine Harris stopped a hand count of 179,000 supposedly blank ballots. Mexico's Electoral Commission, taking the exact same stance as Harris, is refusing to have a public hand count of those supposedly blank one million ballots.
Yanez noted that the commission agreed to open a fragment of 1% of the ballot packets. In most cases, ballots that were totaled as blank were, in fact, votes for Obrador. Each box opened produced enough newfound votes for Obrador that opening all the boxes should statistically change the outcome of the election. But all the boxes won't be opened. The ruling party, the PAN, and the Electoral Commission refuse a full public recount, and the government says that it's over.
Felipe Calderon and his ally George Bush say it's all over, but there are hundreds of thousands of people here who say, not until all the votes are counted one by one. On Saturday, half a million Obrador supporters filled the capital to make one simple demand: voto por voto, count every vote. [Emphasis added]
If this all sounds like the last two presidential elections here in the US, that's not entirely coincidental. It turns out that the Bush regime, through private contractor ChoicePoint, Inc., was very much involved in Mexico's election. Palast again:
GREG PALAST: We have obtained from U.S. FBI files a copy of a secret government contract with a private firm, ChoicePoint of Alpharetta, Georgia. ChoicePoint, you may recall, is the company that provided a list to Katherine Harris in 2000, which permitted her office to wrongly scrub thousands of African Americans from Florida voter rolls.
ChoicePoint, this document indicates, was back in the vote list business in Mexico at the request of the Bush administration. While the cover of their September 2001 contract says it is to gather intelligence for counterterrorism investigations, the still classified appendix, which we have, clarifies that the contract is limited to gathering citizen files and voter lists of Latin American nations, specifically those nations which have leftist presidents or leading leftist candidates for president.
The company, we have learned, did, in fact, obtain the voter files of Venezuela and Mexico for the FBI. It's difficult to imagine how these files will help in the war on terror, but they can be very useful in influencing Latin American elections. And, indeed, we filmed voters in Mexico who found themselves mysteriously scrubbed from voter rolls.
SCRUBBED VOTER: I wasn't able to vote. I wasn't on the list. I waited seven hours here for nothing, seven hours in the rain, seven hours hungry, just so the electoral representatives could laugh at me. The Electoral Commission is a real fraud. I tell you that as a Mexican.
GREG PALAST: In Mexico City, I met with an Obrador supporter who discovered that, in fact, the ruling party, the PAN, had somehow got a hold of the voter files. She discovered this information after she obtained the secret passwords to the party's website from a whistleblower. We were not allowed to film her face.
OBRADOR SUPPORTER: I can't tell you how they were using this information, but I can assure you this is illegal. This is a crime.
GREG PALAST: Are you aware of the fact that a contractor for George Bush and the U.S. FBI obtained all these citizen files?
OBRADOR SUPPORTER: Yes, ChoicePoint was the name of the company who got that. Yes, we were aware of that.
GREG PALAST: But we don't know where this information comes from?
OBRADOR SUPPORTER: We know that it’s in the official page of the candidate.
GREG PALAST: But they’re not supposed to have these for these purposes?
OBRADOR SUPPORTER: No, no, no. They’re not supposed to have it. And, of course, they are by no way supposed to use it. That's a crime.
GREG PALAST: But it could be very helpful.
OBRADOR SUPPORTER: Well, much more than we ever thought. [Emphasis added]
Here in the US, one pair of brothers, long backed by ultra-right-wing Christian Reconstructionist money, are technical principals behind the two companies (Diebold and ES&S) that count 80% of US black-box electronic votes. The Mexican equivalent? Palast again:
GREG PALAST: Our source believes that the vote-counting software was key to the election victory. She showed us proof that the candidate's brother-in-law was paid to write the vote-counting software.
Was the election stolen?
OBRADOR SUPPORTER: Yes, we can be sure of that. The election was definitely stolen. And people should be there counting the votes one by one. Democracy doesn't have a time limit. [...]
GREG PALAST: Why would the Bush administration be so concerned about the presidency of Mexico? There are many issues, but one stands out. It's the oil. [Emphasis added]
This is how modern elites have solved the pesky problem of ordinary people getting to vote. Make it look like democracy, let us vote, but control the results. Anybody complains, turn it into a he-said-she-said dispute or put it down to sour grapes and conspiracy theories. Quickly move on to the next story. Done. Nor is it limited to any one nation: elites are globalized, even if we aren't.
Here's what scares me. So far, election fraud has been applied in cases where the pre-election polls were close. In US elections this fall, polls may not be so close, but I think we're going to see some significant election meltdowns anyway. In Ohio, for instance, where Kenneth Blackwell continues to control the electoral process even as he himself runs for governor. I.e., vote fraud is going mainstream. It's going to be more and more blatant, more and more out in the open, but the mainstream media will pretend nothing's happening. We'll see black, they'll say white.
The cognitive dissonance will cause a lot of people to just throw up their hands and say, well that's how elections are now. Nobody knows who really won. And anyway, they're all crooks, on both sides. (All the reports of Washington corruption just feed into this perception.) If that happens, elections will be just another tv show with a predetermined outcome. Democracy will be over.
(For more background on recent US vote fraud, click the Vote Fraud link on the home page.)
|A Perfect Marriage||Science/Technology|
You know those little flash memory gizzies that plug into your USB port? These are the ones I want. Very cool.
|© Kent Tenney|
|Today's Bush Joke||Humor & Fun|
It's been a very busy and somewhat disturbing day throughout the world. President Bush was overseas in Germany as events unfolded. Here is his press conference with Chancellor Angela Merkel in Germany where he wasted no time addressing the many troubling developments [on screen: Bush saying, "I'm looking forward to the feast you're going to have tonight. I understand I may have the honor of slicing the pig."] He may have the honor of slicing the pig?? I'm just going to assume that is some euphemism for solving the Middle East crisis. — Jon Stewart
July 15, 2006
The Iraq stories pile up, and it's inevitable that sometimes we just glance at them and move on. For those of us who've never been in a war zone, it's especially hard to grasp the human reality of what's happening daily to real people in Baghdad, Fallujah, Haditha, and the rest.
But it's our moral duty to try. That's why I urge you to take a few minutes and read the latest post by Riverbend, the young Iraqi woman who writes the blog Baghdad Burning. I won't excerpt it here, because I want you to read the whole thing. Read it and weep.
|Cars Or People?|
Lester Brown, founder of the Earth Policy Institute, has released a new position paper on the use of grains to manufacture fuel. This is enormously important material. Excerpt:
Cars, not people, will claim most of the increase in world grain consumption this year. The U.S. Department of Agriculture projects that world grain use will grow by 20 million tons in 2006. Of this, 14 million tons will be used to produce fuel for cars in the United States, leaving only 6 million tons to satisfy the world’s growing food needs.
In agricultural terms, the world appetite for automotive fuel is insatiable. The grain required to fill a 25-gallon SUV gas tank with ethanol will feed one person for a year. The grain to fill the tank every two weeks over a year will feed 26 people.
Investors are jumping on the highly profitable biofuel-bandwagon so fast that hardly a day goes by without another ethanol distillery or biodiesel refinery being announced somewhere in the world. The amount of corn used in U.S. ethanol distilleries has tripled in five years, jumping from 18 million tons in 2001 to an estimated 55 million tons from the 2006 crop.
In some U.S. Corn Belt states, ethanol distilleries are taking over the corn supply. In Iowa, a staggering 55 ethanol plants are operating or have been proposed. Iowa State University economist Bob Wisner observes that if all these plants are built, they would use virtually all the corn grown in Iowa. In South Dakota, a top-ten corn-growing state, ethanol distilleries are already claiming over half of the corn harvest.
With so many distilleries being built, livestock and poultry producers fear there may not be enough corn to produce meat, milk, and eggs. And since the United States supplies 70 percent of world corn exports, corn-importing countries are worried about their supply.
Since almost everything we eat can be converted into fuel for automobiles, including wheat, corn, rice, soybeans, and sugarcane, the line between the food and energy economies is disappearing. [...]
As the price of oil climbs, it becomes increasingly profitable to convert farm commodities into automotive fuel, either ethanol or biodiesel. In effect, the price of oil becomes the support price for food commodities. Whenever the food value of a commodity drops below its fuel value, the market will convert it into fuel. [...]
Brazil, the world's largest sugar producer and exporter, is now converting half of its sugar harvest into fuel ethanol. With just 10 percent of the world's sugar harvest going into ethanol, the price of sugar has doubled. Cheap sugar may now be history. [...]
The profitability of crop-based fuel production has created an investment juggernaut. With a U.S. ethanol subsidy of 51¢ per gallon in effect until 2010, and with oil priced at $70 per barrel, distilling fuel alcohol from corn promises huge profits for years to come. [...]
The soaring demand for crop-based fuel is coming when world grain stocks are at the lowest level in 34 years and when there are 76 million more people to feed each year. [...]
Simply put, the stage is being set for a head-on collision between the world's 800 million affluent automobile owners and food consumers. Given the insatiable appetite of cars for fuel, higher grain prices appear inevitable. The only question is when food prices will rise and by how much. Indeed, in recent months, wheat and corn prices have risen by one fifth.
For the 2 billion poorest people in the world, many of whom spend half or more of their income on food, rising grain prices can quickly become life threatening. The broader risk is that rising food prices could spread hunger and generate political instability in low-income countries that import grain, such as Indonesia, Egypt, Nigeria, and Mexico. [...]
There are alternatives to using food-based fuels. For example, the equivalent of the 3 percent gain in automotive fuel supplies from ethanol could be achieved several times over — and at a fraction of the cost — simply by raising auto fuel efficiency standards by 20 percent. Investing in public transport could reduce overall dependence on cars.
There are other fuel options as well. While there are no alternatives to food for people, there is an alternative source of fuel for cars, one that involves shifting to highly efficient gas — electric hybrid plug-ins. This would enable motorists to do short-distance driving, such as the daily commute, with electricity. If wind-rich countries such as the United States, China, and those in Europe invest heavily in wind farms to feed cheap electricity into the grid, cars could run primarily on wind energy, and at the gasoline equivalent of less than $1 a gallon. [Emphasis added]
As the price of oil ratchets higher, the conflict between grain for fuel and grain for food will intensify. The world's affluent will, in a very real sense, be filling their gas tanks with food they've taken from the mouths of the world's poor.
This is an example of how the market and the money economy allow us to abstract things out of our awareness that we'd never agree to if the choices were made visible and concrete. If you pulled up to the gas pump and there was a hungry family sitting there that would go hungry if you filled your tank, few of us would be so selfish as to gas up and go on our happy-motoring way. But out of sight, out of mind.
The rush to convert food to fuel can be seen as a measure of our addiction to a fuel-based way of life. Like addicts who spend everything on heroin, letting themselves and their kids go hungry, all we can see is how we're going to get the next fix. No matter who it hurts.
The choices we make regarding fuel efficiency and alternative fuels will, at bottom, be moral choices. Do cars come first? Or do people?
|Safeguarding Amish Country Popcorn||9/11, "War On Terror" Politics|
About three miles from the nearest town, Brian Lehman's popcorn factory near Berne has somehow ended up on the federal government's list of potential terrorist targets.
"I don't have a clue why we're on the list. We're on a gravel road, not even blacktop. We're nowhere," said Lehman, owner of Amish Country Popcorn, which employs five people.
Nevertheless, Amish Country Popcorn is one of 8,591 places or events in Indiana that the Department of Homeland Security regards as serious potential terrorist targets, according to an inspector general's report that raised questions about the accuracy and relevance of what's known as the National Asset Database.
Indiana has about 30 percent more listed potential targets than New York (5,687) and nearly twice as many as California (3,212), putting Indiana atop the nation's list of potential terrorism targets.
What's more, the number of potential Indiana targets rose from 322 in 2004 to 8,303 in 2005.
Amish Country isn't the only odd-sounding site in the federal database.
Without divulging specifics, the list includes 77,069 U.S. sites where terrorists might strike — including a flea market, a petting zoo, ice cream parlors, several Wal-Marts and a tackle shop.
The government's database is used to determine how much states should get out of hundreds of millions of dollars in federal anti-terrorism grants. [...]
The findings drew the ire of some lawmakers, particularly in New York, which saw its portion of funds shrink this year.
"Now we know why the Homeland Security grant formula came out as wacky as it was," Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., told The New York Times. "This report is the smoking gun that thoroughly indicts the system." [...]
The list may have become inflated because states were left to interpret a request for potential targets however they wanted.
Pam Bright, a spokeswoman for the state's Homeland Security Department, said federal administrators asked Indiana to make a list of "critical infrastructure and resources," not a list of potential terrorist sites.
"There was not a clear definition of what they wanted, so Indiana took the safe side and submitted all of our important infrastructures," Bright said. "If that's not what they wanted, they should have sent it back and said that's not what they wanted. [Emphasis added]
Amish Country Popcorn. It makes us laugh, but it should also make us angry. It would be one thing if somebody at DHS carelessly published a bogus list. But this is much worse than that. This information made it all the way through the grant process for allocating over $700 million in Homeland Security funds to the states. Imagine the level of incompetence and inattention that requires.
I've said this before, but it really does matter whether people in government believe in government. The Bush regime is full of people who don't believe in the public good and don't believe government has a legitimate, useful role to play in safeguarding and supporting the public good. They have an ideological distrust of of government. It's small wonder, then, that they suck at governing. Boy, do they ever.
|© Kent Tenney|
|Today's Bush Joke||Humor & Fun|
At a joint press conference with President Bush, German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for a "de-escalation of Mid-East violence." Later, Bush called for both sides to "de-angrify" and "de-hurt" each other. — Conan O'Brien
July 14, 2006
|The Few And The Many||Media Palestine/Middle East|
You can read blogging from Lebanon, here. A recent post concludes with these words:
Lebanon is a hostage and all the Lebanese people are a pawn in the hands of the few.
One of the striking things about the Lebanon coverage here in the US is the extent to which it suggests that Hezbollah is somehow on a par with the IDF. CNN has even gone so far as to constantly mention the few Israeli casualties while largely ignoring the scores of Lebanese civilian casualties. (The US version of CNN, that is. The International version is more balanced, which should tell you something: CNN knows the facts but is tailoring the message to the audience.)
Hezbollah is not Lebanon, but it is the people of Lebanon who are being made to pay. Never mind that collective punishment is a war crime under the Fourth Geneva Convention. (But of course collective punishment is what the Palestinians have been facing for years.)
Hezbollah is no match for the IDF, but it's also not clear how Israel can defeat them. This is the conundrum of fourth generation war: how do you defeat a loosely-knit non-state enemy that is swimming in a sea of non-combatant civilians. It's what's defeating the US in Iraq. Billmon:
Hezbollah may have found the sweet spot in Fourth Generation War: It isn't a state and doesn't carry the political or defensive burdens of one, but it controls enough territory, commands enough popular loyalty and has enough allies to mount some fairly sophisticated military operations, using both conventional and nonconventional weapons. It's powerful enough to be successful — and be seen as successful — but not so powerful that state actors like Israel can fight it on equal terms. We may be looking at the New Model Army of the 21st century.
Israel, like the US in Iraq, may have started something it cannot finish — except by withdrawing.
|Parachuting From Space|
You've heard of BASE jumping. How about space jumping? Check this out. Incredible.
|Marriage In Massachusetts||Religion Rights, Law|
A story you won't hear on Fox News.
Liberalism and same-sex marriage lead to high divorce rates. Right? Well, no. The exact opposite is true. The facts (Talk to Action):
Over two years have passed now since same sex marriage was legalized in Massachusetts, and data from all of 2004 and the first 11 months of 2005 are now available. [...]
[F]or several years now the Commonwealth [of Massachusetts] has had the lowest divorce rate of any state in the union.
In 2004 the Massachusetts divorce rate, at 2.2 per 1,000 residents per year, was considerably lower than the US national average rate for that year, 3.8 per 1,000. Indeed, it was lower than the national average rate for 1950 (2.6 per 1,000) and even approached the national rate of 1940 (2 per 1,000).
In 2003, total divorces in Massachusetts declined 2.1% relative to 2002. But in the first two years of legal same sex marriage in the Bay State, Massachusetts showed a more rapid decline and will very likely hold on to its title as the US state with the lowest divorce rate in the nation. [...]
[T]he group of US states...which have passed both state laws and also state constitutional amendments prohibiting same sex marriage, lag dramatically in terms of divorce rate improvement when compared to same sex marriage friendly states.
Among those US states that are most opposed to same sex marriage which have also provided divorce data for the time period...the average divorce rate (unadjusted for population changes) for 2004 and the first 11 months of 2005 increased 1.75%. This group contains 4 of the 5 states with the highest divorce rate increases in the US during 2004 and the first 11 months of 2005. [...]
Meanwhile, the one state in the United States Of America that has legal same sex marriage, Massachusetts, will be among the top ten states — or better — with the largest drop in divorce rates in America during 2004 and 2005. [Emphasis added]
So, to summarize. Massachusetts, widely regarded as the most liberal state in the union, the only state where same-sex marriage is legal, has the nation's lowest divorce rate and its divorce rate continues to decline rapidly. Indeed, the divorce rate in Massachusetts today is lower than the US rate back in the era of "Father Knows Best." Meanwhile, in states where people banned same-sex marriage, divorce rates are high and climbing.
Facts have a way of getting between us and our prejudices.
|© Kent Tenney|
|Today's Bush Joke||Humor & Fun|
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was in Afghanistan the other day where he promised to defeat the Taliban. Didn't we do that already? He's also sworn we will soon capture Saddam Hussein. — Jimmy Kimmel
July 13, 2006
|Bad Vibes||Palestine/Middle East|
It's hard to escape the sickening feeling that Israel is working with the Bush administration to create a crisis where an attack on Iran becomes inevitable. Certainly the scale of the Israeli attacks is so far out of proportion with the claimed provocation that one has to assume that the kidnapping of the Israeli soldiers was merely the excuse for an operation that had already been planned.
And now with the night-time bombing of the fuel depot at the Beirut airport, we have a visual that will inflame the anger of untold millions of people in the Middle East and around the world. Who can doubt that Israel knew how it was going to look on the world's tv screens? What else is one to think but that the goal is to invite more "provocations" to give Israel a pretext for widening the war even further? Is there anyone who imagines that Israel would take these steps without first conferring with the US? How long before they pin blame on Iran? Or Syria? Or both?
It's hard not to think of Ron Suskind's famous conversation with a senior Bush aide. Suskind:
The aide said that guys like me were "in what we call the reality-based community," which he defined as people who "believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality." I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. "That's not the way the world really works anymore," he continued. "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors...and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do."
I hope I'm wrong, but I fear we have just taken a sharp turn into much darker territory.
|West African Black Rhino: Gone Forever||Environment|
The West African black rhino apparently is no more. BBC:
The West African black rhino appears to have become extinct, according to the World Conservation Union (IUCN).
A mission to their last known habitat in northern Cameroon failed to find any rhinos or signs of their existence.
The sub-species has declined in recent decades due primarily to poaching, which has also brought the northern white rhino close to extinction. [...]
But after two decades of warnings, the western black rhino has apparently met its final end, according to the findings of an extensive expedition by three specialists earlier this year. [...]
"They did, however, come across lots of evidence of poaching, and that's the disconcerting thing." [Emphasis added]
So very sad. Is this the best we can do?
|Oil Price Sets Another Record||Peak Oil|
As I write this, oil has soared to $76.30 a barrel — a price we will someday soon look back on with nostalgia.
Update [2:23 PM CDT] - Make that $76.65.
Update [4:55 PM] - $77.40.
Update [5:06 PM] - $77.50.
Update [5:13 PM] - $77.90. Yikes.
Update [5:29 PM] - $78.12.
|© Kent Tenney|
|Today's Bush Joke||Humor & Fun|
President Bush said today we should be patient with North Korea and use diplomacy and not rush into any kind of military actions. You know what that means? No oil over there. — Jay Leno
July 12, 2006
|Friends In High Places||Politics|President Bush and Laura Bush Former President Bush and Barbara Bush today attended the star-studded Houston funeral of Ken Lay. But here's a question. Ken Lay made his fortune by fooling the world into believing in a mirage. He had connections in high places like nobody else. A lot of people, from Bush on down, owed him favors.
So why do we believe he's dead and not retired to some Caribbean isle? He's staring at 20 years jail time and then, poof, he's gone. No open casket. The remains cremated. Convenient. Pure speculation? Of course. But tell me you're not wondering.
In related news, Enron witness found dead in park. Tidying up.
|Bush At Stanford||Media Politics|
Did you know this? I sure didn't. Paul Craig Roberts:
Gentle reader, did you know that, in April, President Bush went to Stanford University to speak to the Hoover Institution fellows at the invitation of former Secretary of State George Shultz but was not allowed on campus? The Stanford students got wind of it and blocked Bush's access to the campus. The Hoover fellows had to go to Shultz's home to hear Bush's pitch for war and more war.
A person might think that it would be national news that Stanford University students would not allow the President of the US on campus. It happened to be a day when hundreds of prospective freshmen were on campus with their parents, many of whom joined the demonstration against Bush. I did not hear or read a word about it. Did you? I learned of it from faculty friends in June when I attended Stanford's graduation to witness a relative receive her degree. The June 16 edition of The Stanford Daily reprinted its April 24 report of the episode. [Emphasis added]
How could this not have been news? Stanford's not just any university. Weird. And pretty unnerving. Where's our free press, now when we need it most?
|© Kent Tenney|
|Today's Bush Joke||Humor & Fun|
We finally found some weapons of mass destruction. The bad news? They're in North Korea. Boy, that Saddam is sneaky. — Jay Leno
July 11, 2006
|Bio Jet Fuel||Peak Oil|
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agencys (DARPA) Advanced Technology Office (ATO) is soliciting proposals...for BioFuels.
The Defense Department has been directed to explore a wide range of energy alternatives and fuel efficiency efforts in a bid to reduce the military's reliance on oil to power its aircraft, ground vehicles and non-nuclear ships. DARPA is interested in proposals for research and development efforts to develop a process that efficiently produces a surrogate for petroleum based military jet fuel (JP-8) from oil-rich crops produced by either agriculture or aquaculture (including but not limited to plants, algae, fungi, and bacteria) and which ultimately can be an affordable alternative to petroleum-derived JP-8. Current commercial processes for producing biodiesel yield a fuel that is unsuitable for military applications, which require higher energy density and a wide operating temperature range. [...]
The goal of the BioFuels program is to enable an affordable alternative to petroleum-derived JP-8. The primary technical objective of the BioFuels program is to achieve a 60% (or greater) conversion efficiency, by energy content, of crop oil to JP-8 surrogate and elucidate a path to 90% conversion. Proposers are encouraged to consider process paths that minimize the use of external energy sources, which are adaptable to a range or blend of feedstock crop oils, and which produce process by-products that have ancillary manufacturing or industrial value. Current biodiesel alternative fuels are produced by transesterification of triglycerides extracted from agricultural crop oils. This process, while highly efficient, yields a blend of methyl esters (biodiesel) that is 25% lower in energy density than JP-8 and exhibits unacceptable cold-flow features at the lower extreme of the required JP-8 operating regime (-50F). The focus of this program is to develop alternative or additional process technologies to efficiently produce an acceptable JP-8 surrogate fuel. Potential approaches may include thermal, catalytic, or enzymatic technologies or combinations of these. It is anticipated that the key technology developments needed to obtain the program goal will result from a cross-disciplinary approach spanning the fields of process chemistry and engineering, materials engineering, biotechnology, and propulsion system engineering. The key challenges are to develop and optimize process technologies to obtain a maximum conversion of crop oil to fuel. The resulting product should comply with current aviation fuel specifications and standards. [Emphasis added]
When push comes to shove and oil shortages get underway in earnest, the military will surely be in a position to push its way to the front of the line. Evidently, they anticipate that being first in line may not be good enough.
Handwriting on the wall.
|© Kent Tenney|
|Today's Bush Joke||Humor & Fun|
The government of Afghanistan has sent a letter to the news stations and all journalists in that country ordering them to report only favorable news about the government. Now I know that sounds harsh, but you have to remember they don't have Fox News over there. — Jay Leno
July 10, 2006
|One Red Paper Clip||Humor & Fun Media|
This is a fun story.
|"A Lot Worse...Than Is Reported"||Iraq|
Establishment journal Foreign Policy interviewed Rod Nordland, Newsweek's Bagdad bureau chief for two years. Excerpt:
FOREIGN POLICY: Are Americans getting an accurate picture of what’s going on in Iraq?
Rod Nordland: It's a lot worse over here [in Iraq] than is reported. The administration does a great job of managing the news. [...]
[I]n the third year of this war, Iraqis are only getting electricity for about 5 to 10 percent of the day. Living conditions have gotten so much worse, violence is at an even higher tempo, and the country is on the verge of civil war. The administration has been successful to the extent that most Americans are not aware of just how dire it is and how little progress has been made. They keep talking about how the Iraqi army is doing much better and taking over responsibilities, but for the most part that's not true.
FP: How often do you travel outside of the Green Zone?
RN: The restrictions on [journalists'] movements are very severe...[T]he military has started censoring many [embedded reporting] arrangements. Before a journalist is allowed to go on an embed now, [the military] check[s] the work you have done previously. They want to know your slant on a story — they use the word slant — what you intend to write, and what you have written from embed trips before. If they don't like what you have done before, they refuse to take you. There are cases where individual reporters have been blacklisted because the military wasn't happy with the work they had done on embed. But we get out among the Iraqi public a whole lot more than almost any American official, certainly more than military officials do. [...]
FP: Are journalists and the military seeing two different pictures in Iraq?
RN: Sometimes it's hard to say. Many in the military are here on their second or third tour and they don't want to feel that this is all a doomed enterprise. I'm not saying it is, but to some extent they are victims of their own propaganda. Two reasonable people can look at the same set of information and come to different conclusions. A good example: I traveled recently to Taji for the handover of a large swath of territory north of Baghdad to the Iraqi Army's 9th Armored Division. This was meant to be a big milestone: an important chunk of territory that has lots of insurgent activity, given over completely to the control of the Iraqi Army. But when we spoke to the Iraqi Army officers, they said they didn't have enough equipment. They are still completely dependent on the U.S. Army for their logistics, their meals, and a lot of their communications. The United States turned territory over to them, but they are not a functioning, independent army unit yet. [Emphasis added]
The sectarian violence grows more vicious with every passing day. It's Hell on Earth. Thanks to us.
|Noxal Not A Major Find After All||Peak Oil|
In March, there were reports that Mexico had discovered an offshore oil field with a potential yield of 10 billion barrels. Finds of that size are very rare these days. But what's that they say about things that seem too good to be true?
Noxal-1, a deepwater Gulf of Mexico well trumpeted in March by Mexican President Vicente Fox as being a major oil discovery, appears [instead] to be a modest gas find.
Speaking on Mar. 14 from the drilling rig in 935 m of water 63 miles off Coatzacoalcos, Fox said the then as-yet-untested well had the potential to produce 10 billion bbl of oil.
However, after the well operated by state-owned Petroleos Mexicanos reached a total depth of 4,000 m, the fourth interval tested has flowed 9 MMcfd of gas from a reserve estimated at 245 bcf, said IHS Energy, Houston. [Emphasis added]
One of the facts of life in a Peak Oil world is that the big oil fields have all been discovered. What remains are small fields in places where the oil is more expensive to extract. Get used to it.
|© Kent Tenney|
|Today's Bush Joke||Humor & Fun|
Frustrated members of the Iraqi Parliament are encouraging the US to form a new government. — Will Durst
July 09, 2006
|Delusional Nonsense From Time||Media|
Gawd, this is stupid. Time:
Even more surprising than the [North Korean missile] test...was Bush's response. Long gone were the zero-tolerance warnings, "Axis of Evil" rhetoric and talk of pre-emptive action.
Instead, Bush pledged to "make sure we work with our friends and allies ... to continue to send a unified message" to Pyongyang. In a news conference after the missile test, he referred to diplomacy a half dozen times.
The shift under way in Bush's foreign policy is bigger and more seismic than a change of wardrobe or a modulation of tone.
Bush came to office pledging to focus on domestic issues and pursue a "humble" foreign policy that would avoid the entanglements of the Bill Clinton years.
After September 11, however, the Bush team embarked on a different path, outlining a muscular, idealistic, and unilateralist vision of American power and how to use it.
They aimed to lay the foundation for a grand strategy to fight Islamic terrorists and rogue states, by spreading democracy around the world and pre-empting gathering threats before they materialize. And the U.S. wasn't willing to wait for others to help.
The approach fit with Bush's personal style, his self-professed proclivity to dispense with the nuances of geopolitics and go with his gut. "The Bush Doctrine is actually being defined by action, as opposed to by words," Bush told Tom Brokaw aboard Air Force One in 2003.
But in the span of four years, the administration has been forced to rethink the doctrine by which it hoped to remake the world. Bush's response to the North Korean missile test was revealing: Under the old Bush Doctrine, defiance by a dictator like Kim Jong Il would have merited threats of punitive U.S. action. Instead, the administration has mainly been talking up multilateralism and downplaying Pyongyang's provocation.
What an utter crock. From start to finish.
What's the difference between North Korea and Iraq? One has enormous oil reserves, lies at the very heart of the world's richest oil-producing region, offers a site for bases to replace the US bases in Saudi Arabia, and was defenseless against US attack. The other, not.
The rest is delusion.
|Thanks A Million More|
Some time last month, unnoticed at the time, Past Peak passed the four million "hit" mark. Visitors have come from nearly 160 countries and territories.
Thanks everyone for your support!
Don't get me wrong: I love nuclear energy! It's just that I prefer fusion to fission. And it just so happens that there's an enormous fusion reactor safely banked a few million miles from us. It delivers more than we could ever use in just about 8 minutes. And it's wireless!
That bright object in the sky: it's up and running, and will be for billions of years.
Meanwhile, classifying nuclear plants as "renewable" — as President Bush and others have done — may seem like some sort of joke, but there's a lot at stake: renewables get tax exemptions and utilities are increasingly mandated to derive a certain percentage of their power from renewable sources. The reality-based community responds.
|© Kent Tenney|
|Today's Bush Joke||Humor & Fun|
According to Tony Snow, the reason Norm Minetta left his Cabinet post of Transportation Secretary is because "he wants to." That's the kind of insight you expect from a Bush Administration spokesperson. — Will Durst
July 08, 2006
|Oil Sands Production Costs Skyrocket||Peak Oil|
One of the facts of life in a Peak Oil world is that the cheap oil has mostly all been pumped. What's left is oil that's going to be increasingly expensive to extract. Take Canadian oil sands. People who see our salvation there don't understand what it's going to cost.
Al Gore puts it starkly in an interview with Rolling Stone:
For every barrel of oil they extract there, they have to use enough natural gas to heat a family's home for four days.
And they have to tear up four tons of landscape, all for one barrel of oil. It is truly nuts. But you know, junkies find veins in their toes. It seems reasonable, to them, because they've lost sight of the rest of their lives.
Fears that cost pressures have spiralled out of control in the northern Alberta oilsands spooked investors Thursday in the wake of news that Shell Canada's Athabasca oilsands project could potentially pay upwards of $11 billion to generate an extra 100,000 barrels of oil a day.
Even in an industry that has seen its share of multibillion-dollar cost overruns to build megaprojects, word that Athabasca's first major expansion could cost 50 per cent higher than the current $7.3 billion pricetag hit oilsands producers hard on the stock market.
Bob Gillon, an energy analyst with John S Herold in Connecticut, said the Athabasca expansion would now cost six times what the original project did, on a daily flowing barrel basis.
"It's not a knock on Shell or this project, everybody's facing it," Gillon said in an interview Thursday.
"But my Lord in heaven. If you're talking about something that cost you six times as much as it did six or eight years ago, even with the move we've had in oil prices, we're getting these things back to where the economics...are going to get skinny in a hurry." [...]
Gillon said at $11 billion, the company is paying twice as much for 100,000 barrels of oilsands crude as it would by buying conventional production.
"Now, it lasts forever and it doesn't decline, and supposedly once you get it running you don't have the maintenance capital to stay in position. But that's not so sure either — sometimes they break, they catch fire."
Gillon said the dramatic cost escalations could ultimately put an end to oilsands companies drawing the largest investment dollars in the energy industry.
A long list of new projects that have not yet begun development might be dropped off the list, said Gillon. [...]
The Athabasca announcement sent shock waves through the market Thursday, affecting other oilsands producers and those currently involved in building new projects. [Emphasis added]
Oil sands production will continue. We addicts need our fix. But this is an early indication that rosy projections about technological supply-side fixes to what is at bottom a demand-side problem need to be treated skeptically. Junkies are experts at denial. And they get everything wrong.
On the bright side, higher oil prices may help us on the global warming front, pushing people to conserve and move to non-carbon-based energy alternatives. One can hope, anyway. Or is that just more denial?
|© Kent Tenney|
|Today's Bush Joke||Humor & Fun|
[On AG Alberto Gonzales announcing that the seven men arrested in Miami with suspected ties to al Qaeda were going to wage a "full ground war" against the United States:] Seven guys? I am not a general. I am not in any way affiliated with a military academy, but I believe if you are going to wage a full ground war against the United States, you need to field at least as many people as, say, a softball team. — Jon Stewart
July 07, 2006
|Neo-Nazis And The US Military||Extremism|
It just keeps getting crazier. NYT:
A decade after the Pentagon declared a zero-tolerance policy for racist hate groups, recruiting shortfalls caused by the war in Iraq have allowed "large numbers of neo-Nazis and skinhead extremists" to infiltrate the military, according to a watchdog organization.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks racist and right-wing militia groups, estimated that the numbers could run into the thousands, citing interviews with Defense Department investigators and reports and postings on racist Web sites and magazines.
"We've got Aryan Nations graffiti in Baghdad," the group quoted a Defense Department investigator as saying in a report to be posted today on its Web site, www.splcenter.org. "That's a problem." [...]
The report said that neo-Nazi groups like the National Alliance, whose founder, William Pierce, wrote "The Turner Diaries," the novel that was the inspiration and blueprint for Timothy J. McVeigh's bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building, sought to enroll followers in the Army to get training for a race war.
The groups are being abetted, the report said, by pressure on recruiters, particularly for the Army, to meet quotas that are more difficult to reach because of the growing unpopularity of the war in Iraq.
The report quotes Scott Barfield, a Defense Department investigator, saying, "Recruiters are knowingly allowing neo-Nazis and white supremacists to join the armed forces, and commanders don't remove them from the military even after we positively identify them as extremists or gang members."
Mr. Barfield said Army recruiters struggled last year to meet goals. "They don't want to make a big deal again about neo-Nazis in the military," he said, "because then parents who are already worried about their kids signing up and dying in Iraq are going to be even more reluctant about their kids enlisting if they feel they'll be exposed to gangs and white supremacists." [...]
Mr. Barfield, who is based at Fort Lewis, Wash., had said that he had provided evidence on 320 extremists there in the past year, but that only two had been discharged. He also said there was an online network of neo-Nazis.
"They're communicating with each other about weapons, about recruiting, about keeping their identities secret, about organizing within the military," he said. "Several of these individuals have since been deployed to combat missions in Iraq." [...]
An article in the National Alliance magazine Resistance urged skinheads to join the Army and insist on being assigned to light infantry units. [...]
"Light infantry is your branch of choice because the coming race war and the ethnic cleansing to follow will be very much an infantryman's war," he wrote. "It will be house-to-house, neighborhood-by-neighborhood until your town or city is cleared and the alien races are driven into the countryside where they can be hunted down and 'cleansed.'"
He concluded: "As a professional soldier, my goal is to fill the ranks of the United States Army with skinheads. As street brawlers, you will be useless in the coming race war. As trained infantrymen, you will join the ranks of the Aryan warrior brotherhood." [Emphasis added]
So-o-o many chickens coming home to roost.
Lucy Borja is executive director of Generación, an organization that helps street kids in Lima, Peru. Here's how she got started. It's a beautiful and inspiring story. Sojourners:
One day back in 1992 Lucy simply felt compassion for two boys — neither older than twelve 12 — who feared to spend the night on the rugged streets of Lima. Lucy only recently had learned of the existence of a subculture of street kids in Lima. Parents sometimes abandon these children — in some cases selling them into servitude — while other young boys and girls flee severe abuse at home. [...]
[W]hen Lucy encountered two young boys who expressed a deep fear for passing the night on the streets, she invited them to use her office as a safe haven. She told them to extend the invitation to any other child who shared their concerns. Since Lucy already had plans to attend a family party that evening, she informed the office custodian to give entry to any child who arrived in search of refuge.
After the party, Lucy decided to check in with her young guests. She hoped that the custodian, upon meeting the ragged vagrants, had not balked at her instructions. She half expected to find the boys sitting on the curb in front of her office, locked out. [...]
Lucy had a puzzle awaiting her that evening at the office. The key unlocked the front door but, try as she might, she could not shove it open. It felt like someone had lodged a rolled-up carpet behind the door to block the entry. With the help of her sons, Lucy finally moved the door to create enough space to squeeze through and pass inside the building.
As she reached blindly in the dark in search of the light switch, Lucy tripped over the "carpet roll." She caught her balance and leaned her body against the wall. Holding her pose, her fingers continued to work the wall until they eventually found the light switch and flicked it upward.
Lucy initially looked down at her feet and discovered several young kids curled up on the floor, sleeping, their bodies jammed against the door. She then cast her vision around the room, though it was hard to register at first what she saw. Every nook and cranny of the office was covered with sleeping children. "I even found young kids snuggled tightly inside the cupboards where we stored our office supplies," Lucy said.
Lucy counted more than 600 children who slept in her office that night. The word had passed like wildfire on the streets of Lima. Found: a shelter from the storm.
At that moment, Lucy did not know all the details that caused these boys and girls to run scared. But she clearly sensed that her life would never be the same. "Those children, stacked one against the other asleep on the floor of my office, looked so defenseless and vulnerable," Lucy said in a slow, soft voice. "They had no one to be their advocate, to defend their rights," she added. "I knew then what path I had to take."
It started with one small act of instinctive kindness.
You start from where you are. You take one small step towards the world. If it's the right step, and if you're open to going where it leads you, you find the world takes ten steps toward you. You don't have to know where the journey will end. You just have to take the next step. Your reward: a life worth living.
|Wildfires Boosted By Global Warming||Environment|
One of the most ominous aspects of global warming is the many ways in which it is self-reinforcing. Warming causes phenomena which lead to more warming, in ever-strengthening feedback loops. Here's an example. Boston Globe:
Global warming may be largely to blame for the increasingly destructive wildfires in the Western United States in the last two decades, new research suggests.
Longer and fiercer wildfire seasons since 1986 are closely associated with warmer summer temperatures, earlier arrival of spring, and earlier snowmelts in the West, scientists reported yesterday in the online edition of the journal Science.
The new findings suggest that the most up-to-date forest management methods may be insufficient to slow the uptick in large forest fires. [...]
Westerling and his colleagues analyzed a comprehensive government database of forest fires larger than about 1,000 acres in the West since 1970. They found a dramatic increase in wildfires after 1986, with large fires four times more frequent than during the preceding years, and burning through 6 1/2 times more area. Also, the average wildfire season increased by 2 1/2 months.
Scientists had previously believed that increased wildfire activity resulted from changes in land use practices. In particular, tactics to suppress fires had allowed dead and dry vegetation to build up in Western forests, providing more fuel for fires.
But the new study shows that most of the increase in wildfires has occurred in the Northern Rocky Mountains, where few land-use changes have occurred. Also, the scientists found that 66 percent of the yearly variation in forest fires could be explained by temperature changes alone, with hotter years producing more fires.
The wildfires were also much more common in years with an early snowmelt, the researchers reported. When snow melts earlier, it allows more time for soil and vegetation to dry out, permitting fires to begin earlier in the season. On average, snowmelt in the West came about a week earlier after 1986, with spring and summer temperatures higher by about 1.6 degrees Fahrenheit.
Thomas W. Swetnam of the University of Arizona, a coauthor of the paper, said he was surprised that the study showed temperature had a greater influence than land-use changes on wildfire activity. Steven W. Running, a forestry professor at the University of Montana who was not involved in the study, said the research shows that climate change is already making its impact felt. As he talked, a forest fire burned less than a mile from his office, he said. [Emphasis added]
Atmospheric CO2 leads to warming which leads to wildfires which lead to more atmospheric CO2, and around it goes. Fiddling while the world burns.
|© Kent Tenney|
|Today's Bush Joke||Humor & Fun|
Crime has jumped to its highest level since 1993. I.e., the last time a Bush was in the White House. Coincidence? I think not. — Will Durst
July 06, 2006
|© Kent Tenney|
|Today's Bush Joke||Humor & Fun|
Do you know this story? Today President Bush criticized the New York Times for revealing a government program to spy on people's bank accounts. President Bush defended it. Bush said, "If you want to figure out what bad people are doing, follow the money." He's right. That's how we got Tom DeLay. — Jay Leno
July 05, 2006
|CO2 Benefit To Crops Overestimated||Environment|
Global warming will rob soils of moisture, hurting crop yields. But some studies have seemed to show that increased CO2, which increases photosynthesis, will offset soil moisture effects. New research casts doubt on that conclusion, however, partly because of the damaging effects of ozone, which is also increasing. NASA:
Open-air field trials involving five major food crops grown under carbon-dioxide levels projected for the future are harvesting dramatically less bounty than those raised in earlier greenhouse and other enclosed test conditions — and scientists warn that global food supplies could be at risk without changes in production strategies.
The new findings are based on on-going open-air research at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and results gleaned from five other temperate-climate locations around the world. According to the analysis, published in the June 30 issue of the journal Science, crop yields are running at about 50 percent below conclusions drawn previously from enclosed test conditions.
Results from the open-field experiments, using Free-Air Concentration Enrichment (FACE) technology, "indicate a much smaller [CO2] fertilization effect on yield than currently assumed for C3 crops, such as rice, wheat and soybeans, and possibly little or no stimulation for C4 crops that include maize and sorghum," said Stephen P. Long, a University of Illinois plant biologist and crop scientist.
FACE technology, such as the SoyFACE project at Illinois, allows researchers to grow crops in open-air fields, with elevated levels of carbon dioxide simulating the composition of the atmosphere projected for the year 2050. SoyFACE has added a unique element by introducing surface-level ozone, which also is rising. Ozone is toxic to plants. SoyFACE is the first facility in the world to test both the effects of future ozone and [CO2] levels on crops in the open air.
Older, closed-condition studies occurred in greenhouses, controlled environmental chambers and transparent field chambers, in which carbon dioxide or ozone were easily retained and controlled. [...]
Older studies, as reviewed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, suggest that increased soil temperature and decreased soil moisture, which would reduce crop yields, likely will be offset in C3 crops by the fertilization effect of rising [CO2], primarily because [CO2] increases photosynthesis and decreases crop water use.
Although more than 340 independent chamber studies have been analyzed to project yields under rising [CO2] levels, most plants grown in enclosures can differ greatly from those grown in farm fields, Long said. FACE has been the only technology that has tested effects in real-world situations, and, to date, for each crop tested yields have been "well below (about half) the value predicted from chambers," the authors reported. The results encompassed grain yield, total biomass and effects on photosynthesis. [...]
"The FACE experiments clearly show that much lower [CO2] fertilization factors should be used in model projections of future yields," the researchers said. They also called for research to examine simultaneous changes in [CO2], [O3], and temperature and soil moisture."
While projections to 2050 may be too far out for commercial considerations, they added, "it must not be seen as too far in the future for public sector research and development, given the long lead times that may be needed to avoid global food shortage." [Emphasis added]
It's too bad we were all raised on stories that ended, "And they all lived happily ever after." Maybe that's were we learned complacency. But down here in the real world, not all stories have happy endings. Much of real life is brutal and tragic. Nature is pitiless. If we continue our complacent inaction in the face of the mountain of scientific evidence on global warming, we'll deserve what we get. We cannot say we haven't been warned.
|On Underestimating The Enemy||Politics|
I listened to most of George Lakoff on "On Point" tonight. One thing he said really brought me up short. We think of Bush as the most incompetent president ever, a president who's been wrong on absolutely everything. But, Lakoff said, from Bush's perspective his presidency has been astonishly effective. It has pushed the country in a certain direction farther, faster, than anyone would have thought possible. Since 9/11, Bush has had his way pretty much across the board (Social Security privatization aside). He's taken the country exactly where he wants it to go. That's not incompetence. It's a disgusting thought, but it's also pretty hard to argue with.
A certain path to defeat: underestimating the enemy.
|Oil Price Sets Another New Record||Peak Oil|
Oil topped $75 a barrel today, setting a new record. Reuters:
Oil closed at a record high above $75 a barrel Wednesday on strong U.S. demand and ongoing tensions over Iran's nuclear program.
U.S. crude closed $1.26 higher at $75.19 a barrel after hitting a record $75.40 a barrel trading high earlier Wednesday. The market was was closed Monday and Tuesday for the Independence Day holiday. London Brent crude was up $1.52 at $74.03.
The previous record close was on April 21, 2006.
Prices will continue to zig-zag higher. Demand is growing, supply isn't. Econ 101.
|© Kent Tenney|
|Today's Bush Joke||Humor & Fun|
Warren Buffett announced he's giving away his multi-billion dollar fortune to charity rather than leaving it to his kids. He said he doesn't believe someone's son should inherit his father's position in society. Today President Bush had him put under surveillance. — Jay Leno
July 04, 2006
|© Kent Tenney|
|Today's Bush Joke||Humor & Fun|
To his credit President Bush knew all the protocol when meeting the Japanese prime minister. He's had a lot of practice bowing to oil company executives. — Jay Leno
July 03, 2006
|© Kent Tenney|
|Today's Bush Joke||Humor & Fun|
How about the weather in Washington? Oh my God. The rain, or as they're calling it, Al Gore's revenge. — Jay Leno
July 02, 2006
|© Kent Tenney|
|Today's Bush Joke||Humor & Fun|
At the White House President Bush was going to have a screening of Al Gore's movie on global warming, but they cancelled it because the theater was flooded. — Jay Leno
July 01, 2006
|US Cars Emit Nearly Half Of World's Automotive CO2||Environment|
According to a new report from the Environmental Defense Fund, the US has 30% of the world's cars, but because our cars are less efficient and we drive them more, they account for nearly half (45%) of the world's automotive CO2 emissions.
If we made more efficient cars, we might actually be able to sell some of them to the rest of the world. Just one example of how the claim that conservation hurts the economy is bull.
|© Kent Tenney|
|Today's Bush Joke||Humor & Fun|
President Bush will not concede that global warming may have something to do with this crazy weather though he has been conducting all official business wearing floaties. — Jimmy Kimmel