Bob's Links and Rants

Welcome to my rants page! You can contact me by e-mail: Blog roll. Site feed.

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Off the chart

Literally! That's the chart for NYMEX unleaded gasoline for the past year. Right now it stands at $1.67 (you pay more at the pump because of taxes and distribution costs). That's a new all-time high. I saw $2.29 for unleaded at gas stations coming to work this morning, the highest I remember seeing around here. They'll be higher tomorrow.

Goldman Sachs released a report today saying that oil has entered a "super-spike" period which could see oil go as high as $105 a barrel. While oil futures are currently slightly below their recent all-time high of $57.60 per barrel ($55.55 at of 1:30 EST), they're headed back that way in a hurry.

Bring 'em on, I say! The economic disruptions caused by high energy prices will be nasty. The damages caused by the continued profligate use of cheap energy would be far worse.

BTW--I just found the chart resource I've been looking for--WTRG Economics.

Here's the chart for NYMEX crude oil futures for the past year:

WTRG also has charts of retail gasoline prices broken down in various ways.

The Long Emergency

James Howard Kunstler writes in Rolling Stone about peak oil and America's prospects for the future. His conclusions are pretty much in line with those of Richard Heinberg, Michael Ruppert, and others. The American economy of the future will be labor-, not energy-intensive; it will be local, not global; and the chance of serious violence is large.

Kunstler says a couple of things I totally agree with:
America is in a special predicament due to a set of unfortunate choices we made as a society in the twentieth century. Perhaps the worst was to let our towns and cities rot away and to replace them with suburbia, which had the additional side effect of trashing a lot of the best farmland in America. Suburbia will come to be regarded as the greatest misallocation of resources in the history of the world. It has a tragic destiny. The psychology of previous investment suggests that we will defend our drive-in utopia long after it has become a terrible liability.
I totally agree with that. The few serious efforts towards automotive energy conservation in this country in the past 30 years have focused on fuel economy, all while sprawl has relentlessly increased drastically the total number of miles driven. The current American landscape is an energy nightmare.
America today has a railroad system that the Bulgarians would be ashamed of. Neither of the two major presidential candidates in 2004 mentioned railroads, but if we don't refurbish our rail system, then there may be no long-range travel or transport of goods at all a few decades from now. The commercial aviation industry, already on its knees financially, is likely to vanish. The sheer cost of maintaining gigantic airports may not justify the operation of a much-reduced air-travel fleet. Railroads are far more energy efficient than cars, trucks or airplanes, and they can be run on anything from wood to electricity. The rail-bed infrastructure is also far more economical to maintain than our highway network.
I think Kunstler is a bit harsh on the prospects of alternative fuels:
Virtually all "biomass" schemes for using plants to create liquid fuels cannot be scaled up to even a fraction of the level at which things are currently run. What's more, these schemes are predicated on using oil and gas "inputs" (fertilizers, weed-killers) to grow the biomass crops that would be converted into ethanol or bio-diesel fuels. This is a net energy loser -- you might as well just burn the inputs and not bother with the biomass products.
I agree that biofuels probably offer no hope for keeping us driving to the extent we do today. But to say they're "predicated" on using fertilizers and weed-killers isn't quite right. While today most biodiesel probably comes from industrially-grown soybeans and most ethanol from industrially-grown corn, this doesn't have to be the case. Especially in the case of biodiesel, the inputs can come from a wide variety of plants, including weeds and algae. The plants don't have to be fertilized, watered or sprayed. (I hope to learn more about the energy balance and prospects for biodiesel in the upcoming Michigan Biodiesel Bus Tour on April 11, which is FREE, BTW.)

Kunstler's Rolling Stone article is a preview for his soon-to-be-released book, The Long Emergency.

Well, Duh

U.S. Was 'Dead Wrong' in Prewar Assessments, Commission Says.
The nine-member Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction was appointed by President Bush a year ago.
The report puts most of the blame on the CIA, which, as Maureen Dowd points out, is hilarious. George Tenet did exactly what Cheney and Bush wanted him to:

The buck stops with the lying scumbag in chief. His insane little war has already cost us more than the annual GDP's of the world's 65 poorest countries. Of course, it has cost hundreds of thousands of Iraqis much more than that.

Admittedly, I haven't read the text of this latest report, or of the Duelfer report from last fall. But it seems that any attempts to put the blame on the CIA and other intelligence agencies ignore one critical fact, which I have been harping on from time to time for over two years now: In late 2002, UN inspectors returned to Iraq and looked everywhere that US "intelligence" told them to look. For four months. They found NOTHING. The recriminations about the "failure" of US "intelligence" should have started then. Instead, the war started. The blame rests on the head of our idiot president, and eternal shame on him both for having started the war and for not having admitted his guilt and committing hari-kari.

Quote du Jour

From Rahul Mahajan:
In Iraq last April, not only Sunni Arabs but many Shi’a told me that the occupation was worse than Saddam Hussein – and things are even worse now. Somehow, the Bush administration has accomplished the difficult feat of creating a state in Iraq worse than the combination of Saddam and the sanctions. An election wrested unwillingly from that same administration is not enough to make up for that.


From Matt Davies.

From Ted Rall.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Discord in the Axis of Evil

A soccer riot broke out in North Korea after the home side lost a World Cup qualifier to Iran. The fans were upset by a red card given to a North Korean defender--by the Syrian referee.

Gannon's Spirit Lives On

From yesterday's White House press briefing:
Q: Hugo Chavez of Venezuela has made some extremely strong anti-American statements. Is there a concern that he could turn into the Saddam Hussein of Latin America and be a haven for al Qaeda in the months or years to come?

MR. McCLELLAN: One of the things that was discussed last week with our partners from Mexico and Canada was the importance of supporting democratic institutions in our own hemisphere. And that's the broader issue here, that all of us in the Americas should work together to support the advance of democratic institutions throughout the region and not take steps back from moving forward on democracy.

We've expressed our concerns when it comes to the situation in Venezuela. Those concerns remain. Those are discussions we discuss with others, as well. And it's important to work through the Organization of American States to address some of those issues, as well.
Scott McLellan, as usual, says basically nothing. But look at the question! Is Jeff Gannon back? (Unfortunately, the White House transcript doesn't identify the reporters asking questions--everybody is "Q.")

Holden at First Draft points out at least three reasons why the question earns his "Jeff Gannon Memorial Question of the Day" award:
1) Saddam Hussein was a totalitarian leader helped to power by the CIA. Hugo Chavez is the popularly-elected democratic leader of Venezuela.

2) Hugo Chavez, to my knowledge, has not threatened either the United States or his neighbors. Saddam Hussein did in fact threaten his neighbors Iran and Kuwait (but of course that was more than a decade ago).

3) There is no evidence that Saddam Hussein ever provided safe haven to al Qaeda. I guess on this point Hugo Chavez is like Saddam, since Chavez has not provided safe haven to al Qaeda either.
Of course, McLellan, by (as usual) saying nothing, tacitly approves the multiple lies inherent in the question. His second sentence is perfectly innocuous, EXCEPT in context where it seems to imply that Venezuela is moving away from democracy, when in fact the opposite is the case.

Eli at Left I on the News points out, so I don't have to, that this question and non-answer are just part of a large smear campaign against Chavez, led by the whores at the Washington Post.

Earth has suffered irreversible damage

From Canada's CTV:
Humans are damaging the Earth at such an unprecedented rate that the strain on the planet may destroy about two-thirds of its ecosystem services, according to a landmark international study.

The consequences of humans' activities are severe and include: new diseases, sudden changes in water quality, creation of "dead zones" along the coasts, the collapse of fisheries, and shifts in regional climate, according to the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment Synthesis Report.

"At the heart of this assessment is a stark warning," said the 45-member board.

"Human activity is putting such strain on the natural functions of Earth that the ability of the planet's ecosystems to sustain future generations can no longer be taken for granted," it said.

The four-year, 2,500-page assessment was drawn up by 1,300 researchers from 95 nations in an effort to inform global policy initiatives.

Emergency Blog!

Blogger continues to be unreliable. On bad days, rather than arguing with it, I'm going to put my posts on my new Emergency Blog. If you don't see any updates here for a while, check the Emergency Blog. I've put a link to it at the top of the page.

Not Another One!

Just when you thought that maybe the Schiavo feeding-tube controversy might finally reach a resolution, we hear that the Pope now has a feeding tube. So don't expect the press to pay much attention to the fact that the supposed democracy in Iraq is falling apart, or that the top U.S. commander in Iraq authorized harsh interrogation tactics (i.e., torture) and perjured himself about it before Congress, or anything else important. You may hear about Johnnie Cochran, though.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Supremely Stupid

Via WIIIAI, I learn about today's Supreme Court decision not to overturn a lower court decision which said, in essence, that newspapers can be sued for reporting the truth. What happened was that, in a raucous city council meeting in Pennsylvania, one of the council members called the mayor and the council president "liars," "queers" and "child molesters." They sued him for slander, as is their right, but then they also sued the local paper for accurately reporting the incident. Today the Supremes said that that's okay.

A few questions arise:
  • What else do newspapers do? Quoting false statements by politicians is their bread and butter.
  • Couldn't the LA Times now be sued for repeating the truthful reporting of the false allegations in its story? How about me for linking to it?
  • I look forward to some lawyer arranging for Saddam Hussein to sue the entire US establishment media for accurately reporting the WMD lies which came from the Bushies.

Blogger back in major sucky mode

I've had many things to say today, but Blogger is constipated again.

This has to be a setup...

From CNN: Death penalty tossed because jurors discussed Bible. The Colorado Supreme Court overturned a jury's death-penalty sentence because five jurors had looked up bible verses and discussed them during the deliberation.

Now, I oppose the death penalty, and support the separation of church and state. But Christians are going to be on juries, and they'll use their interpretations of the bible, whether sensible or warped, in making their judgments. (Apparently they quoted "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth," but not "Thou shalt not kill" or "Judge not" or "We forgive those who trespass against us.") That the religious arguments may have had influence on other jurors seems likely--the ignorant religious were probably happy to have it "explained" to them, while the non-believers and half-believers were probably uncomfortable arguing with the holy rollers. Still, that's really a flaw (and maybe sometimes a strength) in the whole jury system--the aggressive jurors will tend to sway the more timid ones. The Christianity of the five jurors is as much a part of them as any trait of any of the jurors. Having jurors decide cases after removing parts of who they are seems to violate the "jury of peers" idea. The Colorado Supremes have definitely opened a can of worms with this one.

Which, of course, makes me very suspicious. The Repugs get great political mileage out of these controversial court cases--the pledge of allegiance, gay marriages, and Terri Schiavo, for instance. Get the brain-addled cable-news watchers all riled up over some relatively insignificant social issue while sending their jobs and their children overseas and robbing them blind on behalf of the corporations.

Some day we'll probably find out that one or more of the Colorado Supreme Court judges was offered a deal by Karl Rove to support this ruling. His plan? Let's mobilize the base and befuddle the opposition one more time--pretty soon we'll be rid of the filibuster rule and all other obstacles to complete dictatorship.

On this case, my opinion is that juries should probably have access to any material they want except for outside stories about the current case (of course, they already have access to the court transcripts). If they want to refresh their memories about something they read in the bible or the constitution or Hamlet or Field & Stream or Hustler, the bailiff should run to the library or the adult bookstore and get it for them.

From Ed Stein.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Crime Pays

From BartCop.

From Torturing in Iraq to Crying Over a Vegetable

Read Billmon's post about one guy who is trying to encompass the entirety of right-wing lunacy inside his tiny little brain.

Burger King's Answer to the Obesity Epidemic

A new 730-calorie, 47 grams-of-fat breakfast sandwich. They're calling it "The Enormous Omelet Sandwich." The critics are raving:

Well, okay, those critics are ALWAYS raving.

Holy Crap!

Another tsunami?
(CNN) -- U.S. officials were urging residents to evacuate coastal regions in the Indian Ocean after a earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 8.2 struck off the coast of Indonesia Monday.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration urged residents within 1,000 kilometers of the epicenter to evacuate coastal regions.

The quake was centered on the same fault line where a December 26 earthquake launched a tsunami that killed at least 175,000 people.

The director of the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said scientists there feared another tsunami might hit the area.

Charles McCreary said he could not be certain that the quake, which was 203 kilometers (126 miles) from Sibolga on Sumatra Island, would cause a tsunami.

Experts agreed the quake was massive.

"This earthquake has the potential to generate a widely destructive tsunami in the ocean or seas near the earthquake," NOAA said in a statement on its Web site. "Authorities in those regions should be aware of this possibility and take immediate action."

Two peas in a pod

How can we tell the Dumocrats...

That ALL pro-war candidates are UNACCEPTABLE in 2008? Matt Taibi summarizes the stupidity of the "national security democrats," a category which includes almost no actual Democrats, but unbelievably includes the six supposedly leading candidates for the 2008 nomination: John Kerry, John Edwards, Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, Evan Bayh, and Bill Richardson. Excerpts:
"Terror, terror, terror, terror, terror. I would say to John, 'Let me put it to you this way. The Lord Almighty, or Allah, whoever, if he came to every kitchen table in America and said, "Look, I have a Faustian bargain for you, you choose. I will guarantee to you that I will end all terror threats against the United States within the year, but in return for that there will be no help for education, no help for Social Security, no help for health care." What do you do?' My answer is that seventy-five per cent of the American people would buy that bargain." — Joe Biden, in The New Yorker, on what he would say to John Kerry
In the midst of all of this, the Democratic Party is preparing its shiny new 2008 position on Iraq and terror. Described in Goldberg's New Yorker article, the political plan is centered around a new faction that calls itself the "National Security Democrats" (a term coined by that famous liberal, Richard Holbrooke) and is led by revolting hair-plug survivor Joe Biden. The position of the "National Security Democrats" is that the party should be "more open to the idea of military action, and even preemption" and that the Democrats should "try to distance themselves from the Party's Post-Vietnam ambivalence about the projection of American power." Additionally, the Democrats ought to reconsider their traditional stance as an opposition party and learn to embrace Republican heroes like Ronald Reagan.

"Everyone knew 'Reagan is dangerous,' remember?" Biden says. "He talked about freedom, and what do we do? We say it's bad speech, dangerous speech." Democrats, he says, "are making the same mistakes again."

It would be easy to dismiss the Biden revival as a cheap stunt by a discredited party hack with all the national appeal of the streptococcus virus, except for one thing. Biden's "national security" camp includes all four of the expected main contenders for the Democratic nomination—Biden himself, Hillary Clinton, Indiana senator Evan Bayh, and John Edwards. New Mexico governor Bill Richardson, another outside contender, is also a member of this camp. We are going to be hearing a lot about "National Security Democrats" in the next three years.
The Democratic party leadership's persistent and bizarre campaign of self-condemnation and Republican bootlicking is one of those things that, on its face, makes very little logical sense. It makes cultural sense; we have come to expect that the cultural figures we call the Democrats will respond to electoral failure first by sniveling and finger-pointing, and then by puffing up their chests and telling their dates they know how to handle themselves in a bar fight. From the Republicans we expect just the opposite; beaten at the polls, they immediately start cozying up to snake-handlers and gun freaks and denouncing school lunches as socialism. It is impossible to imagine a Newt Gingrich responding, say, to LBJ's Great Society by concocting its own expensive plan to feed the poor black man—but we fully expect that a Democrat who loses an election will suddenly start to reconsider his opposition to preemtpive invasion and Reaganomics.

We expect these things, so they strike us as logical when we see them happen. But they make no sense. A merely cynical opposition party would be emboldened by poll numbers showing majority opposition to the war to court those votes. And a moral one would seize upon news of the sort coming out of Britain to argue to not only to their own voters (who would unanimously support them in this aim), but to the country at large, that the invasion of Iraq was based upon a fallacy, illegal and impeachable.

But the Democratic leaders do neither. Instead, they tell 53 percent of the country that they are mistaken, and throw their chips in with the other 47 percent, who incidentally support the other party and are not likely to ever budge. They then go further and try to argue that fighting the war on terror requires abandoning health care, education and Social Security—an idea that, let's face it, makes no f***ing sense at all.
A vote for the Iraq war should be an immediate disqualifier for any Democrat thinking of running for president--and that rules out the five Senate cretins listed above (and Richardson, too, although he didn't actually vote on it). If they're not going to run against the criminal Republican agenda, they shouldn't run at all. Selling out didn't work in 2004, and it won't work in 2008.

From Ted Rall.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Bush's first criminal war still kills

In Afghanistan, troops are still dying. Four US soldiers were killed by a land mine south of Kabul today.

Solar Project Progressing!

We made a lot of progress on my solar-power project today. Check it out on my solar project blog!

From Kirk Waters.

From David Horsey.

From Jim Morin.

While one woman slowly dies here...

People continue to die by the dozens in Iraq. A series of attacks killed 23 on Thursday and Friday, and three more US soldiers were killed today.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Venezuelan VP responds to Rummy's lack of imagination

Venezuelan Vice President Jose Vicente Rangel issued a statement in response to Dumbsfiend's complaints about Venezuela's purchasing of 100,000 AK-47 rifles from Russia. An excerpt:
The Lord of War, Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense of the United States made some statements following the same line of repeating the usual impertinences about Venezuela. These impertinences inspired by the goal of getting involved in the internal politics of other nations and violate our sovereignty, continue being utilized systematically by U.S. officials.

In Venezuela we are worried about the elevated military spending by the United States, which stands around 450 billion dollars, representing a spending that surpasses that of the 18 other military powers that follow them. The U.S. alone absorbs 36% of the world's military spending. This has generated great preoccupation in the majority of the countries around the world, since there is no justification for the building of so many devices for war.

As the government of that country has said in repeated opportunities, they are the greatest military power in history, and its objectives are to control and assure its hegemony over the rest of the world. What are they fearing in order to justify such increase in military spending? Can anybody believe such country could be invaded by a foreign power? What is really happening is that the U.S. has developed a very new doctrine through which they justify their arms buildups. This is the frequently mentioned preventive war. For them it is not about peace, but about preventive war. This is the doctrine that has the whole world worried because, as we all know, it has already been put into practice.
The Bushies have restarted the arms race by claiming the right to attack any nation at any time without reason, but choosing only to attack the weakest and most defenseless (and oil-soaked) among them. Compare the treatment of Afghanistan to that of Pakistan, or Iraq to North Korea. Like all bullies, the Bushies pick on the weak. Rangel has clearly spelled out to Rummy what the world thinks.

I Can't Imagine What India and Pakistan Might Do With F-16's

The Bushies have okayed the sale of F-16 fighter planes to both India and Pakistan, bitter nuclear rivals which go to or beyond the brink of war every five years or so. Rummy can't imagine why Venezuela would need 100,000 rifles--can he possibly guess what rival nuclear powers might do with jets capable of delivering nukes?

Our government is so completely corrupt and evil, it's almost beyond belief. Reagan/Bush Sr. armed BOTH SIDES of the bitter Iran-Iraq war in the 1980's, supplying the excuse for attacking Iraq TWICE after they decided they didn't like Saddam anymore.

The government claims that supplying Pakistan with F-16's is its reward for supporting the criminal "war on terror." Pakistan, who supported al Qaeda, nurtured the Taliban, and supplied nuclear technology to several countries we're supposed not to like. If the F-16's aren't used to nuke India, they'll probably be used to put down any opposition to Mushareff's dictatorship, making sure that freedom doesn't try to march in there.

Bloody, horrible, criminal hypocrites.

BP Plant has long history of safety violations

WSWS provides the history of problems at the Texas City refinery where an explosion on Wednesday killed 15 and injured over 100.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

I can't imagine why Donald Rumsfeld hasn't been fired

From CNN:
Rumsfeld, during a four-day trip to Latin America, raised concerns about the reports of Venezuela's rifle purchases Wednesday.

"I can't imagine what's going to happen to 100,000 AK-47s," Rumsfeld said at a news conference in Brasilia, the capital of Brazil, which shares a border with Venezuela.

"I can't understand why Venezuela needs 100,000 AK-47s. I personally hope it doesn't happen. I can't imagine, if it did happen, it would be good for the hemisphere," the defense secretary said.
Look in the mirror, jerkwad. You lose more weaponry than that every morning before you have your All-Bran. Over $400 billion is being wasted on weaponry for your Pentagon every friggin' year, NOT counting the money spent on your insane wars. Your boss has been rattling swords at Venezuela ever since he got appointed, and has tried various times to overthrow Venezuela's democratically-elected government (jealous, I guess). Venezuela needs 100,000 AK-47's to defend itself from you, Dumbsfiend.

If the Repugs really want to promote a culture of life, they should disconnect Rummy's feeding tube.

It really is amazing how frequently Rummy and Condiliar openly state how clueless they are, and they don't get called on it.

Refinery Explosion

Last year, when a series of explosions rocked the BP refinery in Texas City, Texas, I suggested that the hasty elimination of terrorism as a possible cause by the FBI was suspicious. A reader familiar with the oil industry e-mailed me to tell how common refinery fires and explosions really are, so I shouldn't be too suspicious.

Nevertheless--that same refinery was hit with a huge explosion yesterday, killing at least 14 and injuring 100. And, just like last year, the spokesmodels are quickly saying they don't know what it was, but they sure know what it wasn't:
Mr. Parus said that the cause was not yet determined but that the explosion occurred in an isomerization unit, which raises the octane level of gasoline. Camille Dass, a BP spokeswoman, said foul play was not suspected.
The explosion caused oil prices to rise a little, but it had a bigger impact on gasoline, which hit a new record high. As my brother pointed out, a damaged refinery actually reduces demand for crude oil while reducing the supply of gasoline and other refined products.

From Lalo Alcaraz.

From J.D. Crowe.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Ha ha!

Roger Clemens' Hummer was stolen. His kid had driven it to high school.

Sorry. That's my schadenfreude for the day. I hope the thieves sold the parts and gave the money to poor people. Then again, maybe Mike Piazza stole it.

"Peak Oil" and "Half the Oil is Gone" are not the same thing

Sorry--this is a relatively new pet peeve of mine. I first learned of the concept of peak oil last June from Richard Heinberg, speaking at the Midwest Renewable Energy Fair. I read his book and a couple of others on the subject, and it has become a frequent topic on this blog. As Heinberg explained it, and the name implies, peak oil describes the time of maximum oil production for a well, a field, a nation or a planet. Since the production curves for these entities frequently resemble bell curves, some suggest that peak oil occurs when half of the oil is gone. This is certainly possible in some cases, but there is no reason whatsoever that it has to be the case (nor could we ever really know even if it was). So it really bugs me when so-called experts on the subject claim that "peak production" and "half gone" are identical. The latest culprit is Michael Klare, author of Resource Wars, one of the first books I read after 9/11 to try and figure out what was really happening. Here's a paragraph from Klare's recent article on TomDispatch:
Where one stands on this critical issue depends on one's estimate of how much petroleum the Earth originally possessed. Those like Deffeyes, who contend that peak oil will arrive soon, believe that our petroleum inheritance amounted to roughly 2,000 billion barrels when commercial oil drilling first commenced in 1859. Since we have already consumed approximately 950 billion barrels and are now burning some 30 billion barrels each year, in this scenario the halfway point of total world extraction -- and so the moment of peak production -- should be just a year or two away. By contrast, those who hold that peak oil is safely in the distance claim that the world's total inheritance is closer to 3,000 billion barrels. This more optimistic figure would include the 950 billion barrels already consumed, "proven" reserves of approximately 1,150 billion barrels, and as-yet-undiscovered fields believed to hold another 900 billion barrels. This latter amount, it should be noted, represents the equivalent of all the known oil in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa combined.
To be fair, Klare does say earlier in the article that peak oil occurs "usually when half of the total amount of oil has been extracted," so at least he's hinting that they're not identical concepts. But to claim that the halfway point of total world extraction will be (has been?) the "moment" of peak production pretty clearly indicates that he believes they are identical concepts.

But they aren't. The total amount of oil that existed in the world before commercial drilling began in 1859 was strictly a matter of two things--geology and definitions (sweet crude, sour crude, oil sands, etc.--how much counts as "oil?"). While impossible to accurately estimate, the actual amount according to any particular definition was fixed and finite. Peak oil, however, depends on geology, definitions, technology, economics, politics and probably lots of other things. Where is the oil located, who controls it, how hard is it to get, how much money will they get for it? The interaction of all of these things and more will determine how much oil gets pumped out of the ground in a given year, and will also determine in which year the most oil gets pumped. The fact that the amount of oil is finite guarantees that there will be a peak year, but there is no reason at all that it has to coincide with the "half-gone" date, even if we had a clue as to when that would be, which we don't.

If I had to, I would guess that we'll reach peak oil any day now, but that probably well under half of the oil will be gone by then. It's just that most of what's left is too hard to get, or of too poor quality, ever to justify its extraction economically. There is an absolute limit--if oil takes more energy to get than it has in it, it won't be extracted.

PS: Here are a couple of analogies to explain why "peak extraction" and "half gone" are different. Consider a bowl of spaghetti sitting in front of me when I'm hungry. Peak extraction will occur almost immediately, but it will be a little while before the spaghetti is half gone. Or consider manned planetary exploration. This activity, like US oil production, peaked in the early 1970's (counting the moon as a planet). New technology may someday create a new peak when other planets and moons in the solar system are explored, and possibly even a planet or two outside the solar system. Unless Einstein was wrong, however, peak planetary exploration will occur long before half of all planets in the universe, or even the Milky Way, are explored.

World oil doesn't match either scenario closely, but I think it is probably closer to the second one than the first. Higher oil prices will make some old fields and some new exploration economical, but they will also make alternatives, including conservation, more attractive. What remains, no matter how much there is, will not be worth getting.

The Culture of Life Lie

Tom Tomorrow completely blows away the hypocrisy coming from the chief sleazebags runningruining our country--Tom DeLay and George W. Bush.

From aWol:
This is a complex case with serious issues, but in extraordinary circumstances like this, it is wisest to always err on the side of life.
After reminding us of W's pitiful record of executions as governor of Texas and how he has obviously erred on the side of death in starting his various wars, Tom Tomorrow quotes Digby:
By now most people who read liberal blogs are aware that George W. Bush signed a law in Texas that expressly gave hospitals the right to remove life support if the patient could not pay and there was no hope of revival, regardless of the patient's family's wishes. It is called the Texas Futile Care Law. Under this law, a baby was removed from life support against his mother's wishes in Texas just this week. A 68 year old man was given a temporary reprieve by the Texas courts just yesterday.

Conservatives join with liberals and ACLU to fight Patriot Act

Led by former Georgia Republican Congressman Bob Barr, the "Patriots to Restore Checks and Balances" aims to get Congress to rescind three of the worst provisions of the Fascism Act of 2001:
The group said it would focus its efforts on urging Congress to scale back three provisions of the law that let federal agents conduct "sneak and peek" searches of a home or business without immediately notifying the subject of such searches; demand records from institutions like libraries and medical offices; and use a broad definition of terrorism in pursuing suspects.
Paul Weyrich, who is chairman of the Free Congress Foundation and a prominent conservative who joined the coalition, said he thought the administration, and in particular the former attorney general, John Ashcroft, had adopted an "absolutist" defense of the law.

Mr. Weyrich said he took offense at comments by Mr. Ashcroft suggesting that if people raised concerns about the law, "you were aiding and abetting terrorists. I don't think my colleagues here ought to be put in that position."

Other conservatives who voiced concerns Tuesday included Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Taxpayer Reform; David Keane, chairman of the American Conservative Union, and leaders of the Second Amendment Foundation and other gun-rights groups.
Remember, the Bushies are not "conservative;" they're insane, as are their friends in the "opposition" like the Clintons and John Kerry. Real conservatives, like real liberals, oppose the wars, secrecy and fascism of the current misadministration.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Finally Gettin' Afta CAFTA

Dena has been sending me updates on the anti-CAFTA campaign. CAFTA is the attempt by our corporate criminals to extend the horrors of NAFTA to Central America and the Dominican Republic--more cheap labor, less environmental and worker protection, fewer jobs here, fewer rights there. Check out the CISPES site to see what you can do to stop CAFTA, or just call your Congresscritters and let them know that Bush-Clinton style "free trade" is a crime that is destroying this country AND the rest of the hemisphere.

If you really want to learn about CAFTA, Global Exchange is offering a trip to Nicaragua in May that sounds very interesting. I'm going to wait until I've had a few weeks of intensive Spanish training, probably this August in Mexico, before I go on any more Global Exchange tours to Latin America. Doesn't mean you have to, though!

The U.S. Imperial Project and Venezuela

Mary sent me a link to an Aljazeera article about a new book, El Codigo Chavez, about the many attempts by the U.S. government to overthrow Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez. The book is based on Freedom of Information Act requests by author Eva Golinger.

Meanwhile, on Counterpunch, James Petras describes the likely direction the Bushies will take from here to overthrow Chavez and break up the Venezuela-Cuba alliance--using the proxy fascists currently in charge in Colombia.

Are you ready for the crash?

Non-delusional economists from across the political spectrum see massive economic troubles straight ahead for the U.S.--the twin budget and trade deficits combined with increasing oil costs leading to a falling dollar, rising interest rates, and depression. I cited former Reaganite Paul Craig Roberts' column yesterday. Also from the sane segment of the right, Stephen Roach writes for Morgan Stanley about how last Wednesday, March 16, with the announcement of a record current account deficit, a new high for oil prices, and a new low for GM stock, may eventually be seen as a tipping point. And from the left, Stirling Newberry writes for Truthout about how the Bushies are running the federal government exactly like Bernie Ebbers ran WorldCom or Ken Lay ran Enron--into the ground.

From Matt Davies.

From Rob Rogers.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Ann Arbor News on the peace march

The News reports on yesterday's event in Ann Arbor. I am quoted, having been interviewed by a News reporter during the march. I like the quotes from Rep. John Dingell:
Dingell, D-Dearborn, called Iraq a "sorry mess" and said the war was foolish and not necessary. He applauded the protesters for providing "great leadership."

"Public opinion does rule government, even when you have a man like George Bush," said Dingell, whose words were then drowned out by applause and cheers. "I beg you. Persist. We will prevail."

Fantasy Empire

Paul Craig Roberts calls the American delusions about Iraq and outsourcing "a threat greater than terrorism." Excerpt:
Delusion has settled over America. Washington cannot tell fact from fantasy. Neither can sycophantic media nor nothink economists.

The Bush administration is the first government in history to initiate a war based entirely on fantasy--fantasy about nonexistent "weapons of mass destruction," fantasy about nonexistent "terrorist links," fantasy about "liberating" a people from their culture, fantasy about a "cakewalk" invasion, fantasy about America's omnipotence.
The reality is that an ignorant and blundering Bush administration has created a Shi'ite crescent from Iran to Lebanon that is revolutionizing the Middle East. The reality will not penetrate the Bush administration. Reality contradicts Bush fantasy and is "against us." Facts that don't support Bush fantasy are "liberal" and "anti-American." Truth is dismissed as anti-Bush propaganda.

It is America that has undergone regime change. The Bush administration constitutes a Jacobin revolution. Its fanatics have declared world war on political diversity. The first victim of Bush's "war on terror" is the Bill of Rights. In its place we have an incipient police state.

One might easily conclude that Bush is first among the deluded, but the more one observes economists' romance with outsourcing, the more one wonders if economists are not the most deluded of all.

Outsourcing converts domestic supplied goods and services into imports. It divorces Americans from the incomes and careers associated with the production of the goods and services that Americans consume.

WaPo blathers about South America again

WIIIAI very nicely dissects the latest rabid attempt by the Washington Post to put South America back in its place as a colony of the United States, calling for "outside help" for Bolivia to counter the "meddling" by Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez.

From Slowpoke.

1984 continues

From Ted Rall.

How about Henry Kissinger as ambassador to Chile? Ken Lay as chairman of the SEC? Bush Sr. as ambassador to Panama? Actually, none of Rall's suggestions, nor mine, are any more ridiculous than the appointments aWol has already made.

Yesterday's March in Ann Arbor

We had our second-anniversary Iraq war protest yesterday here in Ann Arbor. I haven't seen any estimates yet, but we probably had around 1000 people. The march started with an indoor rally at the Millenium Club on First Street. Various activities like sign making and letter writing preceded the speeches. Speakers included a local high-school activist and a member of Military Families Speak Out, whose son is just about to go to Iraq with the Marines. Also speaking were Ann Arbor Mayor John Hieftje, longtime Congressman John Dingell, and Iraqi-American Dr. Ismat Hamid. Dingell was particularly harsh in his criticism of the non-stop lying which oozes from the Bush administration. After the speeches, the crowd headed for the streets, walking down Liberty Street all the way to the UM diag. Veterans for Peace had set up their Arlington Midwest display to commemorate the lives lost in the war.

Mayor John Hieftje.

Congressman John Dingell.

Dr. Ismat Hamid talked about the plight of Iraqi children.

The march gets started.

On Liberty Street. I'm not sure if the "double plus good" is meant as irony or was just a mistake--saying "Bush is Double Plus Ungood" would have been just as good an Orwellian reference, but with a clearer meaning.

Arlington Midwest on the Diag.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

The Crime Continues

Two years later, and the U.S. military continues its brutal occupation of Iraq. The previous dictator has been captured and mock elections staged, but mostly people just continue to die, die, die. By far the biggest criminal of the 21st century so far, George Worthless Bush continues to deny any wrongdoing or errors. Somehow, he and his co-conspirators have been able to spin the long-predicted chaos this war has caused into a hallucinatory "march of freedom," and large parts of the American public have been so brainwashed as to fall for it. Reality approaches quickly, however, and the disgust with the American Imperial Project felt by the rest of the world will likely have a major impact soon, especially in the economic area. Through their reckless wars and tax cuts, the Bushies have put the U.S. basically into bankruptcy, and the rest of the world they have so rudely ignored is likely to treat the Bushies like the Bushies have treated the poor and middle class in this country with the recent bankruptcy bill--like dirt, that is.

There is going to be a rally and protest march here in Ann Arbor today, with activities starting at 1 pm and the march at 2:30. See the Michigan Peaceworks site for details.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

From Ed Stein.

Last Things First

From Rob Rogers.

From Jeff Danziger.

Actually, since the World Bank is simply a tool of empire and oppression, we can all HOPE that Wolfowitless will screw it up.

Voodoo Foreign Policy

From Anne Telnaes.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Blogger in major funk

Getting every post online has become a major chore. If this continues much longer I'll have to go back to manual blog mode.

The Cultural Revolution in America

Billmon compares current anti-academic hate campaigns in the U.S. to the bloody cultural revolution in China.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

From Ted Rall.


Obviously the world's oil traders know that ANWR's trickle won't make any significant difference in the oil supply situation--if it would, yesterday's Senate vote to allow drilling there might have slowed the inevitable rise in oil prices. But as long as they can rape Mother Nature, the Repugs don't care.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Comb-licker to run World Bank

Paul Wolfowitz just moves to a different way to dominate and rob the world's poor.

The man doesn't have any self-awareness at all

I like the idea of people running for office -- a positive effect when you run for office, you know? Maybe some will run office, say, Vote for me -- I look forward to blowing up America -- I don’t know. I don’t know if that’ll be their platform or not. But it’s -- I don’t think so. I think people generally run for office say, Vote for me -- I’m looking forward to fixing your potholes or making sure you’ve got bread on the table.
--W, commenting on "democracy" in Lebanon.

Yeah, George, you ran on fixing potholes and putting bread on the table. Right. You ran on fear and lies, and then had to cheat to win.


A new record for oil; not likely to last long.

China, Taiwan, Japan and the U.S.

In a lengthy article, Chalmers Johnson reports on the changing balance of power in Asia (and the world), and how Taiwan and China might well work out their differences if not for belligerent interference from the U.S. and Japan. Perhaps most disgraceful is his summary of neonut pressure to remilitarize Japan in violation of its constitution. This seems to be both a greedy attempt to develop yet another market for America's arms merchants and a way to provoke China. Johnson concludes:
Why should China's emergence as a rich, successful country be to the disadvantage of either Japan or the United States? History teaches us that the least intelligent response to this development would be to try to stop it through military force. As a Hong Kong wisecrack has it, China has just had a couple of bad centuries and now it's back. The world needs to adjust peacefully to its legitimate claims -- one of which is for other nations to stop militarizing the Taiwan problem -- while checking unreasonable Chinese efforts to impose its will on the region. Unfortunately, the trend of events in East Asia suggests we may yet see a repetition of the last Sino-Japanese conflict, only this time the U.S. is unlikely to be on the winning side.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Liberated to Death

Baghdad is now one of the world's most dangerous cities. From AP:
By day or night, Baghdad has become a cacophony of automatic weapons fire, explosions and sudden death, its citizens living in constant fear of being shot by insurgents or the security forces meant to protect them.

Streets are crammed with passenger cars fighting for space with armored vehicles and pickups loaded with hooded and heavily armed Iraqi soldiers.

Hundreds of bombs in recent months have made mosques, public squares, sidewalks and even some central streets extremely dangerous places in Baghdad.

On Haifa Street, rocket-propelled grenades sometimes fly through traffic. Rashid Street is a favorite for roadside bombers near the Tigris River.

And then there's Sadoun Street, once teeming with Western hotels and home to Firdous Square -- the landmark roundabout in central Baghdad where Iraqis toppled a statue of Saddam Hussein.

In the two years since Hussein's ouster, Sadoun Street has become an avenue of blast walls -- thick concrete slabs 6 to 12 feet high -- that protect government buildings and hotels now home to the few Western contractors and journalists who remain.
The Sarajevo of the zeroes, and this time it's entirely the fault of the Americans.


If you haven't had your daily dose of outrage yet, read this post by Bob Harris. In the middle of describing the outrage, Bob defines the core of what a corporation actually is: "A fictitious entity created solely to limit liability and accountability, yet mandated by a fiduciary responsibility to maximize profit."

Washington Post coming to terms with Hugo Chavez

The Post has been almost uniformly rabid in its criticism of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. But today's article by Kevin Sullivan is much more even-handed than the previous crap. The article focuses on Chavez's efforts to counter US imperialism, making deals with other South American countries, China, Russia, India, Iran, and of course Cuba.

I watched The Revolution Will Not Be Televised again last night, and was reminded of the incredible charisma Chavez possesses. It was certainly a special privilege for me to be in the crowd for one of his speeches in Caracas last April. The electric, rock-concert atmosphere amongst the thousands of Chavistas gathered in the streets was unforgettable. Chavez started his speech by leading the crowd in the interminable Venezuelan national anthem, with a better voice than most rock stars possess.

Chavez is definitely a force to be reckoned with, and the Post seems to be reluctantly coming to that conclusion.

BTW, Jerri sent me links to several articles on Chavez:

Washington Post coming to terms with Hugo Chavez

The Post has been almost uniformly rabid in its criticism of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. But today's article by Kevin Sullivan is much more even-handed than the previous crap. The article focuses on Chavez's efforts to counter US imperialism, making deals with other South American countries, China, Russia, India, Iran, and of course Cuba.

I watched The Revolution Will Not Be Televised again last night, and was reminded of the incredible charisma Chavez possesses. It was certainly a special privilege for me to be in the crowd for one of his speeches in Caracas last April. The electric, rock-concert atmosphere amongst the thousands of Chavistas gathered in the streets was unforgettable. Chavez started his speech by leading the crowd in the interminable Venezuelan national anthem, with a better voice than most rock stars possess.

Chavez is definitely a force to be reckoned with, and the Post seems to be reluctantly coming to that conclusion.

BTW, Jerri sent me links to several articles on Chavez:


Via Juan Cole: Halliburton charged the Pentagon $27.5 million for $82,100 worth of cooking and heating fuel. The NY Times says that's just one part of a total of $108 million in overcharges by Halliburton.

Everything, EVERYTHING this criminal government does is intended to put money in the pockets of their friends and supporters. Halliburton was a criminal corporation before Dick Cheney ran it, while Dick Cheney ran it, and continues to be one now. But while petty criminals get locked up for years, big time crooks like the people running Halliburton (and our government) stay free and get richer.

To the lifeboats!

Yet another gem from Cyndy's My list. This one is by John Michael Greer, suggesting that community approaches to the coming energy crisis are the best ones, and that hoping for top-down governmental solutions is a waste of time:
The first point that has to be grasped is that proposals for system-wide, top-down change - getting the Federal government to do something constructive about the situation, for instance - are a waste of time. That sort of change isn't going to happen. It's not simply a matter of who's currently in power, although admittedly that doesn't help. The core of the problem is that even proposing changes on a scale that would do any good would be political suicide.

Broadly speaking, our situation is this: our society demands energy inputs on a scale, absolute and per capita, that can't possibly be maintained for more than a little while longer. Sustainable energy sources can only provide a small fraction of the energy we're used to getting from fossil fuels. As fossil fuel supplies dwindle, in other words, everybody will have to get used to living on a small fraction of the energy we've been using as a matter of course.
Greer offers several suggestions, and concludes with this metaphor:
Imagine that you're on an ocean liner that's headed straight for a well marked shoal of rocks. Half the crew is dead drunk, and the other half has already responded to your attempts to alert them by telling you that you obviously don't know the first thing about navigation, and everything will be all right. At a certain point, you know, the ship will be so close to the rocks that its momentum will carry it onto them no matter what evasive actions the helmsman tries to make. You're not sure, but it looks as though that point is already well past.

What do you do? You can keep on pounding on the door to the bridge, trying to convince the crew of the approaching danger. You can join the prayer group down in the galley; they're convinced that if they pray fervently enough, God will save them from shipwreck. You can decide that everyone's doomed and go get roaring drunk. Or you can go around quietly to the other passengers, and encourage those people who have noticed the situation (or are willing to notice it) to break out the life jackets, assemble near the lifeboats, take care of people who need help, and otherwise deal with the approaching wreck in a way that will salvage as much as possible.

From Ed Stein.

From Bruce Plante.

PS: Shame on you, Debbie Stabenow.

Ha ha! -- Nelson Muntz

From Clay Bennett.

Our State-run Media

The NY Times ran a lengthy piece about the Bush administration's use of video news releases (VNR's) to sell their programs to us through local "news" programs. Tom Tomorrow has two interesting followups. Basically, it appears that not only is the government distributing propaganda which local stations gladly show to help fill out their interminable news programs (BTW, a report of a possible terrorist threat in Detroit was the THIRD story on Fox News last night)--the government is actually PAYING them to show this crap. Basically, your tax dollars go first to pay the government to develop programs which are not in your best interest, like Medicare "reform." Then they use more tax dollars to hire a PR firm to make some VNR's. Then, they use your tax dollars to pay your local news stations to show you this propaganda. And finally, you have to pay the interest on the hundreds of billions of dollars spent which are going mainly into the pockets of big pharma CEO's and shareholders.

Just one more of the hundreds of schemes that our corporate political parties have devised to further concentrate wealth in the hands of those who have way too much already. (The Times article points out that the Clinton administration did this crap too, but not on the scale of the Bushies. They're all crooks, either way.)

Monday, March 14, 2005

Progress on my solar project

The main reason there have been few posts here lately is that Blogger hasn't been working. The secondary reason is that I've been spending much of my spare time finding and buying the stuff I need for my solar energy project. You can follow my progress at the blog I set up for the project.

Haiti--The forgotten Bush mess

The Bushies assisted in the violent overthrow of the democractically-elected Aristide government, and a year later the place is worse than ever, which is unfortunately saying a lot for Haiti.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

It's About Time! SUV sales decline

From Reuters:
Rising U.S. gasoline prices are hurting sales of large sport utility vehicles and pickup trucks, according to some industry analysts, a trend that could stall a major engine of profits for Detroit's automakers.

The gas-thirsty, full-sized SUV segment lost 1.2 percentage points of U.S. market share over the last two months and large pickups were down about 2 percentage points, according to, which tracks the industry.

Fuel-efficient compact cars, on the other hand, gained 2.2 percentage points of market share in the same period.
It's a start. I'm afraid that a lot of environmentalists and some politicians see improving the fuel efficiency of the American automotive fleet as the only thing necessary to solve our energy woes. Eventually, it's going to take a lot more than that. Somebody driving a Prius alone 400 miles a week is actually more a part of the problem than someone carpooling 100 miles a week in an Expedition. But until people decide to use walking and bicycles and mass transit, and make commuting distance a prime factor in buying a house or taking a job, we're going to have an energy problem.

That said, getting many of the behemoths off the road will certainly be pleasant! Let the oil soar!

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Friday, March 11, 2005

Chalabi for the Nobel Peace Prize

Riverbend nominates the scoundrel because hatred of Chalabi seems to be the one thing all Iraqis can agree on.
I’ve learned the best way to mediate these arguments is to let them develop into what they will. Let the yellers yell, the shouters shout and the name-calling and innuendos ensue. The important part is the end- how to allow the debating parties to part friends or relatives, or (at the very least) to make sure they do not part sworn enemies for life. It’s simple, no matter what their stand is, all you have to do is get a couple of words in towards the end. The huffy silence at the end of the debate must be subtly taken advantage of and the following words murmured as if the thought just occurred that moment:

“You know who’s really bad? Ahmed Chalabi. He’s such a lowlife and villain.”

Voila. Like magic the air clears, eyebrows are raised in agreement and all arguing parties suddenly unite to confirm this very valid opinion with nodding heads, somewhat strained laughter and charming anecdotes about his various press appearances and ridiculous sense of fasion. We’re all friends again, and family once more. We’re all lovey-dovey Iraqis who can agree nicely with each other. In short, we are at peace with each other and the world…

And that is why Ahmed Chalabi deserves the Nobel Peace Prize.
Who do we have here that can serve such a role? Michael Jackson? Hillary Clinton?

My Solar Energy Project in Underway!

I've started a new blog to track the progress of the project.

Mexican Public Opposes Desafuero

Narconews reports that recent polls show strong public opposition to the tactics of the PAN and PRI parties in Mexico. They have been attempting to remove all political rights from Mexico City's governor Andrés Manuel López Obrador so that he can't run for president in 2006. López Obrador has led the PAN and PRI candidates in most recent polls.

Chances are that this popular uprising against Clinton-Bush favorite President Vicente Fox's plan to silence a rival won't be featured as part of the "flowering of democracy" BS being spread so thickly lately.

The claim that democracy is on the march in the Middle East is a fraud

Seumas Milne in the Guardian says it better than I've been doing:
The claim that democracy is on the march in the Middle East is a fraud. It is not democracy, but the US military, that is on the march. The Palestinian elections in January took place because of the death of Yasser Arafat - they would have taken place earlier if the US and Israel hadn't known that Arafat was certain to win them - and followed a 1996 precedent. The Iraqi elections may have looked good on TV and allowed Kurdish and Shia parties to improve their bargaining power, but millions of Iraqis were unable or unwilling to vote, key political forces were excluded, candidates' names were secret, alleged fraud widespread, the entire system designed to maintain US control and Iraqis unable to vote to end the occupation. They have no more brought democracy to Iraq than US-orchestrated elections did to south Vietnam in the 1960s and 70s. As for the cosmetic adjustments by regimes such as Egypt's and Saudi Arabia's, there is not the slightest sign that they will lead to free elections, which would be expected to bring anti-western governments to power.

What has actually taken place since 9/11 and the Iraq war is a relentless expansion of US control of the Middle East, of which the threats to Syria are a part. The Americans now have a military presence in Saudi Arabia, Iraq, the UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman and Qatar - and in not one of those countries did an elected government invite them in. Of course Arabs want an end to tyrannical regimes, most of which have been supported over the years by the US, Britain and France: that is the source of much anti-western Muslim anger. The dictators remain in place by US licence, which can be revoked at any time - and managed elections are being used as another mechanism for maintaining pro-western regimes rather than spreading democracy.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Blogger Difficulties

Blogger wasn't working pretty much all day. Suffice it to say that people continued to die in Iraq, oil and the dollar both went down, the administration did several outrageous things, many humorous cartoons were drawn, and several excellent op-eds were written.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005


NEW YORK (MarketWatch) -- Crude futures climbed to a new record high Tuesday at $55.70 a barrel, exceeding the previous high of $55.67 a barrel hit last October. The contract for April delivery was last trading up 1.5 percent at $55.40 a barrel.

Meanwhile, the dollar keeps falling against the euro and yen. A euro costs $1.3405 right now, compared to $1.3346 yesterday.

NY Times continues to kiss W's butt

Put a fantasy spin on multiple failures, line them up in a row, and call it success. From a sycophantic article by Todd Purdum in today's NY Times:
He has gone out of his way not to crow, or even to take direct credit. But not quite two years after he began the invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein, and not quite two months after a second Inaugural Address in which he spoke of "ending tyranny," President Bush seems entitled to claim as he did on Tuesday that a "thaw has begun" in the broader Middle East.

At the very least, Mr. Bush is feeling the glow of the recent flurry of impulses toward democracy in Iraq, the Palestinian territories, Lebanon and even Egypt and Saudi Arabia, where events have put him on a bit of a roll and some of his sharpest critics on the defensive. It now seems just possible that Mr. Bush and aides like Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz were not wrong to argue that the "status quo of despotism cannot be ignored or appeased, kept in a box or cut off," as the president put it in a speech at the National Defense University here.
This is all such puke, but Purdum gets outdone by Bill Clinton in hypocrisy:
Mr. Clinton was more ebullient, noting that the Iraqi elections "went better than anyone could have imagined." In Lebanon, he said, "the Syrians are going to have to get out of there and give the Lebanese their country back, and I think the fact that the Lebanese are in the street demanding it is wonderful."

Asked about huge demonstrations on Tuesday, sponsored by Hezbollah, that demanded just the opposite, Mr. Clinton said: "I find it inconceivable that most Lebanese wouldn't like it if they had their country back. You know, they want their country back and they ought to get it."
More likely, you pompous sellout, they'll get their civil war back. Demonstrating further that we're stuck in a one-party plutocracy in this country, Purdum quotes other Democrats buying the BS--Joe Lieberman obviously, but even Ted Kennedy.

The US continues to support dictators in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Uzbekistan and elsewhere; it supports Israel's brutal occupations; it runs its own in Afghanistan and Iraq; and is becoming less democratic by the day at home. Freedom may be on the march, but it's marching right off of this planet.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

The Bush Crime Family Strikes Again

George W. Bush, who made his millions because he was the son of a vice-president and president, and who became president through the sleazy manipulations of his brother Jeb and Uncle John Ellis of Fox News (among others), is taking care of the family. Uncle Bucky is making huge bucks from defense contracts, and sleazy brother Neil, who should probably be in jail many times over, has yet another scam going, aided and abetted by his big brother's "government."

Banana Republicans.

Al Qaeda? They blow stuff up?

I am just now reading the latest great Bush-bashing from former Reaganite Paul Craig Roberts when I come across this paragraph:
Syria had absolutely nothing to gain from the assassination of former Lebanese prime Minister Hariri. In fact, the assassination was a catastrophe for the Syrian government. It is Osama bin Laden's aim, and perhaps Iran's, to destabilize Lebanon and Syria in order to draw the US in deeper. Instability serves bin Laden's revolutionary purposes and aids Iran by creating new problems for the US in the region.
And I realize that this is the first time I've seen anyone suggest that al Qaeda might have been behind the Hariri assassination. I've seen Syria, Hezbollah, Israel and the US all suggested--but why not al Qaeda?

Of course, for the Bushies every terrorist attack is not a crime to be investigated but an opportunity to be exploited.

Another Prison-Torture Horror Story

Ahmed Omar Abu Ali, American citizen, was held at US request in Saudi Arabia for twenty months, and then brought back to the US to face arraignment. The best the "government" can come up with is that Abu Ali may have participated in a discussion where the assassination of aWol was discussed--not planned, prepared for, whatever--just chatting, apparently. Elaine Cassel on Counterpunch has the details.

Euro up 1.6 cents; Oil up to $54.55

Two can play the democracy game

Huge Pro-Syrian Protest Fills Square and Streets in Beirut:

Hundreds of thousands of pro-Syrian protesters poured into a central Beirut square this afternoon, in answer to a call by the militant Hezbollah group for a demonstration to counter weeks of huge rallies demanding that Syrian forces leave Lebanon.

Thousands in the huge crowds waved Lebanese flags, as called for by the head of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah.
Surely hypocrisy is flowing in many directions, including some from me, I'm sure. But the mainstream media mill has made the rallies in the Ukraine and Lebanon as signs of flowering democracy, while the anti-"Great Satan" rallies in Iran 25 years ago and the huge anti-war marches here two years ago were largely ignored. Today's rally in Beirut will test the value of the years of propaganda against Hezbollah--I'm sure some of the media will be portraying the entire crowd as a bunch of terrorists (if they portray it at all).

I remember reading somewhere about some famous person being asked, in fairly recent years, what he thought was the true meaning of the French revolution. He replied "It's too soon to tell." And I think that's probably the most honest approach to recent developments. Two years ago, things were far from perfect in Iraq, the Ukraine, or Lebanon. Huge amounts of instability have been introduced into all three countries, much of it from the outside, and most of that from the US. In Iraq, the instability seems to have made things substantially worse, at least for the time being. Whether whoever survives the next five years in these countries lives in a freer society than before is a very open question. My belief is that war is the ultimate crime, and no matter what emerges eventually out the other side never justifies starting a war. The death, destruction, terror and misery war causes are real and terrible, something which no number of purple fingers can ever justify.

So, to all those idiot cartoonists showing democracy dominoes and the like--not one of these countries is a success story yet. I know you're helping W create his own reality, but people are dying by the thousands in the process.

Dollar's falling again

The Euro is up over a penny against the dollar today.

I'd rather not see that...

From Bill Schorr.


George Snufalopogus and his Nightline guests managed to talk for half an hour last night without ever mentioning that oil is a finite resource, that new discoveries have lagged far behind extraction for decades, that the oil that remains will be harder and more costly to get, or that oil production must and will peak, and likely soon. As far as former Energy Secretary Bill Richardson and the slick writer from the Economist (I can't recall his name) were concerned, all this is is a hump to be gotten over with a little diplomacy and some token efforts at conservation and alternative energy. Richardson's main point was that the Bushies should be using diplomacy with our "allies" like Saudi Arabia to get the cheap oil flowing again.

It goes without saying that George's guest list did not include Richard Heinberg, Kenneth Deffeyes, Matthew Simmons, Colin Campbell, Michael Ruppert, or anyone else to speak about peak oil.

And another thing, George. Venezuela's president's name is Hugo CHA-vez, not "sha-VEZ." You probably don't know how annoying it is when names get pronounced wrong, do you, Mr. Snufalopogus?


George Snufalopogus and his Nightline guests managed to talk for half an hour last night without ever mentioning that oil is a finite resource, that new discoveries have lagged far behind extraction for decades, that the oil that remains will be harder and more costly to get, or that oil production must and will peak, and likely soon. As far as former Energy Secretary Bill Richardson and the slick writer from the Economist (I can't recall his name) were concerned, all this is is a hump to be gotten over with a little diplomacy and some token efforts at conservation and alternative energy. Richardson's main point was that the Bushies should be using diplomacy with our "allies" like Saudi Arabia to get the cheap oil flowing again.

It goes without saying that George's guest list did not include Richard Heinberg, Kenneth Deffeyes, Matthew Simmons, Colin Campbell, Michael Ruppert, or anyone else to speak about peak oil.

And another thing, George. Venezuela's president's name is Hugo CHA-vez, not "sha-VEZ." You probably don't know how annoying it is when names get pronounced wrong, do you, Mr. Snufalopogus?

Monday, March 07, 2005

"The world should forget about cheap oil"

That's a quote from Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, from a CNN article about Iran's President Mohammad Khatami's three-day visit to Caracas which begins tomorrow. While CNN's article isn't as hostile to Chavez as a typical Washington Post article, they still choose as their Venezuelan expert a Chavez-hating former member of the old plutocracy.

BTW, WIIIAI informs me that rising energy costs will be the topic of tonight's Nightline on ABC.

As they have done to Jose Padilla, they can do to you

Mike Whitney explains the significance of the Padilla case:
The case of Jose Padilla appeared in the media again this week, when a lower court ruled (as it has twice before) that the administration must either charge Padilla or release him from prison. The Bush team has no intention of doing either. Padilla is the "test case" to establish that the President can jail a US citizen indefinitely without charging him with a crime. This "precedent" is central to the administration's plans for unlimited power. Tyranny is built on the foundation of arbitrary imprisonment; a principle that Bush and his colleagues fully understand.
What makes the case so extraordinary is that its meaning is completely straightforward. The court is not being asked to quibble over inconsequential aspects of the law. They are being asked, point blank, whether or not American citizens have ANY rights at all. It's just that simple.

Padilla has been deprived of ALL of his rights, not merely a few. So, we must ask ourselves: Are US citizens entitled to any (definite) legal protections or are these protections simply granted at the President's discretion? And, if our personal freedom is dependent on the subjective whims of the President, then why talk about "inalienable" rights?

Why, indeed?

There's nothing haphazard in the way that the Padilla case has developed. In fact, there are various organizations that operate openly within the country that are determined to change the fundamental principles of American justice. With Padilla these groups have won a major victory and struck a mortal blow at the very heart of our system. As long as Padilla sits in prison, deprived of all his constitutional rights, there are no guarantees of personal liberty in America.
The Padilla case alone should be sufficient grounds for impeaching the whole damn lot of Bushies. They took oaths to uphold the Constitution, and chose instead to destroy it.

Surviving Peak Oil

Another fine article from Cyndy's My list. Excerpts:

Let us compare two average national footprints:

Goods & Services7.70.5
Total Acres23.02.1


The meat heavy diet that most Americans eat contributes to a large footprint. Food animals, especially cattle, are inefficient at converting feed nutrition to meat nutrition. Eating vegetable protein directly reduces food costs in both the household and Earth budgets. Switching to sustainably raised and efficient meats, such as organic poultry and fish, also helps. (Goodland) While hybrid cars and the resource savings they offer are beyond the reach of most, less wealthy green consumers can reduce their transportation footprints as much by going car-lite—that is, replacing most current car trips with walking, biking and busing, saving the car for only a few heavy errands. A green-design residence is another effective option open only to the affluent. The rest of us can reduce our footprints as much by living in an apartment rather than a house, living with less space per person, and conserving energy.

Because of the inefficiencies built into the U.S. transportation infrastructure, which move our commodities around, even vegetarian cyclists who share a small apartment will find it is difficult to reduce their ecological footprints to 3.0 acres. Changing individual consumption patterns cannot bring Americans down to the sustainable 2.5 acre goal, we will need to reach by 2050. For that, our changes must be both individual and societal. For example many manufactured goods could be radically redesigned for recycleability and durability, rather than for planned obsolescence. To determine what changes are necessary at a household level, we must examine the basic necessities, shelter, water, and food, and identify inexpensive, low-tech, simple solutions that individuals can apply for themselves with easily available materials. Technologies exist that can make a sustainable lifestyle comfortable, if they are widely distributed.

Affordable Housing?

Is there a suicide hotline for cartoon characters?

Because it looks like Uncle Duke may be about to follow in the steps of the inspiration for his character, Hunter S. Thompson:

From Doonesbury.

Sunday, March 06, 2005


On the Simpsons tonight, Homer got a job as a greeter at "Sprawl-Mart," which despite the disclaimer that they weren't mocking Wal-Mart, mocked Wal-Mart. Low wages, upaid overtime, sexism--the works. At one point, they showed the storefront with a big sign saying "Don't watch 60 Minutes this week."

And Wal-Mart richly deserves to be mocked. The latest outrage comes from southern Maryland, where the Beast of Bentonville is trying to beat a local anti-big-box ordinance by building "two" Wal-Marts side by side:
In what company officials are calling one of the first arrangements of its kind in the country, Wal-Mart plans to build a 74,998-square-foot store cheek by jowl with a 22,689-square-foot garden center. The two Wal-Marts -- each with its own entrance, utilities, bathrooms and cash registers -- would have a combined area 30 percent larger than the 75,000-square-foot limit for a single store in Dunkirk.

The tactic is the latest example of Wal-Mart's increasingly creative responses to the scores of jurisdictions, including Prince William and Montgomery counties, that have passed regulations limiting the size and location of big-box stores.
They're destroying America one town at a time, and if they get away with this latest outrage it will be a clear indication that they've killed democracy as well.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

300 to 400 rounds

Italy is not happy about American soldiers killing one Italian and wounding three others, including just-released hostage Giuliana Sgrena. Michelle is keeping up with the story.

Classical Bullies

As always, WIIIAI is on target:
When Bush says that Syrian troops need to pull out before the next scheduled elections in Lebanon, only two months away, because “I don’t think you can have fair elections with Syrian troops there,” I just don’t know what to call it, because “irony” usually implies some degree of subtlety. As someone recently said when Tom DeLay accused the prosecutors of his associates as being partisan, that’s like a frog calling someone ugly. The problem is that Bush’s case for Syria not having a right to occupy another country, but we do, and for Iran and North Korea not having a right to nuclear weapons, but we do, rests purely on those countries being bad guys and the US being good guys, which means that to comply with our demands, those countries must also tacitly admit to being bad guys. This is also behind the Bushies’ attempts to scuttle any efforts to reward Iran and North Korea for complying, as if they’d rather have those two countries nuclear than give them the tiniest of figleaves. Like all classical bullies, the Bushies want their opponents not only to lose, but to be seen to lose, to be humiliated.

From Steve Sack.

Friday, March 04, 2005

US Forces Fire on Freed Hostage

How screwed up can it get? From Reuters:
U.S. forces fired at a car carrying Italian reporter Giuliana Sgrena shortly after her liberation, wounding some of the passengers, the journalist's newspaper said on Friday.

``She was going in a car to the airport with three people from the Italian security forces. U.S. forces opened fire on the car. She is fine but there are wounded,'' Il Manifesto's editorial director Francesco Paterno told Reuters.

Italian news agency ANSA said Sgrena had been wounded in the shoulder and added that one of the Italian secret service agents had been killed. Another news agency, AGI, said Sgrena was being treated in a Baghdad hospital.

Local Peace Activist Published in Common Dreams

Michigan Peaceworks Director Phillis Engelbert writes about torture and the soul of the nation. Excerpt:
The United States, long the self-proclaimed global human-rights standard-bearer, is now regularly cited by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch for gross violations. We subject people, many of whom have no connection to terrorists, to unimaginable pain. We claim to be fighting terror, but are terrorizing hundreds, if not thousands of people, in the process. The only way to stop it, and hence reclaim our soul, is to refuse to allow torture to be committed in our name.

This month marks one year since the revelations of torture at Abu Ghraib. It also marks two years since the start of the Iraq War. On March 20 I'll be joining hundreds of other area residents in a march for peace and decency and to reclaim our national soul.

Mexico: Deja vu all over again

Al Giordano reports that the "desafuero" attempt by President Vicente Fox and his allies in the PAN and PRI parties to remove Mexico City's mayor Andrés Manuel López Obrador from next year's presidential election has a very close precedent from 1910. In that year, President Porfirio Diaz used a very similar approach to remove a rival from the competition--but the masses, led by General Emiliano Zapata, rose up and overthrew Diaz.

Girodano quotes Zapatista leader Subcomandante Marcos:
“The desafuero against the Mexico City governor would turn back the clock almost a century on the calendar. To be more precise: to 1910. It would mean, in fact, the anullment of the electoral path to come to power. That’s it. No more. Disrespecting and trashing the history of Mexico, the President’s office is paternally using the judicial system and the political class continues with its stingy calculations to divine if the check will cover the ridiculous act that it will commit.

“The desafuero is not only illegitimate: It is also illegal. When the government ministry, the presidency, the Supreme Court, the PAN, the PRI and that part of the PRD that became a business by appearing to be of the Left, announce stridently that the law is above all things, all they do is augment the public rancor that accumulates from below. The more ads, press conferences, and sophist speeches and declarations by the ministry of government and the presidency, the desafuero is still illegal and doesn’t withstand the minimum legal scrutiny. It is no more than a trick. They know that the desafuero can’t be sustained legally, but they also know that the spider’s web of laws in Mexico can hide what is illegal… behind laws. They already did this when they passed the indigenous counter-reform of 2001…

"If they can take someone out of the presidential race, what stops them from putting anyone who opposes them in prison? After all, these are the laws: made for illegitimacy… It’s not just that the desafuero is, in the strictest sense, a ‘preventative’ coup d’etat (as some have already called it) and that if 2000 put forward the idea that elections are the route to Power, 2006 will be the ratification that any means (listen up: any means) necessary are valid to achieve the ends…

“No, it’s not just about that. It’s about an injustice. And every honest man and woman must oppose an injustice, and, in this case, oppose this injustice. We, the Zapatistas, not only oppose the desafuero, be it judicial or media-driven, that annuls the possibility that a man or woman can come to power by peaceful means. We also call on everyone to protest, at their own time, place and style, against this injustice. What’s more, I’ll let you know that we are discussing the ways (take note: nonviolent) in which we will demonstrate to oppose this coup d’etat.
Vicente Fox is a Clinton-Bush style globalist tool of the corporations, ever seeking ways to lower wages and take land from people for the benefit of corporations. The desafuero attempt seems to embody the meaning of "crisis:" danger plus opportunity. This blunt attempt to literally lock up next year's election could well backfire on Fox and the corrupt corporate PAN and PRI parties. Unfortunately, it is unlikely that this will be allowed to happen unimpeded by Washington--in fact, Condiliar is due to visit Mexico City next week.

Giordano's Narco News has other stories on the Mexican desafuero attempt (I haven't read them yet):
Banamex at Core of Fox-López Obrador Dispute – But AP Protects the Bankers
Meltdown in Mexico: Ten Days that Changed the Wind
Mexico Poll: Fox-Creel Attacks on López Obrador Have Backfired
Condoleeza Rice vs. Democracy in Mexico

The financial press--BS'ers extraordinaire

Two headlines from CBS Marketwatch:
Dollar beaten down by jobs report: "The dollar crumbled a bit against the euro and yen Friday, after a 262,000 increase in new U.S. jobs last month fell short of some economists' expectations."

U.S. stocks rally on better-than-expected jobs data: "U.S. stocks rallied Friday as better-than-expected jobs growth in February suggested the economy was growing at a steady pace with few signs of inflationary pressures."

Thursday, March 03, 2005


Within a dollar of the all-time high. From Bloomberg:
Crude oil surged above $55 a barrel in New York, less than $1 short of a record, and reached a record in London on speculation that increasing consumption will outpace production this year.

"Demand is still growing, particularly in China, and there is only a finite supply of oil out there," said Tom Bentz, an oil broker at BNP Paribas Commodity Futures Inc. in New York.
Near-record prices, and production can't keep up with demand. Peak oil, anyone?

Trouble Brewing in Mexico

John Ross writes about how President Vicente Fox's PAN party and the PRI party are teaming up to remove Mexico City's mayor Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador from office and put him in jail, all for trying to build an access road to a hospital. Lopez Obrador has had a 10-point lead in polls for next year's presidential election. I guess it's like if a Green Party candidate was the frontrunner in the 2008 presidential race, and the Repugs and Dumbocrats teamed up to throw him in jail for double parking while giving someone CPR (which they'd do in a minute, BTW).

Ross says that all sides are gearing up for trouble:
Long-time political observers here, not just this grizzled veteran of 20 years of partisan felonies, see this PRI-PAN ploy to get rid of Lopez Obrador as one of the dirtiest tricks ever perpetrated in the deviant annals of recent Mexican electoral history, one that indeed spells the end of the line for Mexico's glacial "transition to democracy."
Signs of impending unrest abound. PRI and PAN national headquarters here are reportedly contracting private security forces in the event of unruly mob attacks, not trusting to the Mexico City police to get the job done, and the French news agency Agence France-Presse just handed out gas masks to all its reporters for the turbulent days to come. Writing in La Jornada, Aviles suggests that long dormant guerrilla groups in the capital's outlying suburbs could be stirred to act as the result of the desafuero.

In a March 1st communique from the mountains of Chiapas, the Zapatista Army of National Liberation's quixotic spokesperson Subcomandante Marcos made it clear that while the Mayan rebels do not support Lopez Obrador or the party he represents, the Zapatistas view his possible desafuero as a serious injustice and call upon all their members to join in demonstrations around the country to oppose it.

President Fox is empowered by the constitution to impose martial law on the capitol should the protests turn too hectic and even declare a state of exception.
As in 1988, the "coraje" (both courage and anger) of the protestors is bound to escape PRD control during prolonged confrontations, considers left political columnist Luis Hernandez Navarro. With civil society in the driver's seat, occupying public buildings and tying up Mexico City traffic day after day, Navarro contemplates the crystallization of "a movement of historic proportions" that will far outstrip the reinstatement of AMLO's candidacy. "Fox and the right do not yet understand what the desafuero has unleashed."
(AMLO=Lopez Obrador; desafuero=removing his political rights.)

Hold the presses! Scalia is right!

You know, I think probably 90 percent of the American people believe in the Ten Commandments, and I’ll bet you that 85 percent of them couldn’t tell you what the ten are.
-- Fat Tony Scalia

Believing in things you don't have a clue about--it's the American way! I wonder if those idiots in front of the Supreme Court know that the second commandment says:
You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them.
So why do they try to keep making an idol of the ten commandments?

They're after Robert Byrd again

Speaking the truth is an unforgiveable sin as far as the Repugs go. Senator Robert Byrd was defending the Senate procedure of filibusters:
In his comments Tuesday, Byrd had defended the right senators have to use filibusters -- procedural delays that can kill an item unless 60 of the 100 senators vote to move ahead. He is a long-standing defender of the chamber's rules and traditions, many of which help the Senate's minority party.

Byrd cited Hitler's 1930s rise to power by, in part, pushing legislation through the German parliament that seemed to legitimize his ascension.

"We, unlike Nazi Germany or Mussolini's Italy, have never stopped being a nation of laws, not of men," Byrd said. "But witness how men with motives and a majority can manipulate law to cruel and unjust ends."

Byrd then quoted historian Alan Bullock, saying Hitler "turned the law inside out and made illegality legal."

Byrd added, "That is what the 'nuclear option' seeks to do."

The nuclear option is the nickname for the proposal to end filibusters of judicial nominations because of the devastating effect the plan, if enacted, would have on relations between Democrats and Republicans.
For the 4.7 billionth time in the past week, the pot jumped right in to call the kettle black:
Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, the Senate's No. 3 Republican, called for Byrd to retract his comments, saying they "lessen the credibility of the senator and the decorum of the Senate."

Ken Mehlman, chairman of the Republican National Committee, called the remarks "poisonous rhetoric" that are "reprehensible and beyond the pale."
"Man on dog" Santorum is worried about the decorum of the Senate. That's rich. And if the Repugs are going to use Nazi tactics, it's good that there's one senator willing to point it out. (Don't be surprised to see "mainstream" Dems like Hillary Clinton and John Kerry side with the Repugs on this one--like they do on just about everything.)

Gag me with a ladle

From right-wing cartoonist Gary Varvel.

This is the crap of the week you're supposed to believe: Even though the week began with 125 people killed in Iraq, and the 1500th US soldier just died there, and Afghanistan is a total opium-producing mess, and a relatively stable Lebanon has been thrown into turmoil--by George, freedom is on the march! Jon Stewart's disgusting interview with Nancy Soderberg Tuesday night, Fred Kaplan's slightly-less triumphal article on Slate, numerous political cartoons besides this one.

The world is a less free, more dangerous place than it was four years ago, or four months ago, and George W. Bush is the reason. All of this BS about democracy is exactly that--BS.

From Rob Rogers.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Daily Show Sells Out

Gag me with a spoon. I just watched last night's Daily Show from the TiVo. Jon Stewart was interviewing former Clintonista Nancy Soderberg, and all they could talk about was how the resignation of the elected government of Lebanon somehow means that Bush's supposed push for democracy is working. Soderberg blamed the Hariri assassination on Syria, without any more proof than Condiliar is offering (that is, none).

It's all a SHAM, Jon and Nancy. The Bushies care no more for democracy in Lebanon or Iraq or anywhere else any more than they care for it in Florida or Ohio. And if there's any connection between the events in Lebanon this week and Bush's inauguration rhetoric, it's that this week's events have been planned for a long time, and the speech was designed to capitalize on what they knew was coming.

Given the continuing bloody disasters in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is just appalling to see TV shows fawning over very ambiguous events in a country that was practically forgotten about two weeks ago as if they were evidence of some sort of triumph in the march of freedom.


Take it to the streets!

Visit the Michigan Peaceworks web site for the details on the rally and march on March 20.


Land Reform in Venezuela

Oil has badly distorted Venezuela's economy over the last century, resulting in a fertile country importing some 70% of its food and large numbers of urban poor. President Hugo Chavez has a controversial program for land reform which is attempting to reverse this situation. Seth DeLong explains how the program compares to the Homestead Act of 1862 in the US.

The Monkey's Uncle, part two

W's uncle, William Henry Trotter "Bucky" Bush, joined the board of a defense contractor in St. Louis called ESSI:
In 2003, the Defense Department gave ESSI a huge deal to provide the Army with equipment to search for Iraq's non-existent chemical and biological weapons. Part of this package included a $19 million contract to provide protective tents for US troops from chemical bombs. The tents didn't arrive in Iraq until after it was evident to nearly everyone that the Iraqi military didn't have access to such weapons. This didn't stop the money from flowing into ESSI's coffers and it didn't stop ESSI's executives from playing along in the grand charade. "The potential threat of our troops facing a chemical or biological attack during the current conflict in Iraq remains very real," huffed Michael Shananan, the company's former chairman.

As the invasion transformed into a military occupation of Iraq, ESSI continued to pluck off sweet deals. In late 2003, the Coalition Provisional Authority, whose contracts passed across the Pentagon desk of arch neocon Douglas Feith, awarded ESSI an $18 million deal to engineer a communications system for the CPA offices, barricaded inside Baghdad's Green Zone.

Its executives openly clucked at the likelihood for protracted war. "The increasing likelihood for a prolonged military involvement in Southwest Asia by US forces well into 2006 has created a fertile environment for the type of support products and services we offer," gloated Gerald L. Daniels, the company's Chief Executive Officer. Rarely has corporate glee over the prospects of war profiteering been expressed so brazenly.

But Daniels had a point. Even as things began to go sour for the US in Iraq, ESSI stood to make lots of money. One of its biggest no-bid contracts came in 2004 in the wake of mounting causalities in light-armored vehicles hit by roadside bombs. ESSI won a deal to upgrade the armor of thousands of vehicles in or bound for Iraq. The company's annual report for 2005 forecast that ESSI might make as much as $200 million from this bloody windfall alone.

As the flood of new contracts poured in, ESSI's stock soared. In January of 2005, it reached its all-time high of $60.39 per share. A few days before the stock hit this lofty peak, Uncle Bucky quietly exercised his option to sell 8,438 shares of ESSI stock. He walked away from that transaction with at least $450,000. The stock sale occurred a few days after ESSI announced that the Pentagon had awarded it $77 million in new contracts for the Iraq war and a few days before word leaked to the press that the company was under investigation for its handling of older Pentagon contracts. The timing of the trade was perfect.

In a February 2005 filing with the Securities Exchange Commission, ESSI discreetly disclosed to its shareholders that the inspector general of Pentagon had launched an inquiry into a series of contracts awarded to the company in 2002 for work on the Air Force's troubled automated cargo loading machine called the Tunner.
Crime on a grand scale--that IS the Bush family.


There goes oil! The dollar has been rebounding somewhat since Greenspan is supposedly going to raise interest rates again.

Out of Step

Stilleto Girl says that
Syria is "out of step" with growing desire for democracy in the Middle East. International resolve is firm that Syria must no longer hold political and military control over its smaller neighbor, Rice said Tuesday.
That's Israel's job, she didn't have to add.
Rice said the Lebanese must be allowed to choose their own political future in elections this spring. That choice must be independent of "contaminating influences," she said, underscoring a joint U.S.-French statement on Tuesday and a United Nations resolution last fall.

"I think it's one of the strongest statements in a long time about what needs to happen in Lebanon," Rice said.

At a news conference with French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier, Rice said their two countries would support the scheduled election in Lebanon, perhaps by sending observers and monitors.
As I've said before, the CIA World Factbook indicates that Lebanon has been a fairly democratic place in recent years, in spite of (or because of?) the Syrian presence:
Lebanon has made progress toward rebuilding its political institutions since 1991 and the end of the devastating 15-year civil war. Under the Ta'if Accord - the blueprint for national reconciliation - the Lebanese have established a more equitable political system, particularly by giving Muslims a greater say in the political process while institutionalizing sectarian divisions in the government. Since the end of the war, the Lebanese have conducted several successful elections, most of the militias have been weakened or disbanded, and the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) have extended central government authority over about two-thirds of the country.
Basically, Syria and Iran are on neoCondi's hit list, and anything, true or not, related or not, can and will be used as an excuse to attack these countries. It happened in Iraq (and Afghanistan and Haiti and Panama etc. etc. etc.). Rice, Bush, Rummy, Cheney, Wolfowitz and the rest of these criminals will say and do anything to get their way.

We're all Middle Easterners Now

From the State Department's press release:
The State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor issued the annual reports for 196 countries February 28.

The reports identified serious problems in several Middle East countries, including: arbitrary arrests, torture of detainees, incommunicado detention, trials without due process, lack of access to legal counsel, poor prison conditions, long pretrial detentions, and the death of prisoners in police custody.
No need to go to the Middle East for that--we've got all that and more right here in the USA.

Quote du Jour

“It has no education policy, it has no health policy, it has no economic policy, it has no environmental policy, it has no security policy. It just takes everything by the day and many of the days are bad.”
No, not describing the Bushies--instead, describing the Karzai puppet regime in Afghanistan, which is still a hellhole.


Judge Henry Floyd, American Hero

Floyd was appointed as a federal judge by W in 2003, but decided that his loyalty was to the constitution, not to the emperor trying to usurp it. From the WSWS:
Judge Floyd upheld essentially all the contentions of Padilla’s lawyers, who charged that his indefinite detention violated the Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Amendments of the Constitution, as well as the Non-Detention Act, an act of Congress which explicitly prohibits arbitrary detention of any US citizen on the basis of executive fiat.
Padilla has now been in military custody for nearly 33 months without any charges being brought or any opportunity to confront his accusers or assert his constitutional rights. This is the longest that any US citizen has ever been held without any judicial proceeding, simply on the say-so of the president.
Floyd flatly rejected the claim that Bush has the authority to order the indefinite detention of a US citizen arrested on American soil. “The court finds that the president has no power, neither express nor implied, neither constitutional nor statutory, to hold petitioner as an enemy combatant,” he wrote.

In a remarkably scathing passage, Floyd challenged the claim that presidential authority in wartime is absolute and unquestionable. He wrote:

“Certainly Respondent does not intend to argue here that, just because the President states that Petitioner’s detention is ‘consistent with the laws of the United States, including the Authorization for Use of Military Force’ that makes it so. Not only is such a statement in direct contravention to the well settled separation of powers doctrine, it is simply not the law. Moreover, such a statement is deeply troubling. If such position were ever adopted by the courts, it would totally eviscerate the limits placed on Presidential authority to protect the citizenry’s individual liberties.”

The 23-page opinion systematically takes up and demolishes the various claims of the Bush administration, in a manner that suggests not only rejection of the anti-democratic and authoritarian position of the White House, but genuine anger on the part of the judge at the cynical, bad faith legal arguments employed.
Judge Floyd also rejected the claims of authority inherent in Bush’s powers as commander-in-chief—the main staple of Bush’s lawyers in both the White House and the Justice Department who argued that international treaties against torture could not tie the president’s hands in the interrogation of suspected Taliban and Al Qaeda prisoners. He cited the famous argument by Justice Robert Jackson, in the 1952 Supreme Court decision overturning President Truman’s seizure of the steel industry during the Korean War: “The Constitution did not contemplate that the title Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy will constitute also Commander-in-Chief of the country, its industries and its inhabitants.”

The judge wrote: “The Court is of the firm opinion that it must reject the position posited by Respondent. To do otherwise would not only offend the rule of law and violate this country’s constitutional tradition, but it would also be a betrayal of this Nation’s commitment to the separation of powers that safeguards our democratic values and individual liberties.”

He concluded: “Simply stated, this is a law enforcement matter, not a military matter. The civilian authorities captured Petitioner just as they should have. At the time that Petitioner was arrested pursuant to the material arrest warrant, any alleged terrorist plans that he harbored were thwarted. From then on, he was available to be questioned—and was indeed questioned—just as any other citizen accused of criminal conduct. This is as it should be. There can be no debate that this country’s laws amply provide for the investigation, detention and prosecution of citizen and non-citizen terrorists alike.”

This analysis attacks the entire premise of the Bush administration’s self-proclaimed “war on terror.” It rejects the notion that democratic rights and constitutional norms must be suspended as unnecessary obstacles to the defense of the American people against terrorism. Both the tone of the decision and its legal implications confirm that the ceaseless expansion of unchecked presidential power, not the supposed threat of terrorism, represents the greatest danger to the rights of the American people. It also exposes the glaring hypocrisy of a government that claims to be conducting a crusade for “democracy” around the world while it claims for itself virtually dictatorial powers and lays siege to democratic rights within the US.
Probably wise to stay out of small planes for awhile, your honor. These guys play hardball.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

The BIG Idea

David Swanson writes about the Basic Income Guarantee idea:
How would a basic income guarantee work? Each month, every adult would receive a check from the government, for the exact same amount. These checks, notes the Citizen Policies Institute, would be "large enough to meet basic costs of food and shelter, and perhaps health care, but not so large as to undermine incentives to work, earn, save, and invest." The checks, likely "in the range of $400 to $800 a month," would go to everyone, working or not working, wealthy or not wealthy.

Paul Craig Roberts on the dollar

From today's Counterpunch:
The US economy is headed toward crisis, and the political leadership of the country--if it can be called leadership--is preoccupied with nonexistent weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East.

The US economy is failing. The afflictions are serious. They could be fatal even if diagnosed and treated. America is losing the purchasing power of its currency and its ability to create middle class jobs.

The dollar's sharp decline and projections of continuing trade and budgetary red ink are undermining the dollar's role as reserve currency. A number of central banks have announced that they will be diversifying their currency holdings and will not be buying dollars at the same rate as in the past.
Overnight those cheap goods in Wal-Mart, which are the no-think economist's facile justification for Wal-Mart's decimation of communities, small businesses and employment, shoot up in price. [I think he's talking about you, Robert Reich, for defending the beast of Bentonville yesterday. Reich was one of the main architects of Clinton's disastrous "free trade" policies. -- ed.]
The dollars' decline will drive up the price of all inputs except US labor which is being substituted out of production functions and replaced with foreign labor.

Oblivious to reality, the Bush administration has proposed a Social Security privatization that will cost $4.5 trillion in borrowing over the next 10 years alone! America has no domestic savings to absorb this debt, and foreigners will not lend such enormous sums to a country with a collapsing currency--especially a country mired in a Middle East war running up hundreds of billions of dollars in war debt.

A venal and self-important Washington establishment combined with a globalized corporate mentality have brought an end to America's rising living standards. America's days as a superpower are rapidly coming to an end. Isolated by the nationalistic unilateralism of the neoconservatives who control the Bush administration, the US can expect no sympathy or help from former allies and rising new powers.

Gonzo Fascism

From the NY Times:
Laying out his law enforcement priorities for the first time since taking office, Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales urged Congress on Monday to speed the process for deporting illegal immigrants, end the impasse over judicial nominees and extend federal antiterrorism powers under the USA Patriot Act.

Mr. Gonzales also said he expected the Justice Department to look for more aggressive ways to prosecute obscenity crimes, and he announced the creation of five federal-local task forces nationwide in an effort to curtail violent crime.
Señor Torture and his Patriot Act ARE obscenity crimes.

China promotes renewable energy

From Greenpeace:
WASHINGTON -- February 28 -- Today, the Chinese top legislature voted to pass China's first renewable energy promotion law, which will help the country meet ambitious targets for the uptake of renewable energy. Greenpeace welcomed China's commitment to clean renewable energy as the new law could kick-start a massive take-up of clean energy, such as wind power. With the potential to become a world leader in renewables, China could transform the global markets.
The Renewable Energy Promotion Law, which takes effect on the 1January 2006, will allow the renewable energy industry in China to take off. The law guarantees grid access for renewable energy producers as well as spreading the costs of these new technologies across the electricity sector.
Renewable energy is seen as crucial and there is enormous international interest in China's potential as a huge market for wind power and other renewable energy technologies. The growth of the wind energy in China last year was 35%, even without the new law. China has similarly huge potential for solar, wave, tidal and biomass power and with energy efficiency could meet all its needs solely from clean energy.

House of Cards

Even the Bush-lovers at the Washington Post editorial board are getting nervous about the dollar:
The dollar may fall gently, as it has over the past year or so, or a renewed appetite for U.S. assets among private investors could even stabilize its value. But the risk of a currency crash grows every day. In 2003, the United States had to attract $530 billion of foreign capital to finance its purchases of foreign stuff; in 2004 it had to attract $650 billion; this year, it may have to pull in as much as $800 billion. Every year of vast borrowing increases borrowing in later years; as Brad Setser of Oxford University notes, just paying interest on the $800 billion borrowed in 2005 might add $40 billion to the overall 2006 deficit.

To stabilize this house of cards, Congress and the administration should pull the one lever they have: They should reduce the nation's reliance on foreign capital by cutting government borrowing. This isn't going to be possible through spending cuts alone. It's going to take higher taxes.
Actually, they could just cut the Pentagon budget by about two-thirds, and we'd all be a lot safer in many ways.

On borrowed time

From Tom Toles.

Meet the new boss, part whatever

Who can possibly think that the world would be better off with Saddam Hussein still in power? -Surely not the dissidents who would be in his prisons, or end up in his mass graves. -Surely not the men and women who would fill Saddam's torture chambers and rape rooms.
-- George W. Bush, October 16, 2003

Well, dissidents are still in his prisons, thousands are in mass graves in Fallujah, Najaf and elsewhere, killed by US bombs in the past two years. And the torture chambers and rape rooms still operate under the new government--confirmed yesterday by Condi's own State Department:
The State Department on Monday detailed an array of human rights abuses last year by the Iraqi government, including torture, rape and illegal detentions by police officers and functionaries of the interim administration that took power in June.

In the Bush administration's bluntest description of human rights transgressions by the American-supported government, the report said the Iraqis "generally respected human rights, but serious problems remained" as the government and American-led foreign forces fought a violent insurgency. It cited "reports of arbitrary deprivation of life, torture, impunity, poor prison conditions - particularly in pretrial detention facilities - and arbitrary arrest and detention."
And oh, by the way...
The report did not address incidents in Iraq in which Americans were involved, like the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib...
So, under Saddam there was a brutal government arresting, killing and torturing Iraqis. Now there are two.

Judge orders Padilla charged or released

From AP:
In a stinging rebuke to the Bush administration, a federal judge ruled the case of "dirty bomb" suspect Jose Padilla is a matter for law enforcement not the military and ordered the government to charge him or let him go.

Padilla's more than 2 1/2 years in custody, most of it spent in a Navy brig, don't seem closer to an end, however, because Justice Department spokesman John Nowacki said the government will appeal the ruling.

U.S. District Judge Henry Floyd in Spartanburg, S.C., ruled Monday that the government can not hold Padilla indefinitely as an "enemy combatant," a designation President Bush gave him in 2002. The government views Padilla as a militant who planned attacks on the United States, including with a "dirty bomb" radiological device.

Floyd wrote in his 23-page opinion that to rule in favor of the government "would not only offend the rule of law and violate this country's constitutional tradition," it would be a "betrayal of this nation's commitment to the separation of powers that safeguards our democratic values and individual liberties."

Floyd, appointed by Bush in 2003, gave the administration 45 days to take action.
Your government wants to appeal the ruling that it is required to uphold the constitution. Rather than do what the court says, they will continue to argue that Padilla, and by extension you and me, have no rights whatsoever against indefinite detention. What a bunch of Nazis. Thankfully at least some of their lackies, like Judge Floyd, still possess consciences.


Billmon highlights the "differences" between Putin's Kremlin and Bush's White House.

A Condi shield is better than a missile shield

And it seems to be passing its tests, too. First, Condi cancels a trip to Egypt because it jailed an opposition leader, and now stilleto girl isn't going to Canada either, since they wisely decided not to take part in the "missile defense" boondoggle.

If pissing off Bush is all it takes to keep Condiliar out, I'm guessing more and more countries will be doing it.

From Boondocks.