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December 31, 2006

3000 Iraq

US troops killed in Iraq as of today: 3000.

 

And hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. For what?

December was the deadliest month for US troops in more than two years.

Americans want out — approval for the war is under 30% — but Bush prepares to send more troops.

New Year's resolution: Voting isn't enough. We must act. We need to make the political cost of continuing the war too great for Washington to bear. We must resist.

Posted by Jonathan at 03:54 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

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

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Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

This week President Bush is planning to attend a two-day NATO summit to discuss strategies for the war in Afghanistan. President Bush will be giving a speech called "Strategies, Who's Got One?" — Conan O'Brien

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December 30, 2006

Huge Ice Shelf Breaks Off In Canadian North Environment

Today's global warming story. Reuters:

A chunk of ice bigger than the area of Manhattan broke from an ice shelf in Canada's far north and could wreak havoc if it starts to float westward toward oil-drilling regions and shipping lanes next summer, a researcher said on Friday.

Global warming could be one cause of the break of the Ayles Ice Shelf at Ellesmere Island, which occurred in the summer of 2005 but was only detected recently by satellite photos, said Luke Copland, assistant professor at the University of Ottawa's geography department.

It was the largest such break in nearly three decades, casting an ice floe with an area of 66 square km (25 square miles) adrift in the Arctic Ocean, said Copland, who specializes in the study of glaciers and ice masses. [...]

"The risk is that next summer, as that sea ice melts, this large ice island can then move itself around off the coast and one potential path for it is to make its way westward toward the Beaufort Sea, and the Beaufort Sea is where there is lots of oil and gas exploration, oil rigs and shipping." [...]

The speed of the crack and drift-off shocked scientists.

Satellite images showed the 15-km long (9-mile long) crack, then the ice floating about 1 km (0.6 miles) from the coast within about an hour, Copland said.

"You could stand at one edge and not see the other side, and for something that large to move that quickly is quite amazing," he said.

Copland said the break was likely due to a combination of low accumulations of sea ice around the mass's edges as high winds blew it away, as well as one of the Arctic's warmest temperatures on record. The region was 3 degrees Celsius (5.4 degrees F) above average in the summer of 2005, he said.

Ice shelves in Canada's far north have decreased in size by as much as 90 percent since 1906, and global warming likely played a role in the Ayles break, Copland said.

"It's hard to tie one event to climate change, but when you look at the longer-term trend, the bigger picture, we've lost a lot of ice shelves on northern Ellesmere in the past century and this is that continuing," he said. "And this is the biggest one in the last 25 years." [Emphasis added]

No anecdote, taken in isolation, confirms global warming. But when we get one of these anecdotes practically every day...

Meanwhile, here in Madison, you used to be able to park your car on the big lakes this time of year. Today, they're open water. I'm just saying.

[Thanks, Jeff]

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Your Liberal Media Media

Scroll down here and find the interview with John Edwards. Imagine CNN hounding a Republican in the same way. John McCain, say. Never happen.

[Via Atrios]

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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

Big changes in Washington. Earlier today, new Secretary of Defense Robert Gates flew to Iraq to get a first-hand look of the situation over there. After surveying the situation, Gates was quoted as saying, "Uh oh." — Conan O'Brien

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December 29, 2006

Widening The War Iran  Iraq  Palestine/Middle East

Two important items from Swoop. First, regarding the White House's Middle East counteroffensive following the November elections and the Iraq Study Group recommendations. Swoop:

During his current consultations on the new strategy for Iraq, President Bush has told those advising him that he is not interested in any proposals that do not involve "success." "Anyone who does not believe in victory should leave the room right now," was how he began one consultation session. Top National Security Council officials are describing the Iraq Study Group as "discredited" and "dead and buried." Instead a new policy is taking shape. Based on recent discussions between former Saudi Ambassador to Washington Prince Bandar bin Sultan and NSC Middle East Director Elliott Abrams, this policy foresees a central role for Saudi Arabia as a supplier of money and weapons to local conflicts involving Iranian surrogates. This is already happening in Lebanon, where anti-Hezbollah groups are receiving substantial Saudi help. Israeli intelligence officials are also encouraging these moves. "What we are seeing here," a second NSC official commented, "is the Administration's counter-attack to the ISG. Bush wants to negotiate from strength not weakness. He is trying to create new facts on the ground. This is an ambitious strategy. If it works, it allows us to recover much of the ground that Iraq has cost us. The opposite is also true. This strategy could double our losses. The key point here is that the Administration is still playing for a win in the Middle East. It is not leaving quietly." [Emphasis added]

Second, on Iran. It's not just a question of Iran's nuclear program. Far from it. Swoop:

A change of emphasis is taking place in the US approach to Iran. State Department officials tell us that they now see the nuclear weapons issue as just one aspect of a more all-encompassing competition with Iran. "It is clear that Iran is challenging us for mastery of the Middle East. Lebanon, Syria, the peace process, terrorism, energy: We are always bumping up against Iranian meddling. The stakes go far beyond nuclear weapons. It is clear that we have to orientate our policy so that we can teach Iran a decisive lesson." Support for this policy of long-term confrontation with Iran extends widely inside the Administration and Washington’s political elites. How this confrontation expresses itself remains undecided, with the military option still confined to the group around Vice-President Cheney and his circle. This group is, however, actively seeking international support. Privately the conservative Arab leaders of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Cooperation Council are urging the US to mount a broad counter to Iran. [Emphasis added]

Joshua Landis at SyriaComment speculates that the White House is using Saudi Arabia as a cutout to fund covert action in the Middle East, à la Iran-Contra. Excerpt:

The NSC diehards and Bandar (with Israeli coordination) have been working on a covert action program, the purpose of which is to strike back at Iran through surrogates, with the arrangements made in such a way as to obviate the need for a Presidential Covert Action Finding, which in today's Washington could not be kept secret. The Saudis would play the role of paymasters and prospective unindicted co-conspirators in case the operation is exposed (which seems to be the likely outcome). [...]

The sudden unannounced departure of Saudi Ambassador Prince Turki suggests that Saudi Arabia will be the financier of this operation. Prince Bandar bin Sultan's return to Washington in the form of his young protégé, Adel al-Jubeir. Polished and American-educated, Mr. Jubeir, 44, once worked for Prince Bandar when he was ambassador to Washington. Over the past few months, we know that Prince Bandar has been visiting Washington frequently, staying at the Hay Adams Hotel and visiting people at the White House. He was not notifying Prince Turki of these visits, which has been a flagrant and insulting breach of diplomatic protocol, to say nothing of its personal discourtesy to his own brother-in-law.

Another curiosity has been the repeated rumors of a meeting between Bandar and some unidentified Israelis, time and place unspecified. (The strongest rumor was that one meeting took place in Amman last summer.) The rumors have been persistent, and deserve some credence. [Emphasis added]

So, the American people think they got their message across in the November elections, and following the Iraq Study Group report they think Bush's current round of policy discussions is aimed at doing what everybody else wants: extricating the US from Iraq. But if the stories above are accurate, what's happening is quite the opposite: Bush is raising the stakes, widening the war, counter-attacking with "victory" — whatever that may mean — still the goal. It's crazy, but when has that ever stopped them?

[Thanks, Miles]

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

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Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

I'm thinking if George Bush got a lump of coal for Xmas, Santa is sloughing off in his old age. Of course, you never hear of Santa giving a good pistol whipping as a present. — Will Durst

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December 28, 2006

Blowback Global Guerrillas

I don't know anything about Somalia, but a more knowledgeable reader pointed me to a post at NonArab-Arab (as Arabic-speaker who monitors the Atab press) that makes a lot of sense. This is an excerpt from a much longer post:

As Abu Aardvark likes to frequently say, Bin Laden and co these days are less about being an organization out to carry out direct attacks (though that still persists) as they are about changing the world view of as many Muslims as possible into believing the "Christian Crusaders" are out to destroy Islam. That, I believe, is a far more important battle than any bullets, smart bombs, suicide bombs, or phantom- or real-WMDs. It is also the essence of why the Bush Administration is such a set of royal screw-ups, why things keep getting worse everywhere Bush and co stick their noses in the Islamic and Arab worlds, and why Somalia is poised to become yet another disaster for US foreign policy...[T]his is going to be yet another Bushie disaster because the important thing in the long run for creating peace, stability, freedom fries...is to not allow Salafi Jihadists (who have zero chance of ever winning power militarily or at the ballot box) to "win" by letting their "clash of civilizations" worldview become the guiding worldview of the majority of Muslims and Arabs. The actions of the US and its allies in Palestine, Iraq, Lebanon, etc. all are massive examples which give credence to this worldview. US support for secular dictators throughout the Islamic world is another. Now it looks like Somalia will be added to the list (and once again, the US public will be sleeping as it happens and left ignorantly pondering "why do they hate us" the next time something nasty happens as a result).

Look at it from the point of view of your average dude on the streets of Cairo, Casablanca, Damascus, Karachi, Jakarta, or wherever else. You don't have to agree with this view (I for one don't), but this is how it looks to them today:

  • Shariah [Islamic law] is considered a positive ideal for how law and order should be administered.
  • Somalia was in anarchy until recently some religious Somalis banded together to implement Shariah. In so doing they brought back peace, stability, and justice where they had power.
  • The US saw the rise of "true Muslims" and wouldn't tolerate it.
  • The US first tried to stop these Muslims from doing their good by re-arming thugs and warlords, but that failed.
  • When that failed, the US turned to Christian foreigners (Ethiopia) and aided them in a war to wipe out the good Muslims who were just trying to bring back peace and justice to their country.
  • Bin Laden had been saying for years that the "Crusaders" were out to harm Islam in Somalia, and suddenly it looks like his warning was right all along and coming to open fruition.

    Even though this version of events is frought with error and over-simplicity, it has enough truth, and the Bush Administration's policies are so genuinely dangerous and aggressive, that one has to ask, what in the world could they possibly say to turn the tide of public opinion in the Islamic world to their side of things? Answer: nothing. Once again, actions matter more than words, and US actions here are just plain wrong. That's not to say the other actors are pure and right (they're not), but it means that the sheer stubborn-headed automatic resort to the ugliest uses of force (direct or proxy) by the US and its allies instead of recognizing that there are genuine non-Qaeda interests and issues at play that need to be worked with in a complex manner — that therein lies the real problem. Bush's "gut" and Cheney's "one percent" self-induced-fear-mongering are the real sources of the problem here.

    In Somalia...events are likely to take a course something akin to the US in Afghanistan but with Ethiopia playing the role of the US and the [Shariah] Courts Union the role of the Taliban. Ethiopia may win hands down at first, but then the real action starts to build up in a guerilla war that has implications beyond just the borders of Somalia. A Christians-attacking-Muslims dynamic will be an easy propaganda drive for the Courts and attract foreign fighters with fresh and nasty skills acquired from Iraq and Afghanistan though local Somali fighters will undoubtedly be the bulk of the troops. [...]

    Folks, the point is simple: the Bush doctrine creates conflict and war everywhere it goes that convinces people in the Muslim world that Americans are out to get them. That in turn fuels conflict (for you Americans: that means it makes you less safe, not more safe) and makes the world a worse place. Somalia is about to become the next totally unnecessary-but-tragic example of this. And Americans are barely even watching. Get ready for another bit of blowback, as if we didn't have enough on our hands already. [Emphasis added]

  • In short: Somalia is poised to become another magnet and training ground for stateless global guerrillas (John Robb's phrase), à la Afghanistan and Iraq. Just what the world needs.

    The US goes stomping around the Islamic world, brutal, clueless, self-defeating: "Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; / Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, / The blood-dimmed tide is loosed..."

    We're being ruled by lunatics. Blowback is inevitable.

    [Thanks, Miles]

    Posted by Jonathan at 10:06 PM | Comments (3) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Global Warming Claims First Inhabited Island Environment

    Rising sea levels have claimed their first inhabited island. Independent:

    Rising seas, caused by global warming, have for the first time washed an inhabited island off the face of the Earth. The obliteration of Lohachara island, in India's part of the Sundarbans where the Ganges and the Brahmaputra rivers empty into the Bay of Bengal, marks the moment when one of the most apocalyptic predictions of environmentalists and climate scientists has started coming true.

    As the seas continue to swell, they will swallow whole island nations, from the Maldives to the Marshall Islands, inundate vast areas of countries from Bangladesh to Egypt, and submerge parts of scores of coastal cities. [...]

    The disappearance of Lohachara, once home to 10,000 people, is unprecedented. [...]

    So remote is the island that the researchers first learned of its submergence, and that of an uninhabited neighbouring island, Suparibhanga, when they saw they had vanished from satellite pictures. [...]

    Refugees from the vanished Lohachara island and the disappearing Ghoramara island have fled to Sagar, but this island has already lost 7,500 acres of land to the sea. In all, a dozen islands, home to 70,000 people, are in danger of being submerged by the rising seas. [Emphasis added]

    These are poor people being made homeless, so we continue with business as usual. But at some point, we are going to look back with stupefaction and horror on this period of our inaction in the face of ever more urgent warning signs.

    [Thanks, Jeff]

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

    Posted by Jonathan at 11:30 AM | Comments (1) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

    I don't want to say that George Bush is a lame duck, but this morning, Cheney shot him. — Bill Maher

    Posted by Jonathan at 11:24 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    December 27, 2006

    Call It What It Is: Escalation Iraq

    Democrats took control of the House and Senate largely because voters want out of Iraq. Even the Iraq Study Group said it's time to start thinking about getting out. So, Bush's response? Surge. Escalate. Retired Army General Jack Keane and AEI's Fred Kagan, in WaPo:

    Reports on the Bush administration's efforts to craft a new strategy in Iraq often use the term "surge" but rarely define it. Estimates of the number of troops to be added in Baghdad range from fewer than 10,000 to more than 30,000. Some "surges" would last a few months, others a few years.

    We need to cut through the confusion. Bringing security to Baghdad — the essential precondition for political compromise, national reconciliation and economic development — is possible only with a surge of at least 30,000 combat troops lasting 18 months or so. Any other option is likely to fail.

    The key to the success is to change the military mission — instead of preparing for transition to Iraqi control, that mission should be to bring security to the Iraqi population. Surges aimed at accelerating the training of Iraqi forces will fail, because rising sectarian violence will destroy Iraq before the new forces can bring it under control. [...]

    Success in Iraq today requires a well-thought-out military operation aimed at bringing security to the people of Baghdad as quickly as possible — a traditional counterinsurgency mission. [Emphasis added]

    "Surge" is pure marketing. The proper term is: escalation. And it's going to happen, voters be damned.

    Posted by Jonathan at 07:56 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    In The Name Of Jesus Extremism  Religion

    The inimitable Matt Taibbi on the Left Behind video game that lets you slaughter nonbelievers in the name of Jesus (aka, the Prince of Peace):

    Left Behind: Eternal Forces allows you to command the tribulation force, uncover the truth about worldwide disappearances and save as many people as possible from the Antichrist.

    Lead the Tribulation Force from the book series, including Rayford, Chloe, Buck and Bruce, against Nicolae Carpathia — the Antichrist.

    Defend yourselves from the forces of the Antichrist. Engage in physical and spiritual warfare!

    Use Prayer and Special Abilities to boost the Spirit of your forces! Command over 30 unit types through dozens of missions and online player action!

    Defend against the spiritual influences and physical warfare of the Antichrist's army through the power of prayer and worship!

    Left Behind: Eternal Forces game synopsis

    It's been a long time coming, but this week I finally received the Christmas gift I've been waiting for for what seems like ages — my Left Behind: Eternal Forces video game.

    This is the first Christmas gift I've ever bought for myself. Normally, I hate Christmas. In fact, I make it a point each year to search out and print out all the news stories from around the world involving thefts from/desecrations of nativity scenes. When I'm finished, I plaster my office area with all the photos of the glum Yuletiders standing around the now-headless Josephs and Marys, and I make this news-mural my private sanctuary, the place I run to when the holidays (and particularly the holiday commercials) get to be too much to take. [...]

    Anyway, back to the Left Behind game, which is the first gift I've ever gotten that actually fills me with Holiday Spirit. For those of you who are not familiar with Left Behind, it is an enormously popular Christian book series which depicts an Armageddon scenario in which the true believers are whisked up to heaven at the Second Coming, literally vanishing out of thin air even as they do things like pilot commercial jet-liners, leaving the rest of us amoral nihilists on earth to bathe in our own blood and generally massacre each other. In the video game, the Believers roam a desecrated New York City landscape (it is highly amusing that both al-Qaeda and the makers of Left Behind: Eternal Forces chose to make their masterpiece against a canvas of a burning Manhattan) wasting the forces of the Antichrist, leaving huge piles of bodies everywhere they go. It is hard to imagine a product that better encapsulates, in one package, the spirit of both modern American capitalism and modern American Christianity. If you have a serious gore jones, it's also not a bad video game. The soundtrack (especially the "Street Fight, Main Theme") kicks ass.

    Those of you who were not on the original Left Behind mailing list really missed out, as the e-mails the company sent out in anticipation of this video game launch are easily some of the greatest examples of unintentional comedy ever to grace the Internet. From the start, the company asked its customers to assist them with prayer, and as such sent out regular "prayer requests," for instance this letter asking us to pray for a good reception at a Christian retail convention:

    Left Behind: Eternal Forces for the PC is getting closer to completion every day, and we appreciate your prayers! We would ask that you keep the Left Behind Games staff in your continued prayers as we get closer to our release date, from spiritual warfare, and protection for our families.

    We will be attending the 2006 International Christian Retail Show in Colorado on April 10th to the 13th, please pray that God will bless our presence at his show.

    The company was a little quiet after that, but as the release neared and it began focusing on the inevitably problematic marketing campaign, it increasingly asked for prayer help with its promotional efforts. Here's one from October:

    Left Behind Prayer Requests:
    1. Wisdom as we prepare our promotional strategies
    2. Travel safety as our team attends meetings and interviews
    3. Unity as a team and that our efforts bring glory to our Lord

    Thank you for keeping us in your prayers. God bless you!

    As the launch neared, the requests began to be directed towards the reviewers:

    Left Behind: Eternal Forces will be available at stores this weekend!

    Thank you for helping to make this happen. We are praising God! Please keep the game in your prayers.

    1. Critics and reviewers will give positive feedback on the game.

    2. Church and youth leaders will see the potential of using the game as an outreach tool.

    3. Players will multiply as they invite their friends to play with them online.

    4. God will bless this game and it will honor Him.

    But when the date arrived, the company's "Prayer Team leader," Annette Brown, began to get more and more specific in her corporate prayer goals:

    1. Pray God will put it on the heart of the consumers to purchase our product at select Walamart [sic] Stores (top 100 stores) that have our invetory [sic].
    2. Next weekend is the biggest shopping weekend of the year, pray the game hits record sales for PC Games.
    3. The press is still reviewing the game, pray they will be kind in their reviews.

    I mean, how twisted do you have to be to pray that consumers will buy your product at select Wal-Mart stores? Wouldn't you hesitate and call a psychiatrist before sending that out into cyberspace?

    The requests from Thanksgiving week:

    Please pray that our sales will skyrocket this weekend. We have a big God that promises to surpass all that we could ask of Him.

    Once reviewers got hold of the game, and started to point out the odd dichotomy between its supposedly Christian message and its corpse-strewn video landscape, the company began to pray for good media appearances:

    Prayer requests:
    1. God will give Troy, Robilyn and Jeff wisdom during their many interviews.
    2. God will use these interviews to open the hearts and minds of the listeners to the true intentions and purpose of the game.
    3. God will bless us as we develop and choose our sales force.

    Anyway, if you haven't bought it already, I strongly advise everyone reading this to log on to leftbehind.com and buy the game. It is the perfect American holiday gift. Celebrate the birth of Jesus by wasting dozens of people at a time, using a provocative variety of Christ-sanctioned weapons! You can even operate tanks to destroy whole areas of New York City! Who knows, you might even get to kill Ethan Hawke ("slumming" in a ball cap and dirty jeans) in a Marxist bookstore-coffeeshop on Eighth Street! Kill, kill, kill!

    Merry Christmas, America.

    Funny in a twisted sort of way, but it would be a lot funnier were it not for the fact that the US military is being led, more and more, by people with this same nightmare vision of what constitutes reality. Video game weapons are one thing...

    Posted by Jonathan at 06:41 PM | Comments (1) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Impedance Mismatch Corporations, Globalization  Environment  Musings

    The really big problems facing humanity are, for the most part, problems resulting from the dominant culture's abuse of the natural world. Global warming, deforestation, the collapse of the world's fisheries — these are problems requiring determined action over the long haul. But nothing much gets done. Why?

    There are many factors, but one, in particular, strikes me as cause for real pessimism. A sustainable relationship with the natural world requires us to think and act in time frames of many decades, centuries, millenia and more. But our decision-making institutions operate at drastically shorter time scales. That mismatch in time scales is a killer. In the political sphere, decision-makers seldom look past the next election cycle or two. In the corporate realm, where most of the important decisions now get made, perspectives are even shorter, with emphasis on the next quarter or fiscal year. A five-year plan is considered really long-range, blue sky stuff.

    Everybody optimizes for the short run. People who don't find themselves out of office or out of a job. And so, by a series of "rational" decisions — rational from a perspective that ignores the long term — we march steadily towards the abyss.

    The trend toward increasing corporate power and decreasing political power (with the political process increasingly a wholly-owned subsidiary of the corporate sphere) may, in the end, seal our fate. Just when we desperately need a decision-making institution that can forego short-run profit and convenience for long-term sustainability, we are vesting societal decision-making in the institution least capable of taking that perspective.

    Posted by Jonathan at 12:44 PM | Comments (1) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

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

    Posted by Jonathan at 11:51 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

    Now President Bush wants to send MORE troops to Iraq. This guy refuses to listen to anybody. The Iraqi people, the American people, his own intelligence Estimates, bi-partisan Study Groups, his wife, Laura, or Barney, his dog. — Will Durst

    Posted by Jonathan at 11:47 AM | Comments (2) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    December 26, 2006

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

    Posted by Jonathan at 02:05 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

    Today at the White House, President Bush signed a deal that would send nuclear fuel to India. When asked about the Indian deal, President Bush said it's the least we can do after stealing your land. — Conan O'Brien

    Posted by Jonathan at 02:00 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    December 25, 2006

    JB Is Gone Culture

    James Brown, one of the true giants of 20th century American music, is gone. When I was a Penn undergrad, JB played homecoming one year and absolutely tore the place up. I can't tell you how much I enjoyed seeing him and his impeccably funky band assault that Ivy League citadel of white privilege. He rocked the house like literally no one else could. No compromises, no prisoners. This was just a few years before his astonishing performances in Zaire that you can see in the superb documentary When We Were Kings. Rest in peace, JB.

    JB's one-time "funky drummer" Clyde Stubblefield has for years been a staple of the music scene here in Madison, playing three or four gigs somewhere around town most weeks. A beautiful, sweet cat with a beatific smile, who's still got the funkiest chops around, but sadly his health, too, has been failing of late. Wishing you all the best, Clyde.

    Posted by Jonathan at 04:55 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

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

    Posted by Jonathan at 02:20 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

    This is the time of the year everybody's getting ready for the holidays. Earlier today, Dick Cheney brought home a Christmas tree that he shot. — David Letterman

    Posted by Jonathan at 02:15 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    December 24, 2006

    What Atrios Said Iraq

    Sad, but true.

    Posted by Jonathan at 01:06 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

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

    Posted by Jonathan at 10:46 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

    Earlier today, the Christmas tree in front of the White House fell over. Even after the tree collapsed, President Bush insisted that the tree was doing a heckuva job. — Conan O'Brien

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

    December 23, 2006

    Stompin' Media

    This is a lot of fun. Sound required.

    I love the different ways they leave at the end.

    Posted by Jonathan at 03:57 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

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

    Posted by Jonathan at 03:54 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

    This California company that was contracted to build this stupid fence along the border of Mexico has been charged with hiring illegal immigrants. Prosecutors say this is the worst case of irony they have ever seen. — Jay Leno

    Posted by Jonathan at 03:50 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    December 22, 2006

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

    Posted by Jonathan at 10:16 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

    And the President of Iran suffered a very embarrassing setback after voters in Iran elected members of the opposing party in local elections. Apparently he and President Bush have more in common than they realize. — Jay Leno

    Posted by Jonathan at 10:13 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    December 21, 2006

    Record Number Of Bodies Recovered In Baghdad Iraq

    Iraq continues its slide into the abyss. LAT:

    The bodies of 76 unidentified people were recovered Wednesday in Baghdad, police said, the highest 24-hour toll for the anonymous slayings that have become a grim part of life in the capital.

    All of the victims were men between the ages of 20 and 50. Although they died violently, all shot with automatic weapons, the men were not slain execution-style — no handcuffs or blindfolds, morgue staff members said. Only a few showed signs of torture. [Emphasis added]

    It is impossible for most of us to imagine what it is like to live under such hellish conditions, but, as always, it is incumbent on us to try. These events are happening in a real place, to real people, and it's only going to get worse.

    Posted by Jonathan at 10:12 PM | Comments (3) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    French Soldiers Twice Had Bin Laden In Their Crosshairs 9/11, "War On Terror"

    The White House, the Pentagon, the intelligence community, and their allies in "defense" industries all have a lot riding on the continued existence of enemies who can excite the public appetite for war. From a marketing perspective, the best kind of enemy is one personified by an individual person who is easy to hate — Saddam Hussein, Muammar Khaddafi, Manuel Noriega, Osama bin Laden. Brand names (and faces). And if you've established a successful brand, you want to protect it.

    Get out your tin-foil hats. AFP:

    French soldiers in Afghanistan had Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden in their crosshairs — twice — but did not receive the order from their US commander to open fire, a French documentary reported.

    The filmed report, by journalists Eric de Lavarene and Emmanuel Razavi, asserts that the French troops had bin Laden in their rifle scopes in 2003 and then again six months later in 2004.

    Four French soldiers assigned to a 200-strong special forces unit in Afghanistan under US military control all confirmed — "at different times and in different places" — that they could have killed bin Laden but that the order to shoot was not forthcoming, the report claims. [Emphasis added]

    When people talk about any kind of conspiracy theory, the argument you always hear is that if a conspiracy involves a large number of people surely someone would talk. But the truth is that people do talk, but no one believes them when they do. So this French report will be written off as bogus and forgotten.

    And for all I know, it is bogus. Or not. See also this.

    Posted by Jonathan at 10:19 AM | Comments (1) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

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

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

    Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

    You know the part of the Iraqi report that concerns President Bush the most? Having to read it. — Jay Leno

    Posted by Jonathan at 09:55 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    December 20, 2006

    "Unbelievably Rapid" Escalation Of Violence Iraq

    It just keeps getting worse. WaPo:

    The Pentagon said yesterday that violence in Iraq soared this fall to its highest level on record and acknowledged that anti-U.S. fighters have achieved a "strategic success" by unleashing a spiral of sectarian killings by Sunni and Shiite death squads that threatens Iraq's political institutions.

    In its most pessimistic report yet on progress in Iraq, the Pentagon described a nation listing toward civil war, with violence at record highs of 959 attacks per week, declining public confidence in government and "little progress" toward political reconciliation.

    "The violence has escalated at an unbelievably rapid pace," said Marine Lt. Gen. John F. Sattler, director of strategic plans and policy for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who briefed journalists on the report. "We have to get ahead of that violent cycle, break that continuous chain of sectarian violence...That is the premier challenge facing us now."

    The rapid spread of violence this year has thrown the government's future into jeopardy, Pentagon officials said.

    "The tragedy of Iraq is that in February in Samarra, the insurgents achieved what one could call a partial strategic success -- namely, to trigger what we've been dealing with ever since, which is a cycle of sectarian violence, that indeed is shaking the institutions," Peter W. Rodman, assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, said at the briefing.

    He was referring to the Feb. 22 bombing of the Askariya mosque, a holy Shiite shrine, in the ethnically mixed city of Samarra north of Baghdad. [Emphasis added]

    People still talk like there's a military solution out there somewhere, but they're kidding themselves. More troops won't help.

    Posted by Jonathan at 05:50 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

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

    Posted by Jonathan at 09:40 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

    Republicans used their last days in power to pass last-minute tax cuts, expand oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, clear GOP leadership of wrongdoing in the Mark Foley scandal, and pardon Hitler. — Jon Stewart

    Posted by Jonathan at 09:37 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    December 19, 2006

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

    Posted by Jonathan at 10:17 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

    President Bush today completed what he called "a listening tour." He met and pretended to be listening to various people from the State Department and the Pentagon — all the people he should have met with before the war. — Jimmy Kimmel

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

    December 18, 2006

    Our Tinhorn Napoleon Iraq

    All this talk of a US "troop surge" in Iraq, as if the November elections never happened. It's crazy, it's outrageous — and it's doomed to end very, very badly. Juan Cole:

    [Consider] the Iraq War Coup now being conducted by W. You thought that the American people had spoken [in the November elections]? They want the troops out? They want to be extracted from the quagmire? Too bad.

    You see, we do not have a democracy, with the Bush administration in power. We have an elective dictatorship. The elections are like lotteries. Many of them don't even reflect the popular vote or the general will. The Rehnquist Coup of 2000...And the incumbents feel they owe nothing to the electorate, nothing whatsoever. They have the Power. They act as they please. The rest of us are just onlookers.

    So Bush's response to the clear public demand for a change of course and a disengagement? It is to run to Henry Kissinger's apron strings. And what does the Butcher of Chile and Indonesia urge? That Bush should put another 40,000 US troops into Iraq!

    The problem is that Iraq is a 500,000 troop problem. Another 40,000 are just going to anger locals. And, apparently, they would be sicced on the Shiite Mahdi Army in hopes of permanently crippling the Sadr Movement headed (in part) by Muqtada al-Sadr. And maybe they'd be used in a new offensive against the Sunni Arab guerrillas.

    Let me explain why it won't work. It won't work because Iraqis are now politically and socially mobilized. This means that they have the social preconditions for effective political and paramilitary action (they are largely urban, literate, connected by media, etc.) And they are politically savvy and well-connected. They are well armed, gaining in military experience, and well financed through petroleum and antiquities smuggling and through cash infusions from supporters abroad. The Mahdi Army fighters can be defeated by the US military, as happened twice in 2004. But they cannot be made to disappear, as they were not in 2004. That is because they are an organic movement springing from the Shiite poor, and are the paramilitary arm of a large social movement with a national network and ideology. [...]

    I am not saying that popular protests cannot be crushed. They can and have been. I am saying that when you have a whole country that is politically mobilized and has substantial resources, a crack-down is likely doomed unless it is almost genocidal. [...]

    The US is not going to commit the half a million troops it would take to have a chance of winning in Iraq. Nor is it going to use genocidal methods to strike absolute terror into the hearts of the Iraqi people.

    The Iraq situation has gone beyond the point where 40,000 troops can retrieve it. And that is if we even had 40,000 troops to put into Iraq and keep them there any length of time, which we do not.

    In fact, since most of the "coalition of the willing" troops have now left (Italy, Spain, etc.), one of the two US divisions would only be putting the number of Coalition soldiers back up to what it was earlier in the Occupation, when things were also not going well.

    The fact is that if provincial elections were held today, the Sadr Movement would sweep to power in all the Shiite provinces (with the possible exception of Najaf itself). It is increasingly the most popular political party among Iraq's Shiite majority. For the US to cut the Sadrists out of power in parliament and then fall on them militarily would just throw Iraq into turmoil. It would increase the popularity of the Sadrists, and ensure that they gain nationalist credentials that will ensconce them for perhaps decades.

    The "surge" tactic is being generated by Rupert Murdoch's Weekly Standard and by Frederick W. Kagan and Bill Kristol, i.e. by the same plutocratic American Enterprise Institute (Likudnik Central) that brought you the Iraq War with champagne toasts in the first place.

    Kagan has a recent book on Napoleon. Napoleon's most prominent characteristic was his willingness to waste his troops' lives lightly. [...]

    Bush is the Napoleon of our age, trampling on whole peoples, a Jacobin Emperor mouthing the slogans of liberty and popular sovereignty while crushing and looting those he "liberated." [...]

    And you thought a mere election would make a difference. No one had to elect the American Enterprise Institute. No one needs to crown the emperor, he can do it himself. Welcome to Year 1 of the Empire. [Emphasis added]

    The November elections were a referendum on Iraq, but you'd never know it. Not by what the Republicans are doing — or the Democrats either. People want to believe elections will change things, but like the Wobblies used to say, if voting really mattered, it would be illegal. It's going to take a lot more than voting, a lot more.

    Posted by Jonathan at 10:35 PM | Comments (2) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

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

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

    Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

    This week a top general at the Pentagon said the War on Terror could take a 100 years to fight. President Bush was furious about the 100-year prediction and said, "Stop setting a fixed timetable." — Conan O'Brien

    Posted by Jonathan at 10:12 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    December 17, 2006

    Tell New Congress To Act On Global Warming Activism  Environment

    Al Gore wants to deliver a million postcards to the incoming Congress, telling them that now is the time for decisive action on global warming. Go here and fill one out. Go!

    Posted by Jonathan at 05:44 PM | Comments (8) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    AP: Hundreds Of Gitmo Prisoners Found Guiltless 9/11, "War On Terror"  Rights, Law

    The Bush administration would have us believe that the prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay are so dangerous, so vicious, that the extraordinary conditions of their treatment are both justifiable and necessary. AP, however, found that when prisoners from Gitmo were released into the custody of other nations, the great majority were determined to be guilty of nothing and freed. Excerpts:

    The Pentagon called them "among the most dangerous, best-trained, vicious killers on the face of the Earth," sweeping them up after Sept. 11 and hauling them in chains to a U.S. military prison in southeastern Cuba.

    Since then, hundreds of the men have been transferred from Guantanamo Bay to other countries, many of them for "continued detention."

    And then set free.

    Decisions by more than a dozen countries in the Middle East, Europe and South Asia to release the former detainees raise questions about whether they were really as dangerous as the United States claimed, or whether some of America's staunchest allies have set terrorists and militants free. [...]

    [T]hrough interviews with justice and police officials, detainees and their families, and using reports from human rights groups and local media, The Associated Press was able to track 245 of those formerly held at Guantanamo. The investigation, which spanned 17 countries, found:

    Once the detainees arrived in other countries, 205 of the 245 were either freed without being charged or were cleared of charges related to their detention at Guantanamo. Forty either stand charged with crimes or continue to be detained.

    Only a tiny fraction of transferred detainees have been put on trial. The AP identified 14 trials, in which eight men were acquitted and six are awaiting verdicts. Two of the cases involving acquittals — one in Kuwait, one in Spain — initially resulted in convictions that were overturned on appeal.

    The Afghan government has freed every one of the more than 83 Afghans sent home. Lawmaker Sibghatullah Mujaddedi, the head of Afghanistan's reconciliation commission, said many were innocent and wound up at Guantanamo because of tribal or personal rivalries.

    At least 67 of 70 repatriated Pakistanis are free after spending a year in Adiala Jail. A senior Pakistani Interior Ministry official said investigators determined that most had been "sold" for bounties to U.S. forces by Afghan warlords who invented links between the men and al-Qaida. "We consider them innocent," said the official, who declined to be named because of the sensitivity of the issue.

    All 29 detainees who were repatriated to Britain, Spain, Germany, Russia, Australia, Turkey, Denmark, Bahrain and the Maldives were freed, some within hours after being sent home for "continued detention."

    Some former detainees say they never intended to harm the United States and are bitter.

    "I can't wash the three long years of pain, trouble and humiliation from my memory," said Badarzaman Badar, an Afghan who was freed in Pakistan. "It is like a cancer in my mind that makes me disturbed every time I think of those terrible days." [...]

    When four Britons were sent home from Guantanamo in January 2005, Britain said it would detain and investigate them — then released them after only 18 hours. Five Britons repatriated earlier were also rapidly released with no charges.

    Murat Kurnaz, a German-born Turkish citizen, was also quickly freed when he was flown to Germany in August, bound hand and foot, after more than four years at Guantanamo.

    U.S. officials maintained he was a member of al-Qaida, based on what they said was secret evidence. But his New Jersey-based lawyer, Baher Azmy, said he was shown the classified evidence and was shocked to find how unpersuasive it was.

    "It contains five or six statements exonerating him," Azmy said. [Emphasis added]

    As a measure of how disgustingly corrupt US governance has become, consider how far-fetched it now seems to imagine the US government admitting culpability and making any sort of apology to the hundreds of innocent people it has held at Guantanamo without charge or trial, for years. Never happen.

    The corrupting impact trickles down. The message: tag someone a "terrorist" and customary legal procedure can be tossed aside. Who's a terrorist? All sorts of protestors and activists, for one. But it doesn't stop there. The Oregon legislature, for example, has repeatedly considered legislation that would make it a crime of terrorism, punishable by life in prison, to "disrupt commerce." Tom Paine spins in his grave.

    Posted by Jonathan at 04:57 PM | Comments (1) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

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

    Posted by Jonathan at 03:55 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

    President Bush actually said today he will not be rushed into a decision about Iraq. I guess one time is enough for him. — Jay Leno

    Posted by Jonathan at 03:53 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    December 16, 2006

    A Clarification Iraq

    Sometimes, in trying to keep posts succinct and focused, I can overdo it. One of the hazards of blogging. In a post last Monday, I wrote:

    There's a kind of collective mental illness at work when people can get away with suggesting that the Iraq war is not about oil. As if the US would have even noticed (let alone invaded) Iraq were it located in a part of the world where the principal export was, say, bean sprouts.

    I first wrote "had nothing to do with oil", then changed to "is not about oil" in the interests of brevity. Unfortunately, it came out sounding like I was saying the war was only about oil, and anybody who disagrees with me is mentally ill. Not what I meant.

    I do think the oil of Iraq, and of the Middle East generally, was and is a prime motivation for the US war. But I also think a confluence of other interests were served. PNAC neocons wanted an opportunity to stun the rest of the world into a state of "shock and awe" at US military power (that didn't work out too well). The Halliburtons and Raytheons of the world stood to make a whole lot of money. Bush/Rove Republicans thought war would give them a permanent lock on power. And, certainly not least, a hard-core faction of pro-Israel neocons sought to advance the agenda of Israel's right wing. Honest observers can differ on how they rank the relative influence of these interest groups, but I think they're all real, all important.

    My crack about "collective mental illness" referred to the massive level of denial that lets American politicians and media celebrities get away with talking about the war as a well-intentioned, if misguided, campaign to bring democracy to the Middle East (among other putative "good guy" motives), as if the US military were some kind of "bizarre armed charity", as Nicholas von Hoffman put it. Talk about divorced from reality. If Americans knew any history, which they mostly don't, they'd know how the US reacts when foreign voters choose the "wrong" leader (see, for example, Mossadegh, Arbenz, Allende, Chavez). So much for US "democratizing."

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

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

    Posted by Jonathan at 03:42 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

    This is an anniversary. Do you know what happened on this day in 2003? We found Saddam Hussein. And isn't it nice that since we've captured Saddam Hussein, we haven't had to worry about terrorism or nuts with nuclear weapons? Everything's so much better now. — David Letterman

    Posted by Jonathan at 03:31 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    December 15, 2006

    Pentecostalgon Extremism  Religion

    Former Air Force JAG and Air Force Academy grad Mikey Weinstein is speaking out about evangelical Christians in the US military who are, he says, "trying to turn the Pentagon into a frickin' faith-based initiative". Here are excerpts from what Weinstein told an interviewer at Salon. He refers to a video that was shot inside the Pentagon by a group called Christian Embassy that featured very senior officers, in uniform, talking about the evangelical faith. Weinstein:

    You sound like you're too young to remember Robert Redford in "Three Days of the Condor," but the premise of that movie was that there was a CIA within the CIA. We have a virulently dominionist, fundamentalist evangelical Christian element within the Pentagon. They would prefer this to be the "Pentecostalgon," not the Pentagon. That's what they would prefer. They're trying to turn the Pentagon into a frickin' faith-based initiative, and that is not what our military is about.

    These are the people who, when I talk to senior members of the military at the flag-level rank [admiral or general]...that have looked at me and said, "Come on, Mikey, what's your problem? We have the cure to cancer. If you had the cure to cancer, wouldn't you want to spread the word?" They don't realize when they say it, they don't have the mental wherewithal to understand that to a person who isn't an evangelical Christian, you're calling our faith a cancer. [...]

    This, to me, constitutes as much of a national security threat to this country as al-Qaida. In fact, the video itself, to me, would be the No. 1 recruiting tool...to get angry young Islamic men and women in Iran, Syria and Lebanon to join the insurrection and jihadi terrorist activities. This would be a perfect accelerant to create even further conflagration.

    Now, I was a JAG [judge advocate general, the lawyers who act as prosecutors and defense attorneys within the military] in the Air Force. I spent three and a half years as a lawyer for President Ronald Reagan in the West Wing, I've been Ross Perot's general counsel. I know the religious right would love to vilify me as a tree-hugging Northern California Sierra Club membership chardonnay-sipping liberal...but I'm not. I'm a Republican...We have 115 years of combined active-duty military service to this country in my immediate family...

    [T]hese people can pray all they want to themselves, like kids in school can pray to themselves, but when you're in the military, and you're coming in like that one person, [Air Force Maj. Gen.] Catton, whom I knew when I was a kid at the [Air Force] Academy, and he goes, "I share my faith, that's who I am, and let me tell you right now, the hierarchy as an old-fashioned American is that your first duty is to the Lord, second to your family and your third is to your country." That is the exact opposite of what is taught, and for anyone who understands anything about the military, it is always the country first. When you're told, "Troopers, we're going to go take that hill," you can't stop, fall to your knees and see what your particular version of Moses, Vishnu, Satan, Jesus, Mohammed, Allah, whatever they're going to say, and then quickly make a cellphone call to your family. So it is beyond-the-pale egregious, it is a national security threat every bit as bad as al-Qaida, and these people should be court-martialed.

    ...I get calls 24/7 from the soldiers, Marines and airmen...They're being tormented. And 96 percent of those who come flooding in, on fire with torment, are Christians, three-fourths of whom would be traditional Protestants: Lutherans, Methodists, Episcopalians, Presbyterians. The other one-fourth are Roman Catholics. These are Christians being preyed upon by evangelical Christians...and being told that you're not Christian enough, therefore you're going to burn in a hell of fire. [...]

    The U.S. military, which I consider a noble and honorable institution, is technologically the most lethal organization ever created by Homo sapiens. When you have the leadership believing that to be a good soldier, good Marine, good airman or sailor you have to be not just a Christian but the right type of Christian, we're no better than al-Qaida. And it's hideous, beyond belief. My kids were called "fucking Jews" and accused of total complicity, they and their people, in the execution of Jesus Christ, by superiors up and down the chain of command at the Air Force Academy.

    But like I've said before, most of the people who've come to me are Christians. That's been the big sea change here. Look, Sinclair Lewis said it best, in [the 1930s]. He came back from Germany, he was observing it for a number of months ... and he [said] that he had now seen fascism up close and personal, and he knew that when it came to America it would be wrapped in the American flag, carrying a cross. And you know what? He's right. [...]

    I've had nine death threats since about 10 o'clock last night. I usually get about two or three a week. They're very grotesque, everything from wanting to gas all the Jews in America and send the corpses back to Israel to threatening to blow me up, threatening my house will be blown up, raping my wife, blowing up my house. We've had our tires slashed, we've had feces and beer bottles thrown at the house, we've had dead animals placed on the front door of the house.

    I was in Topeka, on a book tour, and the local Episcopal priest came out to support me and five hours later his church was burned down. And the local synagogue in Topeka, where I was to speak that night, was desecrated with spray paint saying, "Fuck you, Jews" and "KKK," all that stuff. [...]

    My response is I've given the new secretary of defense 20 days to answer the Freedom of Information Act request, which the law gives him, and at the end we intend to get as much information as we can, fashion it into a dagger and then stab at the heart of this unconstitutional, wretched, vile, darkness at the Pentagon. This unconstitutional darkness, we will stab at it with our dagger until we kill it. [Emphasis added]

    Somebody should give these people a copy of the Sermon on the Mount. I don't know what Jesus they think they're following, but it's surely not the Jesus of the Gospels.

    Scary stuff. Very, very scary.

    Posted by Jonathan at 04:29 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    UK Knew Iraq Had No WMD Iraq

    UK's Independent has published testimony given by Carne Ross in 2004 to the Butler Inquiry that looked at pre-war intelligence on Iraqi WMD leading up to the war. It's damning. The UK knew Iraq had no WMD and had known for years. And in discussions with their US counterparts, it was apparent that the US knew as well. An excerpt:

    I am in the Senior Management Structure of the FCO [UK's ministry of foreign affairs]...I was First Secretary in the UK Mission to the United Nations in New York from December 1997 until June 2002. I was responsible for Iraq policy in the mission, including policy on sanctions, weapons inspections and liaison with UNSCOM and later UNMOVIC.

    During that time, I helped negotiate several UN Security Council resolutions on Iraq, including resolution 1284 which, inter alia, established UNMOVIC (an acronym I coined late one New York night during the year-long negotiation). I took part in policy debates within HMG and in particular with the US government. I attended many policy discussions on Iraq with the US State Department in Washington, New York and London. [...]

    I read the available UK and US intelligence on Iraq every working day for the four and a half years of my posting. This daily briefing would often comprise a thick folder of material, both humint and sigint. I also talked often and at length about Iraq's WMD to the international experts who comprised the inspectors of UNSCOM/UNMOVIC, whose views I would report to London. In addition, I was on many occasions asked to offer views in contribution to Cabinet Office assessments, including the famous WMD dossier (whose preparation began some time before my departure in June 2002).

    During my posting, at no time did HMG [Her Majesty's Government] assess that Iraq's WMD (or any other capability) posed a threat to the UK or its interests. On the contrary, it was the commonly-held view among the officials dealing with Iraq that any threat had been effectively contained. I remember on several occasions the UK team stating this view in terms during our discussions with the US (who agreed). (At the same time, we would frequently argue, when the US raised the subject, that "regime change" was inadvisable, primarily on the grounds that Iraq would collapse into chaos.)

    Any assessment of threat has to include both capabilities and intent. Iraq's capabilities in WMD were moot: many of the UN's weapons inspectors (who, contrary to popular depiction, were impressive and professional) would tell me that they believed Iraq had no significant materiel. With the exception of some unaccounted-for Scud missiles, there was no intelligence evidence of significant holdings of CW, BW or nuclear material. [...]

    Iraq's ability to launch a WMD or any form of attack was very limited. There were approx 12 or so unaccounted-for Scud missiles; Iraq's airforce was depleted to the point of total ineffectiveness; its army was but a pale shadow of its earlier might; there was no evidence of any connection between Iraq and any terrorist organisation that might have planned an attack using Iraqi WMD (I do not recall any occasion when the question of a terrorist connection was even raised in UK/US discussions or UK internal debates). [...]

    I quizzed my colleagues in the FCO and MOD [Ministry of Defense] working on Iraq on several occasions about the threat assessment in the run-up to the war. None told me that any new evidence had emerged to change our assessment; what had changed was the government's determination to present available evidence in a different light. I discussed this at some length with David Kelly in late 2002, who agreed that the Number 10 WMD dossier was overstated.

    The claims that the White House was misled by an "intelligence failure" on Iraqi WMD have always been ridiculous on their face. From the first Gulf War on, the US had complete control of Iraqi airspace and constantly monitored Iraq from both aircraft and satellites. UN inspectors installed a variety of highly sensitive and sophisticated detectors on the ground that monitored the air for even the tiniest traces of chemicals associated with WMD development. The US and UK tightly controlled imports into Iraq. As Scott Ritter has explained in detail — but nobody listens — UN inspections were thorough and highly technical operations. Etc., etc.

    This testimony by Carne Ross is confirmation. It deserves to be treated as a bombshell, but of course it won't be, not here in the US anyway.

    Posted by Jonathan at 03:40 PM | Comments (1) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Flyover Statement Humor & Fun  Iraq

    The Daily Show's Aasif Mandvi, who brought us Tough Day, Great Opportunity, one of TDS's best bits ever, is back with another good one. It's not on YouTube yet, but you can watch it here. Check it out.

    Posted by Jonathan at 03:10 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

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

    Posted by Jonathan at 11:20 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

    They had the Iraqi Commission report and President Bush says he will not make a decision about getting us out of Iraq until 2007. He says he wants to give it some careful thought — unlike getting us into Iraq. — David Letterman

    Posted by Jonathan at 11:18 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    December 14, 2006

    White House Clamping Down On USGS Scientists Politics

    In Stalinist Russia, science was made to conform with Soviet policies and propaganda. But we live in the Free World. Or not. AP:

    The Bush administration is clamping down on scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey, who study everything from caribou mating to global warming, subjecting them to controls on research that might go against official policy.

    New rules require screening of all facts and interpretations by agency scientists. The rules apply to all scientific papers and other public documents, even minor reports or prepared talks, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press. [...]

    "I feel as though we've got someone looking over our shoulder at every damn thing we do. And to me that's a very scary thing. I worry that it borders on censorship," said Jim Estes, an internationally recognized marine biologist who works for the geological unit. "The explanation was that this was intended to ensure the highest possible quality research," said Estes, a researcher at the agency for more than 30 years. "But to me it feels like they're doing this to keep us under their thumbs. It seems like they're afraid of science. Our findings could be embarrassing to the administration."

    The new requirements state that the USGS's communications office must be "alerted about information products containing high-visibility topics or topics of a policy-sensitive nature."

    The agency's director, Mark Myers, and its communications office also must be told — prior to any submission for publication — "of findings or data that may be especially newsworthy, have an impact on government policy, or contradict previous public understanding to ensure that proper officials are notified and that communication strategies are developed."

    Patrick Leahy, USGS's head of geology and its acting director until September, said Wednesday that the new procedures would improve scientists' accountability and "harmonize" the review process. He said they are intended to maintain scientists' neutrality. [...]

    The changes amount to an overhaul of commonly accepted procedures for all scientists, not just those in government, based on anonymous peer reviews. In that process, scientists critique each other's findings to determine whether they deserve to be published.

    From now on, USGS supervisors will demand to see the comments of outside peer reviewers as well any exchanges between the scientists who are seeking to publish their findings and the reviewers.

    The Bush administration, as well as the Clinton administration before it, has been criticized over scientific integrity issues. In 2002, the USGS was forced to reverse course after warning that oil and gas drilling in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge would harm the Porcupine caribou herd. One week later a new report followed, this time saying the caribou would not be affected. [Emphasis added]

    Among other things, USGS is the US agency responsible for estimating the world's remaining oil and gas reserves.

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

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

    Posted by Jonathan at 10:27 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

    The White House said today President Bush is expected to make his Iraq strategy public, but not until after the holidays. What's the rush? Take a break. — Jay Leno

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

    December 13, 2006

    "Iraq Is Beyond Repair" Iraq

    Patrick Cockburn is one of the very best Western journalists working in Iraq. Here's his take on where things stand in the aftermath of the ISG report:

    During the Opium Wars between Britain and China in the 19th century, eunuchs at the court of the Chinese emperor had the problem of informing him of the repeated and humiliating defeat of his armies. They dealt with their delicate task by simply telling the emperor that his forces had already won or were about to win victories on all fronts.

    For three and a half years White House officials have dealt with bad news from Iraq in similar fashion. Journalists were repeatedly accused by the US administration of not reporting political and military progress on the ground. Information about the failure of the US venture was ignored or suppressed.

    Manipulation of facts was often very crude. As an example of the systematic distortion, the Iraq Study Group revealed last week that on one day last July US officials reported 93 attacks or significant acts of violence. In reality, it added, "a careful review of the reports...brought to light 1,100 acts of violence".

    The 10-fold reduction in the number of acts of violence officially noted was achieved by not reporting the murder of an Iraqi, or roadside bomb, rocket or mortar attacks aimed at US troops that failed to inflict casualties. I remember visiting a unit of US combat engineers camped outside Fallujah in January 2004 who told me that they had stopped reporting insurgent attacks on themselves unless they suffered losses as commanders wanted to hear only that the number of attacks was going down. As I was drove away, a sergeant begged us not to attribute what he had said: "If you do I am in real trouble." [...]

    In December 2004 the CIA station chief in Baghdad said that the insurgency was expanding and was "largely unchallenged" in Sunni provinces. Mr Bush's response was: "What is he, some kind of a defeatist?" A week later the station chief was reassigned.

    A few days afterwards, Colonel Derek Harvey, the Defence Intelligence Agency's senior intelligence officer in Iraq, made much the same point to Mr Bush. He said of the insurgency: "It's robust, it's well led, it's diverse." According to the US political commentator Sidney Blumenthal, the President at this point turned to his aides and asked: "Is this guy a Democrat?" [...]

    [The false picture of Iraq] has been exposed as a fraud by the Iraq Study Group.

    Long-maintained myths tumble. For instance, the standard stump speech by Mr Bush or Tony Blair since the start of the insurgency has been to emphasise the leading role of al-Qa'ida in Iraq and international terrorism. But the group's report declares "al-Qa'ida is responsible for a small portion of violence", adding that it is now largely Iraqi-run. Foreign fighters, their presence so often trumpeted by the White House and Downing Street, are estimated to number only 1,300 men in Iraq. As for building up the Iraqi army, the training of which is meant to be the centrepiece of US and British policy, the report says that half the 10 planned divisions are made up of soldiers who will serve only in areas dominated by their own community. And as for the army as a whole, it is uncertain "they will carry out missions on behalf of national goals instead of a sectarian agenda".

    Given this realism it is sad that its authors, chaired by James Baker and Lee Hamilton, share one great misconception with Mr Bush and Mr Blair. This is about the acceptability of any foreign troops in Iraq. Supposedly US combat troops will be withdrawn and redeployed as a stiffening or reinforcement to Iraqi military units. They will form quick-reaction forces able to intervene in moments of crisis.

    "This simply won't work," one former Iraqi Interior Ministry official told me. "Iraqis who work with Americans are regarded as tainted by their [own] families. Often our soldiers have to deny their contact with Americans to their own wives. Sometimes they balance their American connections by making contact with the insurgents at the same time."

    Mr Bush and Mr Blair have always refused to take on board the simple unpopularity of the occupation among Iraqis, though US and British military commanders have explained that it is the main fuel for the insurgency. The Baker-Hamilton report notes dryly that opinion polls show that 61 per cent of Iraqis favour armed attacks on US forces. Given the Kurds overwhelmingly support the US presence, this means three-quarters of all Arabs want military action against US soldiers.

    The other great flaw in the report is to imply that Iraqis can be brought back together again. The reality is that the country has already broken apart. In Baghdad, Sunnis no longer dare to visit the main mortuary to look for murdered relatives because it is under Shia control and they might be killed themselves. The future of Iraq may well be a confederation rather than a federation, with Shia, Sunni and Kurd each enjoying autonomy close to independence.

    There are certain points on which the White House and the authors of the report are dangerously at one. This is that the Iraqi government of Nouri al-Maliki can be bullied into trying to crush the militias (this usually means just one anti-American militia, the Mehdi Army), or will bolt from the Shia alliance. In the eyes of many Iraqis this would simply confirm its status as a US pawn. As for talking with Iran and Syria or acting on the Israel-Palestinian crisis it is surely impossible for Mr Bush to retreat so openly from his policies of the past three years, however disastrous their outcome. [Emphasis added]

    As Gwynne Dyer noted, "In anti-colonial guerrilla wars, the locals always win." But every imperial power thinks it will be the exception. Even after a Vietnam. The lessons of history are no match for imperial arrogance.

    So millions of Iraqis are trapped in a living hell that drags on and on simply to pander to the egos and careers of American politicians and generals. There are no words.

    Posted by Jonathan at 05:31 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Arctic Ice May Be Gone By 2040 Environment

    Earlier studies have said Arctic summers may be ice-free by 2070 or 2080. New NASA-funded research now says 2040 — and even that is probably too optimistic. Times UK:

    Ice is melting so fast in the Arctic that the North Pole will be in the open sea in 30 years, according to leading climatologists. [...]

    American researchers, assessing the impact of carbon emissions on world climate have calculated that late summer in the Arctic will be ice-free by 2040 or earlier, well within a lifetime.

    Some ice would still be found on coastlines, notably Greenland and Ellesmere Island, but the rest of the Arctic Ocean, including the pole, would be open water. [...]

    In 30 to 50 years, they concluded, summer sea ice will have vanished from almost the entire Arctic region.

    Their forecast may, however, already be out of date and over-optimistic, said Professor Chris Rapley, head of the British Antarctic Survey.

    He said a recent study by the Global Carbon Project suggested that emissions were rising more than twice as fast as in 2000, which was likely to speed up ice-loss even further.

    "The study may be an underestimate of when the Arctic summer ice might be all gone," he said. "It could well be their assumptions are more optimistic than they might be." [Emphasis added]

    Well, we can't say we haven't been warned. And warned. And warned. And warned.

    Posted by Jonathan at 04:47 PM | Comments (1) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

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

    Posted by Jonathan at 10:30 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

    President Bush has received a copy of the 96-page Iraq Study Group report. When they gave it to him, President Bush said, "Don't tell me how it ends." They said, "Uh, it doesn't." — Jay Leno

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

    December 12, 2006

    Teeing Off Media

    Suburban Guerrilla has a blistering clip of Henry Rollins teeing off in favor of net neutrality. Strong stuff, and rightly so.

    Posted by Jonathan at 10:44 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

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

    Posted by Jonathan at 09:45 AM | Comments (5) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

    The long anticipated Iraq Study Group report was delivered to President Bush this week. He promised to take it just as seriously as all the other Iraq reports stuffed down between his desk and the wall. — Amy Poehler

    Posted by Jonathan at 09:36 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    December 11, 2006

    Motivation Energy

    As an addendum to the previous post, here's a little chart from PolicyPete.

    Motivation.

    Posted by Jonathan at 05:49 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    It's Still About The Oil Energy  Iraq

    You'd never know it by the media coverage, but the Iraq Study Group report has a lot to say about the disposition of Iraq's oil. Antonia Juhasz, author of The Bush Agenda: Invading the World, One Economy at a Time, noticed. LAT:

    While the Bush administration, the media and nearly all the Democrats still refuse to explain the war in Iraq in terms of oil, the ever-pragmatic members of the Iraq Study Group share no such reticence.

    Page 1, Chapter 1 of the Iraq Study Group report lays out Iraq's importance to its region, the U.S. and the world with this reminder: "It has the world's second-largest known oil reserves." The group then proceeds to give very specific and radical recommendations as to what the United States should do to secure those reserves. If the proposals are followed, Iraq's national oil industry will be commercialized and opened to foreign firms.

    The report makes visible to everyone the elephant in the room: that we [sic] are fighting, killing and dying in a war for oil. It states in plain language that the U.S. government should use every tool at its disposal to ensure that American oil interests and those of its corporations are met.

    It's spelled out in Recommendation No. 63, which calls on the U.S. to "assist Iraqi leaders to reorganize the national oil industry as a commercial enterprise" and to "encourage investment in Iraq's oil sector by the international community and by international energy companies." This recommendation would turn Iraq's nationalized oil industry into a commercial entity that could be partly or fully privatized by foreign firms.

    This is an echo of calls made before and immediately after the invasion of Iraq.

    The U.S. State Department's Oil and Energy Working Group, meeting between December 2002 and April 2003, also said that Iraq "should be opened to international oil companies as quickly as possible after the war." Its preferred method of privatization was a form of oil contract called a production-sharing agreement. These agreements are preferred by the oil industry but rejected by all the top oil producers in the Middle East because they grant greater control and more profits to the companies than the governments. The Heritage Foundation also released a report in March 2003 calling for the full privatization of Iraq's oil sector. One representative of the foundation, Edwin Meese III, is a member of the Iraq Study Group. Another, James J. Carafano, assisted in the study group's work.

    For any degree of oil privatization to take place, and for it to apply to all the country's oil fields, Iraq has to amend its constitution and pass a new national oil law. The constitution is ambiguous as to whether control over future revenues from as-yet-undeveloped oil fields should be shared among its provinces or held and distributed by the central government.

    This is a crucial issue, with trillions of dollars at stake, because only 17 of Iraq's 80 known oil fields have been developed. Recommendation No. 26 of the Iraq Study Group calls for a review of the constitution to be "pursued on an urgent basis." Recommendation No. 28 calls for putting control of Iraq's oil revenues in the hands of the central government. Recommendation No. 63 also calls on the U.S. government to "provide technical assistance to the Iraqi government to prepare a draft oil law."

    This last step is already underway. The Bush administration hired the consultancy firm BearingPoint more than a year ago to advise the Iraqi Oil Ministry on drafting and passing a new national oil law.

    Plans for this new law were first made public at a news conference in late 2004 in Washington. Flanked by State Department officials, Iraqi Finance Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi (who is now vice president) explained how this law would open Iraq's oil industry to private foreign investment. This, in turn, would be "very promising to the American investors and to American enterprise, certainly to oil companies." The law would implement production-sharing agreements. [...]

    In July, U.S. Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman announced in Baghdad that oil executives told him that their companies would not enter Iraq without passage of the new oil law. Petroleum Economist magazine later reported that U.S. oil companies considered passage of the new oil law more important than increased security when deciding whether to go into business in Iraq. [...]

    All told, the Iraq Study Group has simply made the case for extending the war until foreign oil companies — presumably American ones — have guaranteed legal access to all of Iraq's oil fields and until they are assured the best legal and financial terms possible.

    We can thank the Iraq Study Group for making its case publicly. It is now our turn to decide if we [sic] wish to spill more blood for oil. [Emphasis added]

    There's a kind of collective mental illness at work when people can get away with suggesting that the Iraq war is not about oil. As if the US would have even noticed (let alone invaded) Iraq were it located in a part of the world where the principal export was, say, bean sprouts.

    Posted by Jonathan at 05:41 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

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

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

    Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

    According to a new study, children figure out the truth about Santa Claus between the ages of three and six. Although the study says that the age is much later for some U.S. presidents. — Conan O'Brien

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

    December 10, 2006

    Ability To Digest Milk A Very Recent Adaptation Science/Technology

    Geneticists have determined that the human ability to digest milk in adulthood evolved just several millenia ago, soon after humans domesticated cattle. At least four different populations developed lactose tolerance independently, with a different mutation involved in each case. NYT:

    A surprisingly recent instance of human evolution has been detected among the peoples of East Africa. It is the ability to digest milk in adulthood, conferred by genetic changes that occurred as recently as 3,000 years ago, a team of geneticists has found.

    The finding is a striking example of a cultural practice — the raising of dairy cattle — feeding back into the human genome. It also seems to be one of the first instances of convergent human evolution to be documented at the genetic level. Convergent evolution refers to two or more populations acquiring the same trait independently.

    Throughout most of human history, the ability to digest lactose, the principal sugar of milk, has been switched off after weaning because there is no further need for the lactase enzyme that breaks the sugar apart. But when cattle were first domesticated 9,000 years ago and people later started to consume their milk as well as their meat, natural selection would have favored anyone with a mutation that kept the lactase gene switched on.

    Such a mutation is known to have arisen among an early cattle-raising people, the Funnel Beaker culture, which flourished some 5,000 to 6,000 years ago in north-central Europe. People with a persistently active lactase gene have no problem digesting milk and are said to be lactose tolerant.

    Almost all Dutch people and 99 percent of Swedes are lactose-tolerant, but the mutation becomes progressively less common in Europeans who live at increasing distance from the ancient Funnel Beaker region.

    Geneticists wondered if the lactose tolerance mutation in Europeans, first identified in 2002, had arisen among pastoral peoples elsewhere. But it seemed to be largely absent from Africa, even though pastoral peoples there generally have some degree of tolerance.

    A research team led by Sarah Tishkoff of the University of Maryland has now resolved much of the puzzle. After testing for lactose tolerance and genetic makeup among 43 ethnic groups of East Africa, she and her colleagues have found three new mutations, all independent of each other and of the European mutation, which keep the lactase gene permanently switched on. [...]

    Genetic evidence shows that the mutations conferred an enormous selective advantage on their owners, enabling them to leave almost 10 times as many descendants as people without them. The mutations have created "one of the strongest genetic signatures of natural selection yet reported in humans," the researchers write.

    The survival advantage was so powerful perhaps because those with the mutations not only gained extra energy from lactose but also, in drought conditions, would have benefited from the water in milk. People who were lactose-intolerant could have risked losing water from diarrhea, Dr. Tishkoff said.

    Diane Gifford-Gonzalez, an archaeologist at the University of California, Santa Cruz, said the new findings were "very exciting" because they "showed the speed with which a genetic mutation can be favored under conditions of strong natural selection, demonstrating the possible rate of evolutionary change in humans." [...]

    "There is a lot of genetic variation between groups in Africa, reflecting the different environments in which they live, from deserts to tropics, and their exposure to very different selective forces," she said. [Emphasis added]

    Somebody tell Kansas.

    Posted by Jonathan at 06:58 PM | Comments (2) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Manifestoon Humor & Fun  Politics

    The words of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, illustrated by clips from Looney Tunes and Disney cartoons. Interesting and subversive.

    It's remarkable that the words were written more than a century and a half ago. Some archaic terminology aside, a lot of it's pretty descriptive of events today. Check it out.

    [Via Stan Goff]

    Posted by Jonathan at 04:31 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

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

    Posted by Jonathan at 12:36 PM | Comments (1) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

    Now three schools are in the running for the George Bush presidential library. I understand the losing school will get it. — Jay Leno

    Posted by Jonathan at 12:30 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    December 09, 2006

    World's Oceans Poisoned With Plastic Environment

    Tiny pellets of plastic are everywhere in the world's oceans. That's bad enough in itself, but the plastic pellets tend to collect concentrations of toxic chemicals like PCBs that adhere to the plastic. The poisoned plastic is then ingested by marine organism and moves up the food chain. BBC:

    Microscopic particles of plastic could be poisoning the oceans, according to a British team of researchers. They report that small plastic pellets called "mermaids' tears", which are the result of industry and domestic waste, have spread across the world's seas.

    The scientists had previously found the debris on UK beaches and in European waters; now they have replicated the finding on four continents.

    Scientists are worried that these fragments can get into the food chain.

    Plastic rubbish, from drinks bottles and fishing nets to the ubiquitous carrier bag, ends up in the world's oceans.

    Sturdy and durable plastic does not bio-degrade, it only breaks down physically, and so persists in the environment for possibly hundreds of years.

    Among clumps of seaweed or flotsam washed up on the shore it is common to find mermaids' tears, small plastic pellets resembling fish eggs.

    Some are the raw materials of the plastics industry spilled in transit from processing plants. Others are granules of domestic waste that have fragmented over the years.

    Either way, mermaids' tears remain everywhere and are almost impossible to clean up.

    Dr Richard Thompson at the University of Plymouth is leading research into what happens when plastic breaks down in seawater and what effect it is having on the marine environment.

    He and his team set out to out to find out how small these fragments can get. So far they've identified plastic particles of around 20 microns - thinner than the diameter of a human hair. [...]

    They found plastic particles smaller than grains of sand. Dr Thompson's findings estimate there are 300,000 items of plastic per sq km of sea surface, and 100,000 per sq km of seabed.

    So plastic appears to be everywhere in our seas. The next task was to try and find out what kind of sea creatures might be consuming it and with what consequences.

    Thompson and his team conducted experiments on three species of filter feeders in their laboratory. They looked at the barnacle, the lugworm and the common amphipod or sand-hopper, and found that all three readily ingested plastic as they fed along the seabed.

    "These creatures are eaten by others along food chain," Dr Thompson explained. "It seems an inevitable consequence that it will pass along the food chain. There is the possibility that chemicals could be transferred from plastics to marine organisms." [...]

    So-called hydrophobic chemicals such as PCBs and other polymer additives accumulate on the surface of the sea and latch on to plastic debris.

    "They can become magnified in concentration," said Richard Thompson, "and maybe in a different chemical environment, perhaps in the guts of organisms, those chemicals might be released." [...]

    Whatever the findings eventually show, there is little that can be done now to deal with the vast quantities of plastic already in our oceans. It will be there for decades to come. [Emphasis added]

    All of these environment stories — ice sheets, glaciers, and permafrost melting; 90% of large fish gone from the oceans; old growth forests and rain forests disappearing; toxic chemicals everywhere; etc., etc., etc. — get reported in isolation, but they're all connected. They're all facets of one big story. Sooner or later, we will have to face the fact that the problem is industrial civilization itself. And does anybody really think industrial civilization will voluntarily change course and stop killing the living planet? When all of these deadly trends are only accelerating? No amount of green living by scattered individuals, no amount of letters to the editor or symbolic demonstrations or Earth Days are going to change the outcome. The problem is way more fundamental than that. Not a happy conclusion, but there it is.

    Posted by Jonathan at 02:18 PM | Comments (4) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Dick Cheney, That's Funny Humor & Fun

    Letterman inaugurates a new segment:

    (Via Minor-Ripper)

    Posted by Jonathan at 12:46 PM | Comments (1) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

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

    Posted by Jonathan at 12:45 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

    It is in book form and entitled, "The Way Forward — A New Approach," a stark contrast from the book Bush had been operating from, "Deeper and Deeper into the Hole That I Myself Have Dug." — Jon Stewart, on the Iraq Study Group report

    Posted by Jonathan at 12:37 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    December 08, 2006

    Taibbi: Baker-Hamilton A "Classic Bullshit-Cloud" Iraq

    Matt Taibbi unloads on the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group in his usual gonzo style. RollingStone:

    What a fiasco this whole Baker-Hamilton episode is, with all its attendant leaks and media manipulations — a veritable symphony of Typical Washington Bullshit. It has all the hallmarks of the pusillanimous, cover-your-ass mentality that rules our nation's capital, where all problems are political problems and actual real emergencies never make it to the desk of anyone who matters. [...]

    Baker-Hamilton from the very start was a classic bullshit-cloud in the proud tradition of those damnable congressional "studies" we hear about from time to time, in which "bipartisan panels" are convened to much fanfare and packed off to the wilds of suburban Virginia for years of intellectually masturbatory activity — the usual solution, whenever House or Senate leaders are faced with a genuinely thorny political issue that offers no easy or obvious solutions, i.e. a problem that can't be simply blamed on one or the other political party, but which needs actual fixing.

    Whenever one of those issues pops up, Washington politicians generally find themselves at a loss. They don't know what to do. For the vast majority of these buffoons, their expertise lies elsewhere. These guys know how to spread their legs for campaign contributors, raid the budget for redundant public works projects and worm their way onto the six o'clock news wearing a hardhat or a Cubs cap — but the average elected official knows very little about actually solving real political problems, because in most cases that's not what got him elected. [...]

    And so, when faced with an unsolvable or seemingly unsolvable political conundrum, most politicians feel there's only one thing to do. You appear onstage with your rival party's leader, embrace him, announce that you're going to find a "bipartisan" solution together, and then nominate a panel of rotting political corpses who will spend 18 months, a few dozen million dollars, many thousands of taxpayer-funded air miles, and about 130,000 pages of impossibly verbose text finding a way for both parties to successfully take the fork in the road and blow off the entire issue, whatever it was.

    It's important, when you nominate your panel, to dig up the oldest, saggiest, rubberiest, most used-up political whores on the Eastern seaboard to take up your cause. That way, you can be sure that the panel will know its place and not address any extraneous issues in its inquiry — like, for instance, whose fault a certain war is, or whether the whole idea of a "War on Terrorism" needs to be rethought, or whether the idea of preemptive defense as a general strategy is viable at all...Your panel should contain people who are not experts or interested parties in the relevant field (since experts or interested parties might be tempted to come up with real, i.e. politically dangerous solutions), but it should contain people who are recognizable political celebrities whose names will lend weight to your whole enterprise, although not for any logical reason.

    Baker-Hamilton was a classic whore-panel in every sense. None were Middle East experts. None had logged serious time in Iraq, before or after the invasion. All of them had influential friends on both sides of the aisle all over Washington, parties in the future they wanted to keep getting invites to, ambitions yet to be realized. You could assign Jim Baker, Lee Hamilton, Sandra Day O'Connor and Vernon Jordan, Jr. to take on virtually any problem and feel very confident that between the four of them, they would find a way to avoid the ugly heart of any serious political dilemma. If the missiles were on the way, and nuclear Armageddon was just seconds off, those four fossils would find a way to issue a recommendation whose headline talking points would be something like "heightened caution," dialogue with Sweden, and a 14 percent increase in future funding for the Air Force.

    Hence the conclusions of the Baker-Hamilton report were predetermined virtually from the start. We could all have expected that the group's only unequivocal conclusions would restate the obvious — that we need an eventual withdrawal of troops, that there needs to be more "robust regional diplomacy," that Iraqi forces need to assume more of the security burden, and that there will be no hope of a political solution without some cooperation from Syria and Iran. Duh! Because the really thorny questions are the specifics: when do we leave, and, more importantly, what do we offer Iran and Syria in return for their cooperation, what horrifying inevitable humiliation will we be prepared to suffer at their hands, and what form will talks with those gloating countries take? [...]

    In essence, all Baker-Hamilton accomplished was a very vague admission that Bush's Iraq adventure is somehow irrevocably fucked and that we have to get our troops out of that country as soon as possible, a conclusion that was obvious to the entire world two long years ago. But even this pathetically timid intellectual assertion was deemed too controversial to risk unveiling before the 2006 midterm elections, and it's obvious now that both parties have decided to wait until 2008 to deal with the more important questions of "when" and "how." [...]

    We may soon have to face this fact: With the midterm elections over, and George Bush already a lame duck, the Iraq war is no longer an urgent problem to anyone on the Hill who matters. The Democrats are in no hurry to end things because it will benefit them if Iraq is still a mess in '08; just as they did this fall, they'll bitch about the war without explicitly promising to end it at any particular time. George Bush has already run his last campaign and he's not about to voluntarily fuck up his legacy with a premature surrender or a humiliating concession to Syria or Iran. At least publicly, John McCain is going to head into '08 siding with those in the military who believe the problem is a lack of troops.

    For the Iraq disaster to end, someone among these actors is going to have to make a difficult decision — admit defeat, invite a bloody civil war, lose face before a pair of rogue terror-supporting states — and it's obvious that none of them is ever going to do that, not until there's absolutely no choice. [Emphasis added]

    Republicans don't want to admit they screwed up. Democrats don't want to let Republicans off the hook. Nobody wants responsibility for the war's aftermath. So the war drags on and on. But of course it's not just a political game. Real people are stuck in a real-world living hell. Thousands die each month. All so American politicians and generals can protect their egos and careers. Could anything be more obscene?

    Posted by Jonathan at 04:38 PM | Comments (3) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Zogby: Bush Approval 30% Politics

    People are onto him. Zogby (via Atrios):

    The national job approval rating of President Bush has plummeted to 30%, an all–time low in the latest Zogby International telephone poll, sinking below the 31% approval rating he dropped to in early June. [...]

    Sixty–eight percent said they believe Bush is doing only a fair or poor job leading the nation.

    Support for the President waned in key demographic groups, the Zogby poll shows. Among all Republicans, just 60% gave him a positive job rating, while 39% gave him negative marks. Just 9% of Democrats and 22% of political independents gave him good marks for his work. Among married respondents – typically a group who favors Republicans – just 35% said Bush was doing a positive job. Among men, another favorable GOP demographic, just 31% gave him positive marks, while 69% gave him a negative rating. Even among stalwart Born Again respondents, just 43% had positive ratings for the President on his overall job performance.

    You've got to wonder about that 30%, what it is they find worth approving.

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

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

    Posted by Jonathan at 09:42 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

    Vice President Dick Cheney has a gay daughter, Mary. Well, she's pregnant. Wow, that's going to be a shotgun wedding. — Jay Leno

    Posted by Jonathan at 09:37 AM | Comments (3) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    December 07, 2006

    Global Warming And Bangladesh Environment

    Rich countries generate greenhouses gases, poor countries suffer. Bangladesh, one of the world's poorest countries, is already paying the price. Veena Khaleque, country director for Practical Action in Bangladesh, writing in the Guardian:

    While the west puzzles over ways to curb future climate change, in the developing world the present climate change is being felt already, and there is nothing abstract about it. Every year an estimated 150,000 people die as a result of global warming - mainly through natural disasters, disease and malnutrition - and the toll is rising exponentially. There is much talk, but little is done.

    The industrialised world has pumped huge amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, setting us on a course where a global temperature rise of at least two degrees Celsius is inevitable. That may not sound much, but for people here in Bangladesh those two degrees amount to a catastrophe.

    The average Briton produces 48 times more carbon dioxide than someone living Bangladesh. And yet it is here that the impact of those emissions is being felt. Bangladesh is one of the world's largest deltas, formed by a dense network of 230 unstable rivers; most of the country is less than 10 metres above sea level. It is also one of the poorest countries in the world: 50% of our population lives in poverty, 51% of our children are malnourished. A low economic capacity, inadequate infrastructure and a higher dependence on a natural-resource base exacerbate our vulnerability.

    Scientists tell us that the most profoundly damaging impact of climate change in Bangladesh will take form in floods, salinity intrusion and droughts, all of which will drastically affect crop productivity and food security. We will also face riverbank erosion, sea water level rise and lack of fresh water in the coastal zones. The prognosis is more extreme floods in a country already devastated by floods; less food for a country in which half our children already don't have enough to eat; and less clean water for a country where waterborne diseases are already responsible for 24% of all deaths.

    The last two decades have witnessed ever more frequent and intense flooding. In 2004, 38% of our country was ravaged by floods, which destroyed more than three quarters of our crops, left 10 million people homeless, and in their wake diseases such as dysentery and diarrhoea. [...]

    The poor are hit hardest by climate change, as the recent Stern review noted. Poverty forces people to live in makeshift homes; when disaster strikes they have no way of rebuilding. Of every 100 deaths caused by a natural disaster, 97 are in the developing world.

    Were the Earth to warm by just one degree Celsius, 11% of Bangladesh would be submerged, putting the lives of 55 million people in danger. Most scientists - including the UK government's David King - expect a two-degree increase. I find it almost impossible to imagine how the poor of Bangladesh will cope.

    It is not just Bangladesh. Across the globe, there are fierce droughts, threats to water resources, more intense hurricanes, rising sea levels - the list goes on. How many millions - or billions - of lives must be put at risk before we are prepared to act? [...]

    The recently published Bangladesh National Adaptation Programme of Action recommends strategies focusing on coastal forestation, provision of drinking water to coastal communities, education, the protection of urban infrastructure, and scientific research and development to protect crops.

    We are doing our bit. However, if richer countries do not change their way of life, and do it now, input from our organisation and others will not be able to protect these communities from the devastating, deadly effects of climate change. [Emphasis added]

    Meanwhile, here in the US, Republican Senator James Inhofe, in his last hearing as chair of the Senate's environment committee, "blamed Hollywood and the news media Wednesday for 'hyping' the view that humans are causing global warming." SF Chronicle:

    California Sen. Barbara Boxer, who will take the committee gavel from Inhofe in January, shook her head and said it was sad that one of the last days of the 109th Congress was spent criticizing media coverage of climate change instead of working on legislation to curb greenhouse gases. [...]

    "...again we're arguing about who believes what rather than moving toward solving the problem," she added.

    Will the Dems do something meaningful to curb emissions? Let's hope so, but I'm not holding my breath.

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

    World Wealth Inequality Study Economy

    A new study on the world distribution of wealth [PDF], the most comprehensive study of its kind ever undertaken, finds (as of the year 2000):

    I knew it was bad, but still.

    Trickle-down economics, deregulation, tax cuts for the wealthy, "free trade" agreements, etc., have all contributed to the ever-increasing concentration of wealth into fewer and fewer hands. The lucky few love those policies — which pretty much tells you all you need to know.

    Posted by Jonathan at 05:39 PM | Comments (1) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

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

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

    Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

    Today was the first and only day of confirmation hearings for Rumsfeld's replacement Robert Gates. The committee immediately confirmed the guy. They really only had one question: "Are you now or have you ever been Donald Rumsfeld?" He said, "No." He showed them his driver's license and utility bill, and boom, they confirmed him. — Stephen Colbert

    Posted by Jonathan at 09:51 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    December 06, 2006

    How Long Before US Invades? Environment

    Be afraid Canada, be very afraid. (Via Xymphora)

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

    Study: Exxon Mobil Source Of 5% Of All CO2 Emissions Corporations, Globalization  Energy  Environment

    A short coda to yesterday's Exxon Mobil post (PlanetArk):

    Exxon Mobil Corp. has historically been responsible for about 5 percent of the world's carbon emissions, a finding that could prod more shareholder resolutions on climate change, environmental groups said on Wednesday.

    From 1882 to 2002, emissions of carbon dioxide from Exxon and its predecessor companies, through its operations and the burning of its products, totaled an estimated 20.3 billion metric tons, according to Washington, D.C.-based Friends of the Earth.
    That represents 4.7 percent to 5.3 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions during that time, the group said in a report.

    The 120-year period in question starts in 1882, the year Exxon Mobil's ultimate predecessor, the Standard Oil Trust, was formed.

    Single-handedly responsible for 5% of the world's CO2 emissions over the past 120 years. Think maybe they have a vested interest in confusing the global warming issue?

    Posted by Jonathan at 10:30 PM | Comments (4) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    How I'm Feeling Humor & Fun




    [Thanks, Dave]

    Posted by Jonathan at 04:06 PM | Comments (1) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

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

    Oooo. Ahhh.

    Posted by Jonathan at 09:37 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

    Former Secretary of State Colin Powell said Wednesday that it is time to face reality and recognize that Iraq is in a state of civil war. Powell made the statement after growing what are known as "retirement balls." — Amy Poehler

    Posted by Jonathan at 09:34 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    December 05, 2006

    The Obfuscation Agenda Energy  Environment

    Senators John D. Rockefeller IV and Olympia Snowe write to Rex Tillerson, Chair and CEO of ExxonMobil, to ask ExxonMobil to stop providing financial backing to groups seeking to obfuscate the issue of global warming (WSJ):

    Dear Mr. Tillerson:

    Allow us to take this opportunity to congratulate you on your first year as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the ExxonMobil Corporation. You will become the public face of an undisputed leader in the world energy industry, and a company that plays a vital role in our national economy. As that public face, you will have the ability and responsibility to lead ExxonMobil toward its rightful place as a good corporate and global citizen.

    We are writing to appeal to your sense of stewardship of that corporate citizenship as U.S. Senators concerned about the credibility of the United States in the international community, and as Americans concerned that one of our most prestigious corporations has done much in the past to adversely affect that credibility. We are convinced that ExxonMobil's longstanding support of a small cadre of global climate change skeptics, and those skeptics' access to and influence on government policymakers, have made it increasingly difficult for the United States to demonstrate the moral clarity it needs across all facets of its diplomacy.

    Obviously, other factors complicate our foreign policy. However, we are persuaded that the climate change denial strategy carried out by and for ExxonMobil has helped foster the perception that the United States is insensitive to a matter of great urgency for all of mankind [sic], and has thus damaged the stature of our nation internationally. It is our hope that under your leadership, ExxonMobil would end its dangerous support of the "deniers." Likewise, we look to you to guide ExxonMobil to capitalize on its significant resources and prominent industry position to assist this country in taking its appropriate leadership role in promoting the technological innovation necessary to address climate change and in fashioning a truly global solution to what is undeniably a global problem.

    While ExxonMobil's activity in this area is well-documented, we are somewhat encouraged by developments that have come to light during your brief tenure. We fervently hope that reports that ExxonMobil intends to end its funding of the climate change denial campaign of the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) are true. Similarly, we have seen press reports that your British subsidiary has told the Royal Society, Great Britain's foremost scientific academy, that ExxonMobil will stop funding other organizations with similar purposes. However, a casual review of available literature, as performed by personnel for the Royal Society reveals that ExxonMobil is or has been the primary funding source for the "skepticism" of not only CEI, but for dozens of other overlapping and interlocking front groups sharing the same obfuscation agenda. For this reason, we share the goal of the Royal Society that ExxonMobil "come clean" about its past denial activities, and that the corporation take positive steps by a date certain toward a new and more responsible corporate citizenship.

    ExxonMobil is not alone in jeopardizing the credibility and stature of the United States. Large corporations in related industries have joined ExxonMobil to provide significant and consistent financial support of this pseudo-scientific, non-peer reviewed echo chamber. The goal has not been to prevail in the scientific debate, but to obscure it. This climate change denial confederacy has exerted an influence out of all proportion to its size or relative scientific credibility. Through relentless pressure on the media to present the issue "objectively," and by challenging the consensus on climate change science by misstating both the nature of what "consensus" means and what this particular consensus is, ExxonMobil and its allies have confused the public and given cover to a few senior elected and appointed government officials whose positions and opinions enable them to damage U.S. credibility abroad.

    Climate change denial has been so effective because the "denial community" has mischaracterized the necessarily guarded language of serious scientific dialogue as vagueness and uncertainty. Mainstream media outlets, attacked for being biased, help lend credence to skeptics' views, regardless of their scientific integrity, by giving them relatively equal standing with legitimate scientists. ExxonMobil is responsible for much of this bogus scientific "debate" and the demand for what the deniers cynically refer to as "sound science." [...]

    In light of the adverse impacts still resulting from your corporations activities, we must request that ExxonMobil end any further financial assistance or other support to groups or individuals whose public advocacy has contributed to the small, but unfortunately effective, climate change denial myth. Further, we believe ExxonMobil should take additional steps to improve the public debate, and consequently the reputation of the United States. We would recommend that ExxonMobil publicly acknowledge both the reality of climate change and the role of humans in causing or exacerbating it. Second, ExxonMobil should repudiate its climate change denial campaign and make public its funding history. Finally, we believe that there would be a benefit to the United States if one of the world's largest carbon emitters headquartered here devoted at least some of the money it has invested in climate change denial pseudo-science to global remediation efforts. We believe this would be especially important in the developing world, where the disastrous effects of global climate change are likely to have their most immediate and calamitous impacts. [Emphasis added]

    Ok, as Jerome a Paris notes, there is a certain irony in John D. Rockefeller IV taking issue with ExxonMobil, the principal remnant of his great-grandfather's Standard Oil empire.

    Meanwhile, the editors of the Wall St. Journal read the Senators' letter and flipped out:

    Washington has no shortage of bullies, but even we can't quite believe an October 27 letter that Senators Jay Rockefeller and Olympia Snowe sent to ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson. Its message: Start toeing the Senators' line on climate change, or else. [...]

    This is amazing stuff. On the one hand, the Senators say that everyone agrees on the facts and consequences of climate change. But at the same time they are so afraid of debate that they want Exxon to stop financing a doughty band of dissenters who can barely get their name in the paper. We respect the folks at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, but we didn't know until reading the Rockefeller-Snowe letter that they ran U.S. climate policy and led the mainstream media around by the nose, too. Congratulations.

    Let's compare the balance of forces: on one side, CEI; on the other, the Pew Charitable Trusts, the Sierra Club, Environmental Defense, the U.N. and EU, Hollywood, Al Gore, and every politically correct journalist in the country. We'll grant that's a fair intellectual fight. But if the Senators are so afraid that a handful of policy wonks at a single small think-tank are in danger of winning this debate, they must not have much confidence in the merits of their own case. [Emphasis added]

    There's a special place in hell reserved for these people.

    Posted by Jonathan at 07:57 PM | Comments (4) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

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

    Posted by Jonathan at 09:38 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

    The White House does not yet believe Iraq is in a civil war, though they did concede that the conflict has entered a new phase. And it rhymes with "muster bluck." — Amy Poehler

    Posted by Jonathan at 09:35 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    December 04, 2006

    Unbelievable Environment

    Mind-boggling:

    Who are these people?

    Via Gristmill.

    Posted by Jonathan at 05:50 PM | Comments (4) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Leahy: Bush Should Be "Terrified" Politics

    Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy at a Democratic Party function Saturday night (via BuzzFlash):

    [Leahy] related a conversation where he was recently asked if President Bush should be "worried" that [Leahy] was now to be Chair of the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee. The crowd started cheering.

    "No, no" he said, calming the crowd, as if to be prepared for a softening of his rhetoric.

    "No, he shouldn't be worried. He should be terrified."

    And the room exploded.

    Leahy went on to assure the crowd that, unlike "some in the administration," he'd "actually read the Constitution," and went on to promise that no judges nominated to the federal bench who would ignore that Constitution would ever get past his committee. [Emphasis added]

    Let's hope he means it.

    Posted by Jonathan at 04:24 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Bolton Quits Politics

    John Bolton, diplomat:

    Good riddance.

    Posted by Jonathan at 04:16 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

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

    Posted by Jonathan at 09:56 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

    NBC has announced that they will know refer to the Iraq war as a civil war...President Bush said no no no no no, it's not a civil war until it becomes a series of Time-Life books. — David Letterman

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

    December 03, 2006

    2900 Iraq

    US troops killed in Iraq as of today: 2900.

    And hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. For what?

    No end in sight.

    Posted by Jonathan at 05:48 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Conserving Energy At Home Energy

    Home energy conservation is low-hanging fruit. CSM:

    When high school science teacher Ray Janke bought a home in Chicopee, Mass., he decided to see how much he could save on his electric bill.

    He exchanged incandescent bulbs for compact fluorescents, put switches and surge protectors on his electronic equipment to reduce the "phantom load" — the trickle consumption even when electronic equipment is off — and bought energy-efficient appliances.

    Two things happened: He saw a two-thirds reduction in his electric bill, and he found himself under audit by Mass Electric. The company thought he'd tampered with his meter. "They couldn't believe I was using so little," he says.

    Mr. Janke had hit on what experts say is perhaps the easiest and most cost-effective place to reduce one's energy consumption: home.

    Moving closer to public transportation or riding a bike instead of driving is not an option for many, but changing incandescent bulbs for fluorescent and buying more efficient appliances is not only possible, it quickly pays for itself with savings.

    In the end, not-very-glamorous changes like these as well as obsessively sealing and insulating your home will save more than, in the words of one expert, "greenie weenie" additions like green roofs and solar panels. Twenty-two percent of all energy in the United States is used for residential purposes. (Transportation accounts for 28 percent.) And although residences consume only about two-fifths of this as electricity, because electrical generation is inherently inefficient, it accounts for 71 percent of household emissions. A home's electrical use may be responsible for more CO2 emissions than the two cars in the driveway. Ultimately, changes made at home may be the quickest, cheapest, and easiest way to reduce one's carbon footprint. [...]

    "If you love your children, replace your lights," says Joseph Lstiburek, principal engineer of Building Science, a Boston-based consulting company that specializes in building technology. [Emphasis added]

    He cut his electricity use by two-thirds. Savings like that are well worth the effort. What are we waiting for?

    Posted by Jonathan at 04:29 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Bill O'Reilly's Question Activism  Iraq  Politics

    Stan Goff is somebody worth reading and listening to. He's a veteran of the US Army Rangers, Airborne, Delta Force, and Special Forces, who served in Vietnam, El Salvador, Grenada, Panama, Honduras, Venezuela, Colombia, Peru, Somalia, and Haiti. Which is to say, he's seen imperialism up close in a way few of us ever will. Now he's a very determined, very smart, and very thoughtful activist, working against war, patriarchy, and empire. Here's a post of his on a question of Bill O'Reilly's:

    There is nothing more tragically amusing than watching the right-wing catch liberals off guard.

    Bill O'Reilly has caught the whole crew flat-footed with one of those trick questions: Do you want the United States to win in Iraq? Set aside for the moment that this ignores the fact that the US government has already lost in Iraq, and that the question is constructed a little like, "Yes or no, have you stopped beating your wife?"

    This is pissing off the Democratic Party establishment because it is outing them, the same way Republicans outed John Kerry by stating, quite accurately, that Kerry supported the war when the national blood was up. Not a single public official will answer this question the way it needs to be answered if we want go on record saying that the lives of people from abroad are as valuable as American lives.

    O'Reilly needs his bluff called.

    Do you want the United States to win in Iraq?

    ANSWER: No.

    The US occupation force in Iraq is there with a malignant purpose. It was sent there to install a puppet government and establish permanent US bases as part of the post-Cold War re-disposition of an imperial military. The invasion and occupation was illegal and immoral; and it has been characterized by the slaughter of innocents by US forces, by premeditated murder and rape, by prisoner abuse, by the systematic humiliation of the people who live there, by the destruction of whole cities, and at the material, mental, and moral expense of the people who — for a host of reasons — find themselves in the US military. The Iraqis have a right to defend themselves, and a right to fight invaders.

    Moreover, the US reliance on the miltiary to prop up its domestic economy and justify the future employment of militarism against other people is a net negative in the world. It is also a net negative for the US people, as opposed to defense contractors and politicians. One way to inhibit the future use of military invasion and occupation as a tool of US control over other peoples' lives and economies is to learn the hard way — by accepting the humility that comes with divesting of our overweaning naitonalist pride, our self-delusion of superiority, and our belief that we have the right to direct the affairs of the whole damn world (using soldiers, of course...none of the engineers of these adventures suffer a day of discomfort).

    Not only do I not want the US to "win" in Iraq — whatever that is supposed to look like. More importantly, Bill, the US has already lost. What I want is, I want the US to acknowledge its loss sooner than later. Because the Bill O'Reillys and George Bush's of the world are not paying the price; and neither are the Democrats who are wringing their hands when they are confronted with the terrible specter of their own inescapable national chauvinism.

    You're acting like cornered rats. Oh me, oh my, yes, we want to win, but it's complicated. Your complication is your desire to further your shitty careers by avoiding the uncomplicated truth. I'm glad Bill O’Reilly put Democrats' asses on the spot. You are walking over the bodies of the dead when you equivocate.

    The price of this standing defeat is being paid right now, today, by Americans and Iraqis inside Iraq. And the civil war there now is not being quelled by the American presence; it is being catalyzed by it.

    Bring them home now. [Emphasis added]

    Amen to that. Dennis Kucinich aside, where is the Democrat with the courage and heart to say such things?

    (See also this, from a year and a half ago.)

    Posted by Jonathan at 04:11 PM | Comments (2) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

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

    Posted by Jonathan at 01:34 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

    The Bush administration is upset with NBC News because NBC News has started referring to the situation in Iraq as a civil war. White House officials say they prefer the term explosion-filled misunderstanding. — Conan O'Brien

    Posted by Jonathan at 01:27 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    December 02, 2006

    Democrats Politics

    It was nice to see Democrats win back the House and Senate, if only because it was a repudiation of sorts of the last six years of Republican rule. But let's not kid ourselves. Democrats aren't the answer.

    First, Iraq. It's entirely possible that Democrats never would have invaded Iraq, but the ugly truth is that Bill Clinton killed more Iraqis than George Bush has. Clinton killed via sanctions, not an invasion.

    During the 1990s, according to the World Health Organization, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, and the UN International Children's Emergency Fund, the sanctions imposed on Iraq by the US and UK killed at least a half a million Iraqi children (as a percentage of population, equivalent to well over 5 million American children). Hundreds of thousands of adults died as well.

    Democrat Madeleine Albright, then Secretary of State, was asked by a television correspondent, "More than five hundred thousand Iraqi children are already dead as a direct result of the UN sanctions...Do you think the price is worth paying?" Albright replied, "It is a difficult question, but, yes, we think the price is worth it." Notice that she didn't dispute the question's premise.

    For most of the past six years, Republicans have controlled Congress as well as the White House. What if Clinton had had a Democratic Congress? Well, he did, for two years, in 1993 and 1994. What happened during those two years? MickeyZ:

    In just two years, the notorious liberal [Clinton] managed to abandon his pledge to consider offering asylum to Haitian refugees, renege on his promise to "take a firm stand" against the armed forces' ban on gays and lesbians, and back away from his most high-profile campaign issue: health care. He also signed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), increased the Pentagon budget by another $25 billion, fired Jocelyn Elders, dumped Lani Guinier, ordered the bombing of Iraq and the Balkans, renewed the murderous sanctions on Iraq, ignored genocide in Rwanda, deported hundreds of thousands of "illegal" immigrants, and passed a crime bill that gave us more cops, more prisons, and 58 more offenses punishable by death. (All this came before the much-hyped Republican "revolution" in 1994. Can someone please explain to me why the right wing didn’t like this guy?)

    What about the environment? The Bush Republicans have been a disaster for the environment. Surely, the Clinton/Gore administration was pro-environment. MickeyZ again:

    Then we have the environment — allegedly Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore's domain. In 1996, David Brower, former president of the Sierra Club, penned a Los Angeles Times op-ed entitled, "Why I Won't Vote for Clinton." In this piece, Brower offered a litany of Clinton administration moves, which utterly smashed the public image of Bubba and Gore as "pro-environment." Some of these moves include: the passage of the salvage logging rider, the continuation of the use of methyl bromide, the weakening of the Endangered Species Act, the lowering of grazing fees on land, subsidizing Florida's sugar industry, weakening the Safe Drinking Water Act, reversing the ban on the production and importation of PCBs, and allowing the export of Alaskan oil.

    These, and other proud Clinton/Gore accomplishments, led Brower to declare that the dynamic Democratic duo had "done more harm to the environment in three years than Presidents Bush and Reagan did in 12 years." That's Bush the Elder he's talking about, of course. As for Bush the Lesser, consider this: the total logging cut in national forest during his first three years of Dubya's reign was less than the annual logging cut in national forests was under Clinton (Bill, not Hillary).

    It sounds like a cliche, but it's true: the real power in the US is corporate power. Corporations — especially the giants in weapons manufacture, media, energy, finance, and pharmaceuticals — call the shots. Both parties are fronts for corporate power. Both are married to a system founded on rapacious exploitation of nature and the powerless.

    There are some differences between Democrats and Republicans, but they're a lot more similar than they are different. Coke and Pepsi. At bottom, MickeyZ may have it right: the real difference between Democrats and Republicans is that they tell different lies to get elected.

    Posted by Jonathan at 03:25 PM | Comments (2) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

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

    Posted by Jonathan at 12:23 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

    The Christmas tree was delivered to the White House yesterday. Just what we need at the White House: more dead wood. — David Letterman

    Posted by Jonathan at 12:20 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    December 01, 2006

    MPAA Kills Privacy Bill Rights, Law

    California was all set to pass a law barring companies from using deception to get their hands on private info about individual citizens, when MPAA lobbyists got the bill killed. Wired:

    A tough California bill that would have prohibited companies and individuals from using deceptive "pretexting" ruses to steal private information about consumers was killed after determined lobbying by the motion picture industry, Wired News has learned.

    The bill, SB1666, was written by state Sen. Debra Bowen, and would have barred investigators from making "false, fictitious or fraudulent" statements or representations to obtain private information about an individual, including telephone calling records, Social Security numbers and financial information. Victims would have had the right to sue for damages.

    The bill won approval in three committees and sailed through the state Senate with a 30-0 vote. Then, according to Lenny Goldberg, a lobbyist for the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, the measure encountered unexpected, last-minute resistance from the Motion Picture Association of America.

    "The MPAA has a tremendous amount of clout and they told legislators, 'We need to pose as someone other than who we are to stop illegal downloading,'" Goldberg said. [Emphasis added]

    Jerks. Makes me want to go download some movies.

    Posted by Jonathan at 05:49 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Kansas Outlaws Evolution Humor & Fun

    TGIF. The Onion:

    In response to a Nov. 7 referendum, Kansas lawmakers passed emergency legislation outlawing evolution, the highly controversial process responsible for the development and diversity of species and the continued survival of all life.

    "From now on, the streets, forests, plains, and rivers of Kansas will be safe from the godless practice of evolution, and species will be able to procreate without deviating from God's intended design," said Bob Bethell, a member of the state House of Representatives. "This is about protecting the integrity of all creation."

    The sweeping new law prohibits all living beings within state borders from being born with random genetic mutations that could make them better suited to evade predators, secure a mate, or, adapt to a changing environment. In addition, it bars any sexual reproduction, battles for survival, or instances of pure happenstance that might lead, after several generations, to a more well-adapted species or subspecies. [Emphasis added]

    Yes, it's a joke. Just barely.

    Posted by Jonathan at 05:35 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Lind: No Amount Of Additional US Troops Will Help Iraq  Politics

    Fourth Generation War expert William S. Lind explains why putting more US troops in Iraq is doomed to fail:

    The latest serpent at which a drowning Washington Establishment is grasping is the idea of sending more American troops to Iraq. Would more troops turn the war there in our favor? No.

    Why not? First, because nothing can. The war in Iraq is irredeemably lost. Neither we nor, at present, anyone else can create a new Iraqi state to replace the one our invasion destroyed. Maybe that will happen after the Iraqi civil was is resolved, maybe not. It is in any case out of our hands.

    Nor could more American troops control the forces driving Iraq's intensifying civil war. The passions of ethnic and religious hatred unleashed by the disintegration of the Iraqi state will not cool because a few more American patrols pass through the streets. Iraqis are quite capable of fighting us and each other at the same time.

    A second reason more troops would make no difference is that the troops we have there now don't know what to do, or at least their leaders don’t know what they should do. For the most part, American troops in Iraq sit on their Forward Operating Bases; in effect, we are besieging ourselves. Troops under siege are seldom effective at controlling the surrounding countryside, regardless of their number.

    When American troops do leave their FOBs, it is almost always to run convoys, which is to say to provide targets; to engage in meaningless patrols, again providing targets; or to do raids, which are downright counterproductive because they turn the people even more strongly against us, where that is possible. Doing more of any of these things would help us not at all.

    More troops might make a difference if they were sent as part of a change in strategy, away from raids and "killing bad guys" and toward something like the Vietnam war's CAP program, where American troops defended villages instead of attacking them. But there is no sign of any such change of strategy on the horizon, so there would be nothing useful for more troops to do.

    Even a CAP program would be likely to fail at this stage of the Iraq war, which points to the third reason more troops would not help us: more troops cannot turn back the clock. For the CAP or "ink blot" strategy to work, there has to be some level of acceptance of the foreign troops by the local people. When we first invaded Iraq, that was present in much of the country.

    But we squandered that good will with blunder upon blunder. How many troops would it take to undo all those errors? The answer is either zero or an infinite number, because no quantity of troops can erase history. The argument that more troops in the beginning, combined with an ink blot strategy, might have made the Iraq venture a success does not mean that more troops could do the same thing now.

    The clinching argument against more troops also relates to time: sending more troops would mean nothing to our opponents on the ground, because those opponents know we could not sustain a significantly larger occupation force for any length of time. So what if a few tens of thousands more Americans come for a few months? The U.S. military is strained to the breaking point to sustain the force there now. Where is the rotation base for a much larger deployment to come from?

    The fact that Washington is seriously considering sending more American troops to Iraq illustrates a common phenomenon in war. As the certainty of defeat looms ever more clearly, the scrabbling about for a miracle cure, a deus ex machina, becomes ever more desperate — and more silly. Cavalry charges, Zeppelins, V-2 missiles, kamikazes, the list is endless. In the end, someone finally has to face facts and admit defeat. The sooner someone in Washington is willing to do that, the sooner the troops we already have in Iraq will come home — alive. [Emphasis added]

    What's maddening — and disgusting — is the way wars are prolonged and intensified simply to serve the egos and ambitions of individual politicians and generals. It's hard to believe anyone would be willing to prolong a war just to advance his own career (McCain) or save himself from personal embarrassment (Bush), but we see it all the time. Sociopaths in high places.

    Posted by Jonathan at 05:32 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

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

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

    Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

    President Bush stopped in Estonia to thank them for their help in Iraq. Remember the old days when our allies were countries like Italy, Spain, Germany. Now we're down to like Estonia, Latvia. Yes, the United States and Lichtenstein stand together! — Jay Leno

    Amid this environment of treachery, the president visited one of his last bastions of support, the Baltic states, whose love for America clearly indicates we're better than Stalinist Russia. — Jon Stewart

    Posted by Jonathan at 09:25 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb