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September 29, 2006

Air-Conditioning The Arctic Environment

This is the kind of global warming story that really hits you in a visceral way. Chicago Trib:

They never used to need air conditioners up in the Arctic.

But earlier this year, officials in the Canadian Inuit territory of Nunavik authorized the installation of air conditioners in official buildings for the first time. Artificial cooling was necessary, they decided, because summertime temperatures in some southern Arctic villages have climbed into the 80s in recent years.

Inuit families in the region never used to need to shop in grocery stores, either. But the Arctic seas that always stayed frozen well into the summer have started breaking open much earlier, cutting off hunters from the seasonal caribou herds on which their families depend for sustenance.

And experienced Inuit hunters, as comfortable reading ice conditions as professional golfers are reading greens, had seldom fallen through the ice and drowned. But this year in Alaska, more than a dozen vanished into the sea.

"These are men used to running their trap lines, people who know the area well, yet they are literally falling through, they are just gone," said Patricia Cochran, executive director of the Alaska Native Science Commission in Anchorage and chairwoman of the Inuit Circumpolar Council. "The ice conditions are just so drastically different from all of their hunting lifetimes."

It took a while, but global warming, the relentless greenhouse gas phenomenon that most scientists believe has altered climates across much of the rest of the world, appears to have finally breached the northern polar redoubt. And the effects on aboriginal societies trying to hold fast to traditional ways have been jarring.

The people of this far northern Canadian hamlet of 250 used to hunt eider ducks every summer, using the meat and eggs for food and the soft feathers for clothing. But this past summer was the third in a row that the Inuit couldn't reach the nesting grounds because the ice around them was too thin.

The seals have changed, as well.

"Now when we are trying to take the fur off the seals, it's very hard to do," said David Kalluk, 65, a village elder and veteran hunter. "It's like it's burned onto them. Maybe this is because the sea is warmer."

Wayne Davidson, the resident meteorologist in Resolute Bay for 20 years, says monthly temperatures throughout the year are 5 to 11 degrees higher than recent historical averages. For example, Davidson said, the average daily temperature last March was minus 13.4 degrees Fahrenheit, compared with an average of minus 24.2 degrees from 1947 to 1991.

"Science for us in the Arctic is experience," Davidson said. "Resolute used to be a horrible place to live as far as weather is concerned, absolutely brutal. Now it's much milder." [...]

"The basic question of global warming is no longer a subject of dispute in the scientific literature," said Naomi Oreskes, a professor of the history of science at the University of California, San Diego, who reviewed 928 scientific papers about climate change published between 1993 and 2003 and found none challenging evidence of human contributions to global warming.

"The discussion has moved on to how quickly will things change in the future, the rate of ice melting and differing climate models," Oreskes said. "There's almost nobody left anymore who doesn't accept that global warming is real."

It certainly feels real enough to the people of Resolute Bay. From their perch on the edge of the Barrow Strait, they watched this summer as the waters of their rocky bay melted and filled with drifting icebergs — a view as depressing as it was picturesque, because in years past the water remained frozen solid enough to traverse aboard sleds and snowmobiles to their traditional hunting grounds.

"The heat of the sun is different now," said Kalluk, the village elder, trying to make sense of the changes. "I think there is global warming, because snow that has never melted before is starting to melt now." [Emphasis added]

Large-scale satellite studies, etc., are absolutely essential, but nothing hits home like these stories of real people experiencing horrifyingly rapid and profound changes in environments they've lived in for generations. Global warming is here, it's real, and it's accelerating. Welcome to the future, when you need A/C to live in the Arctic.

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Masters Of Denial Environment

According to a report in Nature, NOAA officials scuttled the release of a scientific report linking global warming and increased hurricane activity. AP

A government agency blocked release of a report that suggests global warming is contributing to the frequency and strength of hurricanes, the journal Nature reported Tuesday. [...]

In its own reporting for the journal, Nature said weather experts at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration — part of the Commerce Department — in February set up a seven-member panel to prepare a consensus report on the views of agency scientists about global warming and hurricanes.

According to Nature, a draft of the statement said that warming may be having an effect.

In May, when the report was expected to be released, panel chair Ants Leetmaa received an e-mail from a Commerce official saying the report needed to be made less technical and was not to be released, Nature reported. [...]

NOAA Administrator Conrad Lautenbacher is currently out of the country, but Nature quoted him as saying the report was merely an internal document and could not be released because the agency could not take an official position on the issue.

However, the journal said in its online report that the study was merely a discussion of the current state of hurricane science and did not contain any policy or position statements.

The report drew a prompt response from Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg, D-N.J., who charged that "the administration has effectively declared war on science and truth to advance its anti-environment agenda ... the Bush administration continues to censor scientists who have documented the current impacts of global warming." [...]

Just two weeks ago, researchers said that most of the increase in ocean temperature that feeds more intense hurricanes is a result of human-induced global warming, a study one researcher said "closes the loop" between climate change and powerful storms like Katrina. [...]

In February, a NASA political appointee who worked in the space agency’s public relations department resigned after reportedly trying to restrict access to Jim Hansen, a NASA climate scientist who has been active in global warming research. [Emphasis added]

We look at the ostrich, head buried in the sand, and laugh. But the laugh's on us. Unlike the ostrich, we humans are supposed to know better.

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

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Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

The president of Afghanistan says over the past year, democracy has suffered a setback in his country. On the bright side, at least now he and President Bush have something in common. — Jay Leno

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September 28, 2006

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

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Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

After three long years, our efforts in Iraq have been successful in fostering a new generation of people who hate us. A new National Intelligence Estimate report recently leaked to the New York Times says the war in Iraq has made the overall terrorism problem worse, and has spread Islamic radicalism further than before. Now that sounds bad, but remember, this is from a U.S. intelligence report. Take it with a grain of salt. — Jon Stewart

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September 27, 2006

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

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Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

The U.N. says that there is more torture going on in Iraq than when Saddam was in power. Bush shot back. He said, "That is just the opinion of one individual who doesn't know the difference between regular torture and freedom torture." — Bill Maher

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September 26, 2006

Islam And The Sword: Setting The Record Straight 9/11, "War On Terror"  Palestine/Middle East

Pope Benedict XVI recently caused a world-wide furor by asserting that Muslims are commanded by the Prophet Muhammad to spread Islam "by the sword". Israel's Uri Avnery, writer and peace activist, sets the record straight in an extremely important essay. Excerpts:

Between the present Pope, Benedict XVI, and the present Emperor, George Bush II, there exists a wonderful harmony. Last week's speech by the Pope, which aroused a world-wide storm, went well with Bush's crusade against "Islamofascism", in the context of the "Clash of Civilizations".

In his lecture at a German university, the 265th Pope described what he sees as a huge difference between Christianity and Islam: while Christianity is based on reason, Islam denies it. While Christians see the logic of God's actions, Muslims deny that there is any such logic in the actions of Allah. [...]

In order to prove the lack of reason in Islam, the Pope asserts that the prophet Muhammad ordered his followers to spread their religion by the sword. According to the Pope, that is unreasonable, because faith is born of the soul, not of the body. How can the sword influence the soul?

To support his case, the Pope quoted — of all people — a Byzantine Emperor, who belonged, of course, to the competing Eastern Church. At the end of the 14th century, the Emperor Manuel II Palaeologus told of a debate he had — or so he said (its occurrence is in doubt) — with an unnamed Persian Muslim scholar. In the heat of the argument, the Emperor (according to himself) flung the following words at his adversary:

"Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached". [...]

When Manuel II wrote his treatise, he was the head of a dying empire. He assumed power in 1391, when only a few provinces of the once illustrious empire remained. These, too, were already under Turkish threat.

At that point in time, the Ottoman Turks had reached the banks of the Danube...In 1453, only a few years after Manuel's death, his capital, Constantinople (the present Istanbul) fell to the Turks, putting an end to the Empire that had lasted for more than a thousand years.

During his reign, Manuel made the rounds of the capitals of Europe in an attempt to drum up support. He promised to reunite the church. There is no doubt that he wrote his religious treatise in order to incite the Christian countries against the Turks and convince them to start a new crusade. The aim was practical, theology was serving politics.

In this sense, the quote serves exactly the requirements of the present Emperor, George Bush II. He, too, wants to unite the Christian world against the mainly Muslim "Axis of Evil". Moreover, the Turks are again knocking on the doors of Europe, this time peacefully. It is well known that the Pope supports the forces that object to the entry of Turkey into the European Union.

Is there any truth in Manuel's argument?

The pope himself threw in a word of caution. As a serious and renowned theologian, he could not afford to falsify written texts. Therefore, he admitted that the Qur'an specifically forbade the spreading of the faith by force. He quoted the second Sura, verse 256 (strangely fallible, for a pope, he meant verse 257) which says: "There must be no coercion in matters of faith". [...]

Jesus said: "You will recognize them by their fruits." The treatment of other religions by Islam must be judged by a simple test: How did the Muslim rulers behave for more than a thousand years, when they had the power to "spread the faith by the sword"?

Well, they just did not.

For many centuries, the Muslims ruled Greece. Did the Greeks become Muslims? Did anyone even try to Islamize them? On the contrary, Christian Greeks held the highest positions in the Ottoman administration. The Bulgarians, Serbs, Romanians, Hungarians and other European nations lived at one time or another under Ottoman rule and clung to their Christian faith. Nobody compelled them to become Muslims and all of them remained devoutly Christian.

True, the Albanians did convert to Islam, and so did the Bosniaks. But nobody argues that they did this under duress. They adopted Islam in order to become favorites of the government and enjoy the fruits.

In 1099, the Crusaders conquered Jerusalem and massacred its Muslim and Jewish inhabitants indiscriminately, in the name of the gentle Jesus. At that time, 400 years into the occupation of Palestine by the Muslims, Christians were still the majority in the country. Throughout this long period, no effort was made to impose Islam on them. Only after the expulsion of the Crusaders from the country, did the majority of the inhabitants start to adopt the Arabic language and the Muslim faith — and they were the forefathers of most of today's Palestinians.

There is no evidence whatsoever of any attempt to impose Islam on the Jews. As is well known, under Muslim rule the Jews of Spain enjoyed a bloom the like of which the Jews did not enjoy anywhere else until almost our time. Poets like Yehuda Halevy wrote in Arabic, as did the great Maimonides. In Muslim Spain, Jews were ministers, poets, scientists. In Muslim Toledo, Christian, Jewish and Muslim scholars worked together and translated the ancient Greek philosophical and scientific texts. That was, indeed, the Golden Age. How would this have been possible, had the Prophet decreed the "spreading of the faith by the sword"?

What happened afterwards is even more telling. When the Catholics re-conquered Spain from the Muslims, they instituted a reign of religious terror. The Jews and the Muslims were presented with a cruel choice: to become Christians, to be massacred or to leave. And where did the hundreds of thousand of Jews, who refused to abandon their faith, escape? Almost all of them were received with open arms in the Muslim countries. The Sephardi ("Spanish") Jews settled all over the Muslim world, from Morocco in the west to Iraq in the east, from Bulgaria (then part of the Ottoman Empire) in the north to Sudan in the south. Nowhere were they persecuted. They knew nothing like the tortures of the Inquisition, the flames of the auto-da-fe, the pogroms, the terrible mass-expulsions that took place in almost all Christian countries, up to the Holocaust.

Why? Because Islam expressly prohibited any persecution of the "peoples of the book". In Islamic society, a special place was reserved for Jews and Christians. They did not enjoy completely equal rights, but almost. They had to pay a special poll-tax, but were exempted from military service — a trade-off that was quite welcome to many Jews. It has been said that Muslim rulers frowned upon any attempt to convert Jews to Islam even by gentle persuasion — because it entailed the loss of taxes.

Every honest Jew who knows the history of his people cannot but feel a deep sense of gratitude to Islam, which has protected the Jews for fifty generations, while the Christian world persecuted the Jews and tried many times "by the sword" to get them to abandon their faith.

The story about "spreading the faith by the sword" is an evil legend, one of the myths that grew up in Europe during the great wars against the Muslims — the reconquista of Spain by the Christians, the Crusades and the repulsion of the Turks, who almost conquered Vienna. I suspect that the German Pope, too, honestly believes in these fables. That means that the leader of the Catholic world, who is a Christian theologian in his own right, did not make the effort to study the history of other religions.

Why did he utter these words in public? And why now?

There is no escape from viewing them against the background of the new Crusade of Bush and his evangelist supporters, with his slogans of "Islamofascism" and the "Global War on Terrorism" — when "terrorism" has become a synonym for Muslims. For Bush's handlers, this is a cynical attempt to justify the domination of the world's oil resources. Not for the first time in history, a religious robe is spread to cover the nakedness of economic interests; not for the first time, a robbers' expedition becomes a Crusade.

The speech of the Pope blends into this effort. Who can foretell the dire consequences? [Emphasis added]

As usual, Americans' appalling ignorance of history makes us easy marks for propaganda. You'd think we'd know better. We look at Nazi anti-Semitic propaganda, for example, and wonder how the German people could have allowed themselves to be taken in by the hideous and absurdly exaggerated stereotypes of Jews. How could they have been so gullible, so willing to act as accomplices, so utterly dumb? I guess now we know, first-hand.

[Thanks, Miles]

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2700 Iraq

US troops killed in Iraq as of today: 2703.

And God knows how many Iraqis. For what?

No end in sight.

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

The long and winding road...

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Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

The Venezuelan President went to the U.N. and called Bush the devil. You could tell Bush was offended, because his tail stopped wagging. Bush said, "I would love to answer your ridiculous charge that I'm the devil, but I'm a little too busy this week trying to unite my party behind torturing people." — Bill Maher

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September 25, 2006

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

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Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

Oil has fallen to $60 a barrel. Experts predict it will continue to fall until exactly one minute after the polls close on November 7th. — Jay Leno

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September 24, 2006

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

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Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

On "Dancing with the Stars" the other night, conservative pundit Tucker Carlson is gone. He got the least number of votes. A Republican stopped by a lack of votes — when does that ever happen? — Jay Leno

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September 23, 2006

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

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Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

In his speech, Bush said the United Nations is in danger of losing its credibility. And believe me, when it comes to international affairs, President Bush is an expert on losing credibility. — Jay Leno

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September 22, 2006

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

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Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

Did you know that in midterm elections you don't even get to vote for the president [on screen: Unless Using Diebold Machine]. Remember, you Republicans are the party of Jesus [on screen: And Will Be Crucified on 11/7]. It may look like you die, but in 2008, you will rise again just like the Lord [on screen: Lord Voldemort]. — Stephen Colbert

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September 21, 2006

The "Making Sense" Filter Iran

Retired Air Force Colonel Sam Gardiner (via Billmon):

When I discuss the possibility of an American military strike on Iran with my European friends, they invariably point out that an armed confrontation does not make sense — that it would be unlikely to yield any of the results that American policymakers do want, and that it would be highly likely to yield results that they do not. I tell them they cannot understand U.S. policy if they insist on passing options through that filter. The "making sense" filter was not applied over the past four years for Iraq, and it is unlikely to be applied in evaluating whether to attack Iran.

Once again, we're confronted with a choice between two equally frightening possibilities. Either everything's going according to plan — they wanted chaos and civil war in Iraq and Iraq's eventual breakup into three easy-to-dominate statelets, and they wanted chaos in Afghanistan and, for example, the truly astonishing upsurge in heroin exports that's occurred there — or they're just completely clueless, applying the logic of the compulsive gambler: trying to recoup their losses by doubling and redoubling their bet. Either way, they're out of control, and American democracy looks like so much window dressing.

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California Sues Auto Makers Over Global Warming Economy  Environment

The State of California is suing the big auto makers over the damage caused by global warming. Reuters:

California sued six of the world's largest automakers over global warming on Wednesday, charging that greenhouse gases from their vehicles have caused billions of dollars in damages. The lawsuit is the first of its kind to seek to hold manufacturers liable for the damages caused by their vehicles' emissions, state Attorney General Bill Lockyer said.

It comes less than a month after California lawmakers adopted the nation's first global warming law mandating a cut in greenhouse gas emissions.

California has also targeted the auto industry with first-in-the-nation rules adopted in 2004 requiring carmakers to force cuts in tailpipe emissions from cars and trucks.

Automakers, however, have so far blocked those rules with their own legal action — prompting one analyst to say California's lawsuit represents a way for California to pressure car manufacturers to accept the rules. [...]

Environmental groups hailed the lawsuit, saying it represented another weapon for the state as it seeks to curb greenhouse gas emissions and spur the auto industry to build vehicles that pollute less.

"(California) just passed a new law to cut global warming emissions by 25 percent and that's a good start and this lawsuit is a good next step," said Dan Becker, director of the Sierra Club's Global Warming Program. [...]

The lawsuit seeks monetary damages for past and ongoing contributions to global warming and asks that the companies be held liable for future monetary damages to California.

It said California is spending millions to deal with reduced snow pack, beach erosion, ozone pollution and the impact on endangered animals and fish.

"The injuries have caused the people to suffer billions of dollars in damages, including millions of dollars of funds expended to determine the extent, location and nature of future harm and to prepare for and mitigate those harms, and billions of dollars of current harm to the value of flood control infrastructure and natural resources," it said.

The Center for Automotive Research's Cole said it would be tough for the industry to immediately meet demands from some critics and predicted other states would quickly follow suit should California succeed with the legal action. [...]

In the complaint, Lockyer charges that vehicle emissions have contributed significantly to global warming and have harmed the resources, infrastructure and environmental health of the most populous state in the United States. [Emphasis added]

One of capitalism's fatal flaws: it may just be more profitable to destroy the Earth than to save it. Why doesn't an unregulated market solve environmental crises? Because environmental costs are borne by the public, not by the polluters who cause them. If the market is to function constructively, polluters must be made to pay for the damage they cause. Their profits must suffer. That, and that alone, will give them an incentive to stop.

Who knows if a lawsuit like this will have an appreciable effect, but governments and citizen groups have to bring to bear whatever leverage they can. The automakers won't clean up their act until compelled to do so. They're just following the logic of capitalism: maximize short-term profit, grow or die. Even if they wanted, individually, to reduce pollution, they believe they can't afford to do so unless their competitors simultaneously do so as well. In that sense, they may come to crave regulation as a way to save them from themselves.

[Thanks, Charyn — who likes to be known as "Alert reader Charyn"]

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

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Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

This week, President Bush said he has no plans to invade North Korea. Bush said, "This time, Rumsfeld and I are just going to wing it." — Conan O'Brien

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September 20, 2006

Olbermann Demands An Apology 9/11, "War On Terror"  Media  Politics

[Thanks, Kevin]

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

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Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

General Colin Powell shocked a lot of people in Washington by speaking out against President Bush's policies, saying that the world is beginning to doubt the moral basis of our fight against terrorism. That's what I think he said — it was hard to hear him because he was being hustled out of the room to his cell in Guantanamo Bay. — Jay Leno

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September 19, 2006

Lovelock: Too Late To Turn Back Environment

As we've noted in the past, James Lovelock, the environmental scientist who discovered that CFCs were destroying the ozone layer, and who proposed the Gaia Hypothesis that views terrestrial systems as a sort of self-regulating superorganism, sees a global warming apocalypse coming our way, and quickly. WaPo (via Billmon):

"It's going too fast," he says softly. "We will burn." [...]

"Our global furnace is out of control. By 2020, 2025, you will be able to sail a sailboat to the North Pole. The Amazon will become a desert, and the forests of Siberia will burn and release more methane and plagues will return." [...]

Lovelock's conclusion is straightforward.

To wit, we are poached.

He measured atmospheric gases and ocean temperatures, and examined forests tropical and arboreal (last year a forest the size of Italy burned in rapidly heating Siberia, releasing from the permafrost a vast sink of methane, which contributes to global warming). He found Gaia trapped in a vicious cycle of positive-feedback loops — from air to water, everything is getting warmer at once. The nature of Earth's biosphere is that, under pressure from industrialization, it resists such heating, and then it resists some more.

Then, he says, it adjusts.

Within the next decade or two, Lovelock forecasts, Gaia will hike her thermostat by at least 10 degrees. Earth, he predicts, will be hotter than at any time since the Eocene Age 55 million years ago, when crocodiles swam in the Arctic Ocean.

"There's no realization of how quickly and irreversibly the planet is changing," Lovelock says. "Maybe 200 million people will migrate close to the Arctic and survive this. Even if we took extraordinary steps, it would take the world 1,000 years to recover." [...]

Lovelock's radical view of global warming doesn't sit well with David Archer, a scientist at the University of Chicago and a frequent contributor to the Web site RealClimate, which accepts the reality of global warning.

"No one, not Lovelock or anyone else, has proposed a specific quantitative scenario for a climate-driven, blow the doors off, civilization ending catastrophe," writes Archer. [...]

What's perhaps as intriguing are the top scientists who decline to dismiss Lovelock's warning. Lovelock may be an outlier, but he's not drifting far from shore. Sir David King, science adviser to Prime Minister Tony Blair, saluted Lovelock's book and proclaimed global warming a far more serious threat than terrorism. Sir Brian Heap, a Cambridge University biologist and past foreign secretary of the Royal Society, says Lovelock's views are tightly argued, if perhaps too gloomy. [...]

"I'm an optimist," [Lovelock] says. "I think that after the warming sets in and the survivors have settled in near the Arctic, they will find a way to adjust. It will be a tough life enlivened by excitement and fear." [...]

Lovelock was a prodigy, earning degrees in chemistry and medicine. In the 1950s he designed an electron capture machine, which provided environmentalist Rachel Carson with the data to prove that pesticides infected everything from penguins to mother's milk. Later he took a detector on a ship to Antarctica and proved that man-made chemicals — CFCs — were burning a hole in the ozone. [...]

[Says Paul Ehrlich,] "If Lovelock hadn't discovered the erosion of the ozone, we'd all be living under the ocean in snorkels and fins to escape that poisonous sun." [...]

How will our splendid Spaceship Earth so quickly become the oven of our doom? As we sit at his table in Devon, Lovelock expands on his vision.

It begins with the melting of ice and snow. As the Arctic grows bare — the Greenland ice cap is shrinking far faster than had been expected — dark ground emerges and absorbs heat. That melts more snow and softens peat bogs, which release methane. As oceans warm, algae are dying and so absorbing less heat-causing carbon dioxide.

To the south, drought already is drying out the great tropical forests of the Amazon. "The forests will melt away just like the snow," Lovelock says.

Even the northern forests, those dark cool beauties of pines and firs, suffer. They absorb heat and shelter bears, lynxes and wolves through harsh winters. But recent studies show the boreal forests are drying and dying and inducing more warming.

Casting 30, 40 years into the future, Lovelock sees sub-Saharan lands becoming uninhabitable. India runs out of water, Bangladesh drowns, China eyes a Siberian land grab, and local warlords fight bloody wars over water and energy. [...]

"We like to think of Hurricane Katrina, or a killer heat wave in Europe, as a one-off," he says. "Or we like to think that we'll come up with a technological fix." [...]

Today the environmentally conscious seek salvation in solar cells, recycling and ten thousand wind turbines. "It won't matter a damn," Lovelock says. "They make the mistake of thinking we have decades. We don't."

Lovelock favors genetically modified crops, which require less water, and nuclear energy. Only the atom can produce enough electrical power to persuade industrialized nations to abandon burning fossil fuels. France draws 70 percent of its power from nuclear plants.

But what of Three Mile Island? Chernobyl? Lovelock's shaking his head before you complete the litany. How many people died, he asks. A few hundred? The radiation exclusion zone around Chernobyl is the lushest and most diverse zone of flora and fauna in Eurasia. [...]

"People say, ‘Well, you're 87, you won't live to see this,' " he says. "I have children, I have grandchildren, I wish none of this. But it's our fate; we need to recognize it's another wartime. We desperately need a Moses to take us to the Arctic and preserve civilization.

"It's too late to turn back." [Emphasis added]

What can one say? Of course, you hope that Lovelock's wrong. Utterly wrong. Given his track record, though, you have to think his intuition in these matters is probably quite good. I.e., it may not turn out as bad as he says, but it's probably going to be worse than most people are expecting. And it's happening quickly.

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Gardiner: The Order's Been Given Iran

Retired Air Force Col. Sam Gardiner says we're already at war with Iran. Transcript via ThinkProgress:

BLITZER: How likely is the U.S. strike against Iran? And would it lead to all-out war? Joining us now is retired U.S. Air Force colonel Sam Gardiner. He has taught strategy and military operations at the National War College, the Air War College, and the Naval War College. Colonel thanks very much for coming in. He just prepared a paper for the Century Foundation entitled "Considering the U.S. Military Option For Iran." You speak to a lot of people plugged in. What is your bottom line? How close in your opinion is the Bush Administration to giving that go ahead.

GARDINER: It's been given. In fact, we've probably been executing military operations inside Iran for at least 18 months. The evidence is overwhelming. [...]

BLITZER: When you say it's been given. The president says he wants diplomacy to work to convince the Iranian government to stop enriching uranium, not go forward. "I would tell the Iranian people that we have no desire for conflict." He told David Ignatius of the Washington Post the other day. So what does that mean, the order has been given?

GARDINER: We are conducting military operations inside Iran right now. The evidence is overwhelming. From both the Iranians, Americans, and from congressional sources.

BLITZER: What is "military operation?" Define that.

GARDINER: Sure. They probably have had two objectives going back 18 months. The first was to gather intelligence. Where is the Iranian nuclear program? The second has been to prepare dissident groups for phase two which will be the strike, which will come as the next phase, I think.

BLITZER: Preparing intelligence, that's understandable using all sorts of means. They want to know what the Iranians are up to in terms of their nuclear program. But are you suggesting that U.S. military forces, special operations forces, or others are on the ground right now in Iran.

GARDINER: Yes, sir. Certainly. Absolutely clear — the evidence is overwhelming from lots of sources, and, again, most of them you can read in the public. Seymour Hersh has done good work on it. There are lots of other people who have done that. I have talked to Iranians. I asked an Iranian ambassador to the IAEA, what's this I hear about Americans being there? He said to me, well, we've captured some people who worked with them. We've confirmed that they're there.

BLITZER: Yeah, but, you know, these guys — the Iranians, you can't necessarily believe what they're saying. They could arrest some dissidents in Iran and say these are American spies. They do that all the time.

GARDINER: Sure. Sure. The House Committee on Emerging Threats tried to have a hearing some weeks ago in which they asked the Department of State and Defense to come and answer this question because it's serious enough to be answered without congressional approval, and they didn't come to the hearing. There are sources that I have talked to on the Hill who believe that that's true and that it's being done without congressional oversight.

BLITZER: Look, I was once a Pentagon correspondent many years ago, and in those days and in these days, as Jamie McIntire just reported, and as you well know from your time in active duty in the Pentagon, in the U.S. military, these guys are planning contingency operations for almost everything. If Canada goes to war against the United States, they have a contingency plan.

GARDINER: Okay, two differences. Number one, we have learned from TIME Magazine today that some U.S. naval forces had been alerted for deployment. That is a major step. That's first. Second thing is the sources suggest the plan that's not in the Pentagon. The plan has gone to the White House. That's not normal [contingency] planning. When the plan goes to the White House, that means we've gone to a different state.

BLITZER: You think it's possible there is a little psychological warfare being played on Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, to rattle him. To spread the word. To put out this kind of information. To get him nervous, perhaps a little bit more agreeable to the diplomatic option.

GARDINER: It's possible. It's also possible that this path was selected a long time ago. You recall that even before Gulf II that a time when the president said we have no plan. I have no plan on my desk. In the summer of 2002 we began bombing Iraq. Operation Southern Focus, without congressional approval, without the U.N. sanctions, we went ahead and began bombing.

BLITZER: The argument at that time is if there were violations of the no-fly zone, U.S. war planes were flying in the north and the south and there were rockets or anti-aircraft fire going up, they could take those out.

GARDINER: Yes, but it was a campaign to begin the war before the war began. You know, I would suggest the evidence is there.

BLITZER: You see a similar pattern right now.

GARDINER: Exactly. [Emphasis added]

Fool me once, shame on you...

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Pop Quiz

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Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

Picture your family dead. Just for a second. Are you picturing it? Now go vote. — Jon Stewart, summarizing President Bush's interview with NBC's Matt Lauer

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September 18, 2006

Monday Gumpagraph Gumpagraphs
Today's Gumpagraph. Kent is 'Gumpa' to his grandson Sebastian.
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Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

Last night in his speech to the nation, President Bush called for unity among all Americans unless, of course, you're gay, a Democrat or live in a blue state. — Jay Leno

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September 17, 2006

Sunday Gumpagraph Gumpagraphs
Today's Gumpagraph. Kent is 'Gumpa' to his grandson Sebastian.
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Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

On this day in 1993 Israeli and Palestinian leaders met on the White House lawn and signed the peace accord. Glad they settled that! — David Letterman

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September 16, 2006

Devo Live Culture

Has it really been almost 30 years?

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Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

In his speech to the nation this week, Bush said that we have to fight against people who reject tolerance and despise dissent — and anyone who disagrees with that is a traitor. — Jay Leno

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September 15, 2006

Game Over Vote Fraud

Computer researchers at Princeton have published a demonstration showing how easily Diebold "Accuvote" touchscreen voting machines can be hacked to steal votes from one candidate and redirect them to another.

They wrote a virus that can be installed on a voting machine in less than a minute. Once installed on one machine, it can spread to others, infecting them as well. The virus steal votes in such a way that all records — on the display screen, in memory cards, and in paper printouts — agree on the fraudulent totals. The virus can tell when the machine is being run in a mode used to test the machine's accuracy, and it will provide accurate results during the test. During an actual election, however, the virus steals votes. When the election ends, the virus deletes itself, removing all traces that it was ever there. Fixing these problems will require more than just a software change; the machines' hardware must be changed as well.

So democracy comes down to who's got access to the machines and who's got the better hackers.

Why is this state of affairs tolerated? Yes, people are cynical and people are lazy, but still. It's hard to escape the conclusion that these machines represent the culmination of an elite dream: take the rabble out of the equation without our even knowing it. Preserve the appearance of democracy, but reduce it to a made-for-tv charade.

The only thing that will stop it is public outrage. There are so many things to be outraged about, though, that it's hard for this one to gain traction. But this one is fundamental. If we can't vote, it's pretty much game over.

Details of the study are available here, along with a video that demonstrates the malicious software in use.

[Thanks, Maurice]

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Decline And Fall 9/11, "War On Terror"

This is interesting, and this. The more things change...

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Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

The Senate Intelligence Committee — that almost sounds like an oxymoron — released a report this week saying there's no evidence that Saddam Hussein had a relationship with al Qaeda. Thank God we found that out before we did something crazy. — Jay Leno

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September 14, 2006

Reality Check On Chevron's Find In The Gulf Peak Oil

Ex-CIA analyst Tom Whipple weighs in on the Chevron find in the Gulf of Mexico, discussed here earlier. Excerpts (via EnergyBulletin):

The story broke the morning after Labor Day, when the Wall Street Journal ran a front-page piece reporting that Chevron along with two partners had announced the results of a major oil production test in the Gulf of Mexico. The partners Chevron, Statoil, and Devon Energy ran the test on a well known as Jack No. 2 that was drilled last year in the Lower Tertiary zone of the Gulf of Mexico. This zone is about 80 miles wide, 300 miles long and is located about 175 miles off shore. The well was unusual in that it went to a depth of 28,000 feet and the drilling began under 7,000 feet of water.

Released details of the test noted that a number of technical breakthroughs had been achieved. By using the latest technology, Chevron was able to discern and drill into promising geological structures that had previously been hidden below a layer of sound-absorbing silt. The test, which achieved flow rates of 6,000 barrels per day (b/d), established that oil could be extracted at acceptable rates from very deep deposits. It also set several records for extracting oil under conditions of extreme pressures and temperatures.

Although no formal estimate as to the size of this particular find was announced, background briefers spoke of the possibility that the zone could contain from 3 to 15 billion barrels of oil in scattered deposits. If this speculation were to prove true, it would put the Lower Tertiary in a class with Alaska's Prudhoe Bay and increase domestic US oil reserves by 50 percent.

The news of this great "discovery" naturally was replayed by nearly every newspaper and TV network in the country. Katie Couric ran a segment about the discovery on her first evening news show. Most reporting emphasized the possibility that the US might have found another 15 billion barrels of oil in its own backyard, but tempered the jubilation with the news that the find would have no immediate impact on gasoline prices.

A few, mostly financial journalists, took the announcement as an opportunity to disparage the idea of imminent peak oil. These writers are aware that should world oil production go into decline within the next decade the world's economy would be in a lot of trouble, not to mention the credibility of those who make a living by forecasting decades of growth ahead. Therefore, they eagerly accepted the dubious premise that this one test proves that plenty of oil can be found by drilling deeper so long as oil prices remain high enough to support the costs of ultra-deep oil production; advanced technology is used to the fullest; and environmental restrictions are lifted. Several pronounced peak oil a dead issue.

As the week wore on however, knowledgeable geologists and petroleum engineers began to question all the euphoria. First they noted that the Jack No. 2 test was not conducted on a single oil field that might contain 15 billion barrels oil. Rather, it was one test of a well in a zone that extends for hundreds of miles under the Gulf of Mexico. Whatever producible oil the zone contains will likely be found in numerous smaller deposits.

A number of wells have already been sunk in the Lower Tertiary. Some were dry holes and a few struck oil bearing rock, which may have the potential to produce oil profitably. So far, only a handful of these exploratory wells have struck deposits of light oil, which may be possible to produce. Others have struck thicker oils that may be impossible to extract from extreme depths at acceptable rates.

What seems to be turning up in the deeper waters of the Gulf are a series of smaller oil fields — some of which may someday be profitable to produce and some of which probably won't. Extrapolating this situation to a major new discovery that will delay the onset of peak oil is clearly a reach.

To extract oil from 20,000 feet below the surface, where the pressures run to 20,000 pounds per square inch (psi) and the temperature of the oil is in the order of 200 degrees centigrade, is going to be a major technical challenge. Wells drilled to these depths will cost in the range of $100 million each. To drill and set in place the production equipment for one of these fields may cost on the order of $1.5 billion, or more, as the cost of oil production equipment is inflating rapidly.

Add to this the problem of what to do with very hot oil and the associated natural gas as it comes flowing to the top of a well 7,000 feet under the Gulf and 175 miles from shore. The decision to attempt production from these ultra-deep fields will not be taken lightly by the oil companies involved.

Although there are no geopolitical problems or nationalistic governments involved in producing oil from the Gulf of Mexico, the fields are right in its center — out where the Category 4 and 5 hurricanes really get wound up. On top of this there are questions of how much oil can be extracted from an ultra-deep field with extreme pressures. Although the recent test produced 6,000 barrels a day, for a month, a knowledgeable old geologist opined that he would like to see a test run for a year or more before committing billions to a whole new regime of oil production.

Assuming that producing oil from the Lower Tertiary turns out to be economically and technically feasible, will new production from the region have anything to do with delaying peak oil? The answer is an emphatic NO.

Knowledgeable observers who have commented on the issue agree that even if all goes well, it is unlikely that more than 300-500,000 b/d of production could come into production from all the possible fields in the Lower Tertiary over the next five to seven years. In the meantime, the world will have burned another 150 to 200 billion barrels of oil and US production from existing fields will decline from the current 5 million b/d to somewhere around 4 million b/d.

This suggests that it will take some spectacular and unlikely gains from new production to offset the natural decline currently underway in the US. Of still greater concern is production from Mexico's giant 2 million b/d Cantarell oilfield, most of which is exported to the US. Creditable reports suggest that Cantarell is entering very rapid depletion and may be producing at a fraction of its current level five years from now. It would be virtually impossible for this level of new production from the Lower Tertiary to come online in the next five years.

So long as the world continues to consume some 31 billion barrels of oil a year, there is still nothing in sight that can forestall imminent peak oil. [Emphasis added]

The human capacity for denial should never be underestimated. And whenever a major new energy find is ballyhooed in the financial press, wait to read the fine print. Nowadays, it seems, the initial euphoria always turns out to have been exaggerated, usually extremely so.

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Arctic Sea Ice Shrinking Rapidly In Winter, Too Environment

The strongest evidence yet of the accelerating impact of global warming in the Arctic (New Scientist):

The amount of Arctic sea ice is shrinking not only in the summer but in the winter as well, a NASA scientist reported on Wednesday. Researchers are linking the change directly to global warming.

In 2005 and 2006, the extent of winter ice was about 6% smaller than the average amount over the past 26 years. The retreat is also significantly larger than the long-term decrease of 1.5% to 2% in winter ice cover observed per decade over the same time period.

Researchers have long known that warmer temperatures have been causing more and more ice to melt during summer in the northern hemisphere, with the last four summers showing record lows in ice cover.

Now, Josefino Comiso of NASA’s Cryospheric Sciences Branch in Greenbelt, Maryland, US, has used satellite data stretching back to 1979 to show that less of the meltwater is refreezing in the wintertime.

"It is the strongest evidence yet in the Arctic of global warming," Comiso said in a press conference on Wednesday.

Mark Serreze, a senior research scientist for the US National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado, who is not on the team, agrees. "There is lots of natural climate variability — it is a complex science — but the best explanation of what we are seeing is the emerging signs of greenhouse warming," he said. "What we see in the Arctic is a [dead] canary in the coal mine."

"I hate to say we told you so," Serreze said of predictions on global warming from the past five years, "but, we told you so."

Comiso found that from 1979 to 2004, the extent of winter ice in the Arctic remained virtually the same — despite reductions in summer cover.

He believes the recent decline is due to a reduction in the length of the Arctic ice season and unusually warm wintertime temperatures in the region. Serreze agrees: "What is different this year is what is happening in winter."

"If the winter ice retreat continues, the effect could be very profound — especially for marine mammals," Comiso says.

Polar bears, which rely on drifting ice to hunt seals, are believed to be hit especially hard by the diminishing icepack. In Canada's Hudson Bay, the bears' population has dropped 21%, from an estimated 1200 individuals in 1989 to 950 in 2004, according to Claire Parkinson, also of NASA's Cryospheric Sciences Branch. [Emphasis added]

Humans evolved to react to sudden changes in their environment: sabre-tooth tigers didn't pounce in slow motion. What suited us in the past may just kill us in the future, though. Slow changes don't get our hearts pumping, but that doesn't mean they're not deadly.

[Thanks, Sue]

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

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Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

You are joining us on September 12th, which as you know, is the fifth anniversary of the misappropriation of the events of September 11th. — Jon Stewart

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September 13, 2006

Taking The Long View Activism  Environment  Ethics

Somehow or other, we need to foster the mental and moral habit of taking the long view. We need to visualize humanity and the Earth as here to stay, not just for 7 generations, but for 7 hundred, 7 thousand, or 7 million. Consider this (from WorldChanging):

The KEO project aims to launch a satellite into an orbit which will decay over 50,000 years, eventually returning the capsule and its contents to Earth intact.

The capsule will contain what the folks putting together the project imagine will be an archeological treasure-trove for future generations: an astronomical clock; a diamond-encased set of samples (of sea water, fertile soil and human blood [before any genetic engineering], a library (with instructions for decoding), portraits of people from all the major contemporary ethnic groups (since the ethnic make-up of humanity will undoubtedly be completely transformed in 50Ks) and a bunch of messages contributed by supporters.

Like Stewart's Clock of the Long Now, Jaron Lanier's library written in cockroach DNA, or Jamais' Retrospect Project, the real value here is in getting us to think of responsibilities and continuities that extend 50,000 years. After all, when we think of building a future, we ought to be imagining a future that goes on a very, very long time, for simply conjuring the idea of our decendents living here on this planet fifty millennia hence changes the meaning of our lives and actions today. [Emphasis added]

A time capsule, yes, but more than that. It will be up there, overhead, not buried somewhere out of sight. I like the symbolism of it, and the implied optimism. When was the last time any of us seriously contemplated humanity 50 millenia hence? Consider the responsibility such a time horizon entails, the reverberations down the millenia of the choices we make today.

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Today's Gumpagraph. Kent is 'Gumpa' to his grandson Sebastian.
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Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

[Monday was] a very solemn day — the fifth anniversary of 9/11. It's a time for the nation to reflect, come together and watch TV. What better way to commemorate a national tragedy than turning it into a mini-series? It's called "The Path to 9/11." I watched it last night. It's very educational. I know, because I yawned out loud. As ABC's epic disclaimer explains, it's based on the 9/11 commission report and some other stuff [on screen: Mad Libs]. — Stephen Colbert

The big controversy, of course, is the 9/11 mini-series because people are upset that it's not accurate. Because as you know, nothing is typically more accurate than the made-for-television movie. Why shouldn't 9/11 get the same respect that the Amy Fisher story gets? I mean, these are network executives making decisions about these films. Be thankful the Condoleezza Rice character is still black. — Jon Stewart

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September 12, 2006

Rationalizing Our Way To Disaster Global Guerrillas  Iraq  War and Peace

John Robb talks sense, as usual:

We are now at the start of a long process of rationalization over the US defeat in Iraq. The most common of these rationalizations include: if only we had "...not disbanded the Baathist army," "...sent in more troops," or "...become better at nation-building." However, in each case the approach is one dimensional, since we tend to view ourselves as the only actors on the stage. The actions and reactions of the opposition are discounted and explained away as fluff and background noise (those pesky terrorists...).

A better, and more sane approach, is to embrace the concept that war is a conflict of minds. There are two sides. For every change in approach there will be counters mounted by the opposition. In the case of Iraq, that opposition was extremely difficult to beat since it was organized along the lines of open source warfare. This organizational structure gave it a level of innovation, resilience, and flexibility that made it a very effective opponent. Given this, the simplest explanation for the outcome in Iraq is that we were just beaten by a better opponent (the Israeli's seem to be getting this, why can't we?).

The real question we should be asking ourselves is whether or not our maximalist goals in Iraq could ever have been achieved given the capabilities of the opposition and the limited levels of commitment we were able to bring to to bear on the problem. I suspect the answer is no. The goals didn't match our capabilities and there weren't any simple tweaks to our strategy that would have changed the outcome. This was a difficult way to learn this lesson, but given our tendency towards rationalization, I doubt that it will be learned at all.

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. [Emphasis added]

There's a fundamental irrationality in the Pentagon's approach to fighting this new kind of war: namely, its reliance on high-tech weapons — i.e., machines that kill — instead of methods that produce a political outcome. No amount of killing will produce the desired political outcome. Working at a political level is hard work, though — all those languages to be learned, and so on. Not much money in it, either. Way more fun and way more profit in building high-tech weapons, even if, in the long run, they cannot win. The weapons makers still get paid regardless, and if there's anything humans are good at, it's rationalizing their own self-interest.

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Re-Greening The World Activism  Environment  Science/Technology

I must confess that things have sometimes felt pretty hopeless to me of late. But this is an antidote. It's positively brilliant. Do yourself a favor, stop what you're doing, and watch it. Excerpt:

We could re-green the Middle East. We could re-green any desert and we could de-salt it at the same time...You can fix all the world's problems in a garden. You can solve 'em all in a garden, you can solve all your pollution problems and supply-line needs in a garden. Most people today don't actually know that, and that makes most people today very insecure.

How's it done? Watch the video.

Anyone can do it; it's based on know-how, not massive capital investment. And it's based on humbly cooperating with Nature, not aggressively trying to dominate it.

I love this kind low-tech, common-sense solution to problems.

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9/11 Commentary By Olbermann 9/11, "War On Terror"

A blistering commentary by Keith Olbermann on the fifth anniversary of 9/11:

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Another challenge for y'all...

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Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

This weekend it's going to be all programming to commemorate the fifth anniversary of 9/11. All the networks are getting into it. CBS is showing their 9/11 documentary. And ABC has their "Path to 9/11" docudrama. And, of course, Fox is going with Ryan Seacrest's "Rockin' 9/11 Countdown."

The controversial one is this ABC one, "The Path to 9/11." The original title was "Sheiks on a Plane." This is controversial because apparently it's very heavily slanted and it blames 9/11 on Bill Clinton. It makes Bush out to be a saint, which is kind of ridiculous because if Bush is gonna be on any ABC program, it should be "Lost." — Bill Maher

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September 11, 2006

Dean Of Energy Analysts On Our Oil Future Peak Oil

80-year-old Henry Groppe, Jr., an "elder statesman" of the oil industry and one of its most successful forecasters of oil price trends, on our near-term energy future (Houston Chronicle, via OilDrum):

Houston was rocking and rolling in 1980, with oil at $40 a barrel and some people in the industry predicting it would soar to $100.

One of the few dissenting voices, Henry Groppe Jr., forecasted that by 1985 oil would fall to $15.

"This guy's a nut," Houston energy analyst Matt Simmons recalled an oil executive telling him then. "He ought to be locked up in a straitjacket." [...]

After oil plunged to $14 in 1986, Groppe was "treated like a prophet with a crystal ball," Simmons recalled.

Groppe, whose name rhymes with copy, has no crystal ball but does claim to see the future and has, in fact, an excellent record on long-term energy forecasts, according to people in the industry.

"We are entering an unprecedented event in world economic history," he said. Oil production is straining to meet demand at a time when China and India are developing huge consumer classes relatively overnight, and hundreds of millions more people will have vastly increased demands for energy.

In the future, he said, "perhaps the biggest geopolitical conflicts will involve the U.S. against the rest of the developing world, including China and India, over oil."

Groppe sees oil hovering in a range of no less than $55 to $65 a barrel for the next 10 years and likely much more because unforeseeable political unrest and weather will drive prices up.

He has hung his hat — he always wears a hat when outdoors — for more than 50 years at Groppe, Long & Littell, a firm that has, he says, "successfully forecasted every change of direction [in the oil markets] in the last 30 to 40 years."

His clients have included Shell Oil Co., Chevron Corp. and Apache Corp.

"He has as deep and broad an understanding of the global energy picture as anybody on the planet," said Donald Evans, former secretary of commerce under President George W. Bush and CEO of the trade association Financial Services Forum. "He has been directionally correct on energy prices since I have known him."

"Historically, he's been very accurate," said Gary Petersen, a partner at EnCap Investments, a firm that manages money for major U.S. institutions with investments earmarked for the oil and gas business.

Peterson described Groppe as "a senior statesman for the industry." [...]

Working with others, he is playing a key role in establishing the Energy Institute at the University of Texas, which will have a mission of fostering research to develop a sustainable energy supply. The institute is in the formative stage, pending final approval. [...]

He and his partners at Groppe, Long & Littell rely on research they've gathered since 1955.

His energy views are not shared by the U.S. Department of Energy, which forecasts that production will continue to rise during the next 24 years.

To avoid a global crisis, Groppe thinks that Americans should use the next 10 years, a time in which production output is expected to peak, to transition into new energy-usage habits.

"We must rely more on nuclear power and alternative energy supplies and use all energy more efficiently," he said.

He is no fan of ethanol, which he calls "pure farm-bloc subsidy." The energy spent on producing it is greater than the output, he said, "not to mention depletion of the topsoil."

Some analysts said that after U.S. military action, oil production in Iraq would rise, but Groppe predicted instability, disruption and lower oil production for at least eight years.

Groppe, who sat with Bush on the board of directors of the Tom Brown oil company headed by Evans, has strong misgivings about the president's decision to invade Iraq.

Until the invasion, said Groppe, who describes himself as politically independent, the U.S. had an energy policy based on the notion that the West could not do without Middle Eastern oil, and the U.S. would maintain absolute control over the Gulf: "Make it our lake. Never allow any of the five major powers — Israel, Syria, Egypt, Iraq and Iran — to get too strong or weak.

"That was an energy policy that worked. The invasion of Iraq was one of the most damaging moves anybody could make because he took out one of those five powers. You set in motion a series of cascading events that will unfold in uncontrollable ways for decades, including the strengthening of Iran's hand." [Emphasis added]

Groppe's an interesting guy, not at all what you think of when you think of a world-class energy markets analyst. At age 80, he eats brown rice and tofu, and for decades he's been involved in a variety of progressive causes, from civil rights, to preventive medicine, to the use of biofeedback in the treatment of addictions. See the article cited.

When it comes to analyzing oil markets, thought, he's not some amateur trying to sell books. He's a pro whose clients are pros. They pay him to provide an accurate assessment of what lies in store, and he's been very, very good at it.

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

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Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld had surgery on his shoulder yesterday. Apparently, he wrenched it while trying to pull his foot out of his mouth. — Jay Leno

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September 10, 2006

Laptop Woes Continue

Crashing all the time now. Stay tuned...

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

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Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

After two months of controversy following the Mexican election, the electoral court declared Felipe Calderon as the president of Mexico. Imagine that — a court having to decide a presidential election. What a backward country that is. — Jay Leno

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September 09, 2006

Bob Fest Activism

Just got back from Fighting Bob Fest in Baraboo. A chilly afternoon for an outdoor event, but it was most inspiring nonetheless. Speakers included Jim Hightower, Amy Goodman, Senator Tom Harkin, and Greg Palast, all of whom were excellent.

Something Amy Goodman said really struck me. She was talking about women and the power of movements, and she got on the topic of Rosa Parks. She said that the popular idea of Rosa Parks is of an ordinary seamstress, tired at the end of a long day, who just spontaneously decided not to give her bus seat to a white passenger. In fact, Parks was an activist, the secretary of the local NAACP chapter, with some experience in strategizing for direct action. But US media seem to think that being an activist somehow de-legitimizes a person, when it should do the opposite. What could be more legitimate than devoting oneself to bettering the world.

But here was the striking thing. Amy Goodman said that the day everyone remembers, December 1, 1955, was not the first time Parks had refused to vacate her seat. But those other times, nothing much had happened. And then came the day that lit the spark that launched the modern civil rights movement. There's a lesson there. You never know what moment, what act, will become the tipping point. You just live your life according to principles of justice and speaking truth to power. And any moment of that life may turn out to be a catalyst that reverberates down through time, in a sort of activist version of the Butterfly Effect.

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

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Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

NBC anchor Brian Williams interviewed President Bush. He asked him about his poll numbers and President Bush said, "The key for me is to keep expectations low." I think you can accurately say, "Mission Accomplished." — Jay Leno

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September 08, 2006

Thawing Permafrost Is Releasing Methane Five Times Faster Than Previously Thought Environment

As we've noted here many times, global warming is setting in motion a variety of feedback loops that tend to make warming self-reinforcing. One of the most dangerous of these is the release of methane from thawing permafrost, in Siberia especially (see this and this).

Well, like everything else about global warming, it turns out that methane release is happening faster than anyone expected. Five times faster. AP:

Global warming gases trapped in the soil are bubbling out of the thawing permafrost in amounts far higher than previously thought and may trigger what researchers warn is a climate time bomb.

Methane, a greenhouse gas 23 times more powerful than carbon dioxide, is being released from the permafrost at a rate five times faster than [previously] thought, according to a study being published Thursday in the journal Nature. The findings are based on new, more accurate measuring techniques.

"The effects can be huge," said lead author Katey Walter of the University of Alaska at Fairbanks said. "It's coming out a lot and there's a lot more to come out."

Scientists worry about a global warming vicious cycle that was not part of their already gloomy climate forecast: Warming already under way thaws permafrost, soil that has been continuously frozen for thousands of years. Thawed permafrost releases methane and carbon dioxide. Those gases reach the atmosphere and help trap heat on Earth in the greenhouse effect. The trapped heat thaws more permafrost and so on.

"The higher the temperature gets, the more permafrost we melt, the more tendency it is to become a more vicious cycle," said Chris Field, director of global ecology at the Carnegie Institution of Washington, who was not part of the study. "That's the thing that is scary about this whole thing. There are lots of mechanisms that tend to be self-perpetuating and relatively few that tend to shut it off." [...]

Using special underwater bubble traps, Walter and her colleagues found giant hot spots of bubbling methane that were never measured before because they were hard to reach.

"I don't think it can be easily stopped; we'd really have to have major cooling for it to stop," Walter said.

Scientists aren't quite sure whether methane or carbon dioxide is worse. Methane is far more powerful in trapping heat, but only lasts about a decade before it dissipates into carbon dioxide and other chemicals. Carbon dioxide traps heat for about a century. [Emphasis added]

The horrifying thing about these feedback loops is that at some point it's no longer going to matter much what we do — the process will have taken on a life of its own, accelerating out of control, leading finally to a new equilibrium in the form of a very different planet from the one we know.

All of which makes our obsessive worrying about the threat of a possible terrorist attack seem grotesquely foolish. Survival depends on accurately assessing and prioritizing threats. But people seem to have a hard time mobilizing against a threat that doesn't have a human face. And of course war-profiteers are a whole lot better at playing the political game than are a bunch of climate scientists and environmentalists. But just imagine if the resources that have gone into selling us the "war on terror" had gone instead into informing us about the really important threats we face.

[Thanks, Miles]

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

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Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

It was announced in England that Tony Blair will leave as British Prime Minister in May. So, President Bush has toppled yet another government. — Jay Leno

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September 07, 2006

Chevron's Find In The Gulf Peak Oil

A reader emailed to complain that I haven't posted anything on Chevron's announced discovery of a significant deepwater oil/gas field in the Gulf of Mexico. So let's look at it.

Some skepticism is called for. In March, Mexico announced discovery of a Gulf of Mexico oil field with the potential to yield 10 billion barrels. By July, it turned out that the field was a modest natural gas find equivalent to less than 1% of the original 10 billion barrel figure. Oops.

According to Energy Bulletin, Mexico's original announcement may have been politically motivated to pressure Mexico's parliament, which was soon to vote on the budget for PEMEX (the Mexican national oil company) and possible expansion of its drilling rights.

Here in the US, coincidentally enough, Congress is about to take up a bill that would "end a 25-year bipartisan moratorium on coastal drilling". (Newsday) Coincidentally or not, the timing of Chevron's announcement is great news for the people who want offshore drilling opened up.

But let's assume the announcement turns out to be on the level. And let's assume it comes in at the midpoint of their announced potential — i.e., at 9 billion barrels. How much oil is that? Enough to supply the world for 3 to 4 months. Nothing to sneeze at, but not the answer to our problems. Best case, it will be years before the newly discovered field is producing at a substantial rate. The world's not going to stand still in the meantime. Demand will continue its exponential growth as long as there's enough supply available. Meanwhile, most of the world's important oil fields are already in decline.

Peak oil is not the end of oil. It's the beginning of the end of oil. It's the end of cheap oil. Deepwater oil isn't cheap. World oil discoveries peaked over 40 years ago, but oil will continue to be discovered. It just won't be discovered quickly enough to offset decline.

Or look at it another way. It's great that Chevron found oil five miles below the surface of the Gulf. But why are they even looking for oil five miles below the surface of the Gulf, considering the enormous additional cost involved? It's because all the easy oil was discovered long ago. This is exactly what peak oil looks like: increasingly expensive scrambling for the last remaining reservoirs of oil on the planet.

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

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Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

Karl Rove's new talking point for the Republicans is that the terrorists are like the Nazis, and anyone against the Iraq War is like the appeasers before World War II. If that doesn't work they're going to use Bush's analogy, where bin Laden is a Klingon and he's Captain Kirk. — Bill Maher

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September 06, 2006

CIA Task Force On Iraq Ramped Up Months Before 9/11 9/11, "War On Terror"  Iraq  Politics

David Corn drops some bombshells in an article on what it was Valerie Plame Wilson really did at the CIA:

In the spring of 2002 Dick Cheney made one of his periodic trips to CIA headquarters. Officers and analysts were summoned to brief him on Iraq. Paramilitary specialists updated the Vice President on an extensive covert action program in motion that was designed to pave the way to a US invasion. Cheney questioned analysts about Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction. How could they be used against US troops? Which Iraqi units had chemical and biological weapons? He was not seeking information on whether Saddam posed a threat because he possessed such weapons. His queries, according to a CIA officer at the briefing, were pegged to the assumptions that Iraq had these weapons and would be invaded — as if a decision had been made.

Though Cheney was already looking toward war, the officers of the agency's Joint Task Force on Iraq — part of the Counterproliferation Division of the agency's clandestine Directorate of Operations — were frantically toiling away in the basement, mounting espionage operations to gather information on the WMD programs Iraq might have. The JTFI was trying to find evidence that would back up the White House's assertion that Iraq was a WMD danger. Its chief of operations was a career undercover officer named Valerie [Plame] Wilson. [...]

In July 2003 — four months after the invasion of Iraq — Wilson would be outed as a CIA "operative on weapons of mass destruction" in a column by conservative journalist Robert Novak, who would cite two "senior administration officials" as his sources. (...[O]ne was Richard Armitage, the number-two at the State Department; Karl Rove, Bush's chief strategist, was the other. I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Cheney's chief of staff, also talked to two reporters about her.) Novak revealed her CIA identity — using her maiden name, Valerie Plame — in the midst of the controversy ignited by former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, her husband, who had written a New York Times op-ed accusing the Bush Administration of having "twisted" intelligence "to exaggerate the Iraqi threat."

The Novak column triggered a scandal and a criminal investigation. At issue was whether Novak's sources had violated a little-known law that makes it a federal crime for a government official to disclose identifying information about a covert US officer (if that official knew the officer was undercover). A key question was, what did Valerie Wilson do at the CIA? Was she truly undercover? In a subsequent column, Novak reported that she was "an analyst, not in covert operations." White House press secretary Scott McClellan suggested that her employment at the CIA was no secret. Jonah Goldberg of National Review claimed, "Wilson's wife is a desk jockey and much of the Washington cocktail circuit knew that already."

Valerie Wilson was no analyst or paper-pusher. She was an operations officer working on a top priority of the Bush Administration. Armitage, Rove and Libby had revealed information about a CIA officer who had searched for proof of the President's case. In doing so, they harmed her career and put at risk operations she had worked on and foreign agents and sources she had handled. [...]

In the early 1990s, she became what's known as a nonofficial cover officer. NOCs are the most clandestine of the CIA's frontline officers. They do not pretend to work for the US government; they do not have the protection of diplomatic immunity. They might claim to be a businessperson. She told people she was with an energy firm. Her main mission remained the same: to gather agents for the CIA.

In 1997 she returned to CIA headquarters and joined the Counterproliferation Division. (About this time, she moved in with Joseph Wilson; they later married.) She was eventually given a choice: North Korea or Iraq. She selected the latter. Come the spring of 2001, she was in the CPD's modest Iraq branch. But that summer — before 9/11 — word came down from the brass: We're ramping up on Iraq. Her unit was expanded and renamed the Joint Task Force on Iraq. Within months of 9/11, the JTFI grew to fifty or so employees. Valerie Wilson was placed in charge of its operations group. [...]

"We knew nothing about what was going on in Iraq," a CIA official recalled. "We were way behind the eight ball. We had to look under every rock." Wilson, too, occasionally flew overseas to monitor operations. She also went to Jordan to work with Jordanian intelligence officials who had intercepted a shipment of aluminum tubes heading to Iraq that CIA analysts were claiming — wrongly — were for a nuclear weapons program. [...]

The JTFI found nothing. The few scientists it managed to reach insisted Saddam had no WMD programs. Task force officers sent reports detailing the denials into the CIA bureaucracy. The defectors were duds — fabricators and embellishers. (JTFI officials came to suspect that some had been sent their way by Ahmad Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress, an exile group that desired a US invasion of Iraq.) The results were frustrating for the officers. Were they not doing their job well enough — or did Saddam not have an arsenal of unconventional weapons? Valerie Wilson and other JTFI officers were almost too overwhelmed to consider the possibility that their small number of operations was, in a way, coming up with the correct answer: There was no intelligence to find on Saddam's WMDs because the weapons did not exist. Still, she and her colleagues kept looking. (She also assisted operations involving Iran and WMDs.) [...]

As a CIA employee still sworn to secrecy, she wasn't able to explain publicly that she had spent nearly two years searching for evidence to support the Administration's justification for war and had come up empty. [Emphasis added]

It's been pretty obvious that the Bush team had Iraq in their crosshairs from the very beginning, but this is the first published evidence I can recall that months before 9/11 the administration already had the CIA ramping up a major effort on Iraq. Then 9/11 came along and triggered the military phase of the plan. How very convenient, that.

Posted by Jonathan at 08:21 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Not A Bug, A Feature Vote Fraud

The NYT editorializes on the state of voting in this country:

It's hard to believe that nearly six years after the disasters of Florida in 2000, states still haven't mastered the art of counting votes accurately. Yet there are growing signs that the country is moving into another presidential election cycle in disarray.

The most troubling evidence comes from Ohio, a key swing state, whose electoral votes decided the 2004 presidential election. A recent government report details enormous flaws in the election system in Ohio's biggest county, problems that may not be fixable before the 2008 election.

Cuyahoga County, which includes Cleveland, hired a consulting firm to review its election system. The county recently adopted Diebold electronic voting machines that produce a voter-verified paper record of every vote cast. The investigators compared the vote totals recorded on the machines after this year's primary with the paper records produced by the machines. The numbers should have been the same, but often there were large and unexplained discrepancies. The report also found that nearly 10 percent of the paper records were destroyed, blank, illegible, or otherwise compromised.

This is seriously bad news even if, as Diebold insists, the report overstates the problem. Under Ohio law, the voter-verified paper record, not the voting machine total, is the official ballot for purposes of a recount. The error rates the report identified are an invitation to a meltdown in a close election.

The report also found an array of other problems. The county does not have a standardized method for conducting a manual recount. That is an invitation, as Florida 2000 showed, to chaos and litigation. And there is a serious need for better training of poll workers, and for more uniform voter ID policies. Disturbingly, the report found that 31 percent of blacks were asked for ID, while just 18 percent of others were. [Emphasis added]

Diebold also makes ATMs. Imagine if 10% of ATM receipts "were destroyed, blank, illegible, or otherwise compromised" — Diebold would go out of business overnight. But ATM failures are so rare that they make the evening news. Which is to say, Diebold knows how to make the technology work. The obvious conclusion: 10% slop in the system isn't a bug, it's a feature. The machines give people a false sense of security, but 10% is a margin of error large enough to let almost any election be stolen.

It's not like we don't know the consequences. Not after 2000 and 2004. It's a measure of the deterioration of American democracy that we just slide along as if nothing can be done. If it were the banking system, we'd fix it in a hurry. But it's voting, and for some reason we accept that accurate voting is simply too much to ask for.

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

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Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

Ernesto — you've heard about this storm? Gathering speed, heading up the East Coast. They said Washington might be hit. That's when you know the federal government has its head up it's ass when the hurricanes have to come to you. Of course, President Bush came to the hurricane this week. He went back to New Orleans to try and put lipstick on that pig. Not easy because a third of the trash there still has not been picked up. And that's just the white trash. Some of this garbage is piled up so high you can barely see the "Mission Accomplished" banner. — Bill Maher

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September 05, 2006

The Computer Ate My Post

My laptop just crashed, taking with it a post I'd been working on for over an hour. Aaaaaargh.

Bedtime now. Check back tomorrow.

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

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Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

President Bush said the United States is still under the threat of attack — and will continue to be right up until Election Day. — Jay Leno

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September 04, 2006

"War On Terror" Has Killed More Americans Than 9/11 9/11, "War On Terror"

As we approach the milestone of the 5-year anniversary of 9/11 — expect to be absolutely drowned in "patriotic" imagery of all sorts — the US has just passed a milestone of a different sort: the total number of US military personnel killed in Afghanistan and Iraq has now surpassed the total number of Americans killed on 9/11. CNN:

As the fifth anniversary of the September 11, 2001, attack on the United States approaches, another somber benchmark has just been passed.

The announcement Sunday of four more U.S. military deaths in Iraq raises the death toll to 2,974 for U.S. military service members in Iraq and in what the Bush administration calls the war on terror.

The 9/11 attack killed 2,973 people, including Americans and foreign nationals but excluding the terrorists. [...]

Of the 2,974 U.S. military service members killed, 329 died in Operation Enduring Freedom and 2,645 in Operation Iraqi Freedom, according to the Pentagon. The total includes seven American civilian contractors working for the military in Iraq. [Emphasis added]

Thank you CNN for saying "what the Bush administration calls the war on terror", instead of just uncritically applying the White House's brand-name. It's taken five years, but still — thanks.

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Why We Need Organized Labor Economy

And don't need Republican administrations. From Detroit Free Press via Washington Monthly, here's a map showing the percentage change in median incomes by state just in the last six years. Read it and weep. Click the image to view a larger version:

Here in Wisconsin, incomes are down 8.2%. Thanks, Dubya.

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Happy Labor Day Activism
Solidarity forever
Solidarity forever
Solidarity forever
For the Union makes us strong.

Solidaridad para siempre
Solidaridad para siempre
Solidaridad para siempre
Con la fuerza sindical.

Happy Labor Day.

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

Posted by Jonathan at 11:21 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

There is finally a happy story in the Middle East. In the Gaza strip, Palestinian militants released those two Fox News journalists. They were released unharmed. The Palestinians said they just couldn't take any more of the pro-Bush stories. — Jay Leno

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September 03, 2006

Sugar Blue Culture

For this holiday weekend... If you're a fan of the blues, and of blues harp, in particular, I think you'll enjoy this video of Sugar Blue.

View it at YouTube.

[Thanks, Maurice]

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

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Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

Yesterday the president of Iran challenged President Bush to a televised debate. President Bush turned down the debate, but did challenge the Iranian president to a game of "Hungry Hungry Hippos." — Conan O'Brien

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September 02, 2006

Fightin' Bob Fest Activism

Those of you living in the Upper Midwest, mark your calendars: this year's Fightin' Bob Fest is next Saturday, Sept. 9.

Speakers this year include Amy Goodman, Greg Palast, Jim Hightower, John Nichols, John Stauber, Tom Harkin, Tammy Baldwin, and more. It's a great event. Baraboo, Wisconsin. I wouldn't miss it.

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Feedback And Behavior Modification Energy

As many of you know, I got a new Prius a few months back (license plate: "PEAK OIL" — I couldn't resist). I love it. Just a great car.

The Prius has an LCD display on the dash that displays your instantaneous and average gas mileage, updated in real time, with a big bar chart that makes the instantaneous changes in mileage dramatic to your eye. You learn very quickly what kind of driving behavior helps your mileage and what hurts it. And since you know the first thing people ask a Prius owner is what kind of mileage you get, maximizing your mileage becomes a game you play with yourself. The result, for me, at least, is a pretty dramatic change in driving habits. It used to be about how fast can I go without getting a ticket. Now it's more likely to be how slow can I go without pissing off the people behind me. All because I can see the effects of my behavior. I.e., because of feedback.

So imagine if we had this kind of instantaneous feedback for all of our energy usage. If we all had these kinds of readouts on the walls of our homes and offices, for example, we'd all be a whole lot more likely to turn off our lights and air-conditioners. And so on.

Out of sight, out of mind. But make it visible, and change happens.

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

Posted by Jonathan at 11:29 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

The one-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina hitting New Orleans was marked by President Bush with a moment of silence. A little different than a year ago, when President Bush marked the occasion by a week and a half of silence. — Jay Leno

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September 01, 2006

Human Activities As Environmental Feedback Loops Environment  Peak Oil

A few weeks back, I linked to an article at RealClimate about the impact of drought on the Amazon rainforest. Kent points out an interesting observation made by the first commenter to that RealClimate story:

I wonder...if areas of relative dryness might become attractive to farmers and loggers, since the drier forests would be more easily accessed by heavy equipment for more days during the year. If these rainfall patterns persist long enough for people on the ground to take advantage, it could well direct human activity toward those areas and accelerate their demise via exploitation, just as if the rainfall had actually stopped and the trees had died in place for that reason. The overlap [between] climate and economic models might be more important than either acting alone.

Good point. We have seen a number of examples of feedback loops that tend to make global warming self-reinforcing. The comment above points to another kind of feedback loop, consisting of changes in human activities as the environmental crisis deepens.

A similar sort of example, this time in the Peak Oil arena: as Peak Oil begins to really take hold and it becomes clear to everyone that the price of oil is only going to increase, and quickly, producers may begin to hoard the oil they've still got in the ground. Why sell it today when it could be worth twice as much in a few years? This kind of reaction by producers would exacerbate the production decline, causing prices to rise even faster, making hoarding even more attractive, etc., etc., etc.

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

Posted by Jonathan at 10:57 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

Let me explain something to you about the algebra, if you will, of cable news: Three-year war in Iraq is less than 30-day-old bombing of Lebanon, which is less than explosive Gatorade on a plane, all of which is chickens**t compared to a break in a 10-year-old murder case. — Jon Stewart

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