Saturday, March 31, 2007

The Sun Shines, And The Wind Blows

The sun shines, the wind blows, and if the human race is to survive, it will be because it has learned enough to respect nature and not treat it like a commodity.

The New York Times is reporting that the consequences of global warming will be suffered most severely by the poorest nations. As I've previously linked, Spiegel Online got a preview of the second part of the report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which concludes that climate change is worse and more extensive than previously believed, with twenty to thirty percent of all species facing a high risk of extinction, while:
Several hundred million people in densely populated coastal regions -- particularly river deltas in Asia -- are threatened by rising sea levels and the increasing risk of flooding. More than one-sixth of the world's population lives in areas affected by water sources from glaciers and snow pack that will "very likely" disappear, according to the report.
And as I've also previously linked, the editors of the leading science journal, Nature, perfectly summarized the conclusions of the first part of the IPCC report:
Until quite recently (perhaps even until last week), the general global narrative of the great climate-change debate has been deceptively straightforward. The climate-science community, together with the entire environmental movement and a broad alliance of opinion leaders ranging from Greenpeace and Ralph Nader to Senator John McCain and many US evangelical Christians, has been advocating meaningful action to curtail greenhouse-gas emissions. This requirement has been disputed by a collection of money-men and some isolated scientists, in alliance with the current president of the United States and a handful of like-minded ideologues such as Australia's prime minister John Howard.

The IPCC report, released in Paris, has served a useful purpose in removing the last ground from under the climate-change sceptics' feet, leaving them looking marooned and ridiculous.
There is no more debate. There is only the question of what we will do about it. Our rapacious use of fossil fuels is a geopolitical and environmental disaster; and despite the shilling of nuclear industry lobbyists, that vile technology would not solve the problem of global warming.

From the Natural Resources Council White Paper on Commercial Nuclear Power:
While nuclear power plants and their fuel cycle facilities emit little carbon dioxide, they are neither necessary nor sufficient to avoid dangerous global warming. U.S. electricity needs could be met while reducing emissions by 70 percent or more through a combination of increased end-use efficiency, wind power, solar power, integrated gasification combined-cycle coal plants with carbon capture and storage, and high-efficiency natural gas combined cycle turbines. These technologies are cheaper than new nuclear plants, and they can be built or installed much more quickly, without the serious security, public health, and environmental dangers that accompany nuclear power.

Moreover, unless plug-in hybrid, all-electric, or fuel-cell-powered vehicles, or electric trains are commercialized on a large scale, nuclear power has virtually no role to play in reducing emissions from the transportation sector, which currently depends on petroleum for more than 95 percent of its energy needs. Far more promising, at least for the next several decades, is significantly improving fuel economy through such technologies as gasoline- or diesel-electric hybrid vehicles and biofuels made from energy crops, forest products, and agricultural waste. For nuclear power to have any appreciable impact on global warming, nuclear capacity globally—now about 440 plants—would have to be increased severalfold over the next few decades. This would mean adding a dozen or so new uranium enrichment plants worldwide, a similar number of Yucca Mountain–type geologic repositories for spent nuclear fuel, and a significant expansion of uranium mining. Current international arrangements are insufficient to prevent a non-weapon state, such as Iran, from suddenly changing course and using “peaceful” uranium enrichment or spent-fuel reprocessing plants to separate nuclear material for weapons. Finally, there is not one single long-term geologic repository for spent nuclear fuel in operation anywhere in the world.
And speaking of storing spent fuel, we are already going to need to spend 26.9 billion dollars to store the waste we already have, for just the next sixteen years! Imagine the cost- not to mention the sheer impossibility of storing waste from another 440 nuclear plants!

Little wonder that the scientists and academics of the Oxford Research Group concluded that:
The surge in political popularity of nuclear power as a quick-fix, zero-carbon solution to global warming is misguided and potentially highly dangerous, a group of academics and scientists said on Monday.

In its report "Secure energy, civil nuclear power, security and global warming", the Oxford Research Group said there was not enough uranium available and nuclear nations would therefore tend to opt for reprocessing spent fuel to obtain plutonium.
As former German environment and nuclear safety minister Juergen Trittin wrote in the report's forward:
"One of the worst ideas, circulating in many corners of the global discussion, is the call for an expansion of nuclear power as a means of climate protection."
And as the European Union's Commissioner for the Environment, Stavros Dimas, explained to Spiegel Online:
SPIEGEL: The proponents of nuclear power plants say that they produce cheap electricity without emitting any greenhouse gases. Is this incorrect?

Dimas: Yes, because it isn't the whole story. First of all, the disposal of radioactive waste remains an unresolved issue. Second, the eventual demolition and safe removal of nuclear facilities is not only an ecological, but also a significant economic problem. Third, it is unclear how we can guarantee the safety of nuclear waste over the course of many generations. Who will pay for it, and who will manage it?

SPIEGEL: The industry has established billions in reserves specifically for that purpose.

Dimas: It will hardly be sufficient. We are talking about centuries in which we will have nuclear waste. Besides, nuclear energy is just as non-renewable as oil or gas, because uranium reserves are also limited.

SPIEGEL: What is your recommendation when it comes to the energy mix?

Dimas: The expansion of renewable forms of energy, such as biomass, solar, wind and water, seems inevitable to me.
Ah, yes- the clean, renewable bounty nature has so generously provided.

For one glorious moment, a couple weeks ago, wind power generated more energy for Spain than did any other source of power. As reported by Australia's The Age:
TAKING advantage of a particularly gusty period, Spain's wind energy generators this week reached a record high in electricity production, exceeding power generated by all other means.

At 5.40pm on Tuesday, wind power generation rose to contribute 27 per cent of the country's total power requirement, said Spanish company Red Electrica.

At that moment wind power contributed 8375 megawatts to the nation's power consumption of 31,033.
As CNN reported, on March 20, wind power is also good business:
Vestas, the world's biggest wind turbine maker, on Tuesday turned in a full-year 2006 operating profit of €201 million ($267.4 million) on the back of booming demand for clean energy and maintained its 2007 sales and margin outlooks.
And the AP reported that a new wind farm to be built in North Dakota will include:
100 wind turbines, capable of generating 150 megawatts of power.
Meanwhile, Spain is building the largest solar energy park in the world:
At present, the little Spanish place Beneixama is scene for the construction of the biggest photovoltaic park of the world. In the back-country of the Costa Blanca (province Alicante) City Solar sets up 200 individual equipments with 100 KWp each – a mega project which was started in August 2006 and will be finalized in the late summer of 2007.
Portugal just opened a solar plant that Spiegel Online reported:
...has a capacity of 11 megawatts, and will deliver electricity to around 8,000 households.
Even Russia's getting into the solar act! Russia!

From Ria Novosti:
A recent conference organized by the Science and High Technologies committee of the State Duma, the lower house of the Russian Parliament, discussed legislative support for the national photovoltaic power industry.

Nobel Prize winner Zhores Alfyorov, vice-president of the Russian Academy of Sciences, who chaired the conference, said Russia needs substantial legislative support in order to even begin to set up a domestic consumer market. "This will encourage the market's development, as well as expand scientific research and production," Alfyorov told RIA Novosti.

"We have good scientists and long-standing traditions in this field and have managed to preserve some operational research centers and production facilities in spite of serious problems," Alfyorov said. He added that the world is now focusing on solar power because the sun, a mere yellow dwarf among the 150 billion G-2 class stars in the Galaxy, is a natural thermonuclear reactor saturating the Earth with tremendous amounts of energy. According to Alfyorov, environmentally friendly converted solar energy has the potential to solve humankind's energy problems for centuries to come and eliminate the heat pollution caused by the rapidly expanding global power industry.
And our own Nevada Solar One is set to come online this month! As described by the Las Vegas Business Press:
The third-largest solar plant in the world, the 64-megawatt Nevada Solar One will sell its power to Nevada Power and Sierra Pacific under a 20-year contract. The plant will produce enough energy to supply 48,000 homes.
The Potential for solar energy is greater than we even yet realize. The March issue of Physics Today has an article, which is described on the
PhysOrg website:
Opportunities to increase solar energy conversion as an alternative to fossil fuels are addressed in the Physics Today article, co-authored by George Crabtree, senior scientist and director of Argonne's Materials Science Division, and Nathan Lewis, professor of Chemistry at Caltech and director of its Molecular Materials Research Center.

Currently, between 80 percent and 85 percent of our energy comes from fossil fuels. However, fossil fuel resources are of finite extent and are distributed unevenly beneath Earth's surface. When fossil fuel is turned into useful energy through combustion, it often produces environmental pollutants that are harmful to human health and greenhouse gases that threaten the global climate. In contrast, solar resources are widely available and have a benign effect on the environment and climate, making it an appealing alternative energy source.

"Sunlight is not only the most plentiful energy resource on earth, it is also one of the most versatile, converting readily to electricity, fuel and heat," said Crabtree. "The challenge is to raise its conversion efficiency by factors of five or ten. That requires understanding the fundamental conversion phenomena at the nanoscale. We are just scratching the surface of this rich research field."
Instead of wasting hundreds of thousands of lives, and hundreds of billions of dollars, on oil wars; and instead of wasting time, energy and tens of billions of dollars on nuclear; it is time to refocus our efforts onto the only possible means of providing safe, clean, renewable sources of energy for the future. We must have a Manhattan Project-type urgency! We must insist that our political leaders listen! We must demand answers! Do they get it? Will they take us into a sustainable future, or will they equivocate, waffle, and perpetuate an obsolete paradigm that threatens our very survival?

Matthew Dowd Flip-Flops on Bush

New York Times:
In 1999, Matthew Dowd became a symbol of George W. Bush’s early success at positioning himself as a Republican with Democratic appeal.

A top strategist for the Texas Democrats who was disappointed by the Bill Clinton years, Mr. Dowd was impressed by the pledge of Mr. Bush, then governor of Texas, to bring a spirit of cooperation to Washington. He switched parties, joined Mr. Bush’s political brain trust and dedicated the next six years to getting him to the Oval Office and keeping him there. In 2004, he was appointed the president’s chief campaign strategist....

Mr. Dowd, a crucial part of a team that cast Senator John Kerry as a flip-flopper who could not be trusted with national security during wartime, said he had even written but never submitted an op-ed article titled “Kerry Was Right,” arguing that Mr. Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat and 2004 presidential candidate, was correct in calling last year for a withdrawal from Iraq.
A lot of Republicans are beginning to distance themselves from Bush. Dowd says it has to do with balancing his karma. All I would say to Mr. Dowd is this: Fuck You! He played the game, he spun the lies, and he helped give us another four years of Bush. No apologies will balance his karma. I would suggest he read Dante.

Going Solar

Ria Novosti:
A recent conference organized by the Science and High Technologies committee of the State Duma, the lower house of the Russian Parliament, discussed legislative support for the national photovoltaic power industry.

Nobel Prize winner Zhores Alfyorov, vice-president of the Russian Academy of Sciences, who chaired the conference, said Russia needs substantial legislative support in order to even begin to set up a domestic consumer market. "This will encourage the market's development, as well as expand scientific research and production," Alfyorov told RIA Novosti.

"We have good scientists and long-standing traditions in this field and have managed to preserve some operational research centers and production facilities in spite of serious problems," Alfyorov said. He added that the world is now focusing on solar power because the sun, a mere yellow dwarf among the 150 billion G-2 class stars in the Galaxy, is a natural thermonuclear reactor saturating the Earth with tremendous amounts of energy. According to Alfyorov, environmentally friendly converted solar energy has the potential to solve humankind's energy problems for centuries to come and eliminate the heat pollution caused by the rapidly expanding global power industry.

Global Warming

New York Times:
The world’s richest countries, which have contributed by far the most to the atmospheric changes linked to global warming, are already spending billions of dollars to limit their own risks from its worst consequences, like drought and rising seas.

But despite longstanding treaty commitments to help poor countries deal with warming, these industrial powers are spending just tens of millions of dollars on ways to limit climate and coastal hazards in the world’s most vulnerable regions — most of them close to the equator and overwhelmingly poor.

Next Friday, a new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a United Nations body that since 1990 has been assessing global warming, will underline this growing climate divide, according to scientists involved in writing it — with wealthy nations far from the equator not only experiencing fewer effects but also better able to withstand them.

Nobody's Mayor

New York Times:
Rudolph W. Giuliani told a grand jury that his former chief investigator remembered having briefed him on some aspects of Bernard B. Kerik’s relationship with a company suspected of ties to organized crime before Mr. Kerik’s appointment as New York City police commissioner, according to court records.

Mr. Giuliani, testifying last year under oath before a Bronx grand jury investigating Mr. Kerik, said he had no memory of the briefing, but he did not dispute that it had taken place, according to a transcript of his testimony.

Mr. Giuliani’s testimony amounts to a significantly new version of what information was probably before him in the summer of 2000 as he was debating Mr. Kerik’s appointment as the city’s top law enforcement officer. Mr. Giuliani had previously said that he had never been told of Mr. Kerik’s entanglement with the company before promoting him to the police job or later supporting his failed bid to be the nation’s homeland security secretary.
Memory lapses are a recurring Republican excuse for having been caught lying. Do we want people with such faulty memories running the country?

Washington Post:
Federal prosecutors have told Bernard B. Kerik, whose nomination as homeland security secretary in 2004 ended in scandal, that he is likely to be charged with several felonies, including tax evasion and conspiracy to commit wiretapping.

Kerik's indictment could set the stage for a courtroom battle that would draw attention to Kerik's extensive business and political dealings with former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, who personally recommended him to President Bush for the Cabinet. Giuliani, the front-runner for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination according to most polls, later called the recommendation a mistake.

Kerik rose from being a warden and police detective to become Giuliani's campaign security adviser, corrections chief, police commissioner and eventual partner in Giuliani-Kerik, a security arm of Giuliani Partners, which Giuliani established after leaving office in 2001. Kerik resigned his positions in Giuliani's firm after he was nominated to the homeland security job.
Do we want people who ignore their friends' ties to organized crime running the country?


A surge of violence in Iraq in the past week demonstrated the ability of al Qaeda to strike virtually anywhere at will with a seemingly limitless supply of explosives and suicide bombers to wreak chaos.
Guess Bush's escalation is working as planned.

Going Solar

Spiegel Online:
Some countries are just better suited to wean themselves off fossil fuels than others. Sun-kissed Portugal is one of the lucky ones when it comes to potential for solar power generation, and the country has now opened one of the world's largest solar energy plants -- even though a plant in cloudy Germany has a higher capacity.

The plant, which is located in Serpa in Portugal's underdeveloped Alentejo region, opened on Wednesday. It has a capacity of 11 megawatts, and will deliver electricity to around 8,000 households. The Alentejo is one of Europe's sunniest locations, receiving as many as 3,300 hours of sunlight a year.

The Serpa plant was originally intended to have the highest capacity of any solar plant in the world, but has since been overtaken by the Gut Erlasse plant in Bavaria, Germany, which will have a capacity of 12 megawatts. However, the plant's management believe the Portuguese plant will overtake its German rival once actual operation begins.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Quick note...

I've been having computer problems, but will be back very soon...

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Surprise, Surprise

The US reconstruction programme in Iraq has been described as chaotic and badly managed, in an official report by the US special inspector general for Iraq.

Stuart Bowen said tension and a lack of co-ordination between the Pentagon and the State Department led to disarray.

Mr Bowen presented his report to the Senate Homeland Security committee.
It needs be emphasized, again and again: this Administration does nothing right- nothing! Their cynicism and criminality is only exceeded by their incompetence.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Global Warming

Katrina vanden Heuvel, of The Nation, offers a plan of attack, for dealing with global warming. Read.

Blair Makes Threats

In a sign of increasing British impatience, Tony Blair today warned of a "different phase" if diplomatic efforts fail to secure the release of the 15 British service personnel held by Iran.

With the impasse entering its fifth day, the prime minister described the group's capture as "unjustified and wrong", while the foreign secretary Margaret Beckett demanded their safe return in "very robust" terms.

This afternoon Mr Blair's spokesman was keen to emphasise that British diplomats were engaged in talking "discreetly" to the Iranians, and only if those talks failed would the government have to become "more explicit" about why it knows the group was in Iraqi waters.
I'd like hear how they know. It matters.

Tony Blair is pushing the United Nations to declare a no-fly zone over Darfur, enforced if necessary by the bombing of Sudanese military airfields used for raids on the province, the Guardian has learned.

The controversial initiative comes as a classified new report by a UN panel of experts alleges Sudan has violated UN resolutions by moving arms into Darfur, conducting overflights and disguising its military planes as UN humanitarian aircraft.

Mr Blair has been pushing for much tougher international action against Sudan since President Omar Hassan al-Bashir reneged earlier this month on last November's agreement to allow UN peacekeepers into Darfur to protect civilians.
This, on the other hand, is long overdue.


Spiegel Online:
Up to 2 million Iraqis have fled their home since the beginning of the war just over four years ago, most of them escaping overland. And ever since Jordan effectively closed its border at the beginning of this year, Syria has become the number one destination for the refugees. Far more than 1,000 of them reach At-Tanf every day, "all of them exhausted and tired, with young children and elderly relatives in their car," says the border-control commander on duty.

Day after day, the refugees flock to his office. The friendly officer, who would prefer to remain anonymous, signs their pink visa application forms. "It doesn't really help to speed things up," he says good naturedly of the formality. "But the people leave afterwards." With thousands of people escaping from Iraq every day, processing applications takes time.

In order to manage the onslaught of refugees, the officer's underlings require applicants to wait outside before being allowed to enter the building. Three officials verify and stamp the passports while one reaches the documents out a window where hundreds stand waiting for their turn.
And here's why, from CNN:
Two truck bombs Tuesday killed at least 50 people in the northern Iraqi city of Tal Afar.

The explosions targeted markets in the northern and central parts of the city, the mayor said.

Tal Afar Mayor Najam Abdulla -- who said another 103 people were wounded -- said the blasts came within a few minutes of each other.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Salon: Deployment Of Wounded Troops Tied To Bush's Iraq Escalation!

After interviewing a dozen soldiers, Mark Benjamin is today reporting in Salon that the Army is deploying seriously injured troops to Fort Irwin, California:
Military experts say they suspect that the deployment to Fort Irwin of injured soldiers was an effort to pump up manpower statistics used to show the readiness of Army units. With the military increasingly strained after four years of war, Army readiness has become a critical part of the debate over Iraq. Some congressional Democrats have considered plans to limit the White House's ability to deploy more troops unless the Pentagon can certify that units headed into the fray are fully equipped and fully manned.
It's a harrowing story, and Benjamin has already reported that some injured soldiers were being reclassified from medically unfit to fit, so they could be sent back to Iraq!

This abuse of service personnel is being directly tied to the Bush Administration's escalation of the Iraq War:
A military official knowledgeable about the training in California in January and the medical processing of the injured soldiers at Fort Benning in February told Salon that commanders were taking desperate actions to meet an accelerated deployment schedule dictated by President Bush's so-called surge plan for securing Baghdad. "None of this would have happened if we had just slowed down a little bit," the military official said. "A lot of people were under a lot of pressure at that time."
Of course, as Sidney Blumenthal has already reported in Salon:
Deep within the bowels of the Pentagon, policy planners are conducting secret meetings to discuss what to do in the worst-case scenario in Iraq about a year from today if and when President Bush's escalation of more than 20,000 troops fails, a participant in those discussions told me. None of those who are taking part in these exercises, shielded from the public view and the immediate scrutiny of the White House, believes that the so-called surge will succeed. On the contrary, everyone thinks it will not only fail to achieve its aims but also accelerate instability by providing a glaring example of U.S. incapacity and incompetence.
And the military says it will still need these escalated troop numbers into 2008!

New York Times:
The day-to-day commander of American forces in Iraq has recommended that the heightened American troop levels there be maintained through February 2008, military officials said Wednesday.
So, a desperate military command is resorting to the redeployment of injured troops and downgraded recruitment standards in order to find the cannon fodder for Bush's continuing disaster. It's little wonder that the Army is under-reporting desertion rates; and little wonder that, as the Washington Post reported:
Four years after the invasion of Iraq, the high and growing demand for U.S. troops there and in Afghanistan has left ground forces in the United States short of the training, personnel and equipment that would be vital to fight a major ground conflict elsewhere, senior U.S. military and government officials acknowledge.

More troubling, the officials say, is that it will take years for the Army and Marine Corps to recover from what some officials privately have called a "death spiral," in which the ever more rapid pace of war-zone rotations has consumed 40 percent of their total gear, wearied troops and left no time to train to fight anything other than the insurgencies now at hand.
It just keeps getting worse.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Global Warming

Science Daily:
Marine and freshwater organisms could be facing damage due to increasing levels of ultraviolet (UV) radiation, according to a United Nations (UN) commissioned review....

Aquatic ecosystems produce over half the biomass of the Earth and are an integral part of the planet’s biosphere.

The international team behind the review is worried that the depleted ozone layer has exposed these ecosystems to harmful levels of UV radiation, particularly in polar regions where the ozone layer is the thinnest.

There could also be wider implications for climate change, since if UV damage cuts marine ecosystem productivity, the oceans’ capacity to mop up the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide would fall. This extra atmospheric CO2 could then add to global warming.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Police State

New York Times:
For at least a year before the 2004 Republican National Convention, teams of undercover New York City police officers traveled to cities across the country, Canada and Europe to conduct covert observations of people who planned to protest at the convention, according to police records and interviews.

From Albuquerque to Montreal, San Francisco to Miami, undercover New York police officers attended meetings of political groups, posing as sympathizers or fellow activists, the records show.

They made friends, shared meals, swapped e-mail messages and then filed daily reports with the department’s Intelligence Division. Other investigators mined Internet sites and chat rooms.


Bush takes double-barreled aim at Congress

President Bush assailed the Democratic-led Congress Saturday for challenging him over funding the Iraq war and the firing of federal prosecutors, and demanded that lawmakers back down.

Bush has threatened to veto a bill passed by the House that ties a deadline for a troop withdrawal to the latest emergency bill to fund the war.

A showdown is also looming as Democrats in Congress seek testimony under oath of Bush's close political aide, Karl Rove, and other White House advisers over the ouster last year of eight U.S. attorneys.
I like the framing. He wants a Constitutional crisis, let him cause one. We have the poll numbers. People are sick of him. Let him continue provoking Congress and the public. We'll see what happens...

UPDATE: The Washington Post's take:
President Bush accused the Democratic-led Congress of wasting taxpayers' time picking fights with the White House instead of resolving disputes over money for U.S. troops and the firings of the U.S. attorneys.

In his weekly radio address Saturday, Bush called on Democratic leaders in Congress to move beyond political discord and take bipartisan action on both issues that have driven a wedge between the Bush administration and Capitol Hill.
The most arrogant, partisan, and confrontational Administration in U.S. history whines about partisanship. I forgot to add: the most hypocritical, too!


Toronto Star:
A suicide bomber driving a truck with explosives hidden under bricks destroyed a police station Saturday in Baghdad — the largest in a series of insurgent strikes against the American-led security crackdown. At least 47 people died in the attacks, including 20 at the police station.

The bomber bypassed tight security to get within 25 yards of the station by blending in with other trucks coming and going as part of a construction project, detonating his explosives after reaching the main gate. Police said half of those killed were policemen; 28 people were wounded.

“We did not suspect the suicide truck, and he easily reached the main gate where he detonated his truck. Suddenly there was a big explosion and part of the building collapsed,” said police Cpl. Hussam Ali, who saw the blast from a nearby guard post. “We were very cautious, but this time we were taken by surprise. The insurgents are inventing new methods to hurt us.’’



Los Angeles Times:
A new Pentagon report found that nine officers, including a three-star general, mishandled the investigation into the "friendly fire" death in Afghanistan of Pat Tillman, the pro-football player turned Army Ranger, a senior defense official said Friday night.

The report will not mete out specific punishments to the officers, who include four generals in all. But the Army will begin its own review of what action should be taken.

"We are going to move quickly," an Army official said. "We found out mistakes were made. We've already made fixes. We are going to make more."
Damn right, more mistakes will be made. Like in accountability.

Tillman opposed the war in Iraq. The Bush Administration wanted to politically exploit his heroism. To do that, they manipulated Tillman's family, every step of the way. Last October, Tillman's brother pulled no punches:
Kevin Tillman, a former Army Ranger who served in Iraq and Afghanistan with his older brother, Pat, has been silent since his brother died in 2004. But last week, he wrote a scathing indictment of the war in Iraq, the Bush administration and American apathy.

"Somehow, the more soldiers that die, the more legitimate the illegal invasion becomes," Kevin wrote on, an online magazine that bought his work....

"Somehow, the same incompetent, narcissistic, virtueless, vacuous, malicious criminals are still in charge of this country. Somehow, this is tolerated. Somehow, nobody is accountable for this."

Good Politics, Irrelevant Policy

New York Times:
A deeply divided House of Representatives voted Friday to bring most American combat troops home from Iraq next year, with Democrats employing their new Congressional majority to create the most forceful challenge yet to President Bush’s war policy.

The legislation aimed at accelerating an end to the war passed on a vote of 218 to 212, with all but two Republicans opposing. Even as the debate moves to the Senate, where a less restrictive plan is to be considered next week, Mr. Bush dismissed the action as “political theater” and promised to veto attempts to manage the war from Capitol Hill.

The Democratic leaders of Congress said they were acting on overriding American sentiment to change course in Iraq, and they vowed to keep pursuing legislative attempts to hold the Iraqi and American governments accountable for progress there.
Needless to say, this was much discussed in the blogs, yesterday. I'll make it simple: It continues to reframe the debate, and continues to reinforce that this is now a wholly (and unholy) Republican war; but it is not a solution. The war continues. It should be ended immediately. Our troops should come home as expeditiously as is safely possible.

Abu Gonzalez Lied About His Involvement In The U.S. Attorneys Firings Scandal!

New York Times:
Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and senior advisers discussed the plan to remove seven United States attorneys at a meeting last Nov. 27, 10 days before the dismissals were carried out, according to a Justice Department calendar entry disclosed Friday.

The previously undisclosed meeting appeared to contradict Mr. Gonzales’s previous statements about his knowledge of the dismissals. He said at a news conference on March 13 that he had not participated in any discussions about the removals, but knew in general that his aides were working on personnel changes involving United States attorneys.
Appeared to contradict? Say it: he lied!

US and UK Fail To Find "Smoking Gun" Linking Iran to Iraqi Insurgency

Although British and US military and diplomats often complain of Iranian support for insurgents in Iraq, there is no "smoking gun" to prove it, a senior British officer in Basra admitted yesterday.

Lt Col Justin Maciejewski said he could not prove Iranian interference in the southern Iraqi city, where UK troops come under regular mortar and rocket attack. But community leaders had told him Iranian agents were paying Iraqis $500 a month (£254) to carry out attacks.

"All the information we are getting from the locals ... is that the vast majority of the violence against us is inspired from outside of Iraq and the people here very much believe that that is Iran," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme. "There is nothing I have seen that would disprove what they are telling me."
Anecdotal evidence that can't be disproved? Well, that's conclusive justification for the saber-rattling rhetoric.

Putin's Destroying Russia- Literally!

Spiegel Online:
The Kremlin administration has demolished historic buildings on Moscow's Red Square without a permit -- in order to build a luxury hotel in their place. The Russian public prosecutor's office is investigating the case and now UNESCO is also looking into the destruction of part of a World Heritage Site.

Under cover of darkness, heavy army trucks rolled onto Red Square and disappeared behind huge tarpaulins. Painted with drawings of the buildings hidden behind them, the tarpaulins were meant to create the illusion that these buildings were under renovation. But the government was taking pains to keep Muscovites in the dark about what the trucks were really doing there -- in a place where the Soviet empire had once housed its defense ministry.

When the late February sun rose the next morning over the Kremlin and St. Basil's Cathedral, the trucks had disappeared and, along with them, four of the buildings at 5 Red Square -- part of a world-famous complex of urban structures. Nothing but a gaping construction site remained where the so-called Middle Trading Rows had once stood resplendent -- neo-Russian architectural gems in the classic style, as unique as the neighboring building, Moscow's famous GUM department store.

Friday, March 23, 2007

More Evidence Bush Was Politicizing The DOJ

McClatchy Newspapers:
Under President Bush, the Justice Department has backed laws that narrow minority voting rights and pressed U.S. attorneys to investigate voter fraud - policies that critics say have been intended to suppress Democratic votes.

Bush, his deputy chief of staff, Karl Rove, and other Republican political advisers have highlighted voting rights issues and what Rove has called the "growing problem" of election fraud by Democrats since Bush took power in the tumultuous election of 2000, a race ultimately decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Since 2005, McClatchy Newspapers has found, Bush has appointed at least three U.S. attorneys who had worked in the Justice Department's civil rights division when it was rolling back longstanding voting-rights policies aimed at protecting predominantly poor, minority voters.
A fourth new attorney was accused of participating in voter suppression efforts in Florida, in 2004, when he worked for the RNC.

This scandal is Nixonian. The circle is complete.

Friday News Dump

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales approved plans to fire several U.S. attorneys in a November meeting, according to documents released Friday that contradict earlier claims that he was not closely involved in the dismissals.

The Nov. 27 meeting, in which the attorney general and at least five top Justice Department officials participated, focused on a five-step plan for carrying out the firings of the prosecutors, Justice Department officials said late Friday.

There, Gonzales signed off on the plan, which was crafted by his chief of staff, Kyle Sampson. Sampson resigned last week amid a political firestorm surrounding the firings.
This White House routinely dumps news on Fridays, hoping no one will notice. Not likely to work, this time...

To Our Democratic Friends In Congress

Los Angeles Times:
Public allegiance to the Republican Party has plunged during George W. Bush's presidency, as attitudes have edged away from some of the conservative values that fueled GOP political victories, a major survey has found.

The survey, by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, found a "dramatic shift" in political party identification since 2002, when Republicans and Democrats were at rough parity. Now, 50% of those surveyed identified with or leaned toward Democrats, whereas 35% aligned with Republicans.

What's more, the survey found, public attitudes are drifting toward Democrats' values: Support for government aid to the disadvantaged has grown since the mid-1990s, skepticism about the use of military force has increased and support for traditional family values has decreased.
A fifteen point edge in party identification? Might be time to take those numbers for a test drive...


Barren and uninhabited, Hans Island is very hard to find on a map.

Yet these days the Frisbee-shaped rock in the Arctic is much in demand — so much so that Canada and Denmark have both staked their claim to it with flags and warships.

The reason: an international race for oil, fish, diamonds and shipping routes, accelerated by the impact of global warming on Earth's frozen north.

The latest report by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says the ice cap is warming faster than the rest of the planet and ice is receding, partly due to greenhouse gases. It's a catastrophic scenario for the Arctic ecosystem, for polar bears and other wildlife, and for Inuit populations whose ancient cultures depend on frozen waters.

But some see a lucrative silver lining of riches waiting to be snatched from the deep, and the prospect of timesaving sea lanes that could transform the shipping industry the way the Suez Canal did in the 19th century.
Good to see some people have their priorities straight...

Italy Hands The Taliban A Propaganda Coup

As I've mentioned, the Taliban is resurgent, in Afghanistan. Now, this.

Spiegel Online:
Following the release of an Italian journalist held hostage in exchange for five Taliban fighters, the Islamic extremists' propaganda machine has gone into full gear. The Taliban's Mullah Dadullah is using his success to ratchet up pressure on Hamid Karzai's government, while Western officials fear it could spur a new round of hostage-takings of journalists.
Our bold leaders are taking Italy to task for this stupidity. Or not.

Both Italy and the US on Thursday played down tensions sparked by the release of Taliban prisoners in return for the life of an Italian hostage in Afghanistan.

Italian Foreign Minister Massimo D'Alema and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice discussed differences over the deal in a phone call.

The US State Department said the "friendly" call had reaffirmed the "positive and important bilateral ties between Italy and the US... and the spirit of trust and friendship that has long existed between the two countries".


It's no secret that Bush has been looking for an excuse to go to war with Iran. Let's hope this isn't it.

The Iranian navy has seized up to 15 British sailors, the Ministry of Defence confirmed today, sparking a diplomatic standoff between the UK and Iran.

The Royal Navy and Royal Marines personnel were taken after they had boarded a dhow during a routine patrol in the Shatt al-Arab waterway at 10.30am local time.

As the sailors searched the fishing boat for signs of possible smuggling activity, Iranian boats approached it and captured them at gunpoint.

Not Good

The U.S. Navy, after nearly six years of warnings from Pentagon testers, still lacks a plan for defending aircraft carriers against a supersonic Russian-built missile, according to current and former officials and Defense Department documents.

The missile, known in the West as the ``Sizzler,'' has been deployed by China and may be purchased by Iran. Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England has given the Navy until April 29 to explain how it will counter the missile, according to a Pentagon budget document.

The Defense Department's weapons-testing office judges the threat so serious that its director, Charles McQueary, warned the Pentagon's chief weapons-buyer in a memo that he would move to stall production of multibillion-dollar ship and missile programs until the issue was addressed.
Here's a little secret for Bush and the Republicans: You cannot win an arms race! It will just go on and on, wasting time, money, and lives. There's an alternative. It's called diplomacy.

Blarney Castle

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Yet Another Potential Disaster Caused By Bush's War

The US is scrambling to head off a "disastrous" Turkish military intervention in Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq that threatens to derail the Baghdad security surge and open up a third front in the battle to save Iraq from disintegration.

Senior Bush administration officials have assured Turkey in recent days that US forces will increase efforts to root out Kurdistan Workers' party (PKK) guerrillas enjoying safe haven in the Qandil mountains, on the Iraq-Iran-Turkey border.

But Abdullah Gul, Turkey's foreign minister, MPs, military chiefs and diplomats say up to 3,800 PKK fighters are preparing for attacks in south-east Turkey - and Turkey is ready to hit back if the Americans fail to act. "We will do what we have to do, we will do what is necessary. Nothing is ruled out," Mr Gul said. "I have said to the Americans many times: suppose there is a terrorist organisation in Mexico attacking America. What would you do?... We are hopeful. We have high expectations. But we cannot just wait forever."
The Iraqi Civil War that Bush instigated may soon have another participant.

Put the health insurance industry out of our misery!

Los Angeles Times:
Blue Cross of California systematically violates state law when it cancels health insurance policyholders after they get pregnant or sick, making no attempt to determine whether the consumers did anything to merit such harsh treatment, a scathing investigation by state regulators has found.

As a result of its unprecedented investigation, the Department of Managed Health Care today fined Blue Cross $1 million. The department's findings also expose the company, the state's largest health insurer, to legal liability in dozens of lawsuits filed by consumers who allege their policies were illegally canceled, subjecting them to substantial hardships.

Other major insurers face similar investigations and are targets of lawsuits over similar charges.

Showdown Looming, Part 2

Washington Post:
Escalating a potential legal showdown with President Bush, a Senate committee yesterday approved three subpoenas to top administration officials, including White House adviser Karl Rove, demanding sworn testimony about what they knew of plans to fire eight U.S. attorneys.

The Senate Judiciary Committee, following similar action from a House Judiciary subcommittee Wednesday, issued subpoenas for the testimony of Rove, former White House counsel Harriet E. Miers and deputy White House counsel William Kelley. Each was mentioned in e-mails retrieved from the Justice Department regarding the planning to dismiss federal prosecutors.

Democrats rejected Bush's offer this week to have Rove and other advisers testify behind closed doors, not under oath and with no transcript of the meeting -- an offer administration officials called "extraordinarily generous." They said the move would give Congress information while protecting the president's ability to obtain unfettered advice without its public airing.

"What we're told we can get is nothing, nothing, nothing," said Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.). He said it is essential to hear from Rove: "I know he's the decider for the White House -- he's not the decider for the United States Senate."
Bush is provoking a Constitutional crisis. Not the first time, but Congress finally has leadership that believes in checks and balances.

Army Admits Desertion Rate Higher Than Previously Stated

New York Times:
A total of 3,196 active-duty soldiers deserted the Army last year, or 853 more than previously reported, according to revised figures from the Army.

The new calculations by the Army, which had about 500,000 active-duty troops at the end of 2006, significantly alter the annual desertion totals since the 2000 fiscal year.

In 2005, for example, the Army now says 2,543 soldiers deserted, not the 2,011 it had reported. For some earlier years, the desertion numbers were revised downward.
Wonder why...


With a hat tip to V e r a c i t y, at Daily Kos.

The Decider speaks. Slightly edited...

adios adds this one.

Had these been done President Clinton's speeches, Faux News would have run them as real.

And Dick Cheney as Scarface.

Thinking Blogger Awards

N=1, at the magnificent Universal Health website, invited me to participate in the Thinking Blogger Awards. As a long-time advocate for Universal Health care coverage, and (due to my own health experiences) a huge fan of nurses, I would list N=1's site, but that wouldn't be fair- N=1 nominated me. Instead, I just highly recommend exploring the Universal Health site, which I'm adding to my blogroll.

My five nominees (which I'll be changing, throughout the day- I realized my original list included only one actual blog...):

1) Hullabaloo
Digby is perhaps the smartest of all bloggers. Digby's fellow bloggers at Hullabaloo are also pretty good...

2) TalkLeft
Online Magazine with Liberal coverage of crime-related political and injustice news. Big Tent Democrat is one of my favorite bloggers. Heh.

3) Antinuclear Net
The nuclear power industry is attempting to use global warming as justification for its revival. It's bullshit. This website is a terrific resource of continually updated lists of articles explaining the many reasons why.

4) Math World
Most of it is way over my head, but it's an amazing resource for mental exercise.

5) Cliff Schecter
Incisive and hilariously caustic political commentary by a rising star.

More Bush Destruction of Justice

Washington Post:
The leader of the Justice Department team that prosecuted a landmark lawsuit against tobacco companies said yesterday that Bush administration political appointees repeatedly ordered her to take steps that weakened the government's racketeering case.

Sharon Y. Eubanks said Bush loyalists in Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales's office began micromanaging the team's strategy in the final weeks of the 2005 trial, to the detriment of the government's claim that the industry had conspired to lie to U.S. smokers.

She said a supervisor demanded that she and her trial team drop recommendations that tobacco executives be removed from their corporate positions as a possible penalty. He and two others instructed her to tell key witnesses to change their testimony. And they ordered Eubanks to read verbatim a closing argument they had rewritten for her, she said.
The prosecutors were going to seek $130 billion in damages from the tobacco industry. They were told to scale it back to only ten billion- a profit of $120 billion for an investment of a paltry nineteen and a half million dollars!

Republican Gaps in the Truth

Remember the infamous eighteen-minute gap in a critical Nixon White House tape? Guess what...

A 16-day gap in e-mail records between the Justice Department and the White House concerning the firing of U.S. attorneys last year has attracted the attention of congressional investigators.

In an investigation into whether seven U.S. attorneys were fired for political rather than professional reasons, the Justice Department on Monday handed over 3,000 pages of documents to the House and Senate Judiciary committees.

But the documents included no correspondence about the firings in the critical time period between November 15, 2006, and December 2, 2006, right before the attorneys were asked for their resignations.
The White House claims the gap is due to a fall-off in email, during the Thanksgiving holiday. Critics suggest it might have more to do with the fact that it was precisely when the DOJ was executing its plan to fire the Attorneys.

In other news, the AP reported that:
Six of the eight U.S. attorneys fired by the Justice Department ranked in the top third among their peers for the number of prosecutions filed last year, according to an analysis of federal records.

In addition, five of the eight were among the government's top performers in winning convictions.

The analysis undercuts Justice Department claims that the prosecutors were dismissed because of lackluster job performance. Democrats contend the firings were politically motivated, and calls are increasing for the resignation or ouster of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.


Safe in the Green Zone?

The AP is reporting that U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon ducked behind his podium and escaped injury, after an explosion near the prime minister's office, in Baghdad's Green Zone

Why Does Bush Hate Our Troops?

Washington Post:
Reports of a rising death rate and rooms spattered with blood, urine and feces at the Armed Forces Retirement Home prompted the Pentagon yesterday to begin investigating conditions at the veterans facility in Northwest Washington.

The Government Accountability Office warned the Pentagon this week that residents of the home "may be at risk" in light of allegations of severe health-care problems. Residents have been admitted to Walter Reed Army Medical Center with "the most serious type of pressure sores" and, in one case, with maggots in a wound, according to a GAO letter sent to the Defense Department.

Tom Delay: Asshat of this or any other week!

Tom Delay appears on Hardball, and Chris Matthews (who is usually very tame, to Delay) asks about a quote in Delay's book, wherein Delay accuses his former Texas Republican colleague, Dick Armey, of being "drunk with ambition." Delay denies the quote's there. Matthews takes out the book and reads it. Delay continues to deny it's there. Matthews offers to hand Delay the book, so he can read it for himself. Delay says he doesn't have his glasses.

Until September 2005, Tom Delay was the most powerful Republican in the House Of Representatives. Now, he's under indictment for conspiracy and money laundering. He's still a powerful voice, within the Republican Party.

Crooks and Liars, as usual, has the hilarious video.

Showdown Looming

New York Times:
A House panel authorized subpoenas Wednesday requiring Karl Rove and four other senior Bush administration officials to testify under oath in the inquiry into the dismissals of eight federal prosecutors.

Even as the White House dug in against the demand, Democrats in Congress held out hope for a compromise. Though members of a House judiciary subcommittee approved the subpoenas, they did not issue them, saying they wanted to avoid a showdown over separation of powers.

“Trust me,” said Representative John Conyers Jr., the Michigan Democrat who is chairman of the Judiciary Committee. “We are not going to move in a reckless or angry or temperamental way at all.”
Let's just say I'll be greatly surprised if the Decider decides to cooperate. More likely he'll refuse to compromise, then claim that the Democrats aren't being bipartisan. To the Decider, bipartisanship means the Democrats agree to do things his way. We'll see how the media spin it.

Sant'Ivo alla Sapienza, Rome

Designed by Francesco Borromini, my favorite Baroque architect.

Less celebrated than his contemporary, Bernini, who got many of the best commissions, Borromini's sensual plasticity revolutonized architecture. Keep in mind that this fluidity of form was achieved without modern construction materials. Eessentially, this is all cut stone.

Borromini's spires and cupolas directly influenced Guarini and Juvarra, in Torino, and Sir Christopher Wren, whose churches once defined the skyline of London, and can still be seen throughout the older parts of the city.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Four Crimes

Adam Cohen, in the New York Times, explains that the U.S. Attorneys purge may have included four specific crimes:

1. Misrepresentations to Congress, a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1505.

2. Calling the Prosecutors, a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1512 (c).

3. Witness Tampering, a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1512 (b).

4. Firing the Attorneys, § 1512 (c).

Read the article.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

DOJ Concocted "Reasons" For US Attorneys's Firings Just This Month!

Los Angeles Times:
Senior Justice Department officials began drafting memos earlier this month listing specific reasons why they had fired eight U.S. attorneys, intending to cite performance problems such as insubordination, leadership failures and other missteps if needed to convince angry congressional Democrats that the terminations were justified.

The memos -- organized as charts with entries for each of the federal prosecutors and labeled "for internal DOJ use only" -- offer details about disputes over policy, priorities and management styles between the department and several of its U.S. attorneys. The prosecutors' shortcomings also were listed in a talking points memo, indicating the willingness of the Justice Department to make public what are normally confidential personnel matters in order to counter its critics.

Justice officials hoped that documenting specific reasons for terminating the prosecutors would satisfy demands for more information after Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and his deputy, Paul J. McNulty, initially described the dismissals as vaguely "performance-related."
Bullshit liars! The attorneys were fired for not being Bush crony political hacks, and the DOJ then tried to come up with performance-related excuses to justify it. Make no mistake: our Constitution, and the rule of law, are under full-scale attack. This is a battle that must be won, or our system of government will cease to be.

German Political Unrest Over Afghanistan War Commitment

Support is waning in Germany's Social Democratic Party for the country's deployment in Afghanistan. Keen to spin the party as one of peace, the party's base is growing restless. Will it have implications for Chancellor Merkel's government?

The unrest in Germany's Social Democratic Party began in earnest about two weeks ago. During a vote on whether to deploy German Tornado reconnaissance jets to Afghanistan, one-third of the left-leaning party's delegates cast their votes against the proposed expansion of the German military's mandate. The split on the foreign policy issue underscored the perils that face Germany's governing coalition, which pairs the SPD with Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats. Foreign policy is one of the few areas where the parties have generally sung in harmony since Merkel came to power.

The vote signified growing unrest in Germany about the country's six-year deployment in Afghanistan. At almost every recent SPD party event, questions have persisted about the mission. What is Germany doing in Afghanistan? Why is Germany waging America's war? And why is it that Germany can only afford €20 million ($26.5 million) per year in development aid to Afghanistan when the cost of sending Tornado jets to the country for only six months will cost a whopping €35 million?
It's a valid question: why is Germany waging our war in Afghanistan? The answer, of course, is that they're being good allies, fighting the people who are, directly or indirectly, responsible for the September 11 terrorist attacks. They're fighting it because we're distracted and bogged down fighting a war in a country that had nothing to do with those attacks.


Austrian National Library at the Hofburg Palace. This was the Habsburg Imperial Family's library.

Another Reason The Iraq War Is Failing

The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) says there has been an "abject denial" around the world of the humanitarian impact of invading Iraq.

The UN faces an enormous task in helping countries such as Jordan and Syria cope with the huge influx of Iraqi refugees, a spokesman said....

Syria says it is home to 1.2m Iraqi refugees, with up to 800,000 in Jordan.
Much of the Iraqi middle class has fled, and much more would like to. You cannot rebuilt a war-shattered nation when the people who would rebuild it are fleeing for their lives.


A series of car bombs and a mortar attack have killed at least 16 people in Baghdad, on the fourth anniversary of the US-led invasion.

Surprise, Surprise...

Washington Post:
U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald was ranked among prosecutors who had "not distinguished themselves" on a Justice Department chart sent to the White House in March 2005, when he was in the midst of leading the CIA leak investigation that resulted in the perjury conviction of a vice presidential aide, administration officials said yesterday.

The ranking placed Fitzgerald below "strong U.S. Attorneys . . . who exhibited loyalty" to the administration but above "weak U.S. Attorneys who . . . chafed against Administration initiatives, etc.," according to Justice documents.

The chart was the first step in an effort to identify U.S. attorneys who should be removed. Two prosecutors who received the same ranking as Fitzgerald were later fired, documents show.
Patrick Fitzgerald is regarded as one of the best prosecutors in the nation. For all the bile spat at him by the right wing and their media sycophants, his prosecution of Scooter Libby was actually a pretty conservative conclusion to his investigation of the treasonous outing of Valerie Plame's covert identity. Many liberals wanted more prosecutions, as there were certainly other people involved. Fitzgerald only sought the indictments he believed could lead to convictions. To the chagrin of many, he also refused to discuss anything about anyone else he may have been investigating. He was meticulously professional.

When you are the best at what you do, this Administration calls you "not distinguished." When you are a disastrous failure, this Administration gives you a Medal of Freedom.

Abu Gonzales is Toast

McClatchy Newspapers:
The White House began floating the names of possible replacements for Attorney General Alberto Gonzales Monday as the Justice Department released more internal documents related to the firings of eight U.S. attorneys last year.

One prominent Republican, who earlier had predicted that Gonzales would survive the controversy, said he expected both Gonzales and Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty to resign soon. Another well-connected Republican said that White House officials have launched an aggressive search for Gonzales' replacement, though Bush hadn't decided whether to ask for his resignation.

Support for Gonzales appeared to be collapsing under the weight of questions about his truthfulness and his management ability.
It should not end here. As usual, the Bush Administration is looking for fall guys. It started with Gonzales's Chief of Staff, Kyle Sampson; but that didn't work. Now, they're going for Gonzales; but make no mistake: this scandal leads right into the White House.

That Other War

Bomb attacks in Afghanistan rose three-fold between 2005 and 2006, figures released by the government on Monday showed.

According to Armed Forces Minister Adam Ingram, attacks using improvised explosive devices (IEDs) rose from about 500 in 2005, to 1,525 last year.

Ingram said that while the figures were an estimate, most of the attacks were against either International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) troops, or soldiers from the Afghan National Security Forces.

If You Want To End The War, You Must Support Impeachment!

Yesterday was the fourth anniversary of the beginning of Bush's war on Iraq. I don't need to recount all the reasons why it was illegal, immoral, and unjustified, and I don't need to tell you what a disaster it's been. We want it over. All of us want it over. Some have been screaming for the Democratic Congress to do more to end it. The general feeling is that they aren't doing enough.

The Senate Democrats voted to set a 2008 timetable to pull the troops, and only two Democratic Senators voted against it; but the resolution failed. The House Democrats are pushing forward with a measure that will continue funding the war, while also setting a hard timeline for the war to end in 2008. People say this is not enough, and they're right. They say that the Democratic leadership is failing us, and they're wrong.

There seem to be two main arguments as to how the Democrats can end the war. The first is to repeal the Authorization to Use Military Force or pass new legislation that calls for a withdrawal of the troops. I'd love to see it. It won't happen. We don't have the votes. Yes, we have a majority; but it's not a hard majority. We can rant and rave all we want, but the Blue Dogs control the balance of power in the House, and our slim one vote majority in the Senate is not enough to overcome a filibuster. Some say Speaker Pelosi should do a better job of keeping the Blue Dogs in line, but they're clueless as to how politics works. Speaker Tip O'Neill fared no better with a larger majority, when that era's Blue Dogs continued to pass much of Reagan's worst legislation.

If you want better votes in the House and Senate, you have to elect better Representatives and Senators. Hating or blaming the Democrats won't solve that. Electing more Democrats will. We don't have working majorities. We need them. Some of the Blue Dogs come from districts that can elect better representatives. Some don't. We need to target for primary challenges those districts that can support better Democrats, but we need to accept that conservative Democrats are the best we are going to get from conservative districts. That's the hard truth, and no matter the intensity of our emotions, we need to deal with it. Elections matter, and we're still at least one cycle from having a working Congressional majority.

The second main argument is that the Democrats should simply refuse to continue funding the war. This is actually the most politically logical argument, because refusing to fund doesn't require votes. You just don't bring funding legislation to the floor. Critics of this argument say it would be spun by the media as undermining the troops. They're right. It would be. They're also wrong, because the spin wouldn't matter. The public overwhelmingly wants this war over with, and the Democrats could easily pass legislation that provides all the support the troops will need to safely and expeditiously get out of Iraq; and they could also pass legislation that takes better care of the troops, once they get home. The politics of defunding is not the problem. The practicality is.

George W. Bush loves this war. It's his identity. He loves to think of himself as a "war president." He got to dress up in a G.I. Joe flight-suit and ride shotgun as a jet landed on an aircraft carrier. It's so much more fun than merely spending an hour and a half playing video golf each afternoon, which was his habit, when he was Governor of Texas. There's nothing Bush won't do to continue playing "war president." He hasn't the basic humanity to even care about the human cost. We all know that. We need to think about what that means.

If Congress refuses to continue funding this war, Bush will simply take the money from somewhere else. I don't know whether he will have the legal right. My hunch is that he can simply slide funds over from some black ops that aren't even officially on the book; but even if he has no legal right, he will have his Attorney General quietly write a finding that says he can, and he will go ahead and do it. Even if word gets out, he will have no problem provoking a Constitutional crisis, if he has too. Certainly, nothing until now has stopped him from provoking them over other matters; and the time it would take for Congress to investigate, and for the courts to decide who is in the right, would run out the clock on the Bush presidency- which is all he's trying to do, now, anyway. Spoiled child that he is, Bush has always had others clean up his messes. Essentially, he was never toilet-trained. So, defunding won't work. Bush will find the money to continue his game.

Let me state plainly that I do support attempting to repeal the IAUMF, and I do support trying to pass new legislation that calls for a withdrawal of our troops, and I do support defunding. I support any and all practicable efforts to end this war! Even though I think such efforts will fail, I think they're important, for purely political reasons. I also think such aggressive attempts might have an Overton Window impact, which will help move the actual end date closer; although, again, I don't think such efforts will ultimately end the war. At least, not now. Not while Bush is still in the White House. And that's why I believe that the only way to end this war is to remove Bush and Cheney from office.

Now, I certainly don't believe that impeachment should be used as a purely political tool. I do, however, believe there are plenty of legitimate grounds for impeachment (buhdydharma has a good list of impeachment diaries, in this diary; and Vyan posted five outstanding diaries: one, two, three, four, five); and I believe aggressive impeachment hearings can get those grounds on the record, before the public, in such a way that there will be strong support for impeaching both Bush and Cheney. Bush already has historically low approval ratings, and a January Newsweek Poll showed that 58% of the American people want his presidency over with! A year before he was forced to resign, Richard Nixon's approval ratings were in the 60s! So, it won't take much to get the necessary publuc support for removal of this Administration. Some say that the Democrats will never get the votes in the Senate, but that ignores the political truth that Republicans are about nothing, if not self-interest. When they realized his Presidency could no longer be defended, the Republican leadership of 1974 effectively forced Nixon to resign. In the face of aggressive impeachment hearings, and the continuing public unrest over the failed wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, today's Republican leadership will do the same to Bush. They don't want to go down with him. Even Nixon's staunchest Congressional supporters ended up telling him he had to go. Bush's will, too. If he refuses to listen, they will do what's necessary. Nixon's former supporters were prepared to. Bush's will be, too.

So, please continue to rail against the war. Everything you say about it is correct. But please realize that the Democratic Congress cannot legislatively end it. The only way they can end it is by ending this Administration. The war will not end until Bush and Cheney are gone. If you really want to end the war, you must support impeachment.


Checkpoint Charlie

Monday, March 19, 2007

High Crimes

Los Angeles Times:
Senate Democrats signaled Sunday that of the eight federal prosecutors abruptly ousted by the Bush administration, the case in San Diego is emerging as the most troubling because of new allegations that U.S. Atty. Carol C. Lam was fired in an attempt to shut down investigations into Republican politicians in Southern California.

Appearing on CBS' "Face the Nation," Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) revealed evidence that Lam had notified Washington about search warrants in a Republican corruption case last year. Soon thereafter, a top Justice Department official in Washington wrote to the White House about a "real problem we have right now with Carol Lam."

Four Years

Today is the Fourth Anniversary of the start if the Iraq War. On Daily Kos, BarbinMD assesses the damage. No way to sum it up. Go read.

The Cost, In Britain, Of Being Bush's Lapdog

Before the Iraq War, Tony Blair was the most popular British politician in recent memory. Labour looked to control Parliament into the foreseeable future. Gordon Brown was the clear heir to 10 Downing. All of that's over. Check the new Guardian/ICM Poll:
According to ICM, voters give the Conservatives a 10-point lead, up a point from last month, when asked whom they would back in a general election tomorrow.

The poll puts the Tories on 41%, Labour unchanged on 31% and the Liberal Democrats down one at 18%. The Tories last scored above 40% in August 1992.

But when asked which party they would support in a contest between Mr Brown, Mr Cameron and Sir Menzies Campbell, Tory support rises by two points to 43%, while Labour's drops by three to 28% - a 15-point gap. The Lib Dems are unchanged on 18%.

Why Does Bush Hate Our Troops? Why Does He Hate America?

Yesterday, I wrote the following diary:
We Have Met The Enemy, And He Is Republican Administrations!
It was a brief explication of the Reagan and Bush Administrations' ever shifting allegiances, between Shia and Sunni militants and militaries, the enemies of our enemies continually proving to be our enemies, no matter how much we sometimes supported them, both politically and militarily. These Republican Administrations have been just plain stupid as they supported various armed factions which, inevitably, turned those arms on our men and women in uniform. The ultimate example is, of course, New Yorker columnist Seymour Hersh's discovery that Bush is now “pumping money, a great deal of money, without congressional authority, without any congressional oversight” to “three Sunni jihadist groups” who are “connected to al Qaeda.”

Yes, in case you hadn't heard, we've now come full circle. After cynically using the September 11 terrorist attacks to terrify Americans into supporting an illegal, immoral, and unjustified war against a country that had nothing to do with them, Bush is now funding people allied with the people who attacked us, out of fear of the potential dangers posed by the political and military forces his illegal, immoral, and unjustified war unleashed. I concluded my diary with the following words:
Is there any greater threat to American national security than a Rebublican American administration?
Incredibly, just a day later, the flip side of the story presents itself on the front page of the Washington Post. You see, it's not bad enough that Bush followed Reagan's example by giving our enemies both the means and reasons to fight us, for he's also been undermining our national security from the opposite end. It's nothing we haven't known, but the Post makes it explicitly clear:
Four years after the invasion of Iraq, the high and growing demand for U.S. troops there and in Afghanistan has left ground forces in the United States short of the training, personnel and equipment that would be vital to fight a major ground conflict elsewhere, senior U.S. military and government officials acknowledge.

More troubling, the officials say, is that it will take years for the Army and Marine Corps to recover from what some officials privately have called a "death spiral," in which the ever more rapid pace of war-zone rotations has consumed 40 percent of their total gear, wearied troops and left no time to train to fight anything other than the insurgencies now at hand.

The risk to the nation is serious and deepening, senior officers warn, because the U.S. military now lacks a large strategic reserve of ground troops ready to respond quickly and decisively to potential foreign crises, whether the internal collapse of Pakistan, a conflict with Iran or an outbreak of war on the Korean Peninsula.
Air and naval power can only go so far in compensating for infantry, artillery and other land forces, they said. An immediate concern is that critical Army overseas equipment stocks for use in another conflict have been depleted by the recent troop increases in Iraq, they said.
So, not only has Bush helped create and strengthen our enemies, he's also destroying our ability to fight them. And the ineptitude of our self-styled "war president" has, indeed, strengthened those enemies. Simply put: we're losing two wars at once!

Describing the attempted attack on Vice President Cheney, three weeks ago, when he was visiting Afghanistan, the Washington Post wrote:
Regardless of the intent, the attack demonstrated that insurgents in Afghanistan are becoming increasingly bold, willing to attack a heavily fortified U.S. target in the face of unusually tight security. Additionally, the assault was carried out in a part of the country where the Taliban has relatively little support. The Islamic militia's traditional stronghold has been in the south; Bagram is in the country's central region, about an hour's drive north of Kabul.

"It's pretty striking that they're capable of planning and executing an attack on Bagram on fairly short notice and under changing circumstances. We haven't seen anything like this before," said Daniel Markey, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations who until last month worked on South Asia policy at the State Department. "Psychologically, this has to be seen as a serious blow."

Markey said the attack is also an ominous sign with the approach of spring, which is usually accompanied by a heavy escalation in violence as conditions for fighting improve. "Everyone agrees on both sides that this is going to be a bad spring," he said.
Five and a half years after the September 11 attacks, not only have we failed to capture the attack's actual perpetrators, but the radical militants who gave them a safe haven are re-establishing their power.

And, then there's Iraq. As Sydney Blumenthal wrote in Salon:
Deep within the bowels of the Pentagon, policy planners are conducting secret meetings to discuss what to do in the worst-case scenario in Iraq about a year from today if and when President Bush's escalation of more than 20,000 troops fails, a participant in those discussions told me. None of those who are taking part in these exercises, shielded from the public view and the immediate scrutiny of the White House, believes that the so-called surge will succeed. On the contrary, everyone thinks it will not only fail to achieve its aims but also accelerate instability by providing a glaring example of U.S. incapacity and incompetence.

The profoundly pessimistic thinking that permeates the senior military and the intelligence community, however, is forbidden in the sanitized atmosphere of mind-cure boosterism that surrounds Bush. "He's tried this two times -- it's failed twice," Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said on Jan. 24 about the "surge" tactic. "I asked him at the White House, 'Mr. President, why do you think this time it's going to work?' And he said, 'Because I told them it had to.'" She repeated his words: "'I told them that they had to.' That was the end of it. That's the way it is."

On Feb. 2, the National Intelligence Council, representing all intelligence agencies, issued a new National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq, as harsh an antidote to wishful thinking as could be imagined. "The Intelligence Community judges that the term 'civil war' does not adequately capture the complexity of the conflict in Iraq, which includes extensive Shia-on-Shia violence, al-Qaida and Sunni insurgent attacks on Coalition forces, and widespread criminally motivated violence. Nonetheless, the term 'civil war' accurately describes key elements of the Iraqi conflict, including the hardening of ethno-sectarian identities, a sea change in the character of the violence, ethno-sectarian mobilization, and population displacements."
So, Bush is losing two wars, emboldening our enemies, and undermining our military readiness. Of course, the troops are overextended, through Stop-Loss policies that force them to stay remain in uniform well beyond the dates their service was supposed to end. And while they are in service, Bush treats our men and women in uniform as if they are nothing more than characters in video games.

As the New York Times reported, in January, 2006:
A secret Pentagon study has found that at least 80 percent of the marines who have been killed in Iraq from wounds to their upper body could have survived if they had extra body armor. That armor has been available since 2003 but until recently the Pentagon has largely declined to supply it to troops despite calls from the field for additional protection, according to military officials.
And little has changed. The troops being sent to fight this escalation that the NIE says won't succeed are not being adequately protected.

From the Washington Post, last month:
The Army is working to fill a shortfall in Iraq of thousands of advanced Humvee armor kits designed to reduce U.S. troop deaths from roadside bombs -- including a rising threat from particularly lethal weapons linked to Iran and known as "explosively formed penetrators" (EFP) -- that are now inflicting 70 percent of the American casualties in the country, according to U.S. military and civilian officials.

The additional protection is needed for thousands of U.S. reinforcement troops flowing into Baghdad, where these devastating weapons -- used primarily by Shiite fighters -- are particularly prevalent, the officials said.

U.S. Army units in Iraq and Afghanistan lack more than 4,000 of the latest Humvee armor kit, known as FRAG Kit 5, according to U.S. officials. The Army has ramped up production of the armor, giving priority to troops in Baghdad, but the upgrade is not scheduled to be completed until this summer, Army officials said. That is well into the timeline for major operations launched last week to quell violence by Sunni insurgents and Shiite militias, which the U.S. military now views as the top security threat in Iraq.
And don't kid yourself that this escalation is some temporary effort. From the New York Times:
The day-to-day commander of American forces in Iraq has recommended that the heightened American troop levels there be maintained through February 2008, military officials said Wednesday.

The White House has never said exactly how long it intends the troop buildup to last, but military officials say the increased American force level will begin declining in August unless additional units are sent or more units are held over.
Yes, you read that correctly: the military wants the escalation to last for a full year, and more troops will need to be sent, or the troops now being sent will have their rotations over-extended! It can't get any worse, can it? With this Administration, of course it can!

As Salon reported, last week:
As the military scrambles to pour more soldiers into Iraq, a unit of the Army's 3rd Infantry Division at Fort Benning, Ga., is deploying troops with serious injuries and other medical problems, including GIs who doctors have said are medically unfit for battle. Some are too injured to wear their body armor, according to medical records.
Is it possible to be more abusive to the men and women who are fighting Bush's wars? Well, of course! Just do a Daily Kos tag search for Walter Reed!

So, it's little wonder that, in addition to Stop-Loss, the military is having to radically lower the bar on its recruitment standards, in order to keep enough men and women in uniform. As the AP reported, in October:
The U.S. Army recruited more than 2,600 soldiers under new lower aptitude standards this year, helping the service beat its goal of 80,000 recruits in the throes of an unpopular war and mounting casualties.

The recruiting mark comes a year after the Army missed its recruitment target by the widest margin since 1979, which had triggered a boost in the number of recruiters, increased bonuses, and changes in standards.
And just last week, Time added:
And as the Iraq war drags into its fifth year next month, the raw material that the Defense Department has been molding into freshly minted troops since 9/11 is becoming a little frayed. That's led the military to boost recruiting incentives, but even that is not always enough. So when the sign-up bonuses don't bring in sufficient bodies, the military has long held its nose and issued a variety of waivers to allow once-barred candidates to join the services.

Not surprisingly, given the grinding ground war in Iraq, the Army and Marine Corps are the two branches issuing the most waivers these days. The Army granted more than double the number of waivers for felonies and misdemeanors in 2006 than it did in 2003, the year of the Iraq invasion, according to just-released Pentagon data. Such waivers allow recruits with criminal records, medical problems or poor aptitude scores to enlist despite problems that otherwise would bar them from service. Most are so-called "moral waivers," which include some felonies, misdemeanors, and drug and traffic offenses. Such waivers grew in the Army from 4,918 in 2003 to 8,129 last year. For the Marines, the total grew only slightly, from 19,195 to 20,750 (the higher Marine total is due largely to its stricter anti-drug rules for recruits).
Also in October, Nick Turse really nailed it, in the San Francisco Chronicle:
In February, the Baltimore Sun wrote that there was "a significant increase in the number of recruits with what the Army terms 'serious criminal misconduct' in their background" -- a category that included "aggravated assault, robbery, vehicular manslaughter, receiving stolen property and making terrorist threats." From 2004 to 2005, the number of those recruits rose by more than 54 percent, while alcohol and illegal drug waivers, reversing a four-year decline, increased by more than 13 percent....

...the Houston Chronicle reported in August that Army recruiters were trolling around the outskirts of a Dallas-area job fair for ex-convicts.

"We're looking for high school graduates with no more than one felony on their record," one recruiter said.
I will now repeat one line from today's Washington Post article:
The risk to the nation is serious and deepening, senior officers warn, because the U.S. military now lacks a large strategic reserve of ground troops ready to respond quickly and decisively to potential foreign crises(!)
So, I will close by repeating my question from yesterday:

Is there any greater threat to American national security than a Rebublican American administration?