Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Britain on Ice

The Oil Drum consistently has articles for the science minded that are quite thorough and thought provoking. And not just about oil.

There is a new post up on Global Warming. It's quite detailed so I won't even try to break it down. Go read it for details of some nice research on the Gulf Stream and how it's changing due to global warming.

The short version? The course of the Gulf Stream is diverting further south meaning warmer tropical waters and a new ice age in England. And warmer tropics mean more hurricanes!


Iraqnamization UPDATED

Like a lot of people, I've been thinking about the Iraq withdrawal and the Preznit's non-plan for victory.

The cornerstone of virtually all politicians for withdrawal is the training of Iraqi's to take over the security needs of the nation. This is a policy that is fundamentally flawed and will never work:

Martin Van Creveld via Eric Alterman:
“Simply abandoning equipment or handing it over to the Iraqis, as was done in Vietnam, is simply not an option. And even if it were, the new Iraqi army is by all accounts much weaker, less skilled, less cohesive and less loyal to its government than even the South Vietnamese army was. For all intents and purposes, Washington might just as well hand over its weapons directly to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Clearly, then, the thing to do is to forget about face-saving and conduct a classic withdrawal.
This is the nature of a popular uprising and why the training of Iraqi's has thus far can't tell the good guys from the bad guys. It's been widely reported that American's have been unwilling to equip a new Iraq army primarily due to fear that the weapons will then be used as a part of the insurgency. If this is the case, and I believe it is, how in the world can a plan that is dependent on training Iraqi's to take over security ever work?

And if turning over security duties to Iraqis won't work, then what? Martin Van Creveld:
A withdrawal probably will require several months and incur a sizable number of casualties. As the pullout proceeds, Iraq almost certainly will sink into an all-out civil war from which it will take the country a long time to emerge — if, indeed, it can do so at all. All this is inevitable and will take place whether George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Condoleezza Rice like it or not
This sounds about right in terms of precipitous withdrawal. However, I don't believe Bush, or any other President for that matter, will accept a plan of just ...... leaving.

So what's left?

The Vietnam option.

The Vietnam withdrawal is as described by Martin Van Creveld above but with perhaps fewer American casualties during actual withdrawal. But unfortunately it includes many more years of fighting and many more deaths. The time to play out a Vietnam withdrawal scenario is why it gets called a "quagmire".

As the Vietnam war became untenable from a public support perspective, Nixon pursued a carrot and stick approach. He combined negotiations with the use of a ground war focused on training South Vietnamese army and an increased massive bombing program. The negotiations dragged on for months of bloody bombing and fighting as the northern "insurgency" continued a war of attrition. And as mentioned above, the South Vietnamese army was in much better shape than the current Iraqi's and was well equipped by Americans. Ultimately, a truce was negotiated that included a major fig leaf for the United States to withdraw. The North Vietnamese essentially agreed to terms, then once the U.S. was gone, they violated any agreements. In short order, the South Vietnamese, despite being well equipped and trained, fell to the North finally ending the war.

The Vietnam option in Iraq is slightly different, but the United States position is not. Iraq is different in that there are multiple competing contingents (Sunni's, Shiite militias, Kurds, and the American backed governmet). Americans are commonly hated by all with a public at home that is weary of going nowhere quickly. The Bush administration is in the phase of abandoning a stick-only approach and beginning the carrot and stick phase. While negotiating with both the Sunni's and Iranian back Shiites, we will continue to fight and bomb the country to gain leverage in negotiations. When fighting continues unabated, a negotiated withdrawal will be announced with a relatively peaceful withdrawal of American soldiers. Once gone, a civil war will be then be fought for the destiny of Iraq.

The winner of any civil conflict is the Iranians who will likely get nuclear weapons out of the deal. Fundamentalist Islam will have a larger foothold in the Middle East, Israel will be less secure, and the United States will sabre rattle for years pretending to have "stabilized" Iraq by removing Saddam.

In other words, the only thing changed by the war is that lots and lots of people will be dead, Iraq will be partitioned with the fundamentalist occupying a large swath of the south, the reputation of the United States damaged requiring generations to rebuild, and the threats associated with Islamic fundamentalism magnified (take note Saudia Arabia).

It really is too bad the Preznit didn't serve in Vietnam. Maybe if he had, we could have avoided repeating the Vietnam history so quickly. The United States will yet again realize an age old lesson. National governments are determined by residents of the nations, not by outsiders. And no amount of force or power can change that equation.

UPDATE: This from Eric Alterman:
Approximately 27,000 U.S. soldiers, and millions of Vietnamese and Cambodian citizens died during the phase of the war Nixon termed “Vietnamization” before the president was forced to resign in disgrace and his successor, Gerald Ford, was forced to admit the futility of the war and accept America’s defeat.

Homeland Security At Work!

There are a number of these types of stories that come up once in awhile. I thought it would be nice to post one occasionally. It's a good reminder of how well our government manages security in general, and nuculur security specifically. SF Gate:
Enough plutonium to make dozens of nuclear bombs hasn't been accounted for at the UC-run Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico and may be missing, an activist group says in a new report.

There is no evidence that the weapons-grade plutonium has been stolen or diverted for illegal purposes, the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research said. However, the amount of unaccounted-for plutonium -- more than 600 pounds, and possibly several times that -- is so great that it raises "a vast security issue," the group said in a report to be made public today.

National Strategy For Victory! UPDATED and BUMPED!

To be announced tomorrow, three years after the war started, 2110 dead Americans soldiers and countless Iraqi's killed.

My prediction? More of the same.

But catch that name! A National Strategy for Victory! Kinda makes you want to stand up and salute or something. Should make the wingnuts slobber for awhile.

UPDATE: Yep, like I said. More of the same. Here's the plan with all kinds of snazy bullet points, arrows, dots and all kinds of neat, eye catching phrases!

UPDATE 2: You really should take a few moments and read the document.

In a former life, I worked as a organizational consultant helping businesses with strategic planning. One element common to organizations is the tendency to set indistinct goals with unmeasureable outcomes. There's really a quite natural reason for this. If you keep the goals fuzzy and unmeasurable, no one is really held accountable. Once you make a goal concrete and measureable, you to really perform!

This Iraqi war strategic plan is a poster child for the worst in strategic planning. If I were still doing consulting, I would want to use it as an example of how NOT to plan. It is void of any significantly clear goals or measureably outcomes.

Gosh.....Do you think it's that way on purpose?

Soldiering Psychs UPDATED

One of the biggest long term consequences of the Iraqi war is the impact on soldiers who come home. Whether you think the war is right or wrong, there's no denying it's traumatic impact on the soldiers. This impact is particularly devastating in an popular insurgency, where the enemy is everywhere. Now it turns out that the trauma inflicted on soldiers is being exacerbated by lousy treatment. This via Slate:
...the WSJ chimes in with a front-page report on how military therapists in Iraq are dealing with soldiers' trauma. The goal, says one Army psychiatrist, is to "put a lid" on the soldiers' symptoms so that they can continue to perform their duties. The Journal notes that even troops exhibiting signs of trauma will likely be asked to return to the war zone. "There are a lot of ethical questions about it," says the quoted Army psychiatrist. TP sure agrees with that assessment, but the Journal doesn't dwell on it.
Put a lid on it? Anyone with any remote knowledge of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) knows that "putting a lid on it" is extremely dangerous. It's the emotional equivalent of continuing to heat a pressure cooker beyond it's capability resulting in an explosion. Soldiers not being treated and being returned to the environment causing the stress will eventually blow. "Lid" treatment simply makes it much more likely that the ultimate emotional expression will not be pretty.

But, alas, the military really has no other apparent choice. Sy Hersh:
“The people in the institutional Army feel they don’t have the luxury of deciding troop levels, or even participating in the debate. They’re planning on staying the course until 2009. I can’t believe the Army thinks that it will happen, because there’s no sustained drive to increase the size of the regular Army.” O’Hanlon noted that “if the President decides to stay the present course in Iraq some troops would be compelled to serve fourth and fifth tours of combat by 2007 and 2008, which could have serious consequences for morale and competency levels.”
Recruiters are doing all they can due to shrinking volunteers, including this via the Army Times
They’ve been there, done that — but the Army wants to know if they’ll do it again.

In the increasingly tough struggle to fill its ranks, the Army is contacting nearly 78,000 prior-service soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines — including about 7,000 former officers — to see if they might be interested in returning to active duty in Army green.


The Army is offering bonuses of between $5,000 and $19,000 to those willing to come back and also is loosening regulations that had required service members to re-enlist in their previous chosen career fields and accept lesser ranks to come back, Steed said.

It’s the latest effort by the Army to overcome recruiting woes that have steadily worsened as the Iraq war has gone on. The active Army, the Army Reserve and the Army National Guard all fell short of their annual recruiting goals for fiscal 2005 — the active Army by 8 percentage points.
Anyone who is anything but a thrill seeker is staying away. Again, Sy Hersh:
For example, Murtha reported that the number of attacks in Iraq has increased from a hundred and fifty a week to more than seven hundred a week in the past year. He said that an estimated fifty thousand American soldiers will suffer “from what I call battle fatigue” in the war, and he said that the Americans were seen as “the common enemy”
Remember. Murtha is no bleeding heart liberal. He's an old war hawk who is best buddies with the Pentagon. Sy Hersh, in his interview with Amy Goodman thinks Murtha is underestimating:
But my friends inside the V.A. tell me that as of late June or early July, there had been about, oh, 900,000-950,000 American soldiers, men and women that have gone to war since March or April of ’03, by July of ’05, two years and three or four months later, over 104,000 had come into the V.A. looking for help. Once they returned, rotated home, come back to V.A. hospitals, a staggering statistic. You know, you can’t -- we talk about torture. And one of the things to remember about mistreating people is, you know -- this isn't cynical, but I really do mean it -- you know, the people that do the mistreatment end up being as much victims as the people they mistreat. They come home with a lot of lot of bad baggage.
Hersh's final point can't be over emphasized. It's a well known phenomena that those who abuse are also traumatized dramatically by the experience.

So let's summarize. In Iraq, American soldiers face life and death threats from everywhere. They are participating in urban warfare that results in the killing of innocents. Some participate in torture of civilians to acquire information or out of sadism. Thus far some officials report a staggering 10% of all soldiers in the Iraqi theatre, a population not known for seeking treatment, as seeking treatment upon returning home. In the meantime, field treatment further traumatizes soldiers with a "put a lid on it" treatment plan. The military is desperately trying to find recruits with few takers and with no end in sight.

We will be suffering from the Iraqi war for generations.

UPDATED: Murtha released this comment:
LATROBE, Pa. - Most U.S. troops will leave
Iraq within a year because the Army is "broken, worn out" and "living hand to mouth," Rep. John Murtha (news, bio, voting record) told a civic group.
The reason Murtha's words are so significant is because he is a proxy for the real Pentagon position (not Rummy's). His connections with the military are long and solid. If he says it, you can count on it being representative of the genuine military situation.

Conspicuous Consumption

There have been a number of posts throughout the blogosphere on the excesses of "black Friday". And I won't repeat all those criticisms. I'll just mention that retailers make an estimated 30% of total sales during the holiday season.

I picked this up from my local newspaper columinst, Ann Dubay:
In 2004, the National Retail Federation estimated that Americans spent $414.7 billion on holiday purchases - or an average of $1,402 per person. The retailers optimistically expect these numbers to increase by 5 percent [or $20 billion] this year.
Ann has a great takedown on the nonsense of Christmas consumer spending. But just for a little perspective. Remember my post on malaria? The estimated cost for eradication of malaria in all of Africa, and saving 1,000,000 kids per year was $3.2 billion. That's one seventh of the increase in spending expected for Christmas junk in 2005.

And we wonder why the international community questions our moral values?

Then there this from The Big Picture which adds to the image:
...according to Visa, Credit Card usage was up dramatically – about a 14% increase over the holiday weekend when compared with ’04.
Not only are we greedy, but consumers are going into debt to be greedy! What a mighty moral force for good we are in the world!

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

More Negotiating With Terrorist

It would appear that some measure of realism is sinking into the Bush administration. I don't know whether it's a head fake or not, but this announcement is sure interesting (via Juan Cole):
WASHINGTON, Nov 28 (IPS) - In a new indication that the balance of power within the administration of President George W. Bush has tilted strongly in favour of the realists, Washington's influential ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, has disclosed that Bush has authorised him to open direct talks with Iran about stabilising Iraq.
Juan Cole suggests that negotiations with Tehran are about stabilizing Iraq and avoiding a regional war. But put this tidbit together with the announcement last week of negotiations with Sunni insurgents (who are now called a "national liberation force" by the Arab league). What you get sure smells familiar. Sorta like agreeing to leave Vietnam with a fig leaf of a negotiated peace while,... wink wink..we know damned well the communists would take over as soon as we left.

But this is the real killer graf:
While Chalabi was received rapturously by hard-line neo-conservatives at the American Enterprise Institute, who did so much to champion his efforts to bring U.S. troops to Iraq, it now appears that his official reception here by senior administration officials, including Rice, national security adviser Stephen Hadley, and Vice President Dick Cheney, was linked to his perceived usefulness in extricating those troops from a political quagmire -- and, more specifically, gaining Tehran's cooperation in doing so.
What a swell guy that Chalabi is. Wonder how much his consulting fee will be this time? How good of him to help the U.S. out in negotiating with Shiite fundamentalists in Iran! Gotta also wonder what Iran wants in return for cooperating?

Juan Cole thinks these events lay the ground work for U.S. withdrawal and a "soft-landing" in Iraq. It sounds to me like choosing-up sides for a civil war.

Either way, you gotta wonder how Israel feels as the U.S. intervention in Iraq ultimately appears to have strengthened the Arabs and Islamic fundamentalist.

Phrase of the Day

"extrajudicial killings in Iraq"

We used to call it murder in the good old days.

Future Sy

Here's an excerpt from an interview that Seymour Hersh did with Amy Goodman of Democracy Now!
AMY GOODMAN: By the way, do you believe that the secret prisons are in Romania and Poland, as Human Rights Watch believes, that the Washington Post won't name, but exposed?

SEYMOUR HERSH: Well, Amy, I’m actually doing some more work on it. But I will tell you this, the C.I.A. prisons are there. There have been prisons, the C.I.A. has run prisons for many, many years around the world. And I’m sure terrible things happen. But that's actually not where the real game is. They're somewhere else.


SEYMOUR HERSH: Other places. I’m -- let me do my reporting, and I promise I’ll publish it, and I promise I’ll come and talk to you about it.
Looks to me like Sy might have some more stories up his sleeves.

Go read the entire interview. He expands a bit on his article in the New Yorker, particularly on the fear that generals in the Pentagon are experiencing. These generals are telling him that Bush is out of control and delusional about Iraq, a very dangerous situation.


From a long ago post, I received a comment from an individual asking me the proverbial question: Aren't we better off without Saddam in power? Slate:
The LAT and NYT both—finally—front the rise of what appear to be Shiite death squads operating as part of Iraqi government forces. The LAT says U.S. military advisers now agree that the term "death squads" is apt. "There are such groups operating—yes, this is correct," said the inspector general for Iraq's Interior Ministry. There has been evidence mounting for months that government-affiliated units have been executing Sunnis, but there's been little coverage and plenty of official denial. (TP suspects the lack of coverage has nothing to do with politics and everything to do with the media's tendency to stick with what's hot. Until the other week the conduct of Iraqi forces didn't qualify.)

One human rights group told the NYT that 700 Sunni civilians have been killed or disappeared over the last four months. "There is no question that bodies are turning up," said an investigator for the group. "Quite a few have been handcuffed and shot in the back of the head. The stories are pretty much consistent across the board, both in the manner that the men are being abducted and in who they say is taking them." Knight Ridder has a similar story, with sources talking about more secret jails where detainees are tortured.
Laura Rosen has information that deaths squads may be a sanctioned Pentagon plan.

Can anyone offer a single metric of any significance that shows that Iraq is a better place without Saddam? For the life of me, I can't. And if that's so, what does that say about the current Iraqi leaders and the United States? I'm sick of hearing politicians and pundits repeat this mantra over and over again.

Is it just possible that Saddam rose to power as a natural outgrowth of the population? There was always fear of civil war in Iraq, even when Saddam was our buddy. Bush 1 didn't want to remove Saddam precisely for these same reasons. Iraq is a bundle of tensions that are the result of the artificial boundaries drawn in the colonial days. It's been a pile of ethnic/tribal dung for some time.....we just now stepped in it up to our ankles.

I suspect that to admit this openly is to have a national depression. Because if it's true that Iraq is not better off, the last vestige of a rational reason to invade Iraq is gone.

Nothing Else To Do?

Is Arlen Spectre bored or something?

PHILADELPHIA - Sen. Arlen Specter (news, bio, voting record) accused the National Football League and the
Philadelphia Eagles of treating Terrell Owens unfairly and said he might refer the matter to the antitrust subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which he chairs.

Specter said at a news conference Monday in Harrisburg it was "vindictive and inappropriate" for the league and the Eagles to forbid the all-pro wide receiver from playing and prevent other teams from talking to him.

End Times of End Times?

Michelle Goldberg of Salon has written an article on a growing split between the evangelical Christians and the Jews. If you weren't aware, these two very dissparite groups have had an odd alliance based on biblical prophecy:
Why the silence until now? Part of it has to do with Israel. Christian Zionism, inspired by end-times beliefs that make the return of Jews to Israel a precondition for the second coming, has made American evangelicals the world's staunchest backers of Israeli hawks. (Their Jewish allies usually choose to ignore the fact that the Christian Zionist's apocalyptic scenario ends with unsaved Jews being slaughtered and condemned to hell.)
Yes. Despite Jews being historically quite liberal, and evangelicals being....well evangelicals...they have shared a common goal of preserving Israel. But I want to emphasize what is said above, the alliance is all the more amazing when you understand the depth of anti-semitism in the evangelical community. Evangelicals devotion to Israel is thoroughly based on the destruction of the Jews and the belief that Jews are damned to hell (read: heathens). Apparently Jews are willing to accept cash and volunteers from anyone, ignorning motivation.

Understanding this dynamic goes a long way toward understanding the ideological nutbars in the Bush administration and the policy towards the middle east. Fighteningly, it is perhaps why Bush is "at peace" when apocalyptical scenarios are presented to him regarding Iraq policy.

But apparently all is not well in the politics of the holy land:
One person who plans to be there is Rabbi Eric Yoffie, whose group is the largest Jewish organization in the country, representing more than 900 congregations. Two weeks after Foxman's broadside, Yoffie blasted the religious right in a sermon delivered to around 5,000 people at the Union's biannual convention in Houston. Yoffie says he hadn't coordinated with Foxman, but the two share some of the same concerns -- though Yoffie approaches the issue from a religious rather than a political perspective.

"We are particularly offended by the suggestion that the opposite of the religious right is the voice of atheism," he told his audience. "We are appalled when 'people of faith' is used in such a way that it excludes us, as well as most Jews, Catholics and Muslims. What could be more bigoted than to claim that you have a monopoly on God and that anyone who disagrees with you is not a person of faith?"

Much of Yoffie's sermon argued that for many Jews, liberalism is the result of religious values, not their antithesis. Being a liberal believer, he said, "means believing that religion involves concern for the poor and the needy, and giving a fair shake to all. When people talk about God and yet ignore justice, it just feels downright wrong to us. When they cloak themselves in religion and forget mercy, it strikes us as blasphemy. "

And then he launched into the most controversial part of his sermon -- an impassioned denunciation of right-wing homophobia that invoked the historical parallel of Nazism. "We understand those who believe that the Bible opposes gay marriage, even though we read that text in a very different way," he said. "But we cannot understand why any two people who make a lifelong commitment to each other should be denied legal guarantees that protect them and their children and benefit the broader society. We cannot forget that when Hitler came to power in 1933, one of the first things that he did was ban gay organizations. And today, we cannot feel anything but rage when we hear about gay men and women, some on the front lines, being hounded out of our armed services. Yes, we can disagree about gay marriage. But there is no excuse for hateful rhetoric that fuels the hellfires of anti-gay bigotry."
Gosh, ya think? Looks like the Jewish political groups are finally getting a clue. Goldberg goes on to outline others in the Jewish community who are quesy about speaking out, mostly due to the financial support from the evangelical community for Israel. There is also an understanding in the Jewish community that to discard alliances with evangelicals is to alienate the President of the United States.

I was raised and lived for a good part of my life in California's bible belt. I have family members who are active in ministries in the evangelical churches. I just assume people generally understand how nutty many of the evangelicals really are. But many in this country, particularly those who live in the north, are only now beginning to understand the depth of irrationality involved in the evangelical community.

It's a lesson well learned. As I've said in other posts, the evangelical vote was no greater in 2004 than it has ever been. The "power" exerted by these groups largely stems from the perception that they are powerful. It is time for these nutbars groups and their leaders to resume a very, very peripheral role in American political life.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Polling on the Issues

A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll (pdf warning) asks Americans about the issues. From The Emerging Democratic Majority:
Here are data from the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll on which party the public thinks would do a better job on various issues: protecting the environment (+39 points in favor of the Democrats); dealing with gas prices (+28); dealing with health care (+26); dealing with Social Security (+22); reducing the federal deficit (+19); dealing with education (+19); dealing with energy policy (+16); dealing with the economy (+14); controlling government spending (+12); dealing with taxes (+10); protecting America’s interests on trade issues (+10); dealing with foreign policy (+9); dealing with abortion (+8); dealing with immigration; promoting ethics in government (+5); and dealing with Iraq (+3).

On four of these issues–taxes, foreign policy, Iraq and protecting America’s interests on trade issues–this is the very first time the Democrats have run an advantage on that issue in the NBC News poll. On many others, the Democrats’ advantages are at or near the top of those ever recorded by the poll.


The Republicans have lost ground on all issues but do retain some advantages that must be reckoned with. In the NBC News poll, for example, the GOP is still ahead on ensuring a strong national defense (+21), promoting strong moral values (+17) and dealing with the war on terrorism (+9).
Given Bush's woes these results are not particularly surprising. But I do think it means a couple of things.

First, these results are not all that dissimilar from other polls taken when Bush wasn't in trouble. The American people generally favor the Democrats positions...just more so now. This phenomena reinforces for me the idea that Democrats continue to lose based on messaging...particularly the meta message. When a candidate looks like a wimp, it doesn't matter what they say.

Second, there is no doubt that Bush won the last election because of plain old fear. The conventional wisdom that the religious right wielded any electoral special power is simply not borne out by the polling. The pundit class picked up this meme and ran with it, despite the evidence otherwise, giving the religious wingnuts much more power than they deserve.

Perhaps the complete bungling of the security issue by Bush may help to dispute the Republican advantage in the fear areas. The Democrats have an opportunity to change the multi-generation advantage. Here's hoping they go for it, not by proposing toughness as policy, but by demonstrating toughness in candidacy.

What WILL We Do?

There's a bit of a discussion over at the Oil Drum about what will happen when "peak oil" begins to sink into the public's consciousness.
Environmentalists seem to have a somewhat naive faith that once the concept of peak oil sinks in, people will move -- as though by the force of tides -- to support renewable, decentralized energy.

But why should that be true? A much more natural, predictable reaction would be to push like mad for more drilling and for more coal gasification. Both more drilling and more coal-to-liquid-fuel production would fit better with our existing infrastructure and practices, however environmentally malign they may be.
Other's argue that society will be faced with environmental opportunities and risks as peak oil sinks in, with a balancing of both. I think the positions proposed at The Oil Drum miss the point.

I see peak oil as occurring in two general scenarios, both economics driven:

1) In a typical market up-and-down fashion, prices for oil products will be (are) on a permanent upward incline. As these products become more expensive, the economic viability of alternative energy sources will gain a foothold, and innovation will become cost-effective. For example, when gasoline reaches $10 per gallon, folks will be anxious for cheaper transportation options that are currently "too expensive" or that are yet to be developed. Gradually the alternatives will fill the gap between decreasing oil availability and the nations energy needs. In this scenario, change would be more gradual and adaptive, with distinct brief periods of pain.

2) Saudia Arabia undergoes a revolution (or some similar disruptive event of scale making Katrina look like a blip on the screen) and oil supplies are suddenly disrupted for the long term. Long term economic crisis follows with much pain in the West. Slowly, over a period of years-decades (at the speed of innovation) there is recovery with alternative energy sources developed and filling the gap of oil...along the lines of scenario number 1.

There is a third possible scenario of which I hold out little hope. In that scenario, government artificially creates the incentive for alternatives via investment in newer technologies or via taxes on fossil fuel products. The pain of dealing with peak oil is spread out over a very long time, the adaptation longer, and we control our own destiny rather than have it be driven by outside circumstances. Just think. If we had taken this approach in 1970......

Fat chance.

In either case, the driving force won't be environmental or simple greed to keep driving S.U.V.'s. It will be economics. If coal gasification is cheapest, it will be the way we go. Few are really worried about the environmental impact of fossil fuels or we would have already seen a public demanding change. Sure, there's lots of information confirming that we are choking in co2, particulates, mercury and any number of contaminents. But people seem to only respond to changes that are more immediate. Global warming is a slow phenomena and will carry much less weight than the cost at the pump.

American's are incredibly innovative. But we are also lazy and greedy. Innovation has always followed the all-mighty buck. Don't see any reason to think it won't as we deal with peak oil. If the scarier second scenario occurs, I can only hope that our democracy survives it.

McClellan Toast?

Political Wire:

Think Progress wonders where White House press secretary Scott McClellan has gone. The last time he gave an on-the-record press briefing was 19 days ago.

"We called the White House to ask whether there would be a press briefing today, and the press assistant checked the schedule and informed us there was not one scheduled. When asked whether there would be a press briefing any time this week, the press office informed us that there was nothing scheduled because the President would be traveling."

Nearly two weeks ago, PR Week predicted McClellan would be replaced soon because he "lacks credibility."
On a larger note, I've got an intuitive feeling that maybe we're in for a large scale White House shakeup. It's been too quiet...even for a holiday. The New Year would be a good P.R. opportunity to "wipe the slate clean".

Update: Evidence that a change wind may be blowin'

Spotty Blogging

I'm still going to be a bit spotty with blogging.

You see, we're having wood floors installed. Banging. Sanding. Varnishing. You know...mind numbing. In fact, we'll be holed up in a motel room with a coupla dogs most of the week. So.....I'll do my best for my multitudinous readers :).

A Hint?

WASHINGTON - A basketball-sized piece of marble molding fell from the facade over the entrance to the Supreme Court, landing on the steps near visitors waiting to enter the building.

No one was injured when the stone fell. The marble was part of the molding that serves as a frame for the frieze of statues atop the court's main entrance.

Sunday, November 27, 2005


Everyone and their dog is going to be talking about this soon. Sy Hersh has a new article coming out in the New Yorker (now up) about how wacky Bush has become.

The article, entitled "Up in the Air" is about the plans to withdraw ground troops from Iraq and then supplement the Iraqi army with U.S. Air Force support.....basically provide an air war to whoever the Iraqi's want bombed.


I won't recount all the information out on an interview given by Hersh to Wolfie, simply go to the link above. I'll just say that Sy Hersh has been consistently correct about Bush and the war. He is one of the few journalists....yes...I said journalist, who is still doing his job.

I said sometime back to be careful of a cornered narcissist, and Hersh is saying the same thing. Bush is isolated, trapped and delusional. These are dangerous times. He can rationalize anything on faith. There is no underestimating what he might do.

Trophy Video

A new trophy video, set to music no less, of security guards shooting civilians for sport has been circulating on the internets. Watch, another non-investigation will take place and nothing will happen.


Saturday, November 26, 2005

A Very Long Time

There must be something wrong with this study. After all, the Preznit told us global warming isn't a problem. HealthCentral:
Tiny air bubbles preserved in Antarctic ice going back millennia suggest levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide are higher now than at any time over the past 650,000 years, researchers say.

Increasing levels of carbon dioxide and other "greenhouse gases" that trap the sun's heat are thought to be caused by human activity and are the main cause of global warming.

"There's no natural condition that we know about in a really long time where the greenhouse gas levels were anywhere near what they are now," geosciences expert Edward Brook, of Oregon State University, told the Associated Press.

The new data was conducted by the European Project for Ice Coring in Antarctica and published Friday in the journal Science.

While skeptics have dismissed recent warming as part of the "natural cycle," the ice samples suggest today's warming trend is "over a factor of a hundred faster than anything we are seeing in the natural cycles," researcher Thomas Stocker of the University of Bern, Switzerland, told the AP.

Negotiating With Terrorist

Juan Cole writes that Arab news sources are reporting that the U.S. has been negotiating with the Iraq insurgents:
Al-Hayat says that [Arabic URL] informed sources maintained to it that the intelligence services of the Arab states, of Iraq, of the guerrilla movement in Iraq, and of the US, conducted discussions on the sidelines of the National Reconciliation Conference for Iraq held recently in Cairo, on how to isolate Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and his radical Salafi (fundamentalist Sunni) faction in Iraq.

Iraqi guerrilla groups such as "The Islamic Army," "The Bloc of Holy Warriors," and "The Revolution of 1920 Brigades" conveyed their conditions behind the scenes. (Despite the Islamist names of these groups, they are probably mostly neo-Baathist.) Among their demands are 1) working to end the foreign occupation, 2) compensation to the Iraqis for the damages arising from the American invasion; 3) the release of prisoners; and 4) building political and military institutions that are not subservient to American and regional influence.

These guerrilla groups said they would never turn al-Zarqawi over to the Americans even if Washington promised to leave Iraq completely. They might, however, turn him over to a legitimate Iraqi government if the Americans were no longer there.
Ok. So the U.S. doesn't negotiate with terrorists.

But we are.

The U.S. removed the Baathists from power.

But now we're negotiating with them?

The Iraqi government's involvment in these negotiations, including the statement legitimizing insurgent attacks on Americans, is likely an attempt to win in the elections. But does anyone really believe that the Baathists have, as a goal, anything short of a return to power?

In the crazy world that's Iraq, this makes perfect sense. The U.S. does not want an Islamic theocracy in Iraq. Having Baathists back in power sans Saddam would not be all bad from Bush's point of view.

The only problem is that pesky Shiite majority. They may have something to say about the whole thing.

Pic of the Day

Back in town. Blogging to begin soon.

Hope your typtophan high was as good as mine!

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Censorship...With Extreme Prejudice

How about this incredible story via Juan Cole:
The Mirror broke the story on Tuesday that a secret British memo demonstrates that George W. Bush wanted to bomb Aljazeera's offices in Doha, Qatar, in spring of 2004. The subject came up with Prime Minister Tony Blair of the UK, and Blair is said to have argued Bush out of it.

Despite attempts of British officials to muddy the waters by suggesting that Bush was joking, another official who had seen the memo insisted, "Bush was deadly serious, as was Blair. That much is absolutely clear from the language used by both men."

The US military bombed the Kabul offices of Aljazeera in mid-November, 2001.

The US military hit the Aljazeerah offices in Baghdad on the 9th of April, 2003, a year Bush's conversation with Blair.* That attack killed journalist Tarek Ayoub, who had a 3 year old daughter. He had said earlier, "We've told the Pentagon where all our offices are in Iraq and hung giant banners outside them saying `TV.''' Given what we now know about Bush's intentions, that may have been a mistake.
Further obscenity from the administration that has specialized in obscenity. But, hey! At least now we know why journalists have been kissing Bush's ass!





In the meantime, just go read Digby on why the announcement that we are leaving Iraq is an electoral headfake:


Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Quote of the Century

Political Wire:
"The election was dragged into the courts by the Gore people. We did not go looking for trouble."

-- Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, quoted by the New York Post, on the disputed 2000 election

Talk About Hurt Feelings

For those still in doubt about leaving Iraq. And for those who still support Bush's invasion of Iraq. How about this?

The Guardian
CAIRO, Egypt (AP) - Leaders of Iraq's sharply divided Shiites, Kurds and Sunnis called Monday for a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S.-led forces in the country and said Iraq's opposition had a ``legitimate right'' of resistance.

The final communique, hammered out at the end of three days of negotiations at a preparatory reconciliation conference under the auspices of the Arab League, condemned terrorism, but was a clear acknowledgment of the Sunni position that insurgents should not be labeled as terrorists if their operations do not target innocent civilians or institutions designed to provide for the welfare of Iraqi citizens.
You've now entered.....The Twilight Zone. Iraqi government to citizens: go ahead and shoot Americans. It's Ok.

Watch concern for Iraq turn to a firestorm of resentment if this story gets legs. The resentment would have been self-inflicted, but a very powerful emotion nontheless. And military families who have lost sons and daughters? How about those folks coming back who are disabled for life? The emotion around the lack of appreciation for America's sacrific in Iraq will likely do even more to damage the U.S. policy in the middle east.

Remember. We expected candy and flowers.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Turkey Week

Yep, it's the big bird week. All week.

I'm on the road starting today through the weekend. Blogging (and greymail for you greymailers out there) will likely be sporadic. But then reading will also be even more sporadic ...right?

You watch. Fitzgerald (or somebody) will drop a big ass bomb this week in the know...something that will change the world overnight.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

More Polling

I continue to be astounded by the American public. Via the Plank:
A new Pew Institute poll (PDF) helpfully reminds us not to take U.S. public opinion about foreign affairs too seriously. When asked whether certain countries posessed nuclear weapons, nearly a third said that Libya does. More people--55 percent--believe Iran has nuclear weapons than think Great Britain (52 percent) or France (38 percent) does. Only 48 percent got Israel right. And just over one-fifth didn't know or weren't sure about Russia--Russia! Which has some 20,000 nukes. Yeesh.
I guess we should be thankful of the four-fifths who do know Russia has nukes.


Martha Raddatz, who has been accurately reporting on the Iraqi war since day one, mentioned on "This Week" that the military is preparing to "draw-down" in Iraq.

She said that all the indications on the ground and from local Iraqi commanders is that the military is preparing to begin a withdrawal. I suspect something consistent with this.

BTW. Martha Raddatz has done nothing but outstanding reporting. She has apparently been promoted? to White House correspondent. My impression is that she works very hard at legitimately getting the whole story. Should be interesting.

Saturday, November 19, 2005


In recent months, I've seen a number of television shows and print articles dealing with the malaria epidemic across the world, but particularly in Africa. I was of the impression that malaria was preventable, treatable, and pretty much under control. In researching, I found out that malaria is anything but under control.

The Problem
Today approximately 40% of the world's population mostly those living in the world's poorest countries is at risk of malaria. The disease was once more widespread but it was successfully eliminated from many countries with temperate climates during the mid 20th century. Today malaria is found throughout the tropical and sub-tropical regions of the world and causes more than 300 million acute illnesses and at least one million deaths annually.
But here's the worst of it:
Malaria kills an African child every 30 seconds. Many children who survive an episode of severe malaria may suffer from learning impairments or brain damage. Pregnant women and their unborn children are also particularly vulnerable to malaria, which is a major cause of perinatal mortality, low birth weight and maternal anaemia.

And those who survive may be incredibly impaired in their future abilities.

What is Malaria?

This is probably a refresher for most people. But I learned a few things. This handy chart shows how both human's and mosquitos are the parasitic hosts, and mosquitos are the transport mechanism:

Another thing I didn't realize is that there are several different malarial parasites, and despite the claims of intelligent design proponents, the malarial parasites have evolved to be resistant to some of the early, cheap drugs that have been used to successfully treat malaria. And not all malarial parasites are created equally:
On a purely practical level, the most malignant (P. falciparum) cases develop within three months of leaving the malaria region, while the forms transmitted by P. vivax and P. ovale may not appear until three years later.
This is one the insidious aspects of the disease. Humans serve as hosts, infecting other mosquitos for some period of time before becoming aware that they are infected. This greatly aids in the spreading of the epidemic.
The actual attacks of malaria develop when the red blood corpuscles burst, releasing a mass of parasites into the blood. The attacks do not begin until a sufficient number of blood corpuscles have been infected with parasites.

What are the characteristics of a malaria attack?

* Fever and shivering. The attack begins with fever, with the temperature rising as high as 40ºC and falling again over a period of several hours.

* A poor general condition, feeling unwell and having headaches like influenza.

* Diarrhoea, nausea and vomiting often occur as well.

When the temperature drops, the patient often sweats profusely and feels much better. Then the same day, or one to two days later, further attacks occur with feeling generally unwell, high temperature and so on.

The attacks diminish in the course of a number of weeks if the patient develops the ability to resist the malaria parasite. But if proper treatment is given, the fever and parasites can disappear within a few days.


In malignant malaria the illness may evolve with a number of complications:

* low blood pressure (hypotension)

* kidney failure

* possible haemorrhage (bleeding)

* effects on the liver (eg infectious jaundice)

* shock and coma may also develop

* the condition may prove fatal.


Malignant malaria can affect the brain and the rest of the central nervous system. It is characterised by changes in the level of consciousness, convulsions and paralysis.
As you can imagine, those who have the least immunity to malaria are most affected by the most malignant form....young children. But here's the real stumper. Malaria is easily preventable and is treatable. The obstacles to solving the malaria problem are the usual suspects: money, politics, and ignorance.

Economics of Malaria:
According to the [WHO] report, malaria slows economic growth in Africa by up to 1.3% each year. This slowdown in economic growth due to malaria is over and above the more readily observed short run costs of the disease. Since sub-Saharan Africa's GDP is around $300 billion, the short-term benefits of malaria control can reasonably be estimated at between $3 billion and $12 billion per year.


The report also finds that:

* Malaria-free countries average three times higher GDP per person than malarious countries, even after controlling for government policy, geographical location, and other factors which impact on economic well-being.
* One healthy year of life is gained for every $1 to $8 spent on effectively treating malaria cases, which makes the malaria treatment as cost-effective a public health investment as measles vaccinations. This analysis, carried out by Dr Ann Mills, LSHTM, demonstrates that malaria control tools and intervention strategies provide good value for money.
Of course, the problems of poverty are a part of the cycle of malaria. More malaria equals more poverty which equals more poverty.


Early eradication of malaria revolves around a two pronged approach: removal of breeding grounds for mosquitos, and treatment of those infected. Unfortunately some of the improper past use of low cost medication has resulted in drug resistant parasitic strains:
Key among the factors contributing to the increasing malaria mortality and morbidity is the widespread resistance of Plasmodium falciparum [the most malignant form of malaria] to conventional antimalarial drugs, such as chloroquine, sulfadoxine–pyrimethamine (SP) and amodiaquine. Multidrug-resistant falciparum malaria is widely prevalent in south-east Asia and South America. Now Africa, the continent with highest burden of malaria, is also affected. Resistance to inexpensive monotherapies such as chloroquine and SP has developed or is developing rapidly, with increased mortality as a result.
There have been new drugs and drug therapies developed. The key to the new therapys is that they are quite effective against the worst cases, and when done properly these treatment protocols do not result in drug-resistant parasite:
Over the past decade, a new group of antimalarials – the artemisinin compounds, especially artesunate, artemether and dihydroartemisinin – have been deployed on an increasingly large scale. These compounds produce a very rapid therapeutic response (reduction of the parasite biomass and resolution of symptoms), are active against multidrugresistant P. falciparum, are well tolerated by the patients and reduce gametocyte carriage (and thus have the potential to reduce transmission of malaria). To date, no resistance to artemisinin or artemisinin derivatives has been reported, although some decrease in sensitivity in vitro has been detected in China and Viet Nam. If used alone, the artemisinins will cure falciparum malaria in 7 days, but studies have shown that in combination with certain synthetic drugs they produce high cure rates in 3 days with higher adherence to treatment. Furthermore, there is some evidence that use of such combinations in areas with low to moderate transmission can retard the development of resistance to the partner drug.
Treatment Costs:

Treatment of malaria, like most serious illnesses, involves lower level outpatient treatment, and those serious cases requiring hospitalization. Thoughout the discussions I've read of treatment, much emphasis is put on the expense of new treatments. I guess on a relative basis that true. But here's what I found:

Because ACTs are comparatively expensive and currently available only in limited quantities, UNICEF and partners are working with global manufacturers to expand the production of high-quality ACTs so that every child and community that needs these drugs can access them readily. UNICEF is also calling on donor nations to help malaria-endemic countries pay for the new drugs. A full course treatment of Coartem, the only co-formulated ACT at this time, costs $2.40 per person -- five to ten times more than chloroquine.

Sure it's more expensive than the original treatments. But $2.40 per person? Should the cost of a small Starbucks coffee prevent the treatment to save a child's life?

Unit recurrent costs per admission in KDH [Kilifi District Hospital University of Cape Town, South Africa] ranged from US $57 for 'other' paediatric malaria to US $105 for cerebral malaria, and in MSH [Malindi Sub-district Hospital] from US $33 to US $44 for the same categories
Perhaps I'm naive, but these costs...even the inpatient costs of the most severe cases...look manageable. Sure, there are a lot of infected individuals. But when these relatively low costs are put against a child dying every 30 seconds from a treatable disease, it's somewhat shameful the disease continues.


Of course the other arm of eradicating malaria is prevention. Even with quality treatments, human hosts will often transmit the disease through mosquitos prior to being aware they are infected. Eliminating mosquitos is a very important part of malaria eradication.

One of the essential, and inexpensive tools in eradicating malaria throughout history has been DDT. DDT has been banned for use in the United States since the 1970's due to environmental concerns. Prior to the ban, DDT was used extensively in agriculture as well as for insect borne disease eradication. Wikipedia has an extensive and excellent article on DDT, it's history, it's use, and arguments pro/con continuing it's use in malaria eradication in Africa. Many international leaders are calling for the widespread use of DDT in Africa citing that the benefits of targeted use for insect borne illness far outweigh any risks posed to the environment.

Another preventative is much simpler, relatively easy to implement, and also relative inexpensive.........nets:
Insecticide treated nets costs around $3.00 each and can cut malarial infections by 50%
Nets have shown efficacy in reducing the much more severe cases of malaria as well:
ITBN trial [insect treated nets] found a 41% reduction in paediatric malaria admissions.
So, how does it actually pencil out when looking at eliminating malaria from Africa?
Estimated costs for universal treatment and prevention strategies in Africa would cost $3.2 Billion. Current expenditures are $600 Million, or 20% of what's needed.
That's a lot of money.

Or is it?

The Iraq war costs $5.6 Billion per month.

Exxon's profits for the last quarter were $9.9 Billion.

It's my belief that individuals and nations should be judged on their actions, not their words. The nations of the world, and the nation of which I am a citizen, have it easily within their means to save 1 million children per year at a relatively low cost.

So why doesn't it happen?

I think a couple of reasons. First, the problem is remote. Americans don't have to see it or deal with it on a daily basis. The media doesn't publicize it, and Americans are awfully busy talking on their cell phones while driving their S.U.V.'s. We're a lazy people who are willing to delegate our international responsibilities to the whims of our political leaders. And our current political leaderships has been bereft of concern for our own people, much less Africans.

Second, and I think more importantly, Africa isn't America and it's not "western". The passive racism of white westerners shows itself in such issues as malaria, AIDS, and economic development in Africa. Africa has always been seen as hopeless, unimportant and "different" ( Unfortunately, a detached attitude is misinformed. Africa and other impoverished locations throughout the world continue to be a breeding ground of more than mosquitos. Radicalism, disease generation/mutation, and all the problems associated with neglect and abject poverty eventually affect everyone. The world is getting smaller. Africa is getting ever closer. And our indifference does not go unnoticed.

For those who may want to take direct action towards eradicating malaria, the most important thing you can do is influence your political representatives to work toward malaria eradication. Individual donations can be made with these organizations:

United Against Malaria

The Global Fund

Unicef Malaria Relief

Friday, November 18, 2005

Corporal Punishment Smackdown

There's a bit more evidence to put on the mountain-high pile of evidence on physical abuse and it's effect on children. In the study I'm going to cite, they're very nice calling it "physical punishment":
Physical Punishment Increases Kids' Risk of Aggressiveness, Anxiety

Even if it's a normal part of the culture, physical punishment makes children more likely to be aggressive and anxious, says a study of 336 families in six countries.

Researchers interviewed mothers and children in China, India, Italy, Kenya, the Philippines and Thailand.


No matter the country, all children who were subject to physical discipline were more likely than other children to show higher levels of aggression, anxiety and other emotional problems, said the study published in the journal Child Development.
They did find the effects mitigated in countries that routinely use corporal punishment:
However, the study did find that these problems weren't as bad in countries where physical discipline was more common and culturally accepted compared to countries were physical discipline was less accepted, BBC News reported.
Mitigated doesn't mean gone.

You've really got to wonder if there's a correlation between these findings (this study is one of many finding the same thing) and this post about American's accepting torture as legitimate? After all, if an individual grows up expecting to be hit at times by those in authority, that would be "normal" for them....right? It's a well-known fact that Americans are heavy users of corporal punishment, used more extensively in "red states". I haven't done the research, but I'd bet that the approval of torture correlates to corporal punishment.

I've also wondered about the correlations to physical abuse and the problems between the sexes, i.e. men (who were abused by mothers) who hate women and women (who were abused by fathers) who hate men. But that's a whole other post.

Being a parent is a very difficult job. Using physical punishment is a holdover from a time in human history when people just didn't have the technology or the time to work at teaching children without resorting to being physical. It was also during these times that children could benefit from being a bit on edge; a bit anxious. When life is harsh, anxiety is a good thing serving a survival purpose. In other words, the parents physical behavior mimic the real world.

But the people of the United States do not live (as of this writing) in that world. The skills increasingly necessary to function successfully in a modern world include the ability to logically, and lovingly, relate rather than having a strong back, or being hypervigilant. Unfortunatley, cultural and technological change occur much more quickly than people do. (see Future Shock)

The best model of parenting that I've seen along these lines is "Parenting with Love and Logic" by Foster Cline and Jim Fay (I am not affiliated with them). This method is far from indulgent using important skills to set firm limits with children, without using any violence. But, as I said above, it takes education, time and work.

Parenting is a lot like the old saying I often cite....."Pay me now, or pay me later". Parents generally find that the investment in good parenting does pay off handsomely in later years resulting in resilient teens and self-reliant adults.

And, oh by the way, society benefits too.

Help Attaturk

Attaturk over at Rising Hegemon is shooting for his 1 millionth visitor by 12/1. He needs 35,000 visits. I told him that one post on my blog would get him there ..... by tomorrow.

Go check it out. It's a great site that I visit daily.

Planned Withdrawal

It's been a blog intensive much happening.

While BushCo and the GOP are labeling every sane person and their dog as cowards for suggesting withdrawal, they have also allowed this to leak:
There’s word now that the Pentagon, where planning, after all, is everything, has drawn up a plan to draw down the number of U.S. troops in Iraq… Pentagon and military officials tell NBC news the plan calls for the substantial withdrawal of more than 60,000 American troops from Iraq. The plan was drafted by Generals John Abizaid and George Casey, the top two U.S. commanders of the war. If Iraqi elections are successful in December, and a new parliament seated in January, the withdrawal could begin almost immediately. Military officials say it would be an incremental or phased withdrawal.
The declare-victory-before-the-midterm-elections strategy. I actually thought they'd do this earlier, but early 2006 would be good timing, because it's good politics. And politics is everything to these folks. I wonder if they're taking Murtha seriously and positioning troops in Kuwait for further actions in Syria/Iran? Wouldn't surprise me after utterly trashing him.

I feel particularly sad for the soldiers. The entire Iraq adventure has been so costly. Of course, soldiers have been used as pawns since time began. You just gotta wonder if human beings will ever learn. Whatever the reason turns out to be, I hope we get them out of there sooner rather than later. If it's because of politics rather than be it.


Remember all those arguments about Paul Hackett being a "novice", "inexperienced" and not able to play with the big boys?

It seems he's playing pretty well to me.

Where's Sherrod?


Vote Scheduled on Troop Withdrawl

The Hotline "has learned that the House GOP leadership will bring a symbolic, but politically charged, resolution to the floor today that would force Dems to register an up-or-down vote on Rep. John Murtha's call for U.S. troops to immediately withdraw from Iraq. The pre-Thanksgiving recess vote will force Dems to go on the record on one of the year's most sensitive issues and provide the NRCC a roll call vote on the so-called 'cut or run' question going into '06."
Given the current state of the polls, the Democrats should be hoping the GOP will hurt them some more.

You Go Lynne

Reader, and fellow blogger Lynne had this to say in the comments section on the Torture Poll post:
Courageous America morphed into Spoiled America. We have politics without principle, wealth without work, commerce without morality, pleasure without conscience, education without character, science without humanity, and worship without sacrifice.

In short, we have the Seven Deadly Social Sins as defined by Gandhi.
Nuff' said.

Sing Away!

How about this breaking headline?
Abramoff business partner and former DeLay aide Michael Scanlon charged.
What's not said is that being charged without an indictment usually means there's been a plea deal. A plea deal means that Scanlon is likely singing like a canary. And Scanlon is a former DeLay aide?

I haven't written much about the Abramoff/DeLay thing. But given all the numerous players, including Bush, that have been associated with Abramoff, this investigation has about as much potential as PlameGate in bringing down the administration.

Grey's Law

Ok, I'm coining a new law. It's called "Grey's Law":

As a political discussion grows longer, the probability of a conservative comparing their favorite demon to Michael Moore approaches 1. Once such a comparison is made, the discussion is over, and whoever mentioned Michael Moore has automatically lost whatever argument was in progress.

Tortured Poll

This is astounding.

If anyone ever doubts that the people of the United States are a brutal, primitive, weakening people, this should quell those doubts:
WASHINGTON: Nearly half of Americans believe the use of torture against suspected terrorists to gain information is justified, according to a survey published Thursday by the Pew Research Center.

The survey, involving 2,006 people from the general public, found that 46 percent believe that torturing terror suspects to gain important information is sometimes (31 percent) or often (15 percent) justified while 17 percent thought it is rarely justified and 32 percent were opposed.
That is incredible. America, the shining light of freedom, liberty and individual rights? My ass. Is it possible that the recent events of American torture are the norm for the United States? Did 911 simply remove the well coiffed veil?

Meanwhile, the same poll found that the administration has done a good job of selling it's position on torture:
"The general public is divided over this question - 48 percent believe soldiers and contractors are to blame, while 36 percent blame official policies," the report said.
And do you think that the "fear of terrorism" issue is receding? Think again:
As to concerns that anti-terrorism policies may be infringing on basic civil liberties, the survey found that 48 percent of the general public think current policies have not gone far enough to adequately protect the country while 34 percent worry they have gone too far in restricting civil liberties.
What, are the other 17% unsure? The great and decisive American middle.

Whenever I see information like the above quote, I cringe. Maybe I'm just getting old and crumudgeonly, but Americans have lost their guts. It seems that within my lifetime, people in general have become increasingly pampered and fragile. And this poll exposes an incredible degree of hypocrisy....we want to be able to torture anyone else, but are scared shitless of our own shadows.

Whatever happened to the courageous America?

You Worst Nightmare

Well, maybe second worst after listening to Frank Sinatra sing "My Way" at a funeral.

This is what happens when people are desperately poor:
BEIJING (Reuters) - A Chinese peasant woman who suffered a brain haemorrhage was left at the undertakers alive for cremation because her family could no longer afford hospital treatment, state media said Friday.

She was only saved by the tears in her eyes.


You Guoying, a 47-year-old migrant worker from southwestern Sichuan province, was taken for cremation by her husband and children in Taizhou, eastern Zhejiang province, where she worked, the China Youth Daily said.

Fortunately for You, the undertaker realized she was still alive when he saw her move and tears in her eyes, the newspaper said.

"This is not only a tragedy for the family, but also for society," it quoted Xu Yinghe, a Taizhou official, as saying.

"The fundamental reason is the absence of a social welfare system."

You was taken back to hospital for further treatment with money donated by sympathetic citizens of prosperous Zhejiang, the newspaper said.

"Three days of treatment cost us more than 10,000 yuan," it quoted her daughter as saying, adding that was the sum of the family's life savings.

"If there had been another option, who would have the heart to send a member of their own family for cremation while there was still a hope of survival?"


A 42-year-old farmer too poor to afford treatment for lung cancer set off a home-made bomb aboard a bus in Fuzhou, capital of the southeastern province of Fujian, in August, killing himself and another passenger and wounding 30.

Also in August, a security guard hailed a hero for fighting off a purse snatcher jumped to his death from a hospital window in south Guangxi province because he couldn't afford the bills.
Seems to me that WalMart is in China....right?

Their Way

Ever wonder what the Brits listen to at funerals?

I know I do (via Salon):

1. "My Way," Frank Sinatra
2. "Wind Beneath My Wings," Bette Midler
3. "Angels," Robbie Williams
4. "My Heart Will Go On," Celine Dion
5. "Simply the Best," Tina Turner
6. "I Will Always Love You," Whitney Houston
7. "You'll Never Walk Alone," Gerry and the Pacemakers
8 . "Over the Rainbow," Eva Cassidy
9. "Time to Say Goodbye," Sarah Brightman
10. "We’ll Meet Again," Dame Vera Lynn

Now you know.

Thursday, November 17, 2005


Everyone and their dog has been speculating about who told Woodward, aka Wayward, about Valerie Plame. A concensus seemed to be developing around Stephen Hadley mostly by the process of elimination. Forefront in the analysis has been Firedoglake and TalkLeft.

Well, now we have this from Firedoglake:
Oh boy here come the fireworks. Reuters:

A White House official said on Thursday that national security adviser Stephen Hadley was not Woodward's source on Plame.

If that's true, as far as I can tell, that only leaves Big Time.

Baby oh baby. If this is true, Christmas may be particularly sweet this year. Big Dick telling Wayward would likely be a violation of the espionage act.

One thing we know for sure. Eventually we'll find out!

UPDATE: Via David Corn:
On Thursday night, Associated Press reported that a "person familiar with the investigation" said that Cheney was not Woodward's source. Richard Armitage, look out. CNN is reporting that a spokesperson for Armitage said "no comment" when asked if Armitage was Woodward's source--which makes Armitage the only person on the Official Speculation List who has not yet denied it.

Pressing Engagement

My dearest has been attending a pressing engagement.

Things Cookin'

Looks like there's evidence that Fitzgerald is going to a new grand jury.


Over at the Oil Drum, they've done a very nice and extensive analysis of "fields in production" (FIP) for Exxon, the largest of the oil producers. Essentially, they've used Exxon's own numbers to calculate the expected amount of oil production, the actual amount, the cost to increase production, and then compared that to Exxon CEO Lee Raymond's ongoing optimistic predictions.

The whole post is a good read. But if you want to forego the graphs and math, here's the key graf:
Clearly, the bulk of Exxon's failure to grow their supply as they hoped does not come from project delays, but rather than from somewhat underestimating the decline rate in their existing fields. Indeed, for the last eight years, all of the very considerable new capacity that Exxon has bought on at great expense and enormous trouble has only gone to offset declines. They have not managed to grow their production or market share one iota
In a nutshell, older fields are slowing in production and the rate of new fields coming on line is not keeping up. The estimated rate of decline is around 8%. If true they conclude:
As those of you following my analysis of the relationship between miles travelled and GDP know, I'm pretty convinced the US economy can't save very much absolute oil usage without economic growth being hurt - we can only make the economy less oil intensive at 3%-4% annually....
If these estimates are true, it suggests that a gradual adaptation to peak oil is not going to occur without pain. The rate of decline is simply higher than the historic rate of adaptation.

Granted, there are a lot of if's in this scenario. But it's just a tiny bit piled on a growing mountain of evidence that a government sponsored, highly proactive movement away from a petroleum economy is essential.

Foreign Fighters...Or Lack Thereof

There is much chest thumping from the administration about "foreign" insurgents such as Abu Musab Zarqawi acting as the driving force in the Iraqi insurgency. Conversely, there are also many reports and pundits disputing that claim, citing that the insurgency is primarily Sunni Iraqi's.

Finally there is some data on the dispute. Turns out that WaPo is reporting the results of interrogations after the U.S. military action in Tall Afar, located in Northern Iraq just 65 miles from the Syrian border:
When the air and ground operation wound down in mid-September, nearly 200 insurgents had been killed and close to 1,000 detained, the military said at the time. But interrogations and other analyses carried out in recent weeks showed that none of those captured was from outside Iraq. According to McMaster's staff, the 3rd Armored Cavalry last detained a foreign fighter in June.
None. Zip. Zero. Nada. But that doesn't stop military officials from continuing to make the "foreign fighters" claim:
In a recent interview, McMaster maintained that, before insurgents were driven from Tall Afar in September, foreigners were at least partly responsible for the "climate of fear" that pervaded the city -- a result of beheadings, suicide attacks and the abduction of young men to conscript them as fighters.

"They trained indigenous terror cells and moved on somewhere else," he said.
So, out of 1200 known insurgents in this military campaign, not one was from outside Iraq (by the military's own report). All those foreign evil doers who are key players in violently opposing American forces managed to avoid being killed or captured.

Gee, our guys are either lousy shots, or are really really good shots, able to pick out only Iraqi nationals amongst all those foreign fighters!

Let me ask you this. If you quickly recall media reports on the insurgency, what picture image do you conjure?

I come up with that full face picture of al Qaeda in Iraq leader Zarqawi.
In weekly briefings for reporters in Baghdad, Maj. Gen Rick Lynch regularly displays slides showing the face of Zarqawi, whose organization has asserted responsibility for many high-profile attacks. Mug shots of the Jordanian adorn virtually every barracks and checkpoint in Baghdad's fortified Green Zone.
But local commanders still tell a different story:
In much of the country, including the north and center, commanders say, the insurgency is led and populated almost entirely by Iraqis, many of them former members of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party, who do not work closely with Zarqawi's group. Commanders there say Iraqi insurgents are largely responsible for the roadside bombings, some involving armor-penetrating weapons, that have been responsible for roughly half of the U.S. combat deaths in recent months.
There are a number of propaganda reasons for having a face on a devil in Iraq. But how can the American public, the Iraq public, and the military fight the insurgency with any kind of effect if there's not an admission that this is a civil war, with the U.S. in the middle?

Having a boogie man with a face on a playing card might be good politics. But is it good strategy?

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Those Dems

I've been railing pretty consistently about the Democrats being too analytical, working too hard at massaging/messaging instead of taking stands based on principle.

Don't get me wrong. I've been a member of the Democratic party for over thirty years. It pains me to see a group of people who are so passionate about helping people then act like a bunch of Madison Ave. knuckleheads. So I keep swinging away at trying to help my party.

I ran across this today from Arianna Huffington on how the Dems came up with their new slogan (do you know what it is?):
So here’s the story. A message team responsible for developing a unifying new theme for the party had come up with multiple slogans -- including “America Can do Better” (the “Together” was added later) and “A Stronger America Begins at Home” (and variants such as “Security Begins at Home”). Greenberg Quinlan Rosen Research was then hired to try out the competing slogans and see how people reacted.

According to a high-ranking party insider, “A Stronger America Begins at Home” tested 10 point higher than any other entry. So how did the Dems end up going with a losing slogan?

My source tells me that the leadership was afraid that the security-based slogan sounded too isolationist. Too America First. Too Pat Buchanan
Ok. So first of all. A group (probably relatively small group) of high ranking Democrats gets together to come up with a slogan. They come up with pretty paltry selections. And then, like any good Democratic politicians, they hire consultants to test the competing slogans. The results come in......and they reject them.

Can I say that again? They hired consultants...strike give them insight into what people think and then ignore the advice...strike two. Anyone care to guess at what strike three will be?

Someone needs to send these folks to the Paul Hackett school of political etiquette.

I Laughed Till I Cried

Billmon is the man. His post title is "Judy Woodward". All credit to him for the image:
Something tells me that when they make the movie about this scandal (All the President's Whores) Woodward is not going to be played by Robert Redford.

Vote Rigging

I've always been suspicious of the 2000 and 2004 election results. And there's always been lots of smoke. But no one has ever found the fire. And that's still the case.

However, the best case yet is being made by the Government Accounting Office. Here's is a very good summary of the results the GAO found in investigating allegations of fraud, at the request of Rep. John Conyers. Remember, Bush won in Ohio by little more than 100,000 votes out of 5.6 million cast. That's a very thin margin that makes any irregularities/slack in the voting system a problem.

I won't quote all the GAO findings, you can read them in the well written article above. While the GAO still didn't find the fire, the smoke was very thick. At best the system sucks. At worst there was a conspiracy of fraud.

The process of voting is a cornerstone to the successful workings of a democracy. To have the system be the hodge-podge of flimsy systems we have it shameful. Whether there was fraud or just a terrible, insecure, inefficient system, the GAO report has made it clear that change is needed. It's been needed for years. But without future reforms, the very legitimacy of the government stays in question.


I was struck by this tidbit in Slate's "Today's Papers":
The LAT leads with a few small barriers in the search for Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. For one thing, he appears to have a better intel network than the U.S. or Iraq. "They are watching every time we recruit an Iraqi to come back and inform to us about where he has been and what he has seen," said one U.S. counterintel official. "And every time we have been able to do that, the person has ended up dead."
The tone of this quote is as if the U.S. counterintel official is surprised.

This is a counterinsurgency. By definition, the war is being fought in their country, on their terms. By definition, you cannot tell the good guys from the bad guys just by looking at them. I suspect that there is not a single aspect of American or Iraq official operations that has not been penetrated by insurgents.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005


I won't go into all the details, but the Pentagon has come out and admitted using white phosphorus as a weapon in Falluja. This, after weeks of denial and all kinds of defenders saying it wasn't so. Via Needlenose:
Lt. Col. Barry Venable, a Pentagon spokesman, said that while white phosphorous is most frequently used to mark targets or obscure a position, it was used at times in Fallujah as an incendiary weapon against enemy combatants.

"It was not used against civilians," Venable said.
Ah huh.

Remember? Just like New Orleans, they told all the civilians to evacuate. And everyone lockstepped away from their homes out of town.


Thanks to Jage for the of my favs.

Dems Rationalizing.....Again

I've been listening with interest the back n' forth battling talking points between Republicans and Democrats over the last couple of days. As usual, the Republicans are trying to reinvent history while blaming the Democrats of doing the very thing.......a classic Rovian strategy of projection.

The Republicans say that the Democrats voted to authorize the Preznit to go to war based on the same intelligence the Preznit had. The Democrats are saying they didn't have the same intelligence as the Preznit, and after all the resolution was to authorize getting rid of WMD through negotiation, inspections, and then lacking success, an authorization for war. Some Dems are arguing that the resolution they supported meant Bush should let inspections work and only go to war "as a last resort".

As usual, they're both right and wrong. Since I don't give a rat's you know what about the GOP, I'll address the Democrats.

I am no Republican apologist. And certainly not a Bush apologist. But I think part of the Dems. response is nonsense. I do not think that Congress had the same intelligence as the Preznit, particular any intelligence that suggested there were no WMD. But for a Democratic Congressional member to claim they voted for the resolution and then were led astray by the administrations failure to follow through with inspections and diplomacy is nonsense.

In politics, there are always two messages. There's the publicized message which is usually a big fig leaf of some kind. And then there's the truth. Dems are really good at spending an inordinate amount of time on fashioning, analyzing, examining, and polling the fig leaf stuff, and spending little time on taking a truthful stand. Voters may not always be too keen on "knowing" the truth, but they are relatively keen at a gut level of knowing when someone is or is not taking a firmly believed stand.

Anyone paying any attention to the politics of the run-up to the war knew that Bush was going to invade Iraq. Slam dunk. End of discussion.

Sure, the public message was that Bush would do everything, every-single-thang he could to avoid firing a single shot because, after all, the Preznit is a peace lovin' man who'd kick your ass, but only if you left him no choice. Sorta like Gary Cooper not firing the first shot in "High Noon", but then blastin' holes in all them thar bad guys.

But even a stupid blogger like me knew that a Congressional resolution was merely a formality; a Rovian political tool to put the Democrats on the hot seat, or in bed with Bush, whichever you prefer. Democrats who voted against Gulf War I paid dearly at the polls and everyone knew that. As Gulf War part deux came around, no one wanted to miss the bus. Even stalwart liberals who knew the score, like John Kerry, tried to frame their position with a big-assed fig leaf. We saw how well that worked. But now, many of those same liberals are trying to point out that they voted for the war after they voted against it.

Forget it folks. If you didn't know that voting for the resolution was a rubber stamp to go to war, then you're an idiot and don't deserve to hold a leadership role. If you did know, then own it, admit the mistake, and move on. Ditch the whole the-resolution-was-an-authorization-to-pursue-negotiations-strongly argument.

Americans have respect, especially in the post 911 world (I hate that cliche, but oh well), for those who take a firm stand, even when it's against the odds. Get your fingers out of the wind, your heads out of your asses, and take a stand for having made a mistake that you want to correct.

Otherwise, you're just another lying politician and doomed to minority status.......still.

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