« December 2006 | Main | February 2007 »

January 31, 2007

Parry: US-Israeli Attack On Iran May Be Imminent Iran  Iraq

Robert Parry is part of a dying breed in the US: a true investigative reporter. Among other things, Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra revelations while working for AP and Newsweek in the 1980s. He's continued writing about covert ops and national security matters to this day. In other words, he's a responsible guy with sources. Here's what he wrote today.

First, an attack on Iran may be imminent:

While congressional Democrats test how far they should go in challenging George W. Bush’s war powers, the time may be running out to stop Bush from ordering a major escalation of the Middle East conflict by attacking Iran.

Military and intelligence sources continue to tell me that preparations are advancing for a war with Iran starting possibly as early as mid-to-late February. The sources offer some differences of opinion over whether Bush might cite a provocation from Iran or whether Israel will take the lead in launching air strikes against Iran’s nuclear facilities.

But there is growing alarm among military and intelligence experts that Bush already has decided to attack and simply is waiting for a second aircraft carrier strike force to arrive in the region — and for a propaganda blitz to stir up some pro-war sentiment at home.

One well-informed U.S. military source called me in a fury after consulting with Pentagon associates and discovering how far along the war preparations are. He said the plans call for extensive aerial attacks on Iran, including use of powerful bunker-busting ordnance.

Another source with a pipeline into Israeli thinking said the Iran war plan has expanded over the past several weeks. Earlier thinking had been that Israeli warplanes would hit Iranian nuclear targets with U.S. forces in reserve in case of Iranian retaliation, but now the strategy anticipates a major U.S. military follow-up to an Israeli attack, the source said.

Both sources used the same word "crazy" in describing the plan to expand the war to Iran. The two sources, like others I have interviewed, said that attacking Iran could touch off a regional — and possibly global — conflagration.

"It will be like the TV show '24'," the American military source said, citing the likelihood of Islamic retaliation reaching directly into the United States.

Though Bush insists that no decision has been made on attacking Iran, he offered similar assurances of his commitment to peace in the months before invading Iraq in 2003. Yet leaked documents from London made clear that he had set a course for war nine months to a year before the Iraq invasion.

In other words, Bush's statements that he has no plans to "invade" Iran and that he's still committed to settle differences with Iran over its nuclear program diplomatically should be taken with a grain of salt. [Emphasis added]

As if that weren't bad enough, Parry writes that the situation in Iraq is worse than we know:

The rapidly deteriorating situation in Iraq is seen as another factor pressing on Bush to act quickly against Iran.

Other sources with first-hand knowledge of conditions in Iraq have told me that the U.S. position is even more precarious than generally understood. Westerners can't even move around Baghdad and many other Iraqi cities except in armed convoys.

"In some countries, if you want to get out of the car and go to the market, they'll tell you that it might be dangerous," one experienced American cameraman told me. "In Iraq, you will be killed. Not that you might be killed, but you will be killed. The first Iraqi with a gun will shoot you, and if no one has a gun, they'll stone you."

While U.S. war correspondents in most countries travel around in taxis with "TV" taped to their windows, Western journalists in Iraq move only in armed convoys to and from specific destinations. They operate from heavily guarded Baghdad hotels sometimes with single families responsible for security since outsiders can't be trusted.

The American cameraman said one European journalist rebelled at the confinement, took off on her own in a cab — and was never seen again.

Depression also is spreading among U.S. intelligence officials who monitor covert operations in Iraq from listening stations sometimes thousands of miles away. The results of these Special Forces operations have been so horrendous that morale in the intelligence community has suffered. [Emphasis added]

Meanwhile, the LA Times reports today the US Air Force and Navy warplanes are stepping up aggressive patrols along the Iraq-Iran border. It's hard not to suspect that the purpose is to create a provocation that can lead to an incident that will be used to justify an attack. Excerpt:

The Air Force is preparing for an expanded role in Iraq that could include aggressive new tactics designed to deter Iranian assistance to Iraqi militants, senior Pentagon officials said.

The efforts could include more forceful patrols by Air Force and Navy fighter planes along the Iran-Iraq border to counter the smuggling of bomb supplies from Iran, a senior Pentagon official said. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was discussing future military plans.

Such missions also could position the Air Force to strike suspected bomb suppliers inside Iraq to deter Iranian agents that U.S. officials say are assisting Iraqi militias, outside military experts said. [Emphasis added]

Maybe this is all a big game of chicken with the Iranians. But given all the White House lies about Iraq, who is going to believe anything they say about Iran? What is not clear is what can be done to stop them — even though the country is overwhelmingly against widening the war. A crazy spot to be in in a democracy.

[Thanks, Miles]

Posted by Jonathan at 02:27 PM | Comments (10) | 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 

How I'm feeling. Busy, busy.

Posted by Jonathan at 11:48 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

Vice President Cheney lashed out at Hillary Clinton the other day. He said on CNN that he doesn't believe Hillary would be a good president. I can understand that. I mean, his administration has raised the bar so high. — Jay Leno

Posted by Jonathan at 11:47 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

January 30, 2007

More Double Talk Politics

McCain flip-flops again. Does he think no one's listening?

Posted by Jonathan at 12:32 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

The Way Of The Ostrich Environment  Politics

This is outrageous, crazy, you name it. AP:

Two private advocacy groups told a congressional hearing Tuesday that climate scientists at seven government agencies say they have been subjected to political pressure aimed at downplaying the threat of global warming.

The groups presented a survey that shows two in five of the 279 climate scientists who responded to a questionnaire complained that some of their scientific papers had been edited in a way that changed their meaning. Nearly half of the 279 said in response to another question that at some point they had been told to delete reference to "global warming" or "climate change" from a report. [Emphasis added]

If we just ignore it, maybe it will go away. As if reality is only what we say it is.

Insanity.

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

Cantarell Collapsing Faster Than Expected Peak Oil

As we've noted several times over the past year, Mexico's largest oil field (and the world's second largest), Cantarell, has peaked and is in sharp decline. The decline is turning out to be more drastic than even the most pessimistic projections. WSJ (via Rigzone):

Daily output at Mexico's biggest oil field tumbled by half a million barrels last year, according to figures released Friday by the Mexican government. The ongoing decline at the Cantarell field could pressure prices on the global oil market, complicate U.S. efforts to diversify its oil imports away from the Middle East, and threaten Mexico's financial stability.

The virtual collapse at Cantarell — the world's second-biggest oil field in terms of output at the start of last year — is unfolding much faster than projections from Mexico's state-run oil giant Petroleos Mexicanos, or Pemex. Cantarell's daily output fell to 1.5 million barrels in December compared to 1.99 million barrels in January, according to figures from the Mexican Energy Ministry.

Mexico made up for some of the field's decline. Mexico's overall oil output fell to just below three million barrels a day in December, down from almost 3.4 million barrels at the start of the year. It marked Mexico's lowest rate of oil output since 2000.

Mexico's troubles at Cantarell mirror the larger problems in the global oil market. Many of the world's biggest fields are old and face decline, which can be sharp and sudden. Like other big producers, Mexico is struggling to make up the difference because new big fields are in harder-to-reach places like the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

The field's decline is expected to continue, if not worsen, this year, according to most estimates. That will subtract valuable oil from the world market, which is under pressure from rising demand by growing economies like China and India. It also means less oil headed to the U.S. from Mexico, which has long relied on Mexico as one of its top-three oil suppliers.

"This is bad news for Mexico. The field is declining faster than even the government's pessimistic scenarios," says David Shields, an oil industry consultant in Mexico City who has been warning about Cantarell's collapse for the past two years. [...]

Mexico's growing economy is demanding more fuel each year, which is expected to translate to even lower oil exports. Last year, Mexico's daily average oil exports fell to 1.79 million barrels a day from 1.82 million the previous year. Pemex says it expects daily exports to fall to an average 1.65 million barrels this year.

But some analysts say that is too optimistic. December's daily exports were a meager 1.53 million barrels. While that figure may have been affected by bad weather that closed some ports, it was already well below Pemex's estimates for this year.

Based on the state company's track record so far at Cantarell, including its current rates of recovering the oil that remains in the field, Mr. Shields expects the field's output to drop another 600,000 barrels a day by the end of this year. He says that Pemex will likely increase output by 200,000 barrels a day at other fields — leaving the country with a net decline of 400,000 barrels a day by year's end and daily exports of less than 1.4 million barrels. [Emphasis added]

Technology is a two-edged sword. Advanced techniques are very good at squeezing the toothpaste out of the tube. Unfortunately, they are so good at it that when the end comes, it comes suddenly. (Remember this picture.) A number of oil fields are showing alarmingly steep decline rates as a result. Cantarell's production has fallen by 25% in a single year. And Cantarell is not alone.

Posted by Jonathan at 11:04 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Feingold: Congress Needs To Break "Taboo" Iraq

Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold:

Americans are not looking to Congress to pass symbolic measures, they are looking to us to stop the President's failed Iraq policy. That is why we must finally break this taboo that somehow Congress can't talk about using its power of the purse to end the war in Iraq. The Constitution makes Congress a co-equal branch of government. It's time we start acting like it. We have a moral responsibility, as well as a responsibility to the brave troops whose lives are on the line, to end the war. We can and must force the President to safely redeploy our troops so that we can get back to focusing on those who attacked us on 9/11. [...]

I want everyone to be clear on exactly what my proposal will do. The first and most important thing to know is that my plan does not cut funding for the troops. Our troops will continue to receive the salaries, equipment, training and protection they need. What I am proposing is ending funds for the continued deployment of U.S. forces in Iraq six months after the enactment of the bill. This will require the President to safely redeploy troops from Iraq by that date. My bill does provide exceptions to allow for specific types of military missions within Iraq past the six-month deadline, such as targeted counter-terrorism efforts, the protection of American personnel and infrastructure, and a limited number of troops needed to help train Iraqi security forces. But these will be limited forces used for specific missions.

Suggestions that our troops will be left in the lurch couldn't be further from the truth. My proposal would bring the troops out of harm's way.

Congress has used this power several times before, most recently in Somalia and in Bosnia in the 1990s. Nevertheless, I'm sure the White House and others will resort to their usual intimidation tactics to try to paint this proposal as not supporting the troops. I'd like to hear from the President exactly how sending 21,500 more U.S. troops into a civil war supports them. We must not let this administration continue to intimidate like it did in the lead-up to war. [Emphasis added]

Attaboy Russ. Makes me proud that I live in Wisconsin.

Posted by Jonathan at 09:54 AM | 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 09:47 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is now in Iraq. She made a surprise visit to Iraq. Well, you thought Bush wanted to bomb the place before. ... She didn't say how long she'd be staying in Iraq. President Bush said he was against setting any timetables for Pelosi to return. He said to bring her back prematurely would send the wrong message. — Jay Leno

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

January 29, 2007

Politics Trumps Science — Again Politics  Rights, Law

The NYT reports that the White House has issued a directive giving its political commissars more direct control of regulatory policy at the various agencies of the executive branch, taking control away from civil servants and scientists. Excerpts:

President Bush has signed a directive that gives the White House much greater control over the rules and policy statements that the government develops to protect public health, safety, the environment, civil rights and privacy.

In an executive order published last week in the Federal Register, Mr. Bush said that each agency must have a regulatory policy office run by a political appointee, to supervise the development of rules and documents providing guidance to regulated industries. The White House will thus have a gatekeeper in each agency to analyze the costs and the benefits of new rules and to make sure the agencies carry out the president’s priorities.

This strengthens the hand of the White House in shaping rules that have, in the past, often been generated by civil servants and scientific experts. It suggests that the administration still has ways to exert its power after the takeover of Congress by the Democrats.

The White House said the executive order was not meant to rein in any one agency. But business executives and consumer advocates said the administration was particularly concerned about rules and guidance issued by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

In an interview on Monday, Jeffrey A. Rosen, general counsel at the White House Office of Management and Budget, said, "This is a classic good-government measure that will make federal agencies more open and accountable." [Satire?] [...]

The directive issued by Mr. Bush says that, in deciding whether to issue regulations, federal agencies must identify "the specific market failure" or problem that justifies government intervention.

Besides placing political appointees in charge of rule making, Mr. Bush said agencies must give the White House an opportunity to review "any significant guidance documents" before they are issued. [...]

Peter L. Strauss, a professor at Columbia Law School, said the executive order "achieves a major increase in White House control over domestic government." [...]

Representative Henry A. Waxman, Democrat of California and chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, said: "The executive order allows the political staff at the White House to dictate decisions on health and safety issues, even if the government's own impartial experts disagree. This is a terrible way to govern, but great news for special interests." [...]

Wesley P. Warren, program director at the Natural Resources Defense Council, who worked at the White House for seven years under President Bill Clinton, said, "The executive order is a backdoor attempt to prevent E.P.A. from being able to enforce environmental safeguards that keep cancer-causing chemicals and other pollutants out of the air and water." [Emphasis added]

Many, if not most, regulatory matters are highly technical applications of specialized expertise. The White House couldn't care less about such technical matters. It wants control of the regulatory carrot and stick. Instead of scientists and civil servants, people like Karl Rove will get the final say on regulatory policy. Which means it will be about politics, period. And which gives the White House enormous leverage to reward corporations friendly to it and punish those that aren't. A gigantic protection racket. Everything's for sale. Science is for liberal suckers. The thing is, though, if you ignore what science tells you about reality long enough, reality has a way of getting the last word.

Posted by Jonathan at 10:24 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Double Talk Politics

John McCain's popularity has always been a triumph of style over substance. People seem to think he's some kind of moderate and non-ideological "maverick", but he's got one of the two or three most conservative voting records in the entire US Senate.

And while he styles himself a "straight talker," he's anything but. Check out this short video, all in McCain's own words. Excellent.

Lots more here. An excellent resource.

Posted by Jonathan at 05:46 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 09:53 AM | Comments (2) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

I'll give President Bush credit though. He addressed the problems troubling Americans — the war in Iraq, the economy, the need to develop alternative fuels. He seemed to know what we were thinking. It's almost as if he was reading our mail or listening to our phone calls. — Jay Leno

Posted by Jonathan at 09:48 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

January 28, 2007

Clinton: US Should Withdraw Before End Of Bush Term Iraq  Politics

Hillary Clinton has finally taken a position on Iraq that seems like a step in the right direction. AP:

Hillary Rodham Clinton said Sunday that President Bush should withdraw all U.S. troops from Iraq before he leaves office, asserting it would be "the height of irresponsibility" to pass the war along to the next commander in chief.

"This was his decision to go to war with an ill-conceived plan and an incompetently executed strategy," the Democratic senator from New York said her in initial presidential campaign swing through Iowa.

"We expect him to extricate our country from this before he leaves office" in January 2009, the former first lady said.

A clever move, politically. Creates a timetable without seeming to pick an arbitrary date out of the air. Defines the war as Bush's war and, by extension, the GOP's war. Gives Hillary a way to hammer Bush and the eventual Republican candidate from now through election day.

Bush is determined to foist the war onto his successor. Even if he succeeds in that, the war must be seen as Bush's failure, since that's what it is. The danger in Clinton's position, however, is that it could be taken as giving Bush two more years to try to "win".

Posted by Jonathan at 06:30 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Bush Approval: 30% Politics

Newsweek:

President George W. Bush concluded his annual State of the Union address this week with the words "the State of our Union is strong … our cause in the world is right...and tonight that cause goes on." Maybe so, but the state of the Bush administration is at its worst yet, according to the latest NEWSWEEK Poll. The president's approval ratings are at their lowest point in the poll's history — 30 percent — and more than half the country (58 percent) say they wish the Bush presidency were simply over, a sentiment that is almost unanimous among Democrats (86 percent), and is shared by a clear majority (59 percent) of independents and even one in five (21 percent) Republicans. Half (49 percent) of all registered voters would rather see a Democrat elected president in 2008, compared to just 28 percent who'd prefer the GOP to remain in the White House. [Emphasis added]

Next stop, ratings in the 20s. And yet The Decider flouts the will of the country and single-handedly escalates the war.

Meanwhile, those of us who said from the outset that Bush/Cheney would be a disaster, that the Iraq attack was based on fabricated justifications and would end in catastrophe — will the day ever come when the "serious" journalists of the capitalist media recognize and admit that maybe we ought to be listened to? Not holding my breath, but it really is an astonishing state of affairs, when one's status as a "credible" voice bears no relation whatever to whether one has ever actually been right about anything.

Posted by Jonathan at 06:15 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 06:02 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

President Bush now has the lowest presidential approval rating since Richard Nixon. Now, here's another coincidence. Nixon had a dog named "Checkers." Bush plays checkers with his dog. — David Letterman

Posted by Jonathan at 05:58 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

January 27, 2007

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

Posted by Jonathan at 11:01 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

The president proposes a drastic measure [on screen: Bush proposing a special advisory council on the war on terror comprised of "leaders in Congress from both political parties"]. What? Both parties in an advisory role? I think they already have something like that. I think it's called Congress. — Jon Stewart

Posted by Jonathan at 10:58 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

January 26, 2007

"Like A Business In Liquidation" Environment  Musings

Just came across a great phrase from Al Gore: we're "operating the planet like a business in liquidation". Liquidating everything, using it up as fast as we can, last one out lock the door. Except there is no "out".

The bottom line on sustainability: unsustainable = stupid. Fatally stupid. Suicidally stupid. Pretty much by definition, when you stop and think about it. Sustainability is the fundamental requirement for long-term survival. Anything else is sawing off the limb we're sitting on — and there ain't no net.

Posted by Jonathan at 03:49 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 09:56 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

31 million people watched the president — many, I suspect, in hopes that he would get voted off. One of the big topics, of course, was the war. The president said he understands that Americans are losing patience, but he would like us to give his new plan a chance to work. In other words, all he is saying is give war a chance. — Jimmy Kimmel

Seriously, the stakes are very high. And in this high stakes game, the president of the United States made one simple request [on screen: Bush asking Americans to give the new Iraq strategy a chance]. He's right. Everyone deserves a seventh chance. — Jon Stewart

Posted by Jonathan at 09:53 AM | Comments (4) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

January 25, 2007

"Hitler Is Back — This Time He's Iranian" Iran

Gideon Rachman, chief foreign affairs commentator for the Financial Times, on an Israeli conference devoted to beating the drum for war with Iran. War with Iran is madness, but these people are serious. Excerpts:

It sounds like the stuff that conspiracy theories are made of. In a coastal resort near Tel Aviv, senior Israeli politicians and generals confer with top officials and politicians from Washington to discuss the threat of a nuclear Iran. [...]

The Israel participation is, as one would expect, high level. The conference is scheduled to close with a speech from Ehud Olmert, the prime minister. The lunch-time speaker yesterday was Benjamin Netanyahu, the Likud leader, and maybe the next prime minister. We're hearing from the foreign minister, the defence minister and a string of present and former generals.

But what has really struck me is the number of top Americans who have bothered to come over for the conference. The speaker at dinner last night was Gordon England, America's deputy defence secretary; earlier in the day we heard from Nick Burns, the number three at the State Department. Several contenders for the presidency in 2008 have also felt obliged to tip their hat to Herzliya. Mitt Romney, who is probably second favourite for the Republican nomination, is turning up in person. John McCain, the GOP front-runner is appearing by satellite, so is Rudy Giuliani. For the Democrats, John Edwards is also scheduled to make a satellite address. I cannot think of any other country in the world that could summon up this level of American participation for a conference like this. Certainly not Britain.

Also well represented among the participants are well-known hawks like Richard Perle, Jim Woolsey (the former CIA director), Newt Gingrich and Jose Maria Aznar, the former Spanish prime minister. A lot of these chaps were very prominent in the drive to go to war in Iraq. Now, flushed by their undoubted success there, they are turning their attention to Iran.

There is no doubt that the war drums are beating pretty loudly here in Herzliya. The main topics of conversation that keep coming back and back – in the corridors and also in the conference hall – is how close is Iran to the bomb. Can anything short of military action stop the Iranians? If it comes to bombing, could the Israelis do it alone – or would they have to rely on the United States? Would President Bush give the order? [...]

Netanyahu claimed that Iran is 1,000 days away from having nukes. But the Israelis tend to argue that military action would have to come much sooner than that, before the Iranians learn how to enrich enough uranium to make a bomb. Shaul Mofaz, Israel's deputy prime minister, argued that Iran is bent on building a "hegemonic empire in the Middle East" and presents an "existential threat to Israel".

The official American speakers have tended to be a little more circumspect. Nick Burns talked a lot about diplomacy and the UN. But he earned a big round of applause, when he declared – "It is the policy of the United States that we cannot afford to let Iran become a nuclear-weapons state."

The unofficial Americans are much less careful. Jim Woolsey, a former director of the CIA, castigated Burns for his caution and his emphasis on diplomacy. He also likened Iran to Nazi Germany. Funny thing is I distinctly remember hearing a similar speech from Woolsey at an international conference in 2002, when he likened Saddam Hussein to Hitler. Now Hitler is back – except that this time he's Iranian.

It doesn't do to criticize Israel in public in the US — witness the attacks on Jimmy Carter — but there's no denying Israel's clout in US politics. Not for nothing do all those American presidential candidates show up at an Israeli conference far from the eyes of US media and voters.

Israeli hardliners are adamant that Israel must remain the only nuclear power in the Middle East. Where is the US politician of any importance who will stand up and tell them no?

Posted by Jonathan at 04:12 PM | Comments (2) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Rent-A-Panel Energy

If you'd like to get solar PV panels for your house, but you're daunted by the upfront cost, how about renting them, with a monthly bill like your electric bill. Check it out.

Posted by Jonathan at 01:59 PM | Comments (2) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

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

Posted by Jonathan at 09:44 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

President Bush addressed the nation the other night. He talked about how we can save energy, how we can still win the war in Iraq, and then gave a beautiful rendition of "Wind Beneath My Wings." Randy and Paula were in tears. — Jimmy Kimmel

Posted by Jonathan at 09:43 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

January 24, 2007

Phaeton's Reins Environment  Science/Technology

MIT meteorologist Kerry Emanuel, one of Time's 100 most influential people in 2006, has published a superb overview of the science of global warming in the Boston Review [link via RealClimate].

Long, but lucid, and well worth the effort of working your way through. Excellent discussions of how the greenhouse effect actually works, how a variety of factors interact as climate changes, how climate scientists separate the effects of human activity from other sources of climate variability, and the most elegant description I've seen of how chaotic systems are sensitive to small changes in initial conditions.

Very highly recommended.

Posted by Jonathan at 04:07 PM | Comments (1) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Facing Reality Politics

Kerry won't run.

Good.

Posted by Jonathan at 12:52 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Alternatives Humor & Fun  Politics

Shorter SOTU: cartoon version.

Posted by Jonathan at 12:40 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 09:46 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

How will the president describe the state of our union? Well, over the past six tumultuous years, he has always managed to find just the right word to encapsulate the complexities of our times [on screen: Bush using varieties of 'strong']. Strongly, we will use strength to bestrongen our strongness, for strongaliciousness is strongtastic...That's what you get for relying exclusively on Roget's Monosaurus. — Jon Stewart

Posted by Jonathan at 09:44 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

January 23, 2007

Doctor Knows Best? Science/Technology

Do you think the US has the greatest health care system in the world? Do you drink diet sodas? If so (even if not), you'll want to read this. Very interesting.

[Via Cryptogon]

Posted by Jonathan at 12:10 PM | Comments (4) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

IPCC: Global Warming Will Be Worse Than Previously Thought Environment

The Guardian says that the forthcoming IPCC report on climate change says global warming will be worse than previously thought. Excerpts:

Global warming is destined to have a far more destructive and earlier impact than previously estimated, the most authoritative report yet produced on climate change will warn next week.

A draft copy of the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, obtained by The Observer, shows the frequency of devastating storms — like the ones that battered Britain last week — will increase dramatically. Sea levels will rise over the century by around half a metre; snow will disappear from all but the highest mountains; deserts will spread; oceans become acidic, leading to the destruction of coral reefs and atolls; and deadly heatwaves will become more prevalent.

The impact will be catastrophic, forcing hundreds of millions of people to flee their devastated homelands, particularly in tropical, low-lying areas, while creating waves of immigrants whose movements will strain the economies of even the most affluent countries.

"The really chilling thing about the IPCC report is that it is the work of several thousand climate experts who have widely differing views about how greenhouse gases will have their effect. Some think they will have a major impact, others a lesser role. Each paragraph of this report was therefore argued over and scrutinised intensely. Only points that were considered indisputable survived this process. This is a very conservative document - that's what makes it so scary," said one senior UK climate expert. [...]

[The report] points out that:

  • 12 of the past 13 years were the warmest since records began;

  • ocean temperatures have risen at least three kilometres beneath the surface;

  • glaciers, snow cover and permafrost have decreased in both hemispheres;

  • sea levels are rising at the rate of almost 2mm a year;

  • cold days, nights and frost have become rarer while hot days, hot nights and heatwaves have become more frequent.

    And the cause is clear, say the authors: "It is very likely that [man-made] greenhouse gas increases caused most of the average temperature increases since the mid-20th century," says the report.

    To date, these changes have caused global temperatures to rise by 0.6C. The most likely outcome of continuing rises in greenhouses gases will be to make the planet a further 3C hotter by 2100, although the report acknowledges that rises of 4.5C to 5C could be experienced. Ice-cap melting, rises in sea levels, flooding, cyclones and storms will be an inevitable consequence.

    Past assessments by the IPCC have suggested such scenarios are "likely" to occur this century. Its latest report, based on sophisticated computer models and more detailed observations of snow cover loss, sea level rises and the spread of deserts, is far more robust and confident. Now the panel writes of changes as "extremely likely" and "almost certain".

    And in a specific rebuff to sceptics who still argue natural variation in the Sun's output is the real cause of climate change, the panel says mankind's industrial emissions have had five times more effect on the climate than any fluctuations in solar radiation. [...]

    The report reflects climate scientists' growing fears that Earth is nearing the stage when carbon dioxide rises will bring irreversible change to the planet. "We are seeing vast sections of Antarctic ice disappearing at an alarming rate," said climate expert Chris Rapley, in a phone call to The Observer from the Antarctic Peninsula last week. "That means we can expect to see sea levels rise at about a metre a century from now on — and that will have devastating consequences."

    However, there is still hope, said Peter Cox of Exeter University. "We are like alcoholics who have got as far as admitting there is a problem. It is a start. Now we have got to start drying out — which means reducing our carbon output." [Emphasis added]

  • Humans, like other organisms, are designed to react to threats that appear suddenly. A loud noise, a sudden movement, and we feel the adrenaline hit our bloodstreams, mobilizing us for fight or flight. Slow motion threats have a hard time getting our attention. They require us to mobilize ourselves via rational thought, rather than reflex. Are we rational enough to save ourselves?

    Posted by Jonathan at 10:12 AM | Comments (7) | 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 09:49 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

    During an interview with "60 Minutes" last week, President Bush defended the invasion of Iraq, saying, "We liberated that country from a tyrant. I think the Iraqi people owe the American people a huge debt of gratitude." Said the Iraqi people, "We've been meaning to send a card, but our Hallmark store keeps blowing up." — Amy Poehler

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

    January 22, 2007

    Al-Sadr Interview Iraq

    When we hear someone praised or vilified, it's a good idea to stop and consider the source. Ask: what axe is being ground. It's not foolproof, but it's helpful. So, for example, when wealthy Wall Streeters never tire of telling us what a genius Alan Greenspan was, the rest of us might want to look to our wallets.

    Which brings us to the much vilified Moqtada al-Sadr, the target of the US escalation in Iraq. US authorities tells us what a bad man he is, but they're hardly a credible source. What does al-Sadr himself say? Here's an interview with al-Sadr conducted by Renato Cabrile for the Italy's La Repubblica. From the translation at Dark Mirror:

    Caprile: So how did it come about that al Maliki, whose government until recently included no less than six ministers from your movement, suddenly came to the conclusion that the religious militias, and yours most of all, are the real problem that must be solved?

    Al Sadr: "Between [al Maliki] and myself there have never been very warm relations. I always suspected he was manipulated and I never trusted him. We have only met on a couple of occasions. On the most recent of which he said to me "you are the backbone of the country," and then he confessed that he was "obliged" to fight us. Obliged, you understand.

    Caprile: The fact remains that your people are about to be struck with an iron fist.

    Al Sadr: The operation has already started. Last night they already arrested over four hundred of my men. It is not us they want to destroy, but Islam — we are only an obstacle. For the time being, we shall not put up any resistance against them.

    Caprile: Do you mean that you will hand in your weapons?

    Al Sadr: During [the holy month of] Muharram the Quran forbids us to kill. So let them kill us if they want to, for a true believer there is no better time to die: Paradise is assured. But God is generous, not all of us shall die. After Muharram the tide will turn.

    Caprile: Some say that the army and police are heavily infiltrated by your men and that the marines would never be able to disarm you on their own.

    Al Sadr: The truth is exactly the opposite: it's our militia that's swarming with spies. And in any case, it's not a hard task to infiltrate a people's army. And these are the very same people who have been committing unworthy deeds to discredit the Mahdi Army. There are at least four armies ready to strike us. One is a "shadow force" which no-one ever talks about, trained under the most secret conditions in the Jordanian desert by the Americans. And then there's the private army of Allawi himself, that infidel who will soon take Maliki's place, which is readying itself for the fray in the former military airport of Muthanna. Then there are the Kurdish peshmergas, and lastly there are the American regular troops.

    Caprile: If what you say is true, you have no hope of standing up to them.

    Al Sadr: We too are very many. We represent the majority of the country, who do not want Iraq to become what Allawi is dreaming of: a secular state, a slave to the western powers.

    Caprile: For the last week you have been officially in the crosshairs. The government maintains that without their leader the religious militias [would be] militarily weakened.

    Al Sadr: I am aware of this. This is why I moved my family to a safe place. I even made my will, and I keep constantly on the move, making sure that only a few people know exactly where I am. But even if I should die, the Mahdi Army would still continue to exist. Men can be killed, faith and ideas cannot.

    Caprile: It has been said that amongst the crowd watching Saddam's execution you too were present. Is this true?

    Al Sadr: This is absolute rubbish. If I'd been there they'd have killed me too. As for Saddam, I certainly shed no tears for the man who massacred my family and tens of thousands of my people. But if it had been up to me, I'd have had him executed in a public square so all the world could see.

    Caprile: Even if you weren't there, can you deny that the execution room was full of your men?

    Al Sadr: No, those were not my men. They were people paid to discredit me. To make it seem I was the person really responsible for that hanging. The proof lies in the fact — just listen to the audio — that when they recited my prayer they left out some essential parts. A mistake that not even a single child in Sadr City would ever have made. The aim was to make it seem Moqtada was the real enemy of the Sunnis. And they succeeded. Some time back, I was received with full honours in Saudi Arabia. But straight after that charade under the gallows my spokesman al Zarqani, who was making the pilgrimage to Mecca, was arrested. An all too explicit way to make me understand that I was no longer listed amongst their friends.

    Caprile: In any case, the war between you and the Sunnis goes on.

    Al Sadr: It is true that we are all Muslims and we are all sons of the same land, but they must first distance themselves from the Saddamists, from the radical groups, from Bin Laden's men, as well as repeating their "No" to the Americans. All we're asking is for the ulemas to accept these conditions of ours. They haven't yet done so.

    Caprile: Can it really be true that there is nothing but blood in Iraq' future?

    Al Sadr: If the future is a country split in three, I cannot see any alternative. That is what Bush wants so he can control us more easily, but it's certainly not what the Iraqis want. In my opinion, there is only one possible way a solution can be reached: immediate withdrawal by the Americans. [Emphasis added]

    Sounds like a nationalist who wants the foreign occupiers out. No wonder he's the boogeyman. Of course he has his own axe to grind. Still, why can't we hear more of al-Sadr's side of the story?

    [Thanks, Miles]

    Posted by Jonathan at 05:58 PM | Comments (5) | 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 03:54 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

    President Bush is calling for sending 21,000 more troops to Iraq. How does he come up with that number? I don't even think there are 21,000 people in the country who think it's a good idea. — Jay Leno

    Posted by Jonathan at 03:48 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    January 21, 2007

    Newsweek Poll Iraq  Politics

    The latest Newsweek poll is a doozy.

    Bush's handling of the situation in Iraq:
    Approve: 24%
    Disapprove: 70%

    Trust more to make decisions about Iraq:
    Bush: 32%
    Democratic leaders in Congress: 55%

    US making progress in Iraq:
    Making progress: 24%
    Losing ground: 67%

    US troop levels in Iraq:
    Increase: 23%
    Decrease: 50%
    Same: 18%

    Bush's "surge" plan:
    Favor: 26%
    Oppose: 68%

    Democrats in Congress block funding for Bush's "surge" plan:
    Should: 46%
    Should not: 46%

    The level of support for blocking funding for the troop "surge" is remarkable, considering that it's a question of withholding funding in the middle of a war.

    Posted by Jonathan at 06:32 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 02:32 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

    In his "60 Minutes" interview, Bush said popularity is not his goal. Well, I thought, mission accomplished. — David Letterman

    Posted by Jonathan at 02:29 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    January 20, 2007

    Poverty Is A Security Issue Development  War and Peace

    Economist Jeffrey Sachs, leading light of the UN's Millenium Development Goals project, points out that eradicating poverty is in the security interest of the world's rich nations. Poverty creates instability, conflict, and war. Reuters:

    Curbing poverty in Third World countries will not only satisfy life and death needs for the poor but also provide security for rich nations, one of the world's best-known economists said on Wednesday.

    Jeffrey Sachs, special adviser to the United Nations on the Millennium Development Goals, said extreme poverty was fuelling conflicts in places such as Somalia and Sudan's Darfur region.

    "Instability will grow where poverty festers in an extreme form, that's what we're seeing in the Horn of Africa. This isn't a crisis about Islam, this isn't a crisis about geopolitics, this is essentially a crisis of extreme poverty," Sachs said.

    "Whether it's Darfur or Somalia or other conflict regions, people are in conflict because they're so poor they cannot stay alive — that's what needs to be addressed for security for rich countries," he told a news conference in Nairobi.

    Sachs said it was targeted investments in tools like mosquito nets, medicines and fertilisers that would help in the fight against poverty.

    "Africa's small-holder farmers could double or triple their crop yield within even a single season if they have access to improved inputs," he said. [Emphasis added]

    Unfortunately, rich nations make an enormous amount of money supplying arms to the world — which makes for a conflict of interest, to put it mildly. The US is the biggest arms dealer by far, but all five permanent members of the UN Security Council are heavily involved. And nearly half of weapons exports go to the developing world. While instability may not be in the interest of the US population as a whole, it is very much in the interest of enormously powerful sectors of US society. Ditto for the world's other rich nations. War is big business; poverty reduction, not so much.

    One more example of capitalism's fatal flaw — profitability is a poor, in fact a potentially suicidal, organizing principle for human activity: it may well be more profitable to destroy the world than to save it, and it may well be more profitable to kill people than to make them prosper. The free market can be very good at working out how to make something, but it's often not good at all at determining what to make. Actually, it's often not so good at the how either, since it fails to take account of environmental destruction and other so-called "externalities" that are left out of profitability calculations. So people can devote enormous energy and resources to making weapons, creating all sorts of toxic waste in the process, and, from the perspective of mainstream economics, their activity is entirely rational — more rational, in fact, than working for peanuts to help poor people lift themselves up. A crazy notion of "rationality," that.

    Posted by Jonathan at 06:35 PM | Comments (3) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Making Their Point Activism

    With a bang.

    Posted by Jonathan at 05:20 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 05:18 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

    President Bush has called on Iraq for a better performance by their government. And today, Iraq said, "Uh, you first." — Jay Leno

    Posted by Jonathan at 05:15 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    January 19, 2007

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

    Posted by Jonathan at 09:16 AM | Comments (1) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

    The president's advisers launched a PR offensive to assure the public that just because our new way forward meant returning troops levels to where they were in December of 2005, this plan had a twist [on screen: NSA Stephen Hadley saying the strategy 'will succeed rather than fail']. Hmmm. Succeed rather than fail? Sounds counterintuitive. Okay, I'll indulge you. You have a plan. Well, have you thought about looking at that plan in the most emotionally loaded way possible? [on screen: WH press sec. Tony Snow saying, 'I'll ask a simple question. If the U.S. withdraws, does it make Osama bin Laden happy or sad?']. And if bin Laden was happy, would he know it? And if bin Laden knew it, would he clap his hands? Would his face surely show it? These are the questions we would have asked bin Laden — if we had caught him. — Jon Stewart

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

    January 18, 2007

    What If Cancer Could Be Cured For Pennies? Corporations, Globalization  Science/Technology

    Pharmaceutical companies' worst nightmare: a cheap, unpatentable drug that cures cancer. New Scientist reports on just such a drug. It kills cancer cells by restoring the normal process by which cells self-destruct:

    It sounds almost too good to be true: a cheap and simple drug that kills almost all cancers by switching off their "immortality". The drug, dichloroacetate (DCA), has already been used for years to treat rare metabolic disorders and so is known to be relatively safe.

    It also has no patent, meaning it could be manufactured for a fraction of the cost of newly developed drugs.

    Evangelos Michelakis of the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada, and his colleagues tested DCA on human cells cultured outside the body and found that it killed lung, breast and brain cancer cells, but not healthy cells. Tumours in rats deliberately infected with human cancer also shrank drastically when they were fed DCA-laced water for several weeks.

    DCA attacks a unique feature of cancer cells: the fact that they make their energy throughout the main body of the cell, rather than in distinct organelles called mitochondria. This process, called glycolysis, is inefficient and uses up vast amounts of sugar.

    Until now it had been assumed that cancer cells used glycolysis because their mitochondria were irreparably damaged. However, Michelakis’s experiments prove this is not the case, because DCA reawakened the mitochondria in cancer cells. The cells then withered and died (Cancer Cell, DOI: 10.1016/j.ccr.2006.10.020).

    Michelakis suggests that the switch to glycolysis as an energy source occurs when cells in the middle of an abnormal but benign lump don't get enough oxygen for their mitochondria to work properly. In order to survive, they switch off their mitochondria and start producing energy through glycolysis.

    Crucially, though, mitochondria do another job in cells: they activate apoptosis, the process by which abnormal cells self-destruct. When cells switch mitochondria off, they become "immortal", outliving other cells in the tumour and so becoming dominant. Once reawakened by DCA, mitochondria reactivate apoptosis and order the abnormal cells to die.

    It's a treatment that has the potential to be effective against many forms of cancer. And it will be cheap. That is the problem. AHN [via Digby]:

    It is expected there would be no problems securing funding to explore a drug that could shrink cancerous tumors and has no side-effects in humans, but University of Alberta researcher Evangelos Michelakis has hit a stalemate with the private sector who would normally fund such a venture.

    Michelakis' drug is none other than dichloroacetate (DCA), a drug which cannot be patented and costs pennies to make.

    It's no wonder he can't secure the $400-600 million needed to conduct human trials with the medicine — the drug doesn't have the potential to make enough money.

    Michelakis told reporters they will be applying to public agencies for funding, as pharmaceuticals are reluctant to pick up the drug.

    At roughly $2 a dose, there isn't much chance to make a billion on the cancer treatment over the long term.

    According to research on DCA, formerly used to fight metabolic disease in children, the drug apparently revitalizes damaged mitochondria in cancer cells, effectively triggering cell death and shrinking the cells.

    "One of the really exciting things about this compound is that it might be able to treat many different forms of cancer," explained Michelakis. [Emphasis added]

    It's not that drug companies are run by evil people, exactly. It's that drug companies, like all corporations, are machines programmed to follow a single prime directive: maximize (short-term) profits.

    But here we see a stark illustration of the fatal flaw at the heart of the "free market" — it may be more profitable to destroy the world than to save it, and it may be more profitable to kill people than to make them well. When that's the case, we shouldn't be surprised when the market responds accordingly. Corporations see the world through a very narrow peephole. They have their sights set on one thing only — but profit is an exceedingly inadequate guide to what is good for people and for the world over the long term.

    Posted by Jonathan at 09:37 PM | Comments (6) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Refusing To Take Yes For An Answer Iran

    BBC reports that in 2003 Iran offered to concede pretty much everything the White House claims it wants, and Cheney turned them down:

    Iran offered the US a package of concessions in 2003, but it was rejected, a senior former US official has told the BBC's Newsnight programme. Tehran proposed ending support for Lebanese and Palestinian militant groups and helping to stabilise Iraq following the US-led invasion.

    Offers, including making its nuclear programme more transparent, were conditional on the US ending hostility.

    But Vice-President Dick Cheney's office rejected the plan, the official said.

    The offers came in a letter, seen by Newsnight, which was unsigned but which the US state department apparently believed to have been approved by the highest authorities.

    In return for its concessions, Tehran asked Washington to end its hostility, to end sanctions, and to disband the Iranian rebel group the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq and repatriate its members.

    Former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein had allowed the rebel group to base itself in Iraq, putting it under US power after the invasion.
    One of the then Secretary of State Colin Powell's top aides told the BBC the state department was keen on the plan — but was over-ruled.

    "We thought it was a very propitious moment to do that," Lawrence Wilkerson told Newsnight.

    "But as soon as it got to the White House, and as soon as it got to the Vice-President's office, the old mantra of 'We don't talk to evil'... reasserted itself."

    Observers say the Iranian offer as outlined nearly four years ago corresponds pretty closely to what Washington is demanding from Tehran now. [Emphasis added]

    This isn't the first time the Bush administration has refused to take yes for an answer when its heart was set on war. You'd think by now we would have learned to ignore their words — it is their actions that matter. They want war, apparently having learned exactly nothing from the past four years.

    Posted by Jonathan at 09:08 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Icy Down In Texas

    Regular reader Clay sent this shot from icy Austin, Texas.

     

    Posted by Jonathan at 08:46 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 10:22 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

    Ted Kennedy attacked the president. He said Iraq is George Bush's Vietnam. Which is very unfair. There is a huge difference. Bush knew how to get out of Vietnam. — Jay Leno

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

    January 17, 2007

    Cakewalk Humor & Fun  Iran  Iraq

    Tom Tomorrow, from April Fool's Day, 2003.

    [Via Atrios]

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

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

    Posted by Jonathan at 09:16 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

    Bush admitted to making mistakes in Iraq and says he has learned from these mistakes and will do better in Iran. — David Letterman

    Posted by Jonathan at 09:12 AM | Comments (4) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    January 16, 2007

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

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

    Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

    The United States Army is lowering its standards for education and DUI arrests. It's to recruit others, but let's just say they filled the job with the commander-in-chief. — David Letterman

    Posted by Jonathan at 09:29 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    January 15, 2007

    Iraq Fuels "Worldwide Surge In Islamic Radicalism" (Duh) 9/11, "War On Terror"  Iraq

    Newsweek:

    Intel director John Negroponte gave Congress a sobering assessment last week of the continued threats from groups like Al Qaeda and Hizbullah. But even gloomier comments came from Henry Crumpton, the outgoing State Department terror coordinator. An ex-CIA operative, Crumpton told Newsweek that a worldwide surge in Islamic radicalism has worsened recently, increasing the number of potential terrorists and setting back U.S. efforts in the terror war. "Certainly, we haven't made any progress," said Crumpton. "In fact, we've lost ground." He cites Iraq as a factor; the war has fueled resentment against the United States. [Emphasis added]

    As has been obvious from day one.

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

    Gratitude Iraq  Politics

    From Scott Pelley's 60 Minutes interview of President Bush:

    PELLEY: Do you think you owe the Iraqi people an apology for not doing a better job?

    BUSH: That we didn't do a better job or they didn't do a better job?

    PELLEY: Well, that the United States did not do a better job in providing security after the invasion.

    BUSH: Not at all. I am proud of the efforts we did. We liberated that country from a tyrant. I think the Iraqi people owe the American people a huge debt of gratitude, and I believe most Iraqis express that. I mean, the people understand that we've endured great sacrifice to help them. That's the problem here in America. They wonder whether or not there is a gratitude level that's significant enough in Iraq.

    Wow. How creepy is that?

    Posted by Jonathan at 05:22 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 10:15 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

    President Bush also said that all the military commanders who have looked at his plan say it will work. That's because all the ones who said it wouldn't work aren't military commanders anymore. — Jay Leno

    Posted by Jonathan at 10:06 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    January 14, 2007

    Army Manual Asserts Right To Warrantless Wiretaps Rights, Law

    The NYT reports that a "major revision" to Army "intelligence-gathering guidelines" includes a change asserting that the Army can wiretap people inside the US if authorized by the attorney general — dropping language referring to such authorization being subject to the FISA court. NYT:

    Deep into an updated Army manual, the deletion of 10 words has left some national security experts wondering whether government lawyers are again asserting the executive branch's right to wiretap Americans without a court warrant.

    The manual, described by the Army as a "major revision" to intelligence-gathering guidelines, addresses policies and procedures for wiretapping Americans, among other issues.

    The original guidelines, from 1984, said the Army could seek to wiretap people inside the United States on an emergency basis by going to the secret court set up by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, known as FISA, or by obtaining certification from the attorney general "issued under the authority of section 102(a) of the Act."

    That last phrase is missing from the latest manual, which says simply that the Army can seek emergency wiretapping authority pursuant to an order issued by the FISA court "or upon attorney general authorization." It makes no mention of the attorney general doing so under FISA.

    Bush administration officials said that the wording change was insignificant, adding that the Army would follow FISA requirements if it sought to wiretap an American.

    But the manual's language worries some national security experts. "The administration does not get to make up its own rules," said Steven Aftergood, who runs a project on government secrecy for the Federation of American Scientists. [Emphasis added]

    If the Army intends to "follow FISA requirements," why bother changing the language?

    Posted by Jonathan at 05:30 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    The "Surge" — Buying Time With A Hoax Iran

    Conservative Paul Craig Roberts points out that administration claims that Iran is backing the Iraq insurgency are dubious at best, given that Iran is Shi'ite and the insurgents are mostly Sunnis. Excerpts:

    Bush's "surge" speech is a hoax, but members of Congress and media commentators are discussing the surge as if it were real.

    I invite the reader to examine the speech. The "surge" content consists of nonsensical propagandistic statements. The real content of the speech is toward the end where Bush mentions Iran and Syria.

    Bush makes it clear that success in Iraq does not depend on the surge. Rather, "Succeeding in Iraq . . . begins with addressing Iran and Syria."

    Bush asserts that "these two regimes are allowing terrorists and insurgents to use their territory to move in and out of Iraq. Iran is providing material support for attacks on American troops."

    Bush's assertions are propagandistic lies.

    The Iraq insurgency is Sunni. Iran is Shi'ite. If Iran is supporting anyone in Iraq it is the Shi'ites, who have not been part of the insurgency. Indeed, the Sunni and Shi'ites are engaged in a civil war within Iraq. [...]

    The "surge" is merely a tactic to buy time while war with Iran and Syria can be orchestrated. The neoconservative/Israeli cabal feared that the pressure that Congress, the public, and the American foreign policy establishment were putting on Bush to de-escalate in Iraq would terminate their plan to achieve hegemony in the Middle East.

    Failure in Iraq would mean the end of the neoconservatives' influence. It would be impossible to start a new war with Iran after losing the war in Iraq.

    The neoconservatives and the right-wing Israeli government have clearly stated their plans to overthrow Muslim governments throughout the region and to deracinate Islam. These plans existed long before 9/11.

    Near the end of his "surge" speech, Bush adopts the neoconservative program as US policy. The struggle, Bush says, echoing the neoconservatives and the Israeli right-wing, goes far beyond Iraq. "The challenge," Bush says, is "playing out across the broader Middle East...It is the decisive ideological struggle of our time." [...]

    Bush suggests that Muslims in Afghanistan, Lebanon and Palestine are waiting and hoping for more invasions to free them of violence. Did Bush's invasion free Iraq from violence or did it bring violence to Iraq? [...]

    It is naked aggression justified by transparent lies. No one has ever heard governments in Iraq, Syria, or Iran declare "their intention to destroy our way of life." To the contrary, it is the United States and Israel that are trying to destroy the Muslim way of life.

    Hitler portrayed Germany's attacks as acts of self-defense. Czechoslovakia was a dagger pointed at the heart of the Reich, and so on. It's a formula that seldom fails. Most people are basically decent, and they don't want to believe their own country is engaged in naked aggression. Even when it's obvious.

    Posted by Jonathan at 05:11 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 02:30 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

    Bush is going to send more troops to Iraq. That's the solution. And I was thinking: you think he'd being doing this if he were still in the National Guard? — David Letterman

    Posted by Jonathan at 02:27 PM | Comments (4) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    January 13, 2007

    Bringing Terri Schiavo Back From The Dead Iraq

    John Aravosis has a plan for bringing Terri Schiavo back from the dead.

    Posted by Jonathan at 04:41 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Rice: Bush Authorized Raids On Iranians Global Guerrillas  Iran  Iraq

    Condoleezza Rice says Bush personally authorized aggressive raids against Iranian targets in Iraq. NYT:

    A recent series of American raids against Iranians in Iraq was authorized under an order that President Bush decided to issue several months ago to undertake a broad military offensive against Iranian operatives in the country, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Friday.

    "There has been a decision to go after these networks," Ms. Rice said in an interview with The New York Times in her office on Friday afternoon, before leaving on a trip to the Middle East.

    Ms. Rice said Mr. Bush had acted "after a period of time in which we saw increasing activity" among Iranians in Iraq, "and increasing lethality in what they were producing." She was referring to what American military officials say is evidence that many of the most sophisticated improvised explosive devices, or I.E.D.'s, being used against American troops were made in Iran.

    Ms. Rice was vague on the question of when Mr. Bush issued the order, but said his decision grew out of questions that the president and members of his National Security Council raised in the fall.

    The administration has long accused Iran of meddling in Iraq, providing weapons and training to Shiite forces with the idea of keeping the United States bogged down in the war. Ms. Rice's willingness to discuss the issue seemed to reflect a new hostility to Iran that was first evident in Mr. Bush's speech to the nation on Wednesday night, in which he accused Tehran of providing material support for attacks on American troops and vowed to respond.

    Until now, despite a series of raids in which Iranians have been seized by American forces in Baghdad and other cities in Iraq, administration officials have declined to say whether Mr. Bush ordered such actions.

    The White House decision to authorize the aggressive steps against Iranians in Iraq appears to formalize the American effort to contain Iran's ambitions as a new front in the Iraq war. Administration officials now describe Iran as the single greatest threat the United States faces in the Middle East, though some administration critics regard the talk about Iran as a diversion, one intended to shift attention away from the spiraling chaos in Iraq.

    In adopting a more confrontational approach toward Iran, Mr. Bush has decisively rejected recommendations of the Iraq Study Group that he explore negotiations with Tehran as part of a new strategy to help quell the sectarian violence in Iraq. [...]

    In the view of American officials, Iran is engaged in a policy of "managed chaos" in Iraq. Its presumed goal, both policymakers and intelligence officials say, is to raise the cost to the United States for its intervention in Iraq, in hopes of teaching Washington a painful lesson about the perils of engaging in regime change.

    Toward this end, American officials charge, Iran has provided components, including explosives and infrared triggering devices, for sophisticated roadside bombs that are designed to penetrate armor. They have also provided training for several thousand Shiite militia fighters, mostly in Iran. Officials say the training is carried out by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and the Ministry of Intelligence and Security. [...]

    This week, American forces in Iraq conducted at least two raids against suspected Iranian operatives, including the raid in Erbil. The United States is currently detaining several individuals with Iranian passports who were picked up in those raids. [...]

    A defense official said Friday that such raids would continue. "We are going to be more aggressive," he said, referring to the suspected Iranian operatives. [Emphasis added]

    There seems to be a fundamental misconception at work here: that if insurgents are succeeding against the US military, there has to be a nation-state behind them, pulling the strings. This is 19th century thinking in a 21st century world. See the previous post.

    Posted by Jonathan at 04:37 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    All The King's Men Global Guerrillas  Iraq

    John Robb, of Global Guerrillas, sees globalization as a force that fosters the disempowerment and, eventually, the disintegration of nation-states. Globalization is the atomizing context within which Iraq is disintegrating, and Iraq is but one example. So long as US leaders (and leaders of nation-states generally) fail to face up to the new world in which they're living, they're doomed to fail. Which brings us to Robb's take on Bush's "new" plans for Iraq:

    [T]he failure of these periodic efforts [to tweak tactics in Iraq] may be due to an inability to revisit a key assumption upon which the present US effort is based: that strong states tend to form naturally if provided the right minimalist conditions. I believe the opposite is true: that states, once broken, tend to remain hollow and in perpetual failure. The reason is that in the current environment minimalist conditions yield social disintegration (we will see this minimalist/disintegration paradigm repeated world-wide, even in the absence of war, as globalization continues to rapidly grow and spread — which fatally undermines any argument that the success of globalization means that "we win," if "we" means the US and nation-states in general) and the ascendent military power...is in the hands of those [global guerrillas] who would disrupt the state rather than form it. If this revised assumption is correct, it is safe to conclude that building a stable Iraq would require a level of effort that is beyond our ability to provide... [Emphasis added]

    Globalization and global communications networks dissolve borders. As that happens, people's loyalties shift from nations to things that still have meaning in a world without borders: tribes, religious and ideological groups, like-minded communities. When a nation breaks down, it's pretty much Humpty Dumpty time. All the King's men — even 20,000 more of them — can't put Humpty Dumpty together again.

    Posted by Jonathan at 04:17 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 03:42 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

    The good news is last night President Bush finally admitted he's made mistakes in Iraq. The bad news is he's planning to make the same mistakes again. — Jay Leno

    Posted by Jonathan at 03:40 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    January 12, 2007

    Escalating Failure Iran

    Conservative Fourth-Generation Warfare expert William S. Lind looks at Bush's proposals and sees the possibility for "disaster on a truly historic scale." Excerpt:

    [I]f we look at the President's proposal more carefully, we find it actually...hints at actions that may turn a mere debacle into disaster on a truly historic scale.

    First, Mr. Bush said that previous efforts to secure Baghdad failed for two reasons, the second of which is that "there were too many restrictions on the troops we did have." This suggests the new "big push" will be even more kinetic that what we have done in the past, calling in more firepower — airstrikes, tanks, artillery, etc. — in Baghdad itself. Chuck Spinney has already warned that we may soon begin to reduce Baghdad to rubble. If we do, and the President's words suggest we will, we will hasten our defeat. In this kind of war, unless you are going to take the "Hama model" and kill everyone, success comes from de-escalation, not from escalation.

    Second, the President not only upped the ante with Syria and Iran, he announced two actions that only make sense if we plan to attack Iran, Syria or both. He said he has ordered Patriot missile batteries and another U.S. Navy aircraft carrier be sent to the region. Neither has any conceivable role in the fighting in Iraq. However, a carrier would provide additional aircraft for airstrikes on Iran, and Patriot batteries would in theory provide some defense against Iranian air and missile attacks launched at Gulf State oil facilities in retaliation.

    To top it off, in questioning yesterday on Capitol Hill, the Tea Lady, aka Secretary of State Rice, refused to promise the administration would consult with Congress before attacking Iran or Syria.

    As I have said before and will say again, the price of an attack on Iran could easily be the loss of the army we have in Iraq. No conceivable action would be more foolish than adding war with Iran to the war we have already lost in Iraq. Regrettably, it is impossible to read Mr. Bush's dispatch of a carrier and Patriot batteries any other way than as harbingers of just such an action.

    The final hidden message in Mr. Bush's speech confirms that the American ship of state remains headed for the rocks. His peroration, devoted once more to promises of "freedom" and democracy in the Middle East and throughout the world, could have been written by the most rabid of the neocons. For that matter, perhaps it was. So long as our grand strategy remains that which the neocons represent and demand, namely remaking the whole world in our own image, by force where necessary, we will continue to fail. Not even the greatest military in all of history, which ours claims to be but isn't, could bring success to a strategy so divorced from reality. Meanwhile, Mr. Bush's words give the lie to those who have hoped the neocons' influence over the White House had ebbed. From Hell, or the World Bank which is much the same place, Wolfi had to be smiling.

    No, Incurious George has offered no new strategy, nor new course, nor even a plateau on the downward course of our two lost wars and failed grand strategy. He has chosen instead to escalate failure, speed our decline and expand the scope of our defeat. Headed toward the cliff, his course correction is to stomp on the gas. [Emphasis added]

    The November elections and Iraq Study Group report gave Bush political cover for de-escalating, but he's not interested. He doesn't care what the rest of us think. Instead, he's made it clear that he will only settle for "victory," whatever that might mean. He will continue to raise the stakes, doubling down, going for broke, and disaster will lead to ever bigger disasters.

    He can't stop himself, so there's no point waiting for him to. He doesn't have it in him. We have to find a way to stop him.

    Posted by Jonathan at 05:57 PM | Comments (6) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Lessons Not Learned Iran  War and Peace

    As Bush sends a second carrier strike group to the Persian Gulf, days after putting a Navy Admiral in command of two land-locked wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, it seems clear that the intended target is Iran. Maybe the intent is to intimidate Iran, not to attack it, but it sure doesn't feel that way. The ships will be sitting ducks, inviting attack, so their presence only makes war more likely.

    In modern warfare, ships don't fare well, a fact demonstrated in dramatic fashion in the Pentagon's Millenium 2002 wargame. From Wikipedia's account:

    Millennium Challenge 2002 (MC02) was a major wargame exercise conducted by the United States armed forces in mid-2002, likely the largest such exercise in history. The exercise, which ran from July 24 to August 15 and cost 250 million dollars, involved both live exercises and computer simulations. MC02 was meant to be a test of future military "transformation" — a transition toward new technologies that enable network-centric warfare and provide more powerful weaponry and tactics. The simulated combatants were the United States, denoted "Blue", and an initially unknown adversary in the Middle East, "Red". Most of the people on the U.S. side assumed that the adversary in the game would be Iraq, but it was later revealed that the other side was simulating the military forces of Iran, the only Middle Eastern state that most observers feel has a strong ability to counter an American military engagement.

    In the early days of the exercise, Red, commanded by retired Marine Corps general Paul K. Van Riper, launched a massive salvo of cruise missiles, overwhelming the Blue forces electronic sensors, destroying thirteen warships. Soon after that offensive, another significant portion of Blue's navy was "sunk" by an armada of small Red boats carrying out both conventional and suicide attacks, able to engage Blue forces due to Blue's inability to detect them as well as expected. At this point, the exercise was suspended and Blue's ships were "re-floated". In addition, Red's command used motorcycle messengers to evade Blue's sophisticated electronic surveillance network and transmit orders to front-line troops.

    There were many within the upper echelons of the Department of Defense that found the results displeasing and it was decided that the wargame should be started over. The rules of the exercise were essentially changed shortly thereafter, with the different sides ordered to follow predetermined, scripted plans of action, leading to allegations that the exercise was scripted and "$250 million was wasted". General Van Riper resigned soon after, concerned that the wargame would serve to merely reinforce an increasing notion of infallibility within the U.S. military rather than serve as a learning experience. [Emphasis added]

    In a real conflict, there will be no "re-floating", no do-overs. But as Iraq demonstrates all too clearly, the US leadership hasn't learned the central lesson: technology alone doesn't win wars. Denial is subject to rude awakenings.

    In an interview with Nova, General Van Riper said something very telling. In an environment where an adversary knows the US is determined to attack, its best strategy is to strike first. This is how his Red team had such success:

    My belief at the outset of Millennium Challenge was that Blue believed it had a monopoly on preemption, and it would strike first. And, of course, in any war game I was familiar with up to that point, that had never been the case. The U.S. had only gone to war as a result of some aggression by an enemy, and so always had to react. Now that it was announced policy that we reserved the right to do that, the Blue force was going to take full advantage of it and plan to strike first.

    So I simply stepped back and said, "What advantage is there for Red to wait for Blue to strike?" There was none. And that lead to the natural conclusion that if they're coming, and we can't persuade them not to diplomatically, then we will strike.

    As I looked at an ultimatum that gave me less than 24 hours to respond to what literally was a surrender document, it was clear to me that there was no advantage in any of this diplomacy. I was very surprised that the Joint Forces Command personnel who had argued for using all of the elements of national power—the economic, the diplomatic, the political information—in some sort of coherent fashion, really came at Red with a blunt military instrument. So it was clear to me that this was not going to be negotiated, this was going to be a fight. And if it was going to be a fight, I was going to get in the first blow. [Emphasis added]

    Iran is rapidly being put in the position Van Riper faced: cave or fight. No diplomacy. At some point, they may come to the same conclusion Van Riper did, that they may as well strike first. Even more likely, and therefore more dangerous, is the possibility that as more and more ships are moved to the Gulf, some freelancer will take a potshot with a missile and that will become the excuse for war. Maybe that's the point. Dangle enough targets, and sooner or later shots will be fired and war will begin.

    [Thanks, Miles]

    Posted by Jonathan at 05:14 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Starting Impeachment Politics

    David Swanson, co-founder of AfterDowningStreet.org among other things, has an interesting post regarding impeachment:

    There is a decent chance that within the next month or two the New Mexico State Legislature will ask the U.S. House of Representatives to begin impeachment proceedings against President Bush and Vice President Cheney. And there is the definite possibility that a Congress Member from New Mexico will take up the matter when it gets to Washington. The Jefferson Manual, rules used by the U.S. House, allows for impeachment to be begun in this manner. It only takes one state legislature. No governor is needed. One Congress Member, from the same state or any other, is needed to essentially acknowledge receipt of the state's petition. Then impeachment begins. [...]

    In New Mexico, a leading light of that state's politics, State Senator Gerald Ortiz y Pino of Albuquerque, will be leading the way on impeachment. He deserves the support of all the world, and you can thank him at jortizyp@aol.com or 505-986-4380. Let's help him make New Mexico the land of enchantment and impeachment.

    I had no idea it can be done that way. Things could get interesting.

    [Via Poputonian]

    Posted by Jonathan at 04:26 PM | Comments (3) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

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

    Posted by Jonathan at 10:14 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

    Earlier tonight, there was a big policy address from President Bush about the war in Iraq. And President Bush revealed his new strategy for that war. So, ladies and gentlemen, time to dust off that old "Mission Accomplished" banner. — David Letterman

    I hope you caught the president's speech tonight. I'm still glowing. Watching him address the nation is like hanging out with your best bud. You're on the couch. He's giving a speech. You're drinking a beer. He's increasing troop levels in Iraq. Of course, I was a little disappointed the president didn't go with my recommendation of 300 million troops. That's a mistake. But you know what? If that's the only mistake he makes in this war, then we are in good shape. — Stephen Colbert

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

    January 11, 2007

    Prepping For A Wider War Iran  Iraq

    Investigative journalist Robert Parry looks at Bush's words — and, more importantly, his deeds — and sees a clear pattern of preparation for a wider war. Parry:

    At a not-for-quotation pre-speech briefing on Jan. 10, George W. Bush and his top national security aides unnerved network anchors and other senior news executives with suggestions that a major confrontation with Iran is looming.

    Commenting about the briefing on MSNBC after Bush's nationwide address, NBC's Washington bureau chief Tim Russert said "there's a strong sense in the upper echelons of the White House that Iran is going to surface relatively quickly as a major issue – in the country and the world – in a very acute way."

    Russert and NBC anchor Brian Williams depicted this White House emphasis on Iran as the biggest surprise from the briefing as Bush stepped into the meeting to speak passionately about why he is determined to prevail in the Middle East.

    "The President's inference was this: that an entire region would blow up from the inside, the core being Iraq, from the inside out," Williams said, paraphrasing Bush.

    Despite the already high cost of the Iraq War, Bush also defended his decision to invade Iraq and to eliminate Saddam Hussein by arguing that otherwise "he and Iran would be in a race to acquire a nuclear bomb and if we didn't stop him, Iran would be going to Pakistan or to China and things would be much worse," Russert said.

    If Russert's account is correct, there could be questions raised about whether Bush has lost touch with reality and may be slipping back into the false pre-invasion intelligence claims about Hussein threatening the United States with "a mushroom cloud." [...]

    While avoiding any overt criticism of Bush's comments about an imaginary Iraqi-Iranian arms race, Russert suggested that the news executives found the remarks perplexing.

    "That's the way he sees the world," Russert explained. "His rationale, he believes, for going into Iraq still was one that was sound." [...]

    In his prime-time speech, Bush injected other reasons to anticipate a wider war. He used language that suggested U.S. or allied forces might launch attacks inside Iran and Syria to "disrupt the attacks on our forces" in Iraq.

    "We will interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria," Bush said. "And we will seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq."

    Bush announced other steps that could be interpreted as building a military infrastructure for a regional war or at least for air strikes against Iranian nuclear facilities.

    "I recently ordered the deployment of an additional carrier strike group to the region," Bush said. "We will expand intelligence sharing and deploy Patriot air defense systems to reassure our friends and allies."

    Though most news accounts of Bush's speech focused on his decision to send about 21,500 additional U.S. troops to Iraq – on top of the 132,000 already there – Bush's comments about his regional strategy could ultimately prove more significant.

    Militarily, a second aircraft carrier strike force would do little to interdict arms smuggling across the Iran-Iraq border. Similarly, Patriot anti-missile batteries would be of no use in defeating lightly armed insurgent forces and militias inside Iraq.

    However, both deployments would be useful to deter – or defend against – retaliatory missile strikes from Iran if the Israelis or the United States bomb Iran's nuclear facilities or stage military raids inside Iranian territory. [...]

    In other words, the deployments would fit with Israel or the United States bombing Iran's nuclear sites and then trying to tamp down any Iranian response.

    Another danger to American interests, however, would be pro-Iranian Shiite militias in Iraq seeking revenge against U.S. troops. If that were to happen, Bush's escalation of troop levels in Iraq would make sense as a way to protect the Green Zone and other sensitive targets.

    So, Bush's actions and rhetoric over the past several weeks continue to mesh with a scenario for a wider regional war – a possibility that now mainstream journalists, such as Tim Russert, are beginning to take seriously.

    Other data points are aiming in that same direction.

    On Jan. 4, Bush ousted the top two commanders in the Middle East, Generals John Abizaid and George Casey, who had opposed a military escalation in Iraq. Bush also removed Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte, who had stood by intelligence estimates downplaying the near-term threat from Iran's nuclear program.

    Bush appointed Admiral William Fallon as the new chief of Central Command for the Middle East despite the fact that Fallon, a former Navy aviator and currently head of the Pacific Command, will oversee two ground wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    The choice of Fallon makes more sense if Bush foresees a bigger role for two aircraft carrier groups off Iran's coast. [...]

    McConnell is seen as far more likely than Negroponte to give the administration an alarming assessment of Iran's nuclear capabilities and intentions in an upcoming National Intelligence Estimate. To the consternation of neoconservatives, Negroponte has splashed cold water on their heated rhetoric about the imminent threat from Iran. [...]

    Bush reportedly has been weighing his military options for bombing Iran's nuclear facilities since early 2006. But he has encountered resistance from the top U.S. military brass, much as he has with his plans to escalate U.S. troop levels in Iraq.

    As investigative reporter Seymour Hersh wrote in The New Yorker, a number of senior U.S. military officers were troubled by administration war planners who believed "bunker-busting" tactical nuclear weapons, known as B61-11s, were the only way to destroy Iran's nuclear facilities buried deep underground. [...]

    "Bush and [Vice President Dick] Cheney were dead serious about the nuclear planning," one former senior intelligence official said.

    But one way to get around the opposition of the Joint Chiefs would be to delegate the bombing operation to the Israelis. Given Israel's powerful lobbying operation in Washington and its strong ties to leading Democrats, an Israeli-led attack might be more politically palatable with the Congress. [...]

    While some observers believe Israel or the Bush administration may be leaking details of the plans as a way to frighten Iran into accepting international controls on its nuclear program, other sources indicate that the preparations for a wider Middle Eastern war are very serious and moving very quickly. [Emphasis added]

    The country's moving one way — as witness the November elections, the national opinion polls, and the Establishment position represented by the Iraq Study Group — and the White House neocons another. And they sure seem to be in a hurry. They appear determined to get into a war with Iran, and they must know their time is running out. 2008 is just around the corner.

    It's not clear at this point that anyone can or will stand in their way. All the discussion of the troop "surge" may just be so much misdirection — a red herring to distract us while the wider war takes shape.

    Posted by Jonathan at 04:23 PM | Comments (1) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Orwell Lives Iraq

    BBC:

    US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has warned that the US will take action against countries destabilising Iraq.

    Bombing of Washington, DC to begin forthwith.

    Posted by Jonathan at 10:20 AM | 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 10:13 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

    President Bush is calling his new plan for Iraq "The New Way Forward." Don't confuse it with the old plan. That was called "Winging It." — Jay Leno

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

    January 10, 2007

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

    Posted by Jonathan at 09:53 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

    Isn't this weather crazy? This is the warmest January in the history of weather keeping records. As a matter of fact, another chunk actually broke off Condoleezza Rice. — David Letterman

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

    January 09, 2007

    Methane Bubbling Up From The Sea? Environment

    The most frightening global warming scenarios involve runaway feedback mechanisms that make global warming self-reinforcing. The thawing of Siberian permafrost, for example, releases methane, a far more potent greenhouse gas than CO2, into the atmosphere — which causes further warming, which in turn causes further thawing, and so on.

    Besides methane in permafrost, an enormous amount of methane is trapped undersea as methane clathrate or hydrate. If that methane were to start being released into the atmosphere, it would be an ominous development, putting it mildly.

    Which brings us to what could be the scariest global warming story I've seen yet. Unfortunately, it's impossible at this point to evaluate or confirm its accuracy, so I'll just pass it along.

    The source is Wayne Madsen, former NSA analyst and US Navy intelligence officer, who reports:

    According to U.S. maritime industry sources, tanker captains are reporting an increase in onboard alarms from hazard sensors designed to detect hydrocarbon gas leaks and, specifically, methane leaks. However, the leaks are not emanating from cargo holds or pump rooms but from continental shelves venting increasing amounts of trapped methane into the atmosphere. With rising ocean temperatures, methane is increasingly escaping from deep ocean floors. Methane is also 21 more times capable of trapping heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide.

    Madsen goes on to speculate that the venting of undersea methane could have been the source of the gas-like odor that alarmed Manhattan residents yesterday. Make of that what you will. (Before you write me to point out that methane itself is odorless, let me add that undersea methane is often accompanied by longer-chain hydrocarbons and hydrogen sulfide, decidedly not odorless.)

    Treat this with some skepticism for now. But if it turns out to be true — I don't want to think about it.

    [Thanks, Miles]

    Posted by Jonathan at 04:53 PM | Comments (12) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Explaining This Winter's Warmth Environment

    NOAA announced today that 2006 was the warmest year on record in the continental US. Winter weather has been especially anomalous: in much of the US, winter has never really arrived.

    RealClimate, the premier climate science site on the web, tackles the obvious question: what's causing the anomalous winter warmth? Is it global warming?

    First, a couple of maps. This was the situation a year ago, when winter temperatures were also unusually warm:

    The map shows how much temperatures last winter differed from average temperatures for the baseline period 1971-2000 (a period that was already warmer than usual).

    Here's the situation so far this winter:

    Last year was warm, but this year is ridiculous. Where I live, for example, average temperature has been 12-14 degrees F warmer than the baseline.

    The scientists at RealClimate are quick to make the obligatory disclaimer that no single weather event or season can be chalked up to anthropogenic (human-caused) global warming (AGW). Variations and anomalies occur for a variety of reasons.

    But, that said, the non-AGW explanations don't seem adequate to explain the magnitude of this winter's anomaly. Some meteorologists say El Niño is to blame, but, according to RealClimate, El Niño, which shifts the path of the jet stream, typically changes winter temps in the Northern Hemishphere by about 1 deg C. The current anomaly, they say, is roughly 5 times greater. Moreover, the current El Niño event is only of moderate strength. Besides which, AGW may itself be behind El Niño:

    It is possible, in fact probable, that climate change is actually influencing El Niño (e.g. favoring more frequent and larger El Niño events), although just how much is still very much an issue of active scientific debate.

    So one cannot say definitely that AGW is the culprit — but no other explanation seems adequate.

    The RealClimate scientists take particular issue with the Fox News argument that Denver blizzards somehow disprove AGW:

    A canard that has already been trotted out by climate change contrarians (and unfortunately parroted uncritically in some media reports) holds that weather in certain parts of the U.S. (e.g. blizzards and avalanches in Colorado) negates the observation of anomalous winter warmth. This argument is disingenuous at best...[T]emperatures for the first month of this winter have been above normal across the United States (with the only exceptions being a couple small cold patches along the U.S./Mexico border). The large snowfall events in Boulder were not associated with cold temperatures, but instead with especially moisture-laden air masses passing through the region. If temperatures are at or below freezing (which is true even during this warmer-than-average winter in Colorado), that moisture will precipitate as snow, not rain. Indeed, snowfall is often predicted to increase in many regions in response to anthropogenic climate change, since warmer air, all other things being equal, holds more moisture, and therefore, the potential for greater amounts of precipitation whatever form that precipitation takes. [Emphasis added]

    So, as we noted in an earlier post, the anomalous blizzards in Colorado, far from being a refutation, are entirely consistent with — in fact, predicted by — models of global warming.

    Posted by Jonathan at 03:53 PM | Comments (9) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Changing Seasons Environment

    Commenting on this post regarding hundreds of European plant species blooming in mid-winter, longtime reader ivieee writes from Austin, Texas:

    Here in Austin, Redbuds had a fall bloom, which I had never seen. But really, ask the gardeners. I found an old planting guide for Travis County, rev. 1990. Compare it to our updated guide:

    Beets
    1990 - Feb 15-June 1
    2000 - Jan 10-Feb 28

    Broccoli transplants
    1990 - Feb 15-Mar 15
    2000 - Jan 15-Feb 28

    Chard
    1990 - Feb 15-May 15
    2000 - Jan 10-Feb 10

    Leaf Lettuce
    1990 - Jan 15-Apr 1
    2000 - Jan 1-Apr 1

    Spinach
    1990 - Jan 15-Mar 1
    2000 - Oct 1-Mar 31

    So most of the early spring planting has to be done about two weeks to a month earlier now than it did ten years ago, and you must finish planting about a month earlier, before the heat sets in.

    Summer plantings, like okra and sweet potatoes stay about the same.

    Then, for the fall plantings, we are starting two weeks to a month LATER, because the summer heat lasts longer.

    That is the extension service recommendations, but the gardeners themselves are being much more experimental with earlier planting. I would have to say that we are now Zone 9 where we were Zone 8. I am ordering seeds for Zone 10, because it just might work given the new climate.

    That much change in a decade is simply stunning.

    Meanwhile, here in Madison — I know I've said this before — you used to be able to park your car on the lakes this time of year. Today, they're open water.

    Posted by Jonathan at 09:28 AM | Comments (3) | 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 09:06 AM | Comments (1) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

    We have a new person in the mail room opening mail, President Bush. The president now says the government has the right to open anyone's mail at any time without a warrant. How crazy is that? President Bush finally decided he wants to read something and it's our mail. Hey, how about those memos on your desk? — Jay Leno

    Posted by Jonathan at 09:04 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    January 08, 2007

    Bio-Weapons For The Masses Future  Global Guerrillas  Science/Technology  War and Peace

    Computer technology advances exponentially, as described by Moore's Law, the observation that computing power per unit cost doubles every 18 months or so. Biotechnology is increasingly an application of computing, which is one of the reasons why it, too, advances exponentially. Nanotechnology, ditto.

    The rapid evolution of biotech means that before long — within a decade, certainly — individuals and small groups worldwide will have the means to develop pathogens as weapons of terror. They won't need to get their hands on anything exotic — nothing comparable to trying to acquire fissile material for nukes — and the tools, skills, and knowledge will be readily available because of their importance to private-sector biotech.

    John Robb, of Global Guerrillas, draws on Robert Carlson's work to make some of his usual congent observations about what's coming. Robb:

  • [Carlson provides] evidence that biotechnology is improving at rates equal or better than Moore's law. These "Carlson Curves" plot the reduction in cost and the improvements in productivity available to individual practitioners. This means that very soon, in less than a decade, the technologies necessary for individuals to build catastrophic pathogens will be cheap and widely available. "Labs on a chip" are in the offing.
  • The knowledge and information necessary for developing catastrophic pathogens will be globally dispersed. As Carlson points out, work that used to require a PhD a couple of years ago is now accomplished by lightly trained technicians. Further, the low capital costs of laboratory development and its importance to the private sector means that this training and technology will be widespread. Finally, most of the information necessary for even extremely dangerous pathogens is available online.
  • There are no material barriers to the production of biological weapons. While certain reagents are currently controlled, the manufacturing processes for these materials and their widespread usage pose few barriers to circumvention. Unlike nuclear proliferation, there aren't any natural choke points.
  • Robb suggests further that, analogous to what has been happening in the realm of Internet computer crime, criminal networks will arise that will "actively produce weapons of bioterror for profit, and thereby become critical contributors to the global open source war now underway."

    For centuries, states held a monopoly on the means of large-scale violence. Globalization is bringing that monopoly to an end. In an era when the collective knowledge of humanity is increasingly available to anyone with an Internet connection, when people and goods are free to move pretty much anywhere in the world, overnight, and when weapons of mass destruction suddenly can be microscopic applications of ubiquitously available technology — all bets are off.

    This is a recipe for scenarios with a potential lethality perhaps limited only by perpetrators' consciences. Given that large numbers of people have no conscience, it's not an encouraging picture.

    Posted by Jonathan at 05:56 PM | Comments (2) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Hypermilers Energy

    Via Big Gav, a fascinating and entertaining Mother Jones article about "hypermilers," guys who compete to see who can get the highest gas mileage using an amazing array of techniques. 59 mpg in a Honda Accord, over 100 in a Prius, 180 in an Insight. Read how they do it.

    Posted by Jonathan at 10:24 AM | 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 09:44 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

    Saddam Hussein was executed last week by hanging. Or, as they call that in Iraq, death by natural causes. — Jay Leno

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

    January 07, 2007

    Mission Accomplished Energy  Iraq  Peak Oil

    "Respectable" opinion has it that only naive ex-hippies are so simple-minded as to believe that the US attacked Iraq for its oil. Whatever. But read this. The Independent:

    Iraq's massive oil reserves, the third-largest in the world, are about to be thrown open for large-scale exploitation by Western oil companies under a controversial law which is expected to come before the Iraqi parliament within days.

    The US government has been involved in drawing up the law, a draft of which has been seen by The Independent on Sunday. It would give big [US and British] oil companies such as BP, Shell and Exxon 30-year contracts to extract Iraqi crude and allow the first large-scale operation of foreign oil interests in the country since the industry was nationalised in 1972.

    The huge potential prizes for Western firms will give ammunition to critics who say the Iraq war was fought for oil. They point to statements such as one from Vice-President Dick Cheney, who said in 1999, while he was still chief executive of the oil services company Halliburton, that the world would need an additional 50 million barrels of oil a day by 2010. "So where is the oil going to come from?... The Middle East, with two-thirds of the world's oil and the lowest cost, is still where the prize ultimately lies," he said.

    Oil industry executives and analysts say the law, which would permit Western companies to pocket up to three-quarters of profits in the early years, is the only way to get Iraq's oil industry back on its feet after years of sanctions, war and loss of expertise. But it will operate through "production-sharing agreements" (or PSAs) which are highly unusual in the Middle East, where the oil industry in Saudi Arabia and Iran, the world's two largest producers, is state controlled.

    Opponents say Iraq, where oil accounts for 95 per cent of the economy, is being forced to surrender an unacceptable degree of sovereignty.

    Proposing the parliamentary motion for war in 2003, Tony Blair denied the "false claim" that "we want to seize" Iraq's oil revenues. He said the money should be put into a trust fund, run by the UN, for the Iraqis, but the idea came to nothing. The same year Colin Powell, then Secretary of State, said: "It cost a great deal of money to prosecute this war. But the oil of the Iraqi people belongs to the Iraqi people; it is their wealth, it will be used for their benefit. So we did not do it for oil."

    Supporters say the provision allowing oil companies to take up to 75 per cent of the profits will last until they have recouped initial drilling costs. After that, they would collect about 20 per cent of all profits, according to industry sources in Iraq. But that is twice the industry average for such deals.

    Greg Muttitt, a researcher for Platform, a human rights and environmental group which monitors the oil industry, said Iraq was being asked to pay an enormous price over the next 30 years for its present instability. "They would lose out massively," he said, "because they don't have the capacity at the moment to strike a good deal."

    Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister, Barham Salih, who chairs the country's oil committee, is expected to unveil the legislation as early as today...The Iraqi government hopes to have the law on the books by March.

    Several major oil companies are said to have sent teams into the country in recent months to lobby for deals ahead of the law, though the big names are considered unlikely to invest until the violence in Iraq abates.

    James Paul, executive director at the Global Policy Forum, the international government watchdog, said: "It is not an exaggeration to say that the overwhelming majority of the population would be opposed to this. To do it anyway, with minimal discussion within the [Iraqi] parliament is really just pouring more oil on the fire." [Emphasis added]

    Iraq's reserves are one of the last great untapped sources of inexpensive conventional oil left on Earth. The profits involved will be almost unimaginable, especially as world oil production peaks, driving prices skyward.

    Pop quiz. Now that US and British oil majors are getting a 30-year lock on those profits, what are the chances that the US and Britain will walk away and leave all that money lying on the table? Or will they, as Big Gav put it, "fight on in Iraq until the end of the oil age"? It doesn't take a naive ex-hippie to know the answer to that one.

    Posted by Jonathan at 07:02 PM | Comments (1) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Children Of Men Film

    Saw an extraordinary new movie last night, Children of Men. Then went back this afternoon and saw it again. It's not a perfect movie — some of the dialog is clunky, and some of the acting, too — but no matter. No other movie comes close in communicating a visceral sense of the dark path we're all headed down. Stuff we've all read about suddenly becomes real. Harrowing, but not to be missed.

    Posted by Jonathan at 06:00 PM | Comments (5) | 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 05:38 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

    In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, the Prime Minister of Iraq says not only will he not seek a second term in office, he wishes he could quit early. He says he has other interests he'd like to pursue — like trying to stay alive. — Jay Leno

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

    January 06, 2007

    "Grand Strategy At Its Worst" Iraq

    The coming escalation in Iraq — more specifically, in Baghdad — is the height of folly, says former Pentagon analyst Franklin Spinney at CounterPunch:

    Sun Tzu said avoid protracted war and attack cities as a last resort.

    President Bush has managed to do the opposite in Iraq. Now he is about to escalate his long-war strategy with a door to door assault on Baghdad. The aim will be to cleanse Baghdad's neighborhoods of insurgents and local militias. But as Patrick Cockburn has shown, most of these militias are allied to the different factions of the Iraqi government we put into place.

    Once the Battle of Baghdad starts, and casualties and frustrations mount, the US military will do what it always does: it will fall back on a technology-intensive firepower strategy.

    But militias and insurgents will not cooperate by standing and fighting. Our adversaries will not provide the kind of targets so conveniently assumed by the Pentagon in the computer models it uses to sell its high-cost hi-tech weapons to Congress and the American people. The local fighters will counter with hit and run raids on US forces.

    The increasing rubblization of Baghdad will create more opportunities for dispersing, for ambushing, and for mining. As the German's learned in Stalingrad, and we should have learned at Monte Cassino, the irregularity of rubble makes it easier for defenders to hide in or disappear into the environmental background, or what the Pentagon antiseptically calls the "urban battle space."

    Couple this battlespace with the rising sea of intelligence support provided by increasingly hostile local residents, and it is likely that the US forces will be bogged down in a highly destructive unending battle.

    Given the dubious nature of Mr. Bush's real motives for invading Iraq and our military's predilection for substituting firepower for ideas, the strategy of providing greater security to Baghdad's local population by destroying their city is an oxymoronic fantasy that will increase division at home, embolden adversaries, alienate allies and uncommitted nations, and make it impossible to end this conflict on favorable terms that do not sow the seeds for future conflict.

    This is grand strategy at its worst.

    But then, we have seen how fantasies come easily to the armchair strategists careening around the hall of mirrors that is Versailles on the Potomac. [Emphasis added]

    US forces are increasingly engaged in fighting militias associated with, as Spinney says, "different factions of the Iraqi government we put into place." Think about what that means. The US claims that it's bringing democracy to Iraq. But, more and more, the people the US is fighting are forces of the very government Iraqis voted into office.

    Posted by Jonathan at 04:43 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 04:17 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

    President Bush is claiming that a new postal law gives him the authority to read anyone's letters without a warrant. If you're upset about the law, you can let Bush know by writing to your sister. — Conan O'Brien

    Posted by Jonathan at 04:09 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    January 05, 2007

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

    Posted by Jonathan at 08:40 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

    In presidential news, somebody leaked Rudy Giuliani's entire 140-page campaign plan to the press. Giuliani is calling it a dirty trick. He said it was stolen while he was in Florida. Which is not the first time a presidential race has been stolen in Florida. — Jay Leno

    Posted by Jonathan at 08:38 AM | Comments (1) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    January 04, 2007

    "Beyond Anything We've Ever Known" Rights, Law

    NY Daily News reports that Bush has claimed the right to open Americans' mail without a warrant. Excerpt:

    President Bush has quietly claimed sweeping new powers to open Americans' mail without a judge's warrant, the Daily News has learned.

    The President asserted his new authority when he signed a postal reform bill into law on Dec. 20. Bush then issued a "signing statement" that declared his right to open people's mail under emergency conditions.

    That claim is contrary to existing law and contradicted the bill he had just signed, say experts who have reviewed it.

    Bush's move came during the winter congressional recess and a year after his secret domestic electronic eavesdropping program was first revealed. It caught Capitol Hill by surprise.

    "Despite the President's statement that he may be able to circumvent a basic privacy protection, the new postal law continues to prohibit the government from snooping into people's mail without a warrant," said Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), the incoming House Government Reform Committee chairman, who co-sponsored the bill.

    Experts said the new powers could be easily abused and used to vacuum up large amounts of mail.

    "The [Bush] signing statement claims authority to open domestic mail without a warrant, and that would be new and quite alarming," said Kate Martin, director of the Center for National Security Studies in Washington.

    "The danger is they're reading Americans' mail," she said.

    "You have to be concerned," agreed a career senior U.S. official who reviewed the legal underpinnings of Bush's claim. "It takes Executive Branch authority beyond anything we've ever known." [Emphasis added]

    This White House is out of control. They're asserting a "right" to make up their own laws, unilaterally, in complete opposition to whatever Congress has legislated. The significance of this goes way beyond just the opening of mail, though that is bad enough. The new Democratic majority in Congress needs to draw a line in the sand, and quickly.

    Posted by Jonathan at 01:30 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Olbermann On "Sacrifice" And The "White Noise" Of Endless War Iraq  Media  Politics

    As Bush prepares to sell a troop surge escalation in Iraq in terms of "sacrifice", Keith Olbermann provides blistering commentary:

     

    One of Olbermann's best. Just outstanding.

    Posted by Jonathan at 01:18 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    America Today Extremism

    Lovely.

    Posted by Jonathan at 01:13 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 11:36 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

    They executed Saddam Hussein. I guess that means that whole Iraqi thing is over. We can all go home now. — David Letterman

    Posted by Jonathan at 11:34 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    January 03, 2007

    Netherlands: Hundreds Of Plant Species Blooming In Mid-Winter Environment

    Today's global warming story. Science Daily:

    Observers in the Netherlands reported that more than 240 wild plant species were flowering in December, along with more than 200 cultivated species. According to biologist Arnold van Vliet of Wageningen University, this unseasonable flowering is being caused by extremely high autumn temperatures.

    The mean autumn temperature in 2006 was 13.6°C, which is 3.4°C above the long-term average. It was even 1.6°C warmer than in 2005, which was previously the warmest autumn since 1706, when records were first kept. It is very likely that other European countries also experienced unseasonable flowering due to the high temperatures. This information emerged from a unique, large-scale observation campaign conducted by volunteers during the first 15 days of the month. [...]

    The aim of the observation campaign was to determine the effects of the extreme weather conditions in the Netherlands during the second half of 2006. This year included not only the warmest July and September on record, but also the wettest August. Temperatures were far above normal: 3.7°C higher in September, 3.3°C higher in October and 3°C higher in November. The first 17 days of December were even more extreme, registering 4.2°C above normal. For the entire autumn the average temperature was 3.4°C above the long-term average and even 1.6°C warmer than the autumn of 2005, which was previously the warmest on record in the Netherlands. [...]

    Van Vliet warns that the ecological consequences of the extreme temperatures and the longer growing season remain largely unknown. Next year will be an important year for ecologists to identify the impacts on plants and animals. The high temperatures in 2006 are likely to increase the numbers of warmth-loving species even further, a trend which has been observed for some time. [Emphasis added]

    Meanwhile, Fox News wants us to believe that recent blizzards in Denver cast doubt on global warming. Think Progress:

    Today, prominent climate skeptics Pat Michaels and Dan Gainor appeared on Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto to argue that the recent snowstorms in Denver prove there is a "Northeast bias" on global warming. Both agreed with Cavuto's claim that if "more of those who support global warming did not live in the East Coast, or more specifically in New York, and were stationed in Denver," they might be more skeptical of global warming.

    Michaels added that "if you believe that warming causes cooling, you're like my neighbors down in Virginia who think that if you put hot water in the ice cube tray, it freezes faster. It doesn't work that way."

    Of course, global warming models all predict increased precipitation and increased frequency of extreme weather events. Like blizzards. But that's just, you know, science.

    Posted by Jonathan at 01:48 PM | Comments (5) | 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 01:31 PM | Comments (2) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

    6,000 guardsmen deployed to the border. The guard, of course, terribly strapped, with so many of its members deployed to Iraq. Boy, I don't know what gave the guys who signed up for the National Guard the impression you can just join it and not have to do any work [on screen: a photo of President Bush from his National Guard days]. — Jon Stewart

    Posted by Jonathan at 01:29 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    January 02, 2007

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

    Posted by Jonathan at 11:45 AM | Comments (1) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

    The good part of crossing the threshold of a new year is you get to start over. The bad part is you have to do it from where you are now. — Will Durst

    Posted by Jonathan at 11:26 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    January 01, 2007

    Gasoline On The Fire Iraq

    The hanging of Saddam Hussein was carried out in such a thuggish, barbaric, and chaotic manner that it defies belief. It seemed like an improvised lynching, not a state execution.

    A cell phone video shows the execution to be a Shiite affair, complete with chants of "Muqtada, Muqtada." Saddam is the most dignified guy in the room, and the manner of his execution is sure to make him a martyr in the eyes of some.

    AP reports that Sunni outrage is building. Excerpt:

    Enraged crowds protested the hanging of Saddam Hussein across Iraq's Sunni heartland Monday, as a mob in Samara broke the locks off a bomb-damaged Shiite shrine and marched through carrying a mock coffin and photo of the dictator.

    The demonstration in the Golden Dome, shattered in a bombing by Sunni extremists 10 months ago, suggests that many Sunni Arabs may now more actively support the small number of Sunni militants fighting the country's Shiite-dominated government. The Feb. 22 bombing of the shrine triggered the current cycle of retaliatory attacks between Sunnis and Shiia, in the form of daily bombings, kidnappings and murders. [...]

    Until Saddam's execution Saturday, most Sunnis sympathized with militants but avoided taking a direct role in the sectarian conflict — despite attacks by Shiite militia that have killed thousands of Sunnis or driven them from their homes. The current Sunni protests, which appear to be building, could signal a spreading militancy.

    Sunnis were not only outraged by Saddam's hurried execution, just four days after an appeals court upheld his conviction and sentence. Many were also incensed by the unruly scene in the execution chamber, captured on video, in which Saddam was taunted with chants of "Muqtada, Muqtada, Muqtada."

    The chants referred to Muqtada al-Sadr, a firebrand Shiite cleric who runs one of Iraq's most violent religious militias. He is a major power behind the government of Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

    Many Sunnis are also upset that Saddam was put to death the day that Sunni celebrations began for Eid al-Ahda, a major Muslim festival. The judge who first presided over the case that resulted in Saddam's death sentence said the former dictator's execution at the start of Eid was illegal according to Iraqi law, and contradicted Islamic custom.

    The law states that "no verdict should implemented during the official holidays or religious festivals," said Judge Rizgar Mohammed Amin, a Kurd. [Emphasis added]

    Everything about the execution seems designed, deliberately or not, to inflame sectarian enmity between Sunnis and Shiites. It is gasoline on the flames. Barbaric and disastrous.

    (See also: Baghdad blogger Riverbend and Glenn Greenwald.)

    Posted by Jonathan at 09:46 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 08:43 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

    There's talk that Vice President Gore could win an Oscar for his movie. If he does get it, it would be his first win since the presidency in 2000. — Jay Leno

    Posted by Jonathan at 08:41 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb