July 31, 2007
|"Defend America"||9/11, "War On Terror"|
Some of it's pretty hilarious, actually, in a blackly bitter sort of way, like some particularly dark and vicious issue of The Onion. For example, this. Cheerful, tin-eared, totalitarian. Gawd.
This is cool.
|© Kent Tenney|
|Today's Bush Joke||Humor & Fun|
President Bush had that colonoscopy over the weekend. The doctors found five polyps. And I was thinking, "Hell, maybe we should send these guys out to look for bin Laden." — David Letterman
This weekend, President Bush was unconscious — even more so than usual. He was having five polyps removed. Initially, he didn't want them removed. He said that they were doing a heckuva job. They removed the polyps successfully, and they also found an impacted Scooter in the President's Libby. — Stephen Colbert
The White House announced that right after President Bush got his colonoscopy on Saturday, he immediately played with his dogs and then rode his bicycle. How old is he? Twelve? — Jay Leno
For a couple of hours on Saturday morning Dick Cheney was the president. President Bush underwent a colonoscopy and while he was under anesthesia, his powers were officially transferred to the vice president. Did you feel it? Did you know he was the president? It might've not been obvious. There might've not been a thunder clap. You might not have seen, let's say, your neighbor's eyes bleeding. But you might've, I don't know, had a vague feeling as you were making your coffee on Saturday morning that you'd failed everyone who'd ever loved you. And you didn't know why you were feeling that. It was, perhaps, because with Dick Cheney as president, he had the power to turn good thoughts bad. — Jon Stewart
July 30, 2007
|Southern Iraq: Failed State Falling Under Control Of "Warlords"||Iraq Palestine/Middle East|
Nearly all of the Western news coverage in Iraq centers around Baghdad, so one could get the impression that elsewhere in Iraq things aren't so bad. But one would be wrong. CNN reports that much of Iraq is devolving into failed state status, with various warlords fighting it out to define the limits of their turf. Think Somalia. CNN:
The fight between US-led forces and militants in and near Baghdad and the sectarian civil war raging in the capital has overshadowed another grim wartime reality — the factional strife in Iraq's southern Shiite heartland.
Experts who study the region attribute the instability to turf battles among "warlords" and their fighters in an unstable political and social environment that is coming to resemble a failed state.
"Iraqi politicians are progressively turning into warlords," Peter Harling, senior analyst with the Middle East Program of the Brussels, Belgium-based International Crisis Group. What has been unfolding in the south, he says, is a "very crude struggle over power and resources."
"Violence has become the routine means of interacting with the local population," Harling says of the militias, which have filled the power vacuum after the fall of Saddam Hussein.
"They see no interest in seeing a functional state emerge."
The south has always been relatively quiet compared with the mixed Baghdad and Diyala provinces and the largely Sunni Anbar province, where Sunni militants conducting large-scale terror attacks have emerged as the major foe of the United States.
But fighting has erupted between Shiite political factions in the southern cities of Basra, Diwaniya, Karbala, Nasiriya and Samawa in recent months, and U.S., British and other coalition forces have conducted raids on insurgents in those regions. [...]
The major movements in the south are the Sadrists; the Supreme Islamic Council in Iraq, the longtime Shiite group led by Iraqi politician Abdul Aziz al-Hakim; the Dawa Islamic Party, led by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki; and the Fadhila Party, which holds great power in Basra.
And there are fighters, such as al-Sadr's Mehdi Army militia, aligned with such groups. There are splinter and rogue elements among these groups, and there are smaller entities as well.
This factionalism goes against the notion that Shiite communities are united, says Jon B. Alterman, director and senior fellow of the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies' Middle East Program.
"They are unified when confronted with Sunni or Kurdish power, but within the Shia community there are a variety of parties, with a range of different leaderships, all competing for power and influence."
Alterman says he sees the emergence of "warlords" who "are staking out their claims to different parts of Iraq." [...]
[O]n the ground, Alterman says, "the central government is not central to how politics works anymore. What matters are guns and money and access to resources." [...]
"In a place bereft of services and security, people look to a leadership that can protect them and feed them," Alterman says. [...]
Pang calls the environment the "militarization of local politics."
"Militias have entrenched themselves into the fabric of the society of the southern region of Iraq. They've assumed control of the oil. They've assumed control of the customs. They've assumed control of the police," Pang says. [Emphasis added]
So much for the claim that the violence in Iraq is caused by a centuries-old vendetta between Sunnis and Shia. (Which never made sense anyway — why weren't they killing each other pre-Saddam?)
I just cannot see how this particular Humpty-Dumpty gets put back together again. Much more likely: it will spread. Chaos, suffering, and collapse. Brought on by a small gang of lunatics and fools in the Bush administration. Who will never pay for their crimes.
Proof that time travel is impossible: nobody from the future came back to strangle Dick Cheney at birth. Or maybe it's not impossible. Maybe it's just that Earth's humans won't be around long enough to learn how.
|Eight Million Iraqis Need "Immediate Emergency Aid"||Iraq|
The horror of what's unfolding in Iraq really is beyond imagining. Consider this (AP):
About 8 million Iraqis — nearly a third of the population — need immediate emergency aid because of the humanitarian crisis caused by the war, relief agencies said Monday.
Those Iraqis are in urgent need of water, sanitation, food and shelter, said the report by Oxfam and the NGO Coordination Committee network in Iraq.
The report said 15 percent of Iraqis cannot regularly afford to eat, and 70 percent are without adequate water supplies, up from 50 percent in 2003. It also said 28 percent of children are malnourished, compared with 19 percent before the 2003 invasion.
"Basic services, ruined by years of war and sanctions, cannot meet the needs of the Iraqi people," said Jeremy Hobbs, the director of Oxfam International. "Millions of Iraqis have been forced to flee the violence, either to another part of Iraq or abroad. Many of those are living in dire poverty."
The report said more than 2 million people — mostly women and children — have been displaced within Iraq, and 2 million Iraqis have fled the country as refugees, mostly to neighboring Syria and Jordan. [Emphasis added]
A nation destroyed.
|All About The Data-Mining After All||9/11, "War On Terror" Black Ops Politics|
As has been pointed out here at PastPeak a number of times, the whole FISA warrant/wiretapping story was really about a whole lot more than wiretapping: the collection and data-mining of massive databases tracking Americans' phone calls, emails, financial transactions, etc., etc. The NYT reported Saturday that it was this data-mining that was the real story behind the contention between Congress and the White House (and within the Justice Department iself) on the FISA warrants. Pretty much like we've said all along. NYT:
A 2004 dispute over the National Security Agency's secret surveillance program that led top Justice Department officials to threaten resignation involved computer searches through massive electronic databases, according to current and former officials briefed on the program.
It is not known precisely why searching the databases, or data mining, raised such a furious legal debate. But such databases contain records of the phone calls and e-mail messages of millions of Americans, and their examination by the government would raise privacy issues.
The NSA's data mining has previously been reported. But the disclosure that concerns about it figured in the March 2004 debate helps to clarify the clash this week between Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and senators who accused him of misleading Congress and called for a perjury investigation.
The confrontation in 2004 led to a showdown in the hospital room of then Attorney General John Ashcroft, where Mr. Gonzales, the White House counsel at the time, and Andrew H. Card Jr., then the White House chief of staff, tried to get the ailing Mr. Ashcroft to reauthorize the NSA program.
Mr. Gonzales insisted before the Senate this week that the 2004 dispute did not involve the Terrorist Surveillance Program "confirmed" by President Bush, who has acknowledged eavesdropping without warrants but has never acknowledged the data mining.
If the dispute chiefly involved data mining, rather than eavesdropping, Mr. Gonzales’ defenders may maintain that his narrowly crafted answers, while legalistic, were technically correct.
But members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, who have been briefed on the program, called the testimony deceptive.
"I've had the opportunity to review the classified matters at issue here, and I believe that his testimony was misleading at best," said Senator Russ Feingold, Democrat of Wisconsin, joining three other Democrats in calling Thursday for a perjury investigation of Mr. Gonzales.
"This has gone on long enough," Mr. Feingold said. "It is time for a special counsel to investigate whether criminal charges should be brought."
The senators' comments, along with those of other members of Congress briefed on the program, suggested that they considered the eavesdropping and data mining so closely tied that they were part of a single program. Both activities, which ordinarily require warrants, were started without court approval as the Bush administration intensified counterterrorism efforts soon after the Sept. 11 attacks. [Emphasis added]
So Gonzales has been denying the dispute was about eavesdropping — because it really was about something that was much more serious. I guess it depends on what the meaning of "is" is.
|© Kent Tenney|
|Today's Bush Joke||Humor & Fun|
Bill O'Reilly recently exposed trendy airline JetBlue for sponsoring a convention of bloggers from the far left website DailyKos.com. Papa Bear is going after JetBlue sponsorship because DailyKos is such a vicious hate site. Just listen to some of the comments he found on it [on screen: O'Reilly reading, "The pope is a primate. Evangelicals are nutcases. Better luck next time after an assasination plot against Vice President Cheney in Afghanistan." O'Reilly, on DailyKos: "It's like the Ku Klux Klan. It's like the Nazi Party."] Exactly! The Ku Klux Klan and the Nazis were both notorious for allowing people to express unpopular views in an open and free forum. O'Reilly isn't the only one out there tackling the big issues that aren't Iraq. Luckily, there's also "Hannity and Colmes." I love this show. It's like watching Dorian Gray and his picture at the same time. Sean Hannity knows there is no greater threat to America today than Bill Clinton 15 years ago. — Stephen Colbert
July 29, 2007
Got a couple of emails from people wondering where I've been. Nothing's amiss. Just have a major deadline in my day job and have been working mad hours. Should be over soon, knock wood.
July 25, 2007
|Can We Handle The Truth?||Iraq|
This past Sunday, Firedoglake hosted a truly extraordinary online chat with a Dr. Maryam, an Iraqi pediatric oncologist who runs a refugee camp for Iraqi children orphaned by the American war.
She pulls no punches. This is a voice we haven't heard much here in the US, but it's one we desperately need to hear. Excerpts are below.
Thank you for your welcome.
I am in Europe buying and arranging for supplies of medications to be brought. When I am in Irak I live in and run a refugee camp for children whose parents have been murdered by the American war against my people. I will be back there in a few days. For obvious reasons I will not under any circumstances detail my movements to any American.
Q: In the days of Saddam, all Americans felt that the Iraqi people were good, and the Iraqi government was bad. Is there a similar feeling in Iraq about the American people and our government?
Stop telling lies to yourself American. We know that your racist brutal murdering war criminal troops came from your society and reflect its values. we know that because we see how they behave and have to bury their victims. If you are stupid enough to think we feel anything but hatred and contrempt for your soldiers and the country that sent them to make war on my people then you are a fool.
As to Saddam, bad though he was your country is far worse.
"The only thing these sand niggers understand is force and I’m about to introduce them to it."
[That quote] is from a senior American officer. It is a perfect example of how your troops regard us. Which is why we highlight it.
Q: If I were an Iraqi my thinking might go something like this. President Bush is doing these atrocities in my country. And the American people elected this man not once, but twice.
As I am an Iraki and as my job is to treat children maimed and deformed by the weapons your country uses and then prevented me from getting the medicines used to treat those cancers you will forgive me if I tell you that you too are telling lies to yourself. What we know is that when it comes murdering Iraki civilians that there is no difference between the cynical and corrupt party called the Democrats and the cynical and corrupt party called the Republicans. Both are infected with the belief that America has the right to behave as it wishes especially when the people being killed are not white.
Q: I don't think [Sunnis, Shia, and Kurds] lived in peace before. If they weren't fighting each other it's because Saddam enforced some semblance of order.
Wrong. We lived in peace for centuries.
And Saddam was no friend of the Kurds or the Shia.
So how came it that 60% of the officer corps was Shia? Saddam was brutal in his response to rebellion. He did not particularly care which sect you were a member of. What he was interested in was whether you were loyal to him or not.
How does it feel to know that your country "the shining city on the hill" is not only well into genocidal territory but has been for a long time.
Nobody cares what your stupid congress thinks or does. Your country is defeated the only question now is the scale of the defeat.
It is not for the loser to dictate terms. Until your troops leave the resistance will keep on killing them because that is the only thing that works with racist empires such as the American empire.
Irak is for the Irakis. The murdering pigs who have boiled my people alive in a sea of their own blood are the government and people of the USA. Expecting us to tolerate the presence of your war criminals in uniform on our soil is too fucking stupid to be worth refuting.
Al Maliki is a traitor to Islam and a traitor to Irak. He collaborates with the invaders.
There has been no electricity none in more than half of Baghdad for 10 days. In the rest of Baghdad 1 to 1½ hours per day.
Q: In your opinion, Maryam, why did America invade Iraq?
Because you're an empire now and you can make your own reality. Working really well isn't it?
[Because of the US use of depleted uranium weapons] I treat cases like this.
The problem in Irak is the presence of the invaders. It is not possible to even begin to reconstruct until that problem is solved. The violence is because the American invader is there. Not despite it. If as you claim, you want to help, then you tackle the root problem. Which is that your troops are in our country. Until then the violence will escalate. The attacks are to make the country ungovernable and they are working.
This is [my nephew's] reality. This is what America has created for his generation:
When I heard the bomb explode last Saturday the first thing I did was telephone my father. But there was no reply. Again and again and again I tried to phone him. My fingers hurt I stabbed them onto the buttons on my phone so hard. I fell onto the floor and prayed please let him not be dead. Please let it be that he died quick if he is dead.
In the time since he wrote that:
His brother Hussein Ibn Laith was killed by a bomb as he ran with his rescue team to the site of a bombing.
His parents were killed in the Arba'in massacres.
His younger brother was wounded in the Al Qhilani bombing as was Mohammed himself and his sister.
Aged 16, Mohammed is the head of his family.
I will let him speak about forgiveness:O God! Pardon our living and our dead, the present and the absent, the young and the old, the males and the females.
I am a Muslim I am Iraki
What america does to Irakis especially to our children
Do not come to me talking of your feelings. Do not come to me asking for forgiveness. Who do you think you are?
I will not ever forgive or forget what your country has done to us. I will not ever forget or forgive what your country has done my family, my city, my country, my people.
My grandchildren's, grandchildren, will teach their grandchildren to hate America for what she has done to us. Never ever ever will I, or they, forget or forgive what your barbaric country has done to us.
If you read the whole thing, I think you'll be struck by how very hollow the questioner's protestations of innocence sound. Yes, our country is doing these things, but it's not us, blah blah blah. One of the haunting mysteries of the 20th century is how the German people allowed themselves to stand by as their leaders committed unspeakable crimes. But it's really not so hard to understand now, is it? Our culpability is all the greater because we have the German precedent to show us the consequences of inaction.
This all has a context. The US has been at war with Iraq's children since at least the first Gulf War. Please see this (including the comments). Please. And google "depleted uranium," if you dare.
"I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that His justice cannot sleep forever." — Thomas Jefferson
|Messin' With Texas||Extremism Politics Religion|
In 2001, McLeroy and a majority of the board rejected the only Advanced Placement textbook for high school environmental science because its views on global warming and other events didn't comport with the beliefs of the board majority. The book wasn't factual and was anti-American and anti-Christian, the majority claimed. Meanwhile, dozens of colleges and universities were using the textbook, including Baylor University, the nation's largest Baptist college.
In 2003, McLeroy voted against approving biology textbooks that included a full-scale scientific account of evolutionary theory. The books were approved.
Just the guy to put in charge of public education.
Need I add, both Perry and McLeroy are Republicans.
|© Kent Tenney|
|Today's Bush Joke||Humor & Fun|
President Bush says we’ve turned the corner in Iraq. What is that, about 16 corners we’ve turned? I think they call that running in circles. — Will Durst
July 24, 2007
|Underwriting Terror In Colombia||Corporations, Globalization|
US corporation have been violating US law by underwriting Colombian death squads and drug traffickers, while the US government looks the other way. LAT:
For more than a decade, leftist guerrilla and right-wing paramilitary groups in Colombia have kidnapped or killed civilians, trade union leaders, police and soldiers by the hundreds and profited by shipping cocaine and heroin to the United States.
In that time, several American multinational corporations have been accused of essentially underwriting those criminal activities — in violation of U.S. law — by providing cash, vehicles and other financial assistance as insurance against attacks on their employees and facilities in the South American nation.
But only one such company — Chiquita Brands International Inc. — has been charged criminally in the United States. Now, a showdown is looming that pits some members of Congress against the Justice Department and the multinationals — including an American coal-mining company and Coca-Cola bottlers.
The lawmakers say that, in the cases of U.S. corporations in Colombia, the Justice Department has failed to adequately enforce U.S. laws that make it a crime to knowingly provide material support or resources to a foreign terrorist organization — and they have opened their own investigation.
Rep. Bill Delahunt (D-Mass.), who is leading the effort, has questioned whether the Bush administration is putting the interests of U.S. conglomerates ahead of its counter-terrorism agenda.
Even the plea agreement reached with Chiquita in March — in which it acknowledged making the illegal payments — has been criticized as far too lenient by many outside legal experts and some high-ranking Justice Department prosecutors.
"I think they've escaped any kind of appropriate sanctions," Delahunt said in an interview last week. [...]
"Do our economic interests trump the war on terror? Are we making trade-offs?" Delahunt asked. "If we are, at the very least the public should know about it."
Lance Compa, an international trade specialist at Cornell University's School of Industrial and Labor Relations, acknowledged that there were many competing priorities in Colombia.
"But the general proposition that gross human rights violations should be weighed against trade policy and foreign policy is a mistake," Compa said. "The paramilitaries have infiltrated the highest levels of the [Colombian] government, and the Bush administration is looking the other way.
"It makes it all the more incumbent on U.S. policymakers to put a stop to any corporate dealings with paramilitary death squads." [Emphasis added]
A particularly glaring example of a general and fundamental problem: it is the essential nature of corporations to pursue their own selfish interests, but what's good for an individual corporation is very often bad for the rest of us. Which is another way of saying that the market cannot, all by itself, lead corporations to do what's good — or at least not harmful — for the country and for humanity. Like it or not, extra-market constraints are required — which is to say, government regulation. That assumes, of course, that the government is willing to enforce its own regulations, something that it no longer seems willing to do given the pervasive influence of corporate money in US politics.
It's not an inconsequential matter. We're talking about death squads here.
|Unfair, Unbalanced, Unhinged||Environment Media|
This really ticks me off:
Millions of people get their version of reality from Fox News. Not a trivial matter. Garbage in, garbage out.
Time to make their advertisers pay.
Petition (and more videos) here.
|© Kent Tenney|
The view out Gumpa's back door.
|Today's Bush Joke||Humor & Fun|
But even if the administration is suggesting that the current resurgence of al Qaeda in Pakistan and Iraq is proof that we were right to go into Iraq, how can they deny it was the removal of our troops from Afghanistan to go to Iraq that caused the chaos allowing al Qaeda to come back in the first place? [on screen: WH Homeland Security Adviser Fran Townsend saying the administration is not able to judge if al Qaeda has increased its numbers in Iraq from pre-war levels]. So that's how they can deny it? They can play retarded: how could we know how much al Qaeda was in Iraq before the invasion when we didn't know shit about Iraq when we went in? — Jon Stewart
July 23, 2007
|UNICEF: Catastrophic Conditions For Iraq's Children||Iraq|
Conditions for children in Iraq have deteriorated sharply in recent years as their humanitarian plight has fallen largely into neglect, a senior UNICEF official said Monday.
"I have no doubt whatsoever that the condition today is much worse," Dan Toole, acting deputy executive director of the UN Children's Fund, told journalists after being asked for a comparison with the situation under Saddam Hussein's regime.
"Children who have had to flee Iraq — and millions have fled — are much worse off than a year ago and they certainly are much worse off than they were three years ago," he added.
Toole said there were signs that the health and nutrition for Iraqi children was "changing for the worst", despite recently released two-year-old indicators that had shown signs of an improvement.
UNICEF said the information gleaned from people leaving Iraq, and from the agency's "quite limited" access within the country, indicated that the number of female-headed households has increased "dramatically" because mostly men have been killed in the violence there.
"Many of those women are too frightened to bring their children to health clinics, many are too frightened to send their children to school," he added
Only two-thirds of Iraqis have access to clean water, according to UNICEF.
"My concern is that the focus on Iraq is on the political situation, the security situation, it is not on the lives of Iraqis living day in, day out, with deprivation, with lack of food, with lack of medical supplies," he said.
"That says something about the attention of the world, the attention of our leaders," Toole added, urging a greater focus on the impact on children.
UNICEF says its aid programmes for children in Iraq have only received about one-third of the funding they need. [Emphasis added]
These things are happening in a real place, to real people. Imagine if they were your children. Iraqis may never forgive us. Can you blame them?
Imagine if everyone in the world had access to a quality education, quality books, quality tools. So much human potential waiting to be unleashed. Which is why the One Laptop Per Child project should have tectonic effects. It's not the computer so much as the Internet access it brings, which, in turn, opens up access to the knowledge of all humanity.
Cause for joy.
|Diversity||Humor & Fun|
|© Kent Tenney|
|Today's Bush Joke||Humor & Fun|
Many people have criticized the Bush administration's strategy in the global war on terror. Their plan has always been to take the fight to al Qaeda and slowly, but surely destroy them. So, Mr. President, if you had to sum up your strategy? [on screen: Bush saying al Qaeda has been weakened]. Well, Tuesday saw the release of the latest war on terror progress report, a new National Intelligence Estimate on the terrorist threat to the homeland. It says al Qaeda has re-established its central organization, gained a safe haven in Pakistan, and rather than being hurt by the war in Iraq, has been instead "energized" by it and helped Osama bin Laden to recruit and raise funds. But most important about the NIE? It proves once and for all why we must stay in Iraq [on screen: Bush saying, "The same folks that are bombing innocent people in Iraq were the ones who attacked us in America on September 11th"]. The same folks? First of all, what exactly do you have to do to people to lose your colloquial status as "folks"? — Jon Stewart
July 22, 2007
|NYT: Harry Potter Not A Best Seller||Media|
I read the first Harry Potter and stopped there. But I know plenty of bookish adults who are avid fans of the series. Some have read each book multiple times.
But apparently the grinches at the New York Times, pressured by publishers whose own books were blown out of the water by J. K. Rowling's, decided to categorize the Potter books as children's books to keep them off the influential NYT Bestseller list. In fact, they're not even on the main children's list; they're relegated to the Series Books subsection of the Children's List.
So the publishing phenomenon of all time is officially not a NYT Bestseller. Not earth-shaking, obviously, but not very sporting, either. Kind of dumb, really.
|© Kent Tenney|
|Today's Bush Joke||Humor & Fun|
John McCain isn't the only candidate out there who is suffering. Over the weekend, former Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore announced he was dropping out of the race for the Republican nomination for president. His departure strikes a severe blow to his party's diversity. Of the nine white Christian men running, Gilmore was the only one with a wife named Roxanne. We no longer have that choice. — Stephen Colbert
July 21, 2007
|© Kent Tenney|
|Today's Bush Joke||Humor & Fun|
A lot of conservatives on radio and TV are now claiming Republican Senator David Vitter is not a hypocrite for talking about the sanctity of marriage while cheating on his wife with prostitutes. So exactly what would you have to do — have sex with the hooker while apologizing to your wife on TV? — Jay Leno
July 20, 2007
|WH To Bar US Attorneys From Prosecuting WH Officials For Contempt||Politics Rights, Law|
Prepare to be shocked. As Congress prepares to initiate contempt charges against several White House officials in the US attorneys firing case, the White House has announced that it will prohibit any US attorney from pursuing such a case. Congress can issue all the charges it wants, and the Justice Department will simply ignore them. No matter what Federal law says. WaPo:
Bush administration officials unveiled a bold new assertion of executive authority yesterday in the dispute over the firing of nine U.S. attorneys, saying that the Justice Department will never be allowed to pursue contempt charges initiated by Congress against White House officials once the president has invoked executive privilege. [...]
Under federal law, a statutory contempt citation by the House or Senate must be submitted to the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, "whose duty it shall be to bring the matter before the grand jury for its action."
But administration officials argued yesterday that Congress has no power to force a U.S. attorney to pursue contempt charges in cases, such as the prosecutor firings, in which the president has declared that testimony or documents are protected from release by executive privilege. Officials pointed to a Justice Department legal opinion during the Reagan administration, which made the same argument in a case that was never resolved by the courts.
"A U.S. attorney would not be permitted to bring contempt charges or convene a grand jury in an executive privilege case," said a senior official, who said his remarks reflect a consensus within the administration. "And a U.S. attorney wouldn't be permitted to argue against the reasoned legal opinion that the Justice Department provided. No one should expect that to happen."
The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the issue publicly, added: "It has long been understood that, in circumstances like these, the constitutional prerogatives of the president would make it a futile and purely political act for Congress to refer contempt citations to U.S. attorneys."
Mark J. Rozell, a professor of public policy at George Mason University who has written a book on executive-privilege issues, called the administration's stance "astonishing."
"That's a breathtakingly broad view of the president's role in this system of separation of powers," Rozell said. "What this statement is saying is the president's claim of executive privilege trumps all."
The administration's statement is a dramatic attempt to seize the upper hand in an escalating constitutional battle with Congress, which has been trying for months, without success, to compel White House officials to testify and to turn over documents about their roles in the prosecutor firings last year. The Justice Department and White House in recent weeks have been discussing when and how to disclose the stance, and the official said he decided yesterday that it was time to highlight it.
Yesterday, a House Judiciary subcommittee voted to lay the groundwork for contempt proceedings against White House chief of staff Joshua B. Bolten, following a similar decision last week against former White House counsel Harriet E. Miers. [...]
Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) called it "an outrageous abuse of executive privilege" and said: "The White House must stop stonewalling and start being accountable to Congress and the American people. No one, including the president, is above the law."
Sen. Charles E. Schumer (N.Y.) said the administration is "hastening a constitutional crisis," and Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) said the position "makes a mockery of the ideal that no one is above the law."
Waxman added: "I suppose the next step would be just disbanding the Justice Department."
Under long-established procedures and laws, the House and Senate can each pursue two kinds of criminal contempt proceedings, and the Senate also has a civil contempt option. The first, called statutory contempt, has been the avenue most frequently pursued in modern times, and is the one that requires a referral to the U.S. attorney in the District.
Both chambers also have an "inherent contempt" power, allowing either body to hold its own trials and even jail those found in defiance of Congress. Although widely used during the 19th century, the power has not been invoked since 1934 and Democratic lawmakers have not displayed an appetite for reviving the practice. [...]
Rozell, the George Mason professor and authority on executive privilege, said the administration's stance "is almost Nixonian in its scope and breadth of interpreting its power. Congress has no recourse at all, in the president's view. ... It's allowing the executive to define the scope and limits of its own powers." [Emphasis added]
Almost Nixonian? Even Nixon didn't go this far. And remember what happened to him.
There are very strange things happening in this country, but because they're happening in relative slow motion and don't make for exciting video, they are escaping most people's notice. But it's not good.
Policy Pete points us to a speech by James B. Lockhart III, director of OFHEO, the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight — no, I hadn't heard of it either. OFHEO's job is to oversee Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the "government-sponsored enterprises" that together own a staggering amount of mortgage debt in the US. As Pete says,
OFHEO is a sad case. Nearly every press release, issued with minimal clutter, even austerity, is a sad cry for help: "...won't somebody please look at this frightening report we're sending to you. Yes, we know it is scary and we know we can't do a damn thing about it even though you probably think we are trying to do something, only we can't because our hands are tied."
The problem is the sheer scale of the debt involved. Lockhart:
These Enterprises are huge. To put their size in perspective, as of March 31, the combination of the mortgage-backed securities (MBS) that they guarantee ($3.0 trillion) and their debt outstanding ($1.5 trillion) totaled $4.5 trillion; not that much smaller than the publicly held debt of the U.S. of $5.1 trillion.
Got that? The mortgage debt they own is almost as big as the entire national debt of the federal government. It's a big number.
Too much of that debt is in danger now because of the slowdown in housing and the resetting of adjustable-rate mortgages. Lenders have been taking unreasonable risks, irrationally hoping the housing bubble would last forever. But here's where things stand:
How big are the numbers we're talking about here? A million seconds is 11 and a half days. A billion seconds is 32 years. A trillion seconds is 32 thousand years. 4.5 trillion seconds? 142 thousand years. So if we pay it off at a rate of a dollar a second...
Have a nice day.
|Lying Liars' Lies||9/11, "War On Terror" Iraq Politics|
As they say, if you're not pissed off, you're not paying attention.
Well, this should help:
A nation of suckers, that's us.
|© Kent Tenney|
|Today's Bush Joke||Humor & Fun|
The Republicans were saying, "Pulling out the troops in 120 days would lead to chaos in Iraq." And I'm thinking, "Well, hell, chaos would be an improvement." — David Letterman
July 19, 2007
|Iraq Vets Speak||Iraq|
Chris Hedges and Laila al-Arian have a piece in The Nation that pulls together a number of accounts told them by Iraq veterans. It's a long piece (21 pages printed out), but an important read. As Gwynne Dyer wrote, "In anti-colonial guerrilla wars, the locals always win." Here we see why. I've excerpted some snippets below:
"I guess while I was there, the general attitude was, A dead Iraqi is just another dead Iraqi," said Spc. Jeff Englehart, 26, of Grand Junction, Colorado..."You know, so what?... The soldiers honestly thought we were trying to help the people and they were mad because it was almost like a betrayal. Like here we are trying to help you, here I am, you know, thousands of miles away from home and my family, and I have to be here for a year and work every day on these missions. Well, we're trying to help you and you just turn around and try to kill us." [...]
Fighting in densely populated urban areas has led to the indiscriminate use of force and the deaths at the hands of occupation troops of thousands of innocents.
Many of these veterans returned home deeply disturbed by the disparity between the reality of the war and the way it is portrayed by the US government and American media. The war the vets described is a dark and even depraved enterprise, one that bears a powerful resemblance to other misguided and brutal colonial wars and occupations, from the French occupation of Algeria to the American war in Vietnam and the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory. [...]
Much of the resentment toward Iraqis described to The Nation by veterans was confirmed in a report released May 4 by the Pentagon. According to the survey, conducted by the Office of the Surgeon General of the US Army Medical Command, just 47 percent of soldiers and 38 percent of marines agreed that civilians should be treated with dignity and respect. Only 55 percent of soldiers and 40 percent of marines said they would report a unit member who had killed or injured "an innocent noncombatant." [...]
The mounting frustration of fighting an elusive enemy and the devastating effect of roadside bombs, with their steady toll of American dead and wounded, led many troops to declare an open war on all Iraqis.
Veterans described reckless firing once they left their compounds. Some shot holes into cans of gasoline being sold along the roadside and then tossed grenades into the pools of gas to set them ablaze. Others opened fire on children. These shootings often enraged Iraqi witnesses. [...]
The American forces, stymied by poor intelligence, invade neighborhoods where insurgents operate, bursting into homes in the hope of surprising fighters or finding weapons. But such catches, they said, are rare. Far more common were stories in which soldiers assaulted a home, destroyed property in their futile search and left terrorized civilians struggling to repair the damage and begin the long torment of trying to find family members who were hauled away as suspects. [...]
"You go up the stairs. You grab the man of the house. You rip him out of bed in front of his wife. You put him up against the wall. You have junior-level troops, PFCs [privates first class], specialists will run into the other rooms and grab the family, and you'll group them all together. Then you go into a room and you tear the room to shreds and you make sure there's no weapons or anything that they can use to attack us.
"You get the interpreter and you get the man of the home, and you have him at gunpoint, and you'll ask the interpreter to ask him: 'Do you have any weapons? Do you have any anti-US propaganda, anything at all--anything--anything in here that would lead us to believe that you are somehow involved in insurgent activity or anti-coalition forces activity?'
"Normally they'll say no, because that's normally the truth," Sergeant Bruhns said. "So what you'll do is you'll take his sofa cushions and you'll dump them. If he has a couch, you'll turn the couch upside down. You'll go into the fridge, if he has a fridge, and you'll throw everything on the floor, and you'll take his drawers and you'll dump them.... You'll open up his closet and you'll throw all the clothes on the floor and basically leave his house looking like a hurricane just hit it.
"And if you find something, then you'll detain him. If not, you'll say, 'Sorry to disturb you. Have a nice evening.' So you've just humiliated this man in front of his entire family and terrorized his entire family and you've destroyed his home. And then you go right next door and you do the same thing in a hundred homes." [...]
"We scared the living Jesus out of them every time we went through every house," he said. [...]
In the thousand or so raids he conducted during his time in Iraq, Sergeant Westphal said, he came into contact with only four "hard-core insurgents." [...]
"They were so sick and nervous. And sometimes, they were peeing on themselves. Can you imagine if people could just come into your house and take you in front of your family screaming? And if you actually were innocent but had no way to prove that? It would be a scary, scary thing." [...]
Spc. Patrick Resta...recalled his supervisor telling his platoon point-blank, "The Geneva Conventions don't exist at all in Iraq, and that's in writing if you want to see it." [...]
American troops in Iraq lacked the training and support to communicate with or even understand Iraqi civilians...Few spoke or read Arabic. They were offered little or no cultural or historical education about the country they controlled. Translators were either in short supply or unqualified. Any stereotypes about Islam and Arabs that soldiers and marines arrived with tended to solidify rapidly in the close confines of the military and the risky streets of Iraqi cities into a crude racism. [...]
In Iraq, Specialist Middleton said, "a lot of guys really supported that whole concept that, you know, if they don't speak English and they have darker skin, they're not as human as us, so we can do what we want." [...]
Iraqi culture, identity and customs were, according to at least a dozen soldiers and marines interviewed by The Nation, openly ridiculed in racist terms, with troops deriding "haji food," "haji music" and "haji homes." In the Muslim world, the word "haji" denotes someone who has made the pilgrimage to Mecca. But it is now used by American troops in the same way "gook" was used in Vietnam or "raghead" in Afghanistan. [...]
"We were told from the first second that we arrived there, and this was in writing on the wall in our aid station, that we were not to treat Iraqi civilians unless they were about to die..." [...]
[W]hen [convoys] of vehicles left their heavily fortified compounds they usually roared down the main supply routes, which often cut through densely populated areas, reaching speeds over sixty miles an hour. Governed by the rule that stagnation increases the likelihood of attack, convoys leapt meridians in traffic jams, ignored traffic signals, swerved without warning onto sidewalks, scattering pedestrians, and slammed into civilian vehicles, shoving them off the road. Iraqi civilians, including children, were frequently run over and killed. Veterans said they sometimes shot drivers of civilian cars that moved into convoy formations or attempted to pass convoys as a warning to other drivers to get out of the way. [...]
Following an explosion or ambush, soldiers in the heavily armed escort vehicles often fired indiscriminately in a furious effort to suppress further attacks, according to three veterans. The rapid bursts from belt-fed .50-caliber machine guns and SAWs (Squad Automatic Weapons, which can fire as many as 1,000 rounds per minute) left many civilians wounded or dead. [...]
Convoys did not slow down or attempt to brake when civilians inadvertently got in front of their vehicles. [...]
"...basically, your order is that you never stop." [...]
Soldiers and marines who participated in neighborhood patrols said they often used the same tactics as convoys — speed, aggressive firing — to reduce the risk of being ambushed or falling victim to IEDs. Sgt. Patrick Campbell, 29, of Camarillo, California, who frequently took part in patrols, said his unit fired often and without much warning on Iraqi civilians in a desperate bid to ward off attacks.
"Every time we got on the highway," he said, "we were firing warning shots, causing accidents all the time. Cars screeching to a stop, going into the other intersection.... The problem is, if you slow down at an intersection more than once, that's where the next bomb is going to be because you know they watch. You know? And so if you slow down at the same choke point every time, guaranteed there's going to be a bomb there next couple of days. So getting onto a freeway or highway is a choke point 'cause you have to wait for traffic to stop. So you want to go as fast as you can, and that involves added risk to all the cars around you, all the civilian cars.
"The first Iraqi I saw killed was an Iraqi who got too close to our patrol," he said. "We were coming up an on-ramp. And he was coming down the highway. And they fired warning shots and he just didn't stop. He just merged right into the convoy and they opened up on him." [...]
The killing of unarmed Iraqis was so common many of the troops said it became an accepted part of the daily landscape. [...]
The US military checkpoints dotted across Iraq...were often deadly for civilians. [...]
Sergeant Mejía recounted an incident in Ramadi in July 2003 when an unarmed man drove with his young son too close to a checkpoint. The father was decapitated in front of the small, terrified boy by a member of Sergeant Mejía's unit firing a heavy .50-caliber machine gun. By then, said Sergeant Mejía, who responded to the scene after the fact, "this sort of killing of civilians had long ceased to arouse much interest or even comment." [...]
"This unit sets up this traffic control point, and this 18-year-old kid is on top of an armored Humvee with a .50-caliber machine gun," he said. "This car speeds at him pretty quick and he makes a split-second decision that that's a suicide bomber, and he presses the butterfly trigger and puts 200 rounds in less than a minute into this vehicle. It killed the mother, a father and two kids. The boy was aged 4 and the daughter was aged 3. And they briefed this to the general. And they briefed it gruesome. I mean, they had pictures. They briefed it to him. And this colonel turns around to this full division staff and says, 'If these fucking hajis learned to drive, this shit wouldn't happen.'" [...]
Rules of Engagement
Some said they were simply told they were authorized to shoot if they felt threatened..."Basically it always came down to self-defense and better them than you..." [...]
"Cover your own butt was the first rule of engagement," Lieutenant Van Engelen confirmed. "Someone could look at me the wrong way and I could claim my safety was in threat." [...]
Sergeant Flatt recounted one incident in Mosul in January 2005 when an elderly couple zipped past a checkpoint. "The car was approaching what was in my opinion a very poorly marked checkpoint, or not even a checkpoint at all, and probably didn't even see the soldiers," he said. "The guys got spooked and decided it was a possible threat, so they shot up the car. And they literally sat in the car for the next three days while we drove by them day after day." [Emphasis added]
Let's say, for the sake of argument, that when the US military went into Vietnam, they didn't know any better, at least not at first — for the sake of argument. What conceivable excuse is there this time? And yet here they are, taking the same evil, stupid path of least resistance. They will kill uncounted numbers of Iraqis, lay waste to a country, and it will all end in failure — and they don't care. Doing things correctly, carefully, judiciously, humanely is just too hard. Instead they careen around, running over civilians, ransacking homes, shooting up the countryside. And they wonder why people want them gone.
This time there can be no excuse. Knowing what we know and doing these things anyway — it's unspeakable. It's evil. And incredibly, incredibly dumb.
|© Kent Tenney|
|Today's Bush Joke||Humor & Fun|
The L.A. Catholic archdiocese has agreed to pay a $660 million settlement in a sexual lawsuit against Catholic priests. $660 million? Yet, nobody goes to jail and they just get to write a check. Who do these priests think they are — Scooter Libby? — Jay Leno
July 18, 2007
|That "Senior Leader Of Al Qaeda In Iraq"||Iraq Politics|
It was all over the news today: the US military captured a senior al Qaeda in Iraq leader. CNN:
The U.S. military on Wednesday announced the arrest of a senior leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, an insurgent who, the military said, is casting himself as a "conduit" between the top leaders of al Qaeda and al Qaeda in Iraq.
But, in case you missed it, here's a little detail that didn't make the headlines: the guy was captured two weeks ago (July 4) and they only announced it today. He's supposedly this super-important al Qaeda guy, the "conduit" between global al Qaeda and al Qaeda in Iraq, the demonstration of a significant link between Bin Laden and the insurgency, a supposed proof of something the administration has been dying to establish forever. And they only thought to mention it today.
Yesterday, it was the National Intelligence Estimate that trumpeted the al Qaeda threat. Today, it's this. Neatly timed to take the Republican filibuster of the Senate vote on a troop drawdown and blow it off the front pages. Funny how that works.
|Mr. Wind Tells His Story||Energy|
As a companion piece to the previous post, here's a wonderful little fantasy from Germany (via Yoga Coffee Outlook):
|Dutch Study: Wind To Outcompete Nuclear||Energy|
A study undertaken on behalf of the Dutch government concludes that wind power will soon replace nuclear as the fossil fuel replacement that makes the most economic sense. Groovy Green:
A report commissioned in the Netherlands and leaked to a Dutch newspaper confirms that wind power will quickly replace nuclear energy as the fossil fuel alternative of choice. The researchers concluded that not only will technological advances in the coming years make wind financially competitive but also security costs tied to nuclear energy will further add to the value. From the article,According to the report by the Energy Research Centre (ECN), the cost price of electricity production – around 6.6 euro-cents per kilowatt hour – is already comparable.
However nuclear power is more expensive if the additional costs of security against terrorist attacks is taken into account. Meanwhile technological advancement will make wind power increasingly cheaper in the coming years.
The report was commissioned by one of the social and economic council (SER), one of the government's most important advisory bodies, which is currently looking into whether the Netherlands should expand its nuclear power production. It currently has just one plant located at Borssele.
Very interesting. Obviously, wind power is dependent on geographic conditions to function properly — but as efficiency and technology increase, the idea of wind farms as safe and reliable alternative to nuclear power will start to make financial and social sense. Will this do anything to squash the debate over nuclear as the energy source of the future? Absolutely not. That industry is still pushing ahead with plans to increase safety, find solutions to waste disposal, and position itself to be a major player in the future energy needs of the world. Efficiency, safety, and especially cost will ultimately decide which industry will lead.
Wind has so much going for it. It's decentralized, it's clean, it's renewable (nuclear fuel is not), and it poses no risk as a terrorism target or source of nuclear weapons material. Wind farms are a thing of beauty, a monument to a better, saner future. Can't wait to see more of them.
|© Kent Tenney|
|Today's Bush Joke||Humor & Fun|
Imagine my surprise when I come back to work and find out that the president of the United States commuted Scooter Libby's sentence. How little does the president care what you think about that? [on screen: Bush saying it was a "fair and balanced" decision]. He's literally just using Fox News' slogan now. Here's the thing about the phrase "fair and balanced" — the president means it just as much as Fox does. But obviously the top story while we were gone had to be the war in Iraq. As you know, we are now entering our fifth year of making very good progress in Iraq. Obviously, the president defining progress now as "moving forward through time." But this spring, Congress finally asked the president for some specifics about our progress and its level of goodness. They required him to submit regular reports, and our first report card is in [on screen: Bush saying the Iraqis have made progress on eight of 18 benchmarks]. Yes! There you have it — eight of 18. Otherwise known as a "Gentleman's F." — Jon Stewart
July 17, 2007
Stop what you're doing and go watch this. Complete and utter insanity. Vicious, pointless, criminal insanity. The curse of being born in a country that sits on one of the last great oil reserves in the desperate twilight of the Age of Oil.
While US politicians posture, it goes on and on and on. Shame on us all for not making it stop.
|USAF Steps Up Iraq Operations||Iran Iraq|
Air power cannot defeat the insurgency in Iraq. It's a blunt instrument that inevitably kills non-combatants (i.e., people like you and me), alienating the few remaining Iraqis who don't already hate US forces. For the US military, though, it's seductive; it seems like an easy technological fix to an otherwise insoluble problem. But it cannot, will not, work. Vietnam taught us that. Even so, the US Air Force is ramping up Iraq operations in a big way. AP (via Cryptogon):
Away from the headlines and debate over the "surge" in U.S. ground troops, the Air Force has quietly built up its hardware inside Iraq, sharply stepped up bombing and laid a foundation for a sustained air campaign in support of American and Iraqi forces.
Squadrons of attack planes have been added to the in-country fleet. The air reconnaissance arm has almost doubled since last year. The powerful B1-B bomber has been recalled to action over Iraq. [...]
Inside spacious, air-conditioned "Kingpin," a new air traffic control center at this huge Air Force hub 50 miles north of Baghdad, the expanded commitment can be seen on the central display screen: Small points of light represent more than 100 aircraft crisscrossing Iraqi air space at any one time. [...]
Early this year, with little fanfare, the Air Force sent a squadron of A-10 "Warthog" attack planes — a dozen or more aircraft — to be based at Al-Asad Air Base in western Iraq. At the same time it added a squadron of F-16C Fighting Falcons here at Balad. Although some had flown missions over Iraq from elsewhere in the region, the additions doubled to 50 or more the number of workhorse fighter-bomber jets available at bases inside the country, closer to the action.
The reinforcement involved more than numbers. The new F-16Cs were the first of the advanced "Block 50" version to fly in Iraq, an aircraft whose technology includes a cockpit helmet that enables the pilot to aim his weapons at a target simply by turning his head and looking at it.
The Navy has contributed by stationing a second aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf, and the reintroduction of B1-Bs has added a close-at-hand "platform" capable of carrying 24 tons of bombs.
Those big bombers were moved last year from distant Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean to an undisclosed base in the Persian Gulf. Since February, with the ground offensive, they have gone on Iraq bombing runs for the first time since the 2003 invasion. [...]
The demand for air support is heavy. On one recent day, at a briefing attended by a reporter, it was noted that 48 requests for air support were filled, but 16 went unmet.
"There are times when the Army wishes we had more jets," said F-16C pilot Lt. Col. Steve Williams, commander of the 13th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron, a component of Balad's 379th Air Expeditionary Wing.
In addition, the Air Force is performing more "ISR" work in Iraq — intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. "We have probably come close to doubling our ISR platforms the past 12 months," said Col. Gary Crowder, a deputy air operations chief for the Central Command.
Those proliferating reconnaissance platforms include Predator drones, high-flying U2s and AWACS, the technology-packed airborne warning and control aircraft, three of which returned to the Persian Gulf in April after three years' absence.
The F-16Cs and other attack planes also do surveillance work with their targeting cameras, keeping watch on convoy routes, for example. By Oct. 1, Crowder said, all squadrons will have "ROVER" capability, able to download real-time aerial video to the laptop computers of troops on the ground — showing them, in effect, what's around the next corner.
"They love it. It's like having a security camera wherever you want it," said Col. Joe Guastella, the Air Force's regional operations chief.
Air Force engineers, meanwhile, are improving this centrally located home base, which supports some 10,000 air operations per week.
The weaker of Balad's two 11,000-foot runways was reinforced — for five to seven years' more hard use. The engineers next will build concrete "overruns" at the runways' ends. Balad's strategic ramp, the concrete parking lot for its biggest planes, was expanded last fall. The air traffic control system is to be upgraded again with the latest technology.
"We'd like to get it to be a field like Langley, if you will," said mission support chief Reynolds, referring to the Air Force showcase base in Virginia.
The Air Force has flown over Iraq for many years, having enforced "no-fly zones" with the Navy in 1991-2003, banning Iraqi aircraft from northern and southern areas of this country. Today, too, it takes a long view: Many expect the Army to draw down its Iraq forces by 2009, but the Air Force is planning for a continued conflict in which it supports Iraqi troops.
"Until we can determine that the Iraqis have got their air force to sufficient capability, I think the coalition will be here to support that effort," Lt. Gen. Gary North, overall regional air commander, said in an interview. The new Iraqi air force thus far fields only a handful of transports and reconnaissance aircraft — no attack planes.
North also echoed a common theme in today's Air Force: Some of the U.S. planes are too old. Some of his KC-135 air-refueling tankers date from 1956. Heavy use in Iraq and Afghanistan is cracking the wings of some A-10s, the Air Force says.
"We are burning these airplanes out," North said. "Our A-10s and our F-16s are rapidly becoming legacy systems." [Emphasis added]
One thing is clear: the US does not plan on pulling out its warplanes any time soon. Far from ramping down the air presence, they are busily ramping it up, building new facilities, adding aircraft.
And what in the world are long-range B-1B bombers, which cost something like a third of a billion dollars each, doing flying close air support against insurgents with AK-47s and homemade bombs? I hope the following story isn't a clue. Deutsche Welle (via Cryptogon):
The Ramstein air base in southwestern Germany, long the largest US nuclear storehouse in Europe, has been completely emptied of its atomic arsenal according to experts who say the weapons are out of the country.
This week the Washington-based Federation of American Scientists (FAS) said in a study that the US army had apparently completely removed its stock of an estimated 130 nuclear weapons from the Ramstein air base. [Emphasis added]
B-1B bombers and a bunch of repurposed nukes. Please say this has nothing to do with Iran.
|© Kent Tenney|
|Today's Bush Joke||Humor & Fun|
President Bush held a press conference yesterday to discuss the latest report out of Iraq. He says there's plenty of reason for optimism — although I'm starting to get the feeling he doesn't know what that word means. — Jimmy Kimmel
July 16, 2007
|Guardian: Attack On Iran Gaining Favor In White House||Iran|
According to a report in the Guardian, Cheney has Bush leaning toward an attack on Iran before he leaves office. Excerpts:
The balance in the internal White House debate over Iran has shifted back in favour of military action before President George Bush leaves office in 18 months, the Guardian has learned.
The shift follows an internal review involving the White House, the Pentagon and the state department over the last month. Although the Bush administration is in deep trouble over Iraq, it remains focused on Iran. A well-placed source in Washington said: "Bush is not going to leave office with Iran still in limbo."
The White House claims that Iran, whose influence in the Middle East has increased significantly over the last six years, is intent on building a nuclear weapon and is arming insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The vice-president, Dick Cheney, has long favoured upping the threat of military action against Iran. He is being resisted by the secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, and the defence secretary, Robert Gates.
Last year Mr Bush came down in favour of Ms Rice, who along with Britain, France and Germany has been putting a diplomatic squeeze on Iran. But at a meeting of the White House, Pentagon and state department last month, Mr Cheney expressed frustration at the lack of progress and Mr Bush sided with him. "The balance has tilted. There is cause for concern," the source said this week.
Nick Burns, the undersecretary of state responsible for Iran and a career diplomat who is one of the main advocates of negotiation, told the meeting it was likely that diplomatic manoeuvring would still be continuing in January 2009. That assessment went down badly with Mr Cheney and Mr Bush.
"Cheney has limited capital left, but if he wanted to use all his capital on this one issue, he could still have an impact," said Patrick Cronin, the director of studies at the International Institute for Strategic Studies.
The Washington source said Mr Bush and Mr Cheney did not trust any potential successors in the White House, Republican or Democratic, to deal with Iran decisively. They are also reluctant for Israel to carry out any strikes because the US would get the blame in the region anyway.
"The red line is not in Iran. The red line is in Israel. If Israel is adamant it will attack, the US will have to take decisive action," Mr Cronin said. "The choices are: tell Israel no, let Israel do the job, or do the job yourself."
Almost half of the US's 277 warships are stationed close to Iran, including two aircraft carrier groups. The aircraft carrier USS Enterprise left Virginia last week for the Gulf. A Pentagon spokesman said it was to replace the USS Nimitz and there would be no overlap that would mean three carriers in Gulf at the same time. [Emphasis added]
It's impossible to know if a story of this kind is to be taken at face value: it may be a leak meant to pressure Iran. And if this were any other White House, you'd have to think the idea of a war with Iran is just too crazy for them to contemplate. But it's not any other White House. When has crazy stopped them before?
|How The News Works||Humor & Fun Iran Iraq Media|
This is excellent.
|© Kent Tenney|
|Today's Bush Joke||Humor & Fun|
Republican Senator and family values conservative — that's what he calls himself — Senator David Vitter of Louisiana admitted he was a client of the so called DC Madam in Washington...You gotta go on his website, he's like Mr. Religious, Mr. Family Values. Well now a second madam has come forward and told the Associated Press that he was also a customer at her brothel. This guy was cheating on his hooker with another hooker. And this madam says that Vitter was not only having sex with the prostitutes — this is unbelievable — he would also pay them to dress him up in a diaper. See, that's what you call a pampered politician. And she also said today in an interview that he sometimes paid $300 an hour just to have the hookers talk to him because his wife didn't listen to him. Well, I bet she's all ears now. — Jay Leno
There's another one of those prostitution scandals down there in Washington, DC. Louisiana Senator David Vitter admitted that he's been visiting Washington area prostitutes. And I thought about this, "Whoa, wait a minute, a politician, paying for a hooker? I didn't see that coming." But good for Vitter, he said that it did not cost the taxpayers a cent. He pays for the hookers with his bribe money. — David Letterman
July 06, 2007
Going on vacation in the Keweenah Peninsula of Michigan through next week. Posts will be sporadic, at best. Talk among yourselves, and I'll see you when we get back.
July 05, 2007
|Despicable||Extremism Politics War and Peace|
Go read this, and follow its links.
These are very dangerous, very despicable people. Absolute lunatics.
|Making Do In Uganda||Development|
A remarkable and hopeful feature of technology adoption in the Third World is the ability of Third World countries to "leapfrog." For example, where First World countries had to go through a lengthy (and enormously expensive) period of building out telephone land lines, Third World countries can go directly to cell phones.
In many poor countries, however, considerable ingenuity is required. What do you do, for example, when there is no electrical service? Future Perfect (via OilDrum) has some unforgettable photos from Uganda.
You've got a cell phone, how do you keep it charged?
Street vendor providing cell phone charging services in Kampala: PowerPoint PDF
How do you get electricity to use at home?
Rural battery charging service PowerPoint PDF
What if people are too poor to afford their own phones?
Village phone, Uganda: PowerPoint PDF
Follow the links and see all the photos. The gap between rich countries and poor ones is simply staggering.
|Oil Back Above $70 Per Barrel||Peak Oil|
As I write this, crude oil is at $71.73 a barrel.
|© Kent Tenney|
|Today's Bush Joke||Humor & Fun|
The price of milk is going up. Some experts say it could hit $4 a gallon. In fact, President Bush said today if the price of milk continues to rise, we may have to invade Wisconsin. — Jay Leno
July 03, 2007
|Bad News On Climate — Again||Environment Science/Technology|
Scientific papers tend to have a limited audience, but here's one that deserves to be front page news all over the world. James Hansen, head of NASA's Goddard Institute and one of the world's foremost climate scientists, is lead author of a new study that concludes that the recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), alarming as it was, may have been, in George Monbiot's words, "absurdly optimistic."
As we have noted here many times (for example, here), the most ominous global warming scenarios involve positive feedback loops that make GW self-reinforcing. The thawing of Siberian permafrost, for example, releases methane, a potent greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere — which causes further warming, which causes further thawing, and so on. Hansen et al look at the data on past ice ages and warming periods and conclude that such positive feedbacks make the earth's climate far more sensitive to climate "forcings" (i.e., things like greenhouse gases that upset the balance between the energy the Earth receives from the sun and the energy it radiates back out to space) than previously thought.
When major warming has occurred in the past, it has happened quite suddenly — on a scale of centuries or even decades, rather than millenia — because of the accelerating effects of positive feedback loops. A primary source of this abruptness is the sudden shift that occurs when ice changes phase — i.e., when it melts. When ice becomes wet, it suddenly reflects much less energy than before. The change in its reflectivity, or "albedo," means that more energy is absorbed, which causes more melting, in turn causing more of an "albedo flip," etc., etc. Self-reinforcing. Instead of a linear, gradual change, positive feedback creates a nonlinear system where change happens suddenly. Ice sheets melt, sea levels rise, and quickly.
The IPCC warned that sea levels could rise by as much two feet in the coming century as the West Antarctic ice sheet begins to melt. The melting of the entire ice sheet, though, they projected to take millenia. But according to Hansen et al, the IPCC view is inconsistent both with data on past climate changes ("paleoclimate" data) and with current observations. Ice sheets become unstable and break up suddenly. Hansen et al say it's "implausible" under a business-as-usual scenario (i.e., if humanity stays on its current course with respect to emissions) that the West Antarctic ice sheet would even survive the century. They're talking about the possibility of sea level rises of 75 feet or more.
Here's an excerpt from the paper's abstract:
Palaeoclimate data show that the Earth's climate is remarkably sensitive to global forcings. Positive feedbacks predominate. This allows the entire planet to be whipsawed between climate states. One feedback, the 'albedo flip' property of ice/water, provides a powerful trigger mechanism. A climate forcing that 'flips' the albedo of a sufficient portion of an ice sheet can spark a cataclysm. Inertia of ice sheet and ocean provides only moderate delay to ice sheet disintegration and a burst of added global warming. Recent greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions place the Earth perilously close to dramatic climate change that could run out of our control, with great dangers for humans and other creatures. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the largest human-made climate forcing, but other trace constituents are also important. Only intense simultaneous efforts to slow CO2 emissions and reduce non-CO2 forcings can keep climate within or near the range of the past million years.
"Whipsaw." "Cataclysm." Remarkably dramatic language for an article in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. But there's a lot at stake. I recommend you go read the paper. The evidence is persuasive, and the conclusions could hardly be more important.
|© Kent Tenney|
|Today's Bush Joke||Humor & Fun|
Earlier this morning in London, police defused a potentially massive car bomb parked in front of famed Piccadilly Circus. President Bush got a little confused. He called the new prime minister and made sure all the animals and clowns were safe. — Jay Leno
July 02, 2007
|Mad Dreams Of Empire||Politics|
Reading Cullen Murphy's Are We Rome?, I was struck by the following passage:
...[O]ne summer morning not long ago...my plane touched down in the rain at Shannon Airport, in the Republic of Ireland. ...[A]s it happened, the president of the United States had arrived in Ireland shortly before I did, for an eighteen-hour official visit. His two Air Force One jumbo jets were parked on the shiny tarmac, nose to nose. The presidential eagle, a descendant of Rome’s, glared from within the presidential seal, painted prominently near the front door of each fuselage. A defensive perimeter of concertina wire surrounded the two aircraft. Surface-to-air missiles backed it up. The perimeter was manned by American forces in battle fatigues, flown in for the occasion — just one element of the president’s US security detail, a thousand strong. Other security personnel peered down from the rooftops of hangars and terminals, automatic weapons at the ready. Ringing the airport was a cordon of Scorpion tanks supplied by the Irish Republic. A traveling president...brings with him a government in microcosm... — cabinet members and courtiers and cooks, speech doctors and spin doctors. Provisioning has not been overlooked: the plane can serve meals for 2,000 people, the supplies bought anonymously at American supermarkets by undercover agents, the updated version of [the servants who tasted the Emperor's food as a protection against poisoning]. And if there's a medical emergency? An onboard operating room is stocked with blood of the president’s type; his personal physician is at hand. From the plane's command center a president can launch and wage a nuclear war, or any other kind, for that matter. The forward compartment is what passes for a throne room, containing the president's leather armchair and his wraparound desk and his telephone with its twenty-eight encrypted lines.
Off in the mist would be the Air Force cargo planes, which had brought helicopters, a dozen Secret Service SUVs, and the official presidential limousine (plus the official decoy limousine), its windows three inches thick and its doors so heavy with armor that gas-powered pistons must be used to help open them. Four US naval vessels plied the Shannon River estuary nearby. Outside the airport the roads were jammed with Irish soldiers and police officers — 6.000 in all, slightly more than an entire Roman legion — and on even the tiniest boreens security personnel with communications piglet tails trailing from their ears would emerge from hiding places in the bracken if a passing car, like mine, so much as slowed to avoid some sheep. [Emphasis added]
All for an eighteen-hour visit. Imagine being the person at the center of that frenzied whirlwind of brutal excess. The effect must be positively hallucinatory. No wonder they go mad, imagining themselves to be omnipotent, God's elect, inhabiting an altogether different reality from the rest of us. Consider how inimical such excess is to democracy. It truly is the stuff of Empire.
And then consider this, from the same book:
The idea that an American imperium is part of God's plan was the message of the Christmas card sent out in 2003 by Vice President Dick Cheney and his wife, Lynne. It read: "And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid?"
Not exactly subtle: it's empire we're after, and it's God's plan. The Cheneys humbly commemorate the birth of the Prince of Peace.
Think of that the next time they tell you we're just trying to spread democracy and freedom.
|© Kent Tenney|
|Today's Bush Joke||Humor & Fun|
The government of Iraq is under a lot of pressure from President Bush to find a fair way to share their huge oil profits. You know, like we do here in this country. — Jay Leno