Sunday, September 30, 2007

We Arm The World

New York Times:
The United States maintained its role as the leading supplier of weapons to the developing world in 2006, followed by Russia and Britain, according to a Congressional study to be released Monday. Pakistan, India and Saudi Arabia were the top buyers.

The global arms market is highly competitive, with manufacturing nations seeking both to increase profits and to expand political influence through weapons sales to developing nations, which reached nearly $28.8 billion in 2006.

That sales total was a slight drop from the 2005 figure of $31.8 billion, a trend explained by the strain of rising fuel prices that prompted many developing states — except those that produce oil — to choose upgrading current arsenals over buying new weapons.

John Bolton is insane.

John Bolton, the former US ambassador to the United Nations, told Tory delegates today that efforts by the UK and the EU to negotiate with Iran had failed and that he saw no alternative to a pre-emptive strike on suspected nuclear facilities in the country.

Mr Bolton, who was addressing a fringe meeting organised by Lord (Michael) Ancram, said that the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was "pushing out" and "is not receiving adequate push-back" from the west.

"I don't think the use of military force is an attractive option, but I would tell you I don't know what the alternative is.

"Because life is about choices, I think we have to consider the use of military force. I think we have to look at a limited strike against their nuclear facilities."

He added that any strike should be followed by an attempt to remove the "source of the problem", Mr Ahmadinejad.
You know what's even more insane? For a year, he was our U.N. Ambassador.

Another Huge Surprise

Washington Post:
The Environmental Protection Agency's pursuit of criminal cases against polluters has dropped off sharply during the Bush administration, with the number of prosecutions, new investigations and total convictions all down by more than a third, according to Justice Department and EPA data.

The number of civil lawsuits filed against defendants who refuse to settle environmental cases was down nearly 70 percent between fiscal years 2002 and 2006, compared with a four-year period in the late 1990s, according to those same statistics.

Critics of the agency say its flagging efforts have emboldened polluters to flout U.S. environmental laws, threatening progress in cleaning the air, protecting wildlife, eliminating hazardous materials, and countless other endeavors overseen by the EPA.

Irrelevant and Unwanted

Corriere della Sera:
Rice Denied Audience with Pope

Disagreements over foreign policy behind refusal. 

US Secretary of State requested meeting in August. Told that Benedict XVI was “on holiday”.

The latest request was made during the summer. The US secretary of state Condoleeza Rice indicated to the Vatican that she urgently needed to meet Benedict XVI. She was on her way back into the viper’s nest of the Middle East and it would have been no bad thing to meet her counterparts with the credentials of a papal audience. Ms Rice had hoped that the audience could be fixed for early August at Castelgandolfo, the papal summer residence, when Benedict XVI returned from Lorenzago in the Dolomites, but she was told the Pope was on holiday. She insisted but to no avail. Vatican diplomats were adamant and “Benedict XVI is on holiday” continued to be the official reply.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Citizen Gore

Michael Tomasky in the New York Review of Books. Go read.


New York Times:
Sunni Arab extremists have begun a systematic campaign to assassinate police chiefs, police officers, other Interior Ministry officials and tribal leaders throughout Iraq, staging at least 10 attacks in 48 hours.

Eight policemen have been killed, among them the police chief of Baquba, the largest city in Diyala Province. Two other police chiefs survived attacks, though one was left in critical condition, and about 30 police officers were wounded, according to reports from local security officers.

Surging Backward

Washington Post:
Security is deteriorating in southern Iraq as rival Shiite militias vying for power have stepped up their attacks after moving out of Baghdad to avoid U.S.-led military operations, according to the latest quarterly Pentagon report on Iraq released yesterday.

"The security environment in southern Iraq took a notable turn for the worse in August" with the assassination of two governors, said the report, which covers June through August. "There may be retaliation and an increase in intra-Shi'a violence throughout the South," it said, whereas previously the violence was centered in the main southern city of Basra.

Solar becoming more affordable

Industry Week:
Colorado State University's method for manufacturing low-cost, high-efficiency solar panels is nearing mass production. AVA Solar Inc. will start production by the end of next year on the technology developed by mechanical engineering Professor W.S. Sampath at Colorado State. The new 200-megawatt factory is expected to employ up to 500 people. Based on the average household usage, 200 megawatts will power 40,000 U.S. homes.

Produced at less than $1 per watt, the panels will dramatically reduce the cost of generating solar electricity and could power homes and businesses around the globe with clean energy for roughly the same cost as traditionally generated electricity.

Who's The Boss?

Washington Post:
A confrontation between the U.S. military and the State Department is unfolding over the involvement of Blackwater USA in the shooting deaths of Iraqi civilians in a Baghdad square Sept. 16, bringing to the surface long-simmering tensions between the military and private security companies in Iraq, according to U.S. military and government officials.

In high-level meetings over the past several days, U.S. military officials have pressed State Department officials to assert more control over Blackwater, which operates under the department's authority, said a U.S. government official with knowledge of the discussions. "The military is very sensitive to its relationship that they've built with the Iraqis being altered or even severely degraded by actions such as this event," the official said.

"This is a nightmare," said a senior U.S. military official. "We had guys who saw the aftermath, and it was very bad. This is going to hurt us badly. It may be worse than Abu Ghraib, and it comes at a time when we're trying to have an impact for the long term." The official was referring to the prison scandal that emerged in 2004 in which U.S. soldiers tortured and abused Iraqis.
Washington Post:
An ongoing battle between Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and a House committee investigating Iraqi government corruption and the activities of the Blackwater security firm erupted into another skirmish yesterday as Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) accused Rice of interfering with the committee's work and preventing administration and Blackwater officials from providing pertinent information.

In the latest of a series of exchanges, Waxman, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, wrote Rice to urge that she "reconsider the unusual positions you are taking." Congress has a "constitutional prerogative" to look into the issues, he wrote, and she is "wrong to interfere with the Committee's inquiry."
Los Angeles Times:
The State Department has interceded in a congressional investigation of Blackwater USA, the private security firm accused of killing Iraqi civilians last week, ordering the company not to disclose information about its Iraq operations without approval from the Bush administration, according to documents revealed Tuesday.

In a letter sent to a senior Blackwater executive Thursday, a State Department contracting official ordered the company "to make no disclosure of the documents or information" about its work in Iraq without permission.

The letter and other documents were released Tuesday by Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Los Angeles), whose House committee has launched wide-ranging investigations into contractor abuses and corruption in Iraq.


New York Times:
The Interior Department’s program to collect billions of dollars annually from oil and gas companies that drill on federal lands is troubled by mismanagement, ethical lapses and fears of retaliation against whistle-blowers, the department’s chief independent investigator has concluded.

The report, a result of a yearlong investigation, grew out of complaints by four auditors at the agency, who said that senior administration officials had blocked them from recovering money from oil companies that underpaid the government.

The report stopped short of accusing top agency officials of wrongdoing, concluding that the whistle-blowers were sometimes unaware of other efforts under way to recover the missing money and that they sometimes simply disagreed with top management.

But it offered a sharp description of failures at the Minerals Management Service, the agency within the Interior Department responsible for collecting about $10 billion a year in royalties on oil and gas. Many of the issues, including the complaints by whistle-blowers, were initially reported last year by The New York Times.

Monday, September 17, 2007


Senior American intelligence and defence officials believe that President George W Bush and his inner circle are taking steps to place America on the path to war with Iran, The Sunday Telegraph has learnt.

Pentagon planners have developed a list of up to 2,000 bombing targets in Iran, amid growing fears among serving officers that diplomatic efforts to slow Iran's nuclear weapons programme are doomed to fail.

Pentagon and CIA officers say they believe that the White House has begun a carefully calibrated programme of escalation that could lead to a military showdown with Iran.

Now it has emerged that Condoleezza Rice, the secretary of state, who has been pushing for a diplomatic solution, is prepared to settle her differences with Vice-President Dick Cheney and sanction military action.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

France Talks Tough on Iran

The French foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner, said yesterday his country had to prepare for the possibility of war against Iran over its nuclear programme, but added that he did not believe any such action was imminent.

Seeking to ratchet up the pressure on Iran, Mr Kouchner also told RTL radio and LCI television that the world's main powers should use further sanctions to show they were serious about stopping Tehran getting nuclear weapons, and said France had asked French firms not to bid for tenders in the Islamic Republic.

"We must prepare for the worst," Mr Kouchner said in an interview, adding: "The worst, sir, is war."

Asked about the warning, he said it was normal to prepare for various eventualities. "We are preparing ourselves by trying to put together plans that are the chiefs of staff's prerogative [but] that is not about to happen tomorrow," he added.
The Sarkozy regime is not being helpful. It needs be noted that IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei believes new sanctions, now, would be counterproductive. The world needs to give ElBaradei a chance.


The growing US focus on confronting Iran in a proxy war inside Iraq risks triggering a direct conflict in the next few months, regional analysts are warning.

US-Iranian tensions have mounted significantly in the past few days, with heightened rhetoric on both sides and the US decision to establish a military base in Iraq less than five miles from the Iranian border to block the smuggling of Iranian arms to Shia militias.

Will HE stay or will he be forced to go?

Anchorage Daily News:
Ex-Veco Corp. CEO Bill Allen admitted in court Friday that he had company employees work several months on a remodeling project at the Girdwood home of U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens.

The former head of the oil field services company made the admission Friday while testifying in the federal corruption trial of a former state lawmaker.

Allen and former Veco vice president Rick Smith in May pleaded guilty to extortion, conspiracy and bribery of legislators.

Under cross-examination by defense attorney James Wendt, representing former state Rep. Pete Kott, Allen acknowledged that the more than $400,000 he admitted spending in the bribery charge was for other legislators - and for work done at the Girdwood home of Stevens, the longest-serving Republican in the U.S. Senate.

Will he stay or will he go?

President Vladimir Putin today dismissed Russia's government ahead of parliamentary and presidential elections and appointed a little-known ally Viktor Zubkov as the country's prime minister.

After months of speculation about a possible reshuffle, Mr Putin said he had accepted the resignation of the prime minister, Mikhail Fradkov, and his government during a meeting in the Kremlin.

The Kremlin later announced that Mr Zubkov had been nominated as the new head of Russia's government - ahead of parliamentary elections on December 2 and a presidential poll in March 2008.
Associated Press:
The chairman of Russia's upper house of parliament said Saturday that Vladimir Putin, barred from seeking a third consecutive term in elections next year, should run again for the presidency in 2012, Russian news agencies reported.

The comments by Sergei Mironov are likely add to furious speculation about Putin's intentions.


Associated Press:
A car bomb struck a bakery crowded with customers lining up for bread, killing at least 11 people on Saturday as they ended their daytime Ramadan fast, officials said.

An al-Qaida front group, meanwhile, warned it will hunt down and kill Sunni Arab tribal leaders who cooperate with the U.S. and its Iraqi partners, saying the assassination of the leader of the revolt against the terror movement was just a beginning.

Hospital officials said the 11 killed in the Baghdad explosion included two children. The blast damaged five stores and three houses and burned five cars, according to police.

Global Warming


Associated Press:
Arctic ice has shrunk to the lowest level on record, new satellite images show, raising the possibility that the Northwest Passage that eluded famous explorers will become an open shipping lane.

The effects of climate change are already apparent, many experts say. According to the Italian Meteorological Society, the first eight months of 2007 were the hottest in the country for 250 years.

Spiegel Online:
International legal experts are discovering climate change law, and the Pacific island nation of Tuvalu is a case in point: The Polynesian archipelago is doomed to disappear beneath the ocean. Now lawyers are asking what sort of rights citizens have when their homeland no longer exists.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Because Bush failed to destroy them.

Al-Qaida has revived, extended its influence, and has the capacity to carry out a spectacular strike similar to the September 11 attacks on America, one of the world's leading security thinktanks warned yesterday.

There is increasing evidence "that 'core' al-Qaida is proving adaptable and resilient, and has retained an ability to plan and coordinate large-scale attacks in the western world despite the attrition it has suffered", said the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS). "The threat from Islamist terrorism remains as high as ever, and looks set to get worse," it added.

"The US and its allies have failed to deal a death blow to al-Qaida; the organisation's ideology appears to have taken root to such a degree that it will require decades to eradicate," it continued.

Uh oh.

New York Times:
A carefully constructed compromise on a draft law governing Iraq’s rich oil fields, agreed to in February after months of arduous talks among Iraqi political groups, appears to have collapsed. The apparent breakdown comes just as Congress and the White House are struggling to find evidence that there is progress toward reconciliation and a functioning government here.

Senior Iraqi negotiators met in Baghdad on Wednesday in an attempt to salvage the original compromise, two participants said. But the meeting came against the backdrop of a public series of increasingly strident disagreements over the draft law that had broken out in recent days between Hussain al-Shahristani, the Iraqi oil minister, and officials of the provincial government in the Kurdish north, where some of the nation’s largest fields are located.

Mr. Shahristani, a senior member of the Arab Shiite coalition that controls the federal government, negotiated the compromise with leaders of the Kurdish and Arab Sunni parties. But since then, the Kurds have pressed forward with a regional version of the law that Mr. Shahristani says is illegal. Many of the Sunnis who supported the original deal have also pulled out in recent months.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Fred Thompson: The Ultimate Insider

So much so, that he knows to try and fool us about it.

Colbert King, of the Washington Post:
Far be it from me to start trouble, but former Tennessee Republican senator Fred Thompson, the presidential candidate who portrays himself as a conservative outsider capable of reforming Washington, is playing down his kinship with this town. Thompson may campaign as a steadfast son of the South, but he is really one of us.

In fact, no other White House hopeful, Republican or Democrat, can come close to matching Thompson's insider credentials. He alone among the contenders has managed to reach the pinnacle of Washington influence: the presidency of the Federal City Council, a powerful, behind-the-scenes group comprising a who's who of this city's top business, professional and civic leaders. The Federal City Council is synonymous with the Washington establishment, and Thompson was its chosen leader from 2003 to 2005.

The list of former council presidents reads like a roster of the city's famous heavy hitters. Thompson succeeded former Senate majority leader Bob Dole. Former House speaker Tom Foley preceded Dole.

Mental Health Crisis For American Troops

CBS News:
The Pentagon's top health official said Thursday he wants to see better mental health assessments, stronger privacy protections and a "buddy system" to change the military's stigma against seeking help for anxiety and depression.

Speaking to Congress as the military rushes to improve its much-criticized mental health system, S. Ward Casscells, assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, also acknowledged that the Army's touted plans to hire 25 percent additional mental health specialists may prove hard to fulfill for awhile because of problems in recruiting and retaining active-duty professionals.
This is astonishing:
About 38 percent of soldiers and 31 percent of Marines report psychological conditions such as brain injury and PTSD after returning from deployment. Among members of the National Guard, the figure is much higher — 49 percent — with numbers expected to grow because of repeated and extended deployments.

Because Bush Has Failed To Defeat Them

Members of al-Qaeda's North Africa wing say they carried out two suicide attacks that have killed at least 50 people in Algeria in the past two days.

The group, which calls itself al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, made the claim in an internet statement.

In the latest attack, at least 30 people died on Saturday when a truck packed with explosives drove into a naval barracks in the port of Dellys.


Spiegel Online:
Up to 170 billion cubic meters of natural gas are "flared" by the world's oil producers every year. The economic value amounts to $40 billion, but the burden on the earth's atmosphere -- in warming emissions like methane and carbon dioxide -- is enormous.

In spite of all the recent talk about climate change, the Kyoto Protocol and tight energy resources in Europe, the oil industry continues to burn huge volumes of natural gas that rises from oil deposits on land or under the sea. Over 20 countries have increased the practice of "flaring" in the last 12 years, and some burn far more gas on drilling platforms and in oil fields than they've admitted, officially, so far.

America's weather-data department, the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), came to this conclusion in a new report based on American satellite data. The study was financed by the World Bank, which five years ago started a global initiative to change the long-established practice of flaring gas and to capture it for energy use instead.

The American and Iraqi people agree: U.S. Out of Iraq!

I'll let the report speak for itself. From USA Today:
On the eve of critical testimony to Congress by Gen. David Petraeus, most Americans are skeptical of what he will say and support setting a timetable to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq regardless of the military situation there.

A USA TODAY/Gallup Poll taken Friday and Saturday finds that a White House push to spotlight progress in Iraq, including President Bush's surprise stop in Anbar province last week, hasn't fundamentally changed attitudes toward the war.
The propaganda isn't working, and the American people aren't being fooled.
A record 60% say the United States should set a timetable to withdraw forces "and stick to that timetable regardless of what is going on in Iraq."
Regardless of what is going on. No excuses. No Friedman Units. No bullshit progress reports. Set a timetable and get out.

Of course, the Iraqi people might see it differently, right? Because all hell will break loose if we leave. Because all hell hasn't yet broken loose. Right?

Let's see...

The Associated Press reports:
Overwhelming numbers of Iraqis say the U.S. troop buildup has worsened security and the prospects for economic and political progress in their country, according to a poll released Monday that provides a strikingly bleak appraisal of the war.
Well, what would they know? After all, they don't have the American media and the Bush Administration and the Republicans and Joe Lieberman to tell them that the hell they're living isn't as bad as it seems.
Forty-seven percent want American forces and their coalition allies to leave the country immediately, the survey showed, 12 percent more than said so in a March poll as the troop increase was beginning.
That would be a pretty definitive timetable. Like get the hell out. Now!
And 57 percent _ including nearly all Sunnis and half of Shiites _ said they consider attacks on coalition forces acceptable, a slight increase over the past half year.
So, I guess they're saying that they don't want us there. Or something.
Seventy percent in the survey said they believe security has worsened where the added forces were sent, with another 11 percent saying the buildup has had no effect.
They just don't understand. General Betrayus says the surge just needs a little more time. It'll work. Eventually. The sun may go red giant, first; but it will work. Eventually. If we just keep saying so.

With neither the American nor Iraqi people capable of comprehending that what's actually happening isn't what's actually happening, it's encouraging to know that the Democrats are willing to give Bush another Friedman Unit, without any binding obligations. Because the war must go on. Not for any particular reason, it just must. Because it's now an entity unto itself. It lives for itself. It's self-perpetuating. It just is. And no one who can will stop it.

Keep an eye on this...

Wonder what the U.S Attorneys scandal is all about? Here's an example.

New York Times:
House leaders are beginning an investigation this week of the prosecution of Don Siegelman, the former Democratic governor of Alabama who was imprisoned in June on federal corruption charges. The case could become the centerpiece of a Democratic effort to show that the Justice Department engaged in political prosecutions.

Republicans strongly deny the suggestion, and as Mr. Siegelman enters the fourth month of his 88-month sentence, the case is becoming a bitter flash point between Democratic officials and the Bush administration.

Jill Simpson, an Alabama lawyer who signed an affidavit saying she overheard a Republican political operative connect the prosecution of Mr. Siegelman to Karl Rove, will be questioned under oath this week by investigators for the House Judiciary Committee. The chairman of that committee, Representative John Conyers Jr., Democrat of Michigan, has asked the Justice Department to turn over its documents in the case.

The department has refused his request, saying in a letter last week to the committee that “we want to avoid any perception that the conduct of our criminal investigations and prosecutions is subject to political influence.”
Yes- Soviet style political prosecutions from the Bush Administration.

Iraq's Former PM: "we are further than ever from national reconciliation."

While Bush asks for another Friedman Unit, and General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker tell us all the good news, Iraq's former prime minister has a different take.

Spiegel Online:
SPIEGEL: What have you -- the politicians -- done with this short breathing space?

Allawi: Today, we are further than ever from national reconciliation. The ethnic-confessional cleansings continue, especially in central Iraq and Baghdad. The exodus and expulsions of Iraqis has taken on a dimension not seen since the founding of modern Iraq in the 1920s. De-Baathification has become a settling of scores with political opponents. There is also absolutely no solution in sight for how to deal with former members of the disbanded army. Hundreds of thousands of soldiers sit at home, deprived and disenfranchised, without a salary.

Friday, September 7, 2007


Associated Press:
An analysis of 20 years' worth of real-life observations supports recent U.N. computer predictions that by 2050, summer sea ice off Alaska's north coast will probably shrink to nearly half the area it covered in the 1980s, federal scientists say.

Such a loss could have profound effects on mammals dependent on the sea ice, such as polar bears, now being considered for threatened species status because of changes in habitat due to global warming. It could also threaten the catch of fishermen.

In the 1980s, sea ice receded 30 to 50 miles each summer off the north coast, said James Overland, a Seattle-based oceanographer for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

"Now we're talking about 300 to 500 miles north of Alaska," he said of projections for 2050.

Another clean energy source.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology:
A comprehensive new MIT-led study of the potential for geothermal energy within the United States has found that mining the huge amounts of heat that reside as stored thermal energy in the Earth's hard rock crust could supply a substantial portion of the electricity the United States will need in the future, probably at competitive prices and with minimal environmental impact.

An 18-member panel led by MIT prepared the 400-plus page study, titled "The Future of Geothermal Energy" (PDF, 14.1 MB). Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy, it is the first study in some 30 years to take a new look at geothermal, an energy resource that has been largely ignored.

The goal of the study was to assess the feasibility, potential environmental impacts and economic viability of using enhanced geothermal system (EGS) technology to greatly increase the fraction of the U.S. geothermal resource that could be recovered commercially.
As the Associated Press explained:
A study released this year by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology said if 40 percent of the heat under the United States could be tapped, it would meet demand 56,000 times over. It said an investment of $800 million to $1 billion could produce more than 100 gigawatts of electricity by 2050, equaling the combined output of all 104 nuclear power plants in the U.S.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Quick note.

I will be updating this site more often once I get a little more organized.

I'm also now helping run a new site, DocuDharma. Don't be put off by the name. We haven't yet officially launched, and we're still a little loose and overly playful, but we are beginning to let people know we're there. And we've begun the serious discussions, too.

Politics, arts, intellectuality, and all sorts of other stuff. Sign up and join in.


Sunday, September 2, 2007


Washington Post:
Iraq's crucial oil and electricity sectors still need roughly $50 billion to meet demand, analysts and officials say, even after the United States has poured more than $6 billion into them over more than four years.

Since the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, the Bush administration has focused much of its $44.5 billion reconstruction plan on oil and electricity. Now, with the U.S.-led reconstruction phase nearing its close, Iraq will need to spend $27 billion more for its electrical system and $20 billion to $30 billion for oil infrastructure, according to estimates the Government Accountability Office collected from Iraqi and U.S. officials.

Even with the funding, the GAO notes that it could take until 2015 for Iraq to produce 6 million barrels of oil a day and have enough electricity to meet demand. A commanding general of the Army Corps of Engineers says it could have enough electricity sooner -- 2010 to 2013.

"The U.S. money was intended to get those industries started on recovery," said Stuart W. Bowen Jr., the U.S. special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, who is charged with finding waste, fraud and abuse in the multibillion-dollar effort. "We were working with a dilapidated, run-down system. It still has a long, long way to go."

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Global Warming: Storm Warning

Science Daily:
NASA scientists have developed a new climate model that indicates that the most violent severe storms and tornadoes may become more common as Earth's climate warms.

Previous climate model studies have shown that heavy rainstorms will be more common in a warmer climate, but few global models have attempted to simulate the strength of updrafts in these storms. The model developed at NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies by researchers Tony Del Genio, Mao-Sung Yao, and Jeff Jonas is the first to successfully simulate the observed difference in strength between land and ocean storms and is the first to estimate how the strength will change in a warming climate, including "severe thunderstorms" that also occur with significant wind shear and produce damaging winds at the ground.

This information can be derived from the temperatures and humidities predicted by a climate computer model, according to the new study published on August 17 in the American Geophysical Union's Geophysical Research Letters. It predicts that in a warmer climate, stronger and more severe storms can be expected, but with fewer storms overall.