« February 2007 | Main | April 2007 »

March 31, 2007

The Post-Peak Path Of Least Resistance Energy  Environment  Peak Oil

I don't think the end of cheap oil will mean that things completely grind to a halt à la James Kunstler. But what seems like good news may actually be bad news. Very bad news. Why?

Humans, like other organisms, generally take the path of least (short-term) resistance. It's our nature. In the Peak Oil context, the path of least resistance won't be to change how we organize cities and suburbs; or to switch to public transportation; or even to drive significantly smaller, more efficient vehicles. Nor will it be most of the other alternatives that could meaningfully reduce the demand for liquid fuels.

Instead, the path of least resistance will be to substitute other liquid fuels for gasoline and diesel, those other fuels probably being ethanol made from plant matter and, most alarmingly, synthetic fuel made from coal. There is an enormous amount of coal remaining, and if we put all of that carbon in the atmosphere the results will be deadly.

As people flail about for ways to cope with increasing shortfalls in oil production, they will act hurriedly, thoughtlessly, and they will almost certainly exacerbate global warming, perhaps catastrophically. That will be the path of least resistance.

In a BBC op-ed, author David Strahan makes a similar point. Excerpts:

[I]t is quite possible to run out of oil and pollute the planet to destruction simultaneously.

In fact peak oil could even make emissions worse if it drives us to exploit the wrong kinds of fuel.

Burning rainforest and peatlands to create palm oil plantations for biofuels releases vast amounts of CO2, and has already made Indonesia, according to some ways of calculating it, the world's third biggest emitter after the US and China.

Synthetic transport fuels made from natural gas using the Fischer-Tropsch process emit even more carbon on a well-to-wheels basis than conventional crude; and when the feedstock is coal, the emissions double.

None of these alternatives are likely to fill the gap left by conventional crude — at least, not in time.

But because they are so much more carbon intensive, it is quite easy to conjure scenarios in which we still suffer fuel shortages while emitting even more CO2 than in the current business-as-usual forecast — the worst of all possible worlds.

Although these fuels are likely to prove inadequate, we may be driven to use them because cleaner alternatives are even more inadequate, for a variety of reasons.

Biofuels can be produced sustainably and with real CO2 reductions, but in the industrialised world there simply isn't the land.

In the developing world, however, there are vast swathes of land which could be put to sugar cane in a sustainable fashion; but the scale of the task of replacing crude oil would still be monumental.

I calculate that to substitute the fuel lost through a post-peak oil production annual decline of 3% would mean planting about 200,000 sq km — equivalent to the land area of Cuba, Sri Lanka and Papua New Guinea — every year.

Alternatively, if we decided to run Britain's road transport system, say, on cleanly produced hydrogen — electrolysing water using non-CO2-emitting forms of generation — our options would be:

  • 67 Sizewell B nuclear power stations
  • a solar array covering every inch of Norfolk and Derbyshire combined
  • or a wind farm bigger than the entire southwest region of England.

    When oil production starts to fall, the economic impacts could well be devastating.

    Soaring crude prices could tip the world into a depression deeper than that of the 1930s, and collapsing stock markets cripple our ability to finance the expensive clean energy infrastructure we need.

    As the unemployment lines grow, the political will to tackle climate change may be sapped by the need to keep the lights burning as cheaply as possible.

    Many environmentalists seem to dismiss or ignore peak oil because they simply cannot see it as significant when compared to climate change.

    But this is to miss the point.

    Oil depletion is deadly serious in its own right, but it also has the capacity both to worsen emissions and destroy the wealth needed to fight global warming.

    For this reason - among others - it too has the power to destroy our civilisation. [Emphasis added]

  • Desperate people do desperate things. Fuel shortages will be an immediate, concrete problem staring people in the face. Global warming will seem, by comparison, an abstraction somewhere off in the future. And it will be easy for people to rationalize that their little contribution to global warming is an insignificant drop in a very big bucket; meanwhile, they need a way to get to work, to shop, to heat their homes. They are going to want fuel; they're not going to care much where it comes from.

    Of course, there are significant wild cards in any attempts to project the future. Biotechnology and nanotechnology, especially, have the potential to radically transform the equation. (And also to create their own brand of havoc.) But the next couple of decades are pivotal, and the sheer scale of the problem means that new technologies may arrive too late. Enormous damage is already being done, right now, in the race to produce biofuels. The colossal scale of the world's thirst for fuel pretty much guarantees that in the race for profits all sorts of bad ideas will be pushed into large-scale use without due regard for the consequences. We suffer from a kind of technological monoculture and a monoculture of the mind that causes us to risk way too much on a few throws of the dice.

    If we act without thinking, we're guaranteed to follow the path of least (short-term) resistance. But it's the wrong path. It remains to be seen if humans are smart enough to forego short-term convenience to gain long-term survival. Are we?

    [Thanks, Jason]

    Posted by Jonathan at 05:55 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 04:00 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

    You know those correspondents' dinners that they have in Washington? The media gets a chance for one night to put aside its cozy relationship with the government for one that is instead nauseatingly sycophantic. You'll recall from last year they don't like it much when the entertainment — what's the word I'm looking for — pisses on them. Anyway, they had another dinner last night and this time the entertainment was much more to their liking [on screen: Karl Rove rapping]. Let's say Jeffrey Dahmer came to your bar mitzvah, and it turned out that he was a great dancer. He's still Jeffrey Dahmer. I wonder if I could do something like that. Chuck, can you give me a beat? [music starts]. From the West Wing to the Crawford Ranch, Karl Rove has destroyed the executive branch. He has no scruples and I don't mean maybe. He said John McCain had a secret black baby. F**k that guy. — Jon Stewart

    (Video here)

    Posted by Jonathan at 03:51 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    March 30, 2007

    How Dumb Is Homeland Security? Politics

    This dumb. The mind boggles.

    Update: Looks like I'm the dumb one. April Fool's came early this year. Serves me right for posting in a hurry.

    Posted by Jonathan at 12:16 PM | Comments (2) | 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 10:12 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

    During an appearance before the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, or MOOBLA, President Bush denounced setting a specific date for withdrawal [on screen: Bush saying, 'If the House bill becomes law, our enemies in Iraq will simply have to mark their calendars']. It's not quite that simple, Mr. President. Remember they're on the Islamic calendar. By contrast, the president is saying our commitment is more open-ended [on screen: Bush saying, 'Iraq's leaders know that our commitment is not open-ended']. So we can't set a deadline, but our commitment is not open-ended? Basically, what he's saying is we are definitely leaving Iraq sometime between now and — the end of time. Wait, not the end of time. I don't want to give a date. — Jon Stewart

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

    March 29, 2007

    Today's Biofuels Are A Disaster Energy  Environment

    If you run your car on recycled fry oil or biofuel generated from waste, awesome. But growing food crops to turn them into fuel (and ripping up rainforests to do it) is out and out lunacy. Nothing shows our addiction to fossil fuels more starkly than our willingness to bid up the price of food crops — so we can price the world's poor out of the market, take food out of their mouths, and set fire to it.

    It's simple really. There's a finite amount of corn and other crops in the world. They go to the highest bidder. There isn't enough to feed the world as it is. But now we in the First World want to take a big piece of that pie and pour it into our gas tanks. Every bushel that goes for fuel is a bushel that cannot go for food. People must go hungry so we can drive our SUVs to Wal-Mart.

    But it's actually worse than even that. Many of today's biofuels are an environmental disaster, too, worse for the planet than petroleum. George Monbiot explains:

    It used to be a matter of good intentions gone awry. Now it is plain fraud. The governments using biofuel to tackle global warming know that it causes more harm than good. But they plough on regardless.

    In theory, fuels made from plants can reduce the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by cars and trucks. Plants absorb carbon as they grow – it is released again when the fuel is burnt. By encouraging oil companies to switch from fossil plants to living ones, governments on both sides of the Atlantic claim to be "decarbonising" our transport networks.

    In the budget last week, Gordon Brown announced that he would extend the tax rebate for biofuels until 2010. From next year all suppliers in the UK will have to ensure that 2.5% of the fuel they sell is made from plants — if not, they must pay a penalty of 15p a litre. The obligation rises to 5% in 2010. By 2050, the government hopes that 33% of our fuel will come from crops. Last month George Bush announced that he would quintuple the US target for biofuels: by 2017 they should be supplying 24% of the nation's transport fuel.

    So what's wrong with these programmes? Only that they are a formula for environmental and humanitarian disaster. In 2004 this column warned that biofuels would set up a competition for food between cars and people. The people would necessarily lose: those who can afford to drive are, by definition, richer than those who are in danger of starvation. It would also lead to the destruction of rainforests and other important habitats....Well in one respect I was wrong. I thought these effects wouldn’t materialise for many years. They are happening already.

    Since the beginning of last year, the price of maize has doubled. The price of wheat has also reached a 10-year high, while global stockpiles of both grains have reached 25-year lows. Already there have been food riots in Mexico and reports that the poor are feeling the strain all over the world....According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, the main reason is the demand for ethanol: the alcohol used for motor fuel, which can be made from both maize and wheat.

    Farmers will respond to better prices by planting more, but it is not clear that they can overtake the booming demand for biofuel. Even if they do, they will catch up only by ploughing virgin habitat.

    Already we know that biofuel is worse for the planet than petroleum. The UN has just published a report suggesting that 98% of the natural rainforest in Indonesia will be degraded or gone by 2022. Just five years ago, the same agencies predicted that this wouldn't happen until 2032. But they reckoned without the planting of palm oil to turn into biodiesel for the European market. This is now the main cause of deforestation there and it is likely soon to become responsible for the extinction of the orang utan in the wild. But it gets worse. As the forests are burnt, both the trees and the peat they sit on are turned into carbon dioxide. A report by the Dutch consultancy Delft Hydraulics shows that every tonne of palm oil results in 33 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions, or ten times as much as petroleum produces. I feel I need to say that again. Biodiesel from palm oil causes TEN TIMES as much climate change as ordinary diesel. [...]

    The reason governments are so enthusiastic about biofuels is that they don't upset drivers. They appear to reduce the amount of carbon from our cars, without requiring new taxes. It's an illusion sustained by the fact that only the emissions produced at home count towards our national total. The forest clearance in Malaysia doesn't increase our official impact by a gram.

    In February the European Commission was faced with a straight choice between fuel efficiency and biofuels. It had intended to tell car companies that the average carbon emission from new cars in 2012 would be 120 grams per kilometre. After heavy lobbying by Angela Merkel on behalf of her car manufacturers, it caved in and raised the limit to 130 grams. It announced that it would make up the shortfall by increasing the contribution from biofuel.

    The British government says it "will require transport fuel suppliers to report on the carbon saving and sustainability of the biofuels they supply." But it will not require them to do anything. It can't: its consultants have already shown that if it tries to impose wider environmental standards on biofuels, it will fall foul of world trade rules. And even "sustainable" biofuels merely occupy the space that other crops now fill, displacing them into new habitats. It promises that one day there will be a "second generation" of biofuels, made from straw or grass or wood. But there are still major technical obstacles. By the time the new fuels are ready, the damage will have been done.

    We need a moratorium on all targets and incentives for biofuels, until a second generation of fuels can be produced for less than it costs to make fuel from palm oil or sugarcane. Even then, the targets should be set low and increased only cautiously. I suggest a five-year freeze. [...]

    You can join the campaign at www.biofuelwatch.org.uk. [Emphasis added]

    Like addicts everywhere, we pretend not to see the damage our addiction does. And biofuels make denial easy. They seem so green. And who really knows what's going on in Indonesia or the Amazon, anyway? Out of sight, out of mind. Out of our minds is more like it.

    We do what we do because we are too lazy and too greedy to increase fuel efficiency, drive smaller vehicles, use public transportation. It's too much trouble. We'd rather starve the world's poor, strip off the last remaining rainforests, use the atmosphere for our sewer.

    Not always intentionally, perhaps. Many people want to do the right thing (at least if it's not too inconvenient), and fuel from plants sounds like it ought to be the right thing. But just because something sounds green doesn't mean it is. Good intentions alone are worth nothing. We are responsible for the consequences of our actions. We have to realistically assess (take a fearless inventory of) the net effect of whatever steps we take from here on out. We have to determine if they do more harm than good. We have to stop kidding ourselves. We no longer have a lot of room for error.

    Posted by Jonathan at 10:53 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

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

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

    Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

    President Bush held a news conference where he accused the Democrats of playing politics with the firing of U.S. attorneys. You know, the attorneys he fired for not playing politics. — Jay Leno

    Posted by Jonathan at 09:46 AM | Comments (1) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    March 28, 2007

    "Show Of Force" Iran

    The US Navy is staging a huge "show of force" in the Persian Gulf off the coast of Iran. But what they're really doing, whether they acknowledge it to themselves or not, is positioning a whole bunch of sitting duck targets where any nut with a missile can start World War III. AP:

    The U.S. Navy on Tuesday began its largest demonstration of force in the Persian Gulf since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, led by a pair of aircraft carriers and backed by warplanes flying simulated attack maneuvers off the coast of Iran.

    The maneuvers bring together two strike groups of U.S. warships and more than 100 U.S. warplanes to conduct simulated air warfare in the crowded Gulf shipping lanes. [...]

    U.S. Navy Cmdr. Kevin Aandahl said the U.S. maneuvers were not organized in response to the capture of the British sailors - nor were they meant to threaten the Islamic Republic, whose navy operates in the same waters. [...]

    Overall, the exercises involve more than 10,000 U.S. personnel on warships and aircraft making simulated attacks on enemy shipping with aircraft and ships, hunting enemy submarines and finding mines.

    "What it should be seen as by Iran or anyone else is that it's for regional stability and security," Aandahl said. "These ships are just another demonstration of that. If there's a destabilizing effect, it's Iran's behavior." [Emphasis added]

    "It's for regional stability and security." They think we're idiots.

    Meanwhile, the Navy seems to be proving it's not immune to the sort of self-aggrandizement that led the other services to think they could crush Iraq like a bug. We see how that's working out.

    The truth is that surface navies are an anachronism in a world where missiles are freely available on the international black market and non-State actors have learned that First World militaries are like big, blind, and very stupid elephants. Look what Hezbollah did to Israel, and what the Taliban in Afghanistan and a mixed bag of insurgents in Iraq are doing to the US. It's the Navy's turn now largely because that's about the only thing the US has left in reserve.

    And what happens if some US ships get sunk? Nuclear war? Is that what they want, at the end of the day? Let us hope not, but one thing is certain — by positioning all those ships as sitting ducks they've created a hair-trigger that could cause things to ratchet up very, very quickly. It's madness.

    Dems in Congress, take notice. Quickly.

    [Thanks, Miles]

    Posted by Jonathan at 07:25 PM | Comments (1) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    At It Since Eisenhower Humor & Fun

    LOL.

    Posted by Jonathan at 05:35 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 09:51 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

    Dick Cheney again this week was in the hospital. He was experiencing discomfort in his leg. And the doctor asked Cheney if he stretches. Cheney said, "Are you kidding? I linked 9/11 with Saddam Hussein." — Bill Maher

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

    March 27, 2007

    Bolton On BBC Iraq

    Things you won't hear on American tv:

    [Via BuzzFlash]

    Posted by Jonathan at 03:29 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Root Cause Palestine/Middle East

    I linked to these maps on Sunday, but Sunday's a little slow here at PastPeak so you may have missed them. They're stunning.

    American media maintain the fiction that Palestinian hostility toward Israel is baseless, fanatical anti-Semitism. But you can't look at those maps and not realize instantly that Palestinians have a legitimate grievance. Which is why you'll never see those maps in the New York Times.

    Native Americans didn't hate Europeans until Europeans came and stole their land. It wasn't anti-Europeanism. It was anti-having-their-land-stolen.

    Posted by Jonathan at 10:28 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 10:17 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

    Commenting on the fourth anniversary of the war in Iraq this week, President Bush said, "It can be tempting to look at the challenges in Iraq and conclude our best option is to pack up and go home." He then added, "But we need to stay crazy and not do that." — Amy Poehler

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

    March 26, 2007

    Stacking The Deck Environment  Politics

    A Maryland paper reports that Republicans who want to serve on the global warming subcommittee have to have decided in advance that humans don't cause global warming. Otherwise, the Republican leadership won't let them on the committee:

    House Republican Leader John Boehner would have appointed Rep. Wayne Gilchrest to the bipartisan Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming — but only if the Maryland Republican would say humans are not causing climate change, Gilchrest said.

    "I said, 'John, I can't do that,'" Gilchrest, R-1st-Md., said in an interview. "He said, 'Come on. Do me a favor. I want to help you here.'"

    Gilchrest didn't make the committee. [...]

    Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, a research scientist from Maryland, and Michigan's Rep. Vern Ehlers, the first research physicist to serve in Congress, also made cases for a seat, but weren't appointed, he said.

    "Roy Blunt said he didn't think there was enough evidence to suggest that humans are causing global warming," Gilchrest said. "Right there, holy cow, there's like 9,000 scientists to three on that one." [Emphasis added]

    Hey, here's an idea. How about we actually look at the science and try to come up with constructive public policy solutions. You know, like grownups.

    Meanwhile, the Republicans seem to revel in being the Flat Earth party. They diverge farther and farther from reality. It's weird. And dangerous.

    Posted by Jonathan at 05:25 PM | Comments (1) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    UK Ministry Of Defence Concluded Lancet Methodology Was Sound Iraq

    When a peer-reviewed study published last October in the Lancet concluded that the war had already killed 655,000 Iraqis, the number was dismissed out of hand by US and British authorities, who publicly bad-mouthed the study's methodology. Internal documents obtained by the BBC, however, show that UK's ministry of defence was advised that the study's methodology was sound. BBC:

    The British government was advised against publicly criticising a report estimating that 655,000 Iraqis had died due to the war, the BBC has learnt.

    Iraqi Health Ministry figures put the toll at less than 10% of the total in the survey, published in the Lancet.

    But the Ministry of Defence's chief scientific adviser said the survey's methods were "close to best practice" and the study design was "robust".

    Another expert agreed the method was "tried and tested". [...]

    The Lancet medical journal published its peer-reviewed survey last October.

    It was conducted by the John Hopkins School of Public Health and compared mortality rates before and after the invasion by surveying 47 randomly chosen areas across 16 provinces in Iraq.

    The researchers spoke to nearly 1,850 families, comprising more than 12,800 people.

    In nearly 92% of cases family members produced death certificates to support their answers. The survey estimated that 601,000 deaths were the result of violence, mostly gunfire.

    Shortly after the publication of the survey in October last year Tony Blair's official spokesperson said the Lancet's figure was not anywhere near accurate.

    He said the survey had used an extrapolation technique, from a relatively small sample from an area of Iraq that was not representative of the country as a whole.

    President Bush said: "I don't consider it a credible report."

    But a memo by the MoD's Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir Roy Anderson, on 13 October, states: "The study design is robust and employs methods that are regarded as close to "best practice" in this area, given the difficulties of data collection and verification in the present circumstances in Iraq."

    One of the documents just released by the Foreign Office is an e-mail in which an official asks about the Lancet report: "Are we really sure the report is likely to be right? That is certainly what the brief implies."

    The reply from another official is: "We do not accept the figures quoted in the Lancet survey as accurate."

    In the same e-mail the official later writes: "However, the survey methodology used here cannot be rubbished, it is a tried and tested way of measuring mortality in conflict zones."

    Asked how the government can accept the Lancet's methodology but reject its findings, the government has issued a written statement in which it said: "The methodology has been used in other conflict situations, notably the Democratic republic of Congo.

    "However, the Lancet figures are much higher than statistics from other sources, which only goes to show how estimates can vary enormously according to the method of collection.

    "There is considerable debate amongst the scientific community over the accuracy of the figures."

    In fact some of the British government criticism of the Lancet report post-dated Sir Roy's comments.

    Speaking six days after Sir Roy praised the study's methods, British foreign office minister Lord Triesman said: "The way in which data are extrapolated from samples to a general outcome is a matter of deep concern...." [...]

    If the Lancet survey is right, then 2.5% of the Iraqi population - an average of more than 500 people a day - have been killed since the start of the war. [Emphasis added]

    Most people don't understand statistical sampling, so they tend to form an opinion based on a sort of rough average of all the comments they happen to hear. If pretty much everybody who gets on tv says one kind of number, a study like the Lancet study can't make much of a dent in how people think. It seems like too much of an outlier. No matter that most of the numbers being thrown around have little scientific basis, certainly not the kind of scientific basis the Lancet number has: the Lancet number gets shouted down.

    It may be that the Lancet figure is too high. But a rough head count of what statistically-illiterate pundits and spin doctors say is not the way to make that determination. Especially when they have already lied about everything else.

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

    Army Deploys Seriously Injured Troops Iraq

    Salon reports that the Army has been sending seriously injured troops to its desert training base to inflate unit readiness stats. Some seriously injured troops have even been deployed to Iraq. Excerpts:

    Last November, Army Spc. Edgar Hernandez, a communications specialist with a unit of the Army's 3rd Infantry Division, had surgery on an ankle he had injured during physical training. After the surgery, doctors put his leg in a cast, and he was supposed to start physical therapy when that cast came off six weeks later.

    But two days after his cast was removed, Army commanders decided it was more important to send him to a training site in a remote desert rather than let him stay at Fort Benning, Ga., to rehabilitate. In January, Hernandez was shipped to the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif., where his unit, the 3,900-strong 3rd Brigade of the 3rd Infantry Division, was conducting a month of training in anticipation of leaving for Iraq in March.

    Hernandez says he was in no shape to train for war so soon after his injury. "I could not walk," he told Salon. ..."I was told by my doctor and my physical therapist that this was crazy." [...]

    [W]hen he got to California, he was led to a large tent where he would be housed. He was shocked by what he saw inside: There were dozens of other hurt soldiers. Some were on crutches, and others had arms in slings. Some had debilitating back injuries. And nearby was another tent, housing female soldiers with health issues ranging from injuries to pregnancy.

    Hernandez is one of a dozen soldiers who stayed for weeks in those tents who were interviewed for this report, some of whose medical records were also reviewed by Salon. All of the soldiers said they had no business being sent to Fort Irwin given their physical condition. In some cases, soldiers were sent there even though their injuries were so severe that doctors had previously recommended they should be considered for medical retirement from the Army.

    Military experts say they suspect that the deployment to Fort Irwin of injured soldiers was an effort to pump up manpower statistics used to show the readiness of Army units. With the military increasingly strained after four years of war, Army readiness has become a critical part of the debate over Iraq. Some congressional Democrats have considered plans to limit the White House's ability to deploy more troops unless the Pentagon can certify that units headed into the fray are fully equipped and fully manned.

    Salon recently uncovered another troubling development in the Army's efforts to shore up troop levels, reporting earlier this month that soldiers from the 3rd Brigade had serious health problems that the soldiers claimed were summarily downgraded by military doctors at Fort Benning in February, apparently so that the Army could send them to Iraq. Some of those soldiers were among the group sent to Fort Irwin to train in January.

    After arriving at Fort Irwin, many of the injured soldiers did not train. "They had all of us living in a big tent," confirmed Spc. Lincoln Smith, who spent the month there along with Hernandez and others....His records list his problems as "permanent" and recommend that he be considered for retirement from the Army because of his health. [...]

    The soldiers who were at Fort Irwin described a pitiful scene. "You had people out there with crutches and canes," said an Army captain who was being considered for medical retirement himself because of serious back injuries sustained in a Humvee accident during a previous combat tour in Iraq. [...]

    Military experts point to the brigade's readiness statistics, including "unit status reports" that carefully track personnel numbers and are sent up through the Army's chain of command. "There are a number of factors used to establish whether a unit is mission-capable," explained John Pike, director of GlobalSecurity.org, an independent organization that studies military and security issues. "One of them is the extent to which it is fully manned," he said. Pike says he suspects the injured soldiers were camped out at Fort Irwin so that on paper, at least, "the unit would have a sufficient head count to be mission-capable." [...]

    But injured soldiers from the brigade were not just shuttled to California; some were sent on to Iraq. Earlier this month Salon reported that on Feb. 15, shortly after returning from Fort Irwin to Fort Benning, 75 injured soldiers from the 3rd Brigade lined up for screenings at the troop medical clinic. Some of the soldiers there that day described cursory meetings with a division surgeon — meetings designed to downgrade their health problems, the soldiers said, so that they could be deployed to the war zone. Records for some of those soldiers show doctors had previously concluded that those soldiers could not wear body armor because of serious skeletal and other injuries.

    A military official knowledgeable about the training in California in January and the medical processing of the injured soldiers at Fort Benning in February told Salon that commanders were taking desperate actions to meet an accelerated deployment schedule dictated by President Bush's so-called surge plan for securing Baghdad. [...]

    The New York Times reported on March 20 that of the 20 Army brigades not currently deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan, only one has enough equipment or soldiers to be sent quickly into combat. [Emphasis added]

    Unbelievably grotesque, and a real sign of desperation.

    All to protect the egos of the fools at the top.

    Posted by Jonathan at 10:59 AM | Comments (1) | 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 10:11 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

    I love when they say this is a constitutional crisis. Oh, please. We haven't used the Constitution in years. — Jay Leno

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

    March 25, 2007

    Conspirators Black Ops

    The argument you alway hear against conspiracy theories is that if a conspiracy involved a large number of people then surely someone would talk. But the truth is that people do talk, and no one believes them.

    Consider E. Howard Hunt, the CIA officer, Bay of Pigs veteran, and Watergate "plumber" who has often been mentioned in connection with the JFK assassination, and about whom Richard Nixon said, "This fellow Hunt, he knows too damn much." Hunt died in January at age 88. Now two of his sons say Hunt told them, in the years before he died, details of the conspiracy to kill JFK.

    First, the LA Times:

    [B]efore his death at age 88 in January, E. Howard Hunt...left [his] sons one last tantalizing story, they say. The story, which he planned to detail in a memoir and could be worth big money — was that rogue CIA agents plotted to kill President Kennedy in 1963, and that they approached Hunt to join the plot but he declined. [...]

    Hunt had been preparing for publication of "American Spy: My Secret History in the CIA, Watergate and Beyond," released this month.

    [Son] St. John says it was he who suggested the idea of a memoir when he convinced his father that it was time to reveal anything he knew about the Kennedy assassination.

    It had always been suspected that Hunt shared his Cuban exile friends' hatred of Kennedy, who refused to provide air cover to rescue the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion that Hunt helped organize.

    "He told me in no uncertain terms about a plot originating in Miami, to take place in Miami," said St. John. He said his father identified key players and speculated that then-Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson was responsible for moving the venue to Dallas, where the Texan could control the security scene.

    But the memoir's published passages about the assassination have an equivocal tone. Hunt provides only a hypothetical scenario of how events in Dallas might have unfolded, with Johnson atop a pyramid of rogue CIA plotters.

    The brothers insist their father related to them a detailed plot to assassinate Kennedy. Hunt told them he was approached by the conspirators to join them but declined, they say.

    That information was cut from the memoir, the brothers say, because Hunt's attorney warned he could face perjury charges if he recanted sworn testimony. Hunt also had assured Laura before they married in 1977 that he had nothing to do with the assassination. [...]

    St. John, who sports a mustache and longish graying coif combed back from a receding hairline, has a more personal reason to believe in his father's disclosures. He said he was instructed by Hunt in 1974 to back up an alibi for his whereabouts on the day Kennedy died, 11 years earlier.

    "I did a lot of lying for my father in those days," St. John said. [Emphasis added]

    Rolling Stone's account names names:

    E. Howard scribbled the initials "LBJ," standing for Kennedy's ambitious vice president, Lyndon Johnson. Under "LBJ," connected by a line, he wrote the name Cord Meyer. Meyer was a CIA agent whose wife had an affair with JFK; later she was murdered, a case that's never been solved. Next his father connected to Meyer's name the name Bill Harvey, another CIA agent; also connected to Meyer's name was the name David Morales, yet another CIA man and a well-known, particularly vicious black-op specialist. And then his father connected to Morales' name, with a line, the framed words "French Gunman Grassy Knoll."

    So there it was, according to E. Howard Hunt. LBJ had Kennedy killed. It had long been speculated upon. But now E. Howard was saying that's the way it was. And that Lee Harvey Oswald wasn't the only shooter in Dallas. There was also, on the grassy knoll, a French gunman, presumably the Corsican Mafia assassin Lucien Sarti, who has figured prominently in other assassination theories.

    "By the time he handed me the paper, I was in a state of shock," Saint says. "His whole life, to me and everybody else, he'd always professed to not know anything about any of it. But I knew this had to be the truth. If my dad was going to make anything up, he would have made something up about the Mafia, or Castro, or Khrushchev. He didn't like Johnson. But you don't falsely implicate your own country, for Christ's sake. My father is old-school, a dyed-in-the-wool patriot, and that's the last thing he would do."

    Later that week, E. Howard also gave Saint two sheets of paper that contained a fuller narrative. It starts out with LBJ again, connecting him to Cord Meyer, then goes on: "Cord Meyer discusses a plot with [David Atlee] Phillips who brings in Wm. Harvey and Antonio Veciana. He meets with Oswald in Mexico City. . . . Then Veciana meets w/ Frank Sturgis in Miami and enlists David Morales in anticipation of killing JFK there. But LBJ changes itinerary to Dallas, citing personal reasons."

    David Atlee Phillips, the CIA's Cuban operations chief in Miami at the time of JFK's death, knew E. Howard from the Guatemala-coup days. Veciana is a member of the Cuban exile community. Sturgis, like Saint's father, is supposed to have been one of the three tramps photographed in Dealey Plaza. Sturgis was also one of the Watergate plotters, and he is a man whom E. Howard, under oath, has repeatedly sworn to have not met until Watergate, so to Saint the mention of his name was big news.

    In the next few paragraphs, E. Howard goes on to describe the extent of his own involvement. It revolves around a meeting he claims he attended, in 1963, with Morales and Sturgis. It takes place in a Miami hotel room. Here's what happens:

    Morales leaves the room, at which point Sturgis makes reference to a "Big Event" and asks E. Howard, "Are you with us?"

    E. Howard asks Sturgis what he's talking about.

    Sturgis says, "Killing JFK."

    E. Howard, "incredulous," says to Sturgis, "You seem to have everything you need. Why do you need me?" In the handwritten narrative, Sturgis' response is unclear, though what E. Howard says to Sturgis next isn't: He says he won't "get involved in anything involving Bill Harvey, who is an alcoholic psycho." [Emphasis added]

    Unfortunately, there's no way of knowing whether any of this is true. St. John Hunt says he's got notes in his father's handwriting, but there's no external corroboration. He and his brother David are looking to sell the story. So maybe they made the whole thing up. Or maybe they didn't.

    Also in the news this week, professional hitman Charles Harrelson, father of Woody Harrelson, died in the Supermax prison where he was serving a life sentence for the assassination of a federal judge. When Harrelson was arrested, he confessed to a role in the JFK assassination, saying he was the shooter on the Grassy Knoll. He later recanted. Was he telling the truth when he confessed or when he recanted? Who knows. (By the way, when Harrelson was tried for a different contract killing in 1968, Wikipedia says his attorney was Percy Foreman, who also represented James Earl Ray, the reputed assassin of Martin Luther King.)

    The notion that conspiracies can never remain secret seems silly on its face. Covert operatives and special forces personnel carry out any number of operations that never see the light of day. Loose-lipped people don't get invited to participate in the first place. And when the operation is of a particularly ruthless, high-stakes nature, you'd have every incentive in the world to keep your mouth shut. But it almost doesn't matter, because when someone does talk, unless they've got home movies or something — not exactly likely — nobody believes them. Hunt and Harrelson are both plausible as participating in or having knowledge of the JFK killing. But without corroboration, nothing they say makes a dent — and people go right on saying that none of the conspirators has ever talked. Are you sure?

    It reminds me of the time I called a software company's tech support number to report a bug. When I finished explaining the symptoms I'd encountered, the person on the other end told me that it couldn't be a bug because no one had ever reported it. Right.

    Posted by Jonathan at 07:02 PM | Comments (2) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Root Cause Palestine/Middle East

    Probably the most illuminating maps I've ever seen. Stunning.

    Posted by Jonathan at 05:20 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 05:09 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

    With the fired lawyers controversy here in the United States showing no signs of abating, President Bush gave an impromptu press conference in the White House's Diplomatic Reception Room. Presumably because the Petulant Tantrum Room was booked. — Jon Stewart

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

    March 24, 2007

    Gates: Close Gitmo — Cheney: No 9/11, "War On Terror"  Politics

    When Robert Gates started as Secretary of Defense, he wanted to close the Guantanamo prison. Bush himself has said that he'd like to close Guantanamo. But Cheney says no. NYT:

    In his first weeks as defense secretary, Robert M. Gates repeatedly argued that the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, had become so tainted abroad that legal proceedings at Guantánamo would be viewed as illegitimate, according to senior administration officials. He told President Bush and others that it should be shut down as quickly as possible.

    Mr. Gates's appeal was an effort to turn Mr. Bush's publicly stated desire to close Guantánamo into a specific plan for action, the officials said. In particular, Mr. Gates urged that trials of terrorism suspects be moved to the United States, both to make them more credible and because Guantánamo's continued existence hampered the broader war effort, administration officials said.

    Mr. Gates's arguments were rejected after Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and some other government lawyers expressed strong objections to moving detainees to the United States, a stance that was backed by the office of Vice President Dick Cheney, administration officials said. [Emphasis added]

    In case you were wondering who's really in charge.

    Proof that time travel will never be invented: no one came back from the future to strangle Dick Cheney at birth.

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

    Fooling The Eye In The Sky Future  Iraq

    Seven US Marines and a Navy medic are accused of the cold-blooded murder of a disabled Iraqi police officer named Hashim Ibrahim Awad. What's remarkable is the steps they allegedly took to fool surveillance by unmanned aerial vehicles, making the murder look like a firefight. Wired (via Xymphora):

    As they carried out the killing of an Iraqi civilian, seven Marines and a Navy medic used their understanding of the military's airborne surveillance technology to spoof their own systems, military hearing testimony charges. [...]

    The case is remarkable for the fact that the killers nearly got away with their alleged crime right under the eye of the military's sophisticated surveillance systems. According to testimony, at least three times the warriors took deliberate, and apparently effective, measures to trick the unmanned aerial vehicles — UAVs in military parlance — that watch the ground with heat-sensitive imaging by night, and high-resolution video by day. [...]

    The killing took place in the early morning darkness of April 26, when a "snatch party" of three Marines and a medic set out to kill and make an example of a suspected insurgent named Saleh Gowad, who'd been captured and released many times, according to testimony. Not finding him, they went next door and seized the sleeping Awad from his home, while the four remaining squad members waited nearby.

    They men allegedly flexicuffed Awad's hands and marched him about a half-mile to a bomb crater, where they bound his feet and positioned him with a stolen shovel and an AK-47. Then they returned to an attack position and shot him.

    On the way, according to testimony, the forward party took at least three steps to disguise its actions from aerial surveillance, steps that initially persuaded investigators the killing was justified. One Marine went forward and dug around in the crater. At the same time, the three other troops crouched with Awad behind a low wall in what [an attorney] described as a squad in a typical military posture.

    They held that pose as the surveillance UAV passed over, creating an infrared tableau of four troops watching a bomber dig a hole along the road.

    After the UAV passed, and they dodged being seen by a U.S. helicopter, the four rose from behind the wall to march Awad to the crater, according to the medic's testimony. While they were moving Awad the final 125 yards to his death, according to Bacos, they heard the UAV return. Cpl. Trent Thomas quickly wrapped himself around Awad so that the two men would appear as a single person on the heat-reactive infrared sensors, according to testimony.

    Then they put Awad in the hole where the Marine had posed with the shovel seconds before, backed off and signaled. Six of the eight troops opened fire — staging a firefight with a bomb-planting insurgent.

    "Congratulations, we just got away with murder, gents," the squad leader told them, according to Bacos' testimony. [...]

    Steps similar to those the alleged killers apparently took may someday be a routine part of planning a crime, as U.S. law enforcement agencies clamor to put UAVs over U.S. airspace for domestic surveillance. [Emphasis added]

    Welcome to the future, which is already in progress.

    Posted by Jonathan at 04:27 PM | Comments (2) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Global Warming: WWJD? Environment  Ethics  Religion

    Is denial of global warming a Christian thing to do?

    Here's what Al Gore told the Senate in reference to Senator Inhofe, who often cites the Bible as the source for his political views:

    I say to Senator Inhofe, I don't prostelytize my own beliefs, but all religious traditions hold to the same teachings: That the Earth is the Lord's, and the fullness thereof. That the purpose of life is to glorify God, and you cannot do it while heaping contempt on God's creation.

    Not to mention the enormous suffering, especially among the world's poor, that global warming will cause. As Jesus himself said:

    What you did to the least of these, you did to Me, and...whatever you neglected to do for the least of these, you neglected to do it for Me.

    Jesus wept.

    Posted by Jonathan at 04:05 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 03:41 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

    The Democrats are trying to turn these firings of U.S. attorneys into a partisan issue, but the president is above bickering. In fact, he made a generous peace offering. Karl Rove and Harriet Miers would submit to private interviews, but "they would not take oaths nor would a transcript be made available." See, the president is just trying to save this country from another painful perjury trial. — Stephen Colbert

    Posted by Jonathan at 03:38 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    March 23, 2007

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

    Posted by Jonathan at 09:22 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

    After Congress subpoenaed presidential adviser Karl Rove, President Bush said he will allow Rove to answer questions, but not under oath. The president said, "I'm all for him talking as long as he doesn't have to tell the truth." — Conan O'Brien

    The White House is adamant that its advisers retain the right, if they so choose, to lie — without consequence. It's executive privilege. If Karl Rove knew he'd one day be forced to testify under oath about the advice he gave the president, he'd have to limit that advice to things that weren't shameful, illegal, or spectacularly bone-headed. — John Oliver

    Posted by Jonathan at 09:19 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    March 22, 2007

    Rove (And Bush) Gave The Order Politics

    Sidney Blumenthal, in Salon:

    In the U.S. attorneys scandal, Gonzales was an active though second-level perpetrator. While he gave orders, he also took orders. Just as his chief of staff, Kyle Sampson, has resigned as a fall guy, so Gonzales would be yet another fall guy if he were to resign. He was assigned responsibility for the purge of U.S. attorneys but did not conceive it. The plot to transform the U.S. attorneys and ipso facto the federal criminal justice system into the Republican Holy Office of the Inquisition had its origin in Karl Rove's fertile mind.

    Just after Bush's reelection and before his second inauguration, as his administration's hubris was running at high tide, Rove dropped by the White House legal counsel's office to check on the plan for the purge. An internal e-mail, dated Jan. 6, 2005, and circulated within that office, quoted Rove as asking "how we planned to proceed regarding the U.S. attorneys, whether we are going to allow all to stay, request resignations from all and accept only some of them, or selectively replace them, etc." Three days later, Sampson, in an e-mail, "Re: Question from Karl Rove," wrote: "As an operational matter we would like to replace 15-20 percent of the current U.S. attorneys — the underperforming ones ...The vast majority of U.S. attorneys, 80-85 percent I would guess, are doing a great job, are loyal Bushies, etc., etc."

    The disclosure of the e-mails establishing Rove's centrality suggests not only the political chain of command but also the hierarchy of coverup. Bush protects Gonzales in order to protect those who gave Gonzales his marching orders — Rove and Bush himself.

    "Now, we're at a point where people want to play politics with it," Rove declared on March 15 in a speech at Troy University in Alabama. The scene of Rove's self-dramatization as a victim of "politics" recalls nothing so much as Oscar Wilde's remark about Dickens' "Old Curiosity Shop": "One must have a heart of stone to read the death of little Nell without laughing."

    From his method acting against "politics," Rove went on to his next, more banal talking point: There can be no scandal because everyone's guilty. (This is a variation of the old "it didn't start with Watergate" defense.) "I would simply ask that everybody who's playing politics with this, be asked to comment on what they think of the removal of 123 U.S. attorneys during the previous administration and see if they had the same, superheated political rhetoric then that they've having now." Instantly, this Rove talking point echoed out the squawk boxes of conservative talk radio and through the parrot jungle of the Washington press corps.

    Indeed, Presidents Clinton, George H.W. Bush and Reagan replaced the 93 U.S. attorneys at the beginning of their administration as part of the normal turnover involved in the alternation of power. A report issued on Feb. 22 from the Congressional Research Service revealed that between 1981 and 2006, only five of the 486 U.S. attorneys failed to finish their four-year terms, and none were fired for political reasons. Only three were fired for questionable behavior, including one on "accusations that he bit a topless dancer on the arm during a visit to an adult club after losing a big drug case." In brief, Bush's firings were unprecedented, and Rove's talking point was simply one among several shifting explanations, starting with the initial false talking point that those dismissed suffered from "low performance." [...]

    Bush's resistance to having Rove placed under oath or even having a transcript of his testimony appears to be a coverup of a series of obstructions of justice. The e-mails hint at the quickening pulse of communications between the White House and the Justice Department. But only sworn testimony can elicit the truth.

    On Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee issued five subpoenas, including one for Rove, and on Thursday the Senate Judiciary Committee plans to follow suit. With these subpoenas, a constitutional battle is joined. "The moment subpoenas are issued, it means that they have rejected the offer," said White House press secretary Tony Snow. Bush is barricading his White House against the Congress to prevent its members from posing the pertinent question that might open the floodgate: What did Karl Rove know, and when did he know it?

    Let's hope the Dems follow the trail as high as it goes. This administration has been guilty of all manner of criminality. Nailing them for this would be like nailing Al Capone for income evasion (or Nixon for the Watergate break-in): not entirely satisfying, but effective.

    Posted by Jonathan at 11:20 AM | 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 10:49 AM | Comments (1) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

    There's another big controversy in Washington over whether or not the Justice Department fired eight United States attorneys for not being malleable enough to this administration. In January, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales addressed the issue [on screen: Gonzales saying, "I would never, ever make a change in the United States attorney position for political reasons"]. Never ever! No, wait. Not ever. Wait. What's the word for when you do something periodically? Sometimes. A flat out denial from Gonzales. You know, in the good old days, that would have been the end of the story. The Republican Congress would have said, "Huh? What? You didn't? Okay," and gone back to building bridges in Alaska to save Terry Schiavo from gay flag-burners. But now, the opposition party controls Congress and they can perform a very complicated legal maneuver known as "asking for things." — Jon Stewart

    Posted by Jonathan at 10:40 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    March 21, 2007

    "Captain Ahab In Charge Of Saving The Whales" Humor & Fun  Politics

    Jon Stewart interviews John Bolton. Awesome.

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

    Paging Dr. Freud Humor & Fun  Politics

    John McCain accidentally tells the truth, here.

    Posted by Jonathan at 05:46 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Time To Leave Iraq

    Lawrence Korb, Director of National Security Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, responds to Bush's speech on the war:

    In a speech yesterday to mark the fourth anniversary of the war in Iraq, President Bush defended his decision to topple Saddam and offered a challenge to his critics. "It can be tempting," Bush said, "to look at the challenges in Iraq and conclude that your best option is to pack up and go home." But, he continued, "the consequences for American security would be devastating."

    Bush has it backwards. In order to protect the security interests and to wage the global war on terror more effectively, the US must withdraw its military forces from Iraq as soon as possible. It can make the most of the withdrawal by announcing publicly that it will immediately begin a phased redeployment that will be completed in the next 18 months, and adding that we will not maintain any permanent bases in Iraq.

    Embracing such a strategy will have five advantages. First, it will put the US in control of its own destiny. Without such a plan for getting out by a certain date, this country will remain hostage to events on the ground. If the green zone were to be shelled by mortars, causing a large number of casualties, or if the Ayatollah Sistani were to be assassinated, unleashing even more violence, the American public would most likely demand a much more rapid — but much less thoroughly-considered — withdrawal.

    Second, the timetable will give the Iraqi political leaders an incentive as well as a reasonable period in which to make the compromises necessary to create an Iraqi nation that its security forces would be willing to fight and die for. As long as the Iraqi leaders know that the US will not "stand down until they stand up", they will not feel compelled to make the difficult choices about how to share the oil revenues equitably, balance the powers of the central and regional government and safeguard minority rights. And by remaining 18 months, or until mid-2008, the US can fulfill its moral responsibility to the Iraqi people for overthrowing their government without a realistic plan for dealing with the aftermath.

    Third, the US withdrawal will undermine the power of the 1,300 al-Qaida fighters in Iraq. The vast majority of the small numbers of Iraqis who support these terrorists do so because they share the common objective of forcing us to leave. Once it is clear that we are leaving that support will dry up.

    Fourth, it will put the six nations bordering Iraq on notice that the future of Iraq will be their responsibility — as well as ours — and they must become more constructively involved in preventing Iraq from becoming a failed state.

    Fifth, the phased withdrawal will allow the US to relieve the strain on our overstretched ground forces. The vast majority of the Army brigades in Iraq have not had the required two years between deployments that are necessary to train and equip them properly for the next mission. At least four of the brigades now in Iraq have not even had a year between deployments. The withdrawal will also allow the US to bring its Army National Guard back to the States to focus on homeland defense. [...]

    To make the most of the withdrawal, the US must also undertake a diplomatic surge to complement the strategic redeployment of its military forces in the region. This diplomatic surge will involve appointing a special envoy (with the stature of a former secretary of state) and charging him or her with getting all six of Iraq's neighbors involved in working with us to stabilize Iraq. While the interests of all these nations are not identical to ours, none of them wants to live with an Iraq that becomes a failed state. [Emphasis added]

    Carl Oglesby wrote a very interesting little book thirty years ago called The Yankee and Cowboy War that looked at various seemingly-unrelated upheavals in American political life as the surface tremors accompanying an ongoing tectonic power struggle ruthlessly pitting Northeast Establishment banking and Wall Street money (Yankees) against upstart Sun Belt oil and aerospace money (Cowboys). The Council on Foreign Relations is, of course, the foreign policy group for the Yankee Establishment, while George Bush is the quintessential Cowboy politician. It may be interesting, as the rest of Bush's term plays out, to watch events through Oglesby's lens.

    Posted by Jonathan at 05:31 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 10:10 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

    This weekend was the fourth anniversary of the beginning of the Iraqi war. A lot of anti-war protests, and the Bush administration said they were surprised by the number of protests. And I was thinking, "You know what? I'm not surprised they were surprised." — David Letterman

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

    March 20, 2007

    Editing Global Warming Out Of Government Reports Environment  Politics

    NYT:

    A House committee released documents Monday that showed hundreds of instances in which a White House official who was previously an oil industry lobbyist edited government climate reports to play up uncertainty of a human role in global warming or play down evidence of such a role.

    In a hearing of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, the official, Philip A. Cooney, who left government in 2005, defended the changes he had made in government reports over several years. Mr. Cooney said the editing was part of the normal White House review process and reflected findings in a climate report written for President Bush by the National Academy of Sciences in 2001.

    They were the first public statements on the issue by Mr. Cooney, the former chief of staff of the White House Council on Environmental Quality. Before joining the White House, he was the "climate team leader" for the American Petroleum Institute, the main industry lobby.

    He was hired by Exxon Mobil after resigning in 2005 following reports on the editing in The New York Times. [Emphasis added]

    From the oil industry lobby's "climate team leader" to White House chief on environmental quality issues to a position at Exxon Mobil. All with no science background.

    Everything's politics to this White House, but these are issues that put the health and safety of millions of people at risk. There's actual physical reality at work here. No amount of political hackery can change that. Putting a political hack in charge is like putting a political hack in charge of working up your cancer diagnosis.

    Posted by Jonathan at 03:52 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    WH: Congress Can Talk To Rove — In Private, No Oath, No Transcript, No Subpoenas Politics

    The White House says Congress can talk to Karl Rove and Harriet Miers — provided it's in private, not under oath, no transcript taken. AP:

    The White House offered Tuesday to make political strategist Karl Rove and former counsel Harriet Miers available for congressional interviews — but not testimony under oath — in the investigation of the firing of eight federal prosecutors.

    Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said he would still press for White House aides to testify under oath but that White House counsel Fred Fielding "indicated he didn't want to negotiate" whether Rove and others would have to appear in a full hearing. "That doesn't mean we're not going to try," Schumer said. [...]

    The White House offered to arrange interviews with Rove, Miers, deputy White House counsel William Kelley and J. Scott Jennings, a deputy to White House political director Sara Taylor, who works for Rove.

    "Such interviews would be private and conducted without the need for an oath, transcript, subsequent testimony or the subsequent issuance of subpoenas," Fielding said in a letter to the chairman of the House and Senate judiciary committees. [Emphasis added]

    Not under oath. Gee, I wonder why.

    Posted by Jonathan at 03:25 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Iraq: A "Deepening Nightmare" Iraq

    Patrick Cockburn is one of the very few Western journalists in Iraq who knows first-hand what's happening on the ground. On the fourth anniversary of the invasion, he writes:

    Four years ago, in the middle of the US invasion, I drove safely from Arbil in northern Iraq to Baghdad. There were heaps of discarded weapons beside the road, and long lines of former Iraqi soldiers walking home. Signs of battle were few, aside from the hulks of burned-out tanks, but they all seemed to have been hit by US aircraft after their crews had fled.

    If I tried to make the same journey today, I would be killed or kidnapped long before I reached Baghdad. Kurdish ministers in the Iraqi government dare not travel by road between the capital and their homeland. Three bodyguards of the Foreign Minister, Hoshyar Zebari, were ambushed and killed when they tried to do so a month ago.

    Tony Blair and George Bush still occasionally imply that the picture of Iraq as a war-torn hell is an exaggeration by the media. They suggest, though not as forcibly as they did a couple of years ago, that parts of the country are relatively peaceful. Nothing could be more untrue.

    In reality, the violence is grossly understated. The Baker-Hamilton report by senior Republicans and Democrats, led by James Baker, took a single day last summer, when the US army reported 93 acts of violence in Iraq, and asked American intelligence to re-examine the evidence. They found the real figure was 1,100--the US military had deliberately understated the violence by factor of over 10. [...]

    Most [ordinary Iraqis] wanted rid of Saddam Hussein because they expected a better life after his fall. Since they had oil reserves comparable to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, Iraqis felt, why could they not have an equivalent standard of living to Saudis and Kuwaitis?

    In fact almost every aspect of Iraqi day-to-day life has got worse over the last four years. In May 2003, people in Baghdad were getting 16 to 24 hours of electricity a day. Today the official figure is just six hours a day — and even that is on the optimistic side. In a city with one of the hottest climates in the world, it is catastrophic when fridges, freezers or air conditioners cannot be used.

    There are 4.8 million Iraqi children under the age of five, who have lived most of their lives since the fall of Saddam Hussein. UNICEF figures show that 20 per cent of them are so severely malnourished that their growth is stunted.

    Under Saddam Hussein most Iraqis worked for the state. This worked well while he had oil revenues to pay them, but after 1990, UN sanctions meant that millions of people who had enjoyed a middle-class standard of living became totally impoverished, and four years ago more than half of Iraqis were unemployed. One of the worst scandals of the occupation is that they still are — although billions of dollars have been spent, billions were stolen.

    For all the money supposedly being spent on developing the economy, there were no cranes to be seen in Baghdad except a cluster in the Green Zone, at work on a vast new American embassy.

    But whatever the material failings of life, over the last four years it is the lack of security that has dominated everything else for Iraqis. By the end of 2003 I could already see mothers becoming hysterical at a school near my Baghdad hotel, because if they could not find their children they immediately feared that they had been kidnapped.

    Since 2003, Iraqi life has become drenched by violence. Many Iraqis now carry two sets of papers, to pass through Sunni and Shia areas, but often it is not enough. The UN, using figures from Baghdad morgue and the Health Ministry, says 3,462 civilians were killed in Iraq in November and 2,914 in December. Many died at the hands of death squads, picked up on the street or caught at checkpoints. [...]

    People in Baghdad used to say that under Saddam Hussein, life was fairly safe if you kept out of politics. This was true of crime: during the war of 1991 I was once stranded in the semi-desert between Baghdad and Mosul when my car broke down, because the petrol in the tank had been watered down. I travelled on to Mosul, hitching lifts from farmers without any threat to my safety. If I did that today, I would be stopped and probably murdered at one of the official or unofficial checkpoints on the road. [Emphasis added]

    A million children under the age of five who are so malnourished that their growth is stunted. As a percentage of population, that's equivalent to more than 10 million children in the US. Imagine the resulting anguish and rage. Even if the war were to end today, its effects will be felt for years, if not for generations.

    [Thanks, Miles]

    Posted by Jonathan at 03:16 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

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

    Posted by Jonathan at 08:52 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

    Military contractor Halliburton announced this week that it is moving its corporate headquarters from Houston, Texas, to Dubai. A Halliburton spokesman said Dubai was chosen because of its convenient location just outside the long arm of the law. — Amy Poehler

    This just in: Alberto Gonzales has announced he's going to move the Justice Department to Dubai. — Jay Leno

    Posted by Jonathan at 08:50 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    March 19, 2007

    Gonzales Is Toast Politics

    ABC News:

    New e-mails released this evening by the Justice Department reveal the depth of White House involvement in the discussions to fire eight U.S. attorneys last year. The thousands of pages of e-mails suggest the White House was involved in the plan from the beginning.

    The e-mails detail conversations about attorneys targeted for dismissal. There are no e-mails from Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who reportedly does not use e-mail, though the Justice Department says messages show some indication that Gonzales' former chief of staff, D. Kyle Sampson, kept the attorney general apprised.

    The Justice Department has taken heat from Democrats, who stepped up harsh criticism and calls for Gonzales to step down last week. "They [the U.S. attorneys] should not be sent packing on a whim," said Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., adding, "especially when the circumstances suggest that their departures may have been motivated by politics."

    "First of all, he's [Gonzales] not telling the truth. These were all political," declared Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. "Never in the history of the country has anything like this ever happened. What is done is untoward, it is wrong, it is unethical, it's immoral. I believe it's illegal, and Gonzales should be fired or he should resign." [Emphasis added]

    Better yet, if Gonzales perjured himself, indict him. This has been a lawless administration, front to back. People need to start going to jail. How else are you going to save the principle that the laws apply to everyone, White House included?

    Posted by Jonathan at 10:22 PM | Comments (2) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

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

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

    Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

    Alberto Gonzales has gotten into trouble for firing eight U.S. attorneys for what appears to be political reasons. President Bush said today he still has confidence in Gonzales — the same confidence he had in Rumsfeld, Scooter Libby, and Michael Brown of FEMA. — Jay Leno

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

    March 17, 2007

    The Serious Candidate Politics

    When presidential candidates speak, we're used to seeing them weigh every single utterance against what they know from polling and focus groups. The wheels never stop turning. You can see it in their eyes.

    But here's a presidential candidate who says what's true, not what's expedient (via Poputonian):

    Mostly, Kucinich talks in this clip about the possibility of a US attack on Iran. He makes the following essential point:

    The most ominous development in this whole matter came a few days ago when the Appropriations Committee made a decision to take out of the budget, of the appropriation, a provision that would have required the president to come back to Congress for permission [before attacking Iran]. In effect what Congress did, by taking that provision out, was to open the door for the president to launch an attack. It was a disastrous move on the part of congressional leaders.

    (Congress apparently made this move at the behest of American supporters of Israel. The awful irony is that an attack on Iran would almost certainly be disastrous for Israel — and for the US.)

    Kucinich makes the other candidates seem like wind-up toys by comparison. Too bad he can't get a fair shake from the corporate media, who don't think he's a "serious" candidate. The reality, of course, is the opposite. Kucinich is the one candidate who's serious about the issues. Everybody else is auditioning for a part.

    Listen for yourself. Part Two here.

    Posted by Jonathan at 01:28 PM | Comments (2) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    McCain: "You've Stumped Me" Politics

    John McCain is:

    A) a shameless political whore.
    B) a clueless idiot.
    C) all of the above.

    Answer: C

    Posted by Jonathan at 12:39 PM | Comments (1) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Photoshopping The Pols Humor & Fun

    Amazing what some people can do with Photoshop.

    Posted by Jonathan at 12:15 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 12:00 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

    Halliburton is moving its headquarters to Dubai to avoid paying taxes in the United States. Isn't that crazy — when did Halliburton start paying taxes? — Jay Leno

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

    March 16, 2007

    Warmest Winter On Record Environment

    Reuters:

    This has been the world's warmest winter since record-keeping began more than a century ago, the U.S. government agency that tracks weather reported Thursday.

    The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said the combined global land and ocean surface temperature from December through February was at its highest since records began in 1880.

    A record-warm January was responsible for pushing up the combined winter temperature, according to the agency's Web site.

    "Contributing factors were the long-term trend toward warmer temperatures, as well as a moderate El Nino in the Pacific," Jay Lawrimore of NOAA's National Climatic Data Center said in a telephone interview from Asheville, North Carolina.

    The next-warmest winter on record was in 2004, and the third warmest winter was in 1998, Lawrimore said.

    The 10 warmest years on record have occurred since 1995. [...]

    Temperatures were above average for these months in Europe, Asia, western Africa, southeastern Brazil and the northeast half of the United States, with cooler-than-average conditions in parts of Saudi Arabia and the central United States.

    Global temperature on land surface during the Northern Hemisphere winter was also the warmest on record, while the ocean-surface temperature tied for second warmest after the winter of 1997-98.

    Over the past century, global surface temperatures have increased by about 0.11 degree F per decade, but the rate of increase has been three times larger since 1976 — around 0.32 degree F per decade, with some of the biggest temperature rises in the high latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere. [Emphasis added]

    I think I'm beginning to spot a trend.

    Posted by Jonathan at 09:33 AM | 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 09:24 AM | Comments (1) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

    Good news for the Bush administration. Just one week after the outrageous Walter Reed medical scandal, that story is gone. Because there's a new kid in town. His name is "Outrageous Fired Federal Prosecutors Attorney General Scandal." Yes, in one week, it's been revealed the administration screwed over wounded vets — the most revered people in America — and lawyers — the most reviled people in America — proving they've got range. — Jon Stewart

    Posted by Jonathan at 09:20 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    March 15, 2007

    3200 Iraq

    The carnage continues in Iraq.

    US troops killed in Iraq as of today: 3203.

     

    And hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. For what?

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

    Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

    The president is on a five-nation tour of Latin America. A lot of people are saying while he's below the border, what a great time to build that wall. — Bill Maher

    Posted by Jonathan at 09:06 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    March 14, 2007

    In A Nutshell Religion




    Posted by Jonathan at 12:50 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

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

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

    Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

    Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich has admitted that he was having an extramarital affair back in 1998, at the same time he was the leading critic of Bill Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky. Rudy Giuliani has defended Newt Gingrich, saying it's okay Newt had an affair and that no one is perfect. That's when you know the Republicans are in trouble — when a guy with three marriages and an affair is defending the guy with three marriages and two affairs, so they can team up and beat a Clinton. — Jay Leno

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

    March 13, 2007

    Hacking RFID Passports Science/Technology

    Passports with embedded electronic chips (RFIDs) are supposed to be unhackable. But they're not. Not even close. Daily Mail (via Bruce Schneier):

    They are the "safest ever", according to the Government. But the Daily Mail has revealed how easily a person's identity can be stolen from new biometric passports.

    In just four hours, the Mail hacked into a new biometric passport and stole the details a people trafficker or illegal migrant would need to set up a life in Britain.

    A shocking security gap allows the personal details and photograph in any electronic passport to be copied from the outside of the envelope in which it is delivered to homes.

    The passport holder is none the wiser when it arrives because the white envelope has not been tampered with or opened.

    Using a simple gadget built from parts bought on the Internet, it took the Mail less than four hours to copy the details from one passport.

    It had been delivered in the normal way by national courier company Secure Mail Services to a young woman in Islington, North London.

    With her permission we took away the envelope containing her passport and never opened it.

    By the end of the afternoon, we had stolen enough information from the passport's electronic chip - including the woman’s photograph - to be able to clone an identical document if we had wished. [...]

    The Government says the biometric chips are protected by "an advanced digital encryption technique". [...]

    Yet it took us no time at all to unravel the crucial code, using a relatively simple computer software programme and a scanning device.

    The first flaw is that a hacker can try to access the chip as many times as he likes until he cracks the [access] code. This is different to putting a pin number into a bank machine, where the security system refuses access after three wrong combinations are entered.

    The second is that there are easily identifiable recurring patterns in the [access] key codes issued. For example, the passport holder's date of birth always features, as does the passport’s expiry date, which is ten years after the issue date. [...]

    Crucially, some banks, including the Post Office, no longer require to see a full passport as proof of identity from a new customer opening an account. They ask for a photocopy of the photo page to be sent in the post instead. [Emphasis added]

    RFIDs are the kind of chips used for automatic toll collection. They operate by proximity, and that makes them a security nightmare. Your data can be grabbed without your ever knowing it, no physical contact required.

    What's dumbfounding is that the responsible parties evidently didn't even try very hard to make the British passport RFID secure. It was hacked in an afternoon. But, as security guru Bruce Schneier points out, your passport needs to be secure for 10 years.

    We might be able to take some cold comfort in Big Brother's cluelessness, were it not for the fact that there are plenty of black hats running around who are decidedly not clueless. Big Brother's just made it a lot easier for them to steal your identity.

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

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

    Posted by Jonathan at 12:42 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

    Scooter Libby was found guilt of perjury, obstruction, and making false statements — or, as the White House calls it, a press conference. The Republican base is furious. They are saying it is wrong to convict someone of perjury and obstruction of justice unless there is proof of an underlying blow job. — Bill Maher

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

    March 12, 2007

    Canadian Report: War In Afghanistan To Last For "Generations" 9/11, "War On Terror"  Afghanistan

    Afghanistan was supposed to be the easy one. A done deal. So how's that working out? ConsortiumNews:

    Canadian lawmakers have written an Afghanistan version of the Iraq Study Group report, reaching a conclusion that the conditions on that original battlefront in the "war on terror" are grave and deteriorating.

    The 16-page Canadian Senate report, entitled "Taking a Hard Look at a Hard Mission," foresees a conflict that could drag on for generations and might well fail unless NATO significantly increases its commitment of money and troops.

    "It is in our view doubtful that this mission can be accomplished given the limited resources that NATO is currently investing in Afghanistan," said the report by the Standing Committee on National Security and Defence. "The current NATO contingent doesn't have enough troops to go toe-to-toe with the Taliban."

    Former Canadian Ambassador to Afghanistan Chris Alexander told the committee that it would take five generations to "make a difference in Afghanistan," while Land Forces Commander Andrew Leslie estimated that it would take at least two decades to complete the mission. [Emphasis added]

    Mission Accomplished. Bring 'em on. Last throes.

    Posted by Jonathan at 08:34 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Cheney's Cheney Politics

    Will Bush pardon Scooter Libby? Frank Rich thinks it's a slam dunk:

    Even by Washington's standards, few debates have been more fatuous or wasted more energy than the frenzied speculation over whether President Bush will or will not pardon Scooter Libby. Of course he will.

    A president who tries to void laws he doesn't like by encumbering them with "signing statements" and who regards the Geneva Conventions as a nonbinding technicality isn't going to start playing by the rules now. His assertion last week that he is "pretty much going to stay out of" the Libby case is as credible as his pre-election vote of confidence in Donald Rumsfeld. The only real question about the pardon is whether Mr. Bush cares enough about his fellow Republicans' political fortunes to delay it until after Election Day 2008.

    Either way, the pardon is a must for Mr. Bush. He needs Mr. Libby to keep his mouth shut. Cheney's Cheney knows too much about covert administration schemes far darker than the smearing of Joseph Wilson....[Libby] has the makings of an explosive Washington tell-all that could be stranger than most fiction and far more salable. [...]

    Its first chapter would open in August 2002, when he and a small cadre of administration officials including Karl Rove formed the White House Iraq Group (WHIG), a secret task force to sell the Iraq war to the American people. The climactic chapter of the Libby saga unfolded last week when the guilty verdict in his trial coincided, all too fittingly, with the Congressional appearance of two Iraq veterans, one without an ear and one without an eye, to recount their subhuman treatment at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

    It was WHIG's secret machinations more than four years ago that led directly to those shredded lives. WHIG had been tasked, as The Washington Post would later uncover, to portray Iraq's supposedly imminent threat to America with "gripping images and stories not available in the hedged and austere language of intelligence." In other words, WHIG was to cook up the sexiest recipe for promoting the war, facts be damned. So it did, by hyping the scariest possible scenario: nuclear apocalypse. As Michael Isikoff and David Corn report in "Hubris," it was WHIG (equipped with the slick phrase-making of the White House speechwriter Michael Gerson) that gave the administration its Orwellian bumper sticker, the constantly reiterated warning that Saddam's "smoking gun" could be "a mushroom cloud." [Emphasis added]

    Bush doesn't care what the rest of us think, and he doesn't care about the law. He thinks he is the law. He'll do the pardon and it'll be a news story for a day or two, and then it will be gone. Livin' in the USA.

    Posted by Jonathan at 08:29 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 08:42 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

    This whole scandal came to light when Robert Novak became the first person to publish details outing the CIA operative. And it really would be a shame if amidst all the legal wrangling and the heated words about this case we lost sight of the one essential truth that I think all parties can agree on: Bob Novak is a HUGE douche bag. — Jon Stewart

    Posted by Jonathan at 08:40 AM | Comments (1) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    March 09, 2007

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

    Posted by Jonathan at 12:26 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

    Yesterday, I. Lewis Libby, a.k.a. "The Scooter," the vice president's chief of staff, was found guilty on four of five counts ranging from obstruction of justice to lying to a grand jury. Yes, we got the guy — the one-man cancer on this White House has been removed. Obviously, this has come at a bad time for the White House. Usually, you want the conviction of a high-ranking official and the veterans-sleeping-in-moldy-rat-holes stories on different days. — Jon Stewart

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

    March 08, 2007

    Worst Case Scenario Global Guerrillas  Iraq

    Rolling Stone convened a panel of experts and asked them about Iraq. All agreed that the war is lost. The only question is how bad is it going to get. The experts: Zbigniew Brzezinski, Richard Clarke, Nir Rosen, General Tony McPeak, Senator Bob Graham, Ambassador Chas Freeman, Paul Pillar, Michael Scheuer, Juan Cole.

    Best case scenario: Civil war in Iraq and a stronger al Qaeda. Most likely scenario: Years of ethnic cleansing and war with Iran. Worst case scenario: World War III. A few quotes:

    Graham: I believe the chance that the chaos in Iraq could bring countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia into the mix is in the forty to fifty percent range. The big danger is what I call the August 1914 Syndrome. The assassination of Archduke Ferdinand in Sarajevo — what would have been in the scale of history a minor event — set in motion activities that turned out to be beyond the ability of the Western powers to control. And they ended up in one of the most brutal wars in man's history by accident. If the Saudis come in heavily on the side of the Sunnis, as they have threatened to do, and the Iranians — directly or through shadow groups like Hezbollah — become active on behalf of the Shiites, and the Turks and the Kurds get into a border conflict, the flames could spread throughout the region. The real nightmare beyond the nightmare is if the large Islamic populations in Western Europe become inflamed. Then it could be a global situation.

    Rosen: Iraq will be the battleground where the Sunni-Shia conflict will be fought, but it won't be limited to Iraq. It will spread. Pandora's box is open. We didn't just open it, we opened it and threw fuel into it and threw matches into it. You'll soon see Sunni militias destabilizing countries like Jordan and Syria — where the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood is very strong. It took about ten years for the Palestinians to become politicized and militarized when they were first expelled from Palestine. You're likely to see something like that occurring in the huge Iraqi refugee populations in Syria and Jordan. King Abdullah of Jordan is resented for being an American stooge and an accomplice with Israel. I'm convinced that the monarchy in Jordan will fall as a result of this, and Israel will be confronted with a frontline state on its longest border with an Arab country.

    Scheuer: I can't help but think we've signed Jordan's death warrant. The country is already on a simmering boil because of the king's oppression of Islamists. It could turn into a police state like Egypt, or an incoherent, revolving-door-type government like Lebanon is becoming now.

    Rosen: You're going to see borders changing, governments falling. Lebanon is already on the precipice. Throughout the region, government officials are terrified. Nobody knows how to stop it. This is World War III. How far will it spread? Anywhere there are Islamic movements, like in Somalia, in Sudan, in Yemen. Pakistan has always had Sunni-Shia fighting. The flow of Iraqi refugees will at some point affect Europe. [...]

    McPeak: This is a dark chapter in our history. Whatever else happens, our country's international standing has been frittered away by people who don't have the foggiest understanding of how the hell the world works. America has been conducting an experiment for the past six years, trying to validate the proposition that it really doesn't make any difference who you elect president. Now we know the result of that experiment [laughs]. If a guy is stupid, it makes a big difference. [Emphasis added]

    Too bad generals don't speak that frankly before they retire.

    In some ways, they may be underestimating the dangers. People still tend to think in terms of nation-state actors, but globalization melts borders. Globalization supports a free flow of people, funding, ideas, ideologies, techniques and technologies (including techniques and technologies for guerrilla war), and it weakens people's loyalty to the nation-state. More and more, people identify with their religious, ethnic, or tribal group. So on one level, globalization unites the world, but, paradoxically, it atomizes it at the same time. All of this is a recipe for a decentralized, entrepreneurial, "open source" form of war by what John Robb calls "global guerrillas" not acting on any nation-state's behalf. As in Iraq. August, 1914 may not be the best analogy. More like, Lord of the Flies.

    Pandora's box, indeed.

    Posted by Jonathan at 05:13 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

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

    Posted by Jonathan at 11:06 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

    Funny story about Cheney's trip. An electrical glitch grounded his usual plane, Air Force II, forcing him to fly on a C-17 dubbed — and I'm not kidding — "The Spirit of Strom Thurmond." As you know, "The Spirit of Strom Thurmond" is a white plane, but guess which hanger it likes to park in when no one's watching? [on screen: a black hanger]. — Jon Stewart



    Posted by Jonathan at 10:38 AM | Comments (1) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    March 07, 2007

    Seven Countries In Five Years 9/11, "War On Terror"  Iran  Iraq  Politics

    I'm astonished that this hasn't been all over the news. On February 27, Amy Goodman interviewed General Wesley Clark. Clark said this:

    About ten days after 9/11, I went through the Pentagon and I saw Secretary Rumsfeld and Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz. I went downstairs just to say hello to some of the people on the Joint Staff who used to work for me, and one of the generals called me in. He said, "Sir, you've got to come in and talk to me a second." I said, "Well, you're too busy." He said, "No, no." He says, "We've made the decision we're going to war with Iraq." This was on or about the 20th of September. I said, "We're going to war with Iraq? Why?" He said, "I don't know." He said, "I guess they don't know what else to do." So I said, "Well, did they find some information connecting Saddam to al-Qaeda?" He said, "No, no." He says, "There's nothing new that way. They just made the decision to go to war with Iraq." He said, "I guess it's like we don't know what to do about terrorists, but we've got a good military and we can take down governments." And he said, "I guess if the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem has to look like a nail."

    So I came back to see him a few weeks later, and by that time we were bombing in Afghanistan. I said, "Are we still going to war with Iraq?" And he said, "Oh, it's worse than that." He reached over on his desk. He picked up a piece of paper. And he said, "I just got this down from upstairs" — meaning the Secretary of Defense's office — "today." And he said, "This is a memo that describes how we're going to take out seven countries in five years, starting with Iraq, and then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and, finishing off, Iran." I said, "Is it classified?" He said, "Yes, sir." I said, "Well, don’t show it to me." And I saw him a year or so ago, and I said, "You remember that?" He said, "Sir, I didn't show you that memo! I didn't show it to you!" [Emphasis added]

    It seems inconceivable that Clark is just making this up. So I guess it's official: we're in the hands of complete and utter lunatics. Seven countries — seven unprovoked, preemptive wars — in five years. They think they're Hitler, or Napoleon, or Alexander the Great — with nukes. In their minds, the Republic is over; it's Empire time.

    People who think like this, what are the chances they're going to accept defeat in Iraq quietly? If you're not scared yet, you should be.

    Posted by Jonathan at 05:06 PM | Comments (4) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    The I-Word Politics

    Hagel says the I-word.

    At least 36 Vermont towns do, too.

    Posted by Jonathan at 12:51 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 09:54 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

    Things getting very nasty in Washington. Today the White House denied an assertion by Senator Harry Reid that the Iraq war is "the worst foreign policy mistake in U.S. history." The White House said, "You have to realize that President Bush has two more years in office." — Conan O'Brien

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

    March 06, 2007

    It Didn't Start With Dubya Iraq  Politics

    Before Bush's lies about Iraq's WMD, there were Clinton's lies, as former chief weapons inspector Scott Ritter reminds us:

    From January 1993 until my resignation from the United Nations in August 1998, I witnessed first hand the duplicitous Iraq policies of the administration of Bill Clinton, the implementation of which saw a President lie to the American people about a threat he knew was hyped, lie to Congress about his support of a disarmament process his administration wanted nothing to do with, and lie to the world about American intent, which turned its back on the very multilateral embrace of diplomacy as reflected in the resolutions of the Security Council...and instead pursued a policy defined by the unilateral interests of the Clinton administration to remove Saddam Hussein from power.

    I personally witnessed the Director of the CIA under Bill Clinton, James Woolsey, fabricate a case for the continued existence of Iraqi ballistic missiles in November 1993 after I had provided a detailed briefing which articulated the UN inspector's findings that Iraq's missile program had been fundamentally disarmed. I led the UN inspector's investigation into the defection of Saddam Hussein's son-in-law, Hussein Kamal, in August 1995, and saw how the Clinton administration twisted his words to make a case for the continued existence of a nuclear program the weapons inspectors knew to be nothing more than scrap and old paper. I was in Baghdad at the head of an inspection team in the summer of 1996 as the Clinton administration used the inspection process as a vehicle for a covert action program run by the CIA intending to assassinate Saddam Hussein.

    I twice traveled to the White House to brief the National Security Council in the confines of the White House Situation Room on the plans of the inspectors to pursue the possibility of concealed Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, only to have the Clinton national security team betray the inspectors by failing to deliver the promised support, and when the inspections failed to deliver any evidence of Iraqi wrong-doing, attempt to blame the inspectors while denying any wrong doing on their part. [...]

    In February 1998 the Clinton administration backed a diplomatic effort undertaken by then-Secretary General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, to help get the weapons inspection process back on track (inspections had been stalled since January 1998, when a team I led was prevented by the Iraqis from carrying out its mission because, as the Iraqis maintained, there were too many Americans and British on the team implementing the unilateral policy of regime change instead of the mandated task of disarmament)...[President Clinton] initially supported the Annan mission, not so much because it paved a path towards disarmament, but rather because it provided a cover for legitimizing regime change.

    I sat in the office of then US Ambassador to the United Nations, Bill Richardson, as the United States cut a deal with then-United Nations Special Commission Executive Chairman Richard Butler, where the timing and actions of an inspection team led by myself (a decision which was personally approved by Bill Clinton) would be closely linked to a massive US aerial bombardment of Iraq triggered by my inspection. I was supposed to facilitate a war by prompting Iraqi non-compliance. Instead, I did my job and facilitated an inspection that pushed the world closer to a recognition that Iraq was complying with its disarmament obligation. As a reward, I was shunned from the inspection process by the Clinton administration.

    In April 1998 Bill Clinton promised Congress that his administration would provide all support necessary to the UN inspectors. In May 1998 his National Security Team implemented a new policy which turned its back on the inspectors, seeking to avoid supporting a disarmament process which undermined the policies of regime change so strongly embraced by Bill Clinton and his administration. When I resigned in August 1998 in protest over the duplicitous policies of Bill Clinton's administration, I was personally attacked by the Clinton administration in an effort to divert attention away from the truth about what they were doing regarding Iraq. Four months later Bill Clinton ordered the bombing of Iraq, Operation Desert Fox. [...]

    It turned out Saddam was in fact already disarmed. And it turned out that...President Bill Clinton...knew this when he ordered the bombing of Iraq in 1998. [Emphasis added]

    As I've noted before, Bill Clinton probably killed more Iraqis than George Bush ever has (although Bush is far from done). Clinton killed via sanctions, quietly, off-camera, not via bullets and bombs.

    But Ritter's article is aimed directly at Hillary Clinton. I cut that part out just because I wanted to bring Bill Clinton's role into sharp focus. But in 2002 Hillary voted to authorize Bush to use force against Iraq, and she, of all people, knew better.

    Weapons inspections work. They are a highly sophisticated technical enterprise. We're supposed to picture a collection of hapless Inspector Clouseaus bumbling around aimlessly, but that's not how it works. Inspections rely on teams of highly skilled scientists and technicians, armed with a variety of extraordinarily sensitive sensors, satellite and aircraft surveillance, and so on. The inspectors knew Iraq had no WMDs. Clinton knew it. Bush knew it. Hillary knew it, but still she voted for war.

    What we need now is peace. Let's not settle for less. We can do better than Hillary Clinton.

    [Thanks, Miles]

    Posted by Jonathan at 10:49 PM | Comments (1) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Don't Mess With Texas Humor & Fun

    Too funny.

    [Thanks, Clay]

    Posted by Jonathan at 10:04 PM | Comments (1) | 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 10:12 AM | Comments (1) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

    Mitt Romney says he plans to differentiate himself from President Bush with a single word — "intelligence." When he heard this, President Bush said, "Intelligence? That's two words." — Conan O'Brien

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

    March 05, 2007

    Busting The Joint Out Politics

    The still-missing body armor. The billions in cash "missing" in Iraq. No-bid contracts for Halliburton and the rest. A complete failure to even attempt reconstruction in Iraq or the Gulf Coast. And now Walter Reed and the rest of the military medical system.

    It's tempting to chalk it up to incompetence. They want us to. And Dubya is nothing if not a poster child for the incompetence defense. But incompetence is way too passive an explanation. They're ravenous, vicious vultures, picking the bones clean. Tax cuts for the rich, private contracts for their cronies, and the rest of us can go screw ourselves.

    It reminds me of nothing so much as the scene in Goodfellas where the owner of the Bamboo Lounge takes mobster Paulie as a "partner." Ray Liotta's character says in voiceover:

    Now the guy's got Paulie as a partner. Any problems, he goes to Paulie. Trouble with a bill, he can go to Paulie. Trouble with the cops, deliveries, Tommy, he can call Paulie. But now the guy's got to come up with Paulie's money every week. No matter what. Business bad? Fuck you, pay me. Oh, you had a fire? Fuck you, pay me. The place got hit by lightning, huh? Fuck you, pay me. Also, Paulie could do anything. Especially run up bills on the joint's credit. And why not? Nobody's gonna pay for it anyway. And as soon as the deliveries are made in the front door, you move the stuff out the back and sell it at a discount. You take a two hundred dollar case of booze and you sell it for a hundred. It doesn't matter. It's all profit. And then finally, when there's nothing left, when you can't borrow another buck from the bank or buy another case of booze, you bust the joint out. You light a match.

    That's America today. They're busting the joint out. Trillions in debt? So what, they're not going to pay for it. Sociopaths and pirates, no scruples, no conscience. And that's their edge over the rest of us. We think they've got to be at least a little like us: wanting to do the right thing, caring about what other people think. So we struggle for an explanation. It's got to be incompetence. But it's not. It's criminality on a scale so vast that the rest of us can't even begin to get our heads around it.

    Posted by Jonathan at 10:36 PM | Comments (1) | 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 11:18 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

    A new poll finds that President Bush's father, George Bush, is the most popular living ex-president. Apparently, voters were just excited to hear the words "George Bush" next to the phrase "ex-president." — Conan O'Brien

    Posted by Jonathan at 11:16 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    March 03, 2007

    Saudi Arabia In Decline? Peak Oil

    This is one of those stories that ought to be front page news all over the world: recent trends appear to show that Saudi Arabia's oil production is now in decline — rather steep decline, at that. This would have to mean that Ghawar, the big daddy among the world's oil fields, is in decline. And if Ghawar and Saudi Arabia are in decline, then the world's in decline. It's that simple. Peak oil is here.

    Analysis by Stuart Staniford at The Oil Drum:

    What I did in this post was to look in more detail at what happened from the beginning of 2006 on, which is when the apparent decline begins. I added data from a fourth source (the OPEC Monthly Oil Market Review), and for each of the four sources of data, I fit a linear trend:

    The resulting graph is extremely striking, I think. The four different sources all estimate Saudi production slightly differently - they fluctuate in different ways month to month, and disagree over the absolute level (that last may be differences in exactly what is defined as oil). However, the regressions make clear that all four sources are in strong agreement about the nature of the decline. The slopes of the lines are very similar.

    The implied decline rate through the year is 8% ± 0.1%. (Note that the year on year decline from 2005 to 2006 will only be about half that, as the decline only began at the beginning of 2006). As far as I know, there are no known accidents or problems that would explain any restrictions on oil supply, and the Saudis themselves have maintained publicly that their production is unproblematic and they intend to increase it.

    It's interesting to note the pattern in the underlying data where declines start, are interrupted in the middle of the year, and then resume. I take this to be due to the coming onstream of the 300kbpd of liquids from the Haradh III megaproject. [...]

    It seems this did not do more than briefly interrupt the declines. We can get a clearer picture as follows. What I did was average the EIA, IEA, and JODI series for 2005 and 2006 into a single estimate. Onto that, I've hand drawn a couple of guidelines that are 300 kbpd apart vertically:

    My intepretation is that the bump in the middle of the year that separates the two lines is due to the impact of Haradh III coming on stream. So that tells us that, given some extra production capacity, Saudi Aramco immediately threw it into the production mix. And the effect of that? It lifted the plummeting production curve up by 300kbpd, but did nothing to change the gradient of the plummet. That suggests that the Saudis had nothing else to throw at the problem.

    It also suggests that last year's underlying Type II decline rate, before megaprojects like Haradh III, was 14%.

    Overall, I feel this data is clear enough that I'm willing to go out on a limb and conclude the following:

  • Saudi Arabian oil production is now in decline.
  • The decline rate during the first year is very high (8%), akin to decline rates in other places developed with modern horizontal drilling techniques such as the North Sea.
  • Declines are rather unlikely to be arrested, and may well accelerate. [...]

    I suggest that this is likely to place severe political strains on Saudi Arabia within a year or two at most. [Emphasis added]

  • To drive the point home, Staniford ends with this:

    I'll bet $1000 with the first person who cares to take me up on it that the international oil agencies will never report sustained Saudi production of crude condensate of 10.7 million barrels or more.

    As we've noted a number of times in the past, modern production technology does such a good job of extracting oil from the ground that production doesn't fall off much until the end is near, and then the fall-off tends to be precipitous. The good news is that we're really good at getting the toothpaste out of the tube. The bad news is that we're so good at it that we don't get much warning that the tube is approaching empty.

    Staniford's analysis says that the underlying rate of Saudi decline over the past year was 14%. This is potentially earth-shaking news. Recall that production at Mexico's Cantarell, the world's second largest producing oil field, peaked and fell 25% last year. If Ghawar follows suit, the shit has officially hit the fan.

    Don't expect to see coverage of this on your tv. There's nothing to film, no celebrity angle, no rehabs, no funerals. Just what may turn out to be one of the biggest stories of our lifetimes.

    Posted by Jonathan at 03:37 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 02:38 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

    Big news from the 2008 presidential campaign. Last night, Senator John McCain — right here on this program — announced he's running for president. And then today, he shaved his head and checked into rehab. — David Letterman

    Posted by Jonathan at 02:34 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    March 02, 2007

    23%, 25%, 29% Politics

    Two weeks ago, David Broder, "Dean" of the Washington press corps, wrote:

    It may seem perverse to suggest that, at the very moment the House of Representatives is repudiating his policy in Iraq, President Bush is poised for a political comeback. But don't be astonished if that is the case.

    So, how's that working out? NYT:

    In the months since the Congressional elections, President Bush has lost substantial support among members of his own party, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News Poll.

    Mr. Bush's approval rating dropped 13 percentage points since last fall among Republicans, 65 percent of whom now say they approve of the way he is handling his job as president, compared with 78 percent last October.

    Over all, Mr. Bush's job approval remains at one of its lowest points, with 29 percent of all Americans saying they approve of the way he is doing his job, compared with 34 percent at the end of October. Sixty-one percent disapproved, compared with 58 percent in October, within the margin of sampling error.

    Twenty-three percent of those polled approved of the way Mr. Bush is dealing with the situation in Iraq. Twenty-five percent approved of his handling of foreign policy. [...]

    Seventy percent, including 52 percent of Republicans, say there is not much the United States military can do to reduce the sectarian fighting in Iraq.

    Over all, 23 percent of the public say the country is going in the right direction and 68 percent see it as "on the wrong track." [Emphasis added]

    Approval rating in the 20s. The downside: desperate men do desperate things.

    Posted by Jonathan at 02:14 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Change Blindness Science/Technology

    How good are humans at noticing small changes? Check this out.

    If you can't see what's changing, right-click and select a shorter gap time. Once you see it, you can't not see it. But until you do, it's dumbfounding.

    The right mouse button also lets you select other scenes to try. Have fun.

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

    Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

    For those of you in Washington, you may have noticed a subtle difference this week in DC: the air — a little crisper; food — a little more tasty; homeless people — weren't being discovered drained of blood. It could only mean one thing: Vice President Dick Cheney was out of town. The vice president was on a week-long world tour. — Jon Stewart

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

    March 01, 2007

    Goring Gore Media  Politics

    Two things.

    First, the world would be a very different place today if Al Gore had been elected (or selected) President in 2000. No war in Iraq, for starters. No attack on Iran, should it come to that. Nothing like the worldwide antipathy towards the United States we see today. One could go on.

    Second, Al Gore would have been elected President — probably with relative ease — if the mainstream media had given him a fair shake. All that nonsense about Gore being stiff, unlikable, a serial exaggerator — inventor of the Internet, the subject of Love Story — while George Bush was the likable, straight-talking guy everybody'd want to have a beer with. It was unrelenting, and it made all the difference.

    Which is to say, the US media have a lot of blood on their hands. But don't hold your breath waiting for them to acknowledge, let alone apologize for, the great wrong they did to Gore and the great harm they did to the country and the world.

    Which brings us to Bob Somerby. He chronicled many of the media outrages at the time, and he hasn't forgotten who said and did what. And is still saying and doing what. In yesterday's Daily Howler, Somerby looks at how little things have changed, and he's pissed. It's a good read, and an important one, as the media prepare once again to sanctify the likes of McCain and Giuliani, while covering Hillary and Obama — and Gore — with snide innuendo. Go read it.

    This isn't a game. The media's consensus narrative shapes people's perceptions and changes history. Millions of lives have been shattered by Bush's presidency. While the pundits feed their egos, ordinary people pay the price. You'd think the pundits would look around at what they have wrought, at the rising tide of wreckage and ruin that surrounds us, and feel chastened. But you'd be wrong.

    Now watch, as they get ready to do it all again.

    Posted by Jonathan at 10:31 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    This American Life Culture  Media

    Best possible news for fans of NPR's "This American Life": starting on March 22, a new video version will premiere on Showtime. Here's the trailer:

    Wow. This could turn out to be about the best tv show ever. Three weeks from today.

    [Thanks, Ali]

    Posted by Jonathan at 11:26 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 11:09 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

    Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

    How many of you have money in the stock market? Not anymore. At one point Tuesday, the market was down over 500 points. The drop started after the attempted assassination on Vice President Dick Cheney. See that's when the investors realized that if anything happened to him, President Bush would be in charge. — Jay Leno

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