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Born at the Crest of the Empire

Saturday, October 01, 2005

This is what Bush fears.

This gives a good idea what Bush fears. That investigations into prisoner treatment, abuse, torture, and "renditions"(god that orwellian euphemism kills me,) could reveal that this administration was indeed responsible for what we've already seen, and what it looks like we're about to see, which according to Sy Hersh includes more senseless beatings, molestation, sodomizing a boy in video, and possible rape.

If these horrific pictures are linked to a statement of policy, this administration is over.

Look how he fears accountability.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House on Friday threatened to veto a $440.2 billion defense spending bill in the Senate because it wasn't enough money for the Pentagon and also warned lawmakers not to add any amendments to regulate the treatment of detainees or set up a commission to probe abuse.

Last summer, Republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona and John Warner of Virginia and others sought legislation banning cruel and degrading treatment of prisoners.

And what this means going forward is that the fight over congressional elections coming up is going to probably be even nastier than the 2004 presidential fight. As congress could appoint special prosecutors and conduct investigations backed with subpoena, the republicans cannot afford to lose their majority. If they do, we will see a flood of investigations into all this stuff that the republicans have been doing. They cannot afford to lose.

And while I'm at it, take a look at this from way back on the wrongheadedness of torture as policy. I still think it's my best blog entry.

Unscom to create regime change in Iraq in 1996?

This is from Scott Ritter in the Guardian, ex-head of the Unscom inspection team in Iraq under Clinton. He has since gone rogue as one of the loudest critics of the Iraq invasion. There were reports that child porn was found on his computer(about the same time as the Wilson/Plame affair), he stopped criticizing the Bush admin, and the charges weren't pursued. Not that I'm alleging that the intelligence services would do such a thing.......

Anyhow, this is a very interesting look at one of the pre-Bush plans to overthrow Saddam by using Unscom inspectors to create an "incident" to start the ball rolling. If you want a look at how such things operate, this is an interesting inside view.

And, by the way, Saddam was right. This confirms that the US was using Unscom to spy in contravention of the UN mandate for weapons inspections.

We will win the Vietnam War by 1971

No comment from my side. Just read and judge for yourself.


President Bush said Saturday he is encouraged by the increasing size and capability of the Iraqi security forces, touting progress on a key measure for when U.S. troops can come home.

The upbeat remarks in Bush's weekly radio address came two days after the top commander in Iraq said only one Iraqi battalion is ready to fight without U.S. support.

"All Americans can have confidence in the military commanders who are leading the effort in Iraq, and in the troops under their command," Bush said. "They have made important gains in recent weeks and months; they are adapting our strategy to meet the needs on the ground; and they're helping us to bring victory in the war on terror."

The sunny presentation of the situation in Iraq is part of a renewed push by the administration to win support for the war effort from an increasingly reluctant American public.

It conflicts with the news from Iraq and some assessments from top commanders. ......

On Wednesday, he (Gen. George Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq) told Congress that only one Iraqi army battalion was ready to go into combat without U.S. support, down from three estimated a few months ago. He argued, though, that the Iraqi army is getting stronger, with more than 30 Iraqi battalions deemed capable of leading combat operation against insurgents, albeit with U.S. help.

Bush said more than 100 Iraqi battalions are operating throughout the country. "Our commanders report that the Iraqi forces are serving with increasing effectiveness," he told radio listeners. .....

The remarks, in which he claimed a "plan to win" in Iraq, foreshadowed another speech Bush is scheduled to give next Thursday, as well as others being delivered in coming days by Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. ......

Armstrong Williams officially covert propaganda

The administration of President George W. Bush broke the law as it resorted to illegal "covert propaganda" in trying to sell its key education initiative to the public, US congressional investigators have found.

The finding, made public by the Government Accountability Office, added to a plethora of big and small ethics scandals besetting the administration and its top Republican allies and putting them on the defensive one year before congressional elections. ......

But in doing so, he (Williams) failed to disclose the government paid him for these activities 186,000 dollars (150,000 euros) through Ketchum Inc., a public relations firm, according to the GAO report.

"This qualifies as the production or distribution of covert propaganda," said the investigative arm of Congress. "In our view, the department violated the publicity or propaganda prohibition when it issued task orders... without requiring Ketchum to ensure that Mr Williams disclosed to his audiences his relationship with the department." ......

Congressional investigators pointed out that under US law, "an agency must inform the viewing public that the government is the source of the information disseminated."

The report also suggested the administration may have illegally shifted nearly 38,500 dollars within its budget to pay for its propaganda campaign.

1998 Republican election issue comes back.

The legislation, mentioned in this article, was created and passed as an election gambit by the rabid side of the Republican congress for campaigning in the 1998 midterms. Originally, it was crafted to allow cover for the protestant born-again "missionaries" who were operating in the former Soviet Union and its parts. That was a big issue at the time to the proselytizers as the Russians were attempting to limit their presence claiming they were destabilizing Russia and her former republics.

Anyhow, an example of bad legislation passed for electioneering purposes.

(I'm not, in theory, against the concept of legislation encouraging human rights freedoms, but I am against them when their main concern is getting people elected, not protecting human rights. I mean, after all, that republican congress didn't pass legislation condemning torture, protecting press freedoms, or civil rights, just legislation intended to shield missionaries.)

The United States has put off a showdown with Saudi Arabia over its alleged violations of religious minority rights as skyrocketing oil prices threatened to crimp US economic growth.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice decided to postpone by six months imposing sanctions against the desert kingdom in the wake of a US finding that the Saudi government denied residents some of the most basic religious freedoms, according to a State Department official. ....

The designation, introduced into US diplomatic practice by the 1998 International Religious Freedom Act, usually entails severe penalties, including economic sanctions, if the designated country fails to quickly clean up its act.

But the law also gives the secretary of state the right to waive action, if higher US national interests are at stake.

Friday, September 30, 2005

Check this out.

This just made me laugh. It's an AP story, and it starts out like this.

Marilyn Brewer, a leading Republican candidate for the nation's only open House seat, stared into the TV camera and proclaimed her support for the president.

She was not talking about George W. Bush.

"I stand side by side with Ronald Reagan on less taxes and less government," Brewer told voters at a candidate forum. ......

Not a word about Bush.

Later, the self-described loyal Republican who voted for the president in 2004 explained her calculus: "If the election was this year ... he would not be re-elected." ......

But Carl Forti of the National Republican Congressional Committee cautioned against reading too much into the contest.

"This is about electing Congressman Chris Cox's successor," he said. "This election is not about President Bush, Arnold Schwarzenegger or anyone else."

So, Mr. Forti, what you are saying is that association with Bush or Schwarzenkoffer is a political liability?

This election is to fill Chris Cox's seat who went to the SEC (paging Sen Frist). It must be said that this is the Orange County California seat, so despite having voted for Bush, probably pretty sympathetic to the criticisms. Also, she's not the frontrunner, some party stooge supported by Schwarzennegger leads and this is just an alternate election strategy. (if I misspelled Schwarzengoofball, I don't care. It's my policy that since he's a joke, and I'm not gonna waste my time learning to spell his name. At least Jesse Ventura accepted that he was a joke.)

Her strategy seems to be to pin the favorite into defending Bush in the hopes that the Republicans of Orange County will use this as a referendum against Bush. Dem cadidates take note.

UPDATE: Just to give you an idea of some of her competition. There are seventeen running for this seat.

When voters in one of California's most conservative congressional districts go to the polls on Tuesday, they will find a wild card on the ballot: The founder of the Minuteman movement, who has become a lightning rod in the furor over America's borders.

While Jim Gilchrist -- leader of a volunteer border patrol group once slammed as "vigilantes" by President George W. Bush -- is considered a long shot to win the special election to fill a seat vacated by Republican Christopher Cox, he has mined a deep vein of voter anger over illegal immigration.

"I have struck the mother lode of patriotism," Gilchrist told Reuters, referring to polls showing 80 percent of Californians were concerned about immigration. .......

(and on the favorite)

Gilchrist faces a formidable foe in Campbell, a conservative Republican who, as a wealthy entrepreneur from Newport Beach, is an easy fit in the mostly affluent neighborhoods of the Orange County district that tend to turn out for elections.

Campbell won the endorsement of California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and has also taken a strong stance against illegal immigration -- coming out against Bush's controversial "guest worker" program.

New Orleans' racial makeup up in air

The local paper, the Houston Chronicle, actually has some news. This is quite surprising as the front "news section" has shrunk and shrunk under this ownership; the last Chronicle front page I held in my hands had only 10 pages with three full pages of ads plus the rest of the ads.

Anyhow, check out what a Bush cabinet official had to say in a meeting with the Chron's editorial board.

(And they make a point to tell us he's black, so I'm gonna make that point, too. Like we haven't all met black "racists" who look down on their poorer brethren. I think the term "self-hating" is what I'm after here. Sure that pissed somebody off.)

It will be years before New Orleans regains the half-million population it had before Hurricane Katrina, and the population might never again be predominantly black, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Alphonso Jackson said Wednesday during a visit to Houston.

"Whether we like it or not, New Orleans is not going to be 500,000 people for a long time," he said. "New Orleans is not going to be as black as it was for a long time, if ever again." .....

"I wish that the so-called black leadership would stop running around this country, like Jesse and the rest of them, making this a racial issue," the HUD chief said. .....

Alphonso Jackson predicted New Orleans will slowly draw back as many as 375,000 people, but that only 35 to 40 percent of the post-Katrina population would be black.

Jackson said that's because the worst-hit areas were low-income black neighborhoods that may never fully be repopulated.

Prior to Katrina, the population was 67 percent black and 28 percent white.

"I'm telling you, as HUD secretary and having been a developer and a planner, that's how its going to be," he said.

Jackson said he has been asked by President Bush to help New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin rebuild the city.

Freakin' unbelievable.

Hard Work.

Not only is Iraq a quagmire, but we're actually losing ground.

WASHINGTON - The number of Iraqi battalions capable of combat without U.S. support has dropped from three to one, the top American commander in Iraq told Congress Thursday, prompting Republicans to question whether U.S. troops will be able to withdraw next year.

Update: By the way, in case you don't know, a battalion is generally considered to be between 800 and 1,200 men, depending on the country.

Also, note, that with the "downgrading" (I don't know if that is from casualty or desertion), the number of "ready forces" is dropping faster than the number of insurgents killed. Again, these early articles aren't describing the circumstance, but in my book, if you are losing forces faster than your enemies, you are losing.

Separation of church and state

Imagine if we lived in a country where a visit to a shrine, church, or declaring a national day of prayer was considered a violation of church and state.

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi violated Japan's constitution by visiting a Shinto shrine for war dead, a court ruled on Friday, but analysts said the ruling would not stop him from continuing the annual pilgrimages that have angered China and South Korea. .....

Judge Masaharu Otani at the Osaka High Court in western Japan said Koizumi's visits to the shrine were official acts and violated the country's constitutional separation of religion and state, but rejected the plaintiffs' claim for damages for mental distress caused by the visits.

Now, I recognize that this is probably the means by which this judge is trying to stop these visits which are so controversial for other reasons, but try to imagine the Bush presidency without church visits, days of prayer, or religious language.

After all, the cloak of religion is what these guys use to turn this yokel into someone serious. Can you imagine him running for president on his Texas gubernatorial record, business history, or debating skill?

Just interesting.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Plame Investigation News!!!!!

WASHINGTON - Judith Miller, The New York Times reporter who has been jailed since July 6 for refusing to identify a source, has been released, The Inquirer has learned.

Miller left an Alexandria, Va. jail late this afternoon, a jail official said.

She was released after she had a telephone conversation with the Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis Libby, sources said. In that conversation, Libby reaffirmed that he had released Miller from a promise of confidentiality more than a year ago, sources said.

Why now? After almost three months of leaving Miller in the pokey, why would Libby suddenly release her from confidentiality now? Did it take that long to destroy evidence? Did he get information that the grand jusry would indict, or wouldn't?

Just very curious. Something shifted under the water in this investigation, and we are just seeing the ripples on the surface.

Break on the Franklin/AIPAC spy ring

Also a significant shift on the Fanklin/AIPAC spying ring.

ALEXANDRIA, Virginia (AP) -- A Pentagon analyst charged with providing classified information to an Israeli official and members of a pro-Israeli lobbying group will plead guilty, the U.S. District Court clerk's office said Thursday.

Lawrence A. Franklin, 58, of Kearneysville, West Virginia, was indicted in June on charges of leaking classified materials -- including information about potential attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq -- to two members of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and an Israeli official.

Edward Adams, a spokesman for U.S. District Court clerk in Alexandria, said a hearing to accept Franklin's guilty plea has been scheduled for Wednesday. The charge or charges to which he would enter the plea were not disclosed. Franklin was indicted on five counts.

Remember your history on this one. Originally, Franklin had made a deal with the prosecuters whereby he would name names, and outline the whole scheme. Then, when the thing became public with the placed leak to CBS, within days, Franklin changed his plea, stopped cooperating, and was suddely represented by a lawyer waaaayyyy above his pay grade.

In other words, the investigation was leaked to the press so someone up the chain could learn he was implicating Rosen, Weissman, and by connection, the AIPAC operations in Washington. They hired him a great lawyer on the condition that he "lawyer up."

So, why now, why today does he suddenly decide to plead guilty?

This will be buried by the other scandals in the news today, Delay's indictment and Miller's release. Is that the idea, to swamp the news with so much scandal, that no one will have time to look into all three?

As much as I'd like to see Delay go down, that's merely a case of election finance fraud.

Miller's release, and the Plame case, are intergral parts to the lying of America into war. And the AIPAC scandal is the presence of an Israeli intel op penetrating deep into the DoD.

These are far bigger issues than Delay, so don't get caught up in the partisan he said/she said. Keep in mind that this administration lied us into a war, and was penetrated by Israeli intelligence agents. This is this administration's true betrayal of our country.

Best question ever.

I read the press gaggle highlights over at First Draft. Generally, you read them for the questions, 'cause there hasn't been a press secretary in years/decades who actually answers those questions. But I have a candidate for best question of the year.

Q Two more questions on that. The President twice today said that we are changing our strategy to adapt to the insurgents changing theirs. Usually you don't think about changing a strategy that's working. Is ours not?

Great Freakin' question. To think someone actually applied logic in the pressroom....

Also, while we're at it, try this exchange.

Q Do you have any papers showing the President has issued a directive against torture?

MR. McCLELLAN: We've actually put out paper previously about the directives that he's made --

Q An actual order?

MR. McCLELLAN: -- and he has publicly stated it very clearly to everyone in his administration and to the American people.

Q Then why is it still going on?


Just how much distance from Delay

I guess the question of just how much distance to place between yourself and Delay can probably be brought down to a simple equation.

(Winning percentage in last election) + (geographic and cultural distance from Texas Republicans).

WASHINGTON --Rep. Jeb Bradley, R-N.H., says he will return $15,000 in campaign funds from former House majority leader Tom DeLay's political action committee. .....

In a statement to the New Hampshire Union Leader, Bradley said that though the political action committee that gave him money is not under investigation he is returning it to remove any question about the nature of the contribution.

Global Climate past the "tipping point?"

I had a friend who once said, "maybe the reason the Bush's aren't worried about global warming/climate change, is that they know we're going to get oil shortages before the permanent damage is done."

Well, that appears to be a miscalculation. Apparently, we can have both oil shortages and permanent environmental damage thanks to the republican global warming deniers.

Two articles on reaching the "tipping point". First, NYTimes recaps the report the Independent published a week ago.

The floating cap of sea ice on the Arctic Ocean shrank this summer to what is probably its smallest size in at least a century of record keeping, continuing a trend toward less summer ice, a team of climate experts reported yesterday. .......

The change also appears to be headed toward becoming self-sustaining: the increased open water absorbs solar energy that would otherwise be reflected back into space by bright white ice, said Ted A. Scambos, a scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colo., which compiled the data along with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

"Feedbacks in the system are starting to take hold," Dr. Scambos said.

And second, an article from a month ago from BBC:

The world's largest frozen peat bog is melting, which could speed the rate of global warming, New Scientist reports.

The huge expanse of western Siberia is thawing for the first time since its formation, 11,000 years ago.

The area, which is the size of France and Germany combined, could release billions of tonnes of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

This could potentially act as a tipping point, causing global warming to snowball, scientists fear. .....

The whole western Siberian sub-Arctic region has started to thaw, he added, and this "has all happened in the last three or four years".

Oh, my.

Get yer tinfoil hat ready.

For those of you not prone to tinfoil hat bouts of paranoia, skip this post.

But on this creepy grey morning with rolling thunder and no rain, this set off the rightwing paranoid element inside me. A BBC interview, albeit softball, with the head of Bilderberg. Why would he do this? They never talk publicly, even to acknowledge the meetings existence.

In his office, on a private floor above the Brussels office of the Suez conglomerate lined with political cartoons of himself, he told me what he thought of allegations that Bilderberg is a global conspiracy secretly ruling the world.

"It is unavoidable and it doesn't matter," he says. "There will always be people who believe in conspiracies but things happen in a much more incoherent fashion." .....

"I don't think (we are) a global ruling class because I don't think a global ruling class exists. I simply think it's people who have influence interested to speak to other people who have influence," Viscount Davignon says. .....

Will Hutton, an economic analyst and former newspaper editor who attended a Bilderberg meeting in 1997, says people take part in these networks in order to influence the way the world works, to create what he calls "the international common sense" about policy.

"On every issue that might influence your business you will hear at first-hand the people who are actually making those decisions and you will play a part in helping them to make those decisions and formulating the common sense," he says.

And that "common sense" is one which supports the interests of Bilderberg's main participants - in particular free trade. Viscount Davignon says that at the annual meetings, "automatically around the table you have internationalists" - people who support the work of the World Trade Organisation, trans-Atlantic co-operation and European integration.

Bilderberg meetings often feature future political leaders shortly before they become household names. Bill Clinton went in 1991 while still governor of Arkansas, Tony Blair was there two years later while still an opposition MP. All the recent presidents of the European Commission attended Bilderberg meetings before they were appointed. ....

'Secret Government'

This has led to accusations that the group pushes its favoured politicians into high office. But Viscount Davignon says his steering committee are simply excellent talent spotters. The steering committee "does its best assessment of who are the bright new boys or girls in the beginning phase of their career who would like to get known."

"It's not a total accident, but it's not a forecast and if they go places it's not because of Bilderberg, it's because of themselves," Viscount Davignon says.

But its critics say Bilderberg's selection process gives an extra boost to aspiring politicians whose views are friendly to big business. None of this, however, is easy to prove - or disprove.

Observers like Will Hutton argue that such private networks have both good and bad sides. They are unaccountable to voters but, at the same time, they do keep the international system functioning. And there are limits to their power - a point which Bilderberg chairman was keen to stress, "When people say this is a secret government of the world I say that if we were a secret government of the world we should be bloody ashamed of ourselves."

Informal and private networks like Bilderberg have helped to oil the wheels of global politics and globalisation for the past half a century. In the eyes of critics they have undermined democracy, but their supporters believe they are crucial to modern democracy's success. And so long as business and politics remain mutually dependent, they will continue to thrive.

OKAY, I'll put the tinfoil hat away. Sorry, but this interview/article in the mainstream is quite unprecedented, and sometimes the hat comes out on it's own.

Back to normal now.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Delay, Rove and Frist

Delay(indicted), Rove(early oct), and Frist(SEC investigation).

If you called this as your indictment trifecta, your betting slip is now in the money. My money was always on the Feith/Perle/Libby lies that led us to war side to come in first, but those cases are far more complicated and have to go through the national security slow down.

So, let's see, that's the driving force in the house indicted, the driving force in the senate under investigation with pretty credible evidence against, and the driving force in the White House(and maybe second in the VP office) looking at indictments in early October.

There's an old saying, "Democratic scandals are generally about sex, and republican scandals are generally about money."

Which would you rather have?

And, I have to say, I'm a bit agog that about half the major news outlets have the Delay defense, that Ronnie Earle is a partison fanatic, in their lead. C'mon people. Whether or not he's convicted, all these organizations he founded did do this. But as with all Republicans, I guess the buck stops before you get up to the officers.

No more.

If you want to worry about what might be.

Meteorologists examining the conditions that spawned hurricanes Rita and Katrina say there is a strong likelihood that another intense hurricane will occur in October. .....

The hurricane season does not end until Nov. 30, and a forecast group is predicting that October will see two hurricanes, one of them reaching Category 3, 4 or 5. The chance of that storm making landfall in the United States is estimated at 21%, said Philip J. Klotzbach, a member of the tropical storm forecasting team led by William M. Gray of Colorado State University. ....

Historical patterns show it would be unusual but not impossible for the Gulf Coast to be hit with a major October storm. In the fall, most tropical storms that form near the Bahamas, as Rita and Katrina did, are steered north by weather patterns that deflect them harmlessly out to sea, toward the Bahamas or either coast of Florida, said Christopher W. Landsea, a hurricane researcher with the National Hurricane Center in Miami.

"Texas and Louisiana are at much less risk later in the season," he said.

We're losing Afghanistan, too

Don't forget, we're losing Afghanistan, too.

This is another in the "articles I don't see in the American Press" series. The Guardian is reporting that the Karzai government is in some trouble in Afghanistan.

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) - Two main rivals of President Hamid Karzai and a reputed warlord reviled by rights activists are likely to win seats in Afghanistan's parliament, partial preliminary election results suggested Tuesday.

With 9.2 percent of ballots counted from Kabul province, Karzai's top challengers in last year's presidential election - Mohammed Mohaqeq and Yunus Qanooni - had the most votes, according to results posted on the Web site of the U.N.-Afghan election board. .......

In the partial election results released so far, Mohaqeq, a former anti-Taliban militia commander, was first with 5,392 votes, according to the Joint Electoral Management Body. Mohaqeq was third in the October 2004 presidential election.

Qanooni, who finished second to U.S.-backed Karzai last October and leads a coalition of parties opposed to the president, was second with 4,194 votes. Sayyaf had 1,269 votes.

Zarqawi's number two.

Some bloggers actually do research, and I envy them for it.

We captured/killed Zarqawi's number two in Iraq again. I understand this is emphasized so that we can claim progress, on the other hand, it also emphasizes the bottomless well of people willing to fight against the US occupation.

Take a second and look at this, good work by blogenlust, who has documented all the senior leadership Al Quaida in Iraq captures and killings. Take a look, it's jaw dropping. It's great blogging.

And then there's this....

WASHINGTON, Sept 27 (Reuters) - Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's network of al Qaeda-linked insurgents is emerging as a self-sustaining force, despite repeated blows by U.S. forces and the reported death of his second-in-command, U.S. intelligence officials and other experts say.

The Zarqawi network, responsible for some of the Iraqi insurgency's bloodiest attacks, has grown into a loose confederation of mainly native Iraqis trained by former Baath Party regime officers in explosives, small arms, rockets and surface-to-air missiles.

Since U.S. counter-insurgency assaults forced many of its operatives to exit Iraq's cities, counterterrorism officials say al Qaeda has been trying to set up a safe haven for training and command operations in western Anbar province.

"The suggestion is that this has shifted from being a terrorist network to a guerrilla army," said Vali Nasr, a national security affairs expert at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California.

"If this were not checked, the insurgents would become not only militarily more powerful, but politically more powerful. We're definitely trying to deny that milestone to Zarqawi."

And what's the definitional difference between being a terrorist network and a guerilla army? A terrorist network represents only a small faction of the population, whereas a guerilla army generally enjoys far broader political and logistical support of the local population. So.......

In the battle for public opinion, the relative tactics of the US army, Fallujah and Tal Afar in the extreme example, and Zarqawi, suicide bombers blowing up civilians in a market in the extreme example, Iraqis are generally trending to support the suicide bombers.

What does that say?

Jesus Christ...

When the average price of a gallon of regular gasoline peaked at $3.07 recently, it was partly because the nation's refineries were receiving an estimated 99 cents on each gallon sold. That was more than three times the amount they earned a year ago when regular unleaded was selling for $1.87. Companies that pump oil from the ground swept in an additional 47 cents on each gallon, a 46 percent jump over the same period. If motorists are the big losers in the spectacular run-up in gas prices, the companies that produce the oil and turn it into gasoline are the clear winners.

This quote from the Seattle Times comes from a larger rather snarky post from Kos.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Deficit Hawk has his wings clipped.

As an avowed balanced budget/strong dollar advocate, I always watch some of the budget hawks in Washington. I often disagree with the rest of their politics, but on this issue....

Not only is the Bush admin spending us into eternal debt, I think it's something like $20,000 for each of us now, they are now "disciplining" any who dare speak against that irrationality.

Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) had the look of a hunted man as he walked from the Capitol to the Longworth House Office Building yesterday for a speech to young conservatives.

Pence, chairman of a group of House conservatives called the Republican Study Committee, was complaining to his companions about a Robert Novak column in yesterday's Washington Post saying Pence was subjected to a "closed-door auto-da-fe" from Speaker Dennis Hastert and Majority Leader Tom DeLay for daring to suggest that the profligate House leadership should reconsider its big-spending ways. But Pence got the leadership's message, loud and clear.

Pence's speech was billed by the conservative Young America's Foundation (YAF) as a discussion of "why the conservative leadership in Congress has abandoned its allegiance to the principles of smaller government" and gone on "massive spending splurges." But instead, a chastened congressman delivered unstinting praise for his superiors.

"I believe in the leadership of this Congress," Pence told his surprised audience.

And more Abramoff....

And this finally made the mainstream press.

WASHINGTON, Sept. 26 - The Justice Department's inspector general and the F.B.I. are looking into the demotion of a veteran federal prosecutor whose reassignment nearly three years ago shut down a criminal investigation of the Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff, current and former department officials report.

They said investigators had questioned whether the demotion of the prosecutor, Frederick A. Black, in November 2002 was related to his alert to Justice Department officials days earlier that he was investigating Mr. Abramoff. The lobbyist is a major Republican Party fund-raiser and a close friend of several Congressional leaders.

Josh Marshall has been talking about this for a month or so. His blog has been about the best on the Abramoff scandals(note the growing plural.)

And today's update is a doozy. One of Abramoff's business partners paid significant sums to some gentlemen who were just arrested for the murder of a business man who stood in the way of a project.

New realities on Pat Tillman's death

The SF chronicle came out with this Sunday and I finally sat down to read it. Pretty good, filter it through the SF Chronicle's politics, but the interesting thing is Tillman's disgust with the misdirected Iraq war. After all, he gave up that huge contract to help fight the war on terror, and as we all know, Iraq has nothing to do with Al Queda, at least until we arrived.



Not Quite Habitat for Humanity

This is the base problem with this administration. It's more important to appear to be building one home on national TV than to be actually building homes.
WASHINGTON — Facing criticism that he appeared disengaged from the disaster wrought by Hurricane Katrina, President Bush has been looking for opportunities to show his concern. But the White House will take the effort a step further Tuesday, venturing into untested waters by putting the nation's first lady on reality television.

Laura Bush will travel to storm-damaged Biloxi, Miss., to film a spot on the feel-good, wish-granting hit "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition." Mrs. Bush sought to be on the program because she shares the "same principles" that the producers hold, her press secretary said.

For god's sake, go and do a photoshoot with habitat for humanity. Maybe that would inspire other people to join in habitat projects and maybe something more real could get done than the inevitable painting the first lady is qualified for.

But, then again, it's more important to appear to be doing something rather than actually doing something.(See Bush's seven visits to Hurricane Rita vs. actually staying in Washington and working out how to pay for all this.)

Monday, September 26, 2005

Greenspan says "we lost control of the budget"

Didn't see this in the American Press. Funny, that.

Bitter disagreements over global economic policy broke out into the open yesterday as the French Finance Minister claimed that Alan Greenspan had admitted America had "lost control" of its budget while China warned the US to drop demands for radical economic policy changes.

In an extraordinary revelation after a meeting between Thierry Breton and Mr Greenspan, M. Breton told reporters: "'We have lost control,' that was his [Mr Greenspan's] expression.

"The US has lost control of their budget at a time when racking up deficits has been authorised without any control [from Congress]," M. Breton said.

"We were both disappointed that the management of debt is not a political priority today. The situation that is creating tension today on the currency market ... is clearly the American deficit."

When Racism Kills

Go read this post over at Atrios. The key line is the last line.

The stereotypes of poor "gangster" blacks running amok in the Superdome were believed and this delayed relief efforts until "security" could be restored. Only problem was, there seems to have been no "security" issue at all. Buried racist stereoptypes were accepted by those in power and influenced their actions, delaying the delivery of food, water, and evacuation.

Okay, maybe it's time to revisit the argument that the race of the victims might have played a role in the government response.

After all, show me a Katrina decision maker above Mayor Nagin who had had any significant daily life exposure to blacks at any time previously in their life.

This guy gets it.

From a remarkably large piece in the WaPo on the pro war rally in Washington that had "hundreds of others on the Mall." If you support the administration, gathering hundreds gets you page B01, but that's not the point of this post. The point is to highlight this:

The rally was largely peaceful, punctuated by a few small clashes with antiwar protesters, one of whom wore a T-shirt that read: "Wanted for Mass Murder: The Bush Regime."

Rally-goers asked police to remove the man, who went limp as officers came to escort him away.

"Saddam Hussein is a moron, and you're a moron!" came a voice from the crowd.

"I'm a patriot," responded the protester, who peacefully followed police off the Mall sipping from a Starbucks coffee cup. "Look what's happening. I'm being taken from a public park because of a T-shirt."

Also, WaPo reporter man. Did the guy go limp? Or did he peacefully follow the police?

Sharks with Lasers on their Frickin' Heads

If you ever need an example of how whacked out our military has gotten, or how fiscally unsound US military priorities are, cite this ......

It may be the oddest tale to emerge from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Armed dolphins, trained by the US military to shoot terrorists and pinpoint spies underwater, may be missing in the Gulf of Mexico.Experts who have studied the US navy's cetacean training exercises claim the 36 mammals could be carrying 'toxic dart' guns.

I mean, isn't that a joke from an Austin Powers movie? We have soldiers who operate without body armor; we have first responders whose communications equipment still doesn't work together properly; for god's sake, we can't stop whole truckloads of drugs coming across our borders, which tells me that we couldn't stop terror weapons.

But we've got "sharks with lasers."

And this is bigger than the Bush admin. This is just another example of f***ed up priorities from the cold war.

The navy launched the classified Cetacean Intelligence Mission in San Diego in 1989, where dolphins, fitted with harnesses and small electrodes planted under their skin, were taught to patrol and protect Trident submarines in harbour and stationary warships at sea.

Frickin' insane.

And doonesbury is great today.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

The true costs of big oil

WaPo has a piece on the huge profits oil extractors and refiners are making. Their premise is that the trading floor sets the prices, and the fact that Exxon is paying $20 to get the oil out of the ground (plus a smaller amount to transport), yet is selling to traders for $60whatever is simply an aberration of the market(which will rectify) and the blame shouldn't really be thrown at the producers.

(Also, there is an implied similarity with refiners, although this isn't fleshed out and the elements of the argument don't seem as strong to me.)

Pretty good argument, and I would expect to see it repeated by defenders of the industry.

But there's a problem with this "the market made me do it" argument. Oil is not just a regular commodity, like apples, not just in it's extreme role in the lives and economy of the US, after all, we all could give up apples if they were $20 a pound, but in it's intertwined nature with our government and foreign policy.

Beyond the giveaways, 1 billion fo exploration in the Bush energy bill which supporters admit will have no role in reducing consumption, and the huge tax breaks negotiated originally administrations ago, there are other non-market add ons the oil industry receives.

How much of the cost of our national military and foreign policy are indirect subsidies for the oil companies? Iraq, Saudi, Venezuela, Nigeria. All of these countries have been an expense to the American taxpayer, pretty much to the bottom line benefit of the oil companies. Do they bear the costs of maintaining a "presence" in the middle east, or the tremendous outlays for "maritime security" through indonesian waters or throughout the mideast. And also include the overthrow and support of governments.

The oil companies get all the security they want for free. Not to mention a blind eye on innumerable human rights abuses from Nigeria, to Myanmar, to the Caspian region, to South America.

Lastly, there are the shared costs of pollution and global warming. The products produced by the petrochem industry have tremendous shared global costs, increased pollution causes increased mortality, and the costs of glabal warming are yet somewhat distant, and although currently inestimable, could easily dwarf the the total historical profit of the oil industry. How much would a 20' sea rise cost the world's cities?

But they don't have to pay for any of that. The oil companies have managed to limit their costs solely to the cost of extracting, transporting, and refining. So they receive 100% of the profit of the extraction, processing, and sale of oil-related products, while only recording a small fraction of the total costs of their industry on their books, the rest being born by the US government and populations around the globe in governmental real dollar costs and less definable health, welfare and human rights costs.

Now, I accept that the oil industry is a necessary evil in the way our economy has become structured over the last hundred years, and that it would be civilization destroying if the true costs of oil were suddenly imposed on the market. But at the same time efforts at conservation and alternative energy are being stifled by the artificially low oil prices. For example, I would guess that wind energy would be much more prevalent if oil costs were truly reflected.

This will not be a quick corner to unpaint ourselves out of.

But, my hope would be that all of these shared costs will be remembered when the "the market made me do it" defenses are thrown out to defend the ridiculous profits the oil companies are currently posting. Their "profits" are being born by the rest of us in shorter lives, an aggressive foreign policy, and the potential submersion of coastal communities around the world..

(I guess it only took a day for me to get mad enough to blog. Ah, well.......)


Nail in the coffin for Frist.

And I thought if nothing else, Frist was at least smart.

Let's run through the missteps. First, he very directly declines to state that he isn't going to run for president in '08, lines up the research group and begins feeling out major donors. Then, in an effort to pull in the religious right crazies but losing the center, he misdiagnoses Terry Schiavo from a videotape, which no doctor in his right mind would attempt. Then in a further bid to reach out to the christian wackos, he goes on This Week with George Snuffleupugus and refuses to deny that you can catch AIDS from tears and sweat to George's complete disbelief asking the question again and again.

Then, having lost the non-christian wackos with those two actions, he loses the christian wackos he was just trying to win, by publicly breaking with the White House by advocating stem cell research.

Now, add in the last few days, an SEC investigation into a sale of HCA stock, which he blantantly lied about, and now an apparent role in the cover up of some of the worst of the prisoner abuses in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Bill Frist. Running from the presidency in '08.

Juan Cole turns around.

Juan Cole has turned around on his "we must stay in and stabilize Iraq." Now, since I've been reading him, he's never been complimentary to the administration and its policies towards iraq, but he still seemed to hold a belief that we were Iraq's best chance at stability. He's changed his mind.

His blog has generally been extremely good at interpreting the true items of importance in the daily Iraq news. He traces the current disorder back to some of the heavy handed tactics taken in the early days of the occupation and the first, unsmart, reactionary suppression of Fallujah after the Blackwater employees were killed.

If you've got a little time, take a read of this.

(Also of interest notice the greater semantic battle taking place in the press. Early on, the administration won it's battle to have the fighters in Iraq titled "insurgents" rather than "guerillas" or even more sympathetically "resistance." I think it's quite telling of the general attitudes towards Iraq and the growing lack of deference of the press towards this administration, that you are starting to see the word "occupation" in regards to Iraq rather than the administration preferred "liberation." The mind of America is turning and revealing itself in the words we use.)

Situation in Houston

Just sent this email to a friend who evacuated Houston, thought I'd throw it up here to give some sense of where we are.

And let me say, if you're reading this thinking about coming back into the city, I don't know the current governmental advice on whether to come back or not, and also, there is still some significant power outages, this was written to a friend who lives in west/central Houston near the loop, so this may not apply to other areas. Also, I don't know the current status of the ingress routes, I45, hwy59 or whatever, so if you want to come back, that's on you.

Anyway, status report as of 9:30 AM.

Not knowing the details of your "out of town," I thought these details might be handy if you're looking to come back today.

First, there's very little damage in Houston. Basically, leaves and small twigs, but nothing larger. So, I wouldn't worry about that.

1. Gas is spotty, but here. It seems like about 1 in 5 stations are open(some only with diesel.) You can find it, but you have to hunt a little and wait 30 min to an hour. Probably be better throughout the day, and into tomorrow.

2. If you come back, bring your own groceries. A few stores are open, but you have to wait outside for awhile. Because of limited staff, they're only letting a certain number in at a time. Makes sense to keep people from getting overheated. Also, the supply trucks haven't come in yet, so any fruit and veg has been sitting awhile. And milk is almost unobtainable right now, as are the "hurricane kit" items, bread, tuna, soup, crackers, etc. So, if you're coming back, shop where you are, and bring it in in coolers. If I were guessing, they should start getting restocked sometime tonight, tomorrow.

3. I would guess your power went out. I was at the parent's house, and drove back home yesterday, and it looked like most of the power was out along memorial to Chimney Rock. It all came back on early to mid afternoon, so stuff in the fridge/freezer probably turned, but that's probably the worst of it.

4. All the school districts are closed through Tuesday, classes restart Wed.

5. A couple of businesses are open, the bagel place near my house was doing a ripping business this AM.

So, no traffic in town, everybody's trying to save their gas. I don't know what it's like coming in, but in town, it's nothing other than a few blinking stoplights.

If your somewhere comfortable, you can stay, but if you've got gas and food, it's just kindof like a holiday that no one's celebrating.

Didn't know your situation, but I was out and about this morning, and thought this might be helpful.