Saturday, June 30, 2007

if you voted for bush, you voted for this

Three items in today's news, apparently unrelated except for this one fact: if you voted for Bush for President, understand that you voted for this.

In the wake of this week's judicial activism by the Supreme Court, educators expect that schools will grow more segregated. If you voted for Bush, you voted for this (and heck, you may even like it).

Los Angeles is having the driest year in over 100 years. The entire Southwest is expected to get drier and drier as climate change takes a hold. You may not quite realize it, but if you voted for Bush, you voted for this, since Bush has pushed any meaningful US (and therefore, global) attempt to mitigate climate change back by 8 years, 8 years that we may wish we could have back.

And finally, a federal judge made a ruling that a group of Mississippi voters had been discriminated against on the basis of race. The victims? White Mississippians. Now, I won't say that black electoral officials are not incapable of suppressing votes. But it is quite curious how the Bush Justice Department seems to find these cases of black and Democratic officials "suppressing" white (presumably Republican) voters, while ignoring and moreover, condoning and actively promoting the suppression of minority (and hence presumably Democratic) voters all over the country. If you voted for Bush, you voted for this.

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Friday, June 29, 2007


Scientists are confirming what we all knew already - cats basically made the choice to hang around humans because our grain stores attracted mice, which attracted cats. The rest of it was just refining the principal that cats hang with us because it's a sweet deal for them.

Reminds me of a science fiction story I read probably 20 years ago, can't remember the title or the author. It was set in a future where environmental degradation had grown so bad that all the animals, domesticated and wild, had turned on humans. Except dogs, which were especially hated by the other animals. A grim little tale.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

the madness of king dick, climate change chapter

I was musing - if Dick Cheney, as de facto vice president, isn't under the head of government as part of the executive branch and isn't part of the legislative branch, what is he? Clearly not a judge. So all I can conclude is that he is some sort of king with renewable four-year terms. (Heck, this king wasn't even elected - selected in 2000 by the Supreme Court, and 2004's vote is dubious at best.) I bet Dan Quayle and Hubert Humphrey and Spiro Agnew and Walter Mondale and the others that preceded Cheney wish they had realized that they were in fact King of America.

And a mad king Dick is. The lunacy of his Iraq ideas (remember, Cheney wanted to attack Iraq before 9/11, which Iraq was NOT involved with anyway) and his push to attack Iran which would be truly foolhardy and self-defeating are pretty well known and acknowledged now, outside of the realm of Fox News and Limbaughland.

And Rolling Stone now reports on Cheney's role within the de facto Bush Administration's "secret" campaign to deny climate change. Now, I must say that most of what was in this report was familiar to me. And I don't think the Administration has made much of a secret of its climate change skepticism, fueled by the wooing of the best friends-with-benefits of the Bush-Cheney administration, the voluptuous good-time-girl twins we know as Big Oil and Big Coal.

But the Rolling Stone report does a good job of describing Cheney's role in this policy (is there a policy Cheney has been involved in that hasn't gone badly?). He grabbed climate change and energy policy from a clueless W. ("what's the CEQ?") when they took office, staffed it out with a bunch of energy industry lobbyists, relied on industry-funded "scientific" reports to play up the absurd idea that the key facts and main conclusions about human-induced climate change were in any way in doubt. And they have delayed by a full eight-plus years any meaningful action by the world's largest (recently surpassed by China) emitter of greenhouse gases, also delaying meaningful international action.

Not "madness" if you are ExxonMobil looking at profits for 2012 and 2017. But madness if you give a rat's ass about the state of this planet. Every living thing on this globe, with the possible exception of the odd thermophilic creatures that live in boiling seawater near submarine volcanic vents, will be effected by climate change. If left unchecked, it will do all sorts of terrible things, perhaps most seriously undermining the basis of the current agricultural system that feeds the planet. It is utter madness to be so cavalier on this issue -- and according to former Bush environmental chief Christine Todd Whitman and others, this administration's madness on climate change is squarely attributable to mad King Dick.

As for ExxonMobil and other professional deniers of climate change, I have one question. Don't any of them have children and grandchildren?

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overdosing on cheney

It's discouraging to know that the decision maker of our country is crazy. But de facto de facto president Dick Cheney is certifiable for thinking that war with Iran will make everything better. Read Scott Horton for more. You think Iraq is ugly, wait for this.

And then, read the first installment of the four-parter in the Post about Cheney. It's long, but it's worth it. Just reinforces how Cheney, he whose office is purportedly neither in the executive branch nor part of Congress, actually RUNS the executive branch on many policy issues including things like intelligence, illegal incarceration, and other minor things that are only making a mockery of our republic, and are besmirching our good name abroad.

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Saturday, June 23, 2007

the new senator from wyoming

So John Barrasso has been picked to replace the late Craig Thomas as a Senator from Wyoming. It's interesting to look at what he wrote in his job application to succeed Thomas.

"I believe in limited government, lower taxes, less spending, traditional family values, local control..." okay, we get the gist here. No dramatic breaks with mountain west GOP types already in the Senate expected here.

He continues, "...and a strong national defense." Fortunately, a strong national defense doesn't cost any money so the lower taxes will be easy to arrange, right? Wrong. And a strong national defense doesn't require much in the way of a defense bureaucracy, so no problems there. Wrong.

Continuing, "In the State Senate, in addition to receiving an 'A' rating from the National Rifle Association, I have voted for prayer in schools, against gay marriage and have sponsored legislation to protect the sanctity of life." Surprising that such a conservative guy would be opposed to the death penalty. Oh wait, those actually alive lives aren't what he wants to protect, just the potential lives. Sorry, should have guessed. Also, I wonder whether his commitment to local control would cover allowing some states to permit same-sex marriage? Nah, probably not. He didn't mean local control for sodomites, surely. And I bet his idea of local control wouldn't extend to allowing the District of Columbia to ban handguns.

Barrasso also wants to promote rural health care. I'm for that, too. Folks in rural areas like 99% of Wyoming should have some access to health care. But Senator-to-be Barrasso, I wonder if you will ask for Federal tax dollars* and a Washington DC-based government agency to actually help implement this hope? Because if the free market was going to provide adequate access to health care in such areas, it would have done so already.

Senator Barrasso. Probably a nice guy. But he'll speak out of both sides of his mouth just like most other conservative Republicans do today.

*Remember, Federal tax dollars come overwhelmingly from states that are not called Wyoming. Surely a true advocate of local control won't stoop to begging for money obtained from Florida and Texas and California and places like that, will he?

Thursday, June 21, 2007

update from the department of injustice

Another day, another report from the de facto Bush Administration's sleaze-befouled halls of the so-called Department of Justice.

Three career lawyers with good performance review were transferred out of the civil right division, over the objections of their supervisors, by acting assistant attorney general for civil rights Barry Schlozman. The three lawyers were all minority women -- Karen Stevens, Tovah Calderon and Teresa Kwong.

The reason for their transfer? According to other Justice lawyers, Conor Dugan said it was to "make room for some good Americans."

To make room for some good Americans. Hear that, women and minority Americans, those of you who might still feel some lingering reason to respect the modern Republican Party? You aren't "good Americans". Doubtless because women and minorities have a distressing tendency to vote Republican less often than white men.

But don't feel too isolated, Schlozman's distrust even extends into the GOP itself. Seems he once wondered whether a career lawyer at Justice could be trusted because he had voted for John McCain in 2000.

The investigation into the overt politicization of the career ranks at the Department of Justice continue. Remember, this isn't just about hiring and firing political appointees. This is about extending permanent rightist Republican influence into the working levels at Justice, firing qualified, well-performing civil servants along the way to make room for these Regent University and Bob Jones University graduates, to make sure the Bush Agenda for America -- support for the elites, for big business, for extremist Christians, and for a permanent Republican majority, at the expense of the rest of us -- would be carried out even after this sorry excuse for an Administration leaves office (I hope) in January 2009.

Just as the Great US Attorney Massacre wasn't about replacing a few political appointees, but rather was an explicit attempt to politicize the role of prosecutors by penalizing those who refused to support GOP plans to suppress minority and other Democratic-leaning voters, and refused to carry out dubious prosecutions against Democratic candidates right before elections.

The Bushies and their allies want to turn our country into a banana republic, where the charade of elections is conducted merely to provide a gloss of respectability to what they would have be a one-party regime beholden to the economic elites of the United States.


Wednesday, June 20, 2007

talk radio's current target

It's nice for a change to see talk radio taking aim at the Republicans. "Talk radio" of course is dominated by rightwing hosts, which makes this a bit of a turnaround. This time it's because they don't think Congressional Republicans are sufficiently racist. Excuse me, I meant to say, sufficiently adamant about keeping foreigners out of Amurica.

It ain't often I agree with something Trent Lott said. But it happens. He told the New York Times, "Talk radio is running America. We have to deal with that problem."

He's right. And talk radio isn't just some random occurrence. It is the way it is because of the corporatization of the airwaves. Thanks to changes pushed thru during the Reagan and Bush I era, radio and TV stations don't have to offer equal time or access to differing political views. And unsurprisingly, views that appeal to corporate masters -- lower taxes, weaker unions, fewer environmental regulations, etc -- are reflected in who is hired to work on talk radio. For every Al Franken there are a dozen Rush Limbaughs.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

the plan?

Further evidence, if you needed it, that the US didn't have a realistic plan when it invaded Iraq is that Iraq is now #2 on a list you don't want to be on -- a "Failed State Index." Only Sudan was found worse in a survey by Fund for Peace and Foreign Policy magazine.

Now, Tony Blair and the British military apparently knew we didn't have a plan for Iraq, apart from destroying its military resistance and waiting for people to throw petals at the invading tanks. I guess the question is, what is dumber -- invading Iraq without a plan (the Cheney/Bush/ Rumsfeld/Rice model). Or agreeing to go along with an invasion of Iraq despite knowing the ringleader has no plan (the Tony Blair model)?

Saturday, June 16, 2007

another republican headed for jail

Prosecutors are recommending prison for former deputy secretary of oildrilling and mining, I mean, former deputy secretary of Interior, Steven Griles. Griles had the habit of asking everybody's favorite Republican lobbyist, Jack Abramoff, for favors. Especially for close female acquaintances, like lady-friend Italia Federici.

Griles already entered a guilty plea to charges that he lied to investigators about his relationship to Abramoff. A natural instinct, given the stink rising from Abramoff. But still a crime.

The bigger crimes, which won't result in jailtime for Griles, include his propensity to always ignore any environmental concern in favor of big oil, mining, and other business interests, whose activities weren't always exactly good for the environment.

Friday, June 15, 2007

counterfeits can kill

Chinese counterfeiters aren't just ripping off "The Incredibles" movies or Beyonce's latest album. They have a much wider reach -- and some of these counterfeits can kill.

Witness the case of counterfeit Colgate toothpaste. Yes, toothpaste is being counterfeited. It really IS toothpaste, not made Colgate but bearing the Colgate name. And some of that toothpaste has an antifreeze ingredient in it that is poisonous.

Other Chinese counterfeit items include brake-pads for Toyotas, which I'm sure don't meet the rigorous safety standards that real Toyota parts suppliers must observe.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

crossing the arctic, two ways

Sir Wally Herbert died. The Scotsman Herbert led the first expedition to cross the entire Arctic Ocean on foot, back in 1968-69. This earned him a knighthood. The data Herbert collected is still being used by scientists, including to assess the effects of climate change.

The Washington Post editors are right to excoriate the Senate energy bill for "ignoring the 800-pound gorilla in the room," climate change. And they're right to say that all of de facto President Bush's hoorah about technology and converting switchgrasses into gasoline notwithstanding, we need to put a price on carbon (either a carbon tax, a cap-and-trade regime, or some combination) into effect soon. That will send the right price signals, force emitters to pay for some of the damage done, and make alternative technologies economically competitive.

Because if we don't, the King or Queen of England could be giving some other explorer a knighthood in about 2060. For being the first person to cross the entire Arctic Ocean - on a yacht.


Wednesday, June 13, 2007

more from the great US attorney massacre

More documents, more facts revealed. This time, the fact that the White House -- specifically Harriet Miers and Karl Rove's aides -- was actively involved in dealing with the aftermath of the Great US Attorney Massacre (GUSAM) back in January.

That should surprise nobody. The GUSAM was purely and simply about politics. And nothing involving politics in the de facto Bush Administration gets done without Karl Rove's attention. (Surely you don't believe Rove's aides failed to involve Turd Blossom, do you?)

Meanwhile, GUSAM-gate continues to be "drug out" in the elegant phrasing of our de facto President. It's being drug out because the White House and Justice continue to refuse to produce documents without being forced, and refuse to make involved officials available. Well, they are available. If the interviews are done behind closed doors. And no transcripts are taken. Right.

Monday, June 11, 2007

even saying something right he gets it wrong

De facto President George W. Bush was given a hero's reception by the good people of Albania. Are they all morons, you may ask? No they aren't. As in so many things, your point of view is important. For the Albanians, they don't look first at Iraq or Guantanamo or torture or the stolen election(s). They look at Bush's stance on Kosovo, the Albanian province in Serbia that has been essentially independent for years now.

Bush supports independence for Kosovo from Serbia. And that on balance makes sense. But Bush managed to mangle the message in Albania. Answering a reporter, he said "In terms of the deadline, there needs to be one. This needs to come -- this needs to happen." When another reporter asked about the deadline, our intrepid leader said "I don't think I called for a deadline." Somebody said Oh Yes You Did, and Bush said "I did? What exactly did I say? I said, 'Deadline'? Okay, yes, then I meant what I said."

Such an inspiring figure, eloquence matched only by Mushmouth off of "Fat Albert."

Sunday, June 10, 2007


Why would a general's diary from June 1944 still be classified 63 years later? Why are facts that have been published in the press still classified? Journalism professor Ted Gup has an interesting essay in today's Post about the growing use of secrecy and classification of information by American governments.

Some things should be protected. For example, that general's diary in June 1944 might have contained secrets about the disposition of Allied forces that, if they'd fallen into German hands, could have been very damaging. But in a democracy, secrets should be kept to a minimum. Things should not be kept secret just because their revelation could be embarrassing or politically inconvenient or difficult to explain.


Saturday, June 09, 2007

misplaced nostalgia

You know it's bad when some people (Republicans, mostly) actually express nostalgia for the presidency of Richard Nixon. You remember him -- the guy who said "if the President does it, it's not against the law" some 25 years before John Yoo and George Bush and the rest. The guy who, with Henry Kissinger, conspired to sabotage peace talks in Vietnam in 1968 to help get elected, dooming Vietnam and ourselves to 4 more years of war and who knows how many hundreds of thousands more deaths. The guy whose dirty-tricks administration made the word "Watergate" stand for more than a ritzy apartment complex in Washington DC.

Just because de facto President George W. Bush is an incompetent, lying, warmongering, science-ignoring, theocon-patronizing, buffoon of a President does not make Nixon good. Journalist Elizabeth Drew writes: So, despite the now-fashionable nostalgia, Nixon's pragmatism, his lack of core beliefs and his opportunism throughout his political lifetime offer little reason to doubt that he would be right in step with the conservative Republican politics of today.

I can think of no more damning -- and accurate -- a statement to make about Richard Nixon, nor about today's Republican Party.


Friday, June 08, 2007

three comments on the key legal issue of the moment

By "key legal issue" I do of course refer to the re-incarceration of one Paris Hilton. Perhaps you've heard of her.

Comment the first: The headline from the AP was "Screaming Paris Hilton Sent Back to Jail." Screaming Paris Hilton would be an excellent name for a rock band. Maybe a thrash metal outfit. Could even be a revival of hair metal, since the band members could all go for long blond hair a la Ms Hilton. All the better for head banging.

Comment the second: What was that sheriff thinking when he released her for some ill-defined medical reason in an apparently (physically) health 26-year-old woman? Because surely failure to cope well with imprisonment isn't a good enough reason if you are just some shmoe doing time (even for a short time like Paris) who also doesn't cope well with being kept behind bars. Maybe the sheriff was bedazzled by the glamor of the situation. Or maybe he thought a much better paid job doing security for the Hilton hotel chain could be obtained thru an act of clemency towards young Ms Hilton.

Comment the third: So remember, all you rich boys and girls - don't drink and drive, and don't drive without a license. Even your good looks and riches and celebrity won't guarantee you impunity. And I'd suggest to Ms Hilton that she consider hiring a chauffeur when she's sprung from the joint.

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sink the amt

Democrats in Congress are considering ways to keep the Alternative Minimum Tax from hitting more and more middle class Americans. The AMT, if you don't remember, was passed in the late 1960s as a way to keep the very wealthy from dodging all their taxes -- but Congress forgot to index it for inflation so now it's hitting people who are by no means rich.

One plan would get rid of it entirely and would raise income taxes on families earning more than $200,000 (or singles making $100,000) by 4%.

Another plan would keep AMT but would abolish it for families making under $250,000, funding the lost revenue by raising taxes by 4.3% on income over $500,000. Massachusetts Democrat Richard Neal says this would hit 2% of taxpayers.

I think I like the latter plan better. But you know the Republicans would call it a tax hike, despite it being neutral or tax-saving for 98% of Americans. Tax hikes are worst in Republican-Land when they hit the very rich.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

maybe greenland will really be green soon

Okay you climate change skeptics -- Greenland's winters are 11 DEGREES WARMER than just a decade ago. The breaking off of the ice sheets is a new tourist attraction. I'd be interested in how you explain that away. And no, don't give us any bullshit about sunspots. This might be good for Greenland's 56,000 residents (perhaps NASA Administrator Griffin is from there?) -- but not so good for the other 6-7 billions of humans.

It's again disheartening and discouraging but in no way surprising that de facto President Bush at the G8 continues to fight against any measures that would REQUIRE -- as opposed to merely "hope for" or "suggest" -- action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Hope the Bushes enjoy Kennebunkport. It may not be there much longer if that ice sheet in Greenland keeps melting. Where will the "little brown ones" have their Presidential retreats and summer vacations?

a day in the life, republican-style

Another update on Republican corruption, cupidity, and sleaze...

Nobody can be surprised that another Republican operative connected to Jack Abramoff is in legal trouble. The poetically named Italia Federici (who was "romantically linked" with Steve Griles while he was the deputy at the Department of Mining And Logging I mean Interior, even as Abramoff and she were trying to influence Griles on behalf of Abramoff's Indian tribe clients, talk about full service lobbying) will plead guilty on tax evasion and blocking a congressional investigation. But the true scandal in this Washington Post article is the headline: "GOP Environmentalist Linked to Abramoff to Plead Guilty".

Federici is an environmentalist in the same way that John Yoo is an advocate for the rights of the accused. Her "nonprofit" organization, the Council of Republicans for Environmental Advocacy, was founded by Bush Environmental Protection Agency chief (and really, doesn't that say it all?) Gale Norton and that Reagan-loving drowning-government-in-the-bathtub- advocating hypocritical anti-all-taxes maggot Grover Norquist, for pete's sake. Not exactly Sierra Club material. By "environmental advocacy," these sorts of Republicans mean advocating FOR big businesses like clear-cutting loggers, wetlands-clearing developers, groundwater- polluting mining outfits and other commercial interests AGAINST environmental protection measures. I suspect CREA never met an environmental law or regulation that it liked. No, Federici isn't an environmentalist. The Post shouldn't sully that word by inaccurately applying it to her.

Turning to the ongoing scandals at the Department of Justice, turns out that Dick Cheney tried to roll Justice into approving the wiretapping program that John Ashcroft refused to approve on his sickbed. What a surprise. Cheney also denied a promotion to a career professional at Justice who was in his eyes too closely linked to the anti-wiretapping effort. Yes, the Vice President reached deep into a cabinet agency to stop a promotion of a qualified career civil servant, Patrick Philbin. And Alberto Gonzales, that paragon of integrity, didn't support his employee and cancelled the promotion. That'll build morale!

If we now know that the VP was involved in this issue to this level of detail, even to the point of exacting revenge against civil servants, is there any reason to give the White House any benefit of the doubt about their knowledge of the ongoing effort to politicize the Department of Justice (and stop eligible citizens from voting), via the Great US Attorney Massacre among other tactics? Of course not.

And now word that Alaska Senator Ted Stevens (a Republican of course) has gotten that most dreaded of requests from the FBI to please "preserve records." That ranks up there with "60 Minutes on line two, sir" as something you don't want to hear. It's all about a big political bribery and corruption scandal in Alaska that surprise, surprise, Ted Stevens' son Ben, the Senator's political buddies and his moneymen are involved in.

Stevens is famous for bringing home absurd amounts of Federal tax dollars to Alaska, the state that has no income tax, that gives a fat check drawn on oil revenues to its residents every year, and STILL has the nerve to beg for rivers of money from the Federal budget to do various pork-barrel projects while still loudly proclaiming its rugged independence. Alaska -- as independent as a three-month-old baby sucking at its mother's teats. And apparently not as pure as the driven snow.

So with all this going on, it's hardly a surprise that the Republican presidential hopefuls at the debate were all at pains to distance themselves from the de facto Bush Administration...

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Wednesday, June 06, 2007

keep 'em in the house

A sad story about Maxine Hillary, who has been searching for her missing cat Mugoddai since December 2003. She's tried leaflets, newspaper advertisements, pet detectives, walking the neighborhood streets at 3 AM, everything.

But she should have tried this very basic step: don't let the cat out to roam the streets.

Cats do NOT "need" to prowl the streets. They can be very happy living entirely indoor lives. Letting them go outside on their own decreases their life expectancy dramatically. It exposes them to fights with cats and other animals. It exposes them to diseases like rabies and feline leukemia. It exposes them to the risk of being hit by a car or picked on by an animal hating sadist. It is bad for local birds and small animals that cats like to hunt. I can think off the top of my head of half a dozen friends who have had cats disappear because they let them run around outside the house.

Mogaddai's disappearance -- and by now, you'd have to guess, probable death -- is sad. It didn't need to happen. Keep your cats indoors.


Tuesday, June 05, 2007

can you trust a mercenary?

Some things shouldn't be privatized. One of those things is the legal use of armed force, which should always remain in the realm of the state.

In other words, we shouldn't encourage mercenaries. But we have ... especially in Iraq, with over 100,000 so-called "contractors", many of which are soldiers in all but name.

Two problems with this practice. It creates another level of incentive for corporations -- in this case mercenary outfits like Blackwater -- to support military interventions for private gain. And you can't always trust mercenaries to do what you want them to do, a problem going back to ancient times.


Monday, June 04, 2007

another side of torture

The Washington Post today runs an article about three interrogators -- an American who was in military intelligence in Iraq January 2004-January 2005, a British (Northern Irish) who interrogated Irish Republican Army members, and an Israeli.

Two quotes from the American, Tony Lagouranis:

"I tortured people. You have to twist your mind up so much to justify doing that."
"At every point, there was part of me resisting, part of me enjoying. Using dogs on someone, there was a tingling throughout my body. If you saw the reaction in the prisoner, it's thrilling."

Among the other problems with torturing people is what it does to the interrogators, and to our society. Lagouranis seems troubled by what he did; his girlfriend describes him as gentle. But even he admits to enjoying the administration of torture against helpless prisoners. Do we really want our intelligence and military and police developing a taste for torture in some who may enjoy it more than Lagouranis, and be bothered by it less?

Another quote, from a victim of torture:

"The feeding pipe was thick, thicker than my nostril, and would not go in. Blood came gushing out of my nose and tears down my cheeks, but they kept pushing until the cartilages cracked. I guess I would have screamed if I could, but I could not with the pipe in my throat. I could breathe neither in nor out at first; I wheezed like a drowning man -- my lungs felt ready to burst. The doctor also seemed ready to burst into tears, but she kept shoving the pipe farther and farther down. Only when it reached my stomach could I resume breathing, carefully. Then she poured some slop through a funnel into the pipe that would choke me if it came back up. They held me down for another half-hour so that the liquid was absorbed by my stomach and could not be vomited back, and then began to pull the pipe out bit by bit. . . . Grrrr. There had just been time for everything to start healing during the night when they came back in the morning and did it all over again, for 10 days, when the guards could stand it no longer. As it happened, it was a Sunday and no bosses were around. They surrounded the doctor: "Hey, listen, let him drink it straight from the bowl, let him sip it. It'll be quicker for you, too, you silly old fool." The doctor was in tears: "Do you think I want to go to jail because of you lot? No, I can't do that. . . . " And so they stood over my body, cursing each other, with bloody bubbles coming out of my nose. On the 12th day, the authorities surrendered; they had run out of time. I had gotten my lawyer, but neither the doctor nor those guards could ever look me in the eye again."

This instance was in the Soviet Union. But Bukovsky, a Soviet dissident who was tortured for having the nerve not to wholeheartedly agree with the Communist system, also points to the problems the TORTURERS suffered (writing in December 2005): "Today, when the White House lawyers seem preoccupied with contriving a way to stem the flow of possible lawsuits from former detainees, I strongly recommend that they think about another flood of suits, from the men and women in your armed services or the CIA agents who have been or will be engaged in CID practices. Our rich experience in Russia has shown that many will become alcoholics or drug addicts, violent criminals or, at the very least, despotic and abusive fathers and mothers."

Torture. Cruel. Ineffective. Un-american. Dehumanizing. We shouldn't be doing this, and we shouldn't tolerate a government that encourages it. Especially since you never know when their focus might change to others they proclaim enemies of the state.


Sunday, June 03, 2007

kagan's column of crap

Surge-meister Robert Kagan has another column in the Post today about Iraq. It is full of crap. Kagan says there is a move to "blame the Iraqis" for the impending defeat. That part may be true. And it isn't fair to "blame the Iraqis" for how badly the Republican War in Iraq has gone. Heck, CIA analysts in 2002 warned about some of the bad things that might come out of an invasion. Too bad it wasn't heeded.

Back to Kagan. He doesn't want to blame the Iraqis. He wants to blame (or rather, credit) Al-Qaeda, which he says is behind the problems there, adding that a withdrawal would be a victory for them.

Yes, AQ in Iraq would boast if we withdrew. But they are NOT the main reason behind the civil war (which Kagan refuses to admit exists) in Iraq. The main reason is that the Iraqis don't want us there. And, while the Sunnis (mostly) blow up our troops, the Sunnis and Shiites (and Kurds) are positioning themselves for the post-occupation Iraq.

It isn't Al Qaeda. Foreign fighters in Iraq play a minimal role there. Kagan's BS helps perpetrate the lies (indirectly) about Al Qaeda ties to Iraq and hence Iraqi ties to 9/11. Which were, remember, completely and utterly non-existent.


Saturday, June 02, 2007

again with the family

So Bush's aid Dan Bartlett is leaving his White House job, to "spend more time with the family." A couple of observations.

1. Want to bet that after he is done assessing the job offers that are already rolling in, he won't refuse a job offering big, big bucks just because it will involve long hours and frequent travel? Of course not.

2. When somebody, somewhat unexpectedly, quits for the family reason, it's worth paying attention for a few weeks to see if there is some precipitating event (see Randy Tobias for an example).

But this is certainly a good time in this de facto Administration to leave. Under 19 months left, unless there is a coup d'etat or declaration of a state of emergency and a suspension of 2008 elections. Get out now and get a job before the taint of working in the Bush White House grows even more odious.

Friday, June 01, 2007

an arrogant jerk and an insufficient plan

Talk about mixed signals. The de facto President of the United States gives a big speech on climate change and pushes some sort of international meeting to do something about it. And the head of NASA gives an interview questioning whether we need to do anything about climate change.

Let's start with the arrogant jerk -- no, no I mean the NASA guy, Administrator Michael Griffin. A quote from him: "I guess I would ask which human beings, where and when, are to be accorded the privilege of deciding that this particular climate that we have right here today, right now, is the best climate for all other human beings."

Griffin calls such people "rather arrogant." I call Griffin extremely arrogant and stupid beyond my comprehension. As Dana Milbank points out, his biography at NASA's web site lists SEVEN degrees, in hard stuff like physics and aerospace engineering. For such a technically educated person to suggest that melting ice caps might be GOOD for us is literally breathtaking.

First, I'm guessing that Griffin owns no land in Florida or Bangladesh or London or other places that will end up under water should the ice caps disappear. Second, Griffin seems to discount the fact that the current climate is one that has ALLOWED HUMAN CIVILIZATION TO FLOURISH. Sorry for the shouting there, but that seemed like a moderately important point to make. You see, Dr. Administrator Griffin, people eat food. Food is grown in fields on farms. Crops like to get the right amount of rain, sunshine, etc, at the right time. Change the basic equation for the production of food in sufficient quantities to create a surplus sufficient to support non-farmers, and you risk knocking a key prop out from under civilization.

It isn't "arrogant" to think that the climate of the past 10,000 years is good for humanity. It's common sense. It isn't out of arrogance that I want our government to try to mitigate climate changes. It is out of simple fear and concern for humanity.

And how arrogant it is to decide we SHOULD change the current climate, the flip-side of Griffin's snide slur. I think if we took a planet-wide vote on "should we keep the current climate" that, with the exception of some cold people in Siberia, the result would be an overwhelming "YES".

I just can't believe a NASA Administrator could say such crap.

Anyway, turning now from him to his boss. Yeah, Bush gave a speech calling for an international something to do something about climate change, maybe. Some seemed impressed by it. That's only because expectations were so low. It's like being impressed by your kid getting a B-minus on a spelling test because his usual score is an F. Or when the worst shooter on your basketball team actually hits two free throws in a row. Hardly impressive.

So, let's look at the White House's Fact Sheet on a "New International Climate Change Framework." First of all, it misspelled "gases" as "gasses." Even for this anti-intellectual administration, you'd hope somebody in the White House would be frigging smart enough to run a spell check on a document that will be read by quite a few people.

It says the US will get together a big meeting by the end of 2008. The timing is critical - not because of anything scientific, but to show voters right before the election that Republicans are doing something on climate change. If it weren't for growing voter concern, no way this Administration would touch climate change even with a ten-foot pole. It upsets the oil barons. This is just a gift to Rudy or Fred or Mitt or John or whoever the heck ends up getting the GOP nomination.

The proposal says climate change "must be addressed by fostering both energy security and economic security", relying on new technologies. But nowhere in the fact sheet does it say that the US will put any sort of cap on greenhouse gas emissions. Nowhere. Nowhere does the fact sheet say the US will put any sort of tax on the carbon emissions. Nowhere.

Yes, new technologies are critical. Incentives for their development are appropriate; so is direct government spending. Fine. But to do so without also forcing emitters to pay part of the price for their emissions - the price being the potential destruction of ecosystems that have supported humanity (not to mention animals, plants, fish etc) - is not going to work. Market signals should be part of the fight against climate change. Just throwing money and rhetorical support at technologies without also making it clear that there will be immediate economic COSTS for belching out carbon unabated undermines the whole thing.

At the end of the fact sheet is this nifty little paragraph:

"We Are Well On Track To Meet – And Currently Projected To Exceed – The President's 2002 Goal Of Reducing U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emission Intensity 18 Percent By 2012. U.S. greenhouse gas intensity declined by 2.5 percent in 2005, much faster than the average decline of 1.9 percent over the 1990-2005 period."

Wow, sounds pretty good, huh? We're actually cutting greenhouse gases.

No. Don't be dazzled by this bullshit. Greenhouse gas "emission intensity" measures how many tons of greenhouse gases are put into the atmosphere per unit of GDP. A decline in "intensity" just says that our greenhouse gas emissions are growing more slowly than the economy. But they have still RISEN since 2002. We need to reduce ABSOLUTE levels of emissions. This is a devious "measure" designed to make Bush look good. It is a prime example of truthiness, Republican-style.


cough, cough i'm suing

It's outright weird that the moron who went to Europe for his wedding despite being asked NOT to travel because of his drug-resistant tuberculosis turns out to be the son-in-law of a TB researcher called Robert Cooksey at the Center for Disease Control. The fact that the traveler Andrew Speaker, who then flew to Canada and drove across the border to elude quarantine, turns out to be a LAWYER is much less surprising.

Speaker's law firm specializes in personal injury law. You know, ambulance chasing. It would be quite ironic if one of the passengers on his transatlantic flight were to sue him for mental distress caused by wondering whether they had contracted his nasty strain of drug-resistant TB.

This odd case also highlights one fact quite well: it is hard for a democratic society to stop somebody just for being sick. Another nail in the coffin of the idea that an influenza pandemic could be stopped cold just by restricting travel. You think we don't have enough troops in Iraq to stop the insurgents? Just try keeping residents of a city like New York quarantined in their apartments.


torture, soviet-style

The Post editors flag a charming fact -- that the so-called "alternative methods" of interrogating prisoners approved by the de facto Bush Administration were based on what the Pentagon feared our troops would suffer at Soviet hands.

We taught our troops how to resist torture, for fear they would reveal information if captured by Soviets or other bad guys that do not observe the Geneva Conventions. And now we've used that knowledge to come up with the "alternative methods."

Remember -- those methods are techniques the US and other civilized nations have long denounced accurately as torture. And it doesn't even WORK -- as the Post notes in the case of bad information tortured out of two top Al Qaeda prisoners.

Torture is wrong. It's beneath a democratic society. It doesn't work. Unfortunately, our rulers just don't care. And don't just dismiss it because there's nothing to say that this or a similar future regime won't find reason to employ it on domestic enemies, too. All in the cause of keeping us "safe."