Bob's Links and Rants

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Saturday, April 30, 2005

From Mark Cohen.

From Mike Keefe.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Tony Bliar

Last night, Tony Blair added to his lengthy record of lies by adding this one:
"I have never told a lie. No. I don't intend to go telling lies to people. I did not lie over Iraq."
Let Jonathan at A Tiny Revolution explain to you why this one is a whopper.

Neoliberalism Robbing Nicaragua Blind

An interesting article by Toni Solo. Excerpts:
The pitiful legacy of 15 years of neo-liberal barbarism is a national phenomenon. The inhuman effects of extreme poverty spread far beyond the sprawling slums of the capital Managua. A more thorough indictment of the role of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the Inter-American Development Bank would be hard to imagine.

And it is all deliberate. Not in the sense that the living-dead managerial class who draw their salaries in those institutions set out intentionally to starve millions of people and deny them access to education and healthcare. Like the bureaucrats of Stalinist Russia, Nazi Germany or imperial England and France, they just obey orders and care little about the consequences.

These imperialist enforcement agencies impose suffering on hundreds of thousands in Nicaragua because their corporate masters decided decades ago that North American big business needed a huge pool of slave labour in Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean. They needed to cut costs so as to compete with emerging economies in Asia and undercut European competitors. The principal means to achieve that aim have been to seek to try and destroy those countries' domestic agricultural economies and to privatize their State sector resources.
In tandem with all this, the United States uses trade measures like the mis-named Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) to guarantee an investment framework enabling US corporations and their local clients to exploit Plan Puebla Panama infrastructure and local slave labour to the limit. It is puzzling why so many people in the United States seem to think these arrangements will benefit them. The whole idea is to shift business out of the United States to where costs are cheapest.

Tough Calls

Once you start to fear your own government, or the corporations it serves, you begin to see the need to protect privacy--to fight against attempts at national ID cards, retinal scans and such. If they can track you, they can round you up whenever they want. On the other hand, you can still recognize the benefits of having license plates, driver's licenses, credit cards and such. If your car is stolen, the license plate or the vehicle identification number may be your best chances of ever getting it back.

That's one tough call. Another is the issue of paying for roads. I have long been an advocate for substantially raising gasoline taxes or having more toll roads, requiring those who are using precious resources to pollute our air and warm our planet to pay a more substantial price for doing so. However, I recognize that the open road, unfortunately, is a critical element of freedom in America. "Socialized" "free"ways cost the same for the rich guy in the Escalade or the poor guy in the '88 Escort--nothing, a small degree of balance to the overwhelming advantages that the rich have in most areas. (High-quality mass transit would be a better leveler, but many of the places where it is available in this country, like New York, Boston and San Francisco, are very expensive places to live.) Still, gas prices are rising and will continue to do so, eventually making driving like flying private aircraft is now--a luxury only the wealthy can afford. So, in balance, I still think that making driving more expensive now would be a good thing, even for the poor, by helping to direct more interest and money into mass transit and more compact communities.

These two issues, privacy and paying for roads, come together in two recent articles. The San Antonio Express-News reports that there's a bill in the Texas legislature to require RFID tags on all cars in Texas. The given reason of making sure that every car has insurance is onerous enough, but these tags could clearly be used for nefarious purposes--id'ing everyone who drove to a Kucinich rally, for example. On the other hand, it would become very easy to track your stolen car. It would also greatly facilitate converting roads to toll roads, which is the subject of a NY Times article today.
The freeway in places is no longer free. From the backed-up pools of frustration in Chicago's adjacent counties, to the farthest Virginia fringes of the commute to Washington, to Texas, where plans are under way to build a 4,000-mile network of toll roads, the United States has outgrown its highway system.

But state and federal governments, beset by deficits, say they have barely enough money to service the existing system, let alone build new roads. As a result, nearly two dozen states have passed legislation allowing their transportation systems to operate pay-as-you-go roads, and in many cases, letting the private sector build and run these roads.
And that, of course, is the key element to the Bushies, who strongly support this trend, according to the article. The worst of possible outcomes, as far as I'm concerned--private roads everywhere.


A million people in the streets and the contempt of the vast majority of his citizenry has apparently caused Mexican President Vicente Fox to back down on his craven attempt to remove the most popular contender in next year's presidential election:
The legal proceedings that threatened to knock Mexico's most popular politician off next year's presidential ballot and to plunge this country into turmoil seemed to come to a sudden end on Wednesday night, when a beleaguered President Vicente Fox announced the resignation of his attorney general and a review of the government's case against the politician.

In a nationally televised address, Mr. Fox said he had accepted the resignation of Attorney General Rafael Macedo de la Concha, who oversaw the prosecution of the politician, Mayor Andrés Manuel López Obrador of Mexico City, and thus became one of the most polarizing figures in the government.
His resignation was widely considered a kind of peace offering to Mayor López Obrador, whose political career was threatened three weeks ago when Congress voted to lift his official immunity and remove him from office so that he could stand trial in a land dispute.

Striking an uncharacteristically stiff posture and formal tone of voice, President Fox said he considered defending democracy his government's most important responsibility, and wanted to guarantee that next year's presidential elections would be fair, transparent and open to all qualified figures.
Indeed while the proceedings against the mayor, known as a desafuero, caused his popularity to soar, it plunged Mr. Fox's lackluster government into open conflict. In interviews earlier this week, aides to the president described the case against the mayor as an enormous mistake and said the president was looking for a way out.

The toll became clear Tuesday during a trip by Mr. Fox to Oaxaca State, in the south. After a lunch with business leaders and the governor, the president stopped to confront a young protester carrying a sign that described him as a "traitor to democracy."

Clearly agitated, the president asked over and over again for the protester to explain. The protester did not answer.

"I am not some traitor to democracy," Mr. Fox said. "On the contrary, I have worked for democracy for all."
Unfortunately, our pResident wouldn't have even seen the sign, and if he did would have dismissed it as a focus group.

When your democracy is crappier than Mexico's, you really shouldn't be trying to export it.

Anyway, it looks like a great victory for the people of Mexico. Still, I'd recommend that AMLO stay out of small planes.

Kiss my gas

From Mark Cohen.

If you think that's a little harsh, then you probably missed seeing this photo:

Well, who can blame him? I mean, only 15 of the alleged 9/11 hijackers came from Saudi Arabia. It's not like it's Afghanistan or Iraq, which provided none at all. How's a guy supposed to be re-elected that way?

From J.D. Crowe.

From Mark Streeter.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

If I had time to blog today...

I would write about the Orwellian rhetoric coming from Rummy and Myers, like WIIIAI and Michelle did. Or maybe I'd write about the new "New Europe" members of the European Union, and why their inclusion strengthens the arguments against the European Constitution, even for those of us who like to see a strong, liberal Europe, like Doug Ireland did. Or I might write about the threat to liberalism in our neighbor to the north, like Xymphora and the WSWS did.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Over 1 Million March for AMLO

I mentioned a couple of days ago that CNN was reporting hundreds of thousands marching in Mexico City to protest the "desafuero" of Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO), meaning there were probably millions. Well, Knight Ridder reports that Mexican police estimated 1.2 million:

It's beginning to sound like this power play will backfire on current Mexican President Vicente Fox, and thus on his "free trade" buddies in Washington, George and Condi.

Yeah, right

U.S. troops nearly captured Iraq's most-wanted terrorist -- Abu Musab al-Zarqawi -- earlier this year, officials say. The incident took place in February near Ramadi after a tip that al-Zarqawi might be in the area, sources said. At one point, the officials said, troops chased a suspicious car and determined al-Zarqawi had been in it but had escaped.
That's's lead story right now--Officials say that troops may have come close to catching a guy they claim to be a bad guy two months ago. Must be a slow news day.

The Zarqawi story about the resistance is all a crock, anyhow. Thousands of Iraqis are now actively involved with the resistance, with at least the passive support of millions of others. Catching or killing one guy wouldn't make one bit of difference. The only issue is how long it will take the US to get a clue and get out of Iraq.

Gannon Fodder

I could say this:
Fake reporter "Jeff Gannon" apparently spent many hours at the White House, well beyond the times of press briefings, and even on days when there were no briefings.

Or, more suggestively, I could say this:
Real male prostitute "Jeff Gannon" apparently spent many hours at the White House, well beyond the times of press briefings, and even on days when there were no briefings.

Oh, how I long to hear brainless leader say these words to the press: "I did not have sex with THAT man."

From Chris Britt.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Let's you and him fight

A couple of weeks ago, I said that I'd probably need Chalmers Johnson to explain the recent tension between Japan and China. Well, the WSWS does a pretty good job of tackling the subject, and guess what: The Bushies are behind a lot of it.
The essential basis for the Bush administration’s policy was laid out in an influential bipartisan document issued in October 2000 entitled “The United States and Japan: Advancing Towards a Mature Partnership”—more usually known as the Armitage-Nye report. Richard Armitage, who became Bush’s deputy secretary of state, and another study group member, Paul Wolfowitz, who was installed as US deputy defence secretary, played major roles in implementing its recommendations.

Both the Democrats and Republicans in the study group agreed that the “prospects for conflict in Asia are far from remote” and concluded that the US had to ramp up its alliance with Japan. “Japan remains the keystone of the US involvement in Asia. The US-Japan alliance is central to America’s global security strategy,” the report stated. It went on to declare: “We see the special relationship between the United States and Britain as a model for the alliance”. In other words, just as London had become Washington’s loyal instrument in Europe, Tokyo was to play a similar role in Asia. The unnamed, but unmistakable, target was China.

Many of the report’s elements—closer cooperation between the two militaries; reorganisation of US military bases in North East Asia; broadening the scope of US-Japan missile defence cooperation; encouraging Japan to play a larger international role; US support for Japan’s bid for a permanent UN Security Council seat—read like a recipe book for the Bush administration’s subsequent relations with Japan. Its most controversial aspect was the open advocacy of constitutional change in Japan. While paying lip service to the need for the Japanese people to decide, it bluntly declared: “Japan’s prohibition against collective self-defense is a constraint on alliance cooperation. Lifting this prohibition would allow for closer and more efficient security cooperation.”

Busy, Busy, Busy

Sorry, not much time to blog today.

From Slowpoke.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Hundreds of thousands march for AMLO

That's what CNN says about the protest in Mexico City on Sunday, meaning there were probably millions opposing the "desafuero" of Mexico City's mayor, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO).

Elsewhere in Latin America, Venezuela has arrested several Americans for photographing refineries and military installations. And Ecuador's deposed president has fled to Brazil.

Springtime in Michigan!

Actually, we've had about three weeks of absolutely wonderful weather leading up to this mess.

I just went down to the Earth Day fair at the Farmers' Market. I think it was the first time in four years that I wasn't staffing a table myself--all I had to do was walk around and look at the displays and talk to the nice people. The biodiesel people were there, as were the Ann Arbor Clean Cities people, the Sierra Club, the Ann Arbor Greenway folks, the UM Solar House Project students, and a guy with an electric motorcycle. In the making lemonade from lemons department, the Southeast Michigan RC&D Council presented finished wood samples from Emerald Ash trees, the trees that are being killed by the thousands by the emerald ash borer insect (including the one in my curb lawn). While the ash borer kills the tree, it doesn't impact the quality of the wood. So, rather than landfilling or burning the dead trees, they are running them through sawmills to make usable (and pretty good-looking) lumber, with the scraps being shredded into mulch.

I told the lady there that I, too, was deriving a benefit from the death of the ash trees--without the ash in the curb lawn, I'll have full sun on my south-facing roof year round, except of course on days like today.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Get out of your car...and into a bus

I've noticed more riders on the buses I take to and from work lately, and apparently it has become a trend nationwide due to gas prices. I haven't noticed any reduction in traffic on the roads--that will take a much larger migration (and probably much higher gas prices).

Here in Ann Arbor, May is officially Curb Your Car Month, with a variety of programs and activities to encourage biking, walking, carpooling and transit use.

From Clay Bennett.

From Jim Morin.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Miller Low Life

Dennis Miller was on the Daily Show a couple of days ago. What a total turd. He was so full of himself, rattling off unfunny right-wing one liners about ANWR ("Nobody goes to Alaska except delinquent fathers," or something like that), global warming ("If the temperature goes up 3.6 degrees, I'll just tell the family we moved to Phoenix.") He was doing this so fast he must have been on speed. And Jon Stewart was just laughing away like the ditziest ditz you've ever met, times two. Pathetic. Miller's excuse for the war in Iraq, which he backed all the way, was something like "the number of Saddam and his sons came up."

He was awful on Monday Night Football; he was awful on the Daily Show. I assume he's also awful on his own show on CNBC, but don't expect me to research that for you.

Health Care

Part of Dennis Kucinich's standard stump speech was that Americans are paying for universal health care, they're just not getting it. Paul Krugman explains why.
Think about how crazy all of this is. At a rough guess, between two million and three million Americans are employed by insurers and health care providers not to deliver health care, but to pass the buck for that care to someone else. And the result of all their exertions is to make the nation poorer and sicker.

Why do we put up with such an expensive, counterproductive health care system? Vested interests play an important role. But we also suffer from ideological blinders: decades of indoctrination in the virtues of market competition and the evils of big government have left many Americans unable to comprehend the idea that sometimes competition is the problem, not the solution.


This happened last week:
A motorist sped through a stop sign in Superior Township Sunday evening, slamming into two bicyclists and killing a teenager from Novi, authorities said.

Washtenaw County Sheriff's Cmdr. Dave Egeler said police are awaiting blood alcohol tests on the 34-year-old Northville man who was driving the car, and charges will be sought. Police are trying to determine the speed of the 2005 Ford Mustang when the crash occurred, but a preliminary estimate was that it was traveling between 70 and 100 mph, Egeler said.

The crash occurred shortly after 8 p.m. at the intersection of Plymouth-Ann Arbor Road and Gotfredson Road in Superior Township. Three bicyclists were pedaling east on the right side of the road when the Mustang, which was southbound on Gotfredson Road, failed to stop at the stop sign at Plymouth-Ann Arbor Road, Egeler said.
Now, I'm willing to bet that the driver of the Mustang was just some idiot who likes to drive too fast. He wasn't out there trying to scare cyclists off the road. But that will certainly be the impact of his crime. Already wary cyclists will be scared into staying off the roads, and parents will tell their kids not to ride their bikes. In recent years, there has been a trend to impose harsher sentences for crimes which have an impact beyond the immediate victim--so called "hate crimes" and "terrorism." (Recently a judge gave a college student who vandalized a bunch of Hummers a stiffer sentence because he was "trying to send a message.") I'm not sure this is right, especially since it is very hard to prove. One guy could beat up another guy because he was black or gay, or maybe just because he didn't like him. A car bomb may be used to indicate your hatred for a country, or maybe just for a driver.

And, like I said, there was probably no intent at all in this case; just extreme carelessness with a deadly weapon (cars kill more people in this country than guns). So taking it all out on the driver, convicting him of murder instead of manslaughter, for example, may not be the way to deal with this (and probably won't be). But somehow there needs to be something done aggressively by the county or state to counteract the negative impact a killing like this has on bicycling. Denial of driving privileges for life might be a start; also road modifications like speed bumps to bring the dangerous weapons under control.

Many countries, especially in Europe, have aggressively pursued policies to make the roads friendly for bicycles. Here in the US it has been mostly the opposite. Not only the roads and laws, but a large percentage of drivers, are hostile to cyclists, and millions of people choose to drive rather than bike and face that hostility. And we're running out of oil, polluting our air, and baking our planet because of it.

Thursday, April 21, 2005


[T]he government was fed false "intelligence" by officials with their own agenda, who, in turn, were given information ... by a number of "defectors."
No evidence of illegal weapons was found, but the demonization of the "enemy" was so complete that the brutal attack was carried out with the cheerleading of the media and the support of much of the American public. Lots of innocent people, including children, were killed. Since the perpetrator was the US government, nobody was brought to justice.

But enough about Waco.

"Commercial" helicopter crashes

Technically speaking, the chopper which crashed today in Iraq wasn't owned by the Pentagon. It was owned by a company called "Skylink:"
A statement issued by Blackwater USA described Skylink as operating under contract to Blackwater "in support of a Department of Defense contract." The statement added, "The specifics of the crash are not yet known and there does not appear to be any survivors." The names of the victims are not being released pending notification of the next of kin.
It was carrying six Blackwater security guards (aka mercenaries), two Fijian guards, and a three-member Bulgarian crew. According to the NY Times,
While several military helicopters have been downed by insurgent fire, it is apparently the first time a commercial helicopter has crashed in post-war Iraq from hostile actions.
Being pretty specific there, aren't we? You forgot to add "on a Thursday." And "post-war Iraq?" People are being killed by at least the dozens every day (probably way more than that, since we rarely here about the casualties from US bombing raids).

"Ricin Plot" was pure Blairs**t

The WSWS reviews the case of the supposed "ricin terror plot" in England. Eight men had been arrested based on "information" gained by torture in Algeria. The British government and press trumpeted the story as evidence of Islamic terrorism directed against Britain, using it as a reason to go to war with Iraq. It turns out that there was no plot, just one loner guy who had the recipe and some materials to make ricin in his apartment (although he hadn't made any). The other seven had nothing to do with it and were acquitted. No links to either Iraq or al Qaeda were found, other than the torture-induced "confessions" of one guy.

However, back in the winter of 2003, this "plot" was paraded by Tony Blair, and subsequently Colin Powell at the UN, as part of the casus belli for the criminal invasion of Iraq.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

President Ousted in Ecuador

All I know about this is what I've read in three articles: From CNN, the NY Times, and Narco News. As the NY Times explains it, it sounds like ousted president Gutierrez got elected by pretending to be Hugo Chavez, but turned into Vicente Fox once he was in office:
Mr. Gutiérrez, who had run as a populist friend of the poor, had lost much of his public support almost as soon as he took office. Ecuadoreans felt increasingly alienated with Mr. Gutiérrez's implementation of austere economic policies, which pleased the International Monetary Fund, and his relatively warm relationship with the United States. Wall Street gave Mr. Gutiérrez solid marks - the economy grew at more than 6 percent last year - and the Bush administration appreciated that Ecuador permitted an expansion of the American military presence along the troubled border with Colombia.
I think we'll see more and more of this--countries trying to extricate themselves from the American economic and military claws.


When the dog bites
When the bee stings
When I'm feeling sad
I make anagrams on the new pope's old name
And then I don't feel so bad

Here's one on "POPE BENEDICT XVI": Veep tied in PC box

Got a few hours to kill?

Peak Oil Goes to Washington

When I heard Richard Heinberg speak about peak oil at the Midwest Renewable Energy Fair last summer, he mentioned that he had discussed it with his congresswoman, Lynn Wolsey (one of the most progressive members of the House). He asked Wolsey why peak oil was never discussed in Congress, even by her or Kucinich or Barbara Lee or anyone. Heinberg said that Wolsey replied that it would be political suicide--peak oil was a topic no politician would touch.

Well it turns out that peak oil has been discussed in Congress recently--by a couple of Republicans from Maryland. This video shows Rep. Wayne Gilchrest introducing Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, who then speaks for about an hour. (Here's the transcript.)

The money quote from Bartlett?
Let me mention that M. King Hubbert looked at the world situation. He was joined by another scientist, Colin Campbell, who is still alive, an American citizen who lives in Scotland. Using M. King Hubbert’s predictive techniques, oil was predicted to reach a maximum in about 1995, without perturbations. But there were some perturbations. One of the perturbations was 1973, the Arab oil embargo. Other perturbations were the oil price shocks and a worldwide recession that reduced the demand for oil. And so the peak that might have occurred in 1995 will occur later. How much later? That is what we are looking at this evening. There is a lot of evidence that suggests that if not now, then very quickly we should see world production of oil peak.
(emphasis added)

BTW, Bartlett builds solar homes, drives a Prius, and voted against drilling in ANWR. Here's a statement from his web site:
I have been a consistent advocate of energy efficiency and greater reliance upon less polluting renewable energy resources. I voted for passage of H.R. 6, the 2003 House Energy Bill. I did so for the provisions promoting energy efficiency and renewables. I voted against drilling in ANWR, arguing that those resources should be preserved for future.

With regard to greenhouse gas emissions and their climate impact, I will continue to advocate for improved energy efficiency and increased reliance on clean, emission free solar, wind, ocean and bio-energy resources as a sensible way to address these concerns.
A Republican in the House talking about peak oil and global warming. Maybe there's hope after all.

Gotta Love the Markets

I don't know how much comes from players in the markets and how much from the "say something all the time" financial media, but some of the explanations for market moves are bizarre, to say the least. Earlier today a consumer prices report showed signs that there is more inflation than expected--in other words, the dollar is weakening. But, according to CBS MarketWatch:
The dollar advanced after an unexpectedly strong March consumer prices report stoked dollar proponents' hopes that the Federal Reserve could switch to a more hawkish interest rates policy.
That is, the dollar was rising because it was falling. That has since changed, since crude oil and gasoline are getting tight again. Gasoline futures, after having dropped about a quarter per gallon over the past week, have regained about 8 cents in just the last day. And oil, after having flirted with sub-$50 prices, is now solidly back above $52. (See, I can write like a financial reporter too!)

The New Iraq

From Juan Cole:
A tearful member of the Iraqi parliament, Fattah al-Shaikh, stood up before other MPs and told the story of how he was attacked and detained by US troops when he attempted to enter the Green Zone, the heavily fortified area near downtown Baghdad where parliament is held and the US embassy is situated. Wire services report that he said, '“I don’t speak English and so I said to the Iraqi translator with them, ‘Tell them that I am a member of parliament’, and he replied, ‘To hell with you, we are Americans.'" '

Al-Hayat reported that al-Shaikh, a member of the Muqtada al-Sadr bloc, said the US troops put their boots on his neck and handcuffed him. The Iraqi parliament was thrown into an uproar by the account, and demanded a US apology from the highest levels of government. Others demanded that the site of parliament meetings be changed. (This is not the first complaint by a parliamentarian of being manhandled).

Parliament speaker Hajim al-Hasani condemned the assault, saying that members of parliament are symbols of national honor and must be respected.

Parliament adjourned on hearing the news.

The incident will seem minor to most Americans and few will see this Reuters photograph reprinted from al-Hayat (which is not the one featured at the Reuters story on the incident on the Web). But such an incident is a serious affront to national honor, and Iraqi male politicians don't often weep.
Only one way out of this mess--GET OUT NOW!

DeLay "Defends" Himself

Hammer the Bugman sent an e-mail to his constituents--2540 words which could easily be summarized as "Dey got nuttin' on me."

One of the many cases of probable unethical behavior by DeLay was his apparent attempt to bribe and threaten Michigan Congressman Nick Smith into voting for the 2003 Medicare boondoggle. (See here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here) DeLay's "defense" against this charge is just to quote an ethics committee report, as follows:
“The Nick Smith Complaint”

Dismissed: “The issues raised by the conduct of the Majority Leader in this matter are novel in that conduct of this nature and the implications of such conduct have never before been addressed or resolved by the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct. Indeed, the Majority Leader’s testimony indicates that he did not believe he acted improperly under House rules during his encounter with Representative Nick Smith. In addition, the Investigative Subcommittee believes that the relevant facts related to the Majority Leader’s conduct-described in detail in this Report - already have been fully developed. In the view of the Investigative Subcommittee, these factors mitigate against further investigation and proceedings in this matter.” (Oct. 4, 2004 Report, p. 43).
DeLay adds no personal assurances to his constituents that he did not bribe or threaten Smith--he just lets the committee's decision not to investigate further based on DeLay's testimony saying he didn't believe he acted improperly stand for itself.

The rest of his "defenses" are just as slippery. See WIIIAI and the Progress Report for further analysis of DeLay's e-mail.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Setting the record straight

Corrections department:

I got an e-mail from Loren Beard, a chemist for DaimlerChrysler whom I misrepresented as an engineer in my post on the biodiesel tour last week. It sounds like I was a bit harsh on the Jeep Liberty--I'll let Loren set the record straight:

I read your post on April 11. Thanks for taking the time to listen to our ideas. I'd like to make just a couple of points.

1. I am not a DaimlerChrysler Engineer, but am a DaimlerChrysler Chemist.
2. If I appeared "inordinately" proud of the Liberty, it reflects the pride I have in my colleagues for the work they have done in bringing this very customer-friendly vehicle to market.
3. Before you compare the Liberty diesel to the Escape hybrid, you should be aware of a few things. The Escape has a rated towing capacity of 1,000 pounds. The Liberty can tow 5,000 pounds. The off-road capabilities of the Liberty diesel and Escape hybrid are worlds apart. 21/26 is actually best-in-class for a vehicle this size with these capabilities. Within the industry, and people who follow it, there is a huge debate about the EPA stated fuel economy numbers for hybrids. Since the principle value of a hybrid is in its ability to recapture energy lost to heat during breaking to charge the battery, these vehicles tend to show much lower fuel economy on highway cycles, where driving is steady state, and the electric motor and battery are just added weight, while the downsized engine is working harder and less efficiently. Hybrids are at their best under cyclic city driving under fairly low load conditions. Evidence: The biggest practical market for hybrid vehicles is the growing mass transit bus fleet, which, due to its cyclical driving patterns is experiencing very big fuel efficiency gains with hybrids.
4. I was at OU to talk about diesel and biodiesel. This is not my only area of interest. We are also looking into hybrids, and have recently announced a joint venture with GM to develop a generation of hybrids which will leap-frog the Prius-type technology. Different customers have different needs. If a customer wants a small SUV, with some 4WD capability - maybe to get out of a snow-drifted driveway in Oakland County in March, needs limited (or no) towing capacity, then the Escape hybrid might be their car. If you want tow a boat to Cheboygan, and then drive some of the sand/mud roads up there, or if you want to deal with a truly nasty snow storm, you might want to consider the Liberty diesel. A typical suburban commuter may experience very big fuel economy benefits from a hybrid passenger car, and we will offer one soon.

Keep up the good work, and thanks again for taking an interest in our new Jeep.

I'll add, also, that although DC doesn't yet warranty running the Liberty on 100% renewable American-produced fuel, it is certainly possible, which is not the case with the Escape. Please note that Loren did not endorse this addition!

I think he means you, Thomas Friedman

"Outsourcing America" is a powerful work. Only fools will continue clinging to the premise that outsourcing is good for America.
That's from Paul Craig Roberts' latest column, reviewing the new book Outsourcing America by Ron and Anil Hira. (Scary note: the entire first page of results on Amazon for the search term "outsourcing" is ten books on HOW TO outsource.)

I'm continually amazed at how well the "free trade" nonsense has brainwashed so many Americans, even as their jobs and job prospects disappear down that black hole. Probably because our two corporate parties are fully on board with it (they're funded, after all, by the corporate bosses, not the workers). Some liberals defend it because they think it is somehow good for the struggling masses in the rest of the world, which it mostly is not. "Free trade" is cheap-labor conservatism, or reverse Robinhood-ism, at its worst.

I doubt if the workers of the world will ever unite under a socialist banner as the World Socialist Web Site calls for at the end of just about every article. But pocketbook issues supposedly get votes, and this is an issue where the center (Clinton-Gore-Bush-Kerry) is both wrong AND bad for most Americans' pocketbooks. Those opposed to "free trade" include right wingers like Pat Buchanan and Paul Craig Roberts and left wingers like Dennis Kucinich. Were it not for the mainstream babble of fools like Thomas Friedman (who is also an insufferable twit, from what I saw on the Daily Show), this is one issue that should be a "slam dunk." That it's not shows just how much power the corporations really have in this world.

Hitler Youth to Holy See

Pope Benedict XVI.

When I think about the aspects of Christianity that appeal to me, I think of Jesus' statements in the sermon on the mount ("blessed are the poor," etc.) and his emphasis on helping those in need rather than judging others. A few decades ago, a movement called Liberation Theology arose in the Catholic church, mostly in Latin America, which focused on these aspects of Christianity--not the smiting of the Old Testament, the sometimes confusing morality of Paul's letters, or the bad drug trip of Revelations. Liberation Theology offered a Catholicism that could truly have been a major positive force in the world. And John Paul II, ably assisted by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (the new Pope Benedict XVI), basically killed the Liberation Theology movement.

Billmon has more.

What Little Chance We Had...

...for decent news coverage for the next week or two just went up in smoke.

Comedy Peripheral

Some recent lines from the late-nighters, via The Hamster:
"Friends say that each day President Bush spends two hours playing video games. Now let's think about this -- there's a war in Iraq, gas prices have never been higher and what is he working on? Getting Spiderman to the third level. ...Yeah George loves video games. His favorite? Grand Theft Election." David Letterman

"They claim now that President Bush spends two hours a day playing video games. Here's the good news -- that's two hours less than he spends being president." David Letterman

"Down in Washington D.C. the feds jumped a guy who was behaving suspiciously and carrying two large suitcases. Turns out it kind of had a funny ending: he's not a terrorist and the suitcases were full of cash for Tom Delay." David Letterman

"Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld warned Iraq's new leaders against hiring their friends and family members for government jobs, and then Majority Leader Tom Delay gave the rebuttal." Jay Leno

"Forty members of Congress also went to the [Pope's] funeral. They said it was great to be out of Washington and to get a break from all that prayer and Bible quoting." Bill Maher

MaxSpeak on the Estate & Gift Tax

He provides some of the facts.


What Xymphora Said

I don't know who or what Xymphora is, but the blog by that name is one of the more interesting ones I have come across. The author gives no hints about who he or she is, where he/she lives, etc. Just some really provocative posts. Today's post deals with recent currency controls which have been put in place as part of the ludicrous "war on terror," the cover story for just about any governmental crime. There's a bit more to the post, but I am copying over half of it here:
The effect of requiring more banking data from international banks dealing with Americans will just be to discourage them from dealing with Americans. It's a soft way of introducing currency controls, which would otherwise be politically unpopular. Apparently, everything is possible if it is part of the 'war on terror'. Soft currency controls will be necessary to manage the upcoming crisis with the American dollar. Some American war in the Middle East will cause the cost of oil to rise so much that Asian countries will have to sell their U. S. treasury bills in order to pay for it, and that will signal the end of Asian central bank support for the American dollar. Once it starts to fall, it will fall fast.

The 'creeping fascism' in the United States is no longer creeping, it's on a full run. The Bush Administration doesn't want to stop spending money on wars and allowing its friends like Halliburton to make out like bandits on war profiteering, and certainly doesn't want to stop its class warfare in the ongoing transfer of money from everybody else to the plutocrat class. Currency controls are needed because the Bush Administration doesn't want to deal with the double deficits, trade and budget, as that would require giving up the war addiction and putting an end to the tax cuts for the rich. The bankruptcy bill has to be seen in the same context of class warfare. Most Americans get into bankruptcy trouble due to health care costs, and bankruptcy has been the only way out. By limiting the only way out of permanent slavery to lenders the Bush Administration makes the average American even less secure, and makes employer-provided health insurance even more vital. As such insurance is almost never portable, and it is increasingly difficult to find a job with such insurance, the interplay between the bankruptcy bill, the insane American health care system, and employer-provided health insurance means that more and more Americans are completely denied any chance of labor mobility, which of course decreases the cost of labor.

Which jurisdiction is going to manufacture the most North American vehicles in 2005? Michigan? Ohio? How about . . . Ontario? Why? Health care costs. The Bush Administration is so interested in pursuing it's cheap labor/high commodity price policies that it is prepared to see GM either disappear or at least be forced into manufacturing outside the United States. GM is a bad example anyway, as it provides its employees with good benefits and a decent salary. Conservatives feel that companies like GM give too much money to their employees. It is much better to have employers like Walmart.

All of the seemingly inconsistent and certainly insane policies of the Bush Administration can be explained in the class warfare known as 'cheap-labor conservatism'. Nothing else matters as long as the cost of labor can be decreased at the same time that commodity prices are increased. Middle East wars, the war on terror, the bankruptcy bill, the tax cuts, the failure to address the deficits, the crazy inefficient health care system - it's all part of the same package. Much of the real-world realities of these policies has been shielded from the American public by the recycling of money paid for oil into the American economy, followed by the recycling of money paid for Asian consumer products into the American economy. Once the recycling stops, and Americans see the full price of conservative policies, it will be interesting to see what their reaction will be.

Bloody Anniversary

Twelve years ago today: The FBI-ATF assault on The Branch Davidians' complex in Waco, Texas, which killed approximately 80 people (I see different numbers in different articles).

Ten years ago today: The bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City by Gulf War veterans Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols.

230 years ago today: The American Revolution began.

First Kenny Boy, now the Bugman

The Housing Bubble

The LA Times reports on the boom in interest-only mortgages in California.
Interest-only loans, and other forms of so-called creative financing that are far riskier than the traditional 30-year fixed-rate mortgages, have allowed more people to afford homes in California even as prices have skyrocketed.

When the price of houses in California soared 17% in 2003 and 22% in 2004, a curious thing happened: Instead of home ownership decreasing because fewer people could afford houses, it rose to record levels.
An interest-only loan offers the ability to defer for three, five or seven years any payment for the house itself. That allows a potential buyer to stretch to afford a place that otherwise would be out of reach.

Of course, everyone else using an interest-only loan can stretch too. The result is that prices keep rising. That, in turn, encourages still more people to use interest-only mortgages, which fuels still more appreciation.
What's propelled the market up in California, some experts worry, could just as easily speed its descent.

"In the last few years, rates went down and values went up. It's like you were paid to live in California," said analyst DeFranco, who works for LoanPerformance. "People got so used to refinancing. They'd think, 'No problem. My house will be worth twice what I paid, and I'll refinance my way out of trouble.' That's not going to be a good approach going forward."

Here's how he thinks a collapse could occur: Rising interest rates put a brake on price appreciation and refinancings. People realize their interest-only period is coming to an end, raising their monthly payments substantially. Since they have no equity in the house, they choose to default.

"If housing prices go down or even are flat, heaven help us," said DeFranco.
I'm continually amazed to see new McMansions popping up all over the place. On the Biodiesel Bus Tour last week, we went from Lansing to Flint to Pontiac to Ann Arbor. Of these cities, only Ann Arbor could be said to have anything like a healthy economy. Several recent articles have highlighted the dire financial trouble that Michigan is in. Still, there are new subdivisions everywhere. And not only are many of these people not going to be able to pay off their mortgages when interest rates go higher and the economy stagnates further--the houses themselves will become unaffordable at almost any price because they are completely dependent on cheap gasoline and electricity.

My brother tells me that the same thing is happening in California's central valley--low-mortgage-rate sprawl with SUV's scurrying about like ants in an ant farm. When this bubble bursts, which it will soon, it's going to burst hard.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Doom? Probably. Gloom? You betcha!

I just discovered the blog of James Howard Kunstler, author of Geography of Nowhere and the upcoming The Long Emergency. Here are some choice quotes (emphasis added):
Last week, the International Energy Agency, after years of dithering, warned of an imminent global oil shortage and made a list of surprisingly draconian recommendations, from lowering speed limits in all the advanced industrial nations, to a reduced work week, to a ban on using privately-owned vehicles (!). Nobody in the American government dared comment on that because it might unravel the web of delusion that we can continue living as a nation of tanning hut managers who qualify to buy 3000 square foot suburban McHouses (while making monthly payments on GMC Yukons).

But those rising prices at the gasoline pump send a message that is cutting through all the static of American Idol, Fox TV News, and the attempted panderings of vindictive little pricks such as Tom DeLay. Message: our standard of living is headed down. Fast.

Now, there is every reason to believe that the public will come to misinterpret that message, too, because the whole nation -- including many enviro-progressives, by the way -- have bought into the notion that, whatever else reality offers, we are entitled to a life of easy motoring and Ditech Miracle Mortgages, and an awful lot of people are going to lose their personal revenue streams when that illusion falls away.

What will remain is a continental-sized angry mob wanting to pole-axe the people who are running the show. Since the Democratic party has ceded its opposition by failing utterly to promote and alternate vision of reality, a new opposition is certain to form out of this mob. Unfortunately, it is in the nature of mobs to think not in terms of policy but of rolling heads.

The warm part of 2005 is shaping up to be a time when the center no longer holds, or even ceases to exist.
Over in Vermont last week, I ran into a gang of biodiesel enthusiasts. Biodiesel is oil extracted from vegetable crops that can be used to run engines and do other things as a replacement for petroleum. They were earnest, forward-looking guys who would like to do some good for their country. But their expectations struck me as fairly crazy, and in a way typical of the bad thinking at all levels of our society these days.

For instance, I asked if it had ever occurred to them that bio-diesel crops would have to compete for farmland that would be needed otherwise to grow feed crops for working animals. No, it hadn't. (And it seemed like a far-out suggestion to them.) Their expectation seemed to be that the future would run a lot like the present, that bio-diesel was just another ingenius, innovative, high-tech module that we can "drop into" our existing system in place of the previous, obsolete module of regular oil.
Note, as a biodiesel enthusiast myself, let me note that I don't think that there's any chance that biodiesel, or ANY fuel, will be able to support driving on anywhere near the scale it exists today. But I think it offers one way to keep the trains, trucks, ships and ambulances running to some degree, and maybe even allow us a car trip every month or two. It also is a politically and economically viable "bridge fuel" to help us get from the high-energy mess we're in currently to the low-energy mess we face in the future.

More from Kunstler:
The stock markets and the oil futures markets sank in tandem last week as the global economy responded to increasing strain by wobbling. Oil dipped below $50 a barrel. Don't expect it to linger there long, as the summer driving season approaches. (Memorial Day weekend is the traditional start.)

Americans will travel compulsively even in a darkening economy. They may not go to Europe right now, with coffee at five bucks a cup there, but they will keep driving around the US because the suburban wastelands where most Americans live are so unendurably depressing that their denizens will pay almost any price for gas to get away for a while -- if only to hyper-artificial destinations like Las Vegas and Disney World. In any case, virtually all American cities (or metroplexes, since the city part is now the least of them), are so designed that stupendous rates of daily motoring are unavoidable.
The spring of 2005 has that 1914 feel. In Iraq and the rest of the Middle East, the current hiatus has settled nothing. The various tribes and factions are still pissed off at each other and at us. America is still left with its huge oil import addiction and a suburban way-of-life that no amount of "energy conservation" can appease. The tectonic stresses of economic distortion have been building under the surface of the Wal Mart/China partnership. For those of you contemplating a vacation in Las Vegas, don't bet on the status quo.

Back in Michigan: Dow buys its way out of bad publicity

From Bhopal and napalm to dioxin in Michigan rivers, Dow Chemical continues to poison the planet and get away with it. Brian McKenna describes how Dow's bribes to colleges and politicians have bought silence about its crimes.

FDR to GWB: The decline of the American idea

Bob Herbert quotes from FDR's 1944 State of the Union address:
[Every American should have:]
"The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation.

"The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation.

"The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living.

"The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad.

"The right of every family to a decent home.

"The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health.

"The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident and unemployment.

"The right to a good education."
Herbert goes on:
Roosevelt was far from a perfect president, but he gave hope and a sense of the possible to a nation in dire need. And he famously warned against giving in to fear.

The nation is now in the hands of leaders who are experts at exploiting fear, and indifferent to the needs and hopes, even the suffering, of ordinary people.

"The test of our progress," said Roosevelt, "is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little."
I guess we've failed that test.

A Little Late, Folks...

AWol's popularity is going down as fast as the stock market:
The last month has not been a good one for President Bush and the Republicans. Most people have opposed the President's proposals for reforming Social Security and most were unhappy with the positions taken by Republicans in the Terri Schiavo case. The result is that the president's job ratings have fallen to 44 percent positive, 56 percent negative, the worst numbers of his presidency, and a drop from 48 percent positive, 51 percent negative in February (and 50% positive, 49% negative last November).

This is one of the results of a new Harris Poll of 1,010 U.S. adults surveyed by telephone by Harris Interactive® between April 5 and 10, 2005.
While Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is not nearly as popular as her predecessor, Colin Powell, she is the only cabinet member currently enjoying positive ratings -- by 54 to 39 percent.

Vice President Dick Cheney's ratings are currently 37 percent positive, 60 percent negative, down sharply from 45 percent positive, 52 percent negative in February.

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's ratings are 42 percent positive, 56 percent negative, identical to his February ratings.
Too bad the Democrats didn't run a viable candidate in November, one who promised something besides committing Bush's mistakes more competently: they might have won.

From Doonesbury.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Your World On Bush

Blood continues to flow copiously in the "New Iraq," with large-scale hostage taking now occurring. Tensions grow between China and Japan--I have no evidence, but I suspect that the US "government" is encouraging the reactionaries in Japan to stir this pot. Given that either Japan or China could sink our economy in a heartbeat by refusing to finance our debt, this would be a dangerous game indeed (not to mention the possibility of World War III (or is it IV or V?)). Cat-killer Frist is attempting to portray Democratic filibusters on reactionary judges as attacks on "people of faith," trying to destroy both an important check on one-party rule and the first amendment at the same time.

This all on top of the bankruptcy bill and the repeal of the estate tax, both of which make it easier to be rich and harder to be poor. It took over 200 years to make a country with some semblance of freedom and justice for all--Bush may succeed in destroying that in eight years. And that's the optimistic scenario, since the entire world is at risk from his insane actions.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Arrest 'em all; Let Gonzo sort 'em out

You probably saw the headlines about the arrests of over 10,000 people in an operation led by US Marshalls and involving federal, state and local cops. The WSWS points out that many of these arrests would have been made anyway, but that this combining them into one massive dragnet was likely a PR ploy for the Patriot Act. WSWS suggests that there may well have been something more sinister going on as well:
[W]as Operation Falcon a dry run for a plan to be executed in the face of intensified political crisis or a resurgence of mass opposition to the government? Was this extraordinary federal, state and local coordination of mass arrests a dress rehearsal for a modern-day version of the Palmer Raids?
(The Palmer Raids were a similar operation taken against Communist and other leftist organizations in 1919, organized by red-baiting Attorney General Alexander Mitchell Palmer.)

From Lalo Alcaraz.

From Andy Singer.

From David Horsey.

Wascally Wobists!

From Ann Telnaes.

Friday, April 15, 2005

One thing Bush needs to add to his privatizing spiel..

I believe aWol normally tells his hand-picked audiences that the stock market has generally outperformed bonds or bank deposits. What he leaves out is: "That is, when I'm not the president."

Here's the S&P 500 since 1971. Admittedly, the peak occurs slightly before Bush's appointment, but over four years later the S&P is down about 150 points.

The market seems to be in panic mode today, even though oil prices are down from a couple of weeks ago and the dollar has been pretty steady for a few weeks. The Dow's down 150 at this moment.

How Sick is This?

From a flyer on our bulletin board at work (grammar errors as posted):



The flyer then gave an address to send the toys to. Haven't we killed enough Iraqi children already with our bombs, guns and sanctions? Now we're going to bribe them to be snitches--with Beanie Babies???

John, Paul, George, Donald and Dick

Meet the Beetles:
Entomologists Quentin Wheeler and Kelly B. Miller, who recently had the task of naming 65 newly discovered species of slime-mold beetles, named three species after the president, vice president and defense secretary.

The monikers: Agathidium bushi Miller and Wheeler, Agathidium cheneyi Miller and Wheeler, and Agathidium rumsfeldi Miller and Wheeler.
Naming the beetles after Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld was intended to pay homage to them, said Wheeler, who taught at Cornell University for 24 years and now is with the Natural History Museum in London.

"We admire these leaders as fellow citizens who have the courage of their convictions and are willing to do the very difficult and unpopular work of living up to principles of freedom and democracy rather than accepting the expedient or popular," he said.
Dude, you been playing with bugs too long. And did you ask the slime-mold beetles if they really wanted to be named after slime-mold humanoids?

(Via WIIIAI and You Will Anyway.)

Quote du Jour

The US media does a FANTASTIC job. Day after day after day, they do outstanding work.

By this, of course, I mean they do a fantastic job at what they exist to do: make as much money as possible for their owners. True, they do a horrible job at informing people about the world, but you should expect that. A chainsaw does a fantastic job at cutting things in half. But you shouldn't expect it to brush your teeth very well.
-- Jonathan Schwarz at A Tiny Revolution.


From Tom Toles.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

We Have Met the Enemy

Not Iran. Not North Korea. Not Russia or China or Cuba or Pakistan or Syria. Certainly not Iraq. The nation whose weapons of mass destruction pose the gravest threat, and probably the only serious one, to America and Americans is the United States of America. Whether accidentally or on purpose, by foreign terrorists or domestic ones, this country's huge stockpiles of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons are a grave threat to the lives of all of us. Heather Wokusch details how the distribution of a deadly flu virus to thousands of labs around the world is just the tip of the iceberg as far as biological dangers go. In the past few years, "research" into bioweapons, supposedly to prepare for an attack, has increased, while oversight has largely disappeared.

Quote du Jour

"The US appears to have fought a war for oil in the Middle East, and lost it." -- Ian Rutledge, author of the forthcoming book Addicted to Oil.


Democracy on the March--out of Mexico

Harold Meyerson, writing in yesterday's Washington Post on the "desafuero" of populist (and popular) Mexican politician Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador:
And what was the response of our government? Did we invoke the president's mighty line that leaders of government with long habits of control must learn to trust their people? Did we tell the crowds gathered in the Zocalo that America walks at their side?

Not quite. While Condi Rice waxes eloquent about our concern for democratic rights in Central Asia and the Middle East, the most the Bush administration has managed to say about democracy in the unimaginably faraway land of Mexico has been the comment of a State Department spokesman that this is an internal Mexican affair.

Democracy may be all well and good, but Lopez Obrador is just not Bush's kind of guy. As mayor of Mexico City, he's increased public pensions to the elderly and spent heavily on public works and the accompanying job creation. He's criticized the North American Free Trade Agreement as a boon for the corporate sector and a bust for Mexican workers. (As economist Jeff Faux has documented, while productivity in Mexican manufacturing rose 54 percent in the eight years after NAFTA's enactment, real wages actually declined.) He's opposed to Fox's plan to privatize Mexico's state-owned oil and gas industry -- a stance that probably doesn't endear him to the Texas oilmen currently employed as president and vice president of the United States.

Worse yet, Lopez Obrador's populist politics and smarts have made him the most popular political leader in Mexico today. The much touted "free-market" economics of President Fox have done nothing to improve the lives of ordinary Mexicans. Lopez Obrador's victory in next year's election would mark a decisive repudiation of that neo-liberal model. Coming after the elections of Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva

in Brazil, Nestor Kirchner in Argentina and Hugo Chavez (repeatedly) in Venezuela, it would be one more indication, a huge one, that Latin America has rejected an economics of corporate autonomy, public austerity and no worker rights.

So, democracy in Ukraine? We'll be there. Lebanon? Count on us. Kyrgyzstan? With bells on. Mexico? Where's that? Maybe they should move to Central Asia, change their name to Mexistan and promise to privatize the oil. That's the kind of democracy the Bush guys really like.

STOP! In the name of love!

I was just listening to that Supremes classic when I read this post on Michelle's blog. It describes how one Marine in Iraq improved checkpoint procedures:
Fick has written a book, "One Bullet Away: The Making of a Marine Officer," about what he learned in Iraq. The book will be published this fall. He told Pelley he learned the hard way that standard checkpoint tactics don’t work.

"The hand and arm signals are hard to see, they’re hard to interpret. The warning shots are difficult to see, almost impossible to see in daylight," says Fick. "Almost impossible to hear in a speeding car at a long distance. Usually, the last resort for us was attempting to fire into the engine block."

"Attempting?" asks Pelley.

"Almost impossible to do. A lot of that is Hollywood fantasy," says Fick. "I had a platoon that included many Marine snipers who are some of the best marksmen in the world. And they couldn't do it consistently."

Fick told 60 Minutes Wednesday that after struggling with the Pentagon’s checkpoint procedures, he improvised; he stole an Iraqi stop sign.

"And at every checkpoint we set up after that, we put the stop sign down the road near the wire, and it was hugely successful," says Fick. "[It] worked very well."
So we've been shooting up whole families of Iraqis because it never occurred to anyone but Fick to put up a stop sign?

Just a Reminder...

The "War on Terror" is complete and utter BS. From the WSWS:
"If you harbor terrorists, you are a terrorist," were the words used by President George W. Bush in justifying the invasion of Afghanistan three-and-a-half years ago and launching the campaign of worldwide militarism known as the global war on terror.

But the Bush administration is itself harboring a notorious terrorist, wanted for the mid-flight bombing of a Cuban civilian airliner as well as other deadly attacks on civilian targets and attempted assassinations.

The terrorist in question is Luis Posada Carriles, a CIA-trained Cuban exile who slipped quietly across the US-Mexican border last month and is now formally applying for political asylum in the United States.
Posada Carriles is just one of many terrorists being harbored by the US--some, like John Negroponte and Elliot Abrams, have risen to the top levels of our government. Bush and Cheney are like Osama bin Laden, sitting in their caves ordering and funding terror attacks around the world.

The WSWS concludes:
If it were to adopt policies analogous to those utilized by the Bush administration in its so-called global war on terror, the Cuban government would be entitled to send special forces into Miami to either kidnap or assassinate Posada Carriles, or even launch a military attack on Washington.

That such a scenario seems farfetched only underscores the fraud of the US war on terrorism itself. While using the supposed threat of terrorism as a pretext for carrying out global military aggression and a means of stampeding the American people into accepting war and social reaction, the US government remains the greatest purveyor of state-sponsored terrorism on the face of the earth. That is why a monstrous killer like Posada Carriles feels safe coming in from the cold.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Puppet Is as Puppet Does: Iraq

The World Socialist Web Site comments on Rummy's visit to Baghdad, where he told the puppets not to purge the Baathists from the "security" apparatus:
For the civilian chief of the US military to fly to Baghdad to issue orders to the new government is a clear signal in itself. Washington views the new transitional regime as little more than a public front for what is, in fact, a transition to a new phase in the occupation. The Pentagon envisions a gradual reduction in US troop levels until American forces are able to withdraw to fortified bases and allow Iraqi puppet forces to carry out day-to-day repression.

Key to this strategy is the use of the ex-members of Saddam Hussein’s repressive apparatus, whose "experience and training" are precisely in the suppression of the same Shia masses who have turned out in such great numbers to demand an end to the US occupation.

Canadians Save Our Bacon

A Cincinnati company sent vials of a deadly flu virus to nearly 5000 laboratories in 18 countries last year.
"The risk is relatively low that a lab worker will get sick, but a large number of labs got it. And if someone does get infected, the risk of severe illness is high, and this virus has shown to be fully transmissible," Klaus Stohr, influenza chief at the W.H.O., said from the agency's headquarters in Geneva.
It was not immediately clear why the 1957 pandemic strain, which killed 1 million to 4 million people, was included in the proficiency testing kits.
On March 26, the National Microbial Laboratory in Canada detected the 1957 pandemic strain in a sample and informed the W.H.O. and the disease centers. The lab investigated, and on Friday told the W.H.O. that it had traced the virus to the test kit.

The W.H.O. then notified the health authorities in all countries that received the kits and recommended that all the samples be destroyed immediately.
In other words, at about the same time that Charles Duelfer was finishing up his billion-dollar report on the non-existent Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, for which $170 billion dollars and tens of thousands of lives have been wasted, a lab in the US was distributing a virus capable of killing millions far and wide.

Dave Lindorff has more in Counterpunch.

Puppet Is as Puppet Does

I'm sure that, like me, you'll be completely surprised to learn that Afghan Puppident Hamid Karzai is now talking about a permanent US military presence in Afghanistan. This despite his having formerly worked for Unocal, having been installed as head of the Afghan government by the Americans, and having that post confirmed by a sham election staged in large part by the Americans.

Okay, not giving up entirely...

Despite my previous post, below, I urge you to call your Congresscritters today and tell them to vote against the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). You can reach the Capitol switchboard toll-free at 888-355-3588--just ask for the office of your representative, and tell whoever answers the phone that you're opposed to CAFTA. NAFTA has been a disasta for both US and Mexican workers and the environment (it probably sucks in Canada, too, but I know less about that). It's what Clinton should have been impeached for. "Free trade" is just one of the many ways the wealthy few in all countries use to further their stranglehold on the wealth of the planet.

So many criminals, so little time

Arch Bond villains Bush and Sharon (Dumb-Boy and Fatman) have been discussing ways to come up with an excuse to bomb Iran.

Bush's nominee for Ambassador to the UN hates the UN and is a "kiss-up, kick-down sort of guy." His nominee for intelligence czar doesn't know crap outside of death squads:
Negroponte was unable to answer some of the panel's questions. He did not know what his authority is under the USA Patriot Act, was not conversant in the difference between clandestine and covert military operations, and believed that the government is classifying fewer documents than it had previously. That interpretation is at odds with the findings of numerous government commissions.
I've spent much of the past three years trying to fight this idiocy--Call Congress! Vote for so-and-so! Sign this petition! But now I get the feeling that the only way back to sanity is to stand back and watch these insane evil idiots crash, hopefully not taking too much of the world with them. Pass the popcorn.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

100 Percent Renewable Energy?

Germany thinks it can be done, and is on its way to doing it. They now generate over 6% of their electricity from wind, and have been installing solar PV and hot-water systems like there is no tomorrow for fossil fuels.

Kitchen Biodiesel

The directions for making a small batch of home-brew biodiesel can be found here.

From Rob Rogers.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Biodiesel Tour!

The Michigan Biodiesel Bus Tour was actually quite an exciting and interesting event. The bus was almost completely full, meaning probably 50 people took part. The first stop was at the Michigan Department of Agriculture's Geagley Motor Fuel Quality Lab, on the MSU campus in East Lansing. This stop was related to biodiesel only in a future sense--the lab currently tests gasoline only, including random spot tests and tests of samples from gas stations consumers have complained about. (If you think you got some bad gas, you can call the MDA fuel quality people and they'll send someone out to take a sample at that station.) The staff at the lab told us that diesel and biodiesel testing would require some additions to their facility. This may be important as different varieties of biodiesel are developed, especially since diesel vehicle manufacturers like Volkswagen are reluctant to honor warranties when biodiesel is used.

This picture was taken at the lab, with the chemist (D) explaining to us how she tests gasoline. Others in the picture:
  • Wayne Hettler (A), maintenance director at St. Johns Public Schools. St. Johns was an early adopter of 20% biodiesel for its school buses, and Wayne has been a tireless advocate of biodiesel ever since, answering questions from around the world. (Article about St. Johns and biodiesel)
  • Gregory Koestering (B), CEO of SERCO LLC. He is building the first commercial biodiesel production facility in Michigan, which he hopes to open by the end of this year. Initial production will come from waste vegetable oil gathered from area restaurants. The plant will be located in Detroit.
  • David Konkle (C), Coordinator of Ann Arbor's Clean Cities Program, one of four representatives of that city agency who took part in today's tour. On the bus, Konkle gave a talk about peak oil and alternative energy as alarmist as anything I've posted here!

The next stop on the tour was Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan, where the star of the show was Jim Leidel. I'd already come across Leidel's name in conjunction with my research on the Uni-solar photovoltaic shingles, since Leidel was the guy a the University directing their shingle project. I would go into detail about Leidel's biodiesel presentation, except that he has already posted the whole thing on the web. He made biodiesel for us right before our eyes (and tells us how to do it in the presentation). Also at Oakland, a Daimler-Chrysler engineer seemed rather inordinately proud of their new diesel-powered Jeep Liberty. While it's good to see US (or US-German) automakers building more diesels, I don't think anyone on the tour was impressed with the Liberty's EPA mileage ratings--21 city, 26 highway. (I think Ford's comparably-sized Escape hybrid gets about 10 mpg better than that.) Still, Daimler-Chrysler is well positioned to join Volkswagen as a substantial dealer of diesels in the US, since DC's Mercedes-Benz division has been making diesel passenger cars for 70 years. (He said they currently sell diesel versions of the PT Cruiser, a minivan, and two Jeep models in Europe, where over half of the passenger car market is diesels.)

[Correction, April 19: I got an e-mail from DaimlerChrysler chemist, not engineer, Loren Baird explaining that the Liberty and the Escape are not comparable SUV's--see here for details.]

From Oakland, we headed to the official grand opening of the B20 biodiesel pump at the Meijers gas station on Carpenter Road, between Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti. This was a definite politician magnet, with Congressman John Dingell and Ann Arbor Mayor John Hieftje joining seven or eight members of the Michigan legislature in the ribbon-cutting ceremony. The Miejers execs who spoke all said they hoped to introduce B20 to many or all of their Michigan stations soon, which would be a huge step for biodiesel. Not only would it make biodiesel much more available--it makes it much more visible. We could see that just during the time we were there at the grand opening--several people who had pulled in to fill up at the station came over and asked about biodiesel.

Two law changes, one already enacted and one being considered, may also give biodiesel a big boost. The one already enacted is a federal law which allows producers of biodiesel to take a $1 credit for each gallon of pure biodiesel they produce. For blends like B20, the credit applies to the proportion that is biodiesel--so they get a 20-cent credit per gallon on B20. This has currently eliminated the price disadvantage that biodiesel was operating under last year. At Meijers today, ordinary petrodiesel and the B20 were at the same price. As oil prices go higher and biodiesel production increases, biodiesel should be cheaper than petrodiesel soon. The other bill, being considered by the Michigan legislature, would require that ALL diesel fuel sold in Michigan be at least two percent biodiesel.

The general mood of the tour, which included farmers, business people, and lots of government types from both city and state levels, was that biodiesel is about to take off in a big way in Michigan. In Leidel's presentation, he included this quote from Governor Granholm's 2005 State of the State Address:
“This investment in Michigan’s future will allow us to transform the state that put the nation on wheels into the state that makes those wheels run on pollution-free fuel cells or bio-diesel
technology; the state where the research into alternative energies is done; the state where the clean technology is developed, and where the clean cars, products, and businesses are built. And, Michigan, the Great Lakes State, could be the state that
finally makes these United States independent of foreign oil.”

More pictures:

What all the fuss was about--Meijers' new biodiesel pump.

Mayor Hieftje was there, just as a Recycle Ann Arbor truck pulled up to the biodiesel pump.

So was Congressman Dingell.

The ribbon cutting.

Full service lives! This VW Golf is getting filled up by seven state legislators.

Of course, the bus for the Biodiesel Tour was running on biodiesel!

Happy Birthday, Paul!

My nephew Paul is a really good guy, and he's a year older today than he was yesterday.

Biodiesel Bus Tour

I'll be taking part in the Michigan Biodiesel Bus Tour today, so there won't be any blogging until this evening.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

What matters more--the size of the protest or the size of the press coverage?

I see that CNN (on their web site, at least) is paying far more attention to anti-Japan protests in China than it did to either the anti-American protests in Iraq yesterday or the pro-AMLO rally in Mexico on Thursday.

I don't see any problem with CNN giving a lot of coverage to the Chinese protests--they are certainly a far bigger story than the Pope's funeral or Chuck's second wedding (although of course not on CNN). And, knowing what I think I know about China, the chances are good that the protests occurred with at least tacit approval from the government, despite their expressions of regret to the Japanese. So the rift between the two most powerful countries in Asia, based in part on the numerous war crimes committed by the Japanese in China in World War II and in part on the battle for economic hegemony, may be growing wider. Last month, I linked to a Chalmers Johnson article which described the tensions between China and the US-Japan axis over Taiwan and other issues. These protests may be a start by the Chinese on ramping up those tensions, possibly leading to economic battles and an Asian arms race. And if China and Japan start spending a lot of money on weapons, that means they'll have less to loan to us--meaning our deficit problem immediately becomes our deficit crisis. And perhaps an increase in Sino-Japanese tension is a sign that Joel Vialls may be right about an anti-US alliance forming, headed by China, Russia, India and Brazil, but also including Venezuela, Iran, and other countries.

I'll probably have to wait for another Chalmers Johnson article to get a fuller understanding of what this means, but I think the curse of living in interesting times may well have been cast upon all of us.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

How Low Can He Go?

Bob Harris' latest poll asks "How unpopular does Bush have to be before the media stop calling him a 'popular president?'" Just a warning--one of the choices is "Laura starts muttering that she ran over the wrong boyfriend." The other choices get a little nasty.

Shiites Protest Occupation

From AP:
Tens of thousands of Shiites marked the anniversary of the fall of Baghdad with a protest against the American military presence at the square where Iraqis and U.S. troops toppled a statue of Saddam Hussein two years ago.

The protesters back Muqtada al-Sadr, a radical Shiite cleric whose militia led uprisings against U.S. troops last year, and their large numbers reflected frustration both with the U.S. government and anger toward the Sunni Arab-led insurgency.

"This huge gathering shows that the Iraqi people have the strength and faith to protect their country and liberate it from the occupiers," said Ahmed Abed, a 26-year-old who sells spare car parts.
Some photos from the Yahoo slideshow (click "Slideshow: Iraq" link on this page)

From Andy Singer.

From Jeff Koterba.

The triumph of failure

From Ted Rall.

Rall's cartoon reminds me of a little dialogue I wrote over two years ago:
Harken Execs: Well, Mr. Bush, your little Spectrum Oil Company has had some rough times lately. How 'bout we buy it out for much more than it's worth and give you a place on the Harken board? It pays really well, and you don't have to do anything.

W: Cool!

Harken Execs: Oh, and say "Hi" to your father the Vice-President for us, won't you?

Harken Execs: Well, George, we all know Harken stock is going in the tank in a few months, but because we like you so much, we've arranged a secret buyer for your stock so you can cash in now while the price is still high. Go buy a baseball team or something, and say "Hi" to your dad in the White House, okay?

W: Excellent!

Co-owners of the Texas Rangers: You know, Governor Bush, we've been glad to have you on our team as we've grabbed private land at taxpayer expense to build this fancy new ballpark. Never mind that the Rangers never win anything: your work is done here. Here's your ownership share in the Rangers back, and an extra twelve million for being such a swell guy. Don't forget about us back at the governor's mansion, or if you ever move to a bigger house--in Washington, say.

W: Cool!

(August 2000)
Republican Party Leaders: Well, George, we've paid an ungodly amount of money and slandered a war hero to buy you the nomination for president, overcoming your obvious lack of qualifications. Don't you forget who paid to get you here!

W: Don't worry--I love you guys!

(December 2000)
Supreme Court: Mr. Bush, since you came in such a close second in the election, we're awarding you the presidency! Of course, some of us wouldn't be here if it weren't for your dear old dad--say "Hi" to him, will ya?

W: Cool!

(September 2001)
American Public: President Bush, since you happened to be vacationing in Texas while intelligence about a massive terrorist attack sat on your desk unread, leading to the worst attack on American shores since the Civil War, we're giving you this gigantic mandate to do whatever insane things pass through that little mind of yours. Kill, maim, or detain innocent people anywhere in the world, destroy the constitution, destroy the environment: whatever you want.

W: God bless America.

(November 2002)
American Public: Mr. Bush, in less than two years you have taken a nation that was wealthy, confident, and at peace, with a budget surplus, and turned it into one which is struggling, afraid, at war, and broke. Therefore, we're giving you Republican control of both houses in Congress.

W: Excellent! You ain't seen nothin' yet. Let's roll!

Moral to the story: Nothing succeeds like failure.
Of course, there's much more I could add now. For instance:

W: Colonel, I'd like to leave the Guard ten months early so I can go to business school.
Colonel: Who are you?
W: Lieutenant George W. Bush, sir.
Colonel: And you're a member of the Guard? Why haven't I ever seen you?
W: Because I never come here, sir.
Colonel: Makes sense to me! Have fun in B-school, and here's your honorable discharge!
W: Is it hot in here, or is it just you?
Hot Babe: That's the lamest pickup line ever. Let's have sex.
W: Yeehaw!

And, of course:
News Report: No WMD's existed in Iraq, no ties to al Qaeda have been found, and well over 1000 US troops have died and over $130 billion spent. Budget and trade deficits are at record highs, and jobs have been lost for the first time during a four-year term since Herbert Hoover.
59 million Americans: Four more years!

Friday, April 08, 2005

Some People Aren't Worried About Gas Prices

I just saw a guy delivering pizzas in a brand-new Ford Expedition SUV.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

I've seen a few baseball scores on ESPN the last few days, wondering which team "LAA" might be. It turns out that the Angels have changed their first name again. As an expansion team in the early 1960's, the Angels played in LA and called themselves, logically enough, the Los Angeles Angels. They changed their name to California Angels in 1965, moved to Anaheim in 1966 (staying as the California Angels), and then changed their name to Anaheim Angels in 1997. Now, according to ESPN,
Team owner Arte Moreno changed the name from Anaheim Angels to Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim during the offseason, drawing the ire of city officials both in Anaheim and Los Angeles.

Anaheim officials still are fighting the name change in court.
The Angels won their only World Series in 2002 as the Anaheim Angels. Why would they want to change their name again, and to something so nonsensical?

Sorry. Back to weightier matters soon.

Why did aWol go to the Pope's Funeral?

To make sure he's dead. It was the first time a US president attended a Pope's funeral.

I'd forgotten about this article by Wayne Madsen from April, 2003, which suggests that John Paul II suspected that W is the anti-Christ. Excerpt:
Bush's self-proclaimed adherence to Christianity (during one of the presidential debates he said Jesus Christ was his favorite "philosopher") and his constant reference to a new international structure bypassing the United Nations system and long-standing international treaties are worrying the top leadership of the Roman Catholic Church. Well-informed sources close to the Vatican report that Pope John Paul II is growing increasingly concerned about Bush's ultimate intentions. The Pope has had experience with Bush's death fetish. Bush ignored the Pope's plea to spare the life of Karla Faye Tucker. To show that he was similarly ignorant of the world's mainstream religions, Bush also rejected an appeal to spare Tucker from the World Council of Churches - an organization that represents over 350 of the world's Protestant and Orthodox Churches. It did not matter that Bush's own Methodist Church and his parents' Episcopal Church are members of the World Council.

Bush's blood lust, his repeated commitment to Christian beliefs, and his constant references to "evil doers," in the eyes of many devout Catholic leaders, bear all the hallmarks of the one warned about in the Book of Revelations - the anti-Christ. People close to the Pope claim that amid these concerns, the Pontiff wishes he was younger and in better health to confront the possibility that Bush may represent the person prophesized in Revelations.
Thanks to Polizeros for the reminder!

Oil Pirates

KUALA LUMPUR: A gang of pirates attempted to board a huge Japanese-owned crude oil tanker in the Singapore Strait in the latest of a series of attacks on the region’s strategically important shipping lanes, a maritime official said yesterday.
“Pirates in seven small fishing boats surrounded the tanker and attempted to board it late on Tuesday,” said Noel Choong, head of the Piracy Reporting Centre of the International Maritime Bureau (IMB).
The 150,000 tonne Yohteisan was on an east-bound journey in heavy rain and poor visibility when the incident occurred off Indonesia’s Karimun islands, where the southern tip of the Malacca Strait joins the Singapore Strait.
Choong said the captain of the Panama-registered tanker took evasive measures and increased speed to escape the attackers.
All the crew members were safe and the tanker continued on its journey, he said, adding that a successful boarding of a tanker of this size in the narrow sea lane could have had disastrous consequences.
“Anything could have happened. Singapore of course will take this attack seriously,” Choong said. – AFP
Like the dog who finally caught the car, I wonder what the pirates were going to do with the tanker. I imagine that the getaway possibilities in something that big and that slow would be nearly nil. If they were terrorists, wouldn't they be able to damage or sink the tanker Cole-style without trying to board? Maybe they envisioned some sort of hostage situation--give us $100 million or we blow up the ship, the crew, and the oil.

Oh well, I can't figure out the intentions of the pirates who boarded our nation four years ago.

Hub of the Axis of Evil

Jeff at Rigorous Intuition suggests that, of the six evildoers shown, the one in the middle, George H.W. Poppy Read My Lips Bush, may be the hub of the axis of evil:
I feel like a dimensional traveller sometimes with respect to George HW Bush. In one reality, the one I see on CNN, he's a folksy yet dignified grandfather and war hero. In the other, the one I find in largely-unread books in the small hours, he's former President Hannibal Lector. Beyond the broad strokes there's not much shared between the two. The first is consensus reality, while the second, which lays an incredible count of both low and high crimes at his door, is never spoken in public. Can there be two Poppies? Could both be true? Or could so many be wrong, and so few right? It's hard to be arrogant about evidence which has persuaded me, when nearly everyone I know, and nearly everyone I don't, have no idea what I'm talking about. And I always need to embrace the humility that I could be mistaken.
Let's be clear: there is not, really, a Clinton Body Count, nor a Bush Body Count. There is just the Body Count. It's not a competition, it's a consortium.
Rodney Stich tells more, in his book Defrauding America:

"Darlene Novinger said to me that she discovered during an FBI investigation that George Bush and two of his sons were using drugs and prostitutes in a Florida hotel while Bush was Vice President. She said that when she reported these findings to her FBI supervisors they warned her not to reveal what she had discovered. Novinger had been requested to infiltrate drug trafficking operations in South America and the United States. She was pressured to quit her FBI position; her husband was beaten to death; and four hours after she appeared on a July 1993 talk show describing her findings (after she was warned not to appear), her father mysteriously died. A dead white canary was left on his grave as a warning to her. After receiving death threats she went into hiding, from where she occasionally appeared as guest on talk shows, and called me from undisclosed locations."
Aside from the Rodney Stitch book cited, I don't know which books Jeff has read that make 41 seem like Hannibal Lector. But I've read Ramsey Clark's The Fire This Time: U.S. Crimes in the Gulf, Gary Sick's October Surprise, as well as many books on American imperialism (Noam Chomsky, Chalmers Johnson, William Blum, etc.), and watched The Panama Deception a couple of times. Poppy is one bad dude (in the bad sense of bad), and that's not even counting his abysmal record as a father.

And for Prime Minister--Old Whatshisname!

From Juan Cole:
Jalal Talabani appears to have had a senior moment of some magnitude. In the course of announcing that Ibrahim Jaafari will be Iraq's new prime minister, he says he suffered a memory lapse and had to leave the podium so an aide could remind him of Jaafari's name. The superstitious took it as an ill omen.

Marburg Virus Spreads

Hopefully, news coverage about the Pope has been buried with him, so that important stories can finally see the light of day. The spread of the Marburg virus in Angola, which has already killed 173, is one of those stories. The virus has spread to six Angolan provinces, and the World Health Organization has warned four neighboring countries to be on alert for Marburg.

Name that revolution

LA Times caption:
An estimated 400,000 people, many from faraway states, attend a rally in the capital’s main square in support of Mayor Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who formally announced his candidacy for president next year.

Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador

Milkman Dan--George Bush without money

From Red Meat.

A Cheery Headline

State at risk of economic devastation. Detroit Free Press columnist Tom Walsh summarizes two recent reports on Michigan's economy.

Desafuero Passes in Mexican Congress

They did it. AMLO's political rights have been stripped, meaning he may face prosecution for trying to BUILD A ROAD TO A HOSPITAL. And he may be blocked from running for president next year. Our president BOMBS hospitals and gets re-elected for it.

We'll see how much mierda hits the ventilador tomorrow.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Al Giordano on the Desafuero in Mexico

Giordano reports that there were over one million people in Mexico City's Zocolo this morning, despite temperatures over 100 degrees. He includes some interesting comparisons between Mexico City mayor Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., suggesting that this may become Mexico's first non-violent revolution.

Surprisingly, even the Washington Post defended AMLO in an editorial, calling the case against him "trivial." (Of course, the Post had to get in their usual cheap shots against Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, saying he "has wrecked his country's private sector and made most of its people poorer," without any evidence, of course.)

Go here for updates on the situation in Mexico (scroll to near the bottom).

Yeah--just pass a law creating more daylight

Surely he knows there won't actually be more daylight...
"Extending daylight-saving time makes sense, especially with skyrocketing energy costs," said Rep. Fred Upton, R-Michigan, who along with Rep. Ed Markey, D-Massachusetts, co-sponsored the measure.
"The more daylight we have, the less electricity we use," said Markey, who cited Transportation Department estimates that showed the two-month extension would save the equivalent of 10,000 barrels of oil a day.
-- CNN

I couldn't find the mentioned estimates on the DOT website; I assume the supposed savings come from assuming that people go to bed at the same time either way, but with daylight savings time they turn the lights on an hour later. But won't they then turn the lights ON an hour earlier? And I know that in late June here in Michigan, when it doesn't get dark until after 10 pm EDT, I find it difficult to get to sleep by midnight, whereas in the winter it isn't a problem. In addition, furnaces in schools and other buildings used mostly during the day will have to be cranked up an hour earlier (solar time), taking less advantage of solar heating.

I remember the winter of 1974, when the country went on year-round daylight savings time. It was brutally cold walking to school in the dark. And on those days in March in November they want to add, cars will be harder to start, and drivers will be more likely to run into fog on their commutes.

Rather than doing something substantive to save energy, like a big hike in the gasoline tax, Congress thinks it can get away with just fiddling with the clocks. So why not two hours, year round? BTW, the supposed 10,000 barrels of oil is one-half of one percent of US daily use.

Personally, I'm in favor of everyone going on Greenwich Mean Time--no more time zones or daylight savings time.

Tens of thousands take to the streets in Mexico City

To protest the likely railroading of popular Mayor Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO).

See previous posts here, here and here for more on this attempt at a pre-emptive coup. The whole basis for the corruporate parties' (PAN and PRI) case against AMLO is that he possibly violated a court order, temporarily, in order to build a road to a hospital. Heck, our "president" routinely ignores court orders to free hostages (or "detainees") who have been held for years without legal rights or due process.

Some suggest that a vote against AMLO may well backfire against Vicente Fox's PAN party and PRI, the party which ruled Mexico for over 70 years.
Pollsters say his popularity would soar if he is jailed because he would look like a martyr for democracy.

"They say that if they throw him in prison he is going to be the national hero of the 21st century. I totally agree with that," said Vicente Licona of the Indemerc Harris Interactive poll group.
And oh, by the way, Mexico is one of the four nations which provide us with the majority of our imported oil (along with Canada, Venezuela, and Saudi Arabia). The slight "correction" in oil prices since last Friday's high may be extremely short-lived.

Perles of Stupidity

According to the Washington Post (via WIIIAI), neocon douchebag Richard Perle defended his support for the war in Iraq to Congress:
Perle wasn't about to provide the apology Jones sought. He disavowed any responsibility for his confident prewar assertions about Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction, heaping the blame instead on "appalling incompetence" at the CIA. "There is reason to believe that we were sucked into an ill-conceived initial attack aimed at Saddam himself by double agents planted by the regime. And as we now know the estimate of Saddam's stockpile of weapons of mass destruction was substantially wrong."
(Emphasis added)In other words, getting rid of Saddam was Saddam's idea, and we fell for it.

The only thing stupider than Perle falling for the WMD lies would be us falling for Perle's lies. BTW, the Jones mentioned above is Rep. Walter B. Jones Jr. is a conservative Republican from North Carolina who voted to authorize the use of force in Iraq. According to the article, Jones was ripping Perle several new ones, if you can rip one a new one, that is:
Jones, nearly in tears as he held up Perle's testimony, glared at the witness. "I went to a Marine's funeral who left a wife and three children, twins he never saw, and I'll tell you, I apologize, Mr. Chairman, but I am just incensed with this statement."
Simple solution, Representative Jones. Turn your attention to the idiot-in-chief who hired Perle, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Rice and all of the other criminal liars, and then turn your attention to articles of impeachment. If you're lucky, you'll get a few Democrats to come along.

From Etta Hulme.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

A Better Battery?

Former British MP Matthew Parris has argued that the solution to the energy crises is a better battery: that electricity is a much cleaner and more versatile fuel than oil. It can be generated in lots of ways. Only one problem--it is not easily portable. A typical car battery has about 1 percent of the store energy of an equivalent weight of gasoline.

Well, Toshiba is claiming a breakthrough in battery technology. A new type of Lithium-ion battery that can be charged to 80% in a minute--much faster than current batteries. It's also more energy dense, and they are targeting the transportation market--hybrid vehicles, for instance.

The press release is a bit vague on specs--it does say that the prototype is small in size (but it doesn't give the weight), and that it stores 600 mAh of charge. For comparison, the sealed lead-acid batteries that I bought for my solar project store 200 Ah--over 300 times as much. And it would take several of those batteries to give an electric car any range at all.

So I hope this is a big step in the right direction, but if they're aiming for the transportation market, I hope they'll come up with something bigger than a laptop-sized prototype, and that it will be something that somebody besides the Pentagon can afford.

South of the Border

Tomorrow, Mexico's congress is expected to vote on the "desafuero" of Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO), mayor of Mexico City. If they vote for it, AMLO would be banned from running for president of Mexico in 2006. Recent polls show him to be the favorite.

Hundreds of thousands of Mexicans are expected to take to Mexico City's Zocalo (central plaza) to protest.

Michelle comments:
I can only wonder how the Bushistas will react if the popular uprising in Mexico puts AMLO in the driver's seat. Will Butthead be spouting praises for democracy in Mexico as he is for democracy in the Ukraine? Highly unlikely, since in Mexico's case, AMLO is a populist leftist threatening to replace Butthead's buddy Vicente Fox.

Desert Nine

Almost 25 years ago, a crash in the Iranian desert killed eight Americans and wounded five others. It was huge news, and it probably cost Jimmy Carter his presidency.

Today, a Chinook helicopter crashed in Afghanistan, killing at least nine. Back on January 27, a Super Stallion helicopter crashed in Iraq, killing 31 Americans. In November, 2003, 17 US soldiers were killed when two Black Hawk helicopters crashed.

While the Desert One operation ended up totally FUBAR, it at least had a clear mission--free the hostages. Why U.S. troops remain in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the criminal idiot remains in the White House, is not clear at all.

[Update 2:53 pm] At least 16 died in today's helicopter crash.

The effects of rising oil prices

WIIIAI sent me the link to this graphic from the Onion.

To which I'll add:
  • Drivers will combine visits to the drugstore, the post office and the dry cleaners all into four trips.
  • Americans will buy even larger SUV's, figuring they can carry more people in their carpool. Of course, they won't carpool.
  • They'll move way out into the country so they'll save gas driving to their favorite state park, which they visit three times a year.
  • They'll buy even more Hummers, because it will demonstrate that you're not just rich, but filthy rich.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Polluting the World's Food Supply--"Accidentally"

Liza Grandia writes about the threat that genetically-modified corn presents to subsistence farmers in Latin America, and to the world's corn crop in general. Excerpt:
Syngenta admitted this week that, for over four years, it "mistakenly" sold hundreds of tons of an experimental corn seed not yet approved for human consumption.
The agribusiness giants know that small, subsistence farmers like Don Pablo will not voluntarily buy their expensive GM seeds. By "accidentally" dumping GM-contaminated corn on the poor, they can make a quick profit and systematically contaminate the world's corn seed. Perhaps the biotech giants hope the global citizenry will shrug off contamination as inevitable and allow regulators to loosen restrictions. Or perhaps it is a back-door trick to eventually demand royalties on the seed, as Monsanto has already done to Percy Schmeiser and other organic canola growers in Canada.

But, if the center of the world's genetic corn diversity in Central America gets contaminated further, we all risk a major plague wiping out humanity's third largest food crop. Have we learned nothing from the Irish potato famine?

Conyers on the nutjobs from Texas

Rep. John Conyers (D-Detroit) blasts Rep. Tom DeLay and Sen. John Cornyn for their statements which seem to incite violence against judges. Excerpt:
First, the Majority Leader of the House of Representatives, Tom DeLay, made the outrageous statement, and apparent threat, that "the time will come for the men responsible for this to answer for their behavior." When given repeated opportunities to disavow the interpretation of his comments as a threat or incitement to violence, DeLay has repeatedly declined to do so.

Tonight, my staff showed me a quote from Senator John Cornyn (found on Americablog) that speaks for itself: "And finally, I – I don't know if there is a cause-and-effect connection but we have seen some recent episodes of courthouse violence in this country. Certainly nothing new, but we seem to have run through a spate of courthouse violence recently that's been on the news. And I wonder whether there may be some connection between the perception in some quarters on some occasions where judges are making political decisions yet are unaccountable to the public, that it builds up and builds up and builds up to the point where some people engage in -- engage in violence. Certainly without any justification but a concern that I have that I wanted to share."

This apparent effort to rationalize violence against judges is deplorable. On its face, while it contains doubletalk that simultaneously offers a justification for such violence and then claims not to, the fundamental core of the statement seems to be that judges have somehow brought this violence on themselves. This also carries an implicit threat: that if judges do not do what the far right wants them to do (thus becoming the "judicial activists" the far right claims to deplore), the violence may well continue.

If this is what Senator Cornyn meant to say, it is outrageous, irresponsible and unbecoming of our leaders. To be sure, I have disagreed with many, many court rulings. (For example, Bush v. Gore may well be the single greatest example of judicial activism we have seen in our lifetime.) But there is no excuse, no excuse, for a Member of Congress to take our discourse to this ugly and dangerous extreme.

My message is not subtle today. It is simple. To my Republican colleagues: you are playing with fire, you are playing with lives, and you must stop.

Senator Cornyn and Congressman DeLay should immediately retract these ill considered statements.
Don't hold your breath, John.

Four Dead in Iraq-o

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- Four U.S. troops were killed in clashes and bombings across Iraq, the U.S. military said Tuesday, and videos posted on the Internet showed militants purportedly beheading an Iraqi soldier and killing a reported informer.
At least 1,537 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.
Meanwhile, Saudi cops have been in an ongoing gun battle with "militants" since Sunday.

Marburg Virus

If you've ever read Richard Preston's The Hot Zone or Tom Clancy's Executive Orders, you know about the horrible, usually fatal diseases known as hemorrhagic fevers. (Of course, you could know about them without having read those books.) Causing the body to bleed inside and out, the diseases are highly contagious. The Ebola virus is probably the best known hemorrhagic fever, but the Marburg virus can be just as deadly.

As it is right now in Angola. The deaths of 155 Angolans so far, and the possibility of thousands more combined with the very real threat of the virus spreading far and wide, is a much more important story than the deaths of a brain-dead Floridian or an elderly Polish gentleman in Rome. You sure wouldn't know it by the press coverage, though.


Some much outrage, so little time. So I'll summarize some of the best posts from some of the best blogs.

From You Will Anyway:
  • Quotes from the 2000 Republican Party platform, which could clearly be used almost verbatim, and much more accurately, by the Democrats in 2008. Among the dozens of ironic lines: "Nor should the intelligence community be made the scapegoat for political misjudgments."
  • Those "activist" judges that DeLay and the other neanderthals have been complaining about because of the Schiavo case? Most of them were Republican, right-wing, etc., including Scalia and Thomas on the Supreme Court and William Pryor, Jr., whom W got in on a recess appointment to get around Democratic filibusters.
And Bob Harris has found the secret to happiness.

From Daryl Cagle.

Monday, April 04, 2005

You can't burn it if you can't find it

Chart from the Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas

In that graph, the scales represent gigabarrels per year, averaged over the 10 years centered on the year on the bottom. What it shows is that the world is already using far more oil than is being discovered, even with the latest technology and high prices. While the reckless consumption can probably continue a little while longer on previously-discovered oil, all of that will be mostly gone relatively soon, and new discoveries aren't coming (and won't come) close to making up the difference. I can't understand why groups like the IEA continue to make absurd predictions like the one in the chart showing 45 gb/yr in 2030--there is no way at all that there will be that much oil available.

Iraq--A Brutal Ongoing Disaster

Independent journalist Dahr Jamail was interviewed by Socialist Worker Magazine. Some excerpts:
I was in Falluja during the April siege last year for a couple of days, and then I went back in May several times to report on what happened. But I didn’t go in November, because the military cordoned off the city and maintains that cordon to this day. They’re not letting any journalists in there. I’ve been getting information by interviewing refugees, or through some of my colleagues who have been in and out of the city several times.

Life there is horrendous. At least 65 percent of the buildings have been bombed to the ground, and what’s left has been severely damaged. There’s no water, no electricity and, of course, no jobs. And when people go back into the city, they have to get a retina scan and get fingerprinted, and then they’re issued an ID card.

Then they go inside to find what’s left of their homes, and in a really horrible situation in which the military remains in total control of the town. There are snipers everywhere, and the ambulances aren’t able really to run--they’re still being targeted by the military. The one remaining hospital--Falluja General Hospital--is barely functioning, because people have to go through checkpoints to get there.

Life in Falluja is really a horror story. Most of the city’s residents are refugees and will continue to be refugees for quite some time. They’re scattered in small towns on the outskirts of Falluja, as well as Baghdad and other cities. The last estimate I heard was about 25,000--maybe a little bit more than that--had returned back to a city that once had a population of 350,000.
ER-MEANWHILE, ONE of the things missing from the U.S. media is reporting on the increasingly frequent bombing of Iraq by the U.S.

DJ-THAT’S A very important point. It definitely is one of the most underreported things in Iraq. Daily, there are many, many air missions being flown, and huge amounts of bombs being dropped. In fact, the vast majority of Iraqi civilians killed have died as a result of U.S. warplanes dropping bombs.

For example, in Falluja, it’s pretty safe to say that a large percentage of the estimated 3,000 people killed there were killed by U.S. warplanes. I can’t tell you how many reports I heard from refugees discussing how entire houses, entire blocks of houses, were bombed to the ground by U.S. warplanes. Even to this day, bodies lay under the rubble of houses because of this.

This is without a doubt the leading cause of the civilian casualties. They think that they’re bombing fighters, and they think that by doing this, they’re sending a message that if you continue to resist the occupation, you will be bombed, and anyone around you will be bombed.

It’s a form of collective punishment, and it is definitely intended to send a clear message that if you mess with the U.S. military, you and anyone around you is going to be blown out of existence. More often than not, it’s the case that when these bombs drop, it’s civilians who are caught in them, not the fighters.

For example, several people reported to me that the way the U.S. military was getting its intelligence on where to bomb in Falluja prior to the siege of the city in November was that any Iraqi could literally go up to the U.S. base outside of Falluja and say, “Yes, in this house, there’s a fighter.” They were paid between $100 and $500, and then that house was bombed. So this was a method that many people used to settle old scores and make some cash.
That's the same crap that's been going on in Afghanistan for three years. In the past, a feud between two clans might result in a patriarch being shot or something. Now, all the opposing clan has to do is tell the US military that their opponents are "al Qaeda" or "Taliban" and it's bombs away.


Another new record for oil. Gasoline is up another two cents just this morning.

All this new money in the oil business will apparently lead to even further monopolization--ChevronTexaco is going to buy Unocal. There were good reasons why anti-trust laws were passed over 100 years ago. They were used to break up Standard Oil a long time ago, and to break up AT&T about 25 years ago. Since then, however, the laws have not been enforced, and Standard Oil and AT&T have nearly been reconstructed. Once ChevronTexacoUnocal and ExxonMobil and BPAmoco megamerge, it'll be pretty close to a corporation J.D. Rockefeller would recognize. And SBC now has just about as much of the phone business as AT&T once did.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Could the world be ganging up to stop the US?

Australian writer Joe Vialls thinks so. He describes the formation of a Russia-China-India-Brazil alliance which has been forming in recent years, and the likelihood that oil-rich Venezuela and Iran may be more-or-less secret partners as well. He suggests that with recently-supplied Russian jets and missiles, Venezuela and Cuba may be in a position to not only prevent an invasion of Venezuela--they may be in a position to shut down the US economy by blocking most oil imports.

There's lots more in the article, some of it seemingly far-fetched--it was released on April Fool's Day, after all (as was the Stan Cox article I linked to earlier). But the US has made no secret of its intention to dominate the world economically and militarily, something which is bound to cause very diverse countries to suddenly find common ground. And by getting bogged down in Iraq and running the huge trade and budget deficits, the US has made itself very vulnerable to a coordinated attack, whether economic or military. So Vialls may not be too far off base.


Reality will triumph

That doesn't mean, however, that we're actually seeing it now, or even that we'll be able to see reality's inevitable intervention which will put a halt to our wasteful, deadly energy society.

A remark from my brother Jim combined with a few articles I read yesterday reminded me that there's a huge, ongoing effort to conceal reality for the benefit of the wealthy few. And while I believe that oil and other energy sources are finite and running out quickly, and that even if they weren't continuing to use them at the rate we are now is likely to destroy the planet as we know it--it doesn't necessarily mean that the rapid rise we've seen in oil and especially gasoline prices the last three days are the hand of reality taking control.

What Jim said was, more or less, "If there's money to be made, it will happen. The wealthy elite will do anything that promises to make them wealthier." (My favorite Montgomery Burns line: "I'd gladly give all of my wealth for just a little more.")

As for what I read--first, there was an article on CBS Marketwatch about the spike in oil prices. These paragraphs caught my eye:
"The reason for the move higher is clear," said Kevin Kerr, president of Kerr Trading International. "The Goldman Sachs analyst report signaling $105 crude jolted the market.

"Clearly, the oil market is bullish in the long term. However, to suggest that it will happen in some mythical 'super spike' right around the corner is pure fantasy."

Kerr suggested that Goldman's large position in energy derivatives may have prompted the report.

"That may be more the motivation of this story and account for the timing of it as the oil prices were correcting a bit," he said.
It is fairly common to hear accusations of manipulation by the major players in securities (and Goldman Sachs certainly is a major player) coming from lefty writers and maverick politicians. But I think it's unusual to see such a blunt accusation coming from another player, and especially to see it printed in the usually sycophantic market media. But there's certainly a history of such market manipulation (it may well be the rule rather than the exception). So there is a very real possibility that much of the current rise in oil prices is the result of self-serving manipulation.

Next, there was this article by Susan Mazur in Counterpunch. She argues that major pension funds like Calpers (California state pension fund) are heavily invested in energy stocks, in more ways than one. First, they directly own large chunks of stock in the oil majors, whose stock prices have been rising along with the price of oil. Secondly, they have large amounts of money in S&P index funds, which are about 20% invested in the energy sector. And finally, they have been investing through secretive private equity firms, including the infamous Carlyle Group. Here's a selection from Mazur's article:
Calpers has agreed to its pension funds being invested in hedge funds as well; Lacera has not. But Calpers and Lacera are each invested in Carlyle Group, Blackstone and other private equity firms. "And once they [private equity firms] have the funds," said the source, "they can do almost whatever they want with them domestically."

And they have! This is what Catherine Fitts calls "the Tapeworm". And the Tapeworm got a lot fatter this week with the teaming up of most of the country's private equity firms in an $11.3 billion buyout of Wayne, Pa.-based SunGard Data, a company that services Wall Street's trades and processing of transactions. What does this say about the deck being stacked?

The players were: Blackstone Group, Texas Pacific Group, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, Providence Equity, Goldman Sachs (private equity) and Bain Capital (founded by LDS celebrity Mitt Romney, who seved as Bain's CEO before becoming governor of Massachusetts (Suzan Mazur: Bush And The Mormons)). This consolidation of private equity money has been going on for a couple of years, but the SunGard Data deal was the show stopper.
So, there are some powerful and connected people controlling billions of dollars with a major interest in high energy prices. As Jim suggested, this by itself may be sufficient to cause prices to spike. On the other hand, it seems as though there have to be some equally powerful forces, with stakes in the auto companies and airlines and such, who are trying to get fuel prices back down. Most of us, of course, are just observers or pawns in this battle of the titans.

One thing I imagine both the expensive-oil titans and the cheap-oil titans agree on is any manipulation which inflates stock prices generally. The big push for 401-k's in the nineties brought billions of dollars into the stock market, and Bush's plan to privatize social security is an attempt to keep what's left of the bubble from popping as many of those nineties investors become retirees and start drawing down those 401-k's. Apparently, the war in Iraq is another such cynical ploy, according to this article from Stan Cox. Cox reveals a portion of a Pentagon memo which mistakenly fell into his hands. It states that most of the $18.4 billion approved by Congress for the reconstruction of Iraq has actually been "invested" in stocks, supposedly in "personal accounts" on behalf of Iraqis who voted in the January sham election. The memo describes how this was done:
the scenario with greatest potential was investment in a medium-risk portfolio of U.S.-based securities. To accomplish this without incurring excessive and unwarranted scrutiny, the Secretary issued a classified order creating the Office of Special Brokerage Services (OSBS), to which management of the reconstruction funds was assigned. The OSBS, quietly through third parties, purchased approximately $5 billion in stock in February, 2004. Another $9.2 billion was invested the following month.
Now, I haven't seen this reported anywhere else--I guess it could be satire, although Cox doesn't present it in a way that really suggests that. It certainly fits in with pretty much all of the Bushie schemes--take tax money out of any programs which benefit people (American or Iraqi) and give it to their friends on Wall Street.

Anyway, the whole point is that while reality will inevitably intercede, it may be hidden behind so many layers of obfuscation that we'll never really know the reality of reality's role. We're all watching a poorly-directed play without a program. The ushers regularly fleece the audience, and the action on the stage frequently spills over into the crowd, causing injury and death. The play is so poorly run, in fact, that it threatens to burn down the whole theater and everyone inside (the actors have already exhausted most of the fire extinguishers usig them as crowd-control devices). Some in the audience have started to realize the situation and would like to leave, but all the doors are locked and blocked by armed guards. While the actors and producers of the show are few, the huge audience is either too befuddled (that would be the Americans) or too far from the stage to stop the show. So the actors just do more and more outrageous things, seemingly oblivious to the fact that they're trapped in the same theater as the audience.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Live chart!

I was excited yesterday to find the WTRG Economics web site. I copied a couple of their graphs, remarking that gas prices had gone "off the chart." What I didn't realize was that I had copied a "live" chart, one that updates every day. By the time my brother looked at the gasoline price chart, the top of the scale was $1.70, not $1.60 as it was when I posted it. Given my obsession with energy prices, I guess I could just put those charts at the top of the blog permanently. I wonder if WTRG Economics would have a problem with that.

PS--BTW, the top of that chart may be $1.80 by tonight. Gasoline is up nearly another 2 cents already today, at $1.68.1.

Update--11:07 am: Looks like I was right. Gas futures just broke through the $1.70 mark.

Update--3:30 pm: Make that $1.73. And oil is approaching its all-time high again, at $57.30.

Forty years too late

Kissinger undergoes heart procedure. Forty years too late for millions of Vietnamese, Cambodians, Laotians, Bangladeshis, Timorese, Chileans, and Americans. Kissinger's so-called "realpolitik" has been real murderous for decades.