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Monday, June 30, 2008

Whatever happened to conservative government and keeping it out of our lives?

I'll Trade You the 2nd Amendment for the 4th
by Cenk Uygur
Fri Jun 27, 12:22 PM ET

Conservatives are thrilled about the Supreme Court decision settling the 2nd amendment issue in favor of individual gun owners (versus the idea that gun rights are only within the framework of a well-regulated militia). They are celebrating the constitution today. God bless their hearts. I wish they did that more often and about more amendments.

I believe in gun control. I believe that guns do kill people. In fact, they are designed to kill things. It is indisputable that they make killing a lot easier. That's what they're made for.

But I believe my side has lost this issue for now in the court of public opinion and in the Supreme Court. There are actually two different issues here. One is the policy argument concerning how much gun control we should have. The other is the constitutional argument of what the second amendment means.

I think it is reasonable to disagree on the meaning of the second amendment. In fact, I'm torn on it. If I heard this case myself as a judge and ultimately came down against the majority decision (which is not a certainty at all, I think this presents an excellent and close constitutional question -- apparently the Supreme Court agreed since they split 5-4 on it), I still wouldn't find the majority position unreasonable.

So, I am happy to concede that we should follow the second amendment to the letter of the law (as interpreted in this case). Now, can conservatives find it in their heart to agree that we should also follow the fourth amendment to the letter of the law? And if they can't, what possible logical or constitutional arguments can they have for fervently defending one amendment and rejecting another?

The fourth amendment clearly states that the government needs a warrant with probable cause in order for it to conduct a search or seizure. The Bush administration has been in flagrant violation of this for seven years now. They refuse to get warrants to wiretap conversations of Americans speaking with or emailing people abroad. This is clearly illegal and unconstitutional. But here conservatives find the constitution a little more inconvenient.

Justice Scalia warned after the recent Guantanamo Bay case, that the majority had almost certainly caused the deaths of many Americans with their decision. I think that's absurd hyperbole. But what is entirely possible is that the second amendment decision written by Scalia will lead to many more American deaths. But I don't begrudge him that. If he thinks that's the correct interpretation of the amendment, then our only recourse is to pass another amendment overriding it (not going to happen). We'll have to live with the extra deaths. Freedom isn't free.

But here, I propose a very fair trade. I will trade the second amendment for the fourth amendment. If the Bush administration releases the fourth amendment that it is currently holding hostage, I'm happy to consider the Supreme Court decision on the second amendment final and decisive. You keep the second amendment, we keep the fourth.

That seems like the fairest possible trade. My guess is that conservatives won't bite. They will continue the party line about how crucial it is that we follow the constitution when it comes to the second amendment and how important it is that we ignore the constitution when it comes to the fourth.

(original Yahoo post here:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/huffpost/20080627/cm_huffpost/109531

_______________________________________________________
Back to yours truly here, with a weekly/monthly note: More than 40 American soldiers died in combat in Afghanistan and Iraq in the last month, with 20 coming in just the past week. Thanks, as ever, "W".

Oh, and to each and every person who voted for George W. Bush for President in either 2000 or 2004 or, God forbid they did it twice, both, our nation would like to give you a big, hardy "thank you" for the arbitrary war in Iraq, the largest deficit spending in the history of our nation, the division of the American people, $142.00 per barrel for oil and $4.00 per gallon for gas.

It's a real treat.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Big news that I hope is wrong

This is why we need to be contacting our Congressperson/representative RIGHT NOW:


Report: U.S. 'preparing the battlefield' in Iran

New Yorker article says Congress authorized up to $400 million for covert ops in Iran

Journalist Seymour Hersh says program is being staged from Afghanistan

U.S. officials decline comment, deny the U.S. is launching raids from Iraq

Iranian general says troops are building graves for invaders in the event of war

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Bush administration has launched a "significant escalation" of covert operations in Iran, sending U.S. commandos to spy on the country's nuclear facilities and undermine the Islamic republic's government, journalist Seymour Hersh said Sunday.

White House, CIA and State Department officials declined comment on Hersh's report, which appears in this week's issue of The New Yorker.

Hersh told CNN's "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer" that Congress has authorized up to $400 million to fund the secret campaign, which involves U.S. special operations troops and Iranian dissidents.

President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney have rejected findings from U.S. intelligence agencies that Iran has halted a clandestine effort to build a nuclear bomb and "do not want to leave Iran in place with a nuclear program," Hersh said.

"They believe that their mission is to make sure that before they get out of office next year, either Iran is attacked or it stops its weapons program," Hersh said.

The new article, "Preparing the Battlefield," is the latest in a series of articles accusing the Bush administration of preparing for war with Iran.

He based the report on accounts from current and former military, intelligence, and congressional sources. Watch Hersh discuss what he says are the administration's plans for Iran

"As usual with his quarterly pieces, we'll decline to comment," White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe told CNN.

"The CIA, as a rule, does not comment on allegations regarding covert operations," CIA spokesman Paul Gimigliano said.

Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador in Baghdad, denied U.S. raids were being launched from Iraq, where American commanders believe Iran is stoking sectarian warfare and fomenting attacks on U.S. troops.

"I can tell you flatly that U.S. forces are not operating across the Iraqi border into Iran, in the south or anywhere else," Crocker said.

Hersh said U.S. efforts were staged from Afghanistan, which also shares a border with Iran.

He said the program resulted in "a dramatic increase in kinetic events and chaos" inside Iran, including attacks by Kurdish separatists in the country's north and a May attack on a mosque in Shiraz that killed 13 people.

The United States has said it is trying to isolate Iran diplomatically in order to get it to come clean about its nuclear ambitions. But Bush has said "all options" are open in dealing with the issue.

Iran insists its nuclear program is aimed at providing civilian electric power, and refuses to comply with U.N. Security Council demands that it halt uranium enrichment work.

U.N. nuclear inspectors say Tehran held back critical information that could determine whether it is trying to make nuclear weapons.

Israel, which is believed to have its own nuclear arsenal, conducted a military exercise in the eastern Mediterranean in early June involving dozens of warplanes and aerial tankers.

The distance involved in the exercise was roughly the same as would be involved in a possible strike on the Iranian nuclear fuel plant at Natanz, Iran, a U.S. military official said.

In 1981, Israeli warplanes destroyed an Iraqi nuclear reactor.

Iran's parliament speaker, Ali Larijani, warned other countries against moves that would "cost them heavily." In comments that appeared in the semi-official Mehr news agency Sunday, an Iranian general said his troops were digging more than 320,000 graves to bury troops from any invading force with "the respect they deserve."

"Under the law of war and armed conflict, necessary preparations must be made for the burial of soldiers of aggressor nations," said Maj. Gen. Mirfaisal Baqerzadeh, an Iranian officer in charge of identifying soldiers missing in action.

Journalist Shirzad Bozorghmehr in Tehran, Iran, contributed to this report.

The original article at this link:
http://www.cnn.com/2008/WORLD/meast/06/29/us.iran/index.html?eref=rss_topstories

...and counting...

At least 4,113 U.S. military members have died in Iraq, according to a count by The Associated Press.*



*for link to original information, go here:
http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5h8XNLL64ZdzZlLe0AW2ExTyg0gBwD91K222O0

Those hateful Liberals and Democrats said this in, what? 2003, I think...

Army study: Iraq occupation was understaffed
By ROBERT WELLER

DENVER (AP) — A nearly 700-page study released Sunday by the Army found that "in the euphoria of early 2003," U.S.-based commanders prematurely believed their goals in Iraq had been reached and did not send enough troops to handle the occupation.

President George W. Bush's statement on May 1, 2003, that major combat operations were over reinforced that view, the study said.

It was written by Donald P. Wright and Col. Timothy R. Reese of the Combat Operations Study Team at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., who said that planners who requested more troops were ignored and that commanders in Baghdad were replaced without enough of a transition and lacked enough staff.

Gen. William S. Wallace, commanding general of U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, said in a foreword that it's no surprise that a report with these conclusions was written.

"One of the great and least understood qualities of the United States Army is its culture of introspection and self-examination," he wrote.

The report said that the civilian and military planning for a post-Saddam Iraq was inadequate, and that the Army should have pushed the Joint Chiefs of Staff for better planning and preparation.

Retired military leaders, members of Congress, think tanks and others have already concluded that the occupation was understaffed.

At least 4,113 U.S. military members have died in Iraq, according to a count by The Associated Press.

Hundreds of commanders and other soldiers and officials were interviewed for the report released Sunday. The Army ordered the study to review what happened in the 18 months after the toppling of Saddam Hussein's regime. A report on the invasion was released earlier.

The report said that after Saddam's regime was removed from power, most commanders and units expected to transition to stability and support operations, similar to what was seen in Bosnia and Kosovo.

Commanders with the mindset that victory had already been achieved believed that a post-combat Iraq would require "only a limited commitment by the U.S. military and would be relatively peaceful and short as Iraqis quickly assumed responsibility," the study said.

"Few commanders foresaw that full spectrum operations in Iraq would entail the simultaneous employment of offense, defense, stability, and support operations by units at all echelons of command to defeat new, vicious, and effective enemies," it added.

The report said the first Bush administration and its advisers had assumed incorrectly that the Saddam regime would collapse after the first Gulf War.

When Saddam was so quickly defeated in 2003, there was an absence of authority that led to widespread looting and violence, the report said. Soldiers initially had no plan to deal with that. The administration's decision to remove Saddam's followers entirely from power caused governmental services to collapse, "fostering a huge unemployment problem," it said.

Planners in the Iraq headquarters said 300,000 troops would be needed for the occupation. Even before the invasion, some planners had called for 300,000 troops to be sent for the invasion and occupation.

During an April 16, 2003, visit to Baghdad, coalition commander Gen. Tommy Franks told his subordinate leaders to prepare to move most of their forces out of Iraq by September of that year, the report noted.

"In line with the prewar planning and general euphoria at the rapid crumbling of the Saddam regime, Franks continued to plan for a very limited role for U.S. ground forces in Iraq," the report said.

The report said it wasn't until July 16, 2003, that Franks' successor, Gen. John Abizaid, said coalition forces were facing a classic guerrilla insurgency.

Even so, the coalition made some progress, only to have its optimism dashed after the insurgency boiled over in April 2004, when Sunni Arab insurgents and Shiite militias launched violent assaults in many parts of Iraq, the report said.

The authors said the Army had considerable experience and training for guerrilla wars but had not been in one like Iraq since 1992 in Somalia. They said former Secretary of State Colin Powell warned Franks "that he thought too few troops were envisioned in the (invasion) plan."

Some commanders told the authors they asked about plans for making the country stable and got no answers.

The "post-war situation in Iraq was severely out of line with the suppositions made at nearly every level before the war," the report said.

Its writers said it was clear in January 2005 that the Army would remain in Iraq for some time, the writers concluded. The report covered the period from May 2003 to January 2005.

On the Net:
Army report: http://tinyurl.com/56dyob
Hosted by Copyright © 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

A New Direction--for the US, the World (and this blog)

Rather than staying negative and emphasizing what a screw-up Presient George W. Bush is and has been for and to the United States for his 8 years in office in so many ways--and besides, he's winding down to his last days, thank God--I've decided I'm going to emphasize solutions to the United States' and the world's problems of war, war for oil, the intractable Middle East conflicts, pollution and climate change.
Pointing out what's going right in technology and, specifically, solar power, is one of the best ways to do that. It helps that we are, seemingly, on the verge of significant, seemingly revolutionary and affordable answers to our problems.


Promising Solar Power Technologies

New cost effective solar energy products are on the near horizon. Let's take a look at some of the promising ones.

MIT reports prototype solar dish passes first tests.

A team led by MIT students this week successfully tested a prototype of what may be the most cost-efficient solar power system in the world--one team members believe has the potential to revolutionize global energy production.

The system consists of a 12-foot-wide mirrored dish that team members have spent the last several weeks assembling. The dish, made from a lightweight frame of thin, inexpensive aluminum tubing and strips of mirror, concentrates sunlight by a factor of 1,000--creating heat so intense it could melt a bar of steel.

MIT Sloan School of Management lecturer David Pelly, in whose class this project first took shape last fall, says that, "I've looked for years at a variety of solar approaches, and this is the cheapest I've seen. And the key thing in scaling it globally is that all of the materials are inexpensive and accessible anywhere in the world."

Pelly adds that "I've looked all over for solar technology that could scale without subsidies. Almost nothing I've looked at has that potential. This does."
Raw Solar

The website Raw-Solar has this diagram explaining the practical application.

A solar thermal dish reflects the rays of the sun onto a small receiver using specially curved mirrors, concentrating the sunlight 1000 times. The high concentration increases the efficiency of the energy collection by reducing the surface area for thermal losses. A robust tracking system keeps the dish pointed directly at the sun all day, maximizing the available sunlight.

Water is pumped through the receiver where the high intensity sunlight heats it to 212-750F (100-400C), making steam. The steam can then be piped into an existing steam system, such as a district energy system or food processing plant.
What makes this system special vs. its competition is that it can use small flat flexible mirrors that can bend in exactly the right shape to concentrate the reflected sunlight on a precise spot. The materials are all easily produced and the team could put this dish together by hand.

Inquiring minds will want to consider this MIT video demonstration of their solar power dish.

Hot Thin Roofs

Let's now turn our attention to Hot Thin Roofs.

A new solar energy product, thin enough to be built into shingles, may finally make the technology competitive.

With energy prices soaring, affordable solar power would be welcomed by any entrepreneur looking to trim the electric bill. Trouble is, power generated by the most widely available technology - panels covered with photovoltaic (PV) systems, which translate sunlight into AC current - still costs two to three times more than electricity generated from coal and other fossil fuels. That may be about to change.

Several startups, including HelioVolt in Austin, Miasolé in Santa Clara, Calif., and Nanosolar in Palo Alto, are working on a new technology called flexible thin film that's on the brink of making solar more competitive. Nanosolar has just begun to ship its thin-film solar systems to a German utility.

Made from pliant sheets of foil, the solar panels can be molded onto roof shingles, which are at once more attractive than clunky, heavy glass panels and less expensive to produce. In fact, the cost of making thin film is so much lower than traditional solar panels that experts say it could produce electricity for about the national average of 10.4 cents a kilowatt hour.
Selling Green

CNN Money is reporting on Selling Green - Making Solar Pay.

Solar energy may be hot these days, but it still costs two or three times more than the power your local utility provides. SunEdison, a Beltsville, Md., startup, has created a new financing model that allows solar to make financial sense for businesses.

The roof of Sea Gull Lighting Products' distribution center in Burlington Township, N.J., is covered with solar panels that the lighting maker did not pay a cent for. They are installed, operated, and maintained by SunEdison. The company acts as a bank, soliciting investors interested in a return on solar energy. SunEdison's investors own the solar panels, and Sea Gull agrees to buy the power.
The problem with the model above is that it requires subsidies to be cost effective. The winning products in this space will need no subsidies.

Algae Power

Another in the series of innovative technologies in the CNN Money report is on Algae Power.

Isaac Berzin, who founded GreenFuel Technologies in 2001, is working with Arizona Public Service to scale his process to commercial levels. He has built a small algae farm next to one of the utility's natural-gas plants. The algae, which grow in racks of plastic bags, feed on the carbon dioxide in the exhaust of the power plant. The system not only reduces the greenhouse gases coming from the power plant by 40% but can also produce biodiesel and animal feedstock as a byproduct without competing with the global food supply.
I find these products exciting and at least two of them seem commercially viable. All of them might be. And the higher oil prices get, the more economically viable some of these and other products become.

Raw-Solar's beauty is a simple design using basic components, without the high cost of custom designed parabolic mirrors. There are plenty of desert areas in the US with huge percentages of cloudless days where such a system could be commercially viable.

Interestingly, the Bush administration halts solar energy projects on federal lands.

The Bush administration has put a two-year stop to solar energy projects on federal lands in Arizona and other Western states while it studies their environmental impact.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Department of Energy will study the impact of solar energy production and other facilities that could be developed on public lands in Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Nevada, California, Colorado and Nevada.

There are 125 applications by solar energy companies to build facilities on public lands in those states.

The final analysis will show that the cure for peak oil is high enough energy prices.

Instead, the government sponsored solution was ethanol from corn. That "solution" was a complete disaster. US biofuel plants are going bankrupt as fuel prices rise at the pump and grain and fertilizer costs soar. Producing ethanol from corn makes no sense. To make matters worse, ethanol producers receive a taxpayer subsidy. And finally, tariffs make importing ethanol 3 times as expensive as it should be.

See the original post--with pictures of some of the technology--from Mike "Mish" Shedlock here:
http://globaleconomicanalysis.blogspot.com

Guns for Safety? Dream On, Scalia.

The Washington Post
Sunday, June 29, 2008; Page B02

The Supreme Court has spoken: Thanks to the court's blockbuster 5 to 4 decision Thursday, Washingtonians now have the right to own a gun for self-defense. I leave the law to lawyers, but the public health lesson is crystal clear: The legal ruling that the District's citizens can keep loaded handguns in their homes doesn't mean that they should.

In his majority opinion, Justice Antonin Scalia explicitly endorsed the wisdom of keeping a handgun in the home for self-defense. Such a weapon, he wrote, "is easier to store in a location that is readily accessible in an emergency; it cannot easily be redirected or wrestled away by an attacker; it is easier to use for those without the upper-body strength to lift and aim a long rifle; it can be pointed at a burglar with one hand while the other hand dials the police." But Scalia ignored a substantial body of public health research that contradicts his assertions. A number of scientific studies, published in the world's most rigorous, peer-reviewed journals, show that the risks of keeping a loaded gun in the home strongly outweigh the potential benefits.

In the real world, Scalia's scenario -- an armed assailant breaks into your home, and you shoot or scare away the bad guy with your handy handgun -- happens pretty infrequently. Statistically speaking, these rare success stories are dwarfed by tragedies. The reason is simple: A gun kept loaded and readily available for protection may also be reached by a curious child, an angry spouse or a depressed teen.

More than 20 years ago, I conducted a study of firearm-related deaths in homes in Seattle and surrounding King County, Washington. Over the study's seven-year interval, more than half of all fatal shootings in the county took place in the home where the firearm involved was kept. Just nine of those shootings were legally justifiable homicides or acts of self-defense; guns kept in homes were also involved in 12 accidental deaths, 41 criminal homicides and a shocking 333 suicides. A subsequent study conducted in three U.S. cities found that guns kept in the home were 12 times more likely to be involved in the death or injury of a member of the household than in the killing or wounding of a bad guy in self-defense.

Oh, one more thing: Scalia's ludicrous vision of a little old lady clutching a handgun in one hand while dialing 911 with the other (try it sometime) doesn't fit the facts. According to the Justice Department, far more guns are lost each year to burglary or theft than are used to defend people or property. In Atlanta, a city where approximately a third of households contain guns, a study of 197 home-invasion crimes revealed only three instances (1.5 percent) in which the inhabitants resisted with a gun. Intruders got to the homeowner's gun twice as often as the homeowner did.

The court has spoken, but citizens and lawmakers should base future gun-control decisions -- both personal and political -- on something more substantive than Scalia's glib opinion.

-- Arthur Kellermann, a professor of emergency medicine and public health at Emory University

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Early June in Chicago: nothing like it

 
From one of the "Emerald Cities", Chicago, about 3 weeks ago.
Posted by Picasa

President Big Oil

As if we needed any more proof that this is the President of, by and for "Big Oil", there's plenty more fresh proof this week.

For starters, the past week saw the 4 big American Oil companies get back oil contracts for and in Iraq. Yeah, no kidding. And they're still going to pretend that this wasn't a war for oil.

Those 4 oil firms haven't been in that country since--get this--1972. Unbelievable. It's almost as though Georgey had a pact and promise with them, that if they helped him steal one or two elections with all their money, that he'd get 'em back in Iraq.

Well, 4,000-plus American soldiers, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and untold billions of dollars later and they're getting their payday. Congratulations all around, boys. You got your big gift.

That and $142.00/barrel oil.

The other thing that's happening just now is that this Administration's lowly Bureau of Land Management--you know, the one that usually just messes up the lives of the Native American Indians--is shutting down the possibility of ANY solar power projects in the country for 2 full years because--get this, this is rich--they're going to do environmental studies on what this could mean to the Southwest.

Isn't that great? It just doesn't get any more ironic and twisted than this.

The Bush Administration is concerned about the environment, for pity's sake. They've "gottn religion" about the environmnet.

If you believe that, I have some swamp land for you to consider.

Let me add--with facts--to the irony and contradiction.

The same BLM is, right now, ADDING STAFF. Seriously.

They're gearing up for--are you ready for this?--all the oil and gas lease applications they've been getting from the same oil companies across this great land of ours.

So they're shutting out the possibility of solar power studies for 2 years but expanding so they can allow firms to look further for FOSSIL FUELS.

Let me point out some obvious sidepoints, like the fact that fossil fuels are what are getting us further into trouble in the Middle East and war and with both Mother Nature and global climate change.

Insane.

So that's where we are. Anyone who tries to tell me this President, his party and this administration didn't go into Iraq for oil has loads of hard facts and proof going against them. It is and always was a war for oil.

You'd think this President would be embarassed, wouldn't you?, by all ths evidence and information that's out there about what he does and what he wants and what he believes in. You'd think he'd even be ashamed but no, not this guy. Money is money and he'll do virtually anything for him and his pals to load up on it.


Post Script:

12 hours after posting the above, I just received the following, from Truthout.org, saying much the same thing:

t r u t h o u t | 06.28

Bill Moyers and Michael Winship | It Was Oil, All Along

http://www.truthout.org/article/it-was-oil-all-along

For Truthout, Bill Moyers and Michael Winship write: "Oh, no, they told us, Iraq isn't a war about oil. That's cynical and simplistic, they said. It's about terror and al-Qaeda and toppling a dictator and spreading democracy and protecting ourselves from weapons of mass destruction. But one by one, these concocted rationales went up in smoke, fire and ashes. And now the bottom line turns out to be ... the bottom line. It is about oil."

(If I even begin to think that I think remotely close to Bill Moyers, I may pass out).

Post, Post Script (bear with me).

My partner sent me this article a couple days ago. It seems we could be on the verge of some terrific and important breakthroughs on and in solar power, if only we can keep "pushing the envelope" of technology and our government will stay out of the way:

Sol Focus: All That Silicon Valley Alternative Energy Investment Bears Some Fruit
Posted by: Carl Alviani on Thursday, June 26 2008

We've been hearing about the boom in alternative energy research in Silicon Valley for a while now, but not so much in terms of actual marketable products. That may be changing, though, if Mountain View based Sol Focus is any indication.

Looking at the history of solar power, one of the biggest obstacles to its broad acceptance and application has been the high cost of manufacturing photovoltaic cells, and the relatively low output. Sol Focus has a solution that they think could revolutionize the industry, and it's so obvious you have to wonder why it took so long. Rather than make a large panel of pricey semi-conductors, they use comparatively cheap aluminum and glass mirrors to concentrate sunlight onto a tiny chip of photovoltaic, both reducing the cost of the unit, and increasing the efficiency of electricity production.

According to the company's website, these dished panels use 1/1000th the active material of a conventional panel, and will produce power as cheaply as conventional (fossil fuel) sources by 2010. As an added bonus, they also look much, much cooler than the typical shiny black slab, offering a gleaming sci-fi gorgeousness that we wouldn't mind on our rooftop one bit.

See the original site here:
http://www.core77.com/blog/technology/sol_focus_all_that_silicon_valley_alternative_energy_investment_bears_some_fruit_10308.asp

Have a great weekend, y'all...

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Our government: 289 million dollars for a 21 year old they don't even like

Military contract spurs anger in Congress
By LESLEY CLARK
McClatchy Newspapers

WASHINGTON | Military officials promised changes Tuesday after congressional outrage erupted over how a 21-year-old on a State Department “watch list” was awarded a $298 million arms deal.

An investigation found that Efraim Diveroli was granted the contract even though he, his company, AEY, and a supplier he worked with were on a watch list for suspicious international arms dealers, said Rep. Henry Waxman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

The California Democrat said that the awarding of the contract revealed a “fundamentally flawed system,” noting that Defense Department officials had overlooked AEY’s “long record of failed and dubious performance.” That record included delivering damaged helmets to Iraq.

“It appears that anyone — no matter how inexperienced or unqualified — can win a lucrative federal contract worth hundreds of millions of dollars,” Waxman said.

Back to yours truly: I'd like to personally thank, here, the Bush Administration and the Department of Defense for both protecting our country, obviously, and spending our hard-earned money so wisely. (NOT!)

Now we have a lying Supreme Court Justice?


Scalia Cites False Information in Habeas Corpus Dissent


Wednesday 25 June 2008

by: Marjorie Cohn, t r u t h o u t | Perspective


Marjorie Cohn says, "Scalia bolstered his hysterical claim that the Boumediene decision 'will almost certainly cause more Americans to be killed' with stale information that was proven to be false a year ago."

To bolster his argument that the Guantanamo detainees should be denied the right to prove their innocence in federal courts, Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in his dissent in Boumediene v. Bush: "At least 30 of those prisoners hitherto released from Guantanamo have returned to the battlefield." It turns out that statement is false.

According to a new report by Seton Hall Law Center for Policy and Research, "The statistic was endorsed by a Senate Minority Report issued June 26, 2007, which cites a media outlet, CNN. CNN, in turn, named the DoD [Department of Defense] as its source. The '30' number, however, was corrected in a DoD press release issued in July 2007, and a DoD document submitted to the House Foreign Relations Committee on May 20, 2008, abandons the claim entirely."

The largest possible number of detainees who could have "returned to the fight" is 12; however, the Department of Defense has no system for tracking the whereabouts of released detainees. The only one who has undisputedly taken up arms against the United States or its allies, "ISN 220," was released by political officers of the DoD against the recommendations of military officers.

Scalia bolstered his hysterical claim that the Boumediene decision "will almost certainly cause more Americans to be killed" with stale information that was proven to be false one year ago. Professor Mark Denbeaux, director of the Seton Hall Center, said, Scalia "was relying uncritically on information that originated with a party in the case before him."

The Supreme Court decided in a 5-4 decision that the Guantanamo detainees were entitled to file petitions for writ of habeas corpus to challenge their detention. More than 200 men who have been held for up to six years and have never been charged with a crime will now have their day in court. Many were snatched from their homes, picked up off the street or in airports, or sold to the US military by warlords for bounty.

Scalia, who sits on the highest court in the land, has acted as a loyal foot soldier for the executive branch of government.

--------
Marjorie Cohn is president of the National Lawyers Guild and a professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law. She is the author of "Cowboy Republic: Six Ways the Bush Gang Has Defied the Law." Her articles are archived at www.marjoriecohn.com.

Did you hear the one about the war crimes?

US General Accuses Bush Administration of War Crimes

Wednesday 18 June 2008
by: Matt Renner and Maya Schenwar, t r u t h o u t | Report

Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba (now retired) served as the deputy commanding general for support for the Third Army for ten months in Kuwait during the early days of the Iraq occupation. In a statement released today, he bluntly accuses the Bush administration of war crimes and lays down a challenge for prosecution.

In 2004, Taguba released a classified report detailing abuses committed at Abu Ghraib Prison. The "Taguba Report" (executive summary) urged Pentagon officials to follow up on its findings by enforcing adherence to the Geneva Conventions in interrogations.

Taguba retired in January 2007, later alleging that Pentagon officials had ordered him to retire for being "overzealous" in his criticisms of the military.

In light of ongoing Congressional investigations into so-called harsh interrogation techniques, and on the heels of Congressman Dennis Kucinich recently issuing articles of impeachment accusing President Bush of, among other offenses, authorizing torture, we present Taguba's latest statement for your consideration.

The full Physicians for Human Rights report outlining the medical evidence of torture perpetrated by the United States can be read at their website: www.physiciansforhumanrights.org.

From Slate Magazine, yesterday, on Pres. "McSame" (God forbid)

Slick John McCain and the offshore oil ruse

The safety and economics of offshore drilling are distractions from the much larger challenges that humanity faces: Climate change and peak oil.

By Andrew Leonard

Jun. 25, 2008 | An example of leadership or reckless chutzpah? On Monday, John McCain visited Santa Barbara, the scene of one of the great environmental disasters in American history, and proceeded to downplay the potential consequences of lifting the federal moratorium on new offshore drilling. Modern drilling technology is environmentally safe, he told the audience. According to the Associated Press, McCain "cited the examples of Louisiana and Texas, noting they have allowed drilling and weathered two devastating hurricanes with minimal or no oil spills."

McCain exaggerated. A 2007 report by the U.S. Minerals Management Service unearthed by Outside the Beltway documented the damage caused in the Gulf of Mexico by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita: "124 spills were reported with a total volume of roughly 17,700 barrels of total petroleum products."

Now, 17,700 barrels of oil equals 743,400 gallons. Whether you consider that a lot or a little depends on your perspective. Compared with the 1.5 million barrels pumped out of the Gulf every day, it is a trivial amount. But it's also within shouting distance of the 3 million gallons of oil spilled in the Santa Barbara offshore oil disaster of 1969.

That spill is considered the "environmental shot heard 'round the world." The catastrophe crystallized the environmental movement into a potent political force, resulting in the quick passage of the National Environmental Protection Act later that year, the creation of the EPA in 1970 and, ultimately, the ban on new offshore drilling.

But the safety of offshore drilling is a distraction from what's really at issue in the current tussle over energy policy. An oil spill here or there is irrelevant to the much larger challenges that humanity faces: climate change and peak oil.

The truth is, we can probably make offshore drilling as safe as we reasonably want it to be. Norway, with its environmentally aware citizenry and tight coordination between a watchful government and a state-oil owned company, has been drilling for decades in the North Sea with reasonably good environmental results (notwithstanding the horrific explosion of the Piper Alpha offshore platform in 1988 or the spillage of 24,000 barrels of oil just last December). Then again, for an example of how it can all go terribly wrong, visit Nigeria, where lax environmental controls have resulted in a huge mess in the Niger Delta, and where rebel forces attacked an offshore oil platform just this week.

But drilling practices and technology have improved. With the appropriate government oversight and regulation, it may be possible to drill off the coasts of Florida and California without covering the beaches with sludge and killing thousands of seabirds. Provided we acknowledge, of course, that a few nasty hurricanes in Florida will make at least a little bit of mess, and an earthquake in the wrong spot in California could be a slight problem. And provided we are capable of following the example of Norway, where the government and the people tell the oil company what to do, rather than the example set by the current Bush administration, where the energy industry is in charge of policymaking.

But drilling for more oil in the United States will not lower the price of gas in the short term -- even McCain admitted as much when he said on Monday, "I don't see an immediate relief, [but] the fact that we are exploiting those reserves would have psychological impact that I think is beneficial." Bush's own Department of Energy concluded in 2004 that the long-term impact of lifting the moratorium on offshore drilling on oil prices would be "insignificant." The only way that expanded drilling, offshore and in ANWR, could make a difference at the pump is if global production of oil started significantly outpacing the growth of global demand. Which would probably require that Saudi Arabia crank open the spigot and China, India, and the rest of the world's rapidly emerging economies start to lose their enormous thirst.

In other words, not only is it unlikely, it is completely out of our hands.

For those who accept that burning fossil fuels is contributing to climate change and that there are finite limits to the amount of inexpensive oil that can be pumped out of the earth, a new offshore oil rush is a psychological and practical disaster. It would accelerate climate change and, in the unlikely scenario that new drilling even momentarily slowed down global oil price appreciation, would still postpone that inevitable day of reckoning with the even higher fossil fuel energy prices sure to arrive.

The longer we wait to deal with either problem, the more painful and expensive our options for coping with these challenges will become and the more constrained our maneuvering room will be. The sorry truth is that from the perspective of grappling with climate change, and encouraging investment into alternative energy technologies, expensive gas now is far preferable to even more expensive gas later.

Of course, there are plenty of people, mostly on the right-wing of the political spectrum in the United States, who do not accept that climate change is real or caused by human industrial activity, and who believe there are no real constraints to the global oil supply. They'd prefer to blame environmental activists, present-day descendants of the rabid left-wing commies who exploited the Santa Barbara spill to pursue their anti-business agenda, for today's "high" gas prices.

Such accusations are the stuff of daily grandstanding rhetoric from Congressional Republicans and constitute a major, longstanding front in the culture wars.

There's a large contingent of Americans who do acknowledge that global warming is real and that it would be smart to consume less oil. But the prospect of $5 gasoline tends to reduce their focus from the long term to the here-and-now. The oceans haven't flooded their homes just yet, but their pocketbooks are hurting today.

And there's an election campaign going on.

In Las Vegas on Tuesday, Barack Obama delivered a significant speech on energy issues. He criticized McCain's proposal for new offshore drilling and commented that McCain's reference to "psychological impact" is "Washington-speak for 'It polls well.'" No joke.

In Santa Barbara, McCain attempted to assuage Californian sensitivities by saying that his real position on the moratorium on offshore drilling is that it should fall under the rubric of "state's rights" -- meaning that if Californians want to keep their coastline pristine, they will have the power to do so under a McCain administration. But McCain knows he's not going to win California, so it doesn't matter what he says in Santa Barbara. The offshore oil ploy is a calculated gambit aimed at cashing in on the pain that economically stressed voters in swing states far from the coast (as well as Florida, where environmental sensitivities seem to be on less solid ground than in California) are feeling. In Ohio and Michigan, the ugliness of oil derricks blotting out the sunset isn't a number one problem on anyone's priority list.

McCain's goal is to marry the anti-environmentalist Republican base with the I-like-the-environment-but-am-economically-hurting moderates. Call it the coalition of the unwilling to pay high gas prices.

In his speech, Obama set forth a pretty straightforward platform of vastly increased investment in renewable energy, conservation and efficiency, and proposed to ease the pain of working-class Americans with an economic stimulus plan. One can question how he would end up paying for his proposals or whether he will succeed in steering them through Congress, but one thing that must be conceded is that his approach represents a clear difference from McCain.

Suppose that McCain's strategy works. Suppose voters in enough swing states decide that the pain of high gas prices is so great that they will go with the candidate who is promising them the easy way out -- the gas tax holiday and offshore drilling and a nuclear power plant in every pot. What will that tell us about the American ability to suck it up and face down the challenges of the future?

Easy. It will tell us that we've lost the battle before we've hardly begun to fight. It will tell us that the environment is toast. We will have established that we, the citizens of the richest and most powerful country on the earth, are unwilling to pay the price necessary for embarking on a long-term ecologically sustainable path for existence on the planet. If $4 gasoline is enough incentive to lift the moratorium on offshore drilling, then $10-a-gallon gasoline will inspire even more drastic consequences. We will drill for every drop of oil, we will dig up every ounce of coal, we will sacrifice every environmental regulation, because we just can't take the heat. And then we'll fry.

It will also tell us that the environmental movement that took so much power from the Santa Barbara oil spill of 1969 has failed. That sustainability and conservations were luxuries we decided we could not afford.

(The original link:
http://www.salon.com/tech/feature/2008/06/25/mccain_offshore_oil/print.html)

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

 

From Midway Airport in Chicago from a few weeks ago, when I was there on business. It was the perfect match of a beautiful sunset and lights from the airport. I love Chicago (in late Spring).
Posted by Picasa

More from "W's" Administration

Yet more evidence today that this administration will go down as more corrupt, inept, greedy, incompetent and filled with graft than Warren G. Harding's--or any other:

Ideology-Based Hiring at Justice Broke Laws, Investigation Finds

By Carrie Johnson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 25, 2008


Senior Justice Department officials broke civil service laws by rejecting scores of young applicants who had links to Democrats or liberal organizations, according to a biting report issued yesterday.

The report by the Justice Department inspector general and the Office of Professional Responsibility concluded that a pair of high-ranking political appointees who are no longer with the department had violated department policy and the Civil Service Reform Act by using ideological reasons to scuttle the candidacy of lawyers who applied to the elite honors and summer intern programs.

In one instance, steering committee member Esther Slater McDonald deemed "unacceptable" an applicant who professed admiration for the environmental group Greenaction and passed over another with ties to the Poverty and Race Research Action Council, the report said.

McDonald, who left the Justice Department last year and now works for a law firm in the District, sent colleagues a Nov. 29, 2006, e-mail in which she complained about "leftist commentary and buzzwords" in applications. Many of the underlying documents, on which McDonald and others wrote comments, were destroyed before the probe began, according to the report.

Auditors also criticized Michael J. Elston, former chief of staff to the deputy attorney general, for failing to supervise McDonald and for weeding out candidates on his own based on "impermissible considerations." Elston may have denied one Stanford Law School applicant because she had written a law review article about gender discrimination in the military, the report said. Elston left the Justice Department last year amid questions about his role in the firing of nine U.S. Attorneys. He now works at a private law firm.

McDonald and Elston did not return calls for comment yesterday. Experts said they are unlikely to face sanctions for what investigators called deliberate "misconduct" because they have left government employment.

Traditionally, the highly coveted intern and honors jobs had been awarded based on merit. But in 2002, top Justice Department officials moved to give political appointees more control, prompting complaints from the career ranks. The problem flared up again in 2006, when hundreds of applications were rejected for questionable reasons, according to the report.

Candidates for the Honors Program that year whose résumés indicated liberal affiliations were weeded out at three times the rate of conservative-leaning applicants, investigators said. San Diego U.S. Attorney Carol Lam, who was later fired for reasons that remain under investigation, reached out to no avail to Elston over the decision to reject a candidate who had won a prestigious appellate clerkship with a Democratic judge.

Peter Keisler, then chief of the Justice Department's civil division, called Elston after several applicants to his unit were denied, including a Harvard Law School graduate and former Justice summer intern who had worked as a paralegal at Planned Parenthood, the report said.

The honors and intern program report is the result of the first in a series of investigations into the role that politics may have played in law enforcement and hiring decisions at the Justice Department over the course of the Bush administration. Studies focusing on hiring and enforcement in the troubled civil rights division, the rationale for the U.S. attorneys' dismissal, and the role played by former Justice Department officials including Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales could be issued soon, according to lawyers following the issues.

Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey, who replaced Gonzales last year, said he has taken steps to overhaul the hiring process. Considering politics in hires for career slots is "unacceptable," Mukasey said in a statement.

Former Justice Department officials from both Democratic and Republican administrations said the study underscores the challenge for the next president.

"The Honors Program at DOJ has always been the 'A-List,'" said Nicholas M. Gess, a Justice official under President Bill Clinton. "The next attorney general will be stuck with many from the 'B-List."

From this link:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/06/24/AR2008062400819_pf.html

Side note, back to yours truly: I bet most Americans don't know this happened, don't know about any of the events listed here, aren't aware of any real controversy and don't know the laws their own President's Administration is, yet again, breaking.

Pay attention, people!

The boy has stupid all over him

Kristol: Bush Might Bomb Iran If He ‘Thinks Senator Obama’s Going To Win'

On Fox News Sunday this morning, Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol said that President Bush is more likely to attack Iran if he believes Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) is going to be elected.

However, “if the president thought John McCain was going to be the next president, he would think it more appropriate to let the next president make that decision than do it on his way out,” Kristol said, reinforcing the fact that McCain is offering a third Bush term on Iran.

“I do wonder with Senator Obama, if President Bush thinks Senator Obama’s going to win, does he somehow think — does he worry that Obama won’t follow through on that policy,” Kristol added. Host Chris Wallace then asked if Kristol was suggesting that Bush might “launch a military strike” before or after the election:

WALLACE: So, you’re suggesting that he might in fact, if Obama’s going to win the election, either before or after the election, launch a military strike?

KRISTOL: I don’t know. I mean, I think he would worry about it. On the other hand, you can’t — it’s hard to make foreign policy based on guesses of election results. I think Israel is worried though. I mean, what is, what signal goes to Ahmadinejad if Obama wins on a platform of unconditional negotiations and with an obvious reluctance to even talk about using military force.

Kristol also suggested that Obama’s election would tempt Saudi Arabia and Egypt to think, “maybe we can use nuclear weapons.” Watch it:

Kristol’s belief that Bush might attack Iran before leaving office is not new. In April, he told Bill Bennett that it wasn’t “out of the question” that Bush would consider such a strike because “people are overdoing how much of a lame duck the president is.”

The claim that Obama’s potential election could force Bush’s hand also isn’t new. Earlier this month, far-right pseudo scholar Daniel Pipes told National Review Online that “President Bush will do something” if the Democratic nominee won. “Should it be Mr. McCain that wins, he’ll punt,” said Pipes.

Both Kristol and Pipes apparently agree with President Bush’s claim in March that McCain’s “not going to change” his foreign policy.

see the entire link here: http://thinkprogress.org/2008/06/22/kristol-bush-iran/

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Bad Moon Rising

More evidence that we all need to pay attention to what's going on. In the past, I've said politically. Now, financially--locally, nationally and internationally.

For several reasons, I do, indeed, think there is at least a "bad moon rising", if not out-and-out financial turmoil coming down the pike, unless I'm mistaken and/or unless we do things differently, and very soon. I usually say the same thing, too, and that is, I hope I'm wrong.

The several things that make me think this are the following:

1) High household debt, per household, here in the States. In fact, it's at record levels, as we've heard for years. (http://www.occ.treas.gov/qj/qj24-1/3-SpecialStudies.pdf)

2) High national debt of the United States: Right now it stands at approximately 9 trillion dollars, and rising fast (thank you, Mr. Bush)(http://brillig.com/debt_clock/);

3) High deficit spending in by the United States due to the Iraqi war and the wide expansion of government, mostly in the past 7 years (thanks again, Mr. Bush) (http://www.deficitsdomatter.org/);

4) The housing crunch in the United States (and really, the world), right now (http://www.seacoastonline.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080102/BIZ/801020387&sfad=1);

5) The credit crunch (intertwined with the housing crunch) right now (http://globaleconomicanalysis.blogspot.com/;

6) Low household savings in the United States (http://www.frbsf.org/publications/economics/letter/2002/el2002-09.html):

7) All the "baby-boomers" about to retire--with all that debt and low savings rate--and the huge costs to the Social Security system on the United States (http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200801/aging-boomers);

8) All those same "boomers" having crappy health care coverage, given the state of health care and how weak and nearly non-existent it is here in the States (http://www.hudson.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=publication_details&id=353);

9) The Medicare and Medicaid systems will both be tremendously burdened by these same "boomers" retiring in all their numbers (http://www.heritage.org/Research/HealthCare/wm875.cfm);

10) The huge expansion of troubles in the American auto industry right now, in part due to the housing and credit troubles but also due to the extremely high prices of oil and the lack of competitiveness of the American automakers (http://globaleconomicanalysis.blogspot.com/2008/06/gm-death-watch.html) and, finally,

11) The extremely high and really, explosive cost of oil internationally. This speaks for itself and drives up the cost of virtually everything, either in manufacturing and/or the delivery of those same goods (http://www.wtrg.com/prices.htm).

Given all these factors, it seems like, virtually, the "perfect storm" for financial calamity, frankly. Honestly, I don't think the Great Depression of the 30's and 40's had this much going for it's creation, so many years ago.

I hope I'm just getting old and crotchety and all these things aren't really such a big deal after all.

But I don't think it's just me. I think I'm right about all this and, again, hope I'm wrong.


(As a side note, for an important, brief but poignant article on another aspect of our collective futures, go to this link:
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=91681112. It also has the original audio interview it came from.)

I've wanted to put this up for a long time

video

The apple didn't fall far from the tree

George H. W. Bush (Bush 1) Quotes:

"It's no exaggeration to say that the undecideds could go one way or another." Brilliant. A forerunner to W, for sure.

"You cannot be President of the United States if you don't have faith. Remember Lincoln, going to his knees in times of trial in the Civil War and all that stuff." What history class was this guy in?

"I'm conservative, but I'm not a nut about it." Now, there's commitment.

"I'll be glad to reply to or dodge your questions, depending on what I think will help our election most." ...No doubt.

"I have opinions of my own, strong opinions, but I don't always agree with them. ...Wha?

"I have nothing but contempt and anger for those who betray the trust by exposing the name of [CIA] sources. They are, in my view, the most insidious, of traitors." ...Unlike Junior and Darth Cheney.

But at least some times he showed intelligence--unlike Junior:

"I'm not what you call your basic intellectual." ...Extra credit for honesty here.

But sometimes, occasionally, anyway, he showed some intelligence, as in these quotes Junior should have followed:

"I can tell you this: If I'm ever in a position to call the shots, I'm not going to rush to send somebody else's kids into a war."

Trying to eliminate Saddam, extending the ground war into an occupation of Iraq, would have violated our guideline about not changing objectives in midstream, engaging in "mission creep," and would have incurred incalculable human and political costs. Apprehending him was probably impossible. We had been unable to find Noriega in Panama, which we knew intimately. We would have been forced to occupy Baghdad and, in effect, rule Iraq. The coalition would instantly have collapsed, the Arabs deserting it in anger and other allies pulling out as well. Under those circumstances, furthermore, we had been self-consciously trying to set a pattern for handling aggression in the post-cold war world. Going in and occupying Iraq, thus unilaterally exceeding the U.N.'s mandate, would have destroyed the precedent of international response to aggression we hoped to establish. Had we gone the invasion route, the U.S. could conceivably still be an occupying power in a bitterly hostile land. It would have been a dramatically different — and perhaps barren — outcome.

If only.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

I don't get it

I don't understand people's enjoyment of and interest in horror movies.

In the first place, there is such beauty in the world.

You don't think so?

Photograph flowers. Any flower. Heck, a dandelion.

Then look at it and see if you don't see brilliant, temporary, exhilarating color and vibrancy.

In the second place, you want terror? Instead of some phony, nonsense, fiction fright someone dreamed up, go read everything you can get your hands on about Union Carbide and what they did to so many people in India.

Read what US President Andrew Jackson--and a whole lot of other people--did to the Native Americans.

There's terror for you. There's unimaginable fright.

Imagine a whole people whose religion, language, culture, way of life and spirituality is taken away from them.

That's terror. That's horror.

And that's what we did to Native Americans.

No wonder so many became alcoholic and were otherwise wrecked.

And then there's the burning and death and mutilation that came from Union Carbide's chemical plant explosion near poverty-stricken people in India.

Terror. Unbelievable, unexpected, unimaginable--nearly unreported--terror.

And then there's what the greedheads--from President George W. Bush on down--are doing to America and Americans for the last 7 years. The list is a long one.

From what has happened in Iraq for the last 5 years, to hundreds of thousands of people being either killed or maimed--both Americans and Iraqis--to the raping of the American public for profits, the lists--yes, lists--are long of wrongs, horrors and horrible things visited upon people.

But some want to spend what little time we have for "entertainment" with a horror movie.

It's a luxury I don't appreciate. It's a luxury I don't understand. It's a luxury I don't have any patience for.

It really makes me angry.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

At the beach

 
Hawaii? The Bahamas? The Caribbean? No, no and no. Chicago. Really. Last week. "The City of Big Shoulders." They know how to have fun.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

What your government is doing in your name

From Slate Magazine, just now:


A Timeline to Bush Government Torture

Newly public evidence sheds greater light on Bush officials' efforts to develop brutal interrogation techniques for the war on terror.
By Mark Benjamin

Jun. 18, 2008 | For years now, the Bush White House has claimed that the United States does not conduct torture. Prisoner abuse at places like Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, it has asserted, was an aberration -- the work of a few "bad apples" on the night shift. When the CIA used "enhanced" interrogation techniques such as waterboarding (simulated drowning), the abuse, according to Bush officials, did not add up to torture.

But as more and more documents from inside the Bush government come to light, it is increasingly clear that the administration sought from early on to implement interrogation techniques whose basis was torture. Soon after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the Pentagon and the CIA began an orchestrated effort to tap expertise from the military's Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape school, for use in the interrogation of terrorist suspects. The U.S. military's SERE training is designed to inoculate elite soldiers, sailors and airmen to torture, in the event of their capture, by an enemy that would violate the Geneva Conventions. Those service members are subjected to forced nudity, stress positions, hooding, slapping, sleep deprivation, sexual humiliation and, yes, in some cases, waterboarding.

SERE training has nothing to do with effective interrogation, according to military experts. Trained interrogators don't work in the program. Skilled, experienced interrogators, in fact, say that only a fool would think that the training could somehow be reverse-engineered into effective interrogation techniques.

But that's exactly what the Bush government sought to do. As the plan rolled forward, military and law enforcement officials consistently sent up red flags that the SERE-based interrogation program wasn't just wrongheaded, it was probably illegal.

On Tuesday, the Senate Armed Services Committee conducted a hearing on the evolution of abusive interrogations under the Bush administration. Through a series of memos and documents released by the committee, some old and some new, the following timeline has now been established. Committee chairman Carl Levin, the senior Democrat from Michigan, discussed this timeline at length in his opening statement.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

July 2002 -- Richard Shiffrin, a deputy general counsel in the Department of Defense, called Lt. Col. Daniel Baumgartner Jr. from the military's SERE school. Shiffrin wanted information on SERE training techniques. Baumgartner testified on Tuesday that during this period, he received similar requests from the Defense Intelligence Agency and "another agency" he declined to name.

July 25 and 26, 2002 -- Baumgartner responded to the Pentagon request by sending two memos to the Pentagon's general counsel's office describing SERE training techniques. The memos discuss (among other things) sensory deprivation, sleep deprivation, stress positions, waterboarding, slapping, sensory overload and diet manipulation. The hearing on Tuesday did not go into what information was sent to the DIA or the "other agency."

Aug. 1, 2002 -- The Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel sent memos to Alberto Gonzales, then the White House counsel, about the definition of torture. It sent another memo to the CIA. The memo to Gonzales defined torture as pain "equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death." The CIA memo remains classified.

Week of Sept. 16, 2002 -- Interrogators from Guantánamo Bay traveled to the SERE school at Fort Bragg, N.C., for training by SERE staff.

Sept. 25, 2002 -- David Addington, Vice President Dick Cheney's counsel; acting CIA general counsel John Rizzo, Pentagon general counsel William J. Haynes; and Michael Chertoff, then head of the Criminal Division at the Justice Department; all traveled to Guantánamo. They attended briefings on "intel techniques," according to a military after-action report.

Oct. 2, 2002 -- Jonathan Fredman, chief counsel to the CIA's counterterrorism center, went to Guantánamo. While there, Fredman discussed with military officials a classified memo on aggressive interrogation techniques prepared by a psychologist and psychiatrist who had attended SERE training at Fort Bragg, according to minutes from the meeting. In attendance was Lt. Col. Diane Beaver, a staff judge advocate at Guantánamo. Fredman explained that for the CIA, the Justice Department had to approve the use of "significantly harsh" techniques. He also agreed to show the military officials a copy of a CIA request regarding the use of those methods, so the military officials could see what such a request looks like. Among other things, military officials asked if the CIA used waterboarding, as taught through SERE. "If a well trained individual is used to perform this technique it can feel like you are drowning," Fredman replied, according to the minutes. "The lymphatic system will react as if you're suffocating, but your body will not cease to function. It is very effective to identify phobias and use them, i.e.; insects, snakes, claustrophobia." The meeting minutes also show a discussion about hiding detainees from the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Oct. 11, 2002 -- Maj. Gen. Michael Dunlavey, who was in charge of Guantánamo, sent a memo to his superiors at U.S. Southern Command requesting approval of the use of three categories of increasingly brutal interrogation techniques. They included stress positions, exploitation of phobias, forced nudity, hooding, isolation, sensory deprivation, exposure to cold, and waterboarding. Attached was a memo from Beaver, justifying the legality of the techniques.

Oct. 25, 2002 -- U.S. Southern Command Cmdr. Gen. James Hill forwarded the request to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Early November 2002 -- Push-back: In a series of scathing memos, alarmed military officials from all four services raised questions about the legality and effectiveness of the techniques under consideration. The Air Force cited "serious concerns regarding the legality" of the techniques. The chief of the Army's international law division said some of the techniques, like stress positions and sensory deprivation, "cross the line of 'humane' treatment.'" He added that the techniques "may violate the torture statute." The Navy called for further legal review. The Marine Corps wrote that the techniques "arguably violate federal law."

Nov. 23, 2002 -- The interrogation of a prisoner named Mohammed al-Khatani began at Guantánamo. The list of SERE-based indignities visited upon Khatani is long. Among them: Khatani was forced to stand naked in front of a female interrogator, was accused of being a homosexual, was forced to wear women's underwear and to perform "dog tricks" on a leash. He received 18-to-20-hour interrogations during 48 of 54 days. (Last month, the Convening Authority for military commissions "dismissed without prejudice" the charges against al-Khatani.)

Nov. 27, 2002 -- Despite the concerns raised by military leaders, Haynes, the Pentagon general counsel, sent a memo to then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld recommending approval of all but three of the techniques requested for use at Guantánamo by Dunlavey. Among the things Haynes recommended for approval: stress positions, forced nudity, use of dogs and sensory deprivation.

Dec. 2, 2002 -- Rumsfeld approved Haynes' memo authorizing the harsh techniques for Guantánamo. He added a now infamous handwritten note about forcing prisoners to stand for long periods: "I stand for 8-10 hours a day. Why is standing limited to 4 hours?" A copy of the memo signed by Rumsfeld was sent from Guantánamo to Afghanistan.

Early December 2002 -- Senior staff at Guantánamo drafted standard operating procedures for using SERE techniques during interrogations. According to the procedures, SERE training techniques "can be used to break real detainees during interrogation." That included slapping, stripping, stress positions and hooding.

Dec. 17, 2002 -- Push-back: FBI officials balked at the Guantánamo standard operating procedure, writing in a memo that law enforcement officials "object to these aggressive interrogation techniques."

Dec. 20, 2002 -- Push-back: Alberto Mora, then general counsel of the Navy, meets with Haynes, the Pentagon general counsel. Mora strongly objects to the techniques approved by Rumsfeld for Guantánamo. A memo describing the meeting shows Mora told Haynes that the techniques approved by Rumsfeld "could rise to the level of torture."

Dec. 30, 2002 -- Two instructors from the Navy SERE program arrive at Guantánamo. The next day, they school 24 members of the interrogation staff about slapping and stress positions.

January 2003 -- The officer in charge of the intelligence section at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan viewed a PowerPoint presentation on the techniques approved by Rumsfeld on Dec. 2, 2002.

Jan. 9, 2003 -- Push-back: Mora met with Haynes again and objected to the interrogation techniques.

Jan. 15, 2003 -- Push-back: Mora urged Haynes to rescind the interrogation techniques authorized at Guantánamo. Mora said that if the abuse were not rolled back, he would sign a memo declaring that some of the more aggressive techniques approved by Rumsfeld "were violative of domestic and international legal norms." Rumsfeld rescinded his Dec. 2, 2002, memo authorizing harsh interrogation techniques.

Jan. 15, 2003 -- Rumsfeld established a "working group" to develop interrogation techniques to replace his Dec. 2, 2002, memorandum he had rescinded under pressure from Mora.

Jan. 24, 2003 -- A military attorney in Afghanistan produced an interrogation memo, which remains classified. A military report later divulged that the memo included some techniques approved by Rumsfeld on Dec. 2, 2002, including the use of dogs and forced nudity.

March 14, 2003 -- John Yoo, from the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, drafted a memo on interrogations claiming that anti-torture law would not apply to some interrogations. Rumsfeld's working group has been widely criticized for disregarding the input of military attorneys such as Mora, and following Yoo's guidance.

Early 2003 -- Special Mission Unit forces in Iraq developed interrogation protocol based on techniques in use in Afghanistan. Interrogations included yelling, loud music, light control, exposure to heat and cold, sleep deprivation, stress positions and use of dogs for intimidation. The interrogation officer in charge of Abu Ghraib obtained a copy of the Special Mission Unit policy and submitted it to her command as proposed policy for use by conventional U.S. forces in Iraq.

April 16, 2003 -- Based on his working group's recommendations, Rumsfeld approved another list of interrogation techniques for use at Guantánamo. It authorized dietary manipulation, environmental manipulation and sleep "adjustment." It also said other techniques might be approved on request.

Aug. 13, 2003 -- Rumsfeld approved an interrogation program for a specific prisoner at Guantánamo, Mohamedou Ould Slahi. Documents from the plan remain classified. A Department of Defense inspector general report cites an FBI agent who saw a draft of the plan. The agent said it was similar to the plan for Khatani.

September 2003 -- SERE instructors are deployed to Iraq to assist interrogators, in response to a request from commander of the Special Mission Unit Task Force.

Sept. 14, 2003 -- Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, in charge of U.S. forces in Iraq, issued a standard operating procedure for interrogation that authorized stress positions, environmental manipulation, sleep management and use of dogs.

April 2004 -- Prisoner abuse by U.S. forces at Abu Ghraib comes to light and becomes a worldwide scandal. Pictures showed forced nudity, stress positions, hooding, sexual humiliation and other SERE-based techniques.

-- By Mark Benjamin

Monday, June 16, 2008

The George W. Bush Administration vs. The American People

Did you hear this today on NPR? Yeah, more proof of just how great a job George W. Bush and his pals are doing for--no, to--the American People.

You know? When I was younger, I knew there was a part of the government that was fighting for us. There was the part regulating big business. There was the part having corporations to keep pollution to a minimum.

No more.

Not since George Bush got elected in 2000.

Check this out.

In December, 2000, the Enron Corporation--yeah, no kidding, THOSE GUYS--recommended that the Bush Administration DEREGULATE the oil speculation markets. It is now, technically considered a "dark" market. That is, we don't know who's speculating on or in the oil markets, we don't know how, we don't know what they're doing, nothing. All thanks to those geniuses at Enron. Oh, and the White House. Dick Cheney. George Walker Bush. All of 'em. et al.

Prior to 2000 and this "Enron Clause", as it is now referred to, THE UNITED STATES REGULATED THE OIL INDUSTRY AND THIS SPECULATION FOR 78 YEARS. No kidding. For all that time, it was that important. Once we put the foxes in charge of the chicken house, it was all over.

Now does it make any sense why oil is over $130.00 a barrel?

In this same radio show, it was speculated that oil would likely fall to between $60.00 to $80.00 per barrel WITHIN A MONTH if we again regulated the oil speculation markets.

So the question was, do you want to do this with a deep, painful recession, that hurts millions of people around the globe, over time, to reduce the price of oil or do you want to do this more logically, with regulation, over about a month?

Tough question, eh?

Sunday, June 15, 2008

 

Okay, so where do you figure this is from? The Caribbean? Hawaii? The South of France? No, no and no. Actually, it's from Chicago, as any Chicagoan--and visitors like me--would know. Pretty incredible. It'll be even more unbelievable come next January, when it's grey and white, cold and icy. But for now, ahhhh.
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Check this out

Did you know that your own--our own--government, the United States government, is paying--yes, paying--Iraqis, regularly, "in exchange for not fighting" in Iraq?

If not, then, do you know how may Iraqis we are paying to not fight?

It's hard to believe.

91,600 Iraqis.* Regularly.



Thank you, once again, George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz and all others involved and responsible.

Good plan, guys.

*Harper's Magazine, June, 2008, P. 15 (Multi-National Force, Iraq, Baghdad)

Another of many reasons why you, the American people, need to know what your government is doing

US Seeking 58 Bases in Iraq, Shiite Lawmakers Say

http://www.truthout.org/article/us-seeking-58-bases-iraq-shiite-lawmakers-say

Leila Fadel, of McClatchy Newspapers: "Iraqi lawmakers say the United States is demanding 58 bases as part of a proposed 'status of forces' agreement that will allow US troops to remain in the country indefinitely. Leading members of the two ruling Shiite parties said in a series of interviews the Iraqi government rejected this proposal along with another US demand that would have effectively handed over to the United States the power to determine if a hostile act from another country is aggression against Iraq. Lawmakers said they fear this power would drag Iraq into a war between the United States and Iran."

From www.truthout.org. Check it out.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

 

I was in Chicago earlier in the week on business. One afternoon, I walked from the Merchandise Mart, along the river, out to Michigan Avenue, down to The Drake Hotel, out to the lake and down the lake to Grant Park. From there I took a cab back to the Mart, where I got my luggage and took the L to Midway for my (late) flight home. It was my most productive day, in quantity, for photos, ever.

I took this under a bridge (obviously) out by the lake, near the marina. I liked the color, strength and patterns of the girders, among everything else.

It was great fun.
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A Lesson

The George W. Bush Administration should go down in history as a lesson for the United States and the world--for Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, Independents, the Right, the Left, in short, everyone, everywhere--to show what the world is like when greedy corporations run that same world. It shows its graft, corruption, greed, incompetence, lack of care for the weak, ill, poor, etc., and sheer irresponsibility. It is exactly what President Eisenhower and Ralph Nader, both, among many, many others, warned us about, long before now and it's ignored at our larger, greater peril.

All this said, I should mention, as I said earlier on this blog, it wasn't my intention to have so much of this be about the Bush Administration and corporate America and international conglomerates running roughshod over the planet and its citizens. But with all this administration has blatantly done and with such contempt for the man on the street, it galls me that more people aren't paying attention. It has seemed it needed pointing out. That and the fact that it's cathartic to and for me, to put ideas, thoughts and facts down, so people can either know more of what's going on or, yes, hear my thoughts. It isn't meant to be about me.

Once "W" is gone, next January, I hope to broaden this blog, to more things of the world. It isn't that all the ugliness and selfishness and greed are going to leave the world with his exit, far from it. I just hope the blatant power-grabbing and sheer evil of Darth Cheney and the whole cabal will be gone and we can get back to doing more, better work for everyone's sake.

I'm not naive. We'll still need to change thigs, sure. And corporations aren't going away, along with grubby politicians. But I do hope we improve somewhat, if not a lot. The circumstances are going to require it, I think and believe.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Mark my words

Put down the date: June 12, 2008.

It's the day I predict that the American people are going to have the largest and most public celebration ever for this quadrennial event--including dancing in the streets (it will be on the news that evening) next January 20, 2009, to celebrate President George Walker Bush taking leave of office.


It's one of the few good things that will come from these last 8 years--and his tenure.

The most unbelievable, George W. Bush

You see? There are three things about George W. Bush that make him so unique. The first two--the main parts, his core, really--drive you mad. But the third one is the relief.

First, there is his virtually total ignorance, especially about all things political and historical. If he were an average citizen, it would be bad enough. But as PRESIDENT, for God's sake, it's criminal--and has turned out tragic.

Then there is almost complete lack of imagination. You wanna' bet "W" has never played a game of chess in his life? (Sure, it's an easy bet but, hey, it's out there). Can you imagine him thinking 3 PLAYS OUT, for crying out loud, as to what someone else will do, if he does "x"? No, ain't gonna happen.

So thirdly, then, is the only thing that comes from this chucklehead that makes life bearable. It's no replacement for intelligence and creativity but if we didn't have "W" for his nearly continuous source of humor--and as a butt for our jokes--we'd all go mad.

Like this, in the paper today: speaking to the The Times of London, of all papers, he 'noted that, like Frank Sinatra, he has a few regrets...'. He says "I think in retrospect I could have used a different tone, a different rhetoric,' the President explained, then added that saying such things as "bring them on" and "dead or alive" might have "indicated to people that I was, you know, not a man of peace."

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

If I hadn't read it myself, I would never have believed it.

You can't write fiction that good.

Makes ya' wanna pay more taxes, don't it?

Just lifted from Yahoo and the AP because I can't say it better than this:

Too many dollars, too few Army investigators
June 12, 2008 1:11 PM EDT

FORT BELVOIR, Va. - Double-billing. Bribes. Kickbacks. Military contracts are big targets for serious crimes - and there aren't nearly enough investigators to catch them all.

The Army's contracting budget has exploded since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan began - from $46 billion in 2002 to $112 billion in 2007. Yet the number of people who hunt down crooked companies and corrupt officials has stayed about the same, according to Associated Press interviews and research.

Army investigation chiefs told the AP they need a dramatic increase in agents to fight contract fraud.

In combat zones, deals can be made quickly, often with foreign companies in countries where bribes are a routine part of doing business. Yet to monitor those billions in contracts, just under 100 civilian agents are assigned to the Army Criminal Investigation Command's procurement fraud office.

Even with more fraud police, there would be no guarantees. Flaws in how the Army awards and manages contracts, especially overseas, also need repairs to curb criminal activity.

"It's sort of like an assembly line for cars and having more checkers at the end of the line when the people aren't building the cars right," said Jacques Gansler, a military acquisition expert. "What we really need to eliminate the abuse is people doing it right in the first place."

Until that happens, the Army's procurement fraud team faces an increasingly complex workload that requires frequent overseas travel and specialized training to spot foul play in mountains of arcane paperwork.

"There's obviously more going on out there today than there was five years ago, but I have the same number of people," said Wes Kilgore, director of the command's Major Procurement Fraud Unit.

There are 95 ongoing investigations into Army contract irregularities in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait. An additional 500 fraud cases have been launched in the United States, but most of those are not related to wartime contracts.

Under a proposal now being reviewed by senior Army officials at the Pentagon, Kilgore's staff would increase by 143 agents and 30 support personnel between 2010 and 2015. Army leaders approved a request last year to add 36 employees, including 23 agents. Those extra hands are still being hired or trained, however.

Overall, the 166 new agents would cost about $21.5 million a year.

If the latest request is approved, Kilgore's unit would eventually have 260 agents to uncover and prevent contract fraud.

"We're concerned, and that's why we've pushed so hard on getting these numbers ramped up rather than sitting on our hands," said Daniel Quinn, the command's chief of staff. "It's the same reason why police departments will put cops out on a beat or patrol cars flooding an area. If you have a higher chance of getting caught, you're not going to be out there committing a crime."

Criminal Investigation Command officials rarely grant interviews. The decision to speak with a reporter reflects how critical the new hires are to them.

It's not just the enormous flow of wartime money, it's the speed with which contracts are awarded that lures the cheaters. Location is key, too. In Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait, supplies such as bottled water, shipping containers, food and transportation might be needed quickly from local vendors. If only a few suppliers can fill the order, the choices may be limited. But the potential for a crooked deal is not.

Army Col. Joe Ethridge, commander of the 701st Military Police Group, likens the situation to buying a plane ticket for travel to a remote location the day before a holiday weekend.

"The vendors know going in (the customer is) going to want this really fast and there's not going to be a lot of competition," said Ethridge, whose military police group includes Kilgore's procurement fraud unit.

Another pitfall of overseas contracting - known in military circles as contingency or expeditionary contracting - is the expectation of bribes. In the Middle East and other parts of the world, they're often assumed to be part of the deal.

"The threat and the opportunity of money passing hands is always there," Ethridge said. "So it's a pretty tough environment to do contracting in, and it's a pretty tough environment to do oversight."

Ethridge and other command officials said they didn't anticipate how reliant the Army would be on contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan. Private companies get paid to provide base security, drive trucks, operate warehouses and serve meals. Contracts for these and other services can be difficult to manage.

"This is a change in how we operate and creates threats that we're going to have to address," Ethridge said.

The investigation command has procurement fraud offices in Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan. The Iraq office opened in December 2005, two years after the U.S.-led invasion, and the others followed.

In retrospect, the command should have dispatched its fraud agents more quickly, says Quinn, the command's chief of staff.

"They (didn't) have to be with the 1st Armored Division moving up the highway," he said. "But we probably should have sent our fraud guys in there early on."

The concern, and need for more people, is shared by other oversight organizations. In a March 31 report to Congress, the office of the Pentagon inspector general said its ability to adequately audit and investigate military activities and budgets has become strained because staffing levels haven't increased.

The gap, the report said, means a greater chance for fraud, waste and abuse. The Pentagon inspector general and the Army criminal investigation command are separate organizations, although their agents often work together.

The March report was made public last month by the Project on Government Oversight, a public interest group in Washington.

Each new agent costs about $130,000 a year in salary, benefits, training, and equipment.

Army investigation command officials say the investment pays big returns. With fewer than 100 agents, the procurement fraud unit now generates about $130 million a year in recoveries, about $10 million more than the command's annual operating budget.

The pitch for more investigators has to be weighed against an ongoing effort to expand and improve the Army's contracting corps. In October, an independent panel sharply criticized the Army's ability to award and manage contracts, especially for overseas combat forces.

That panel, chaired by Gansler, a former Pentagon acquisition chief, said the Army's contracting employees were "understaffed, overworked, undertrained, undersupported and, most important, undervalued."

The criticisms led the Army to order a major overhaul of the way it buys gear and supplies for the troops. Chief among the moves is the formation of a new contracting command to better manage military purchasing and the addition of 1,400 contracting personnel.
---
On the Net:

Army Criminal Investigation Command: http://www.cid.army.mil/
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Proof of why, I think, we should be optimistic about solar power--and all of our futures

Ray Kurzweil, the scientist and futurist, writes the following about the future of solar power, our harnessing it and why we can be optimistic about mankind's future on this planet, even when considering climate change, the oil lobby, oil coming out of the lunatic Middle East, pollution, etc:

I'm Confident About Energy, the Environment, Longevity, and Wealth; I'm Optimistic (But Not Necessarily Confident) Of the Avoidance Of Existential Downsides; And I'm Hopeful (But Not Necessarily Optimistic) About a Repeat Of 9-11 (Or Worse)
by Ray Kurzweil (see more at this link:
(http://www.kurzweilai.net/meme/frame.html?main=memelist.html?m=7%23692)

Ray Kurzweil responds to John Brockman's The Edge Annual Question - 2007: WHAT ARE YOU OPTIMISTIC ABOUT? WHY?

Published on Edge on January 2007. Reprinted with permission.

Optimism exists on a continuum in between confidence and hope. Let me take these in order.

"I am confident that the acceleration and expanding purview of information technology will solve within twenty years the problems that now preoccupy us.

Consider energy. We are awash in energy (10,000 times more than required to meet all our needs falls on Earth) but we are not very good at capturing it. That will change with the full nanotechnology-based assembly of macro objects at the nano scale, controlled by massively parallel information processes, which will be feasible within twenty years. Even though our energy needs are projected to triple within that time, we'll capture that .0003 of the sunlight needed to meet our energy needs with no use of fossil fuels, using extremely inexpensive, highly efficient, lightweight, nano-engineered solar panels, and we'll store the energy in highly distributed (and therefore safe) nanotechnology-based fuel cells. Solar power is now providing 1 part in 1,000 of our needs, but that percentage is doubling every two years, which means multiplying by 1,000 in twenty years.

Almost all the discussions I've seen about energy and its consequences (such as global warming) fail to consider the ability of future nanotechnology-based solutions to solve this problem. This development will be motivated not just by concern for the environment but also by the $2 trillion we spend annually on energy. This is already a major area of venture funding."


A final note from yours truly: it's just that none of this positive, intelligent, optimistic stuff will happen while this numbnuts, small-minded, no imagination, greedhead President is in office.

Whither now?

I've thought for a long time that the "turning point" for us, the United States of America, was John F. Kennedy's assassination. A long time.

It's not that it has anything to do with me, of course, and my generation at all. I've thought that, in a much larger sense, a historical sense, that it was at that point that we were no longer the naive, well-intentioned people we were, up to that point. I don't think I'm being naive here, either.

And ever since then, through the 70's, 80's, 90's up to today, it seems we've been going downhill, as a nation.

It was after that that Jack's brother was also killed, then Martin Luther King, and they were both intelligent, strong people who wanted us all to be better--to be a better people--to be the people we could be.

Then there was Milhouse (the lying scumbag), and a brief window of time with a weak follow-up President. After that, a weak one-termer who, again, wanted us to be better people but he got caught up in minutiea of his Presidency (carrying his own bags, for God's sake) that he didn't get to the important matter of his own work. Besides, we didn't want to save energy, anyway.

Then 8 long years of an affable idiot whom way too many people loved--and who almost wrecked us.

A dolt to follow him but who, unlike his son, kept us out of Iraq.

Then 8 important, good years by a man who couldn't keep himself in his pants.

That brings us to now to this nearly fatal time with a self-absorbed man of small imagination, organization and strength who, along with his friends, is also long on greed.

So we come to a point in time where the dollar is at record lows, energy at record highs and we've seemingly lost nearly all control we ever might have had.

And the issue, now, comes to this: if a barrel of oil is pegged to the euro soon--again, God forbid--you may mark it down in any history book to come, that it was at that exact point in time at which the United States became the Britain of a new world order. In short, a second-rate power.

May this not happen anytime soon, if ever.

(Be sure to look below at a great "Zippy the Pinhead" comic from yesterday and some new pictures).