Friday, April 21, 2006

Irony Alert

The CIA fired an employee...for leaking classified information:

WASHINGTON - In a highly unusual move, the CIA has fired an employee for leaking classified information to the news media, including details about secret CIA prisons in Eastern Europe that resulted in a Pultizer Prize-winning story, officials said Friday.

A federal criminal investigation has also been opened.

CIA Director Porter Goss announced the firing in a short message to agency employees circulated Thursday. It is the first time since he took over in August 2004, vowing to clamp down on leaks, that he has dismissed an intelligence officer for speaking with reporters.

Agency spokesman Paul Gimigliano confirmed an officer had been fired for having unauthorized contacts with the media and disclosing classified information to reporters, including details about intelligence operations.

"The officer has acknowledged unauthorized discussions with the media and the unauthorized sharing of classified information," Gimigliano said. "That is a violation of the secrecy agreement that everyone signs as a condition of employment with the CIA."

And hey, is that Karl Rove on the escalator?
Room Enough for Barrels of Oil--But Can You Afford Them?

As you can see above, VP Big-Time Dick awakened from his little nap (see below) and is hoping you can help him fill the tank--looks like it'll cost him a little over $90. Or, if he's willing to refine it himself, let's see--I think, based on my estimate, you could cram about eight barrels into the back, provided you dropped the 2nd row seats. At today's prices, that'd be...around $600 bucks:

Oil smashed through record highs Friday, cruising past $75 a barrel on continued fears of a supply disruptions in Iran and Nigeria and reports of spot gas shortages on the U.S. East Coast.

U.S. oil for June delivery set a new trading high of $75.35 before easing to settle up $1.48 at 75.17 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, also a new closing record. The May contract expired Thursday at $71.95.

One trader said the tense international situation left many investors reluctant to bet prices were going to come down before they left for the weekend.

"Over the weekend traders aren't able to respond to any political news," said Brian Hicks, co-manager of the Global Resources Fund at U.S. Global Investors. "It's safer to be long than short."

Hicks said the soaring prices could start eating into demand and that certain predictions - like one he said he heard by Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez that oil could spike to $100 a barrel if the U.S. attacks Iran - aren't helping.

"It's that kind of news flow that seems to be driving the oil traders," he said. "It's somewhat concerning."

Oil has been hitting record highs in recent sessions, unadjusted for inflation, on supply worries fed by fears of a confrontation with Iran, the world's fourth-biggest producer. But it's also within sight of inflation-adjusted highs of around $80 a barrel set in the late 1970s and early 1980s following the gas crisis and the Iranian revolution.

U.S. average gas prices moved closer to the $3 a gallon mark Friday as spot shortages were reported along the East Coast.

You know, about the only good thing that'll come out of this is that Gret Stet revenues should see a bit of an uptick...but that's a drop in the bucket compared to what's actually needed in the region.
Cooked Books

"mmmm...just like mom used to make"

Scott Ritter (h/t Suspect Device and Juan Cole) talks about parboiled intel, fries instead of facts, and a host of other things in this interview. One small sample:

But today, pretty much the symbol of America is the military. That’s what many Americans use to define who we are and what we are. If you look at how the State Department has seen its position erode vis-à-vis its interface with the rest of the world, and how the Pentagon has become the preeminent ambassadorial representative around the world. It’s the military that’s taking the lead. M-1 tanks, F-15s, B-2s—these are the symbols of national pride. What an absurd situation to be in! I would have thought that the statue of liberty, the flag—so many other symbols out there that stand for the basic precepts of what this nation is—would be the symbols we would rally around, but it’s the military. And why? Because it’s reflective of the sad reality that America today is a society that has been militarized in so many ways, shapes and forms, staring from our economy, which has fallen into the military-industrial-complex trap that Dwight D. Eisenhower warned us about, all the way to our entertainment, where we glorify war on television and in the movie theater.

You know, I think that's true. Unfortunately, it's becoming the world perception of the United States.

Now, there are literally dozens of countries over the last hundred and fifty years or so who've seen this dark side of our country (and, to be fair, a number of places--Western Europe and parts of the Pacific in the 1940's come to mind--where our military presence WAS seen as a liberating force). However, and yes, this is just my opinion...but...I really think the world had a different perception of "America," or at least was able to distinguish between "the government" and "the American people." I'm beginning to wonder if that's still the case.

Anyway, check out the entire interview. Ritter, regardless of whether the rumors about his personal behavior are true or not (and, let's face it, in the days of Rovian swiftboating-for-fun and political gain, it's VERY possible he got the swiftboat-on-steroids treatment)...anyway, Scott Ritter was RIGHT on Iraq...but, sadly, the administration chose to ignore OUR peril.
While Visions of Shooting-Someone-in-the-Face Danced Through His Head

Big Time makes time for naptime. Original image here.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Official "A"

Just was catching a bit of Countdown--the first item had me do some searching, and, sure enough:

Just as the news broke Wednesday about Scott McClellan resigning as White House press secretary and Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove shedding some of his policy duties, Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald met with the grand jury hearing evidence in the CIA leak case and introduced additional evidence against Rove, attorneys and other US officials close to the investigation said.

The grand jury session in federal court in Washington, DC, sources close to the case said, was the first time this year that Fitzgerald told the jurors that he would soon present them with a list of criminal charges he intends to file against Rove in hopes of having the grand jury return a multi-count indictment against Rove.

In an interview Wednesday, Rove's attorney, Robert Luskin, confirmed that Rove remains a "subject" of Fitzgerald's two-year-old probe.

"Mr. Rove is still a subject of the investigation," Luskin said. In a previous interview, Luskin asserted that Rove would not be indicted by Fitzgerald, but he was unwilling to make that prediction again Wednesday.

"Mr. Fitzgerald hasn't made any decision on the charges and I can't speculate what the outcome will be," Luskin said. "Mr. Rove has cooperated completely with the investigation."

Fitzgerald is said to have introduced more evidence Wednesday alleging Rove lied to FBI investigators and the grand jury when he was questioned about how he found out that Valerie Plame Wilson worked for the CIA and whether he shared that information with the media, attorneys close to the case said.

Fitzgerald told the grand jury that Rove lied to investigators and the prosecutor eight out of the nine times he was questioned about the leak and also tried to cover-up his role in disseminating Plame Wilson's CIA status to at least two reporters.

Additionally, an FBI investigator reread to jurors testimony from other witnesses in the case that purportedly implicates Rove in playing a role in the leak and the campaign to discredit Plame Wilson's husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, whose criticism of the Bush administration's pre-war Iraq intelligence lead to his wife being unmasked as a covert CIA operative.

Luskin said Rove has not discussed any plea deal with Fitzgerald.

Well, Karl's demotion could be a trend...ending up with his final demotion--stick and a pin, with an orange jumpsuit as the uniform.

Couldn't happen to a more deserving fellow.
Where the Tumbleweeds Blow

It's unlikely the reports referred to by William S. Lind will ever wind up on "The Decider's" desk, but at least Lind makes the general public aware of their existence:

As recognition of the defeat in Iraq spreads, so also does the process of sweeping up the debris. Both civilian observers and a few voices inside the military have begun the “lessons learned” business, trying to figure out what led to our defeat so that we do not repeat the same mistakes. That is the homage we owe to this war’s dead and wounded. To the degree we do learn important lessons, they will not have suffered in vain, even though we lost the war.

Most of the analyses to date are of the “if only” variety. “If only” we had not sent the Iraqi army home, or overdone “de-Baathification,” or installed an American satrap, or, or, or, we would have won. The best study I have thus far seen does not agree. “Revisions in Need of Revising: What Went Wrong in the Iraq War,” by David C. Hendrickson and Robert W. Tucker, puts it plainly:
Though the critics have made a number of telling points against the conduct of the war and the occupation, the basic problems faced by the United States flowed from the enterprise itself, and not primarily from mistakes in execution along the way. The most serious problems facing Iraq and its American occupiers – “endemic violence, a shattered state, a nonfunctioning economy, and a decimated society” – were virtually inevitable consequences that flowed from the breakage of the Iraqi state.

It is of interest, and a hopeful sign, that this blunt assessment was published by the U.S. Army War College’s Strategic Studies Institute.

One target the study hits squarely is the American assumption, still regnant in the Pentagon, that superior technology guarantees our Second Generation forces victory over technologically primitive Fourth Generation enemies. Hendrickson and Tucker write,
It is now clear that the insurgency enjoys advantages on its own terrain that are just as formidable as the precision-guided weaponry deployed with devastating effect by the United States. Because U.S. forces can destroy everything they can see, they had no difficulty in marching into Baghdad and forcing the resistance underground. Once underground, however, the resistance acquired a set of advantages that have proved just as effective as America’s formidable firepower. Iraq’s military forces had no answer to smart bombs, but the United States has no answer – at least no good answer – to car bombs.

Recognition that war is not dominated by technology but by human factors is an important counter to what will inevitably be claims by the U.S. military that it performed brilliantly; it was the politicians who lost the war (the Vietnam War claim repeated). As the authors note, this reflects an overly narrow definition of war:

Other lessons are that the military services must digest again that “war is an instrument of policy.” The profound neglect given to re-establishing order in the military’s prewar planning and the facile assumption that operations critical to the overall success of the campaign were “somebody else’s business” reflect a shallow view of warfare. Military planners should consider the evidence that occupation duties were carried out in a fashion – with the imperatives of “force protection” overriding concern for Iraqi civilian casualties – that risked sacrificing the broader strategic mission of U.S. forces.

Nor could the Iraq war have been won if we had sent more troops. More troops would not have helped us deal with the problems of bad intelligence, lack of cultural awareness, and the insistence on using tactics that alienated the population. As the authors state, “The assumption that the United States would have won the hearts and minds of the population had it maintained occupying forces of 300,000 instead of 140,000 must seem dubious in the extreme.”

The most important point in this excellent study is precisely the one that Washington will be most reluctant to learn: “Rather that ‘do it better next time,’ a better lesson is ‘don’t do it at all.’” What we require is a “national security strategy (I would say grand strategy) in which there is no imperative to fight the kind of war that the United States has fought in Iraq.”

For most of America’s history, we followed that kind of grand strategy, namely a defensive grand strategy. If the fallout from the defeat in Iraq includes our return to a defensive grand strategy, then we will indeed be able to say that we have learned this war’s most important lesson.

To Lind's analysis, I'll also add that, aside from the oil, Iraq has NO strategic or tactical value; indeed, the terrain and location are ENORMOUS drawbacks by either measure: a mix and match of desert, traversable mountains, crossable rivers, with extremes in climate in both summer and winter...the Romans effectively abandoned the region, others have had relatively limited success in controlling it. Without the oil, there's nothing worth controlling...and while Iraq is "the cradle of Western Civilization," there's little cultural affinity between Mesopotamia and, say, the United States.

Tumbleweed-in-Chief thought it'd make for a nice little feather in his cap...but it's getting more and more clear that he ended up sticking the point right in his empty skull.
Trigger Laws

Oyster linked to the following article:

BATON ROUGE -- Legislation that would ban most abortions in the state passed a Senate committee 7-0 Wednesday after the bill's author agreed to make go into effect only if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns the landmark Roe v. Wade decision.

Senate Bill 33 by Sen. Ben Nevers, D-Bogalusa, cleared the Senate Committee on Health and Welfare after the provision was added. The bill would allow abortions only to save the life of the mother. But Sen. Diana Bajoie, D-New Orleans, said she wanted to "make it more pro-life" by not allowing any exceptions.

She did not offer the amendment but served notice she will on the Senate floor, where Nevers is expected to take up the bill next week. "I do have some concerns about this bill," Bajoie said. "It should be all or nothing. . . . Life is life."

Nevers said he will work with Bajoie to "get as much of a pro-life bill as I can...

The South Dakota Legislature recently passed a law that would ban abortions except to save the life of a mother. Anti-abortion forces said six states besides Louisiana are debating similar anti-abortion proposals...

Nevers' bill would set penalties of a minimum of a year in jail and a maximum of 10 years, and a minimum fine of $1,000 and a maximum fine of $100,000 for anyone who performs an abortion. A woman seeking the procedure would not face criminal charges.

Well, the bullshit quotient is just as off-the-scale as ever with these assclowns, who are about as "pro-life" as your average viral infection. And, as YRHT has pointed out, over and over again, NATURE is the most prolific abortionist on earth. Wanna stop abortion? Fight against nature. One thing, though: you'll lose.

Going so far as to exclude exceptions for rape, incest, and the life of the mother, as Rep. Bajoie wants, is not pro-life--it's an argument in favor of the possible death of an adult human who has implicit and explicit in the Constitution.

Besides, as the saying goes, if you don't want an abortion, DON'T GO AND GET ONE. There is no mandatory abortion.

Or, as the late, great Bill Hicks once said, if you're so pro-life, don't lock arms and block abortion clinics. Block cemetaries instead.

Oh--and earlier this week USA Today actually had a pretty good article on the mess created by wingnuts on this front.
Like Lightin' Cigars With Hundred Dollar Bills

Operation Throw Money by the Trainload At It continues apace--h/t Schroeder:

With the expected passage this spring of the largest emergency spending bill in history, annual war expenditures in Iraq will have nearly doubled since the U.S. invasion, as the military confronts the rapidly escalating cost of repairing, rebuilding and replacing equipment chewed up by three years of combat.

The cost of the war in U.S. fatalities has declined this year, but the cost in treasure continues to rise, from $48 billion in 2003 to $59 billion in 2004 to $81 billion in 2005 to an anticipated $94 billion in 2006, according to the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. The U.S. government is now spending nearly $10 billion a month in Iraq and Afghanistan, up from $8.2 billion a year ago, a new Congressional Research Service report found.

Annual war costs in Iraq are easily outpacing the $61 billion a year that the United States spent in Vietnam between 1964 and 1972, in today's dollars. The invasion's "shock and awe" of high-tech laser-guided bombs, cruise missiles and stealth aircraft has long faded, but the costs of even those early months are just coming into view as the military confronts equipment repair and rebuilding costs it has avoided and procurement costs it never expected...

Steven M. Kosiak, the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments' director of budget studies, said, "If you look at the earlier estimates of anticipated costs, this war is a lot more expensive than it should be, based on past conflicts."

Gee, ya think?

And another hat tip to Attaturk, who found these quotes from the Rumster--the man "The Decider" has determined is "the best man for the job:"

“Well, the Office of Management and Budget, has come up come up with a number that's something under $50 billion for the cost. How much of that would be the U.S. burden, and how much would be other countries, is an open question.” 1/19/2003


“I don’t know that there is much reconstruction to do.” - 4/11/2003


You can view the flip side of the coin by taking a ride down to the Gulf Coast...

Wednesday, April 19, 2006


Good thing we've already won in Afghanistan. I'd hate to see what things would be like if it was a quagmire or stalemate:

KABUL, Afghanistan - A massive explosion believed to have been caused by a rocket shook the Afghan capital late Wednesday near the U.S. Embassy compound, wounding an Afghan security contractor, officials said.

U.S. Embassy spokesman Lou Fintor said the blast did not occur on embassy property, and no Americans were injured. Staff rushed to a bunker in the compound after the 11 p.m. blast.

"All embassy personnel are safe and accounted for," Fintor told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.

A U.S. counterterrorism official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because it is still early in the investigation, said the southwest side of the U.S. Embassy's compound was among the buildings struck in the rocket attack.

The official was not immediately aware of casualties or the magnitude of the attack. It also was too early to say who was responsible...

The explosion comes amid a spike in increasingly brazen attacks targeting U.S.-led coalition military forces in Afghanistan, particularly across the country's south, where remnants of the toppled Taliban government have carried out increasing numbers of bombings and attacks.

Militants occasionally fire rockets into downtown areas, and the threat of being kidnapped forces many foreigners to live in tightly guarded compounds surrounded by concrete bomb barriers and to travel in armored convoys.

In July 2005, a rocket slammed into the center of Kabul, exploding on a roadside near the U.S. Embassy and other diplomatic missions, but there were no casualties and little damage to nearby buildings.

I dunno--maybe someone was just shooting into the air in celebration for all that freedom we've bestowed...
In Case You Haven't Seen It

Here's the Rolling Stone article about the Worst President Ever® that all the big blogs have been noting. Yes, it's worth reading.

In an unrelated note, today's the day for photo posting to not work for a while, it seems. At least they've finally bothered to add a more-or-less generic note indicating some awareness of a problem. And Blogger's scheduled for an outage at 6pm or thereabouts...the note indicates 4pm "PST." I don't know if they've decided to ignore Daylight Savings Time or not.

Hopefully the photo server will be back up before then.
Full Steam Ahead

The decider-in-chief has made a decision...Operation Rearrange the Deck Chairs has officially commenced. Short version: Humpty Scottie is out. Humpty Karl gets a different deck chair.

And His Doofus's Ship the S.S. Shrub is still sinking, but the "captain," and his superiors insist they didn't hit an iceberg knew the iceberg was there all along, um, to the extent they were responsible, take responsibility although it's really the iceberg's fault for being there in the first place...and they promise to learn as much as they can about icebergs for next time.
Hopalong Rummy

FDL has an extended excerpt of MoDo's latest:

Asked why he twice offered to resign during the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal but has not this time, Rummy smiled and replied, "Oh, just call it idiosyncratic."

Idiosyncratic, indeed, with Iraq in chaos, the military riven and depleted, the president poleaxed, the Republican fortunes for the midterm elections dwindling, and Republican lawmakers like Chuck Hagel questioning Rummy’s leadership and Democratic ones like Dick Durbin proposing a no-confidence vote in the Senate.

The secretary made it sound as if the generals want him to resign because he made reforms. But they really want him to resign because he made gigantic, horrible, arrogant mistakes that will be taught in history classes forever.

He suggested invading Iraq the day after 9/11. He didn’t want to invade Iraq because it was connected to 9/11. That was the part his neocon aides at the Pentagon, Wolfie and Doug Feith, had to concoct. Rummy wanted to invade Iraq because he thought it would be easy, compared with Iran or North Korea, or compared with finding Osama. He could do it cheap and show off his vaunted transformation of the military into a sleek, lean fighting force.

Cloistered in a macho monastery with "The Decider" (as W. calls himself), Dick Cheney and Condi Rice, Rummy didn’t want to hear dissent, or worries about Iraq, the tribes, the sects, the likelihood of insurgency or civil war, the need for more troops and armor to quell postwar eruptions.

"He didn’t worry about the culture in Iraq," said Bernard Trainor, the retired Marine general who is my former colleague and the co-author of "Cobra II." "He just wanted to show them the front end of an M-1 tank. He could have been in Antarctica fighting penguins. He didn’t care, as long as he could send the message that you don’t mess with Hopalong Cassidy. He wanted to do to Saddam in the Middle East what he did to Shinseki in the Pentagon, make him an example, say, ‘I’m in charge, don’t mess with me.’ "

The stoic Gen. Eric Shinseki finally spoke to Newsweek, conceding he had seen a former classmate wearing a cap emblazoned with "RIC WAS RIGHT" at West Point last fall. He said only that the Pentagon had "a lot of turmoil" before the invasion.

Just as with Vietnam, when L.B.J. and Robert McNamara were running the war, or later, when Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger took over, we now have leaders obsessed with not seeming weak, or losing face. Their egos are feeding their delusions.

You know, I think Rummy might just be able to pull it off and turn Antarctica into a chaotic hellhole. But they'd continue to arrest "the third most important emperor penguin" every mating season...

Update: YRHT, in comments, inspired me to consider some additional "policy decisions and public statements" we'd be treated to:

Condoleezza Rice: We wouldn't want the penguin smoking gun to be in the form of a mushroom cloud, AND

Nobody expected penguins would use planes as weapons...we didn't even think they could fly...

Shrub: Penguins want to attack us because they hate our freedoms, AND

You're either with us, or you're with the penguins.

Big Time: There's no doubt...penguins have reconstituted nuclear weapons.

And, of course, who can forget that penguins seek nothing less than the total destruction of our traditional way of life?

Tuesday, April 18, 2006


California doesn't just have to worry about earthquakes:

Like many Californians, Jeffrey Mount, a geologist, has done a lot of thinking about water.

He grew up in Los Angeles and remembers trying to save neighbors' homes with sandbags during winter floods in 1969. As a young professor at the University of California, Davis, he watched a severe 1986 storm inundate Yuba City and Marysville.

"The surface of the earth is shaped by flood events," Dr. Mount, 51, said in an interview at this year's meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in St. Louis. "However, it's mighty inconvenient when that water comes rushing through your backyard."

Avoidance of such calamities has been a central focus for Dr. Mount. In 1995, the University of the California Press published a textbook highly critical of river management practices in his state. Five years later, Dr. Mount became a maverick member of California State Reclamation Board, which oversees parts of the state levee system.

Last fall, after Dr. Mount publicly suggested that the city of Sacramento might be vulnerable to a Hurricane Katrina-like disaster, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger dismissed all the board members, Dr. Mount said. None had been appointed by him.

Appointments "are at the pleasure of the governor," said Sabrina Demayo Lockhart, deputy press secretary for the governor, adding that he had named "a wide variety of individuals who have extensive knowledge about California's water management."

Q. If you were making a bet, where would you say the next New Orleans will be?

A. I'd say the Sacramento area. The common denominator is concentrated urban development in the shadow of flooding and levees.

You have around 400,000 people at risk from flooding, and the number will grow in the next few years because of intense development.

The city's main problem is that it is situated between the American and the Sacramento Rivers and at the base of the 12,000 foot Sierra Nevada range. Both rivers are prone to flooding. Additionally, powerful storms come in from the Pacific, slam against the mountains and dump heavy precipitation that ends up very quickly in the rivers.

Yet, around Sacramento — the capital of the seventh largest economy in the world — there's intense building on the flood plains.

Twenty miles downstream is the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, a maze of leveed islands and channels that flow into San Francisco Bay. Because of past agricultural practices, the delta is sinking. Parts are 20 feet below sea level, lower than anything in New Orleans. Still, there are proposals to put up 130,000 new homes in the delta.

Q. Why is there so much development in risky places?

A. Because the new gold rush in California is real estate. Moreover, local governments are often reluctant to exert controls over developers because of the tax revolution.

Do you remember Proposition 13 in 1978, which limited increases in property taxes on existing homes? It decimated the ability of localities to fund services. So money for basic services that people expect is now raised through growth.

Many municipalities have become very aggressive about development. I heard a Northern California county supervisor say that his county needed development on its flood plain to fund flood control projects.

Q. New Orleans was inundated after its levee system was breached by floodwaters. How strong are the levees around Sacramento?

A. They offer a very low level of flood protection, probably the lowest for any major metropolitan area in the country. That assessment comes from the Army Corps of Engineers.

The New Orleans levees were rated as having a 200-year level of flood protection. That's a 1 in 200 chance that the levees will be overwhelmed in a given year. Sacramento's levees are rated at less than half of that.

Will Sifu recommend abandonment?
In Black and White

Oyster really hits the nail on the head with this post. Take a look.

As a sort of corollary, I was watching the History Channel show about Freedom Summer, which wasn't really all that long ago--42 years. Someone like James Chaney might just be reaching the age where he could possibly contemplate a comfortable retirement...if he hadn't been murdered. And Chaney wasn't alone in being murdered for daring to demand his political rights.

I sometimes wonder if the genuinely vicious efforts to destroy government by wingnuts like Grover Norquist isn't, at its core, a last ditch effort to ensure the political marginalization of, well, blacks. No longer able to exercise the under-the-white-sheet option for the most part, they've taken to rhetorical assault, although these same wingnuts have yet to meet a military program they won't throw money at by the container-ship load.

Given such circumstances, it's not at all surprising that the initial Team Bush response to Hurricane Katrina was to blame the victims. And the long term attitude towards especially New Orleans is to hope everyone just forgets about it--especially since they probably have the same attitude towards the New Orleans electorate as James Baker famously had towards Jewish voters back during "41's" rise to the top of the slag heap.

Well, if that's their attitude, I for one wish they'd at least be honest enough to admit it up front. Then we'll know what we're up against. And I wish like hell someone would call them on it, and hound them to no end until they gave us a straight answer.
Goin' For Broke

Fixing the china they fixed they fixed New they'll fix...Iran.

Team Bush has been stepping in it...big time:

BAGHDAD, Iraq - U.S. officials were warned for more than two years that Shiite Muslim militias were infiltrating Iraq's security forces and taking control of neighborhoods, but they failed to take action to counteract it, Iraqi and American officials said.

Now American officials call the militias the primary security concern in Iraq, blaming them for more civilian deaths than the Sunni Muslim-based insurgency and demanding that the Iraqi government move quickly to stem their influence.

U.S. officials concede that they didn't act, in part because they were focused on fighting the Sunni-dominated insurgency and on recruiting and training Iraqi security forces.

"Last year, as we worked through the problem set, that (militias) wasn't a problem set we focused on," Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, the top American military spokesman, said at a recent news briefing.

U.S. inaction gave the militias, with support from Iran, time to become a major force inside and outside the Iraqi government, and American officials acknowledge that dislodging them now would be difficult.

Meanwhile, the Gulf Coast is STILL waiting for what should be a massive effort from the government. Behzad Yaghmaian, who, to be fair is a bit challanged when it comes to Gret Stet geography--he thinks the Lower 9th is "located close to the mouth of the Mississippi River"--nonetheless gets this dead on accurate:

While spending billions of dollars in Iraq, the federal government had yet to dispatch an army of civil engineers and construction workers to help fix or rebuild the destroyed homes, restart the schools and hospitals, and build the infrastructure that would make the return of the "evacuees" possible. Instead of government paid workers, the Ninth Ward was crowded with college students from across the country who spent their spring break in New Orleans to help those devastated by the hurricane. With bare hands, they removed rubble, selflessly fixed walls, painted, and worked day and night to compensate for the failures of their government. The scene of the tired young men and women in the Ninth Ward was a fresh reminder of the ideals that were still upheld by many Americans. At the same time, it demonstrated the neglect and failure, or perhaps the unwillingness to help on the part of the government of the richest nation in the world.

And Team Bush now thinks the answer show their rapidly decaying fangs and rattle their increasingly rusty Iran.

Talk about sheer, undiluted, unadulterated lunacy.
The Decider

Pinocchio again expressed full confidence in Geppetto:

President Bush on Tuesday emphasized once again his support for his defense secretary, saying Donald Rumsfeld "is doing a fine job."

At a Rose Garden ceremony announcing his nominees for budget director and trade representative, Bush referred to the controversy in which six retired generals recently have called for Rumsfeld's resignation.

"I hear the voices, and I read the front page and I know the speculation," the president said. "But I'm the decider, and I decide what's best. And what's best is for Don Rumsfeld to remain as the secretary of defense."

"I hear the voices"? I don't know if we need to put the guy on meds...or take Laura's away from him.

Later, Shrubhhio said his strongest wish was to be a real boy...and his nose kept getting bigger and bigger.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Credit Where It's Due


Congratulations to the Pic for winning two Pulitzer Prizes--Public Service (with the Biloxi Sun Herald) and Breaking News (well, there's certainly a sad irony to the description).

Until last fall, I'd not been a big fan of the Pic, particularly given the ultra-conservative opinion/editorial positions. Post-Katrina, however, the paper has consistently demonstrated the value of good journalism to a community, especially a community so horribly affected by the flood (and storm).

And hey--it looks like Thelonious Monk received a special mention:

for a body of distinguished and innovative musical composition that has had a significant and enduring impact on the evolution of jazz.

Can't complain about that...
The $686 Million Dollar Man

But just try to drink oil, Lee...

Enemy of the Planet

Lee Raymond, the former chief executive of Exxon Mobil, was paid $686 million over 13 years. But that's not a reason to single him out for special excoriation. Executive compensation is out of control in corporate America as a whole, and unlike other grossly overpaid business leaders, Mr. Raymond can at least claim to have made money for his stockholders.

There's a better reason to excoriate Mr. Raymond: for the sake of his company's bottom line, and perhaps his own personal enrichment, he turned Exxon Mobil into an enemy of the planet.

To understand why Exxon Mobil is a worse environmental villain than other big oil companies, you need to know a bit about how the science and politics of climate change have shifted over the years.
Global warming emerged as a major public issue in the late 1980's. But at first there was considerable scientific uncertainty.

Over time, the accumulation of evidence removed much of that uncertainty. Climate experts still aren't sure how much hotter the world will get, and how fast. But there's now an overwhelming scientific consensus that the world is getting warmer, and that human activity is the cause. In 2004, an article in the journal Science that surveyed 928 papers on climate change published in peer-reviewed scientific journals found that "none of the papers disagreed with the consensus position."

To dismiss this consensus, you have to believe in a vast conspiracy to misinform the public that somehow embraces thousands of scientists around the world. That sort of thing is the stuff of bad novels. Sure enough, the novelist Michael Crichton, whose past work includes warnings about the imminent Japanese takeover of the world economy and murderous talking apes inhabiting the lost city of Zinj, has become perhaps the most prominent global-warming skeptic. (Mr. Crichton was invited to the White House to brief President Bush.)

So how have corporate interests responded? In the early years, when the science was still somewhat in doubt, many companies from the oil industry, the auto industry and other sectors were members of a group called the Global Climate Coalition, whose de facto purpose was to oppose curbs on greenhouse gases. But as the scientific evidence became clearer, many members — including oil companies like BP and Shell — left the organization and conceded the need to do something about global warming.
Exxon, headed by Mr. Raymond, chose a different course of action: it decided to fight the science.

A leaked memo from a 1998 meeting at the American Petroleum Institute, in which Exxon (which hadn't yet merged with Mobil) was a participant, describes a strategy of providing "logistical and moral support" to climate change dissenters, "thereby raising questions about and undercutting the 'prevailing scientific wisdom.' " And that's just what Exxon Mobil has done: lavish grants have supported a sort of alternative intellectual universe of global warming skeptics.

The people and institutions Exxon Mobil supports aren't actually engaged in climate research. They're the real-world equivalents of the Academy of Tobacco Studies in the movie "Thank You for Smoking," whose purpose is to fail to find evidence of harmful effects.

But the fake research works for its sponsors, partly because it gets picked up by right-wing pundits, but mainly because it plays perfectly into the he-said-she-said conventions of "balanced" journalism. A 2003 study, by Maxwell Boykoff and Jules Boykoff, of reporting on global warming in major newspapers found that a majority of reports gave the skeptics — a few dozen people, many if not most receiving direct or indirect financial support from Exxon Mobil — roughly the same amount of attention as the scientific consensus, supported by thousands of independent researchers.
Has Exxon Mobil's war on climate science actually changed policy for the worse?

Maybe not. Although most governments have done little to curb greenhouse gases, and the Bush administration has done nothing, it's not clear that policies would have been any better even if Exxon Mobil had acted more responsibly.

But the fact is that whatever small chance there was of action to limit global warming became even smaller because Exxon Mobil chose to protect its profits by trashing good science. And that, not the paycheck, is the real scandal of Mr. Raymond's reign as Exxon Mobil's chief executive.
Deep Fried Twinkie

Rip-Rap Riff-Raff

Dennis "It looks like a lot of that place could be bulldozed," Hastert, via his 14th Congressional District--helpfully superimposed on the map above (map courtesy of the Pic) continues to spit in the eye of the Gret Stet:

Louisiana's fishing industry faces an uncertain future after the pounding it took last hurricane season, but fishers know one thing is certain: Sometime this summer, a lifeless expanse of water about the size of Connecticut -- maybe a little bigger, maybe a little smaller -- will form off the state's coast.

And there's no point fishing it, because any nets dragged there are sure to come up empty.

Five years after a multistate compact was signed to rein in the sprawling "dead zone" of low-oxygen water that forms annually in the Gulf, the problem has only grown worse, according to federal and state officials and independent scientists. Voluntary incentives to cut down on the pollutants that cause it, particularly fertilizers carried by the Mississippi and Atchafalaya rivers from upstream farms, have failed to put a dent in the largest ecological threat to one of the world's most productive fisheries.

Meanwhile, a new study has traced almost 80 percent of the nitrogen-based fertilizers largely responsible for the low-oxygen zone to a relatively small number of agricultural counties in the Midwest that are heavily subsidized by the federal government to grow their crops.

The study from the Environmental Working Group in Washington says conservation programs intended to offset the runoff of fertilizers from farms have come up woefully short. In some of the counties highlighted by the study, the group said, for every $500 that goes into subsidy programs that could increase fertilizer use, a scant $1 is spent on conservation programs.

To be fair, Denny's district isn't the only culprit; however, this story underscores our national interdependence and further demonstrates cause for a national committment to the Gulf Coast...not to mention the fact that those areas SENDING toxic waste down to us are prone to flooding, too. Maybe Dennis should think about bulldozing most of western Illinois if he so keen about people not living in flood prone regions.

Or maybe Louisiana should insist that the Midwest keep their toxins up in the Midwest instead of expecting us to deal with them.
Rest in Peace, Emerson

I just heard on the way into work that Emerson Bell, an artist here in Baton Rouge, died this weekend. More here and here.

Here's a short bio, and here are samples of some of his work.

Not that I knew him all that well, but I certainly liked listening to him and viewing samples of his work. Baton Rouge is poorer with his passing.

More about Emerson, and additional examples of his work are here.