Just another Reality-based bubble in the foam of the multiverse.

Friday, September 30, 2005

It'll Make You Go Blind

RELIGIOUS belief can cause damage to a society, contributing towards high murder rates, abortion, sexual promiscuity and suicide, according to research published today.

According to the study, belief in and worship of God are not only unnecessary for a healthy society but may actually contribute to social problems.

The study counters the view of believers that religion is necessary to provide the moral and ethical foundations of a healthy society.

It compares the social peformance of relatively secular countries, such as Britain, with the US, where the majority believes in a creator rather than the theory of evolution. Many conservative evangelicals in the US consider Darwinism to be a social evil, believing that it inspires atheism and amorality.

Many liberal Christians and believers of other faiths hold that religious belief is socially beneficial, believing that it helps to lower rates of violent crime, murder, suicide, sexual promiscuity and abortion. The benefits of religious belief to a society have been described as its “spiritual capital”. But the study claims that the devotion of many in the US may actually contribute to its ills.

The paper, published in the Journal of Religion and Society, a US academic journal, reports: “Many Americans agree that their churchgoing nation is an exceptional, God-blessed, shining city on the hill that stands as an impressive example for an increasingly sceptical world.

“In general, higher rates of belief in and worship of a creator correlate with higher rates of homicide, juvenile and early adult mortality, STD infection rates, teen pregnancy and abortion in the prosperous democracies.

“The United States is almost always the most dysfunctional of the developing democracies, sometimes spectacularly so.”

Gregory Paul, the author of the study and a social scientist, used data from the International Social Survey Programme, Gallup and other research bodies to reach his conclusions...

Thanks to Quiddity for the link.

On the other hand, correlation does not imply causation.

Let me refer you to this list for the careful analysis of such arguments.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

The Good:

There's a general mood of glee in the progressive blogsphere that this bloated arachnid has finally gotten tangled in his own web.

As the Professor says, this web goes everywhere in the Cheneyburton administration, so we may finally be seeing the beginning of the Fall of the House of Bu$hCo.

If, of course, the stoolies don't get whacked first.

The Bad:

Roberts, the man no one knows, is neither conservative nor liberal. He is an animal of the Company, and about as straight as a six dollar bill. Under his rule, women's bodies will be the property of Pat Robertson, men will be thralls under Corporate fiat, and whatever happens to Cheneyburton may well be reversed for the major players by the Supreme Court.

And the Ugly:

...The first commandment of governing is Thou Shalt Not Steal the People's Money. Ronald Reagan came into office in 1980 on the mantra that he would rid the nation of Waste, Fraud and Abuse. He proceeded to raise the national deficit by $2 trillion with tax cuts and spending on the military in the face of a collapsing Soviet Union. This led to the peppy military procurement scandals of the late'80s and early'90s — the $435 hammer and the $640 toilet seat.

When Newt Gingrich and Co. took power in 1994, they promised many "reforms" and spent millions of dollars on hearings and investigations — the endless prosecution of Henry Cisneros may actually be a stronger case in point than the impeachment of Bill Clinton. Despite these splendid efforts, they never could find the Waste, Fraud and Abuse they claimed were the hallmarks of government. But this Bush administration has given us Waste, Fraud and Abuse galore.

The waste of money in Iraq is already into the billions, and the lack of accountability is fed by a Republican Congress that refuses to seriously investigate anything done by the Republican administration. The sums being overtly wasted are already staggering, and because there is no accountability, we can expect that situation not only to continue, but deteriorate.

With billions being allocated to clean up after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, you can already smell the corruption — fat contracts awarded without competitive bidding. The New York Times reports, "More than 80 percent of the $1.5 billion in contracts signed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency alone were awarded without bidding or with limited competition, government records show, provoking concerns among auditors and government officials about the potential for favoritism or abuse."

"Provoking concerns," eh? Good old Times, eternally blah — why doesn't it ever run a screaming headline that says, "You're getting ripped off!" "They are Stealing Your Money to Pay Off Their Political Pals!" The trouble with journalism in this country is that it's too damn polite.

Look, this is rank, nasty business — corruption, cronyism and competence (the lack thereof) are the issues here. And as we have so recently and so painfully been reminded, when government is run by corrupt, incompetent cronies, real people pay a real price. There is nothing abstract about swollen bodies floating in flooded streets or dozens of old people dead in nursing homes.

Frankly, it's just a mercy most of Houston didn't drown in a giant traffic jam last week. Already, the corporate vultures are moving in — contracts are arranged through people like Joe Allbaugh, the former FEMA director who brought in his old buddy Michael ("Heckuva job, Brownie") Brown to run the agency.

This pattern is not just one rotten agency: The arrest last week of David Safavian, the Bushie who oversaw contracts for the Office of Management and Budget, ties into a whole nest of cronyism. Safavian's friend and former lobbying partner is Jack Abramoff, who in turn is big buddies with Texas Rep. Tom DeLay.

The corporate clout in this administration is mirrored everywhere, with the same pattern of crony contracts. Allbaugh didn't just start getting contracts for politically connected firms after Katrina. He's been in Iraq, where he has a flourishing lobbying business precisely to help corporations get government contracts.

Already, Homeland Security is flooding what's left of New Orleans with mercenaries from the same private security contractors flourishing in Iraq. The Nation reports companies like DynCorp, Intercon Security, American Security Group, Blackwater, Wackenhut and an Israeli company called Instinctive Shooting International are all in New Orleans.

"Some, like Blackwater, are under federal contract. Others have been hired by the wealthy elite, like F. Patrick Quinn III, who brought in private security to guard his $3 million private estate and his luxury hotels, which are under consideration for a lucrative federal contract to house FEMA workers."

Baghdad on the Bayou for real.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

The Company Humors the Congressional Dons

WASHINGTON - The CIA is gleaning intelligence from an unusual source: Congress. House Intelligence Chairman Peter Hoekstra, R-Mich., said the agency has become more willing to consider sensitive information that comes from his oversight committee — a shift he's seen in recent months under CIA Director Porter Goss.

Without being specific about who is giving his panel the information, Hoekstra said the intelligence tips have touched on several current issues, including terrorism, al-Qaida, Iraq and Iran. Hoekstra said he has personally met with individuals and organizations in different places around the world.

"Obviously, I can't do analysis," he said. "I can't tell whether these sources are any good or not, but I do know that they are unconventional sources of information."

In the past, Hoekstra said, these sources would have been discounted in the "sifting process" at the CIA because they came from Congress.

"This is not where we normally get information," Hoekstra said. "But Porter is more than willing — and encouraging — to take a serious look at these sources to see what value they might have."

Hoekstra said individuals with potentially useful information sometimes can't figure out how to gain access to U.S. intelligence agencies, and the committee has developed a reputation for providing that opening. He was vague about the nature of his contacts.

A CIA clandestine service officer in the 1960s, Goss served as the House Intelligence chairman for nearly eight years ending in August 2004. One of his aides declined comment Tuesday.

The CIA and other U.S. spy agencies have been highly criticized recently by intelligence commissions for failing to collect information on some of the country's most pressing problems, including terror groups and the weapons programs of Iran and North Korea.

In a report this spring, President Bush's commission on weapons of mass destruction encouraged the development of new and innovative spying techniques at U.S. agencies that have shown "too little innovation to succeed in the 21st century."

During the last six to eight months, Hoekstra said his committee has shared information with the CIA, Defense Intelligence Agency and White House National Security Council. He said he encourages those offices to develop their own relationship with the sources.

"We are not in the business of maintaining our own set of contacts around the world," Hoekstra said of his committee. "We can't do that — not at all."

The CIA devotes significant energy toward developing relationships with individuals who have access to intelligence and then protecting their identities.

Hoekstra's sources could stem from any number of contacts made inside or outside Washington.

Congress members, especially the House Intelligence Committee, take official trips to meet with members of foreign governments, interest groups and individuals. For instance, Hoekstra and other intelligence committee members spent Congress' August break hop-scotching from Great Britain to Egypt to Jordan to Iraq.

This would be pretty funny if it also wasn't so ridiculously serious.

I'm sure intelligent men such as Tom "I am the Government" DeLay can supplement the Company with all kinds of Intelligence. DeLay, after all is very tight with Abramoff's Organization, and Abramoff has friends who can make an intelligence offer you can't refuse.

Here's a bit of Intelligence the Company needs to think about. It is certain Goss won't send any Agents on assignment to check it out. But I doubt DeLay's substitute Don Blunt knows much about it either:

The floating cap of sea ice on the Arctic Ocean shrank this summer to what is probably its smallest size in a century, continuing a trend toward less summer ice that is hard to explain without attributing it in part to human-caused global warming, various experts on the region said today.

The findings are consistent with recent computer simulations showing that a buildup of smokestack and tailpipe emissions of greenhouse gases could lead to a profoundly transformed Arctic later this century in which much of the once ice-locked ocean is routinely open water in summers.

It also appears that the change is becoming self sustaining, with the increased open water absorbing solar energy that would 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 NASA.

"Feedbacks in the system are starting to take hold," Dr. Scambos said. "The consecutive record-low extents make it pretty certain a long-term decline is underway."

The North Pole ice cap always grows in winter and shrinks in the summer, but the new summer low, measured on Sept. 19th, was 20 percent below the average minimum ice extent measured from 2000 back to 1978, when precise satellite mapping of the ice began, the snow and ice center reported.

The difference between the average ice area and the area that persisted this summer was about 500,000 square miles, or twice the size of Texas, the scientists said.

This summer was the fourth in a row with ice extents sharply below the long-term average, said Mark Serreze, a senior scientist at the snow and ice center and a professor at the University of Colorado in Boulder.

A natural cycle in the polar atmosphere, the Arctic Oscillation, that contributed to the reduction in Arctic ice in the past was not a significant factor right now, he said, adding that rising temperatures driven by accumulating greenhouse-gas emissions had to be playing a role.

He and other scientists said that there could be more variability ahead, including some years in which the sea ice will grow. But they have found few hints that other factors, like more Arctic cloudiness in a warming world, might reverse the trend.

"With all that dark open water, you start to see an increase in Arctic Ocean heat storage," Dr. Serreze said. "Come autumn and winter that makes it a lot harder to grow ice, and the next spring you're left with less and thinner ice. And it's easier to lose even more the next year..."

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

"The Republican War on Science"

As reviewed by the Christian Science Monitor, with thanks to Truthout for the link.

The Republican War on Science lives up to its incendiary title. The book will undoubtedly raise hackles among conservatives and spawn sharp-tongued counterattacks. But the real test of its efficacy may be whether or not it persuades independents and moderate Republicans that without a new approach toward science America is headed for what the author calls "economic, ecological, and social calamity."

As a good polemicist, Chris Mooney, a journalist who specializes in writing about science and politics, knows to protect his argument by first making two concessions.

First, not all Republicans have been anti-science. Teddy Roosevelt was a great early conservationist. Dwight Eisenhower was the first president to recognize that the White House needed a science adviser. Ronald Reagan's Surgeon General, C. Everett Koop, weighed scientific evidence "dispassionately" on subjects like AIDS and the health effects of abortion and declared, "I am the nation's surgeon general, not the nation's chaplain."

Even the first President Bush was largely regarded by scientists as "a friend," Mr. Mooney says. And today, a few GOP mavericks like Sen. John McCain speak the truth on issues like global warming.

Secondly, Mooney wisely - albeit briefly - acknowledges that liberals have also sometimes twisted science for their own political ends. Some of the alarm over genetically modified foods has exceeded what science shows; animal rights activists have argued that animal testing isn't necessary when most scientists disagree; and some Democratic politicians have overstated the likelihood that stem-cell research will produce quick cures.

But these transgressions, Mooney says, pale in comparison with the breathtaking audacity of Mr. Bush's "New Right" in its cynical manipulation of science. In a kind of Orwellian newspeak, they label conventional science as "junk science" and seek to replace it with what they call "sound science" - in other words, questionable, fringe science that conveniently props up the interests of big industry and conservative Christians.

All sides might agree that science should inform policy, not make it. Other considerations may trump it. But what irks Mooney is when, in his eyes, science is distorted to defend a policy.

In this regard, Mooney contrasts the Clinton and Bush administrations in their approaches to needle-exchange programs for drug addicts. Numerous reputable scientific studies show that needle-exchange programs reduce the transmission of AIDS without encouraging drug abuse. The Clinton administration acknowledged these findings, but simply decided to ignore them, apparently unwilling to take an unpopular political stance.

The Bush administration also opposed needle-exchange programs but "twisted the science," Mooney says, by insisting that some scientists doubted the findings. Yet when the press followed up, the scientists cited by the White House said they had no such doubts.

A key GOP tactic, Mooney says, has been "magnifying uncertainty" - finding a few dissenting voices on the scientific fringe and calling for "more research" to forestall action - a tactic the tobacco industry used for decades, he says.

Chapter by chapter, Mooney picks through the hot-button issues - global warming, creationism, intelligent design, stem cells - and finds conservatives politicizing and distorting the science involved.

He rejects the idea of even "teaching the controversy" over these issues in schools, arguing that the far right has invented the controversy itself by ginning up a kind of faux science alternative that has no solid basis. He isn't even willing to move the controversy out of science classes into social studies or current events.

Mooney does offer a brief list of solutions. Congress should revive the Office of Technology Assessment "or a close equivalent," which once offered nonpartisan scientific advice to lawmakers. The White House should restore its science adviser from his peripheral position now to the president's inner circle, where the office resided under President Kennedy. Journalists should resist slick PR campaigns and "spin" on science-related stories.

(According to Mooney, although a "powerful consensus" exists among scientists that global climate change is under way, that has not been reflected in the mainstream press, which feels compelled for reasons of "balance" to report as though the issue were still in doubt.)

"Our future relies on our intelligence ... nourishing disturbing anti-intellectual tendencies - cannot deliver us there successfully or safely," Mooney warns.

For those who have felt even vaguely disturbed by their government's attitude toward science, this book is likely to bring those concerns into sharp focus.

Aside from sheer demagoguery, and the appeal to irrational fundamentalist voters, much of the war on science has been to maximize the profits for the cronies of this administration.

Occasionally the level of incompetence reaches the point where even fellow Republicans can not protect the appointee.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Pickin' and Grinnin'

Guitar George, he knows all the chords...

George W. Bush will go down in history as the president who fiddled while America lost its superpower status.

Bush used deceit and hysteria to lead America into a war that is bleeding the US economically, militarily, and diplomatically. The war is being fought with hundreds of billions of dollars borrowed from foreigners. The war is bleeding the military of troops and commitments. The war has ended the US claim to moral leadership and exposed the US as a reckless and aggressive power.

Focused on a concocted "war on terrorism," the Bush administration diverted money from the New Orleans levees to Iraq, with the consequence that the US now has a $100 billion rebuild bill on top of the war bill.

The US is so short of troops that neoconservatives are advocating the use of foreign mercenaries paid with US citizenship.

US efforts to isolate Iran have been blocked by Russia and China, nuclear powers that Bush cannot bully.

The Iraqi war has three beneficiaries: (1) al Qaeda, (2) Iran and (3) US war industries and Bush-Cheney cronies who receive no-bid contracts.

Everyone else is a loser.

The war has bestowed on al Qaeda recruits, prestige, and a training ground.

The war has allied Iran with Iraq’s Shi’ite majority.

The war has brought soaring profits to the military industries and the firms with reconstruction contracts at the expense of 20,000 US military casualties and tens of thousands of Iraqi civilian casualties.

The Republican Party is a loser, because its hidebound support for the war is isolating the party from public opinion.

The Democratic Party is a loser, because its cowardly acquiescence in a war that is opposed by the majority of its members is making the party irrelevant.

The latest polls show that a majority of Americans believe the US cannot win against the Iraq insurgency. The majority support withdrawal and the redirection of war spending to rebuilding New Orleans. Despite the clarity of the public’s wishes, the Republican Party continues to support the unpopular war.

With the exceptions of Reps. Cynthia McKinney and John Conyers, Democrats fled the scene of the Sept. 24 antiwar rally in Washington DC. The cynical Democrats are apparently owned by the same interest groups that own the Republicans and are refusing the mantle of majority party that the electorate is offering to the party that will end the war.

The Bush administration is churning out red ink in excess of $1 trillion annually. The federal budget deficit is approaching $500 billion. The US trade deficit is approaching $700 billion.

The budget deficit is being financed by foreigners, primarily Asians who now hold enough US government debt to exercise power over US interest rates and the value of the dollar whenever they decide to use the power that Bush has placed in their hands.

The trade deficit is being financed by turning over the ownership of US assets and future income streams to foreigners, making Americans forever poorer from the loss of accumulated wealth.

For the time being, China is willing to accumulate US assets as a way of taking over our consumer markets, attracting US manufacturing industry with cheap labor subsidized by artificial currency values, and gaining our technology. China’s strategy is to over-value the US dollar in order to encourage the transfer of US economic capabilities to China. China’s strategy gives artificial value to the dollar and keeps US interest rates at an artificial low.

The values of US stocks, bonds, and real estate depend on the support that Asians’ economic strategies provide the dollar and US interest rates. As Asia achieves its goal of preeminence in manufacturing, innovation, and product development, the strategy will change. Once China completes its acquisition of US capabilities, it will no longer have a reason to support the dollar.

When the dollar goes, it will affect costs, profits, interest rates and living standards in dramatic ways. Costs and interest rates will soar, and profits, living standards, equity values, bond prices and real estate will plummet.

These unpleasant events await only Asia’s decision to curtail its support for US red ink. That will happen when this support no longer serves Asia’s interest.

When Asia pulls the plug on the dollar, the US government will find that monetary and fiscal policy are powerless to offset the consequences.

Compared to US budget and trade deficits, terrorists are a minor concern. The greatest danger that the US faces is the dollar’s loss of reserve currency role. This would be an impoverishing event, one from which the US would not recover.

An intelligent government sincerely concerned with homeland security would find a way to halt the global labor arbitrage that is stripping the American economy of high value-added jobs and manufacturing capability, thereby causing the US trade deficit to explode. The loss of tax base that results when US companies outsource jobs and relocate production abroad makes it ever more difficult to balance a budget strained by war, natural disasters, and demographic impact on Social Security and Medicare.

Global labor arbitrage is rapidly dismantling the ladders of upward mobility and thereby endangering American political stability. This threat is far greater than any Osama bin Laden can mount.

Time is running out for Republicans and Democrats to escape from the distraction of a pointless war and to focus on the real threats that endanger the United States of America.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Better Than a Black Budget

The Pentagon has no accurate knowledge of the cost of military operations in Iraq, Afghanistan or the fight against terrorism, limiting Congress's ability to oversee spending, the Government Accountability Office concluded in a report released yesterday.

The Defense Department has reported spending $191 billion to fight terrorism from the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks through May 2005, with the annual sum ballooning from $11 billion in fiscal 2002 to a projected $71 billion in fiscal 2005. But the GAO investigation found many inaccuracies totaling billions of dollars.

"Neither DOD nor Congress can reliably know how much the war is costing and details of how appropriated funds are being spent," the report to Congress stated. The GAO said the problem is rooted in long-standing weaknesses in the Pentagon's outmoded financial management system, which is designed to handle small-scale contingencies.

The report said the Pentagon overstated the cost of mobilized Army reservists in fiscal 2004 by as much as $2.1 billion. Because the Army lacked a reliable process to identify the military personnel costs, it plugged in numbers to match the available budget, the report stated. "Effectively, the Army was reporting back to Congress exactly what it had appropriated," the report said.

The probe also found "inadvertent double accounting" by the Navy and Marine Corps from November 2004 to April 2005 amounting to almost $1.8 billion...

More here in the GAO report, thanks to Defense Tech and Intel Dump.

A billion here, a billion there, pretty soon you're talking real money.

Disappointment in Desolation Alley

Cindy Sheenan, today:

Last weekend, Karl Rove said that I was a clown and the anti-war movement was "non-existent." I wonder if the hundreds of thousands of people who showed up today to protest this war and George's failed policies know that they don't exist. It is also so incredible to me that Karl thinks that he can wish us away by saying we aren't real. Well, Karl and Co., we are real, we do exist and we are not going away until this illegal and immoral occupation of Iraq is over and you are sent back to the depths of whatever slimy, dark, and loathsome place you came from. I may be a clown, Karl, but you are about to be indicted. You also preside over one of the biggest three-ring, malevolent circuses of all time: the Bush administration.

The rally today was overwhelming and powerful. The reports that I was arrested today were obviously false. The peace rally was mostly very peaceful. Washington, DC was filled with energetic and proud Americans who came from all over to raise their voices in unison against the criminals who run our government and their disastrous policies that are making our nation more vulnerable to all kinds of attacks (natural and "Bush"-made disasters)...

And yesterday? Peaceful, and despite the non-coverage from CNN, massive. The New York Pravda put it this way in a short notice:

Vast numbers of protesters from around the country poured onto the lawns behind the White House on Saturday to demonstrate their opposition to the war in Iraq, pointedly directing their anger at President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.

A sea of anti-administration signs and banners flashed back at a long succession of speakers, who sharply rebuked the administration for continuing a war that has cost the lives of nearly 2,000 Americans and many more Iraqis. Many of the speakers also charged Mr. Bush with squandering resources that could have been used to aid people affected by the two hurricanes that slammed into the Gulf Coast.

As protesters moved from the rally to a march around the White House, they packed city streets, and in some areas, came face to face with groups of pro-administration demonstrators, who held up signs expressing support for the war.

Organizers of the rally and march had a permit for 100,000 people, but the National Park Service no longer provides official estimates for large gatherings in Washington.

Rallies held on Saturday in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle and other cities drew considerably smaller crowds, but unlike the more varied themes of recent protests against administration policies, antiwar sentiment on Saturday was consistent throughout. In Washington, it was evident from the start, as an organizer screamed over the microphone, "Let Bush and Cheney and the White House hear our message: Bring the troops home now."

Mr. Bush was in Colorado and Texas monitoring hurricane developments, and Mr. Cheney was undergoing surgery at George Washington University hospital...
As Karl Rove cowered in the Dakotas somewhere.

Rummy is all dressed up to exploit the protesters with Granite Shadow, but this time around the antiwar movement is too smart to engage in violence. This administration wants violence, and we all realize you never fight your opponent on their terms.

All in all, this war's been tougher than the neoclowns expected. They went to the trouble to make heroin the number one export of Afghanistan, and pumped up methamphetamine to the status of the poor's drug of choice. Cocaine is easier than ever to get with the Columbian cartels back on board with The Company.

The only problem is, the most likely people to use these drugs are the very people Cheneyburton can't afford to lose: poor, uneducated white folks, generally in the South, and generally strong supporters of Dear Leader and the War on Terra.

Like I said. This time around, the antiwar movement is deadly serious. We learned. We're armed with the Powell Doctrine, which Cheneyburton discarded:

Never Fight a Battle You Can't Win.

Never, Ever, Let Your Enemy Pick the Battlefield.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Warming Trend

Posted from the The Independent, from Steve Connor:

A record loss of sea ice in the Arctic this summer has convinced scientists that the northern hemisphere may have crossed a critical threshold beyond which the climate may never recover. Scientists fear that the Arctic has now entered an irreversible phase of warming which will accelerate the loss of the polar sea ice that has helped to keep the climate stable for thousands of years.

They believe global warming is melting Arctic ice so rapidly that the region is beginning to absorb more heat from the sun, causing the ice to melt still further and so reinforcing a vicious cycle of melting and heating.

The greatest fear is that the Arctic has reached a "tipping point" beyond which nothing can reverse the continual loss of sea ice and with it the massive land glaciers of Greenland, which will raise sea levels dramatically.

Satellites monitoring the Arctic have found that the extent of the sea ice this August has reached its lowest monthly point on record, dipping an unprecedented 18.2 per cent below the long-term average.

Experts believe that such a loss of Arctic sea ice in summer has not occurred in hundreds and possibly thousands of years. It is the fourth year in a row that the sea ice in August has fallen below the monthly downward trend - a clear sign that melting has accelerated.

Scientists are now preparing to report a record loss of Arctic sea ice for September, when the surface area covered by the ice traditionally reaches its minimum extent at the end of the summer melting period.

Sea ice naturally melts in summer and reforms in winter but for the first time on record this annual rebound did not occur last winter when the ice of the Arctic failed to recover significantly.

Arctic specialists at the US National Snow and Ice Data Centre at Colorado University, who have documented the gradual loss of polar sea ice since 1978, believe that a more dramatic melt began about four years ago.

In September 2002 the sea ice coverage of the Arctic reached its lowest level in recorded history. Such lows have normally been followed the next year by a rebound to more normal levels, but this did not occur in the summers of either 2003 or 2004. This summer has been even worse. The surface area covered by sea ice was at a record monthly minimum for each of the summer months - June, July and now August.

Scientists analysing the latest satellite data for September - the traditional minimum extent for each summer - are preparing to announce a significant shift in the stability of the Arctic sea ice, the northern hemisphere's major "heat sink" that moderates climatic extremes.

"The changes we've seen in the Arctic over the past few decades are nothing short of remarkable," said Mark Serreze, one of the scientists at the Snow and Ice Data Centre who monitor Arctic sea ice.

Scientists at the data centre are bracing themselves for the 2005 annual minimum, which is expected to be reached in mid-September, when another record loss is forecast. A major announcement is scheduled for 20 September. "It looks like we're going to exceed it or be real close one way or the other. It is probably going to be at least as comparable to September 2002," Dr. Serreze said.

"This will be four Septembers in a row that we've seen a downward trend. The feeling is we are reaching a tipping point or threshold beyond which sea ice will not recover."

The extent of the sea ice in September is the most valuable indicator of its health. This year's record melt means that more of the long-term ice formed over many winters - so called multi-year ice - has disappeared than at any time in recorded history.

Sea ice floats on the surface of the Arctic Ocean and its neighbouring seas and normally covers an area of some 7 million square kilometres (2.4 million square miles) during September - about the size of Australia. However, in September 2002, this dwindled to about 2 million square miles - 16 per cent below average.

Sea ice data for August closely mirrors that for September and last month's record low - 18.2 per cent below the monthly average - strongly suggests that this September will see the smallest coverage of Arctic sea ice ever recorded.

As more and more sea ice is lost during the summer, greater expanses of open ocean are exposed to the sun which increases the rate at which heat is absorbed in the Arctic region, Dr. Serreze said.

Sea ice reflects up to 80 per cent of sunlight hitting it but this "albedo effect" is mostly lost when the sea is uncovered. "We've exposed all this dark ocean to the sun's heat so that the overall heat content increases," he explained.

Current computer models suggest that the Arctic will be entirely ice-free during summer by the year 2070 but some scientists now believe that even this dire prediction may be over-optimistic, said Professor Peter Wadhams, an Arctic ice specialist at Cambridge University.

"When the ice becomes so thin it breaks up mechanically rather than thermodynamically. So these predictions may well be on the over-optimistic side," he said.

As the sea ice melts, and more of the sun's energy is absorbed by the exposed ocean, a positive feedback is created leading to the loss of yet more ice, Professor Wadhams said.

"If anything we may be underestimating the dangers. The computer models may not take into account collaborative positive feedback," he said.

Sea ice keeps a cap on frigid water, keeping it cold and protecting it from heating up. Losing the sea ice of the Arctic is likely to have major repercussions for the climate, he said. "There could be dramatic changes to the climate of the northern region due to the creation of a vast expanse of open water where there was once effectively land," Professor Wadhams said. "You're essentially changing land into ocean and the creation of a huge area of open ocean where there was once land will have a very big impact on other climate parameters," he said.

Much of the data concerning the retreat of artic ice is summarized here in a "State of the Cryosphere". The extent of sea ice is covered in maps and the rate of change with time is graphically covered here. No wonder the Company is so eager to cut funding for the NOAA, data like these reveal the damage unequivocally.

Friday, September 23, 2005


About the time of my previous post, leveymg at Kos noticed there are some funny things happening in D.C. this weekend.

The New York Pravda has removed the link Kos cited saying that Dear Leader is planning on spending quality time with Jim Beam under a mountain in Colorado this weekend. But the one I cited is still up. Less traffic from here, I guess.

Kos tells us that there is a planned domestic terror exercise in Washington this weekend. They caught this a couple of days ago at Defense Tech:

"Today, somewhere in the DC metropolitan area, the military is conducting a... Top Secret and compartmented [exercise of] the military’s extra-legal [response to] weapons of mass destruction," writes William Arkin, on his extremely awesome new blog, Early Warning. "It allows for emergency military operations in the United States without civilian supervision or control."

A spokesman at the Joint Force Headquarters-National Capital Region (JFHQ-NCR) confirmed the existence of Granite Shadow to me yesterday, but all he would say is that Granite Shadow is the unclassified name for a classified plan.

That classified plan, I believe, after extensive research and after making a couple of assumptions, is CONPLAN 0400, formally titled Counter-Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction. [It's] a long-standing contingency plan of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS) that... lays out national policy and priorities for dealing with WMD threats in peacetime and crisis -- from far away offensive strikes and special operations against foreign WMD infrastructure and capabilities, to missile defenses and "consequence management" at home if offensive efforts fail...

U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM), the military's new homeland security command, is preparing its draft version of CONPLAN 0400 for military operations in the United States, and the resulting Granite Shadow plan... include[s] deployment of "special mission units" (the so-called Delta Force, SEAL teams, Rangers, and other special units of Joint Special Operations Command) in Washington, DC and other domestic hot spots...

Further, Granite Shadow posits domestic military operations, including intelligence collection and surveillance, unique rules of engagement regarding the use of lethal force, the use of experimental non-lethal weapons, and federal and military control of incident locations that are highly controversial and might border on the illegal.

In The Coming Wars, Seymour Hersch quoted an intelligence source in the Pentagon as saying:

“Rumsfeld will no longer have to refer anything through the government’s intelligence wringer,” the former official went on. “The intelligence system was designed to put competing agencies in competition. What’s missing will be the dynamic tension that insures everyone’s priorities—in the C.I.A., the D.O.D., the F.B.I., and even the Department of Homeland Security—are discussed. The most insidious implication of the new system is that Rumsfeld no longer has to tell people what he’s doing so they can ask, ‘Why are you doing this?’ or ‘What are your priorities?’ Now he can keep all of the mattress mice out of it.”

No mattress mice in the Granite Shadow...

In Control

The Washington Post jumps the gun in praising the way Dear Leader's New and Improved FEMA has the Rita-cane firmly under control (link thanks, Atrios).

Meanwhile, outside of Houston, 5 million people are stuck in a 100-mile long traffic jam extending beyond Dallas.

Exploding buses of evacuees in the Dallas 'burbs.

But Dear Leader's on his way- woops, nope, he heard it might get unpredictable. So he's hiding from the antiwar rally this weekend under a mountain in Colorado instead.

I wonder why? Time for another Operation Northwoods in D.C., probably. The 9/11 effect has worn off, and nobody even showed up for Rummy's spiffy Contry Music fest a couple of weeks ago.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

On the Nature of Evil

What is Evil? Submitted for your approval:

"I was looking over the list of budget cuts proposed by House Republicans to save the president's tax cuts. And the big thing that sticks out is just how much comes out of Medicare. But a bit down further into the document which they put out there's a $1.8 billion annual cut in funding for the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). That's great thinking, seeing as though we don't need to worry about Avian Flu from South Asia or other contagious diseases any more."
-- Josh Marshall

What is Evil? Willful stupidity. Intentional ignorance. The Bush Administration.

Tight Allies

President Bush decided Wednesday to waive any financial sanctions on Saudi Arabia, Washington's closest Arab ally in the war on terrorism, for failing to do enough to stop the modern-day slave trade in prostitutes, child sex workers and forced laborers.

In June, the State Department listed 14 countries as failing to adequately address trafficking problems, subjecting them all to possible sanctions if they did not crack down.

Of those 14, Bush concluded that Bolivia, Jamaica, Qatar, Sudan, Togo and the United Arab Emirates had made enough improvements to avoid any cut in U.S. aid or, in the case of countries that get no American financial assistance, the barring of their officials from cultural and educational events, said Darla Jordan, a State Department spokeswoman.

Cambodia and Venezuela were not considered to have made similar adequate improvements. But Bush cleared them nonetheless to receive limited assistance, for such things as combatting trafficking. In the case of Venezuela — which has had a tense relationship with the United States under the leadership of President Hugo Chavez, one of Latin America's most outspoken critics of U.S. foreign policy — Bush also allowed funding for strengthening the political party system and supporting electoral observation.

In addition to Saudi Arabia, Ecuador and Kuwait — another U.S. ally in the Middle East — were given a complete pass on any sanctions, Jordan said. Despite periodic differences, oil-rich Saudi Arabia and the United States have a tight alliance built on economic and military cooperation.

That left Myanmar, Cuba and North Korea as the only nations in the list of 14 barred completely from receiving certain kinds of foreign aid. The act does not include cutting off trade assistance or humanitarian aid, Jordan said.

The White House statement offered no explanation of why countries were regarded differently. Jordan also could not provide one.

As many as 800,000 people are bought and sold across national borders annually or lured to other countries with false promises of work or other benefits, according to the State Department. Most are women and children.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Deja Vu All Over Again

jesselee at the DCCC Weblog detects a pattern.

I'd say it's about time somebody did.

Thanks to Atrios for the link.

Stormy Weather, Again

Today Rita got her wings, and was upgraded to a Category 5 hurricane, with her sights set on Galveston, Houston, and whatever oil rigs are left in the Gulf of Mexico.

Nobody needed this, but since it's the second once-in-a-lifetime storm to hit the Gulf in the last 3 weeks, and the second year running with record numbers of tropical storms, it's only fair to ask, "what's going on here"?

Perhaps this is best described by the technical literature (Science, Vol 309, Issue 5742, 1844-1846 , 16 September 2005):

Changes in Tropical Cyclone Number, Duration, and Intensity in a Warming Environment
P. J. Webster, G. J. Holland, J. A. Curry, H.-R. Chang

During the hurricane season of 2004, there were 14 named storms in the North Atlantic, of which 9 achieved hurricane intensity. Four of these hurricanes struck the southeast United States in rapid succession, causing considerable damage and disruption. Analysis of hurricane characteristics in the North Atlantic (1, 2) has shown an increase in hurricane frequency and intensity since 1995. Recently, a causal relationship between increasing hurricane frequency and intensity and increasing sea surface temperature (SST) has been posited (3), assuming an acceleration of the hydrological cycle arising from the nonlinear relation between saturation vapor pressure and temperature (4). The issue of attribution of increased hurricane frequency to increasing SST has resulted in a vigorous debate in the press and in academic circles (5).

Numerous studies have addressed the issue of changes in the global frequency and intensity of hurricanes in the warming world. Our basic conceptual understanding of hurricanes suggests that there could be a relationship between hurricane activity and SST. It is well established that SST > 26°C is a requirement for tropical cyclone formation in the current climate (6, 7). There is also a hypothesized relationship between SST and the maximum potential hurricane intensity (8, 9). However, strong interannual variability in hurricane statistics (10-14) and the possible influence of interannual variability associated with El Niño and the North Atlantic Oscillation (11, 12) make it difficult to discern any trend relative to background SST increases with statistical veracity (8). Factors other than SST have been cited for their role in regulating hurricane characteristics, including vertical shear and mid-tropospheric moisture (15). Global modeling results for doubled CO2 scenarios are contradictory (15-20), with simulations showing a lack of consistency in projecting an increase or decrease in the total number of hurricanes, although most simulations project an increase in hurricane intensity.

Tropical ocean SSTs increased by approximately 0.5°C between 1970 and 2004 (21)... Here we examine the variations in hurricane characteristics for each ocean basin in the context of the basin SST variations. To this end, we conducted a comprehensive analysis of global tropical cyclone statistics for the satellite era (1970–2004). In each tropical ocean basin, we examined the numbers of tropical storms and hurricanes, the number of storm days, and the hurricane intensity distribution. The tropical cyclone data are derived from the best track archives of the Joint Typhoon Warning Center and of international warning centers, including special compilations and quality control (22).

...Tropical cyclonic systems attaining surface wind speeds between 18 and 33 m s–1 are referred to as tropical storms. Although storms of intensity >33 m s–1 have different regional names, we will refer to these storms as hurricanes for simplicity. Hurricanes in categories 1 to 5, according to the Saffir-Simpson scale (23), are defined as storms with wind speeds of 33 to 43 m s–1, 43 to 50 m s–1, 50 to 56 m s–1, 56 to 67 m s–1, and >67 m s–1, respectively. We define the ocean basins that support tropical cyclone development as follows: North Atlantic (90° to 20°W, 5° to 25°N), western North Pacific (120° to 180°E, 5° to 20°N), eastern North Pacific (90° to 120°W, 5° to 20°N), South Indian (50° to 115°E, 5°-20°S), North Indian (55° to 90°E, 5°-20°N), and Southwest Pacific (155° to 180°E, 5° to 20°S). Within these basins, total tropical storm days are defined as the total number of days of systems that only reached tropical storm intensity. Total hurricane days refer to systems that attained hurricane status, including the period when a system was at tropical storm intensity. Total tropical cyclone number or days refers to the sum of the statistics for both tropical storms and hurricanes.

...hurricanes in the strongest categories (4 + 5) have almost doubled in number (50 per pentad in the 1970s to near 90 per pentad during the past decade) and in proportion (from around 20% to around 35% during the same period). These changes occur in all of the ocean basins. A summary of the number and percent of storms by category is given in Table 1, binned for the years 1975–1989 and 1990–2004. This increase in category 4 and 5 hurricanes has not been accompanied by an increase in the actual intensity of the most intense hurricanes: The maximum intensity has remained remarkably static over the past 35 years...

Table 1. Change in the number and percentage of hurricanes in categories 4 and 5 for the 15-year periods 1975–1989 and 1990–2004 for the different ocean basins.
East Pacific Ocean......36...........25......................49............35
West Pacific Ocean......85...........25......................116...........41
North Atlantic..........16...........20......................25............25
Southwestern Pacific....10...........12......................22............28
North Indian............1............8.......................7.............25
South Indian............23...........18......................50............34

...There is evidence of a minimum of intense cyclones occurring in the 1970s (11), which could indicate that our observed trend toward more intense cyclones is a reflection of a long-period oscillation. However, the sustained increase over a period of 30 years in the proportion of category 4 and 5 hurricanes indicates that the related oscillation would have to be on a period substantially longer than that observed in previous studies.

We conclude that global data indicate a 30-year trend toward more frequent and intense hurricanes, corroborated by the results of the recent regional assessment (29). This trend is not inconsistent with recent climate model simulations that a doubling of CO2 may increase the frequency of the most intense cyclones (18, 30), although attribution of the 30-year trends to global warming would require a longer global data record and, especially, a deeper understanding of the role of hurricanes in the general circulation of the atmosphere and ocean, even in the present climate state.

References and Notes

1. S. B. Goldenberg, C. W. Landsea, A. M. Maestas-Nunez, W. M. Gray, Science 293, 474 (2001).[Abstract/Free Full Text]
2. J. B. Elsner, B. Kocher, Geophys. Res. Lett. 27, 129 (2000).[CrossRef][ISI]
3. K. E. Trenberth, Science 308, 1753 (2005).[Abstract/Free Full Text]
4. K. E. Trenberth et al., Bull. Am. Meteorol. Soc. 84, 1205 (2003).[CrossRef][ISI]
5. R. A. Pielke Jr. et al., Bull. Am. Meteorol. Soc., in press (available at http://sciencepolicy.colorado.edu/admin/publication_files/resourse-1762-hurricanes%20and_global_warming.pdf).
6. J. Lighthill et al., Bull. Am. Meterol. Soc. 75, 2147 (1994).
7. W. M. Gray, Mon. Weather Rev. 96, 669 (1968).[ISI]
8. K. A. Emanuel, Nature 326, 483 (1987).[CrossRef][ISI]
9. G. J. Holland, J. Atmos. Sci. 54, 2519 (1997).[CrossRef][ISI]
10. M. A. Lander, C. P. Guard, Mon. Weather Rev. 126, 1163 (1998).[CrossRef][ISI]
11. C. W. Landsea, R. A. Pielke Jr., A. M. Maestas-Nunez, J. A. Knaff, Clim. Change 42, 89 (1999).[CrossRef][ISI]
12. J. C. L. Chan, K. S. Liu, J. Clim. 17, 4590 (2004).[CrossRef][ISI]
13. W. M. Gray, Mon. Weather Rev. 112, 1649 (1984).[CrossRef][ISI]
14. C. K. Folland, D. E. Parker, A. Colman, R. Washington, in Beyond El Nino: Decadal and Interdecadal Climate Variability, A. Navarra, Ed. (Springer-Verlag, Berlin, 1999), pp. 73-102.
15. L. J. Shapiro, S. B. Goldenberg, J. Clim. 11, 578 (1998).[CrossRef][ISI]
16. H. G. Houghton et al., Climate Change—2001: The Scientific Basis (Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge, 2001).
17. A. Henderson-Sellers et al., Bull. Am. Meteorol. Soc. 79, 19 (1998).[CrossRef][ISI]
18. T. R. Knutson, R. E. Tuleya, J. Clim. 17, 3477 (2004).[CrossRef][ISI]
19. J. F. Royer, F. Chauvin, B. Timbal, P. Araspin, D. Grimal, Clim. Dyn. 38, 307 (1998).[CrossRef]
20. M. Sugi, A. Noda, N. Sato, J. Meteorol. Soc. Jpn. 80, 249 (2002).[CrossRef]
21. P. Agudelo, J. A. Curry, Geophys. Res. Lett. 31, Art. No. L22207 (2004).
22. C. J. Neumann, in Global Guide to Tropical Cyclone Forecasting, G. J. Holland, Ed. (WMO/TD-560, World Meteorological Organization, Geneva, Switzerland, 1993), chap. 1.
23. See www.aoml.noaa.gov/general/lib/laescae.html for a description of the Saffir-Simpson scale.
24. R. M. Hirsche, J. R. Slack, R. Smith, Water Resource Res. 18, 107 (1982).[ISI]
25. V. F. Dvorak, Mon. Weather Rev. 103, 420 (1975).[CrossRef][ISI]
26. C. S. Velden, T. L. Olander, R. M. Zehr, Weather and Forecasting 13, 172 (1998).[CrossRef][ISI]
27. J. P. Kossin, C. S. Velden, Mon. Weather Rev. 132, 165 (2004).[CrossRef][ISI]
28. G. J. Holland, Aust. Meteorol. Mag. 29, 169 (1981).
29. K. Emanuel, Nature 436, 686 (2005).[CrossRef][ISI][Medline]
30. See www.prime-intl.co.jp/kyosei-2nd/PDF/24/11_murakami.pdf.
31. This research was supported by the Climate Dynamics Division of NSF under award NSF-ATM 0328842 and by the National Center for Atmospheric Research, which is funded by NSF.

People, I'd get an umbrella, at least. A life jacket might be useful occasionally, too. Not to mention a government that paid attention to what its' scientists were trying to tell it.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Even Paranoids Have Real Companies

Business appears to be booming for the Company in Iraq.

"A British soldier jumps from a burning tank which was set ablaze after a shooting incident in the southern Iraqi city of Basra September 19, 2005. Angry crowds attacked a British tank with petrol bombs and rocks in Basra on Monday after Iraqi authorities said they had detained two British undercover soldiers in the southern city for firing on police."

Jeff Wells puts together another story from this:

How it began:

"Two persons wearing Arab uniforms opened fire at a police station in Basra. A police patrol followed the attackers and captured them to discover they were two British soldiers," an Interior Ministry source told Xinhua. The two soldiers were using a civilian car packed with explosives, the source said.


As you probably know, they didn't remain in custody for long:

British forces using tanks broke down the walls of the central jail in the southern city of Basra late Monday and freed two Britons, allegedly undercover commandos, who had been arrested on charges of shooting two Iraqi policemen.

Witnesses said about 150 Iraqi prisoners also fled the jail.

Violence flared earlier in the day as demonstrators hurled stones and Molotov cocktails at British tanks; at least four people were killed.

The British Defense Ministry spun, but found it difficult to maneuver with its pants about its ankles. "We‘ve heard nothing to suggest we stormed the prison," a defense ministry spokesman in London said. "We understand there were negotiations." When it found some equilibrium, it changed its story to better comport with the undeniables: "We understand that the authorities ordered their release. Unfortunately they weren't released and we became concerned for their safety and as a result a Warrior infantry fighting vehicle broke down the perimeter wall in one place."

These hard men, likely SAS ops, must have had some stories to tell, otherwise tanks would not have negotiated their way through the prison walls of Britain's reputed hosts so soon after their capture.

Walking into the untidied mess of this astonishing and grotesque and predictable story feels a bit like the British detective catching the killer red-handed: "Well well well, what have we here?" We have long had reason to suspect imperial instigation to Iraq's sectarian violence, but here, as clearly as we've ever seen it, is the provocateur state revealed: two British "undercover soldiers" in Arab dress, caught firing upon police from a car laden with explosives. And the British government all but admitting its culpability by breaking them out of prison.

It doesn't make sense? Only if you haven't been paying attention. This is the subtext of the Iraq tragedy: blow up the Hajis and play the Sunnis on the Shias; create the chaos that introduces the conditions necessary for the long-game, and the long-held aspirations of the neoconservatives to divide Iraq into ethnographic bantustans.

I wonder what will be made of this story by those who think escalating bloodshed in Iraq is a measure of the failure of US policy, and not its success, and who believe black ops and false flags are figments of our paranoiac fantasies. Probably, as with so much that would bedevil their worldview if only they were intellectually honest enough to permit it, this too will be filtered out and forgotten. But our burden is we won't forget. And damned if the Iraqis will.

What Jeff tends to miss is that you don't have to conspiring to take over the world to walk amidst the noise and confusion, and take solace in owning a piece thereof.

You can find a more in-depth reporting of the known knowns about this incident at Defense Tech.

There is also a good link to Professor Cole's timeline describing the sequence as we know it.

When you hear descriptions of how Bu$hCo's allies in the Ownership Society are spreading its unique version of liberation- oil liberation, that is- in Iraq, bear in mind that like America, the British Government has its' share of connections with its' own private contractors.

Private corporations have penetrated western warfare so deeply that they are now the second biggest contributor to coalition forces in Iraq after the Pentagon, a Guardian investigation has established.

While the official coalition figures list the British as the second largest contingent with around 9,900 troops, they are narrowly outnumbered by the 10,000 private military contractors now on the ground.

The investigation has also discovered that the proportion of contracted security personnel in the firing line is 10 times greater than during the first Gulf war. In 1991, for every private contractor, there were about 100 servicemen and women; now there are 10...

While reliable figures are difficult to come by and governmental accounting and monitoring of the contracts are notoriously shoddy, the US army estimates that of the $87bn (£50.2bn) earmarked this year for the broader Iraqi campaign, including central Asia and Afghanistan, one third of that, nearly $30bn, will be spent on contracts to private companies...

But this is a field in which British companies dominate, with nearly half of the dozen or so private firms in Iraq coming from the UK.

The big British player in Iraq is Global Risk International, based in Hampton, Middlesex...

Pre-Negroponte pre-Statehood, and quite dated, this article (Dec. 2003), but now that it's hitting the fan, one can't help but wonder if all these Patriotic Companies have a stake in keeping the fires burning bright.

Just another conflict of interest in the Neoconomy, I'd say.

It's All Relative

Let's say a one thousand dollar bill is 1 millimeter thick.

1 millimeter = 0.0393701 inch

Four hundredths of an inch, pretty close to reality.

If you have a stack of thousand dollar bills one meter high, you're a millionaire.

1 meter = 3.2808399 feet

That's a stack of thousand dollar bills little bit above your waist if you're a 6 foot tall person.

Most people think, "It's just numbers. Basically it means richer than I'll ever be. Millionaire, billionaire, not that different. "

Not so much.

If you have a stack of thousand dollar bills one kilometer high, you're a billionaire.

1 kilometer = 3,280.839895 feet

That's a stack of thousand dollar bills as tall as two Sears Towers on top of each other plus a high-rise apartment building, or two.

1 kilometer = 0.6213712 mile

More than half the way from Sea Level to Denver. Straight up into the sky. One million Grover Clevelands stacked on top of each other.

Conclusion: the non-metric system (whatever the hell it's called) is a ploy by the capitalist overlords to prevent US and UK citizens from conceptualizing the wealth of the super-rich or the size of government expenditures. No wonder Europe has more egalitarian societies.

Bill Gates' net worth (2005): $46.5 billion

Cost of War in Iraq to US taxpayers (by end of FY 2005): $204.6 billion

As the L-Curve guy says, "You will not be outraged by outrageous statistics if you don't comprehend the numbers." Word.

Thanks, shystee.

This should be required reading in high schools across the nation.

Go over to the L-Curve and think about what David Chandler has to say.

Monday, September 19, 2005

They Always Hurt the Ones They Love

Cindy Sheehan, the mother of an American soldier killed in Iraq, last night brought her campaign to end the war to New York, where she accused Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of not doing enough to challenge the Bush administration's Iraq policies.

Speaking in front of more than 500 supporters in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, Ms. Sheehan, speaking of Senator Clinton, said, "She knows that the war is a lie but she is waiting for the right time to say it."

Then, as the crowd cheered, she issued a challenge to Senator Clinton, saying, "You say it or you are losing your job."

A spokesman for Senator Clinton, while not commenting about Ms. Sheehan's remarks, said that the senator, while voting to give President Bush the authority to go to war, has been very critical of the way he has chosen to use that authority...

In a perhaps not unrelated story,

Former US president Bill Clinton sharply criticised George W. Bush for the Iraq War and the handling of Hurricane Katrina, and voiced alarm at the swelling US budget deficit.

Breaking with tradition under which US presidents mute criticisms of their successors, Clinton said the Bush administration had decided to invade Iraq "virtually alone and before UN inspections were completed, with no real urgency, no evidence that there were weapons of mass destruction."

The Iraq war diverted US attention from the war on terrorism "and undermined the support that we might have had," Bush said in an interview with an ABC's "This Week" programme.

Clinton said there had been a "heroic but so far unsuccessful" effort to put together an constitution that would be universally supported in Iraq.

The US strategy of trying to develop the Iraqi military and police so that they can cope without US support "I think is the best strategy. The problem is we may not have, in the short run, enough troops to do that," said Clinton...

Perhaps it is also revealing what they don't say.

Instead of saying "this is a mistake, we never should have gone there, and we should leave immediately" they say "this is a mistake, it has been mismanaged, and we could have done it better".

Instead of saying "this is a war for oil, not freedom, designed to enrich some of the most powerful corporations in the world today" they say "this is a heroic war against terror and Bush has squandered our mighty military alliance".

The Clintons regret the Hegemony That Might Have Been and long for The One That May Be Again. But like Tolkien said in his Preface, in the real world men never destroy their Ring of Power. The Clintons long for the Precious, and it tortures them to see it on the hand of the Enemy they allowed to form again.

Ownership Society

Since 2000 a half century of sustained decline in infant death rates first slowed and then reversed. The infant mortality rate is now higher for the United States than for many other industrial countries. Malaysia — a country with an average income one-quarter that of the United States — has achieved the same infant mortality rate as the United States . . . the Indian state of Kerala has an urban infant death rate lower than that for African Americans in Washington, DC.

United Nations Development Programme
Human Development Report
September 2005

Thanks to Billmon for the link.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

The Honorable John Conyers Writes Letters

The Honorable Alberto R. Gonzales
Attorney General of the United States
U. S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20530

Dear Mr. Attorney General:

Today I learned that according to an article in the Clarion-Ledger that your office has sent an email to U.S. Attorney's Offices asking "Has your district defended any cases on behalf of the (U.S.) Army Corps of Engineers against claims brought by environmental groups seeking to block or otherwise impede the Corps work on the levees protecting New Orleans? If so, please describe the case and the outcome of the litigation."

If this is true, I am concerned that the motivation may be perceived as political, rather than an attempt to pursue a legitimate law enforcement goal or objective, which should be the Department's primary goal. This diversion of time and resources would seem particularly problematic given the difficulties the affected U.S. Attorneys offices have no doubt had in responding to Hurricane Katrina, and the incredibly heavy workloads they must be facing. As a result, I would appreciate your responding to the following questions:

1. Did your office circulate this or a similar e-mail? If so, to which offices was the e-mail circulated?

2. What caused your office to circulate the e-mail, and what personnel both inside and outside the Department were involved in the matter?

3. Did you set a deadline for a response? Have you received any responses yet? Please forward to my office any responses you have received or receive in the future.

4. Please estimate the cost - both out-of-pocket, and lost person hours - to both consider and circulate this request and for the various U.S. Attorney offices to respond?
1. What safeguards, if any, did you interpose to insure that a responding to this e-mail did not displace any legitimate law enforcement priorities of the applicable offices?

5. Has the Department ever sought information regarding previous litigation activity in connection with any other natural disaster other than Hurricane Katrina? If so, please provide my office with a description of such requests. I would appreciate receiving a full or partial response to this letter at your earliest possible convenience, and by no later than September 23, 2005 in any event. Please forward your response to my Judiciary Committee Minority Office, 2142 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20515.


John Conyers, Jr.
Ranking Member
House Judiciary Committee

cc: The Honorable F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr., The Honorable William E. Moschella

Rip him a new one, sir.

Get Your War On, South of the Border

The Left Coaster has a good update here on the attempted Company takeover of South America.

A while back, one of our wrong-wing wregulars took me to task for linking to an article in Pravda which announced US plans for a military base in Paraguay. Seems like such a thing is coming to pass...

The specific issue here isn't whether Paraguay is allowing a US military presence, but what the presence is intended to be used against.

Looking at a CIA map [Hey - I'm a taxpayer!], it's easy to see that Paraguay sits in a strategic location, congruent to certain assets that are important to Bu$hCo supporters, who expect that they will receive certain protective services for their foreign investments in the region that my tax dollars can provide. I'll cover more on this later.

First, what is to be the mission for a Paraguayan presence of US military personnel? Toppling the Bolivian government if the coming electoral campaign goes against neo-liberalist economic policies...

And wouldn't it be convenient if US forces provided the logistics for the American security companies 'requested' to protect such candidates as Quiroga and Medina from 'insurgents' - just like in Afghanistan and Iraq?

Let's look at these 'insurgents' and why they represent such a threat to US economic interests...

Just how rich can a foreign company make itself in Bolivia? According to the KITCO Silver charts as of 9/17/05, silver is going for just over $US 7.20 per ounce. Keep this in mind when reading the next excerpt...

We'll call it $US 7.20 for simplicity. At current prices, 206 million ounces of silver is worth $US 1.4832 BILLION from a country whose 2004 per capita GDP is $2600. That's a major Bu$hel of boliviano! ...

Silver isn't the reason why Bu$hco is so interested in local economics that they would spend money that is needed to repair the Gulf Coast of the United States on yet another foreign military base while 22 are about to close in the US. Something much more valuable is - petroleum energy resources...

Other oil companies could enter into the fray: Andina, Chaco, Maxus [Maxus Bolivia, Inc. Headquarters: The Woodlands, TX], Petrobras and Don Wong.

But Maxus is the one which provides Bu$hCo with their opening to inject US forces into Bolivia, and Paraguay is the best possible location to protect their spheres of influence. They would also have to protect their local puppet...

Bolivia is only one South American country where foreign investments are threatened by uprisings of the local people, and the 'problem' of keeping the locals in their place - which is only to provide vast profits as almost no cost to the investor - is made much more difficult and costly by the example of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez standing up to the US...

Since none of those messages resonated with the American people, it's time to return to the tired (sic) and true, one which has lasted since the rise of Richard Nixon - the War on Drugs. There are reports that Bu$hCo seeks ways of Turning Chavez Into Noriega to justify a Panama-like invasion, but more likely is the time-honored war excuse of a border dispute with Colombia, which is themselves a nation rife with drugs via the activities of the Medellin Cartel - an organization that couldn't exist today without their participation in Poppy Bu$h'$ Iran-Contra operation. [More here, here, and here ]

Only one problem: the drug-running plan doesn't seem to be working so well.

Regardless of what, when, where, why, and how, the 'who' of the equation is those globalization afficianados who seek to impose their drive for massive profits on the world through the agency of those they bankrolled into power - only there are now some doubts as to whether Bu$hCo has the cojones to carry out their entrusted tasks...

Thus, the pressure from neo-liberal neocon-men is clearly felt on one side while a counter-pressure in the form of public image as competent managers of the commonweal lost through their delayed response to the Katrina disaster squeezes from the other side. Chavez isn't helping this Bu$hCo dilemma much, either...

Read it all, it's in much more depth than covered here.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

On Taking Back America

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. gave a very stirring speech at Sierra Summit 2005.

...As the communities that our parents gave us, we’ve got to start by protecting our environmental infrastructure, the air we breathe, the water we drink, the public lands, the fisheries, the wildlife, the public areas that connect us to our past, that connect us to our history, that provide context to our communities that are the source ultimately of our values and virtues and character as a people. Over the past 22 years as an environmental advocate, I’ve been disciplined about being non-partisan and bipartisan in my approach to these issues. I don’t think there is any such thing as Republican children or Democratic children.

I think the worst thing that could happen to the environment is it becomes the province of a single political party. It was mentioned that I have a book out there that is very critical of this president and that’s true but it’s not a partisan book. I didn’t write that book because I’m a Democrat and he’s a Republican. If he were a Democrat, I would have written the same book. I’m not objecting to him because of his political party and I’ve worked for Republicans if they’re good on the environment and democrats on the same level but you can’t talk honestly about the environment in any context today without speaking critically of this president. This is the worst [applause].

This is the worst environmental president we’ve had in American history.

If you look at NRDC’s website you’ll see over 400 major environmental roll backs that are listed there that have been implemented or proposed by this administration over the past four years as part of a deliberate concerted effort to eviscerate 30 years of environmental law.

It’s a stealth attack.

The White House has used all kinds of ingenious machinations to try to conceal its radical agenda from the American people including Orwellian rhetoric. When they want to destroy the forests, they call it the Healthy Forest Act. When they wanted to destroy the air, they called it the Clear Skies Bill.

But most insidiously, they have put polluters in charge of virtually all the agencies that are supposed to protect Americans from pollution.

President Bush appointed as head of the Forest Service a timber industry lobbyist, Mark Rey, probably the most rapacious in history. He put in charge of public lands a mining industry lobbyist, Steven Griles, who believes that public lands are unconstitutional. He put in charge of the air division of the EPA, Jeffrey Holmstead, a utility lobbyist who has represented nothing but the worst air polluters in America. As head of Superfund, a woman whose last job was teaching corporate polluters how to evade Superfund. The second in command of EPA is a Monsanto lobbyist.

The New York Times reported a couple of weeks ago we all read that as second in command of CEQ which is in the White House directly advising the president of environmental policy, he put a lobbyist of the American Petroleum Institute whose only job was to read all of the science from all the different federal agencies to make sure they didn’t say anything critical, to excise any critical statements about the oil industry.

He was there to lie to the American public, to protect one of the big corporate contributors to this White House. This is true throughout all of the agencies that are supposed to protect Americans from pollution, the Department of Energy, the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Commerce which regulates fisheries, the Department of the Interior, EPA of course, and the relevant divisions of the Justice Department. The same thing, all these agencies and sub secretariats, it is the polluters who are now running these agencies.

There is nothing wrong with having business people in government. It’s a good thing if you’re objective is to recruit competence and expertise but in all of these cases these individuals as I show in my book, have entered government service not to benefit the public interest but rather to subvert the very laws they’re now charged with enforcing in order to enrich the president’s corporate pay masters.

They have imposed enormous diminution in quality of life in this country.

The problem is most Americans don’t know about it, they don’t see the connection and the reason for that is because we have a negligent and indolent media and press in this country which has absolutely let down American democracy [applause]. All this right wing propaganda which is planned and organized and dominated this country, the political debate for so many years talking about a liberal media. Well, you know and I know there is no such thing as a liberal media in the United States of America.

There is a right wing media and if you look where most Americans are now getting their news, that’s where they’re getting it. According to Pew 30 percent of Americans now sway that their primary news source is talk radio which is 90 percent dominated by the right.

22 percent sat their primary news source is Fox News, MSNBC or CNBC, all dominated by the right and another 10 percent, Sinclair Network which is the most right wing of all. That’s the largest television network in our country. It’s run by a former pornographer who requires all 75 of his affiliate television stations and this is where Mid-Westerners get their news, red state people get their news, all of them have to take a pledge to not report critically about this president or about the war in Iraq.

Then the rest of us are - the majority of Americans are still getting their news from electronic media and it’s the corporate owned media and they have no ideology except for filling their pocket books and many of them are run by big polluters. All of them are run by giant corporations that have all kinds of deals with the government and are not going to offend public officials.

This all started in 1988 when Ronald Reagan abolished the Fairness Doctrine. The Fairness Doctrine said that the airwaves belong to the public. They were public trust assets just like our air and water and that the broadcasters could be licensed to use them but only with the proviso that they use them to promote the public interest and to advance American democracy. They had to inform the public of issues of public import. They had to have the news hours. None of those networks wanted to show the news because it’s expensive, they loose money on it. They had to avoid corporate consolidation. They had to have local control and diversity of control. That was the requirement of the law since 1928.

Today as a result of the abolishment of that doctrine, six giant multi-national corporations now control all 14,000 radio stations in our country, almost all 6,000 TV stations and 80 percent of our newspapers, all of our billboards and now most of the Internet information services, so you have six guys who are dictating what Americans have as information and what we see as news.

The news departments have become corporate profit centers, they no longer have any obligation to benefit the public interests, their only obligation is to their shareholders and they fulfill that obligation by increasing viewer ship. How do you do that? not by reporting the news that we need to hear in to make rational decisions in our democracy but rather by entertaining us, by appealing to the prurient interests that all of us have in the reptilian core of our brain for sex and celebrity gossip [applause]. So they give us Laci Peterson and Michael Jackson and Kobe Bryant and we’re today the best entertained and the least informed people on the face of the earth and this is a real threat to American democracy.

If you look at the Pippa Report and I’ve known this for many, many years because I do 40 speeches a year in red states Republican audiences and there is no difference. When people hear this message and what this White House is doing and the Gingrich Congress, there is no difference between the way Republicans react and the democrats react except the republicans come up afterwards and say, "Why haven’t we ever heard of this before? I say to them, "It’s because you’re watching Fox News and listening to Rush."

...there is a huge informational deficit in the red states and I’ve known this for a long time reaction I get people and the Pippa Report confirmed that by going and asking people who voted for Bush and who voted for Kerry about their knowledge of current events. What they found that of the people that voted for Bush had the same ideology, the same basic values, they were just misinformed. 70 percent said that they believed that Saddam Hussein bombed the World Trade Center, 70 percent believed that weapons of mass destruction had been found in Iraq, 64 percent believed that President Bush strongly supported the Kyoto Protocol and strong labor and environmental standards in our foreign treaties and on and on.

When Pippa went back and asked them what they believed, there was almost no difference between what the Republicans and Democrats believed where America should be headed. The problem was a huge information deficit because the news media in this country is letting down American democracy and democracy cannot survive long without a vigorous news media...

What we have to understand as a nation is that there is a huge difference between free market capitalism which democratizes a country, which makes us more prosperous and efficient and the kind of corporate cloning capitalism which has been embraced by this White House which is as antithetical to democracy, to prosperity and efficiency in America as it is in Nigeria [applause].

There is nothing wrong with corporations. Corporations are a good thing. They encourage us to take risks, they maximize wealth, they create jobs. I own a corporation.

They’re a great thing but they should not be running our government.

The reason for that is they don’t have the same aspirations for America that you and I do.

A corporation does not want democracy. It does not want free markets, it wants profits and the best way for them to get profits is to use our campaign finance system which is just a system of legalized bribery to get their stakes, their hooks into a public official and then use that public official to dismantle the market place to give them a competitive advantage and then to privatize the common, to steal the commonwealth, to liquidate public assets for cash, to plunder, to steal from the rest of us. That’s why. From the beginning of our national history our most visionary political leaders.

And that doesn’t mean corporations are a bad thing. It just means they’re amoral and we have to recognize that and not let them into the political process.

Let them do their thing but they should not be participating in our political process because a corporation cannot do something genuinely philanthropic.

Its against the law in this country because their shareholders can sue them for wasting corporate resources. They cannot legally do anything that will not increase their profit margins and that’s the way the law works and we have to recognize that and understand that they are toxic for the political process and they have to be fenced off and kept out of the political process.

This is why throughout our history our most visionary political leaders republican and democrat have been warning the American public against the domination by corporate power.

Teddy Roosevelt and again, this White House has done a great job of persuading a gullible press and the American public that the big threat to American democracy is big government. Well, yeah, big government is a threat ultimately but it is dwarfed by the threat of excessive corporate power and the corrosive impact that has on our democracy. And you know, as I said, you look at all the great political leaders in this country and the central theme is that we have to be cautious about, we have to avoid the domination of our government by corporate power.

Teddy Roosevelt, a Republican, said that America would never be destroyed by a foreign power but he warned that our political institutions, our democratic institutions would be subverted by malefactors of great wealth who would erode them from within. Dwight Eisenhower, another republican in his most famous speech ever warned America against the domination by the military industrial complex.

Abraham Lincoln, the greatest Republican in our history, said during the height of the Civil War "I have the South in front of me and I have the bankers behind me. And for my country I fear the bankers more."

Franklin Roosevelt said during World War II that the domination of government by corporate power is "the essence of Fascism" and Benito Mussolini who had an insider’s view of that process said the same thing. Essentially he said that - he complained that Fascism should not be called Fascism. It should be called corporatism because it was the merger of state of corporate power.

And we what we have to understand as Americans is that the domination of business by government is called Communism.

The domination of government by business is called Fascism.

And what our job is is to walk that narrow trail in between which is free market capitalism and democracy. And keep big government at bay with our right hand and corporate power at bay with our left.

In order to do that we need an informed public and an activist public.

And we need a vigorous and an independent press that is willing to speak truth to power. And we no longer have that in the United States of America. And that’s something that we all, puts us all, all the values we care about in jeopardy because you cannot have a clean environment if you do not have a functioning democracy. They are intertwined, they go together.

There is a direct correlation around the planet between the level of tyranny and the level of environmental destruction. I could talk about that all day but you cannot - the only way you can protect the environment is through a true, locally based democracy.

You can protect it for a short term under a tyranny where there is some kind of beneficent dictator but over the long term the only way we can protect the environment is by ensuring our democracy. That has got to be the number one issue for all of us; to try to restore American democracy because without that we lose all of the other things that we value.

I’ll say one last thing which is the issue I started off with which is that we’re not protecting the environment. What Justice Douglas understood.

We’re not protecting the environment for the sake of the fishes and the birds.

We’re protecting it for our own sake because we recognize that nature enriches us. It enriches us economically, yes, the base of our economy. And we ignore that at our peril...

Lots more of this can be found at the Truthout and Sierra Club sites.

But there's another issue that may have to be address first before we can address the corporate control of the press and the government.

It's the corporate control of the ballot box, and yesterday there was a good post at Corrente on this. What got the issue rolling was an observation at the Brad Blog that Diebold's "upper management" -- as well as "top government officials" -- were keenly aware of the "undocumented backdoor" in Diebold's main "GEM Central Tabulator" software well prior to the 2004 election. A branch of the Federal Government even posted a security warning on the Internet.

Pointing to a little-noticed "Cyber Security Alert" issued by the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT), a division of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the source inside Diebold -- who "for the time being" is requesting anonymity due to a continuing sensitive relationship with the company -- is charging that Diebold's technicians, including at least one of its lead programmers, knew about the security flaw and that the company instructed them to keep quiet about it...

Chicago Dyke says she had an exchange last year with one of Kerry’s “legal team” a professor at a top-ten university law school, about the OH results and other areas that were in question (at least in the minds of us following e-voting issues). He had written a nice op-ed in a leading national daily about OH, and while it was good to see this issue in print, the wording of the piece struck me as all together too timid, and basically not in anyway reflective of the seriousness of the problem or possibility it entailed for representative democracy. I said as much to him in the e-mail, and he responded that essentially, he and most members of Kerry’s team were “just learning about the problem” and didn’t really understand it very well.

There have been several bills introduced into the House relating to such ‘fixes’ as making electronic machines produce a paper trail, and other suggestions about how to increase the level of confidence people feel for computerized voting. Russ Holt has introduced at least two that I know of. Interestingly, there haven’t been any Republican co-sponors for these bills. Not that they’re into bipartisanship so much, but still, you’d think a couple of them would worry for a future day then Democrats were in power, and the system could be used against Republican interests. Yet that’s not a concern. Hmmmm.

Very simply, problems with electronic voting have become so widespread, and so well documented, that it’s an issue well beyond CT land and one that sits squarely in the mainstream. I can think of stories I’ve read, solid well researched pieces in major publications, detailing problems in CA, NC, TX, FL and of course OH. Click on the links provided so far and follow the rabbit hole, I promise you it goes very, very deep.

I have two points to make about what this means for 06. The first is that people concerned with this issue shouldn’t assume that the Republicans have a master computer hidden somewhere in Virginia that’s linked to every voting machine in the nation, and which they control with the push of a button. That may be true, but it’s probably not- a more subtle and more difficult to track method is being employed, I think. As many researchers on the issue have noted, vote tampering doesn’t have to happen everywhere, just a few strategically located precincts. One large precinct can turn the results for a whole region, and when there are a lot of votes to be tallied, it’s “more likely” that unusual results are statistical probabilities. It’s a very hard thing to do, even for computer experts and dedicated activists, to predict, observe and prove vote tampering in the areas in which it occurs- we just can’t know which the tamperers will choose.

Adjunct to this point is that the old-fashioned, time honored methods of vote tampering are also still a concern. One needn’t fuck with electronic vote tallies if one prevents people from voting in the first place. OH is the prime example here, where in 2004 thousands of people in urban areas and on college campuses were give insufficient numbers of voting machines, resulting in long lines and probably fewer (Democratic) votes. There are also ID scams, intimidation, voter ‘tests’ and all the other tricks that have been employed for decades, mainly to keep black people from voting but I’m sure still used today for anyone leaning left. So we have to remember not to underestimate those who’d prevent democratic representation from happening. They use lots of tricks, and fruadulent tallying of e-voting is only one way that can happen.

The second point I’d like to make is about the word “moot.” As in, everything else progressive and liberals do to get a Democratic majority in 06 is a complete waste of time until we have some kind of guarantee that votes will be counted. Now, I’m not naive enough to suggest we can have 100% of the votes counted and 100% of voters who want to vote voting. Shit, I’d settle for 87% at this point, and I know we’ve never had a truly free and fair election in the history of this country. But when one reviews the long, depressing list of races in 2000. 2002, and 2004 that had very questionable results, counting methods and/or verification procedures, it becomes obvious that if something isn’t done soon, we may as all start singing Deutschland Uber Alles and be done with it.

I am honestly puzzled, frightened and confused by the lack of Democratic leadership on this issue. Truly- even the most sold out corporate DINO hack has got to worry that his seat isn’t secure enough to prevent a more sold out more corporate Republican hack from taking his place. But they don’t. I don’t know if this is because the consultants are telling them the issue “doesn’t play in Peroria” or because it really is a giant conspiracy and the “opposition” is in on the game. But whatever the reason keeping them back, Democrats are beyond the level of Chamberlinesque stupidity and naiveté for not making this a central focus.

I was just reading about the leader of Jewish quarter in Lodz during WWII, Chiam Rumkowski. You may remember him, for his policies of “saving the body by cutting off a limb” in which he worked with the Nazis, and sent off some groups of Jews to the gas chambers in the hope that the rest could be spared. None were, and he himself was shipped off on the last train. I wonder if his Nazi masters laughed as he went...

She's right about this. Yes, voting corruption has doubtless existed since the beginning of this country. But no, there has never been wholesale theft of an election that couldn't be traced before. Electronic voting makes this very easy to do with the current software. Just like Microsoft can scan any Windows operating system using Explorer, the presence of a backdoor in the Diebold software makes it simple for a knowledgable person to change vote tallies.

Prediction (assuming nothing is done): in 2006 the Republicans will have exit polls at the election indicating they were beat by a landslide. But instead when the "actual" votes are tallied, they will gain seats in both Houses of Congress.