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November 30, 2006

CO2 Emissions Accelerating Sharply Environment

Not only is humanity failing to curtail CO2 emissions, the rate of growth of emissions is actually accelerating — sharply. BBC (via CommonDreams):

The rise in humanity's emissions of carbon dioxide has accelerated sharply, according to a new analysis.

The Global Carbon Project says that emissions were rising by less than 1% annually up to the year 2000, but are now rising at 2.5% per year.

It says the acceleration comes mainly from a rise in charcoal consumption and a lack of new energy efficiency gains.

The global research network released its latest analysis at a scientific meeting in Australia.

Dr Mike Rapauch of the Australian government's research organisation CSIRO, who co-chairs the Global Carbon Project, told delegates that 7.9 billion tonnes (gigatonnes, Gt) of carbon passed into the atmosphere last year. In 2000, the figure was 6.8Gt.

"From 2000 to 2005, the growth rate of carbon dioxide emissions was more than 2.5% per year, whereas in the 1990s it was less than 1% per year," he said.

The finding parallels figures released earlier this month by the World Meteorological Organization showing that the rise in atmospheric concentrations of CO2 had accelerated in the last few years. [...]

"There has been a change in the trend regarding fossil fuel intensity, which is basically the amount of carbon you need to burn for a given unit of wealth," explained Corinne Le Quere, a Global Carbon Project member who holds posts at the University of East Anglia and the British Antarctic Survey.

"From about 1970 the intensity decreased — we became more efficient at using energy — but we've been getting slightly worse since the year 2000," she told the BBC News website.

"The other trend is that as oil becomes more expensive, we're seeing a switch from oil burning to charcoal which is more polluting in terms of carbon." [...]

How emissions will change over time is one of the factors considered by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the body responsible for collating and analysing climate data for the global community.

"At these rates, it certainly sounds like we'll end up towards the high end of the emission scenarios considered by the IPCC," commented Myles Allen from Oxford University, one of Britain's leading climate modellers.

The "high end" of IPCC projections implies a rise in global temperature approaching 5.8C between 1990 and the end of this century.

"We need to think about radical alternatives to the belt-tightening approach," said Professor Allen.

"At the moment, the assumption is we will solve the problem by controlling demand; but regulating at the point of use is clearly not working." [Emphasis added]

Another in the long parade of stories telling us that what used to be thought of as worst-case global warming projections may actually turn out to be, if anything, conservative. It's all happening faster, the numbers bigger, than anyone expected.

An optimistic view has it that as humanity learns more about the dangers facing us, we'll do the rational thing and take measures to forestall disaster. But it's not happening. Instead, everybody's focused on the short run, taking the path of least resistance, trying to make it through today. In the best of all possible worlds, rising oil prices and the prospects of peak oil and global warming would motivate humanity to move away from using fossil fuels altogether. But the path of least resistance is to just burn coal instead of oil, so that's what will happen.

The runaway train hurtles cliffward. If you're not scared yet, maybe you should be.

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Colin Powell: Call It Civil War Iraq

CNN's Hala Gorani (via ThinkProgress):

Well, within the context of the leaders conference in Dubai and also within the context of this debate, this semantics debate, over whether to call what is going on on in Iraq a civil war, the former Secretary of State Colin Powell says he thinks we can call it a civil war and added if he were still heading the State Department, he probably would recommend to the Bush administration that those terms should be used in order to come to terms with the reality on the ground.

This White House coming to terms with reality? Not going to happen.

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

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Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

President Bush is trying to raise $500 million for the Bush Presidential library, not just a library, it will also contain a think tank — because when you think George W. Bush you think thinking. — David Letterman

President Bush is putting together his presidential library, and apparently the library is going to cost $500 million, which works out to $100 million per book. Expensive books. They're popouts. Conan O'Brien

President Bush is preparing to build his presidential library. Bush's is expected to cost $500 million. That's more than three times the cost of the Clinton library, and more than all the other libraries combined, which makes you wonder, how many Garfield books can there be? — Jimmy Kimmel

"It's not that the library is going to be extravagant. It's just that he's hiring Haliburton to build it. They're the best. — Jimmy Kimmel

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November 29, 2006

Gingrich: "Reexamine Freedom Of Speech" 9/11, "War On Terror"  Politics

Newt Gingrich proves once again that he's a dangerous extremist:

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich yesterday said the country will be forced to reexamine freedom of speech to meet the threat of terrorism.

Gingrich, speaking at a Manchester awards banquet, said a "different set of rules" may be needed to reduce terrorists' ability to use the Internet and free speech to recruit and get out their message.

"We need to get ahead of the curve before we actually lose a city, which I think could happen in the next decade," said Gingrich, a Republican who helped engineer the GOP's takeover of Congress in 1994. [Emphasis added]

The well-worn recipe: make people afraid enough, and they'll give their freedom away, bit by bit. But once you give it away, you never get it back. Not without a fight.

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Parting Shot Humor & Fun  Politics


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Ms Whoey? Science/Technology

This is so dumb, I'm speechless.

What were they thinking? How does Microsoft stay in business?

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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

Henry Kissinger says the war in Iraq is un-winnable. And if anybody knows how not to win a war it's Henry Kissinger. — Jay Leno

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November 28, 2006

Corporatism Corporations, Globalization  Environment

Al Gore's movie, "An Inconvenient Truth", should be seen by as many Americans as possible. That includes kids. Especially kids. The film's producers thought so, too, so they offered 50,000 free DVDs to the National Science Teachers Association. The NSTA declined. Why? They don't want to piss off Exxon Mobil. WaPo:

At hundreds of screenings this year of "An Inconvenient Truth," the first thing many viewers said after the lights came up was that every student in every school in the United States needed to see this movie.

The producers of former vice president Al Gore's film about global warming, myself included, certainly agreed. So the company that made the documentary decided to offer 50,000 free DVDs to the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) for educators to use in their classrooms. It seemed like a no-brainer.

The teachers had a different idea: Thanks but no thanks, they said.

In their e-mail rejection, they expressed concern that other "special interests" might ask to distribute materials, too; they said they didn't want to offer "political" endorsement of the film; and they saw "little, if any, benefit to NSTA or its members" in accepting the free DVDs.

Gore, however, is not running for office, and the film's theatrical run is long since over. As for classroom benefits, the movie has been enthusiastically endorsed by leading climate scientists worldwide, and is required viewing for all students in Norway and Sweden.

Still, maybe the NSTA just being extra cautious. But there was one more curious argument in the e-mail: Accepting the DVDs, they wrote, would place "unnecessary risk upon the [NSTA] capital campaign, especially certain targeted supporters." One of those supporters, it turns out, is the Exxon Mobil Corp.

That's the same Exxon Mobil that for more than a decade has done everything possible to muddle public understanding of global warming and stifle any serious effort to solve it. It has run ads in leading newspapers (including this one) questioning the role of manmade emissions in global warming, and financed the work of a small band of scientific skeptics who have tried to challenge the consensus that heat-trapping pollution is drastically altering our atmosphere. The company spends millions to support groups such as the Competitive Enterprise Institute that aggressively pressure lawmakers to oppose emission limits.

It's bad enough when a company tries to sell junk science to a bunch of grown-ups. But, like a tobacco company using cartoons to peddle cigarettes, Exxon Mobil is going after our kids, too.

And it has been doing so for longer than you may think. NSTA says it has received $6 million from the company since 1996, mostly for the association's "Building a Presence for Science" program, an electronic networking initiative intended to "bring standards-based teaching and learning" into schools, according to the NSTA Web site. Exxon Mobil has a representative on the group's corporate advisory board. And in 2003, NSTA gave the company an award for its commitment to science education.

So much for special interests and implicit endorsements.

In the past year alone, according to its Web site, Exxon Mobil's foundation gave $42 million to key organizations that influence the way children learn about science, from kindergarten until they graduate from high school.

And Exxon Mobil isn't the only one getting in on the action. Through textbooks, classroom posters and teacher seminars, the oil industry, the coal industry and other corporate interests are exploiting shortfalls in education funding by using a small slice of their record profits to buy themselves a classroom soapbox.

NSTA's list of corporate donors also includes Shell Oil and the American Petroleum Institute (API), which funds NSTA's Web site on the science of energy. There, students can find a section called "Running on Oil" and read a page that touts the industry's environmental track record — citing improvements mostly attributable to laws that the companies fought tooth and nail, by the way — but makes only vague references to spills or pollution. NSTA has distributed a video produced by API called "You Can't Be Cool Without Fuel," a shameless pitch for oil dependence.

The education organization also hosts an annual convention — which is described on Exxon Mobil's Web site as featuring "more than 450 companies and organizations displaying the most current textbooks, lab equipment, computer hardware and software, and teaching enhancements." The company "regularly displays" its "many...education materials" at the exhibition. John Borowski, a science teacher at North Salem High School in Salem, Ore., was dismayed by NSTA's partnerships with industrial polluters when he attended the association's annual convention this year and witnessed hundreds of teachers and school administrators walk away with armloads of free corporate lesson plans.

Along with propaganda challenging global warming from Exxon Mobil, the curricular offerings included lessons on forestry provided by Weyerhaeuser and International Paper, Borowski says, and the benefits of genetic engineering courtesy of biotech giant Monsanto.

"The materials from the American Petroleum Institute and the other corporate interests are the worst form of a lie: omission," Borowski says. "The oil and coal guys won't address global warming, and the timber industry papers over clear-cuts."

An API memo leaked to the media as long ago as 1998 succinctly explains why the association is angling to infiltrate the classroom: "Informing teachers/students about uncertainties in climate science will begin to erect barriers against further efforts to impose Kyoto-like measures in the future."

So, how is any of this different from showing Gore's movie in the classroom? The answer is that neither Gore nor Participant Productions, which made the movie, stands to profit a nickel from giving away DVDs, and we aren't facing millions of dollars in lost business from limits on global-warming pollution and a shift to cleaner, renewable energy. [...]

While NSTA and Exxon Mobil ponder the moral lesson they're teaching with all this, there are 50,000 DVDs sitting in a Los Angeles warehouse, waiting to be distributed. In the meantime, Mom and Dad may want to keep a sharp eye on their kids' science homework. [Emphasis added]

Corporations like Weyerhauser and Exxon Mobil have no ties to any landbase. They don't eat food, they don't drink water, they don't breathe air. They are machines programmed to follow one prime directive with single-minded ferocity: maximize profits. Maybe the people who work for Weyerhauser and Exxon Mobil are just like you and me, maybe they're not, but it probably doesn't matter much. Global corporations will continue to chew us up and spit us out, right up until the day the world ends (unless we stop them). It's hard-wired in the machinery.

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Marines: Anbar Is Lost Iraq

A Marine Corps intel report has concluded that Anbar province is pretty much lost. WaPo:

The U.S. military is no longer able to defeat a bloody insurgency in western Iraq or counter al-Qaeda's rising popularity there, according to newly disclosed details from a classified Marine Corps intelligence report that set off debate in recent months about the military's mission in Anbar province.

The Marines recently filed an updated version of that assessment that stood by its conclusions and stated that, as of mid-November, the problems in troubled Anbar province have not improved, a senior U.S. intelligence official said yesterday. "The fundamental questions of lack of control, growth of the insurgency and criminality" remain the same, the official said.

The Marines' August memo, a copy of which was shared with The Washington Post, is far bleaker than some officials suggested when they described it in late summer. The report describes Iraq's Sunni minority as "embroiled in a daily fight for survival," fearful of "pogroms" by the Shiite majority and increasingly dependent on al-Qaeda in Iraq as its only hope against growing Iranian dominance across the capital.

True or not, the memo says, "from the Sunni perspective, their greatest fears have been realized: Iran controls Baghdad and Anbaris have been marginalized." Moreover, most Sunnis now believe it would be unwise to count on or help U.S. forces because they are seen as likely to leave the country before imposing stability.

Between al-Qaeda's violence, Iran's influence and an expected U.S. drawdown, "the social and political situation has deteriorated to a point" that U.S. and Iraqi troops "are no longer capable of militarily defeating the insurgency in al-Anbar," the assessment found. In Anbar province alone, at least 90 U.S. troops have died since Sept. 1. [...]

"Despite the success of the December elections, nearly all government institutions from the village to provincial levels have disintegrated or have been thoroughly corrupted and infiltrated by Al Qaeda in Iraq," or a smattering of other insurgent groups, the report says. [...]

[Report author Col. Peter] Devlin wrote that attacks on civilians rose 57 percent between February and August of this year. "Although it is likely that attack levels have peaked, the steady rise in attacks from mid-2003 to 2006 indicates a clear failure to defeat the insurgency in al-Anbar."

Devlin suggested that without the deployment of an additional U.S. military division — 15,000 to 20,000 troops — plus billions of dollars in aid to the province, "there is nothing" U.S. troops "can do to influence" the insurgency. [Emphasis added]

The threat of pogroms. A daily fight for survival. US/Iraqi forces no longer capable of militarily defeating the insurgency. This isn't how Marines normally talk. It must really be a hell on earth.

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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

Every year, President Bush gets to pardon one turkey, and this year it was Donald Rumsfeld. — David Letterman

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November 27, 2006

Money Makes Meanies Science/Technology

Via Digby, an interesting psych experiment examining the link between money and selfishness. LA Times:

Pictures of dollar bills, fantasies of wealth and even wads of Monopoly money arouse feelings of self-sufficiency that result in selfish and often anti-social behavior, according to a study published in the journal Science.

All it took to discourage college students from contributing to a University Student Fund were 15 short phrases such as "a high-paying salary." Those primed by money-related phrases donated an average of 77 cents, compared with $1.34 for students exposed to neutral phrases like "it is cold outside."

"The mere presence of money changes people," said Kathleen Vohs, a professor of marketing at the University of Minnesota and lead author of the study.

Money makes it possible for people to achieve their goals without asking for help. Therefore, Vohs and her colleagues theorized, even subtle reminders of money would inspire people to be self-reliant — and to expect such behavior from others.

A series of nine experiments confirmed their hypothesis. For example, students who played Monopoly and then were asked to envision a future with great wealth picked up fewer dropped pencils for a fellow student than those asked to contemplate a hand-to-mouth existence.

Money also influenced how people said they preferred to spend their leisure time. A poster of bills and coins prompted students to favor a solitary social activity, such as private cooking lessons, while students sitting across from posters of seascapes and gardens were more likely to opt for a group dinner.

"Money changes people's motivations," said co-author Nicole Mead, a psychology graduate student at Florida State University. [Emphasis added]

The root of all evil, and all that. Meanwhile, the Scrooges will scoff — but then they would, wouldn't they. Bah, humbug!

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"This Is Civil War" Iraq

Michael Ware has long been one of the truly indispensable Western journalists reporting from Iraq. He never dissembles, never engages in euphemism. Watch this (via Atrios):

It just keeps spinning out of control, ratcheting up and up. It's pretty much impossible to imagine how it can better before it gets very much worse.

The US has so much to answer for.

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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

According to the Washington Times, there's a revolt brewing among Republicans in the House. People are, of course, shocked by this. There are still Republicans in the House? — Jay Leno

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November 25, 2006

Addicts Environment  Ethics

More and more, I think we're fucked — we in the industrialized world, especially. The fundamental problem is that we're never going to voluntarily change course to the radical degree needed to stave off disaster. All of the trends that point to disaster — greenhouse gas emissions, depletion of nonrenewable resources, worldwide ecosystem destruction, species extinctions, etc. — are accelerating. In fact, the rate at which they're accelerating is accelerating. We see where it's all heading, and still we can't stop ourselves. We're addicts, addicted to comfort, power, artificial stimulation of all kinds, and like most addicts we’ll never recover without first hitting bottom — that's if we manage to recover at all. We'll take the path of least resistance until it ends in disaster and stops being the path of least resistance.

Here's a story that strikes me as the perfect epitome of what I'm talking about. BBC:

Marine scientists say the case for a moratorium on the use of heavy trawling gear in deep waters is now overwhelming and should be put in place immediately.

A new report prepared for the UN indicates the equipment is doing immense damage to the ecosystems around seamounts, or underwater mountains.

Its analysis shows bottom-trawling is being used in regions which harbour particularly sensitive corals. [...]

Bottom-trawling uses huge nets armed with steel weights or heavy rollers.

Boats drag them across the seafloor to catch species such as orange roughy, oreos, alfonsino and roundnose grenadier.

The technique is very effective but smashes everything in its path, ripping corals and sponges from the sea-floor — removing the habitats on which the fish and other diverse organisms depend.

It is practised by relatively few vessels — perhaps no more than 200 worldwide — and accounts for about 0.2% of the total world catch.

This meant the scale of the destruction was out of all proportion to the gain in terms of the value of the fishery, said Dr Alex Rogers, a senior research fellow at the Zoological Society of London, UK.

"It's the equivalent of clearing old-growth forest to collect squirrels. It's a practice on land that just wouldn't be acceptable," he added. [...]

Scientists think there may be 100,000 or more of the underwater mountains distributed around the world's oceans.

They attract aggregations of the planktonic organisms that form the food base of marine ecosystems. "We call it trophic focusing," Dr Rogers told BBC News.

Prominent in these deep — 1,000-2,000m down — ecosystems are vast "forests" of slow-growing corals and the very high densities of fish that are now the target of industrial trawlers.

"But if there are species which you really shouldn't fish, these are the ones," said Dr Rogers. "The orange roughy lives for up to 150 years or more; they don't mature until they are 30 or 40 years old; their reproduction is very sporadic; they are very vulnerable to overfishing."

At these depths, life processes are long and slow.

The team has compared the distributions of commercially trawled fish, fishing effort and coral habitat on seamounts.

This shows a broad band of the southern Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans between 20-degrees and 60-degrees-south where bottom-trawling activities are likely to have a particularly deleterious impact.
Campaigners are concerned because vast swathes of this band are beyond the authority of national or regional fisheries' regulation. They want proper management of these gaps established as soon as possible.

Most bottom-trawling is conducted by northern fleets from developed nations. The European Union bloc undertakes the largest effort, with Spain operating the majority of its boats. [Emphasis added]

We have no trouble seeing that the trawlers are acting insanely: destroying ecosystems that will take decades, centuries, or millenia to recover, for a one-time profit. If their activities were visible to us all, instead of buried under the sea — out of sight, out of mind — perhaps there would be more outrage. Clear-cutting old-growth forests to harvest squirrels.

But here's what's really crazy. The trawlers are acting "rationally" according to the tenets of mainstream economic theory. The deep-sea ecosystems replenish themselves only very slowly. A sustainable harvest would take only a very few fish per year, using methods that preserve the surrounding ecosystem. But that would yield an extremely low — or perhaps even negative — rate of return. You can get a much higher rate of return by "clear-cutting" and taking the proceeds and investing them. Especially since the profits are private while the costs, in the form of destroyed or degraded ecosystems, are public, borne by us all — so-called externalities. Besides, if you don't "clear-cut", somebody else will — the tragedy of the commons. Economic theory says the "rational" thing to do is to seek to maximize profits. So it's not just the trawlers who are insane.

This example is so egregious — so few ships wreaking so much damage — that it seems hard to deny that the moral thing to do, if one had the opportunity, would be to sabotage or sink as many of these ships as possible. But this example is only a microcosm of what's happening everywhere, in all spheres of activity, all over the world. (So it's an example worth remembering, since it exemplifies the issues so starkly.) Does the same moral argument apply more broadly? Is it time to start throwing wrenches into the gears of industrial civilization? Is it time for an intervention?

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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

The Democrats, it's less than two weeks since they took power and already they're fighting among themselves. Say what you want about the Republican Congress, those guys were always on the same page. — Bill Maher

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November 24, 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

A new poll finds that 60 percent of Americans think George W. Bush is a worse president than his father. However, President Bush's advisers cheered him up by telling him he's the second best George Bush who's ever been president. — Conan O'Brien

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November 23, 2006

A Thanksgiving Carol

Pharyngula had a nice Thanksgiving idea — Arlo singing Alice's Restaurant:

Happy Thanksgiving.

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

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Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

President Bush on Monday met for more than an hour with the independent panel examining strategic options for Iraq and cautioned afterward that while he's open to new ideas, he'd like them to come only from people who agree with him. — Amy Poehler

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November 22, 2006

BBC RFK Program Black Ops

The BBC special dealing with new evidence in the RFK assassination that I referenced yesterday has been uploaded to YouTube.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Today, of course, is the anniversary of the other Kennedy assassination, that of JFK.

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Hortatory Talk Humor & Fun  Iraq

General Shinseki and the Iraq war's only instance of 20/20 foresight. Jon Stewart:

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The "Take This War And Shove It" Act Iraq

PoorMan (via Atrios) has a brilliant suggestion:

[Let's] introduce a bill to let soldiers get a General Discharge, no strings attached, if they give two week's notice. Call it "The Take This War And Shove It Act".

If a war isn't important enough or viable enough to retain the support of the people who have to fight it, why should they be forced to continue? Are they not free citizens of a republic?

Ok, it's never going to happen. But the very idea sure clears away the cobwebs.

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Just A Few Months More Iraq

Fabius Maximus samples statements by pundits and public officials regarding the time horizon in Iraq:

“And it is not knowable if force will be used, but if it is to be used, it is not knowable how long that conflict would last. It could last, you know, six days, six weeks. I doubt six months.”
February 7, 2003
Donald Rumsfeld, then-Secretary of Defense
Speaking at a “TownHall Meeting” held at Aviano Air Base, Italy

"I think the next few months will be crucial."
July 3, 2003
Senator Pat Roberts (Republican - Kansas)

"Looking at what we have today in Iraq and also in Afghanistan, and looking at the whole region and how infectious it can be for positive or for widespread trouble in the world, I think we may be going through a series of weeks and months that are crucial to the future history of freedom and stability. The determination of the British people, the Royal Airforce (RAF) and the Battle of Britain and Dunkirk success, if it was a success, probably saved not just Britain, but the Western world at that time. I am convinced that there is going to have to be a determination by the American people, military, particularly American military, quality and quantity, not just presence but capability, and a confidence in the Iraqi people that they can have a stable and representative government.
July 10, 2003
Representative Ike Skelton (Democrat - Missouri)
Speaking at a hearing of the House Armed Services Committee

[Question: When you speak of victory, how do you define it today in Iraq?]

MCCAIN: Probably when the people of Iraq are governing themselves. That's probably the best benchmark, and that probably could happen sooner rather than later, as far as being directly related to the return of the basic services  the electricity, the water, the sanitation, the law enforcement  those kinds of things. … And I'm not sure how long it would be, but I don't think that we have time on our side. I think it's critical that we act quickly by sending more troops there. And if not, we run the risk of the Iraqi people turning against us.

[Question: Are you thinking 6 to 12 months? Or do you think that's dreaming at this point?]

MCCAIN: I don't know because I don't know how quickly we're going to act in the form of sending troops. I don't know how quickly we're going to be able to provide them with the security. So, it's sort of up to us. But I would argue that the next three to six months will be critical.
September 10, 2003
Sen. John McCain (Republican - Arizona)
Speaking on CNN’s “American Morning”

"The next six months in Iraq  which will determine the prospects for democracy-building there  are the most important six months in U.S. foreign policy in a long, long time."
November 30, 2003
Thomas Friedman, New York Times foreign affairs columnist

"The next six to seven months are critical."
December 1, 2003
Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (Democrat - NY)
Quoted in the Washington Post on November 30, 2005

"The important thing is to realize we are about to enter into a very critical six months … We have got to get on top of the security situation properly and we have got to manage the transition. Both of those things are going to be difficult."
January 4, 2004
UK Prime Minister Tony Blair
Speaking during a surprise visit to Iraq

"Iraq now faces a critical moment."
May 24, 2004
President Bush
Speaking at the United States Army War College

"What I absolutely don't understand is just at the moment when we finally have a UN-approved Iraqi-caretaker government made up of  I know a lot of these guys  reasonably decent people and more than reasonably decent people, everyone wants to declare it's over. I don't get it. It might be over in a week, it might be over in a month, it might be over in six months, but what's the rush? Can we let this play out, please?"
June 3, 2004
Thomas Friedman, New York Times foreign affairs columnist
Speaking on National Public Radio’s “Fresh Air”

“The next few months will be critical as the new government must establish security, continue to rebuild Iraq’s infrastructure, and prepare the Iraqi people for national elections scheduled for January 2005.”
July 22, 2004
Senator Richard G. Lugar (Republican – Indiana)
Statement to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee

"What we're gonna find out, Bob, in the next six to nine months is whether we have liberated a country or uncorked a civil war."
October 3, 2004
Thomas Friedman, New York Times foreign affairs columnist
Speaking on CBS's “Face the Nation”

"Improv time is over. This is crunch time. Iraq will be won or lost in the next few months. But it won't be won with high rhetoric. It will be won on the ground in a war over the last mile."
November 28, 2004
Thomas Friedman, New York Times foreign affairs columnist

“There are rare occasions when two distinct geopolitical processes reach a pivot point at the same time, that precise place where the evolution of a process takes a critical turn. Last week saw three such points. In Iraq, the security network around the guerrilla leadership appeared to be breaking wide open.”
March 1, 2005
George Friedman, Stratfor

“As the political process evolves, further government victories could be in the offing. Intense negotiations on the formation of the Cabinet, involving the United Iraqi Alliance, Kurdish List, Sunnis and other factions, have already begun. With Sunnis incorporated into a new government, progress on the political front likely will lead to further success on the battlefield as U.S. and Iraqi forces continue to keep pressure on the insurgents with raids, arrests and all-out offensive operations. These developments ultimately will support the U.S. strategy of turning the combat burden over to an emboldened and maturing Iraqi army.”
March 23, 2005

“Washington has moved beyond the military stage of the U.S.-jihadist war and is now in the phase of negotiated settlements.”
April 6, 2005

"I think the next nine months are critical."
June 29, 2005
Zalmay Khalilzad, U.S. Ambassador to Iraq
Speaking on National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered”

“This attack probably will be instrumental in turning the Iraqis against the militants, especially the transnational jihadists who are not only seen as using the general insurgency in Iraq for their cause (which has very little to do with the Sunni community's grievances or Iraqi nationalism), but now seem to have reached the point where they will not shirk from killing children as part of their attack plans.”
July 13, 2005

“I think the next 18 months are crucial."
July 18, 2005
General Barry R. McCaffrey, retired
Quoted in the Washington Post on November 30, 2005

“I have long been invested with ensuring the development of a peaceful, democratic Iraq. We are nearing the resolution of that process, and the next months will be critical.”
August 4, 2005
Ambassador John Bolton, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations
Statement to the Security Council

“But the fact is these next six months are going to be very critical in Iraq, not just the constitution writing, referendum, the election, but also within that six months' period, we're going to see whether the Iraqis are really going to be capable of defending themselves, governing themselves and supporting themselves.”
August 18, 2005
Senator Chuck Hagel (Rep- Nebraska)
Speaking on CNN’s “Situation Room”

"I think we're in the end game now…. I think we're in a six-month window here where it's going to become very clear and this is all going to pre-empt I think the next congressional election  that's my own feeling   let alone the presidential one."
September 25, 2005
Thomas Friedman, New York Times foreign affairs columnist
Speaking on NBC's “Meet the Press”

“The next 75 days are going to be critical for what happens”
September 29, 2005
General George Casey, Commanding General of coalition forces in Iraq
Testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee

"… Maybe the cynical Europeans were right. Maybe this neighborhood is just beyond transformation. That will become clear in the next few months as we see just what kind of minority the Sunnis in Iraq intend to be. If they come around, a decent outcome in Iraq is still possible, and we should stay to help build it. If they won't, then we are wasting our time."
September 28, 2005
Thomas Friedman, New York Times foreign affairs columnist

“And the developments over the next several months will be critical  as General Casey and General Abizaid and the secretary made very clear over the course of last week  as the constitutional referendum in the mid part of this month, the general elections in mid-December and then the subsequent formation of a new government all take place.”
October 5, 2005
Lt. Gen. David Petraeus, Former Commander, Multi-National Transition Command Iraq and NATO Training Mission Iraq
News Briefing

As always, whenever the Bush administration helps to pull off an election in Iraq, you have to hand it to them. Poor job on occupation, no doubt, but this thing keeps muddling through. … Meanwhile, a lot of Sunnis are shifting from fighting the system altogether to working within the political process. This is crucial. … Iraq is doing just fine given all poorly planned occupation (F to the neocons, C to the officers doing their best in a crappy situation on the ground).
October 17, 2005
Thomas P. M. Barnett

“We are entering a make or break six month period, and I want to talk about the steps we must take if we hope to bring our troops home within a reasonable timeframe from an Iraq that's not permanently torn by irrepressible conflict. …

“To those who suggest we should withdraw all troops immediately  I say No. A precipitous withdrawal would invite civil and regional chaos and endanger our own security. But to those who rely on the overly simplistic phrase "we will stay as long as it takes," who pretend this is primarily a war against Al Qaeda, and who offer halting, sporadic, diplomatic engagement, I also say  No, that will only lead us into a quagmire. …

“To undermine the insurgency, we must instead simultaneously pursue both a political settlement and the withdrawal of American combat forces linked to specific, responsible benchmarks. At the first benchmark, the completion of the December elections, we can start the process of reducing our forces by withdrawing 20,000 troops over the course of the holidays. …”
October 26, 2005
Senator John Kerry (Democrat – Mass)
Speech at Georgetown University

“And we're seeing a lot of them [officials from the Iraqi government] because this is a critical time in Iraq going into the elections, and it is very important that these elections produce an outcome, that it reflects the will of the Iraqi people, that results in a government  that is broadly based, drawing from all elements of the Iraqi society, that gets stood up quickly and is a strong government that can take the kinds of difficult, economic and security decisions that the new government is going to have.”
November 10, 2005
Steve Hadley, National Security Advisor
Comments at White House Press Briefing

"We've got, I think, six months."
Nov. 17, 2005
Senator John W. Warner (Republican -Virginia)
Quoted in the Washington Post on November 30, 2005

“Instead, we need to refocus our attention on our mission — of our mission on preserving America’s fundamental interests in Iraq. And there are two of them, in my view. One, we must ensure that Iraq does not become what it was not before the war — emphasize “was not before the war” — a haven for terrorists, a jihadist stronghold. And we must do what we can to prevent a full-blown civil war that runs the risk of turning into a regional war. To accomplish that more limited mission and to begin redeploying our troops responsibly, it seems to me we have to make significant, measurable progress toward three goals, and you only have about the next six months to demonstrate that progress.”
November 21, 2005
Senator Joseph Biden (Democrat - Delaware)
Speaking at the Council on Foreign Relations

“What the debate is telling us is that we have come to a defining moment in the war and in U.S. policy toward the war. … The administration's position in Iraq is complex but not hopeless. Its greatest challenge is in Washington, where Bush's Republican base of support is collapsing. If it collapses, then all bets will be off in Iraq. Bush's challenge is to stabilize Washington. In fact, from his point of view, Baghdad is more stable than Washington right now. …”
November 21, 2005
George Friedman of Stratfor

“I served in the last year of World War II in the Navy. Franklin D. Roosevelt did just exactly that. In his fireside talks, he talked with the people, he did just that. I think it would be to Bush's advantage. It would bring him closer to the people, dispel some of this concern that understandably our people have about the loss of life and limb, the enormous cost of this war to the American public, and we've got to stay firm for the next six months. It is a critical period, as Joe and I agree, in this Iraqi situation to restore full sovereignty in that country and that enables them to have their own armed forces to maintain their sovereignty. …

[Question: “What happens if not enough Iraqis step forward to defend their country?”]

“At that point then we have to come to the realization that the program has not met the target and we have to determine what we're going to do. I would not want to posture what that decision would be. You'll have to wait. You shouldn't speculate. We'll have to wait for those six months.”
November 27, 2005
Senator John W. Warner (Republican -Virginia)
Speaking on NBC’s “Meet the Press”

“But it was necessary for the president to go out and reinforce to our troops and the other coalition forces and to the world that we have a resolve in these next four to six months in Iraq which are critical to bring about achievement of our goals. … We should not at this time in these critical four to six months be worrying about a timetable to withdraw or even talking about it.”
November 30, 2005
Senator John W. Warner (Republican -Virginia)
PBS “Online Newhour”

"[The Iraq elections are] necessary, not sufficient … [the] next six months are going to tell the story. Two important things. What’s the government going to look like? If it’s Mr. Mahdi who ends up representing the SCIRI Party, who’s aligned with Iran, then we got a real problem.
December 18, 2005
Senator Joseph Biden, Jr. (Democrat - Delaware)
Speaking on CBS’ “Face the Nation”

"We've teed up this situation for Iraqis, and I think the next six months really are going to determine whether this country is going to collapse into three parts or more or whether it's going to come together."
December 18, 2005
Thomas Friedman, New York Times foreign affairs columnist
Speaking on CBS’ “Face the Nation”

"We're at the beginning of I think the decisive I would say six months in Iraq, OK, because I feel like this election  you know, I felt from the beginning Iraq was going to be ultimately, Charlie, what Iraqis make of it."
December 20, 2005
Thomas Friedman, New York Times foreign affairs columnist
Speaking on PBS's Charlie Rose Show

"The only thing I am certain of is that in the wake of this election, Iraq will be what Iraqis make of it  and the next six months will tell us a lot. I remain guardedly hopeful."
December 21, 2005
Thomas Friedman, New York Times foreign affairs columnist

“We have reached a crucial test in Iraq. … Whatever the explanation, this is the crucial moment. The elections were held and a political track was set. If this offensive derails the negotiations, it will be a defining moment in the war. If the negotiations go forward anyway  for any of the reasons discussed above  then the probability of a drawdown in the war in 2006 is very real. In the end, the reasons for the offensive are less clear than its potential significance. As they say, this is it.”
January 6, 2006

"I think that we're going to know after six to nine months whether this project has any chance of succeeding. In which case, I think the American people as a whole will want to play it out or whether it really is a fool's errand."
January 23, 2006
Thomas Friedman, New York Times foreign affairs columnist
Speaking on the Oprah Winfrey Show

"I think we're in the end game there, in the next three to six months, Bob. We've got for the first time an Iraqi government elected on the basis of an Iraqi constitution. Either they're going to produce the kind of inclusive consensual government that we aspire to in the near term, in which case America will stick with it, or they're not, in which case I think the bottom's going to fall out."
January 31, 2006
Thomas Friedman, New York Times foreign affairs columnist
Speaking on CBS; program is uncertain and not been verified.

"I think we are in the end game. The next six to nine months are going to tell whether we can produce a decent outcome in Iraq."
March 2, 2006
Thomas Friedman, New York Times foreign affairs columnist
Speaking on NBC's “Today”

“Ashraf Qazi, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, told the Security Council in an open briefing this morning that the next six months in Iraq are going to be critical.”
March 15, 2006

“If there is ever going to be an end game in Iraq, we are now in it. Operation Swarmer, launched Thursday, seemed designed to attack jihadists in the Sunni regions. The key to the U.S.-Sunni conversation has been getting the Sunnis into the political process and, as a result, getting the Sunnis to help liquidate the jihadists. If Swarmer was launched on the basis of Sunni intelligence, and if that intelligence turns out to be accurate, it will be a key event in recent Iraqi history. Those are big "ifs," of course. At the same time, if the Sunnis are joining the political process, then it is time for Iran to negotiate its final price on Iraq, and that appears now to be happening. Taken together, this is not the end, but the beginning of the end game, and success is not guaranteed.”
“The Beginning of the End Game”
Mar 17, 2006

"Can Iraqis get this government together? If they do, I think the American public will continue to want to support the effort there to try to produce a decent, stable Iraq. But if they don't, then I think the bottom is going to fall out of public support here for the whole Iraq endeavor. So one way or another, I think we're in the end game in the sense it's going to be decided in the next weeks or months whether there's an Iraq there worth investing in. And that is something only Iraqis can tell us."
April 23, 2006
Thomas Friedman, New York Times foreign affairs columnist
Speaking on “CNN Late Edition with Wold Blitzer”

"Well, I think that we're going to find out, Chris, in the next year to six months  probably sooner  whether a decent outcome is possible there, and I think we're going to have to just let this play out."
May 11, 2006
Thomas Friedman, New York Times foreign affairs columnist
Speaking on MSNBC's “Hardball”

“We would say that the next six weeks, rather than months, will show us where things are.”
“Core Issues in Iraq”
May 22, 2006

“The violence in Iraq will surge, but by July 4 there either will be clear signs that the Sunnis are controlling the insurgency  or there won't. If they are controlling the insurgency, the United States will begin withdrawing troops in earnest. If they are not controlling the insurgency, the United States will begin withdrawing troops in earnest. Regardless of whether the deal holds, the U.S. war in Iraq is going to end: U.S. troops either will not be needed, or will not be useful. Thus, we are at a break point  at least for the Americans.”
“Break Point”
May 23, 2006
George Friedman, Stratfor

“The next six months will be critical in terms of reining in the danger of civil war. If the government fails to achieve this, it will have lost its opportunity.”
June 7, 2006
Zalmay Khalilzad, US Ambassador to Iraq
Interviewed in Der Spiegel

“Second, international oil companies have been waiting for two things before investing in the Iraqi oil complex: a domestically chosen, internationally acceptable representative government, and an end to the insurgency. The first has happened; the second may finally be in sight.”
“Iraq: The Implications of Al-Zarqawi's Death”
June 08, 2006

“If we are right and this is the tipping point, then things just tipped toward a political settlement. This will become clearer over the next few days. Violence will certainly not disappear, but it should reduce itself rather rapidly if the Sunni and Shiite leadership have put out the word. We thought this was the week for something to happen, and something has. Now to find out if it was what we were waiting for, and to find out if it will work.”
Jun 09, 2006
“Al-Zarqawi and the Tipping Point”

“This is a decisive period for everyone and everyone knows it. The next six months will determine the future of Iraq.”
October 5, 2006
General George Casey, Commanding General of coalition forces in Iraq
Official statement after a 39-nation meeting in Warsaw to discuss “the challenges facing Iraq and the US-led coalition."

"Time is short, level of violence is great and the margins of error are narrow. The government of Iraq must act. The government of Iraq needs to show its own citizens soon and the citizens of the United States that it is deserving of continued support. The next three months are critical. Before the end of this year, this government needs to show progress in securing Baghdad, pursuing national reconciliation and delivering basic services."
September 19, 2006
Lee Hamilton, former Congressman (Democrat – Indiana), member of the Iraq Study Group

The next six months are likely to be critical in determining whether the situation in Iraq turns worse or whether we may yet salvage a measure of political stability that addresses our long-term security interests in the region.“
Rep. Mark Udall (Democrat - Colorado)
June 22, 2006

These people don't know what they're doing. They have no idea where we're headed or what needs to be done. They're clueless. Utterly clueless, but that doesn't stop them from lecturing the rest of us, endlessly.

Why is anyone still listening to them?

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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

Tomorrow at the White House, President Bush will pardon the turkey. And today, Dick Cheney spent all day torturing it. — David Letterman

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November 21, 2006

Olbermann On Bush And The Lessons Of Vietnam Politics

Bush says the lesson of Vietnam is that "we will succeed unless we quit." Olbermann takes him to school:

Excellent. Watch it.

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Bobby Black Ops

I once shook Bobby Kennedy's hand. In April, 1968, the Pennsylvania primary brought Kennedy's campaign to the Penn campus, where I was an undergrad. Standing in a slow-moving open convertible, he reached out to the crowd of students and others lining 34th Street in West Philly. I was able to grasp his hand and look into his face, very briefly, and it was a moment I still remember vividly.

Two things struck me at the time. One was that the back of Kennedy's hand was all scratched up from all the people who'd been grabbing his hand over the course of the campaign. People responded to him like he was a rock star. More striking, though, was the look in Kennedy's eyes. He looked cornered, haunted, scared to death. I was shocked. It had been less than five years since his brother's assassination, just a couple of weeks since Martin Luther King's, so he had good reason. Still, it wasn't something I'd expected to see. A month and a half later, Kennedy himself was assassinated.

Yesterday, on what would have been Kennedy's 81st birthday, filmmaker Shane O'Sullivan published an article on possible involvement of CIA operatives in the assassination. Excerpts from the Guardian:

[David Sanchez] Morales was a legendary figure in CIA covert operations. According to close associate Tom Clines, if you saw Morales walking down the street in a Latin American capital, you knew a coup was about to happen. When the subject of the Kennedys came up in a late-night session with friends in 1973, Morales launched into a tirade that finished: "I was in Dallas when we got the son of a bitch and I was in Los Angeles when we got the little bastard." [...]

Working from a Cuban photograph of Morales from 1959, I viewed news coverage of the [RFK] assassination to see if I could spot the man the Cubans called El Gordo — The Fat One. Fifteen minutes in, there he was, standing at the back of the ballroom, in the moments between the end of Kennedy's speech and the shooting. Thirty minutes later, there he was again, casually floating around the darkened ballroom while an associate with a pencil moustache took notes.

The source of early research on Morales was Bradley Ayers, a retired US army captain who had been seconded to JM-Wave, the CIA's Miami base in 1963, to work closely with chief of operations Morales on training Cuban exiles to run sabotage raids on Castro. I tracked Ayers down to a small town in Wisconsin and emailed him stills of Morales and another guy I found suspicious — a man who is pictured entering the ballroom from the direction of the pantry moments after the shooting, clutching a small container to his body, and being waved towards an exit by a Latin associate.

Ayers' response was instant. He was 95% sure that the first figure was Morales and equally sure that the other man was Gordon Campbell, who worked alongside Morales at JM-Wave in 1963 and was Ayers' case officer shortly before the JFK assassination.

I put my script aside and flew to the US to interview key witnesses for a documentary on the unfolding story. In person, Ayers positively identified Morales and Campbell and introduced me to David Rabern, a freelance operative who was part of the Bay of Pigs invasion force in 1961 and was at the Ambassador hotel that night. He did not know Morales and Campbell by name but saw them talking to each other out in the lobby before the shooting and assumed they were Kennedy's security people. He also saw Campbell around police stations three or four times in the year before Robert Kennedy was shot.

This was odd. The CIA had no domestic jurisdiction and Morales was stationed in Laos in 1968. With no secret service protection for presidential candidates in those days, Kennedy was guarded by unarmed Olympic decathlete champion Rafer Johnson and football tackler Rosey Grier — no match for an expert assassination team.

Trawling through microfilm of the police investigation, I found further photographs of Campbell with a third figure, standing centre-stage in the Ambassador hotel hours before the shooting. He looked Greek, and I suspected he might be George Joannides, chief of psychological warfare operations at JM-Wave. Joannides was called out of retirement in 1978 to act as the CIA liaison to the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) investigating the death of John F Kennedy.

Ed Lopez, now a respected lawyer at Cornell University, came into close contact with Joannides when he was a young law student working for the committee. We visit him and show him the photograph and he is 99% sure it is Joannides. When I tell him where it was taken, he is not surprised: "If these guys decided you were bad, they acted on it."

We move to Washington to meet Wayne Smith, a state department official for 25 years who knew Morales well at the US embassy in Havana in 1959-60. When we show him the video in the ballroom, his response is instant: "That's him, that's Morales." He remembers Morales at a cocktail party in Buenos Aires in 1975, saying Kennedy got what was coming to him. Is there a benign explanation for his presence? For Kennedy's security, maybe? Smith laughs. Morales is the last person you would want to protect Bobby Kennedy, he says. He hated the Kennedys, blaming their lack of air support for the failed Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961. [...]

Morales died of a heart attack in 1978, weeks before he was to be called before the HSCA. Joannides died in 1990. Campbell may still be out there somewhere, in his early 80s. Given the positive identifications we have gathered on these three, the CIA and the Los Angeles Police Department need to explain what they were doing there. [Emphasis added]

O'Sullivan's documentary was aired last night on BBC2. The BBC website has some video and photos, but they're available only to viewers in the UK. If you're in the UK, please consider uploading to YouTube, or email images and clips to me. People here in the US need to see this material.

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Global Warming Killing Off Species Faster Than Expected Environment

Global warming is forcing adaptations and extinctions among plant and animal species at a much faster rate than anyone anticipated. AP:

Animal and plant species have begun dying off or changing sooner than predicted because of global warming, a review of hundreds of research studies contends.

These fast-moving adaptations come as a surprise even to biologists and ecologists because they are occurring so rapidly.

At least 70 species of frogs, mostly mountain-dwellers that had nowhere to go to escape the creeping heat, have gone extinct because of climate change, the analysis says. It also reports that between 100 and 200 other cold-dependent animal species, such as penguins and polar bears are in deep trouble.

"We are finally seeing species going extinct," said University of Texas biologist Camille Parmesan, author of the study. "Now we've got the evidence. It's here. It's real. This is not just biologists' intuition. It's what's happening." [...]

Parmesan reports seeing trends of animal populations moving northward if they can, of species adapting slightly because of climate change, of plants blooming earlier, and of an increase in pests and parasites.

Parmesan and others have been predicting such changes for years, but even she was surprised to find evidence that it's already happening; she figured it would be another decade away.

Just five years ago biologists, though not complacent, figured the harmful biological effects of global warming were much farther down the road, said Douglas Futuyma, professor of ecology and evolution at the State University of New York in Stony Brook.

"I feel as though we are staring crisis in the face," Futuyma said. "It's not just down the road somewhere. It is just hurtling toward us. Anyone who is 10 years old right now is going to be facing a very different and frightening world by the time that they are 50 or 60." [Emphasis added]

Terrifying stuff.

Every study that comes out shows it's all happening faster than anyone expected. It seems likely, therefore, that there's a corollary: the endgame is going to be a lot more severe than anyone expected.

Down here in the real world, not all stories have happy endings.

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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, trying to gain international support in Iraq met with leaders in Vietnam. Experts say nothing builds support for a war like a trip to Vietnam. — Conan O'Brien

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November 20, 2006

McCain Fumbles Iraq Question Politics

Count the number of times McCain checks his notes as he answers this question on Iraq (via Carpetbagger):

Weird. Maybe the guy's losing it, a la Reagan.

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Jon Stewart Nails Glenn Beck Humor & Fun

Glenn Beck is such an idiot. Jon Stewart:

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McCain: Send More Troops Iraq  Politics

People need to get it through their heads that John McCain is a dangerous man. A Cheney with charm. Now he wants to send "an overwhelming number" of additional US troops to Iraq. IHT:

"I believe the consequences of failure are catastrophic," said McCain. "It will spread to the region. You will see Iran more emboldened. Eventually, you could see Iran pose a greater threat to the state of Israel." [...]

McCain, a front-running Republican presidential hopeful for 2008, said the U.S. must send an overwhelming number of troops to stabilize Iraq or face more attacks — in the region and possibly on American soil.

"The consequences of failure are so severe that I will exhaust every possibility to try to fix this situation. Because it's not the end when American troops leave. The battleground shifts, and we'll be fighting them again," McCain said. "You read Zarqawi, and you read bin Laden. ... It's not just Iraq that they're interested in. It's the region, and then us." [Emphasis added]

Part of what this is about is Israel's impact on US politics. But McCain's record generally is one of the most conservative records in the Senate. People confuse his personal likability with his poliicies and beliefs. A dangerous mistake.

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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

Trent Lott has regained a position of leadership. He was the former majority leader who lost his post for racially insensitive commentary. I believe he mentioned that Strom Thurmond in 1948, who ran as a segregationist candidate, should have won. But now, sound the irony alarm. He has recaptured a position and his position, I kid you not, in the Senate will be Minority Whip. So, my guess is he takes to that job like, let's say, white on rice. — Jon Stewart

Yesterday in a 25 to 24 vote, Republicans welcomed back Lott back into their leadership and named him Minority Whip. That is great for Trent. They say Minority Whip is a stepping stone to Grand Wizard. — Stephen Colbert

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November 19, 2006

Prospering By Promoting Conflict Religion

Various blogs have linked to the latest outrage from Pat Robertson:

A viewer wrote in to ask Pat Robertson a question:
Why [do] evangelical Christians tell non-Christians that Jesus (God) is the only way to Heaven? Those who are Hindu, Buddhist, Islamic, etc. already know and have a relationship with God. Why is this? It seems disrespectful.

Robertson replied that it is not all disrespectful because all other religions really just worship "demonic powers."

No. They don't have a relationship. There is the god of the Bible, who is Jehovah. When you see L-O-R-D in caps, that is the name. It's not Allah, it's not Brahma, it's not Shiva, it's not Vishnu, it's not Buddha. It is Jehovah God. They don't have a relationship with him. He is the God of all Gods. These others are mostly demonic powers. Sure they're demons. There are many demons in the world. [Emphasis in the original]

(Video here.)

Yes, Pat Robertson is an asshole. And yes, we're right to recoil from his primitive, small-minded atavism. But he's hardly alone.

Everywhere we look, some religious leader or other is promoting conflict against another religious group. Sunnis and Shiites, Jews and Muslims, Muslims and Hindus, etc., etc. And now this (Time):

When [Pope] Benedict XVI travels to Turkey next week on his first visit to a Muslim country since becoming pope last year, he is unlikely to cloak himself in the downy banner of brotherhood, the way Pope John Paul II did during his sojourn there 27 years ago.

Instead, Benedict, 79, will arrive carrying a much different reputation: that of a hard-knuckle intellect with a taste for blunt talk and interreligious confrontation. Just 19 months into his tenure, the pope has become as much a lightning rod as a moral leader; suddenly, when he speaks, the whole world listens.

And what takes place over four days in three Turkish cities has the potential to define his papacy — and a good deal more. [...]

[T]his year he has emerged as a far more compelling and complex figure than anyone had imagined. And much of that has to do with his willingness to take on what some people feel is today's equivalent of the communist scourge — the threat of Islamic violence.

The topic is extraordinarily fraught: there are, after all, a billion or so nonviolent Muslims on the globe; the Roman Catholic church's own record in the religious-mayhem department is hardly pristine; and even the most naive of observers understands that the Vicar of Christ might harbor an institutional prejudice against one of Christianity's main global competitors.

But by speaking out last September in Regensburg, Germany, about the possible intrinsic connection between Islam and violence and refusing to retract its essence — even when Islamic extremists destroyed several churches and murdered a nun in Somalia — the pontiff suddenly became a lot more interesting.

In one imperfect but powerful stroke, he departed from his predecessor's largely benign approach to Islam, discovered an issue that might attract even the most religiously jaded and managed (for better or worse) to reanimate the clash-of-civilizations discussion by focusing scrutiny on the core question of whether Islam, as a religion, sanctions violence.

He was hailed by cultural conservatives worldwide. Says Helen Hull Hitchcock, a St. Louis, Missouri, lay leader who heads the conservative Catholic organization Women for Faith & Family: "He has said what needed to be said." [Emphasis added]

By slandering Islam, one of "Christianity's main global competitors," Benedict made himself, Time says, "a lot more interesting." Now, "when he speaks, the whole world listens."

Sociologists Rodney Stark and Roger Finke have studied religions from the perspective of rational choice theory — people adhere to religions because they believe the benefits they get from religion justify the costs. Their analysis has led to a number of propostions about religious "firms" that must compete for adherents. To wit:

Proposition 76. Even where competition is limited, religious firms can generate high levels of participation to the extent that the firms serve as the primary organizational vehicles for social conflict. (Conversely, if religious firms become significantly less important as vehicles for social conflict, they will be correspondingly less able to generate commitment.)

Or, as Danial Dennett puts it in his book Breaking the Spell,

In other words, expect religious "firms" to exploit and exacerbate social conflict whenever possible, since it is a way of generating business.

I leave it to you to decide if Robertson, Benedict, et al, act out of instinct or calculated manipulation. Either way, the result is the same. In what should be an increasingly interconnected world, religion has emerged (or, re-emerged) as a deliberate, active sower of discord, giving people something we really don't need: yet another reason to hate one another, a reason supposedly bearing a stamp of approval from one god or another.

The great thing about Robertson's outburst is that it is so nakedly primitive, so anachronistic, so superstitious that it lets us see clearly what's going on. Now let's apply that insight to all religious pronouncements that seek to divide us. They're all equally bogus, even if they're stated with more finesse.

Must we, at this late date, persist in believing that our Invisible Avenger in the Sky (George Carlin's phrase) wants us to hate and kill people who believe in a differnt Invisible Avenger? Time to grow up and stop letting ourselves be played for such suckers.

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Sermon For Today Humor & Fun

This being Sunday and all.

When I was a child, I used to pray to God for a bicycle. But then I realized that God doesn't work in that way — so I stole a bike and prayed for forgiveness. — Emo Phillips

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For The Children Future

A child paints a flower on the world's longest painting ever made by children, in a UNICEF-sponsored event yesterday in Bucharest, Romania (via EuroTrib):

Let's leave the children the world that they deserve.

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The War On Christmas Humor & Fun

It seems to come earlier every year.

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

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Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

A judge in Massachusetts has ruled that a burrito is not a sandwich. Which makes me wonder, have we found bin Laden yet? — David Letterman

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November 18, 2006

Gonzales: Spying Foes A Grave Threat To Liberty And Security 9/11, "War On Terror"  Politics  Rights, Law

Alberto Gonzales says foes of the administration's warrantless electronic surveillance are a "grave threat" to the "liberty and security of the American people." AP:

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales contended Saturday that some critics of the Bush administration's warrantless surveillance program were defining freedom in a way that presents a "grave threat" to U.S. security.

Gonzales was the second administration official in two days to attack a federal judge's ruling last August that the program was unconstitutional. Vice President Dick Cheney on Friday called the decision "an indefensible act of judicial overreaching."

Gonzales, in remarks prepared for delivery at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado, said that some see the program as on the verge of stifling freedom rather that protecting the country.

"But this view is shortsighted," he said. "Its definition of freedom — one utterly divorced from civic responsibility — is superficial and is itself a grave threat to the liberty and security of the American people."

Gonzales and Cheney's attacks on the court order came as the administration was urging the lame-duck Congress to approve legislation authorizing the warrantless surveillance. The bill's chances are in doubt, however, because of Democratic opposition in the Senate, where 60 votes are required to end debate and vote. [...]

In August, U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor in Detroit struck down the warrantless surveillance program, saying it violated the rights to free speech and privacy and the constitutional separation of powers. She was the first judge to rule on the legality of the program, which is operated by the National Security Agency.

Bush and other administration officials sharply criticized the ruling, which the government appealed. They argued that the program is legal under the president's constitutional powers and saved lives by helping to disrupt terrorist plots.

Cheney, in an address Friday to the Federalist Society, said Taylor's order was troubling because it was "tying the hands of the president of the United States in the conduct of a war." He added: "And this is a matter entirely outside the competence of the judiciary."

In his prepared remarks, Gonzales dismissed as "myth" the charge that civil liberties were being sacrificed in the fight against terrorism. He defended the USA Patriot Act and the handling of detainees at the U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. [Emphasis added]

Criticism of warrantless wiretapping a grave threat to liberty. Orwell lives.

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

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Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

President Bush said he is now listening to Democrats in a new way -- without wiretaps. — Jay Leno

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November 17, 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

Last week, Bush had lunch with the new Democratic Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi. I believe the main course was Rumsfeld's head on a platter. — Jay Leno

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November 16, 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

Political experts say President Bush planned a trip to several foreign countries this week because he is unpopular at home. In response, the White House said, That's ridiculous. The president is just as unpopular overseas. — Conan O'Brien

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November 15, 2006

Fair And Balanced Media

FOX News internal memo posted at HuffPo:

The elections and Rumsfeld's resignation were a major event, but not the end of the world. The war on terror goes on without interruption...And let's be on the lookout for any statements from the Iraqi insurgents, who must be thrilled at the prospect of a Dem-controlled congress. [...]

Just because the Dems won, the war on terror isn't over.

Shorter version: the election/Rumsfeld was a bummer, but cheer up, people: we still got our war!

Pardon me while I retch.

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Business As Usual Environment

Another year goes by without our making a meaningful dent in CO2 emissions (graph via PolicyPete):

We can act constructively. In fact, we must. But the question is, will we — before it's too late.

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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

Tomorrow President Bush is leaving for Vietnam. I guess this time his father couldn't get him out of it. — David Letterman

This week President Bush is flying to Asia to meet with leaders of Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. Or, as President Bush calls them, China. — Conan O'Brien

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November 14, 2006

Laptop Woes Continue

Dell guy's coming tomorrow. Wish me luck.

Meanwhile, don't lose faith — I'll be back.

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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

On election night, in an ironic turnaround, Iraq brought regime change to the U.S. — Amy Poehler

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November 13, 2006

Bechtel Takes The Money And Runs Iraq

Halliburton's not the only company with friends in high places that is making a killing in Iraq. There's also construction giant Bechtel, who has picked up $2.3 billion for accomplishing next to nothing. Now they're leaving. IPS News:

The decision of the giant engineering company Bechtel to withdraw from Iraq has left many Iraqis feeling betrayed. In its departure they see the end of remaining hopes for the reconstruction of Iraq. [...]

Bechtel, whose board members have close ties to the Bush administration, announced last week that it was done with trying to operate in the war-torn country. The company has received 2.3 billion dollars of Iraqi reconstruction funds and U.S. taxpayer money, but is leaving without completing most of the tasks it set out to.

On every level of infrastructure measurable, the situation in Iraq is worse now than under the rule of Saddam Hussein. That includes the 12 years of economic sanctions since the first Gulf War in 1991, a period that former UN humanitarian coordinator for Iraq Dennis Halliday described as "genocidal" for Iraqis.

The average household in Iraq now gets two hours of electricity a day. There is 70 percent unemployment, 68 percent of Iraqis have no access to safe drinking water, and only 19 percent have sewage access. Not even oil production has matched pre-invasion levels.

The security situation is hellish, with a recent study published in the prestigious British medical journal Lancet estimating 655,000 excess deaths in Iraq as a result of the invasion and occupation.

The group Medact recently said that easily treatable conditions such as diarrhea and respiratory illness are causing 70 percent of all child deaths, and that "of the 180 health clinics the U.S. hoped to build by the end of 2005, only four have been completed — and none opened."

A proposed 200 million dollar project to build 142 primary care centres ran out of cash after building just 20 clinics, a performance that the World Health Organisation described as "shocking."

Iraqis are complaining louder now than under the sanctions. Lack of electricity has led to increasing demand for gasoline to run generators. And gasoline is among the most scarce commodities in this oil-rich country. [...]

"The [electricity] situation now is much worse and it seems not to be improving despite the huge contracts signed with American companies. It is strange how billions of dollars spent on electricity brought no improvement whatsoever, but in fact worsened the situation." [...]

Bechtel's contract included reconstruction of water treatment systems, electricity plants, sewage systems, airports and roads.

Two former Iraqi ministers of electricity were charged with corruption by the Iraqi Commission of Integrity set up under the occupation. One of them, Ayham al-Samarraii, was sentenced to jail but was taken away by his U.S. security guards. He insisted that it was not he who looted the ministry's money. [...]

Bechtel was among the first companies, along with Halliburton, where U.S. Vice-President Dick Cheney once worked, to have received fixed-fee contracts drawn to guarantee profit.

Ahmed al-Ani who works with a major Iraqi construction contracting company says the model Bechtel adopted was certain to fail.

"They charged huge sums of money for the contracts they signed, then they sold them to smaller companies who resold them again to small inexperienced Iraqi contractors," Ani told IPS. "These inexperienced contractors then had to execute the works badly because of the very low prices they get, and the lack of experience."

Some Iraqi political analysts, rather optimistically, look at Bechtel's departure from a different angle.

"I see the beginning of a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq," Maki al-Nazzal told IPS. "It started with Bechtel and Haliburton's propaganda, and might end with their escape from the field. They came with Bremer and introduced themselves as heroes and saviours who would bring prosperity to Iraq, but all they did was market U.S. propaganda."

U.S. President George W. Bush told reporters on a visit to Iraq last June: "You can measure progress in megawatts of electricity delivered. You can measure progress in terms of oil sold on the market on behalf of the Iraqi people."

By his standards, the position in Iraq is now much worse. [Emphasis added]

$2.3 billion is one hell of a lot of money. Especially since it doesn't seem to have bought much of anything. But Bechtel, like Halliburton, won't suffer because of its failure to get the job done. When the next multi-billion dollar contracts come along, they'll be right back at the head of the line. The game's rigged, and they're playing with our money.

Crony capitalism is way too polite a term. It's pillage and plunder, rape and looting. They're pirates, gangsters, vampires with their fangs in the neck of the world.

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Lieberman: "I'm Not Ruling It Out" Politics

Joe Lieberman says he won't rule out switching to the GOP, but for now he wants to be known as an "Independent Democrat." Boston Globe:

Senator Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut said yesterday that he will caucus with Senate Democrats in the new Congress, but he would not rule out switching to the Republican caucus if he starts to feel uncomfortable among Democrats.

Lieberman, a Democrat who won reelection as an independent, also said he wants to be called an Independent Democrat.

A strong backer of the Iraq war, Lieberman was returned to office on Election Day with strong GOP support. He ran as an independent after he lost the Democratic primary in August to Ned Lamont.

He said yesterday on NBC's "Meet the Press" that he will begin his new term as a Democrat because it would make him part of the congressional leadership. The senator is in line to become chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. [...]

Democrats will hold a 51-49 edge in the Senate, so Lieberman, the Democratic nominee for vice president in 2000, could find himself courted by Republicans.

He was asked about the possibility that he might switch caucuses if he became uncomfortable as Democrats sought to enforce party discipline, particularly if the GOP offered to keep him as a committee chairman and respect his seniority.

"I'm not ruling it out, but I hope I don't get to that point. And, and I must say, and with all respect to the Republicans who supported me in Connecticut, nobody ever said, 'We're doing this because we, we want you to switch over,'" he said. [...]

"I am going to Washington beholden to no political group except the people of Connecticut and, of course, my conscience," he said. [Emphasis added]

His conscience. Uh-huh. His ego, more like it. With the Senate split 51-49, any Democrat could threaten to switch parties. But to actually make that threat? That takes a Lieberman.

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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

You got to give Rumsfeld credit though. It might have taken him six years, but he finally came up with an exit strategy. — Jay Leno

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November 12, 2006

Russ Won't Run Politics

Russ Feingold's not going to run for President after all. Madison's Capital Times:

Wisconsin Sen. Russ Feingold has decided against seeking the Democratic nomination for president in 2008.

He states in a letter to friends and supporters of his Progressive Patriots Fund, formed in early 2005 as he explored the possibility of a run for the party nomination, that he has decided to continue his work as senator and not make the run for president.

According to the letter, he is excited by the results of Tuesday's elections in which Democrats won control of the House and Senate, giving them the chance to "undo much of the damage that one-party rule has done to America" and "actually advance progressive solutions to such major issues as guaranteed health care, dependence on oil and our unbalanced trade policies."

Feingold, 53, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, as reported on its Web page, that he realized he would be a long-shot candidate in a run for the presidency.

He said running as an underdog appealed to him, but not the way it would "dismantle" his work in the Senate and his personal life.

As an outspoken opponent of the Iraq war, the Patriot Act and other Bush administration policies, Feingold had formed the political action committee and gone to key presidential primary states such as Iowa and New Hampshire.

Still, he said he started the process more predisposed against a run than for it.

"I began with the feeling I didn't really want to do this but was open to the possibility that getting around the country would make me want to do it. That never happened," he said.

He said he had come closer to making his decision in the past few weeks, and the final factor came when Democrats won both houses of Congress because it provided added appeal to focus on work in the Senate. [Emphasis added]

It would have been a near impossible task for Feingold to win, but it would have been good to have him participating in the debate, keeping the other candidates honest. Hopefully, he can take a leading role in the new Senate alignment. He is truly one of the good guys.

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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

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has resigned. He said he wants to spend more time promoting unnecessary conflicts within his own family. — Jay Leno

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November 11, 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

Twenty-three years ago two men shook hands [on screen: a 1983 photo of Donald Rumsfeld shaking hands with Saddam Hussein]. No one then could have guessed how closely their fates would be intertwined, or that this week would be kind of a crappy week for both of them. Just days after Saddam Hussein was sentenced to death, Donald Rumsfeld was dealt an even crueler punishment — irrelevance. — Jon Stewart

Donald Rumsfeld was known as the architect of the Iraq war. He can feel proud of what he's built, because it's going to last for years and years and years. — Jay Leno

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November 10, 2006

Laptop Woes... Again

Laptop problems again, this time with my new laptop. Argh. I may try to post something later tonight, but no guarantees. Otherwise, check back tomorrow.

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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

Today, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld announced he's stepping down. Rumsfeld said, "I made the decision after it became clear that I couldn't do my job effectively — and then I waited three years." — Conan O'Brien

Donald Rumsfeld has been let go. Insiders describe Rumsfeld's reaction as shocked and awed. How does that make Rumsfeld feel when George Bush tells you you're not competent enough?. — Jay Leno

Donald Rumsfeld has resigned and the new Secretary of Defense is a guy named Robert Gates. He's a close friend of the Bush family. Yeah, that always works out pretty well. Rumsfeld took it pretty well. He said he's eager now to move on to try and legalize torture in the private sector. — David Letterman

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November 09, 2006

White Folks Politics

This is depressing. Billmon:

I know I'm looking for dark linings to silver clouds here, but I still find this exit poll data depressing:

Republican share of two-party vote

Whites: 51%
White men: 53%
White women: 50%

Granted, if you back out the lop-sided results in Dixie (and oh how I wish we could) the totals aren't as bad. But still, in the midwest heartland, the best the Dems could manage was 47% of the white vote. In the west it was 49% — a meager one percentage point plurality.

Only in the Northeast (the part of the country that Barry Goldwater once hoped would fall into the sea) did the Dems manage a solid 58% of the white vote. If there's are reasons to put up with the overcrowding, pollution, crumbling infrastructure and suburban sprawl of the Boston-to-Washington corridor, that's one of them. It's still the most civilized part of the country.

But it does make you wonder: Is there anything the Republicans could do, any line of incompetence or plutocratic indulgence they could cross, that would cost them their national majority among the honkies? I'm seriously beginning to doubt it. [Emphasis added]

Actually, it's worse than depressing. It's scary.

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Jesus Camp Shutting Down Religion

Seattle Times:

The summer camp featured in the documentary "Jesus Camp," which includes scenes with disgraced preacher Ted Haggard, will shut down for at least several years because of negative reaction sparked by the film, according to the camp's director.

"Right now we're just not a safe ministry," Becky Fischer, the fiery Pentecostal pastor featured in "Jesus Camp," said Tuesday.

The documentary, which hit select U.S. theaters during the summer, portrays Fischer, 55, as drill instructor to a group of young evangelical children steeling themselves for spiritual and political warfare.

Led by Fischer, the children pray in tongues, as is common in charismatic strains of Pentecostalism; tearfully beg God to end abortion; and bless President Bush at a weeklong camp in Devils Lake, N.D.

Fischer has drawn fire from some corners for "brainwashing" the children. After vandals damaged the campground last month and critics besieged Fischer with negative e-mails, phone calls and letters, the pastor said she's shutting down the camp for at least several years.

"I don't think we'll be doing it for a while," she said.

Fischer lives in Bismarck, N.D., and is chief pastor at The Fire Center, a church devoted to children's ministry there. She has run the weeklong "Kids on Fire" summer camp, which is featured in the film, since 2002, with 75 to 100 children attending each year.

The documentary also includes scenes of Haggard, the evangelical leader accused of gay sex and drug use.

In one scene, directors Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady visit Haggard's 14,000-member New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colo. He tells the vast audience, "We don't have to debate about what we should think about homosexual activity. It's written in the Bible."

Then Haggard looks into the camera and says kiddingly: "I think I know what you did last night," drawing laughs from the crowd. "If you send me a thousand dollars, I won't tell your wife." [Emphasis added]

Guess he had it coming.

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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

The other day in Iraq, after Saddam Hussein was found guilty, there was celebratory gunfire in the streets. Unfortunately, it couldn't be heard over the regular gunfire. — Conan O'Brien

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November 08, 2006

The Senate, Too Politics

I was sitting in Border's when my cell phone rang: my 17-year-old daughter Molly. I don't know when I've heard her so excited. "Have you seen the news?" she asked. "What?" "We got the Senate!!!", screaming now with glee. "Come on over, I'm making cookies!!!"

Yeah, baby! Let the games begin.

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Timing Politics

I have to admit I was mystified why the White House would announce Rumsfeld's firing the morning after the elections. It seemed like an open admission that the Democrats' victories forced a change in course, which in turn seemed to give the Dems a share, at least, of the credit. Not exactly standard operating procedure for this White House.

Billmon may have hit on the answer: by doing the announcement today, the White House gets to shift the media's attention from the Democratic sweep to a story that reflects credit on the White House. It's all about dominating the news cycle — and looking conciliatory and constructive in the process. Politics.

Still, you have to wonder how much different yesterday's results would have been if the White House had fired Rumsfeld a month ago and made a big show of trying a fresh approach in Iraq back then. Luckily, we'll never know.

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Tester Wins Politics

Networks have called Montana for Tester. That leaves Virginia.

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Rumsfeld Gone Politics

CNN says Rumsfeld's gone.

The day after the election? Why not a month ago when it could have let the GOP keep control of the Senate, at least? What in the world are they thinking?

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Oh-Fer Politics

So far, as Billmon points out, it looks like Republicans failed to unseat a single Democratic incumbent in any House, Senate, or Gubernatorial race. A shutout. Pretty stunning.

Moreover, as Norm Ornstein just pointed out on Al Franken's show, most of the 30 or so seats that the Dems picked up in the House were in districts where the Republican incumbent won with 60% or more of the vote in 2004. Even more stunning.

One number I'd like to see: the total number of votes nationwide for all Democratic congressional candidates v. the total number for all Republican candidates. That would give an interesting measure of where we stand looking ahead to 2008.

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Ballot Questions Politics

Referenda were a mixed bag.

Raising the minimum wage won in all six states where it was on the ballot: Arizona, Colorado, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, Ohio.

Banning same-sex marriage appears to have lost in Arizona, but it won in Colorado, Idaho, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia, and, I'm sorry to say, here in Wisconsin.

Legalization of marijuana lost in Colorado, Nevada, and South Dakota.

Parental notification lost in Oregon and is losing in California. An outright abortion ban lost in South Dakota.

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Virginia Politics

So, it looks like control of the Senate comes down to Virginia. Were it not for aggressive GOP vote suppression tactics there, it probably wouldn't have been this close. But as it is, a recount is in the cards.

The good news: the vote count in Virginia is the responsibility of Katherine Hanley — a Democrat, for once.

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

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Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

The unemployment rate came out. It's down to 4.4 — lowest in the world, which is good news for Republicans. That means after the election, they'll be able to find jobs. — Jay Leno

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November 07, 2006

15 Politics

According to the DCCC, Dems have picked up the needed 15 seats to take control of the House.

© Kent Tenney 

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CNN: Judge Denies Extended Voting Hours In Denver Politics

Rolling Stone:

CNN just had a helicopter shot showing massive lines in Denver and is reporting [that] a judge has denied Democratic requests to extend voting hours.

If they're in line when the polls close, they should be allowed to vote. How is it in the public interest in a democracy to deny that?

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Attention Bounty Hunters Vote Fraud

MoveOn is offering a quarter million dollar reward "for new material evidence leading to a felony conviction for an organized effort of partisan voter suppression or electronic voting fraud."

Seems like they should have announced this a couple of months ago. Get some people digging.

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Head Slapper Politics

Atrios has a simple, but brilliant, idea.

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Memory Lane Politics

Just went back and read my last post from Election Night 2004. Rough night, that.

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Early Exit Polls Politics

Some early exit polls, but I refused to get excited yet. The exit polls in 2004 broke my heart.

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A Criminal Enterprise Politics  Vote Fraud

Billmon's got it right:

Like everybody else, I don't know what's going to happen today, but this election has already illuminated one critical truth: The modern GOP — or, more specifically, the axis of '70s campus Republicans now running it — really is just a criminal enterprise disguised as a political party.

Dirty tricks, large and small, are a sorry fact of life in American politics, but what the Republicans have done over the past few weeks — the surrealist attack ads, the forged endorsements, the midnight robo calls, the arrest threats, the voter misinformation (did you know your polling station has been moved?) — is sui generis, at least at the national level.

Even Dick Nixon never tried anything like this on such a grand scale — although, of course, he also didn't have the technology. The only thing we haven't seen yet is a break in at DNC headquarters. And if the Rovians thought they could get anything out of it that would be useful in this election (nobody else has) we'd probably be reading about that, too.

It's always possible to point to Democratic/liberal offenses, but at this point the comparisons look pretty silly: some downed yard signs here, a few crooked and/or stoned ACORN canvassers there. Not even in the same universe, much less the same ball park.

Couple the GOP's rat-fucking campaign with all the other stuff we already know about — the collectivized bribery of the K Street Project, the Abramoff casino extortion ring, the Defense and CIA appropriation scams, the Iraq War contracting scams, the Pacific Island sex trade protection racket, the church pulpits doubling as ward halls, the illegal wiretapping, the lies, perjury and obstruction of justice in the Plame case (I really could go on like this all day) — and it's clear that what we need most isn't a new Congress but a new RICO prosecution, with lots of defendents and unindicted co-conspirators. [Emphasis added]

Of course, the mainstream media will never dare to report it that way. But it's the truth.

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GOP Distributes False Sample Ballots Vote Fraud


But of course every news story will be framed as if there's some sort of equivalency between the parties' tactics.

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Pelosi: "Will We Have An Honest Count?" Politics  Vote Fraud

San Francisco Chronicle:

In an interview from her Capitol office, [House Democratic Leader Nancy] Pelosi characterized Tuesday's vote as a referendum on the war, shrugged off President Bush's efforts to make her liberalism a national issue, described the current GOP leadership as a "freak show," and expressed confidence about her party's prospects to pick up the 15 seats it needs for a majority.

"I know where the numbers are in these races, and I know that they are there for the 15; today (it's) 22 to 26," Pelosi said Friday.

Pelosi cautioned that the number of Democratic House victories could be higher or lower and said her greatest concern is over the integrity of the count — from the reliability of electronic voting machines to her worries that Republicans will try to manipulate the outcome.

"That is the only variable in this," Pelosi said. "Will we have an honest count?" [Emphasis added]

What's incomprehensible to me: why Democrats haven't made more of an issue of voter suppression and election fraud. Why do they wait until it's time for an election before they bring it up?

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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

This is a good rule for life: Look for whoever is the most against anything and you can almost guarantee they are that something they are against. The guy who devotes his life to fighting gay rights is gay. The guy working to pass the laws against child pornography is sending sex messages to teenage interns. — Jimmy Kimmel

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November 06, 2006

"Unchecked, And Unbalanced" Politics

Keith Olbermann on the importance of voting:


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More GOP Robo-Calling Politics


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Hacking Democracy Vote Fraud

The HBO special "Hacking Democracy" is available online here. Go watch.

Prepare to be outraged.

[Thanks, Jeff]

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More GOP Vote Suppression Politics  Vote Fraud

Wayne Madsen Report:

WMR has learned this afternoon that the GOP and the George Allen campaign are conducting a massive statewide voter suppression operation throughout Virginia. [...]

We have learned that GOP robo-callers are phoning Virginia voters who changed their voter registration from other states during at least the past five years. Registered legal Virginia voters are being told that if they attempt to vote tomorrow they will be prosecuted. [Emphasis added]

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Robo-Calling Dirty Tricks Politics  Vote Fraud

As you may have read on other blogs, the RNC is paying for automated dirty-trick phone calls in dozens of districts across the country. These calls are designed to trick recipients into thinking they came from Democratic candidates. They reportedly are placed at inconvenient times and are repeated, sometimes immediately after the recipient hangs up. The goal clearly is to piss off voters who would otherwise vote Democratic. Rolling Stone:

Just got off a conference call with Rahm Emanuel of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

He called the burgeoning Republican robo-call scandal — in which the National Republican Campaign Committee is aparently violating state do-not-call registries by placing repeat robocalls after midnight to Democratic voters, calls that are recorded to leave bleary-eyed and angry recipients with the impression that they have been placed by Democratic candidates — "the worst of dirty tricks."

"They're doing again the very thing they got fined for," Emanuel said. "We'll be dealing with this." Unfortunately, Emanuel admitted, any "dealing" will be done after election night. [Emphasis added]

They'll get fined, after the election, but so what? A monetary fine is no disincentive. The only way these tactics could hurt the Republicans is if the mainstream broadcast and cable media picked up the story and covered it extensively, now, before the election. Won't happen. Your liberal media at work.

So we need to make our own coverage. Protect Our Votes:

For this to break through, there needs to be visual evidence that voters are being called back immediately. Bloggers: please tell your readers to get video cameras ready and start rolling when the phone rings. Use the speaker phone so that the call can be heard. We need just one example of that up on YouTube and VideoTheVote.com.

Even better would be emails leaked from the robo call house responsible (or any robo call house for that matter) that offer the service or mention the strategy in question. [Emphasis added]

Stay tuned.

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Pareto Fallacy Politics

An interesting and useful point from Ezra Klein.

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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

Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney got full endorsements from President Bush. That's like Curly and Larry getting a vote of confidence from Moe. — David Letterman

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November 05, 2006

Denying Global Warming Environment

A remarkable article from New Scientist describes organized efforts to intimidate and discredit scientists who call public attention to global warming:

Kevin Trenberth reckons he is a marked man. He has argued that last year's devastating Atlantic hurricane season, which spawned hurricane Katrina, was linked to global warming. For the many politicians and minority of scientists who insist there is no evidence for any such link, Trenberth's views are unacceptable and some have called for him step down from an international panel studying climate change. "The attacks on me are clearly designed to get me fired or to resign," says Trenberth.

The attacks fit a familiar pattern. Sceptics have also set their sights on scientists who have spoken out about the accelerating meltdown of the ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica and the thawing of the planet's permafrost. These concerns will be addressed in the next report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the global organisation created by the UN in 1988 to assess the risks of human-induced climate change. Every time one of these assessments is released, about once every five years, some of the American scientists who have played a part in producing it become the targets of concerted attacks apparently designed to bring down their reputations and careers. At stake is the credibility of scientists who fear our planet is hurtling towards disaster and want to warn the public in the US and beyond.

So when the next IPCC report is released in February 2007, who will be the targets and why? When New Scientist spoke to researchers on both sides of the climate divide it became clear that they are ready for a showdown. If the acrimony were to become so intense that American scientists were forced to stop helping in the preparation of IPCC reports, it could seriously dent the organisation and rob the world of some significant voices in the climate change debate. [...]

Another scientist to suffer the ire of the sceptics was Michael Mann of Pennsylvania State University in University Park. He was attacked after the IPCC assessment in 2001, which highlighted his "hockey stick" graph showing that temperatures began a rapid rise in recent decades and are now higher than at any time over the past thousand years. The sceptics accused Mann of cherry-picking his data and criticised him for refusing to disclose his statistical methods which, they claimed, biased the study to show recent warming . Last year, Texas Republican Congressman Joe Barton, chair of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, ordered Mann to provide the committee with voluminous details of his working procedures, computer programs and past funding. Barton's demands were widely condemned by fellow scientists and on Capitol Hill. "There are people who believe that if they bring down Mike Mann, they can bring down the IPCC," said Santer at the time. Mann's findings, which will be endorsed in the new IPCC report, have since been replicated by other studies.

Santer says, however, that he expects attacks to continue on other fronts. "There is a strategy to single out individuals, tarnish them and try to bring the whole of the science into disrepute," he says. "And Kevin [Trenberth] is a likely target." Mann agrees that the scientists behind the upcoming IPCC report are in for a rough ride. "There is already an orchestrated campaign against the IPCC by climate change contrarians," he says. [...]

Many of the IPCC's authors...claim there is an extensive network of lobby groups and scientists involved in making the case against the IPCC and its reports. Automobile, coal and oil companies have coordinated and funded past attacks on them, the scientists say. Sometimes this has been done through Washington lobby groups such as the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), whose officers include Myron Ebell, a former climate negotiator for George W. Bush's administration. Recently, the CEI made television advertisements arguing against climate change, one of which ended with the words: "Carbon dioxide, they call it pollution, we call it life." CEI's past funders include ExxonMobil, General Motors and the Ford Motor Company.

Some sceptical scientists are funded directly by industry. In July, The Washington Post published a leaked letter from the Intermountain Rural Electric Association (IREA), an energy company based in Colorado, that exhorted power companies to support the work of the prominent sceptic Pat Michaels of the University of Virginia, Charlottesville. Worried about the potential cost of cleaning up coal-fired power plants to reduce their CO2 emissions, IREA's general manager, Stanley Lewandowski, wrote: "We believe that it is necessary to support the scientific community that is willing to stand up against the alarmists... In February this year, IREA alone contributed $100,000 to Dr Michaels." [...]

Another sensitive area is the concern that existing models of ice sheets on Greenland and Antarctica massively underestimate future melting and consequent sea-level rise. "Our understanding of the dynamics of ice-sheet destruction has completely changed in the last five years," says Richard Alley of Penn State University, a lead author of the chapter on ice sheets who expects to find himself in the firing line over this issue. "We used to think it would take 10,000 years for melting to penetrate to the bottom of the ice sheet. But now we know it can take just 10 seconds," he says.

The rethink has come from the discovery that when surface water from melting ice drains down though crevasses it can lubricate the join between ice and bedrock. This mechanism appears to explain the faster discharge of ice from Greenland into the Atlantic, but it has yet to be incorporated into ice-sheet models, which still assume that the limiting factor is the rate at which heat penetrates through solid ice. [...]

A third focus for debate will be the way the IPCC treats recent reports of climate change disrupting the natural carbon cycle more than anticipated. This has to do with the release of large amounts of CO2 from rainforests and soils, and methane from permafrost and beneath continental shelves, possibly speeding up global warming. "These are factors not included in the current models, which may cause us to underestimate warming," Mann says. [...]

The US Senate's Environment and Public Works Committee under its chairman James Inhofe has begun investigating NCAR, Trenberth's employer. Inhofe has repeatedly written to NCAR and other agencies demanding details about financial and contractual arrangements with their employees and with federal funding agencies such as the National Science Foundation (NSF). In a letter to the NSF in February, Inhofe said he needed the information to help him in "researching, analyzing and understanding the science of global climate change". Inhofe has a record of hostility to the idea of climate change, having asked on the Senate floor in July 2003: "Could it be that man-made global warming is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people? It sure sounds like it."

NCAR is not commenting on Inhofe's investigation, but many climate scientists contacted by New Scientist regard it as a tactic designed to intimidate those working on the IPCC report. "Inhofe's actions appear to be an effort to discourage leading US scientists from being involved in international scientific assessment processes such as the IPCC," Mann says.

This is potentially disastrous for the IPCC. Out of 168 scientists listed as lead authors or reviewers involved in assessing the science of climate change, 38 are from the US - more than twice as many as the second-largest national grouping, the British. [Emphasis added]

We've linked to article after article that shows that global warming is advancing more rapidly than anyone expected and that a variety of feedback loops are kicking in that will tend to accelerate it further. E.g., warming melts the permafrost; which releases methane, a potent greenhouse gas; which causes more warming; which melts more permafrost, etc., etc. It has never been clear in most of those articles if the feedback loops are already taken into account in current computer models of global warming. Apparently not, which means we're worse off than we think. Cause for alarm, indeed.

[Thanks, Jeff]

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Ted Haggard Humor & Fun


You know you're in a pretty tight spot when you're a fundamentalist preacher with a high political profile and your defense is: "I only bought crystal meth from that gay hooker."

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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

Former Congressman Mark Foley has decided to remain in rehab even though his 30-day treatment ended last Tuesday. Apparently, phoney alcoholism is the trickiest kind of alcoholism to treat. It's hard to detect because it never existed. — Jay Leno

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November 04, 2006

Independents Favor Dems 2-To-1 Politics  Vote Fraud

A new Newsweek poll shows the Democrats continuing to surge, with a nearly 2-to-1 advantage among independent voters:

As President George W. Bush jets across Red State America this weekend, Republican candidates are falling further behind Democratic rivals, according to the new NEWSWEEK poll. While the GOP has lagged behind Democrats throughout the campaign season, the trend in the past month — when NEWSWEEK conducted four polls in five weeks — had suggested the Republicans were building momentum in the homestretch.

No more. The new poll finds support for Republicans (and for President Bush) receding. For example, 53 percent of Americans want the Democrats to win enough seats to take control of one or both houses of Congress in the midterm elections on Tuesday. Those results are close to early October levels, while less than a third of Americans (32 percent) want Republicans to retain control. If the elections were held today, 54 percent of likely voters say they would support the Democratic candidate in their district versus 38 percent who would vote for the Republican — a 16-point edge for the Democrats. [...]

Meanwhile, the President's approval has fallen back to 35 percent, after a slow but steady rise from 33 percent at the beginning of October to 37 percent in the NEWSWEEK poll last week.

The good news for Republicans is that their voters are coming home; 90 percent of likely Republican voters say they would vote for the GOP's candidate if the elections were held today, not far behind the 95 percent of Democrats who back their party's nominee. But independents say they would vote for the Democrat over the Republican in their district nearly 2 to 1 (26 percent versus 51 percent.) [...]

[O]nly 29 percent of Americans [say] they’re satisfied with the direction of the country — and 64 percent [say] they're not. [Emphasis added]

The good news: people grasp, finally, that the Bush Republicans have got to go. The bad news: they'll be voting in an election system that's pretty well rigged.

So far, election fraud has tended to be applied in cases where the pre-election polls were somewhat close, where we could tell ourselves the outcome was within the margin of error. But this time around, the polls are lopsided. If elections are stolen under these circumstances, it will be like a decree announcing the end of American democracy. We will have crossed a Rubicon from which we may never return. Meanwhile, the mainstream media will refuse to credit the evidence that will be too scary to acknowledge but too obvious to ignore. We'll see black, they'll say white.

The cognitive dissonance will cause a lot of people to just throw up their hands and say, well that's how elections are now. Nobody knows who really won. And anyway, they're all crooks, on both sides. If that happens, elections will be just another form of reality tv with a predetermined outcome. Democracy will be over. But at least we'll know where we stand.

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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

In Maryland, the National Black Association created a controversy for running this radio ad [on screen: Announcer saying, "Democrats passed those black codes and Jim Crow laws. Democrats started the Ku Klux Klan. White hoods and sheets? Republicans freed us from slavery and put our right to vote in the Constitution."]. Great ad. It reminds us what this election is really about — the 1870s. — Stephen Colbert

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November 03, 2006

"Donald Rumsfeld Must Go" Iraq

Editor and Publisher says that on Monday, the day before the election, four leading military newspapers — the Army Times, Air Force Times, Navy Times and Marine Corps Times — will all publish an editorial calling for Donald Rumsfeld's head. Here's the editorial:

Time for Rumsfeld to go.

"So long as our government requires the backing of an aroused and informed public opinion ... it is necessary to tell the hard bruising truth."

That statement was written by Pulitzer Prize-winning war correspondent Marguerite Higgins more than a half-century ago during the Korean War.

But until recently, the "hard bruising" truth about the Iraq war has been difficult to come by from leaders in Washington. One rosy reassurance after another has been handed down by President Bush, Vice President Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld: "mission accomplished," the insurgency is "in its last throes," and "back off," we know what we're doing, are a few choice examples.

Military leaders generally toed the line, although a few retired generals eventually spoke out from the safety of the sidelines, inciting criticism equally from anti-war types, who thought they should have spoken out while still in uniform, and pro-war foes, who thought the generals should have kept their critiques behind closed doors.

Now, however, a new chorus of criticism is beginning to resonate. Active-duty military leaders are starting to voice misgivings about the war's planning, execution and dimming prospects for success.

Army Gen. John Abizaid, chief of U.S. Central Command, told a Senate Armed Services Committee in September: "I believe that the sectarian violence is probably as bad as I've seen it ... and that if not stopped, it is possible that Iraq could move towards civil war."

Last week, someone leaked to The New York Times a Central Command briefing slide showing an assessment that the civil conflict in Iraq now borders on "critical" and has been sliding toward "chaos" for most of the past year. The strategy in Iraq has been to train an Iraqi army and police force that could gradually take over for U.S. troops in providing for the security of their new government and their nation.

But despite the best efforts of American trainers, the problem of molding a viciously sectarian population into anything resembling a force for national unity has become a losing proposition.

For two years, American sergeants, captains and majors training the Iraqis have told their bosses that Iraqi troops have no sense of national identity, are only in it for the money, don't show up for duty and cannot sustain themselves.

Meanwhile, colonels and generals have asked their bosses for more troops. Service chiefs have asked for more money.

And all along, Rumsfeld has assured us that things are well in hand.

Now, the president says he'll stick with Rumsfeld for the balance of his term in the White House.

This is a mistake.

It is one thing for the majority of Americans to think Rumsfeld has failed. But when the nation's current military leaders start to break publicly with their defense secretary, then it is clear that he is losing control of the institution he ostensibly leads.

These officers have been loyal public promoters of a war policy many privately feared would fail. They have kept their counsel private, adhering to more than two centuries of American tradition of subordination of the military to civilian authority.

And although that tradition, and the officers' deep sense of honor, prevent them from saying this publicly, more and more of them believe it.

Rumsfeld has lost credibility with the uniformed leadership, with the troops, with Congress and with the public at large. His strategy has failed, and his ability to lead is compromised. And although the blame for our failures in Iraq rests with the secretary, it will be the troops who bear its brunt.

This is not about the midterm elections. Regardless of which party wins Nov. 7, the time has come, Mr. President, to face the hard bruising truth:

Donald Rumsfeld must go. [Emphasis added]

Think back to all the assurances we've received from Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Rice that the Iraqi security forces are getting ready to stand up so US forces can stand down, that US commanders have been given everything they've asked for, etc., etc. All lies.

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

Posted by Jonathan at 09:45 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

President Bush demanded that Kerry apologize. Can you imagine that — Bush demanding an apology for someone stumbling over his words? Kerry should have tried the Bush strategy: say so many stupid things, no one cares anymore. — Jay Leno

I think it's important to note that nobody hates the troops more than decorated war hero John Kerry. We're all very, very lucky that we have draft-dodgers like George Bush and Dick Cheney to point that out to us. — Jimmy Kimmel

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November 02, 2006

Cui Bono? Politics

How much is it going to matter if Democrats win on Tuesday? Not as much as we'd like.

Democrats, Republicans — they have the same owners.

Check out these lists (via Billmon).

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Erasing The Fish From The Sea Environment

Here at work there's a break room where a tv, visible from the hall, is usually on. A few minutes ago, I walked by and CNN was running an item with an on-screen graph evidently depicting the horrific rate at which the oceans are being denuded of fish. The headline on the graph was something like "Seafood gone by 2050?"

Seafood. Humans are on the verge of erasing fish from the oceans, an unthinkable, earth-shaking catastrophe, an irreversible crime of unimaginable proportions, and CNN couches the story in terms of "seafood". As if it's an issue of the availability of fish sticks. (To be fair, it's not entirely CNN's fault. The original journal article also puts an emphasis on food species. But still.)

Here are excerpts from CNN's online story:

Clambakes, crabcakes, swordfish steaks and even humble fish sticks could be little more than a fond memory in a few decades.

If current trends of overfishing and pollution continue, the populations of just about all seafood face collapse by 2048, a team of ecologists and economists warns in a report in Friday's issue of the journal Science.

"Whether we looked at tide pools or studies over the entire world's ocean, we saw the same picture emerging. In losing species we lose the productivity and stability of entire ecosystems," said the lead author Boris Worm of Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

"I was shocked and disturbed by how consistent these trends are — beyond anything we suspected," Worm said.

While the study focused on the oceans, concerns have been expressed by ecologists about threats to fish in the Great Lakes and other lakes, rivers and freshwaters, too.

Worm and an international team spent four years analyzing 32 controlled experiments, other studies from 48 marine protected areas and global catch data from the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization's database of all fish and invertebrates worldwide from 1950 to 2003.

The scientists also looked at a 1,000-year time series for 12 coastal regions, drawing on data from archives, fishery records, sediment cores and archaeological data.

"At this point 29 percent of fish and seafood species have collapsed — that is, their catch has declined by 90 percent. It is a very clear trend, and it is accelerating," Worm said. "If the long-term trend continues, all fish and seafood species are projected to collapse within my lifetime — by 2048."

"It looks grim and the projection of the trend into the future looks even grimmer," he said. "But it's not too late to turn this around. It can be done, but it must be done soon. We need a shift from single species management to ecosystem management. It just requires a big chunk of political will to do it."

The researchers called for new marine reserves, better management to prevent overfishing and tighter controls on pollution.

In the 48 areas worldwide that have been protected to improve marine biodiversity, they found, "diversity of species recovered dramatically, and with it the ecosystem's productivity and stability."

While seafood forms a crucial concern in their study, the researchers were analyzing overall biodiversity of the oceans. The more species in the oceans, the better each can handle exploitation. [Emphasis added]

Everywhere scientists look these days, they are shocked at the rate of environmental degradation. It's all happening much faster than anyone expected. To make matters worse, these are nonlinear systems, which means that major qualitative changes — points of no return — can happen quite suddenly. And everything's inter-connected.

What will it take to wake us up?

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Katie Couric Gets Shrill Iraq  Media

From the NBC Nightly News CBS Evening News (via Atrios):

Whoa. Things really must be unravelling over there if mainstream network news is this dark.

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

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Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

President Bush warned Democrats not to celebrate too early. This is from the guy who put up the "Mission Accomplished" sign three years ago. — Jay Leno

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November 01, 2006

Plunder Iran

Reuters reports that the USAF is asking for a jaw-dropping $50 billion in emergency funds for 2007. That's in addition to its regular budget of about $100 billion. Excerpts:

The U.S. Air Force is asking the Pentagon's leadership for a staggering $50 billion in emergency funding for fiscal 2007 — an amount equal to nearly half its annual budget, defense analyst Loren Thompson of the Lexington Institute said on Tuesday.

The request is expected to draw criticism on Capitol Hill, where lawmakers are increasingly worried about the huge sums being sought "off budget" to fund wars, escaping the more rigorous congressional oversight of regular budgets.

Another source familiar with the Air Force plans said the extra funds would help pay to transport growing numbers of U.S. soldiers being killed and wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan. [$50 billion for that — what are we here, suckers?] [...]

"This amount of money is so much bigger than the Air Force would normally request ... it hints at a basic breakdown in the process for planning and funding war costs," said Thompson. [...]

The Air Force's proposed emergency budget is nearly half the $105.9 billion it requested as its total base budget for fiscal year 2007, which began on October 1.

The Air Force said it asked Pentagon officials for $17.4 billion in emergency war funds in August, but was now submitting "additional requirements to cover costs for the longer war against terror," based on England's memo. [...]

She said the service had already mapped out an expected supplemental funding request of $50 billion for fiscal 2008. [Emphasis added]

There are several ways of looking at this, none of them good. Maybe the whole system has broken down and devolved into simple naked plundering of the national treasury. But given that the brunt of the Iraq fighting and costs are being borne by the Army and Marines, we have to ask what leads the Air Force to conclude that expenditures on this scale will be necessary and justified. More to the point, what makes them think they have a prayer of selling this to Congress? The only answer seems to be: Iran. An attack on Iran presumably will start out, at least, as a massive air war. So, the USAF knows an attack on Iran is in the cards. Or — as John Robb suggests — they want the money and they'll use Iran to get it.

As usual, there is a confluence of interest groups who stand to gain from an Iran attack. It's never just one thing, one reason, one interest group. It's bad news indeed that there are powerful players (not just the Pentagon, but all the military-aerospace giants who will get the contracts) who stand to make this kind of money. That creates a nearly unstoppable constituency. It may be that some people who advocate war and stand to profit from it consciously tell themselves a hundred other reasons why war is desirable and necessary. But if humans are good at anything, they're good at rationalizing their own self-interest. And when you're talking about tens or hundreds of billions of dollars, that's an awful lot of self-interest.

Posted by Jonathan at 06:39 PM | Comments (3) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

"Edging Toward Chaos" Iraq

The NYT today published a classified CENTCOM assessment that portrays Iraq as moving steadily closer to chaos, with "violence at all-time high":

A classified briefing prepared two weeks ago by the United States Central Command portrays Iraq as edging toward chaos, in a chart that the military is using as a barometer of civil conflict.

A one-page slide shown at the Oct. 18 briefing provides a rare glimpse into how the military command that oversees the war is trying to track its trajectory, particularly in terms of sectarian fighting.

The slide includes a color-coded bar chart that is used to illustrate an "Index of Civil Conflict." It shows a sharp escalation in sectarian violence since the bombing of a Shiite shrine in Samarra in February, and tracks a further worsening this month despite a concerted American push to tamp down the violence in Baghdad.

In fashioning the index, the military is weighing factors like the ineffectual Iraqi police and the dwindling influence of moderate religious and political figures, rather than more traditional military measures such as the enemy’s fighting strength and the control of territory.

The conclusions the Central Command has drawn from these trends are not encouraging, according to a copy of the slide that was obtained by The New York Times. The slide shows Iraq as moving sharply away from "peace," an ideal on the far left side of the chart, to a point much closer to the right side of the spectrum, a red zone marked "chaos." As depicted in the command's chart, the needle has been moving steadily toward the far right of the chart.

An intelligence summary at the bottom of the slide reads "urban areas experiencing 'ethnic cleansing' campaigns to consolidate control" and "violence at all-time high, spreading geographically." [...]

One significant factor in the military's decision to move the scale toward "chaos" was the expanding activity by militias.

Another reason was the limitations of Iraqi government security forces, which despite years of training and equipping by the United States, are either ineffective or, in some cases, infiltrated by the very militias they are supposed to be combating. The slide notes that "ineffectual" Iraqi police forces have been a significant problem, and cites as a concern sectarian conflicts between Iraqi security forces.

Other significant factors are in the political realm. The slide notes that Iraq's political and religious leaders have lost some of their moderating influence over their constituents or adherents. [...]

[F]or a military culture that thrives on PowerPoint briefings, the shifting index was seen by some officials as a stark warning about the difficult course of events in Iraq, and mirrored growing concern by some military officers.

Shorter version: everything the White House has been saying about Iraq is a lie. It's getting worse. Iraqi security forces will never be in a position to "stand up" so US forces can "stand down". The Iraqi "unity government" is a Green Zone fiction. It will all end in chaos. What then?

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105 Iraq

US troops killed in Iraq in October: 105.

And thousands of Iraqis. For what?

October was the deadliest month for US troops since January, 2005 (107), and the fourth deadliest month of the entire war.

No end in sight.

Posted by Jonathan at 11:54 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

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

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Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

Rush Limbaugh recently upset a lot of people because he accused Michael J. Fox of exaggerating his Parkinson's disease symptoms for political reasons. Then Limbaugh accused Stevie Wonder of exaggerating his blindness for free sunglasses. — Conan O'Brien

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