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Thursday, July 31, 2008

 

I shot this just this evening, here in Kansas City on this midsummer's evening. The sunlight was perfect. It almost looks like it could be from Hawaii, I thought. I'll get back to serious, political blogging later. Enjoy your summer.
Posted by Picasa

Monday, July 28, 2008

This is how well things are going--and have gone--in Iraq

Iraq. It drives me crazy.

First, the claim that we "had to invade", is such a boldface lie that has been either accepted, denied or ignored, you'd think the American public would be in an uproar.

But no, of course not.

Then, there's the mis-managed debacle that it's become that's so maddening. There's a report out, just this morning, about a prison that you and I--the American taxpayer--paid for, to the tune of 40 million dollars (I always have to spell those out) and it will never be used. Unbelievable. And yet not, right? Not with this administration. You can see the full, original story here: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080728/ap_on_re_mi_ea/iraq_vacant_prison

The contract was originally awarded and didn't go well, right from the start, it's reported.

But that's only a small portion of the insanity.

"In a companion report also being released Monday, Bowen (Stuart Bowen, the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction) said the prison was part of a $900 million Parsons contract to build border posts, courts, police training centers and fire stations. It was one of 12 contracts awarded in 2004 in hopes of restoring Iraq's infrastructure."

But wait, there's more:

"Of 53 construction projects in the massive Parsons contract, only 18 were completed."

"As of this spring, Parsons had been paid $333 million. More than $142 million of that — or almost 43 percent — was for projects that were terminated or canceled."

This from the "conservative" President. This from the "conservative", "shrink government" Republicans. Right.

Some of the problems seem like they might have had easy and obvious ways to avoid, too:

"Bowen said only about 10 U.S. contracting officers and specialists were working on the $900 million contract, whereas 50 or 60 would be assigned to a comparable undertaking in the United States."

It was never completed. It was never done right. But the company awarded the contract, Parsons, got 31 million dollars for their efforts. 31 million dollars for a job they never finished. The other 9 million dollars went to subcontractors. Sweet deal, eh?

But wait! There's still more:

"And the choice of Parsons — in retrospect — was part of a far bigger web of alleged shortcomings by the conglomerate in Iraq."

"This is the worst performing contractor that we have identified" among the seven firms so far studied in Congress-mandated reviews of Iraqi projects, said Bowen."

Why is this administration getting off so free and easy? Why aren't people raising bloody hell?

"Bowen said his agency has done 120 audits on Iraqi projects. "And they tell an episodic story of waste," he said."

What is it going to take to get this administration to take responsibility for the deaths, injuries, destruction, waste, corruption, graft, payoffs and lack of responsibility they've inflicted on the United States--and the world?

Why aren't you people madder than hell?

In a completely separate but definitely related story, the Bush Administration announced this morning that the 2008 deficit will set a record.

No, no. Don't get upset or anything.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

A weekly Friday night occurrence?

Okay, campers, last week it was the big Indymac implosion on a Friday evening.

Were you ready for this week's? No, I thought not.

This week, they weren't as big, by themselves, as Indymac, but there were 2--count 'em, 2--banks that "went down": First National Bank of Nevada and First Heritage Bank of Newport Beach (both were units of the First National Bank Holding Company, based in Scottsdale, Ariz.).

So the thing is, were you paying attention? Did you even notice this happened? They do these on Friday evenings so people won't notice and panics don't set in, of course, just like political announcements out of Washington, when they're negative. Mind you, this is big news, right? But try finding mention of it now, on your regular search engine. Pull up Yahoo! and see if it's listed there, on the first page.

It's not.

The thing is, there's more to come, apparently. Certainly we all hope not but information seems to lean otherwise. I searched yesterday on the internet and, from what I read, the FDIC was watching 90 banking institutions, that may be on less than solid ground.

So for the foreseeable future, you might want to watch for those Friday night announcements. It's like I keep saying, pay attention.

Oh, and if one or more starts happening mid-week, and they can't contain the collapse of this or that financial institution(s)? It means things have really gone to heck--either for that one institution or, God forbid, for the banking sector in general, and in a much larger scope.

Here's hoping there aren't too many more weeks of this stuff.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

This is an easy one

Did you hear of or see this quote from that illustrious deep-thinker, John Bolton, former US Ambassador to the United Nations? About that Bush Administration, he said that the Bushies ability, now, to speak to other, hostile countries amounted to "the intellectual collapse of the Bush Administration."

What they do is stupid and what they say is even dumber.

The "intellectual collapse" of this group is like a child jumping off a street curb.

There are so many places to start, on how ignorant this administration has proven itself, both nationally, within the country, and internationally that I just won't. If you want to see things about this, go to The New York Times homepage on the net (www.nytimes.com) or read some of my past posts or go to some of the links on this page. Really, it's just too easy.

But for John Bolton, of all people, to say that this group is capable of an "intellectual collapse" is just too much. In the first place, there aren't too many people who would put him on a pedestal of admirable, deep thought, let alone this "current occupant" and Darth Cheney or Condoleeza or "Rummy" or Wolfowitz or any of the rest of the whole kittenkaboodle. There's just been too much stupidity. Historical stupidity. Tragical stupidity and ignorance.

What isn't frustrating should be good for a laugh--a deep, belly-laugh.

And this is one of those.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Success, it seems

If you've been paying any attention to Barack Obama's trip to the Middle East this week, you would know that it seems to be extremely successful and well-received. His different meetings with Al-Maliki, of Iraq, and the Israeli and Palestinian leaders, have all been met warmly and with, again, it seems, good results, considering its mostly a fact-finding tour for the assumed Democratic Candidate for the US Presidency.

It seems the whole world has not only "gone on" from this lame duck Presidency we're all suffering through, it's as though the United States and the world, both, are almost starved for intelligence, eloquence and thoughtfulness. This trip has ended up being almost a coronation for this next President.

Meanwhile, "Senator McSame" is thrashing about, trying come up with labels he can throw out for the Senator from Illinois, that he can make stick. It's sad. He's made verbal gaffes about different regions of the world and about the Sunni vs. Shiite sects in Iraq, among other things. He seems to be desperate in so many ways: desperate for good media coverage, desperate for voters in America to get behind him, desperate for young people to get excited about him and his campaign (oh, yeah, that's gonna happen. I can see it now: "Young 20's for the Rich, Old White Guy!").

There's a lot of time and events between now and November, to be sure, but it seems that there is a terrific head of steam (the mighty "MO" of momentum in politics) that Senator Obama has, in successes he's created, in fund-raising, in the "buzz" of the electorate, and more, that, hopefully, is virtually unstoppable.

Let's hope that's the case.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Screw the little guy (read: you)

Further proof, as if we needed it, that the Republican Party is the political party of money and big money and big business in general and big oil, in specific:

Bill to rein in oil speculators wins test vote

By Tom Doggett and Thomas Ferraro 21 minutes ago

A Democratic-backed bill to rein in energy market speculators blamed for high crude oil and gasoline prices cleared a U.S. Senate procedural hurdle on Tuesday, but final passage of the legislation remained uncertain.

Yet Republicans may still block a vote on approving the bill unless amendments are added to increase U.S. oil production, such as expanding offshore drilling and developing oil shale fields in the West."

(See the original article here: http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20080722/pl_nm/usa_energy_vote_dc;_ylt=Aty_HZSVdVUj_uLuT82fhUas0NUE)

Remember a couple years ago when the Voting Rights Act renewal came up and the Repubs didn't want that to pass, either? Oh, yeah. Don't forget.

Anyone who says the Republican Party is one of inclusion is delusional. They'd sell us down the river for a few thousand dollar campaign contribution in a second. They would and they have and they'll do it again.

And again and again.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Who's in charge?

This just out/in from Truthout.org:

http://www.truthout.org/article/maliki-concedes-no-us-withdrawal-deadline

Agence France-Presse reports on the latest agreement between US President George W. Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki: "The talks have sputtered over the Baghdad government's demands for a timetable for US troops to withdraw as well as Washington's demands that its soldiers and other staff be immune from Iraqi prosecution."

The fact is--and I hope they know it--the Iraqi government, such as it is, is in control of this Administration, this government, and this nation. Look at the facts: the Bush Administration needs this "government", if that's what it is, to do some things, like form itself, take over it's policing and its military, etc. It needs to be in control. It needs to, figuratively, "step up to the plate". It needs to take control of its borders and its people. So, if it does that, and if it rules and if it controls itself, it also controls what goes on inside its borders, as it should be. That's what governments are for. That's what governments are supposed to do.

But, in the meantime, this pesky US government is trying to tell it what to do inside those same borders. And the fact is, to be a government and to do what it is to do--what it wants to do--to be a Democracy, it doesn't have to be, it shouldn't have to be dictated from the outside, in this case, from the US, about what it's supposed to do.

So here's our problem: we invaded Iraq to "give them" Democracy, with a capital "D". Right. So now they're getting it, and they're exercising their power--or trying to--and what if they don't do what we want them to? What if they want to "zig" when we want them to "zag"?

Dammit, what if they want to be independent of us?

Not a very good return on your investment, is it, W?

The Horrible

Okay, last Monday I put up a completely different reference on Dr. Horrible. It turns out it was very funny and fun and had some good love songs. It's cute and funny as heck. Go to www.drhorrible.com, if you haven't already, and see all 3 short episodes. It disappears after midnight tonight.

My reason for writing about it is partly to say go see it but the other reason is to say that 1) it's going to make a great, though not original, now, or unique, in October, Hallowe'en costume and 2) I think it may be a pretty good metaphor for our President.

Think about it: He's not very bright but has big ambitions and, in the end--spoiler here--he screws everything up.

Like I said, nearly perfect.

The only differences are that both Dr. Horrible and Neil Patrick Harris are rather likeable.

Oh, and Dr. Horrible's mistakes are fiction, not actual.

Last note: I love the way it makes fun of blogs and people who create them.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Nothing but good news today

All from Yahoo! news just now:

* Stocks jump on drop in oil, Wells Fargo report
* American League All-Stars win 4-3 in 15 innings
* US troops pull out of Afghan base after attack
* Mass. Senate votes to let out-of-state gays marry
* Bush claims executive privilege on CIA leak (well, except this but this everyone expected this)

Some thoughts:

We ALL need oil prices to come back down out of the stratosphere, of course. Homes, families, businesses, everyone needs that

Stocks going up? There again, that's nothing but good news, unless your money is in "puts", of course. The market's gone so far South, it needs a good share of "North".

US troops pulling out of anywhere is always good. Let's get those men and women home, as soon as possible--and safely.

It kills me that the very people who supposedly want government out of our personal lives--read: Republicans and Conservatives--are the very ones that want that same government to reach into marriages and discriminate against two people who want to commit to each other. They don't "get it" but, hey, no one ever accused them of thinking.

The American League winning the All Star Game is always good. "Go, Royals!". As a side note: this game went so late that the local paper, the Kansas City Star, could only print that, last they checked, the game was still tied and into an insanely late overtime--that's how late it was. For the record, it ended in 15 crazy, long innings.

And now for my favorite topic, of all the above-listed stories: It seems "The Current Occupant" (of the White House, of course), has to claim "Executive Privilege" in the outing of a CIA agent, by someone in his own White House. That's like asking for a pardon, before you're charged with a crime, isn't it? (Yes, it is).

In fact, upon looking into the article, I found the following quote from Senator Henry Waxman, Chairman of the House Oversight Committee, on the matter: "This unfounded assertion of executive privilege does not protect a principle; it protects a person," Waxman said. "If the vice president did nothing wrong, what is there to hide?"

I'm sure they'd say nothing, nothing at all.

Yeah, right.

And there were WMD's in Iraq, too.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

I'll make this exception

I decided to only put my own comments, contributions and thoughts out here and stop putting full articles from other sources but felt I had to run this one last, full article here, one last time, in its entirety. This, from Paul Krugman that ran July 7 in The New York Times, I think, is just too important and good not to put in.

Behind the Bush Bust

By PAUL KRUGMAN
Published: July 7, 2008

By huge margins, Americans think the economy is in lousy shape — and they blame President Bush. This fact, more than anything else, makes it hard to see how the Democrats can lose this election.

Paul Krugman

But is the public right to be so disgusted with Mr. Bush’s economic leadership? Not exactly. We really do have a lousy economy, a fact of which Mr. Bush seems spectacularly unaware. But that’s not the same thing as saying that the bad economy is Mr. Bush’s fault.

On the other hand, there’s a certain rough justice in the public’s attitude. Other politicians besides Mr. Bush share the blame for the mess we’re in — but most of them are Republicans.

First things first: pay no attention to apologists who try to defend the Bush economic record. Since 2001, economic conditions have alternated between so-so and outright bad: a recession, followed by one of the weakest expansions since World War II, and then by a renewed job slump that isn’t officially a recession yet, but certainly feels like one.

Over all, Mr. Bush will be lucky to leave office with a net gain of five million jobs, far short of the number needed to keep up with population growth. For comparison, Bill Clinton presided over an economy that added 22 million jobs.

And what does Mr. Bush have to say about this dismal record? “I think when people take a look back at this moment in our economic history, they’ll recognize tax cuts work.” Clueless to the end.

Yet even liberal economists have a hard time arguing that Mr. Bush’s cluelessness actually caused the poor economic performance on his watch. Tax cuts didn’t work, but they didn’t create the Bush bust. So what did?

At the top of my list of causes for the lousy economy are three factors: the housing bubble and its aftermath, rising health care costs and soaring raw materials prices. I’ve written a lot about housing, so today let’s talk about the others.

Most public discussion of health care focuses on the problems of the uninsured and underinsured. But insurance premiums are also a major business expense: auto makers famously spend more on health care than they do on steel.

One of the underemphasized keys to the Clinton boom, I’d argue, was the way the cost disease of health care went into remission between 1993 and 2000. For a while, the spread of managed care put a lid on premiums, encouraging companies to expand their work forces.

But premiums surged again after 2000, imposing huge new burdens on business. It’s a good bet that this played an important role in weak job creation.

What about raw materials prices? During the Clinton years basic commodities stayed cheap by historical standards. Since then, however, food and energy prices have exploded, directly lopping about 5 percent off the typical American family’s real income, and raising business costs throughout the economy.

Much of this pain could have been avoided.

If Bill Clinton’s attempt to reform health care had succeeded, the U.S. economy would be in much better shape today. But the attempt failed — and let’s remember why. Yes, the Clinton administration botched the politics. But it was Republicans in Congress who blocked reform, as Newt Gingrich pursued a strategy of “coagulation” designed to “clot everyone away” from Mr. Clinton.

As for high food and fuel prices, they’re mainly the result of growing demand from China and other emerging economies. But oil prices wouldn’t be as high as they are, and the United States would have been much less vulnerable to the current price spike, if we had taken steps in the past to limit our oil consumption.

Mr. Bush certainly deserves some blame here, and not just for his destructive embrace of ethanol as the answer to our energy problems. After 9/11 he could easily have called for higher gas taxes and fuel efficiency standards as a national security measure, but the thought never seems to have crossed his mind.

Still, in energy as in health care the biggest missed opportunities came 15 or more years ago, when Mr. Gingrich and other conservative Republicans in Congress, aided by Democrats with ties to energy-intensive industries, blocked conservation measures.

So here’s the bottom line: Mr. Bush deserves some blame for the poor performance of the economy on his watch, but much of the blame lies with other, earlier political figures, who squandered chances for reform. As it happens, however, most though not all of the politicians responsible for our current economic difficulties were Republicans.

And bear in mind that John McCain has gone to great lengths to affirm his support for Republican economic orthodoxy. So he’ll have no reason to complain if, as seems likely, the economy costs him the election.

I just ran across this quote

"War is not nice."

-Barbara Bush


Boy, when it comes to intelligence, it seems the Bush family wasn't blessed with any real depth or complications. There's virtually everything that comes out of W's mouth and now this.

I wonder if Jeb is any brighter. He surely must be. There must be someone in the family who got hit by a lightning bolt of brilliance. Surely. Someone.

It just goes to show how far only money can take a group.

Wow. Thank God for the original Senator Prescott Bush, huh, or these people would all be scraping garbage at your local McDonald's.

What a relief this is...

Bush says troubled financial system is 'basically sound'

link here: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080715/ap_on_go_pr_wh/bush

"the system is basically sound"

yeah, and the economy is growing

and productivity is high

and trade's up (actually, this IS true, because the dollar is in the tank)

and people are working (everyone but YOU, George)

And we were only going to be in Iraq 3 to 6 months

And he DIDN’T lie to us

And there really WERE WMD’s

And we really AREN’T just in there for the oil

And it really WASN’T torture

And he really IS for smaller government

And he is a fiscal conservative

And he really is for a cleaner environment

And he really isn't a puppet for Big Oil

And he and his administration support the Clean Air Act

And Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez didn't lie

Oh, and did he say, he’s a rocket scientist, too?

blah, blah, blah...

This guy is so much worse than Herbert Hoover, just before the crash, it's not funny.

and I mean that literally. It's not funny.

For more, go to: www.bushlies.net, for documentation.

Some good news, finally, amidst a lot of gloom

"Oil prices plunge at fastest rate in 17 years over economic fears"

Just now, from Yahoo:

http://biz.yahoo.com/ap/080715/oil_prices.html

It's only $6.00/barrel and we could lose that--and more--tomorrow, with a big jump but, hey, we'll take it. Also, sure, it dropped the most in the last 17 years but how much did it go up in the last year? 2 years?

Anyway, what we really need is just a retreat of these prices, back to 60 to 80 dollars per barrel, where it should be, as per the economists.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

This is how serious the situation is, folks

Paulson Seeks Authority to Shore Up Fannie, Freddie (Update3)

By Brendan Murray and Dawn Kopecki

July 13 (Bloomberg) -- Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson put the weight of the federal government behind Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the beleaguered companies that buy or finance almost half of the $12 trillion of U.S. mortgages.

Paulson, speaking on the steps of the Treasury facing the White House, asked Congress for authority to buy unlimited stakes in and lend to the companies, aiming to stem a collapse in confidence. The Federal Reserve separately authorized the firms to borrow directly from the central bank.

The announcements followed weekend talks between the firms, government officials, lawmakers and regulators, after Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac lost about half their value last week. Paulson and Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke are trying to prevent a collapse that would exacerbate the worst housing recession in 25 years and deepen the economic slowdown.

here's the orginal link:
http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601068&sid=aSNZaHL2vs4A&refer=home


Pay attention, folks. This is huge news. These people NEVER get together on the weekends. They NEVER have meetings on Sundays, let alone announcements on the steps of the Treasury. Hell, they don't have to. Things are usually running smoothly.

Not now. Now, they're scrambling. This is big. This will be a big week in the markets.

"Officials from Treasury, the Fed and other regulators worked in close consultation throughout the weekend after growing investor fears about the companies' finances sent their shares and the overall market plummeting last week." (from Yahoo! link below).

Let's hope it all goes well.

The Fed. The FDIC. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, both. Hell, they're all engaged here.

"...some of Wall Street's biggest investors believe there was another message in the government's announcement — the rest of the financial sector seems unlikely to get a helping hand. Global banks and brokerages have already written down nearly $300 billion in soured mortgage investments — a number projected to ultimately reach $1 trillion." (http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080714/ap_on_bi_ge/credit_crisis_new_phase)

"Former U.S. Treasury Secretary John Snow said that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have relied on leverage to fund their businesses in the same fashion as a hedge fund, and that the government should avoid taking them over."

"Congress ought to be embarrassed" for years of delays in passing legislation aimed at strengthening regulation of the two companies, Snow, now chairman of New York-based buyout fund Cerberus Capital Management LP, said in a telephone interview. He said he suggested when in office that "the business model they were using was really the model of a hedge fund." (from this link: http://globaleconomicanalysis.blogspot.com/)

"A critical test of confidence will come Monday morning, when Freddie Mac is slated to auction a combined $3 billion in three- and six-month securities."
From this link:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080714/ap_on_bi_ge/mortgage_giants_crisis

You watch--Lehman Brothers is going down. Mark my words. And that's not the least of it, by a long shot.

Great question from Michael Sedlock at Mish's Global Economic Analysis:

"Since when in a supposedly capitalistic system should it be necessary for the Fed and Treasury to intervene in the markets on a day to day basis?"

More:

"To What Extent Did (Secretary of the Treasury) Paulson Lie?

Now we get to debate the meaning of the following:

"Keeping Fannie and Freddie in Current Form"
"There will be no nationalization of Fannie and Freddie"
"A government takeover will not be necessary"

It seems to me that an injection of $15 billion capital into Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and creating a new class of Government Owned Securities is most emphatically NOT in agreement with the above ideas.

Paulson Is The Great Pretender

Hell, there is so much pretending going on it's hard to keep track. For starters, everyone is pretending Fannie and Freddie are solvent. If they were solvent there would be no need for a $15 billion injection. Secondly, the government directly owning a new class of shares is not keeping Fannie in its current form.

The big concern is "Where does it stop?" Opening up a $15 billion dollar window will be the first of 10 such operations. This is likely the start of a U.S. Taxpayer Bailout of China."

It's ugly, folks. And it's getting really, quite uglier. As I so frequently say, you'd better start paying attention.

I hope it's not too late.

Formerly for Hillary... now for McCain??

You gotta be kidding me:


Some Clinton Money Edges Toward McCain


Wednesday, July 09, 2008, 8:38:46 AM | Lindsay Renick Mayer

Hillary Clinton's endorsement of Barack Obama last month may not have been enough to win over some of her biggest donors. It seems Obama is struggling to gain favor with Clinton's financial supporters, while Republican John McCain is having some luck with them. In May, when Obama seemed to have his party's nomination in the bag, 115 donors who had given Clinton more than $1,000 donated at least that amount to Obama for the first time, according to CRP data cited in the Wall Street Journal. But an equal number also made their first big contributions to McCain that month. In 37 cases, the former Clinton supporters gave more money to McCain than they had contributed to Clinton, while that was true for only 19 Clinton donors who started giving to Obama. It will be interesting to look for movement by Clinton's donors in June, after she bowed out of the race, but that data won't become available until July 20.

originally from the Center for Responsive Politics web page:
http://www.opensecrets.org/news/atom.xml


What kind of sick, stupid or shallow dumbass could go from wanting Hillary Clinton as their next President, to wanting John "I don't care if they're there 100 years" McCain? Holy cow, people. You cannot possibly be so short-sighted to go from some kind of progressive stance to a reactionary twit. Really. No one can be that out and out stupid or bitter.

Ah, but I forget the intelligence of the American voter.

I give people too much credit, once again.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Bush's Banned Interview from 2004

You've gotta see this article and accompanied video:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ben-cohen/bushs-banned-interview-an_b_111804.html

"The video shows Bush at the absolute peak of his arrogance -- convinced of his own rhetoric about Iraq, flooded with confidence from international subservience to American power, and high off a crushing military victory that reinforced his childish fantasies of American power and preeminence.

The problem was, Coleman was having none of it, and what transpired was a unique insight into the warped brain of the least respected and most hated president in the history of the United States."

The videos at the bottom are excellent, too.

A Weekend of Portents

Three things have come to my attention in the last 12 hours. One I just found out.

First, our knuckleheaded "leader", such as he is, is said to have stood up to say goodbye at the G8 sessions he was attending, and is quoted as saying--I'm not kidding about this--"Goodbye from the world's biggest polluter!". See the full story here:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/07/10/report-bush-tells-g8-lead_n_111966.html

Can you believe this guy's ignorance and chutzpah? He continues to show himself to be the 6 year old brat he is and that we thought he was. And then I don't know what's worse--my anger about it or my embarassment.

At least I never voted for the fool.

And then this: Federal Regulators seized and closed IndyMac Bancorp last evening, "marking one of the largest bank failures in American history."
See the original story here:
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/12/business/12indymac.html?bl&ex=1216008000&en=48af597fcdabd556&ei=5087%0A

It seems they had a good, old-fashioned (as in Depression era) run on the bank. Note that 2nd comparison to the Depression, folks. It's starting to get ever more serious.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, those 2 quasi-independent arms of the Federal Government, dealing with mortgage lenders, etc., may fold, too, we were warned this week.

Finally, the dollar "sinks to within a cent of an all-time low on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac" news. It just doesn't get any better, does it? See original story here: http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601087&sid=a4kpsU8pP4QY&refer=home

Greg Salvaggio, a vice president of capital markets at Tempus Consulting in Washington, a currency-trading company is quoted: ``There's a complete lack of confidence right now in the administration's ability to fix these problems.''

No kidding.

It seems to be getting more grave virtually daily and our imperious leader is making jokes about how we're the biggest polluter in the world.

Somehow it's just not funny.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Sent out earlier today

An open letter to all airline customers:

Last week, crude oil hit an all-time high of $146, and the skyrocketing cost of fuel is impacting our customers, our employees, the communities we serve, and the economy as a whole. United, and the majority of other major U.S. airlines, are asking our most loyal customers to join us in pushing for legislation to add more transparency and disclosure in the oil markets. The following is an open letter from the leaders of the U.S. airline industry.



Our country is facing a possible sharp economic downturn because of skyrocketing oil and fuel prices, but by pulling together, we can all do something to help now.

For airlines, ultra-expensive fuel means thousands of lost jobs and severe reductions in air service to both large and small communities. To the broader economy, oil prices mean slower activity and widespread economic pain. This pain can be alleviated, and that is why we are taking the extraordinary step of writing this joint letter to our customers. Since high oil prices are partly a response to normal market forces, the nation needs to focus on increased energy supplies and conservation. However, there is another side to this story because normal market forces are being dangerously amplified by poorly regulated market speculation.

Twenty years ago, 21 percent of oil contracts were purchased by speculators who trade oil on paper with no intention of ever taking delivery. Today, oil speculators purchase 66 percent of all oil futures contracts, and that reflects just the transactions that are known. Speculators buy up large amounts of oil and then sell it to each other again and again. A barrel of oil may trade 20-plus times before it is delivered and used; the price goes up with each trade and consumers pick up the final tab. Some market experts estimate that current prices reflect as much as $30 to $60 per barrel in unnecessary speculative costs.

Over seventy years ago, Congress established regulations to control excessive, largely unchecked market speculation and manipulation. However, over the past two decades, these regulatory limits have been weakened or removed. We believe that restoring and enforcing these limits, along with several other modest measures, will provide more disclosure, transparency and sound market oversight. Together, these reforms will help cool the over-heated oil market and permit the economy to prosper.

The nation needs to pull together to reform the oil markets and solve this growing problem.

We need your help. Get more information and contact Congress by visiting www.StopOilSpeculationNow.com.

Robert Fornaro Chairman, President and CEO AirTran Airways
Bill Ayer Chairman, President and CEO Alaska Airlines, Inc.
Gerard J. Arpey Chairman, President and CEO American Airlines, Inc.
Lawrence W. Kellner Chairman and CEO Continental Airlines, Inc.
Richard Anderson CEO Delta Air Lines, Inc.
Mark B. Dunkerley President and CEO Hawaiian Airlines, Inc.
Dave Barger CEO JetBlue Airways Corporation
Timothy E. Hoeksema Chairman, President and CEO Midwest Airlines
Douglas M. Steenland President and CEO Northwest Airlines, Inc.

Gary Kelly Chairman and CEO Southwest Airlines Co.
Glenn F. Tilton Chairman, President and CEO United Airlines, Inc.
Douglas Parker Chairman and CEO US Airways Group, Inc.
_________________________________________________

This, campers, follows what I wrote about a week ago, on the unlimited oil speculation that's now possible, because the American government took off regulation of oil speculation back in December, 2000, thanks to the brainiacs of Enron.

And have you seen the TV ad from, with and by T. Boone Pickens, the old, Texas oil multi-millionaire who--even he--says we should get off oil and into alternative energy sources like wind power, etc? That's pretty incredible. Think about it: for one, he's old and seemingly not likely to change. Second, he's from Texas, of all places and third and finally, he made all his money in the oil fields and even that old coot thinks it's time America got off our oil fix.

I tell you, there's hope for us yet.

(Special thanks to Tim Taylor for forwarding this letter from United Airlines to me!)
P.S. Since posting this, I've received the same email from 2 or 3 more friends. Let's hope people are contacting their Representatives!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

More Photography, less rants

 

I've decided I haven't put enough pictures on my site so here goes. This is another of the Bloch Gallery of Contemporary Art at the Nelson-Atkins Museum, here in Kansas City. It's stunning at night. I think most of the city has never ventured over in this neighborhood to see this. It's too bad because it's a knockout. Anyway, I love the building and really enjoy this set of pictures, but that's me. I'll get back to ranting about the Bush Administration next entry.

Also, be sure to look at the bottom of this front page as I added more pictures I haven't shown before there, too.
Posted by Picasa

Things you need to know...

in order to understand where we are now, and where we may be heading:

"The world burns 85 million barrels of oil a day, and the US alone consumes a quarter of that amount - of which more than half goes to road transport: the US has the least fuel-efficient cars on the roads, the lowest energy taxes, and the longest daily commutes of any industrialised nation.

It is an arrangement that James Howard Kunstler, the author of The Long Emergency: Surviving the End of Oil, Climate Change and Other Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-First Century, describes as 'the greatest misallocation of resources in the history of the world. America took all of its postwar wealth and invested it in a living arrangement that has no future.' A future imperilled yet further by fuel prices exceeding $4 a gallon - enough to occasion rising panic in a society where cheap fuel has always been regarded as an entitlement."

"The subprime crisis was largely the consequence of a series of smoke-and-mirror innovations in finance through the 1980s that enabled mortgage lenders to generate more loans by packaging up their debt and selling it on in the form of bonds known as mortgage-backed securities (MBSs), which would, in turn, be repackaged and sold on the financial market as collateralised debt obligations (CDOs). These financial innovations enabled lenders to evade much of the regulatory framework that had been in place since the 1930s when the Roosevelt administration halted bank runs with government guarantees. Passing on the risk meant that lenders could afford to become less cautious about whom they lent money to. Poor or middle-income borrowers - many from ethnic minorities - who would never have previously qualified for a mortgage or would have been regarded as a bad credit risk, suddenly found lenders falling over themselves to offer them loans. These were mostly in the form of adjustable rate mortgages (ARMs), usually offered at deliberately low 'teaser' rates, often as little as two or three per cent, but rising to as much as 15 per cent after two or three years. What this meant in effect was that the most risky loan products were being sold to the least sophisticated borrowers. By dicing and spicing the debt of high-risk borrowers, clever - or naive - financiers were able to sell rubbish as triple-A securities. And some of the world's supposedly most savvy banks - Morgan Stanley and Merrill Lynch included - were among the buyers."

"In 1997 subprime mortgages accounted for three per cent of the mortgage debt in the US. By 2006 that figure had risen to more than 20 per cent."

and more, here, apocolyptically:

James Howard Kunstler takes a yet more apocalyptic view. He believes that on the current projections of oil supply America will see the beginnings of 'a major collapse' of suburbia within the next 10 years, which no amount of 'wishful thinking' about alternative energy supplies will be able to arrest:

'We are not going to run Wal-Mart, the Interstate Highway system and Walt Disney World on any combination of solar, wind, nuclear, biofuels, ethanol or used french-fry potato oil. The bottom line is that we will use all these things but we will be very disappointed in what they will actually do for us. The problem is too big. The design of our living arrangement is simply inconsistent with the energy realities of the future. But Americans are just not able to process this. If you look hard enough at America, what you discover is a shockingly infantile belief system, with two fundamental ideas that are deleterious to our future. There's a widespread belief in America that it's possible to get something for nothing, and that mentality has been very destructive to our society. The other idea that has become normative is that when you wish upon a star your dream comes true. These two things have become the basis of the new American ideology.

'More than half of the American public live in the suburbs. There is going to be a very strong expectation that they will be supported and that their troubles will be attended to. But what we're seeing with the mortgage crisis is that people who have made their stand in the suburbs are being hung out to dry, because there's nothing that can be done for them without bankrupting the nation.'

Kunstler predicts a future of economic disarray, political turbulence, 'and quite a high potential for social turbulence as a result'.

Riots at petrol stations?

'It could include that. One of the features of American society is how well-armed we are, and how fragile the civic bond is. Especially in the sun belt where you have an ethos of extreme individualism combined with the romance of firearms, and the belief that hyper-individualism ought to be defended by the liberal use of firearms. This is not a good recipe for civic cohesion.'

The huge, car-dependent metroplexes such as Atlanta and Houston are not scaled to the 'energy-diet' of the coming decade, Kunstler went on, and are doomed eventually to fail. 'Phoenix,' he added bluntly, 'will dry up and blow away.'

In San Bernadino:

'Tent City is a sprawling encampment of the homeless that was established by the city of Ontario authorities in July 2007 in an enterprising attempt to provide makeshift housing for people who would otherwise be sleeping in shelters, or on the sidewalks. Seventeen people had initially taken up residency, but as word spread the homeless began arriving from all over the state, and beyond. By March 2008 the camp had acquired a name, and a population of some 450 people.'

'Tent City is located close by the airport and backing on to a railway line; a sprawling, dusty shanty-town of tents and makeshift tarpaulin shelters, it resembled a scene from John Steinbeck's epic tale of the Great Depression, The Grapes of Wrath. Route 66, the road that in the 1930s had carried the dispossessed from the dustbowl of the Midwest to California in search of a better life, was three miles to the north.'

'In the Depression, the shanty-towns that sprang up to house the homeless were called 'Hoovervilles' - an ironic reference to the president of the day, Herbert Hoover. Tent City had already been described as a 'Bushville'. 'But I'd actually call it a Reaganville', Busch said. Franklin D Roosevelt's prescription for the Great Depression, the New Deal, had enshrined a progressive outlook in America, Busch went on, 'that government's better role was not just to business, but to also guarantee peoples' basic human needs, and rights'. But Ronald Reagan 'and his neo-con followers' had ended that, proclaiming that a smaller role of government in social programs would somehow magically 'lift all boats' through increased business prosperity.

'Tent City is proof that Reagan's daydream for America was wrong.'

Americans, Busch said went on, were living in 'a third world economy' with no health benefits, no unemployment benefits. 'America's focus has been on the Dow Index, rather than the human development index. How many prisons have they built in the last 25 years when they should have been building schools? To erase the poverty gap in this country would cost $150 billion - roughly one fifth of the military budget. And the American people have finally woken up from that 25 year daydream - to see bank failures, visible homelessness, home foreclosures, joblessness, lack of health-care, wars, and environmental disasters.'

_______________________________________________________________

The above are all snippets from an article written in The Telegraph, out of the UK. You can read the entire article here:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/portal/main.jhtml?xml=/portal/2008/07/05/sm_america05.xml

It's fascinating, eye-opening, heady stuff.

Hopefully not portents of things to come.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

More Proof that this White House is against Americans

...at least, the "little guy".

Until before the current Presidency, I always believed that our government in the United States was, at it's core, still for the "little guy" in America. Sure, the fat cats--the rich people, the corporations and all the rest--could easily, for a thousand dollars here or 50,000 there, still buy a Congressman or favorable legislation. But when it came down to the ultimate good of the American public, our health, say, or other, much bigger issues, I was convinced that our government could and would protect us.

And along came "W".

Holy cow, this Big Oil/Big Business bozo is totally, 100% committed to getting all he and his administration can get for his uber-rich, fatcat friends and associates. And by associates, I mean "other people who also have lots of money."

Anyway, now this, today--more proof of how this White House is against America:

Cheney wanted cuts in climate testimony

By H. JOSEF HEBERT, Associated Press Writer Tue Jul 8, 9:53 AM ET

Vice President Dick Cheney's office pushed for major deletions in congressional testimony on the public health consequences of climate change, fearing the presentation by a leading health official might make it harder to avoid regulating greenhouse gases, a former EPA officials maintains.

When six pages were cut from testimony on climate change and public health by the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last October, the White House insisted the changes were made because of reservations raised by White House advisers about the accuracy of the science.

But Jason K. Burnett, until last month the senior adviser on climate change to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Stephen Johnson, says that Cheney's office was deeply involved in getting nearly half of the CDC's original draft testimony removed.

"The Council on Environmental Quality and the office of the vice president were seeking deletions to the CDC testimony (concerning) ... any discussions of the human health consequences of climate change," Burnett has told the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

The three-page letter, a response to an inquiry by Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., the panel's chairwoman, was obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press. Boxer planned a news conference later in the day...

...Senate and House committees have been trying for months to get e-mail exchanges and other documents to determine the extent of political influence on government scientists, but have been rebuffed.

Copyright © 2008 The Associated Press.

See the entire story here:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080708/ap_on_re_us/cheney_climate
______________________________________________________

So there you have it, ladies and gentlemen of the United States. More proof, as though we need it, that this government is for Corporate America, Big Business, Big Money Interests, Wealthy People (like your tax break, folks?), Big Oil and the like. From "W" and Dick on down, this is them vs. the U.S., us.

President Eisenhower, way back when, was right. Ralph Nader has been right all along. Molly Ivins was right, God bless her... and this is no way to run a country.

I hope it's not too late to get our country back.

Monday, July 7, 2008

All that about suporting the "little guy"? Screw that...

This didn't get much coverage in the news, either:


Justices Cut Damages Award in Exxon Valdez Spill
Wednesday 25 June 2008
by: The Associated Press


The US Supreme Court ruled that Exxon will only have to pay $500 million of the $2.5 billion punitive damages awarded to victims of the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil-spill disaster that contaminated Prince William Sound with 11 million gallons of crude oil.

Washington - The Supreme Court on Wednesday cut the $2.5 billion punitive damages award in the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster to $500 million.

The court ruled that victims of the worst oil spill in U.S. history may collect punitive damages from Exxon Mobil Corp., but not as much as a federal appeals court determined.

Justice David Souter wrote for the court that punitive damages may not exceed what the company already paid to compensate victims for economic losses, about $500 million compensation.

Exxon asked the high court to reject the punitive damages judgment, saying it already has spent $3.4 billion in response to the accident that fouled 1,200 miles of Alaska coastline.

A jury decided Exxon should pay $5 billion in punitive damages. A federal appeals court cut that verdict in half.

The court divided 5-3, with Justice Samuel Alito taking no part in the case because he owns Exxon stock.

Exxon has fought vigorously to reduce or erase the punitive damages verdict by a jury in Alaska in 1994 for the accident that dumped 11 million gallons of oil into Prince William Sound. The environmental disaster led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of seabirds and marine animals.

Nearly 33,000 Alaskans are in line to share in the award, about $15,000 a person. They would have collected $75,000 each under the $2.5 billion judgment.

One more way Bush, his administration and McCain are all wrong

Iraq raises idea of timetable for US withdrawal

By QASSIM ABDUL-ZAHRA and SEBASTIAN ABBOT, Associated Press Writers2 hours, 19 minutes ago

Iraq's prime minister said Monday his country wants some type of timetable for a withdrawal of American troops included in the deal the two countries are negotiating.

It was the first time that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has explicitly and publicly called for a withdrawal timetable — an idea opposed by President Bush.

see the full story here:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080707/ap_on_re_mi_ea/iraq

See? One more way the Knucklehead in Chief and Senator "McSame" are absolutely wrong, once again, on this stupid war of theirs. "100 years", yeah, right.

No, no, even the Iraqis are saying they want us out. Of course the "Big Four" oil companies that just got--or think they got--sweetheart oil deals in Iraq don't want us out but hey, isn't this THEIR country? We were supposed to just be liberators and get out, weren't we? So isn't this what we were supposed to want, too?

Yeah, right.

Okay, so anyway, the American people want us out of Iraq, the Iraqis want us out of Iraq, that pretty well settles it, doesn't it?

But, really, it's going extremely well over there

Yeah, right.

There are so many times, when I read or hear people either from this Administration or believers of this same group, that say how "the surge is working" or whatever nonsense they want us to swallow that day.

And then I read things like this, that tell of actual incidents that occur and I keep in mind how so much of the country--Iraq--has been blown up by this same administration and I just want to scream.



US-Allied Iraqi Politician Kills Two US Troops, Wounds Four
Monday 23 June 2008

by: Mohammed al Dulaimy and Hannah Allam, McClatchy Newspapers

Madain, Iraq - A U.S.-allied Iraqi council member sprayed American troops with gunfire Monday, killing two soldiers and wounding three and an interpreter, Iraqi authorities and witnesses said. The attack occurred minutes after they emerged from a weekly joint meeting on reconstruction in this volatile town southeast of Baghdad.

Raed Mahmoud Ajil, a former high school principal in his mid-40s, was known as a respected city council member and devoted educator who'd recently returned to Iraq after completing his master's degree in India, stunned colleagues said. U.S. troops shot and killed him at the scene.

Ajil's colleagues said they could think of no motive for the deadly rampage, which is thought to be the first incident of a U.S.-allied Iraqi politician carrying out such an attack. Ajil comes from a distinguished Sunni Muslim family. His brother is security chief for the Iraqi Ministry of Justice and a cousin is a high-ranking judge, relatives said.

Ajil's family said that he'd suffered from bouts of depression and sporadic epileptic seizures, which he masked in his role as a public servant. Relatives knew him to be friendly to U.S. troops and said he had no qualms about working alongside them, even though many in this mixed Sunni-Shiite Muslim town view American forces as occupiers.

(McClatchy special correspondent Dulaimy reported from Madain, Allam from Baghdad.)
__________________________________________________________
back to "Mo Rage":

Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have died, more than 4,000 Americans have died, thousands and thousands of both Iraqis and Americans have been wounded or are suffering dreadful psychiatric disorders because of and from this war but we're supposed to believe that "the surge is working".

No. No, it's not.

The whole war hasn't "worked". Nothing is as they said it would be and it's not good for Iraqis and it's not good for Americans.

We need to get out.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

This just in (from The Onion)--and don't you frequently feel like this?

Middle East Conflict Intensifies As Blah Blah Blah, Etc. Etc.

April 26, 2007 | Issue 43•17

June 9, 2007

MIDDLE EAST—With the Iraq war in its fifth year, the war in Afghanistan in its sixth, and conflict between Israel and the rest of the region continuing unabated for more than half a century, intelligence sources are warning that a new wave of violence in the Middle East may soon blah blah blah, etc. etc., you know the rest.

Yet another act of violence in response to something else terrible that occurred in, oh, let's say Basra.
"Tensions in the region are extremely high," said U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker, who added the same old same old while answering reporters' questions. "We're disappointed by the events of the last few months, but we're confident that we're about to [yakety yakety yak]."

The U.N. has issued a strongly worded whatever denouncing someone or something presumably having to do with the vicious explosive things that raged across this, or shattered the predawn calm of that, or ripped suddenly through the other, killing umpteen innocent civilians in a Jerusalem bus or Beirut discotheque or Fallujah mosque or whatever it was this time.

Either a car bomb killed people or a car hit a roadside bomb, killing people.
In the aftermath of a whole series of incidents, there have also been troubling reports of just fill in the blanks. Middle East experts say the still somehow worsening situation has inflamed age-old sectarian tensions between the Sunnis, Shiites, Semites, Kurds, Turks, Saudis, Persians, Wahhabis, radicals, extremists, Baathists, mullahs, clerics, et al, which is likely to lead to more gurgle-gurgle over the coming weeks and months.

A certain number of U.S. troops were also killed somewhere in some tragic fashion, while a much greater number were wounded. Meanwhile, impoverished or oppressed supporters of whichever faction carried out the attack or ambush probably celebrated, angering an angry U.S. public that is already angry. Locals are calling for an investigation into excessive force or outright corruption by military or political officials on one of the 15 sides of the various conflicts, although the implicated party has categorically denied wrongdoing, just like they always do, without fail, every time this happens, which is daily, it seems.

And in Afghanistan, the Taliban.

In Israel, Palestinians and Israelis escalated tensions and so on and so on ad infinitum, ad eternum, and some say, ad absurdum, and although Hamas released a statement condemning Israeli forces for the resulting civilian deaths, Israeli officials say the teens were armed with rocket launchers, though it doesn't really matter.

Also, Ahmadinejad, Iran's nuclear program, bin Laden at large, Moqtada al-Sadr, Moqtada al-Sadr's militia, Fallujah, renegade mullahs, embedded and/or beheaded journalists, oil revenues, stockpiles of former Soviet armaments, freedom, racism, Halliburton, women's role in Islamic society, the Quran, withdrawing troops, economic disparities, Sikhs, Pakistanis, oil, rebuilding, stories of hope, the Saudi royal family, the Holy Land, insurgents, and the tragedy of Sept. 11th.

In an attempt to increase public support of whatever the fuck it is he thinks he's doing, President Bush trotted out the same old whoop-de-do you've heard over and over at a solemn-yet-resolute speech attended by soldiers, or religious leaders, or firemen, or some mix of ethnic-looking people from one of those countries.

"We have to give this plan time to wop bop a loo bop, a wop bam boom, ah ah ting tang walla walla bing bang," President Bush may as well have said. "May God [help/bless/save] the United States of America."

(Back to yours truly: So the question is, how many hundreds of years are we supposed to give a damn?)

Saturday, July 5, 2008

More of What "W" Has Wrought, Part II

Americans' Unhappy Birthday: 'Too much wrong right now'
By PAULINE ARRILLAGA (AP National Writer)
From Associated Press
July 05, 2008 2:32 PM EDT

Even folks in the Optimist Club are having a tough time toeing an upbeat line these days.

Eighteen members of the volunteer organization's Gilbert, Ariz., chapter have gathered, a few days before this nation's 232nd birthday, to focus on the positive: Their book drive for schoolchildren and an Independence Day project to place American flags along the streets of one neighborhood.

They beam through the Pledge of Allegiance, applaud each other's good news - a house that recently sold despite Arizona's down market, and one member's valiant battle with cancer. "I didn't die," she says as the others cheer.

But then talk turns to the state of the Union, and the Optimists become decidedly bleak.

They use words such as "terrified," "disgusted" and "scary" to describe what one calls "this mess" we Americans find ourselves in. Then comes the list of problems constituting the mess: a protracted war, $4-a-gallon gas, soaring food prices, uncertainty about jobs, an erratic stock market, a tougher housing market, and so on and so forth.

One member's son is serving his second tour in Iraq. Another speaks of a daughter who's lost her job in the mortgage industry and a son in construction whose salary was slashed. Still another mentions a friend who can barely afford gas.

Joanne Kontak, 60, an elementary school lunch aide inducted just this day as an Optimist, sums things up like this: "There's just entirely too much wrong right now."

Happy birthday, America? This year, we're not so sure.

The nation's psyche is battered and bruised, the sense of pessimism palpable. Young or old, Republican or Democrat, economically stable or struggling, Americans are questioning where they are and where they are going. And they wonder who or what might ride to their rescue.

These are more than mere gripes, but rather an expression of fears - concerns reflected not only in the many recent polls that show consumer confidence plummeting, personal happiness waning and more folks worrying that the country is headed in the wrong direction, but also in conversations happening all across the land.

"There are so many things you have to do to survive now," says Larue Lawson of Forest Park, Ill. "It used to be just clothes on your back, food on the table and a roof over your head. Now, it's everything.

"I wish it was just simpler."

Lawson, mind you, is all of 16 years old.

Then there's this from Sherry White in Orlando, Fla., who has a half-century in years and experience on the teenager:

"There is a sense of helplessness everywhere you look. It's like you're stuck in one spot, and you can't do anything about it."

In 1931, when the historian James Truslow Adams coined the phrase "The American Dream," he wrote of "a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement."

________________________________________________________

The article goes on from there to be very "PC" and not blame the President, his administration, their lying and creation of their war--for oil--etc., etc., and just, instead, leave the question in the air, so to speak.

I was glad to see the article (see link at bottom for the complete article) but for pity's sake, not putting any blame? It was the responsible thing to do and this isn't Keith Olbermann, for sure, but it's been W's push for his precious Big Oil companies and large corporation's profits that has gotten us into this mess. Get some education, people. Read the papers. Since you haven't, apparently, been reading anything for the last 7 years, do some research, check it out. Learn about your country, your government, what they're doing. Vote, for God's sake, but not if you're going to be stupid and listen to some "spirit" or voice you think you hear or some friend who quotes Rush Limbaugh and/or talk radio.

Our country's in a mess because we got George W. Bush and his cronies in office and they've been wreaking havoc for these 7 long years.

And if you don't know why we're in the mess we're in, then you haven't been paying attention and, frankly, you're a dumbass and you deserve what you get. As for the rest of us, we didn't vote for this clown, we do read and we're pissed.

---

Contributing to this report were AP Writers Allen G. Breed, Martha Irvine, Todd Lewan, Martha Mendoza, Vicki Smith and Becky Bohrer.
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.

Find the original post here:
http://enews.earthlink.net/article/top?guid=20080705/486ef1c0_3ca6_1552620080705-1059433911

To the American People: "You can't handle the truth!"

U.S. Continues to Brutalize Iraqis in the Cause of the 'Surge'

By Tom Engelhardt, Tomdispatch.com. Posted June 30, 2008.

Five years after the invasion, to speak of this urge to surge and its results as "success" or as "good news" is essentially obscene.

The World According to Tomdispatch: America and the Age of Empire by Tom Engelhardt (Verso, 2008).

On March 19, 2003, as his shock-and-awe campaign against Iraq was being launched, George W. Bush addressed the nation. "My fellow citizens," he began, "at this hour, American and coalition forces are in the early stages of military operations to disarm Iraq, to free its people and to defend the world from grave danger." We were entering Iraq, he insisted, "with respect for its citizens, for their great civilization and for the religious faiths they practice. We have no ambition in Iraq, except to remove a threat and restore control of that country to its own people."

Within weeks, of course, that "great civilization" was being looted, pillaged, and shipped abroad. Saddam Hussein's Baathist dictatorship was no more and, soon enough, the Iraqi Army of 400,000 had been officially disbanded by L. Paul Bremer, the head of the occupying Coalition Provisional Authority and the President's viceroy in Baghdad. By then, ministry buildings -- except for the oil and interior ministries -- were just looted shells. Schools, hospitals, museums, libraries, just about everything that was national or meaningful, had been stripped bare. Meanwhile, in their new offices in Saddam's former palaces, America's neoconservative occupiers were already bringing in the administration's crony corporations -- Halliburton and its subsidiary KBR, Bechtel, and others -- to finish off the job of looting the country under the rubric of "reconstruction." Somehow, these "administrators" managed to "spend" $20 billion of Iraq's oil money, already in the "Development Fund for Iraq," even before the first year of occupation was over -- and to no effect whatsoever. They also managed to create what Ed Harriman in the London Review of Books labeled "the least accountable and least transparent regime in the Middle East." (No small trick given the competition.)

Before the Sunni insurgency even had a chance to ramp up in 2003, they were already pouring billions of U.S. tax dollars into what would become their massive military mega-bases meant to last a millennium, and, of course, they were dreaming about opening Iraq's oil industry to the major oil multinationals and to a privatized future as an oil spigot for the West.

On May 1, 2003, six weeks after he had announced his war to the nation and the world, the President landed on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln, an aircraft carrier returning from the Persian Gulf where its planes had just launched 16,500 missions and dropped 1.6 million pounds of ordnance on Iraq. From its flight deck, he spoke triumphantly, against the backdrop of a "Mission Accomplished" banner, assuring Americans that we had "prevailed." "Today," he said, "we have the greater power to free a nation by breaking a dangerous and aggressive regime. With new tactics and precision weapons, we can achieve military objectives without directing violence against civilians." In fact, according to Human Rights Watch, the initial shock-and-awe strikes he had ordered killed only civilians, possibly hundreds of them, without touching a single official of Saddam Hussein's "regime."

Who's Counting Now?

Since that first day of "liberation," Iraqis have never stopped dying in prodigious numbers. Now, more than five years after the U.S. "prevailed" with such "precision," a more modest version of the same success story has once again taken the beaches of the mainstream media, if not by storm, then by siege. When it comes to Iraq, the good news is unavoidable. It's in the air. Not victory exactly, but a slow-motion movement toward a "stable" Iraq, a country with which we might be moderately content.

The President's surge -- those extra 30,000 ground troops sent into Iraq in the first half of 2007 -- has, it is claimed, proven the negativity of all the doubters and critics unwarranted. Indeed, it is now agreed, security conditions have improved significantly and in ways "that few thought likely a year ago."

You already know the story well enough. It turns out that, as in Vietnam many decades ago, the U.S. military is counting like mad. So, for instance, according to the Pentagon, attacks on American and Iraqi troops are down 70% compared to June 2007; IED (roadside bomb) attacks have dropped almost 90% over the same period; in May, for the first time, fewer Americans died in Iraq than in Afghanistan (where the President's other war, some seven-plus years later, is going poorly indeed); and, above all else, "violence" is down. ("All major indicators of violence in Iraq have dropped by between 40 and 80 percent since February 2007, when President Bush committed an additional 30,000 troops to the war there, the Pentagon reported.")

Think of this as the equivalent of Vietnam's infamous "body count," but in reverse. In a country where the U.S. generally occupies only the land its troops are on, the normal measures of military victory long ago went out the window, so bodies have to stand in. In Vietnam, the question was: How many enemy dead could you tote up? The greater the slaughter, the closer you assumedly were to obliterating the other side (or, at least, its will). As it turned out, by what the grunts dubbed "the Mere Gook Rule" -- "If it's dead and it's Vietnamese, it's VC [Vietcong] " -- any body would do in a pinch when it came to the metrics of victory.

In Iraq today, the counting being most widely publicized runs in the opposite direction. Success now can be measured in less deaths; and, by all usual counts, Iraqi deaths have indeed been falling since the height of sectarian violence and ethnic cleansing in the early months of 2007. In part, this has occurred because millions of people have already been driven out of their homes and many neighborhoods, especially in the capital, "cleansed." At the same time, in Sunni areas, significant numbers of insurgents have joined the Awakening Movement. They have been paid off by the U.S. military to fight al-Qaeda in Iraq, while, assumedly, biding their time until the American presence ebbs to take on "the Persians" -- that is, the Shiite (and Kurdish) government embedded in Baghdad's fortified, American-controlled Green Zone.

As a result, cratered Iraq -- a land with at least 50% unemployment, still lacking decent electricity, potable water, hospitals with drugs (or even doctors, so many having fled), or courts with judges (40 of them having been assassinated and many more injured since 2003) or lawyers, many of whom joined the more than two million Iraqis who have gone into exile -- is, today, modestly quieter. But don't be fooled. So many years later, Iraqis are still dying in prodigious numbers, and significant numbers of those dying are doing so at the hands of Americans.

It's not just the family, including possibly four children under the age of 12, who died last week when a U.S. jet blasted their house in Tikrit (after their father, evidently believing thieves were about, fired shots in the air with a U.S. patrol nearby); or the manager and two female employees of a bank at Baghdad International Airport ("three criminals," according to a U.S. military statement) killed when their car was shot up by soldiers from a U.S. convoy; or the unarmed civilian, a relative of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who died in an early morning American raid in the southern town of Janaja; or the men, woman, and child in a car "which failed to stop at a [U.S.] checkpoint on the outskirts of Mosul because, according to a U.S. military statement, the two men were armed and one man inside the car made 'threatening movements'"; or, according to the U.N., the estimated 1,000 dead in Baghdad's vast, heavily populated Shiite slum of Sadr City, mostly civilians, 60% women and children, in fighting in April and May in which U.S. troops and air power played a significant role.

In fact, one great difference between the "liberation" moment of 2003 and the "stabilization" moment of 2008 is simply that what began as "regime change" -- missiles and bombs theoretically meant for that Saddamist deck of 55 leadership cards -- then developed into a war against a Sunni insurgency, and is now functionally a war against Shiites as well. Particularly targeted of late has been the movement headed by cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, a fierce opponent of the American occupation, who is especially popular among the impoverished Shiite masses in Baghdad and southern Iraq. In Shiite areas, his party, according to a U.S. intelligence estimate, would probably win upwards of 60% of the votes in the upcoming provincial elections, if they were fairly conducted. In recent months, the U.S. military in "support" of its Iraqi allies in the Maliki government has fought fierce battles in both the southern oil city of Basra and Sadr City against Sadr's militia, with the usual sizeable numbers of civilian casualties.

In other words, despite all the talk about onrushing "stability," looked at another way, the U.S. faces an ever more complicated and spreading, if intermittent, war. With it has gone another, somewhat less publicized kind of body count. Consider, for instance, a small passage from a recent piece by New York Times correspondent Thom Shanker on inter-service rivalries in Iraq. The U.S. Army, he reports, is now ramping up its own air arm (just as it did in the Vietnam era). In the last year, it has launched Task Force ODIN, the name being an acronym for "observe, detect, identify and neutralize," but also the ber-god of Norse mythology (and perhaps a reminder of the godlike attitudes those in the air can develop towards those being "neutralized" on the ground).

With its headquarters at a base near Tikrit, Saddam Hussein's old hometown, the unit consists of only "about 300 people and 25 aircraft." Shanker calls it "a Rube Goldberg collection of surveillance and communications and attack systems, a mash-up of manned and remotely piloted vehicles, commercial aircraft with high-tech infrared sensors strapped to the fuselage, along with attack helicopters and infantry."

Here's the money paragraph of his piece with its triumphalist body count:

"The work of the new aviation battalion was initially kept secret, but Army officials involved in its planning say it has been exceptionally active, using remotely piloted surveillance aircraft to call in Apache helicopter strikes with missiles and heavy machine gun fire that have killed more than 3,000 adversaries in the last year and led to the capture of almost 150 insurgent leaders."

We have no idea how that figure of more than 3,000 dead Iraqis was gathered (given that we're talking about an air unit), or what percentage of those dead were actually civilians, but certainly some among them died in the recent fighting in heavily populated Sadr City. In any case, consider that number for a moment: One modest-sized Army air unit/one year = 3,000+ dead Iraqis.


Now, consider that the Air Force in Iraq in that same year, according to Shanker, "quadrupled its number of sorties and increased its bombing tenfold." Consider that significant numbers of those sorties have been over heavily populated cities, or that, according to the Washington Post, between late March and late May, more than 200 powerful Hellfire missiles were fired into Baghdad (mainly, undoubtedly, into the Sadr City area); or that the unmanned aerial vehicles, the Predator (armed with two Hellfire missiles) and the larger, far more deadly Reaper (armed with up to 14 of those missiles), carried out, according to Shanker, 64 and 32 attacks, respectively, in Iraq and Afghanistan between the beginning of March and June.

And we're not even considering here U.S. military operations on the ground in Basra earlier in the year (special forces units were sent into the city when the Iraqi military and police seemed to be buckling), or in campaigns in Sunni or mixed areas to the north of Baghdad, or simply in ongoing everyday operations. Although individual body counts are now regularly announced for specific operations (not the case in the early years in Iraq), who knows what the overall carnage amounts to. One thing can be said however: The pacification campaign in Iraq really hasn't flagged since the Sunni insurgency gained strength in late 2003. Reformulated by General David Petraeus in 2007, it's just the sort of effort that occupying Great Powers have long been known to apply to rebellious possessions.

Iraq as a Surge-athon

To fully assess just what lurks beneath the "good news" from Iraq, including those 3,000 "adversaries" that Task Force ODIN "neutralized," we would have to do a different kind of counting of which we're incapable, not because no one's doing it, but because we have minimal access to the numbers. Let me try, however, to outline briefly some of what can be known -- and then you can judge the good news for yourself.

American troop strength in Iraq now stands at about 146,000. That's perhaps 16,000 more than in January 2007 just before the surge began. It's also about 16,000 more than in April 2003 when Baghdad was taken. According to Lolita Baldor of the Associated Press, the latest Pentagon plans are to order about 30,000 U.S. troops into Iraq in 2009, which would keep troop levels at or above that 140,000 mark.

In addition, a vast force of private contractors, armed and unarmed, is in the country. There is no way to know how many of these hired hands and hired guns are actually there, but it's a reasonable guess that they add up to more -- possibly substantially more -- than the troops on hand.

Since February 2007 in the U.S., only one "surge" has been discussed, almost nonstop -- those 30,000 ground troops the President ordered largely into the Baghdad area. A surprising number of other surges have, however, been underway, even if barely noted in the U.S. These add up to a remarkable Bush administration urge to surge that puts American policy in Iraq in quite a different light.

Among these surges, for instance, has been a political surge of U.S. "advisors" and "mentors" to the Iraqi government, police, and military. In another of his superb reports for the New York Review of Books, "Embedded in Iraq," Michael Massing says that the main elements of this "little known political surge were spelled out in a classified 'Joint Campaign Plan' completed in May 2007." It represented, he writes, a "sharp expansion."

"Specialists from Treasury and Justice, Commerce and Agriculture were assigned to government ministries to help draw up budgets and weed out sectarian elements. The Agency for International Development and the Army Corps of Engineers set up projects to boost nutrition and reinforce dams. Provincial Reconstruction Teams were stationed in Baghdad and elsewhere to help repair infrastructure, improve water and electrical systems, and stimulate the economy."

We know as well that American advisers are now deeply involved with local government bodies in contested areas; that American advisers, evidently hired from private contractors, are embedded in the key interior, defense, and oil ministries; that advisers, also hired from private contractors, are helping the Iraqi police and that a new multiyear contract with DynCorp International, which already has 700 civilian police advisers in the country, will raise that number above 800. Their mission: "to advise, train and mentor the Iraqi Police Service, Ministry of Interior, and Department of Border Enforcement."

In this period, even academics have surged into Iraq as the military has embedded anthropologists, political scientists, and sociologists from the "Human Terrain System" in military units to advise on local customs and "cultural understanding." One of them, a political scientist completing her Ph.D. at Johns Hopkins University, was recently killed in a bombing in Sadr City.

We know that more than 20,000 Iraqis are now in two U.S. prisons, Camp Bucca in the south of the country and state-of-the-art Camp Cropper on the outskirts of Baghdad. Both of these have been continually upgraded. In this period, though, it seems that a surge in prison building (and assumedly prisoners) has also been underway. The Washington Post's Walter Pincus reports that a new "Theater Internment Facility Reconciliation Center" -- i.e. prison -- is being built near Camp Taji, 12 miles north of Baghdad. A "new contract calls for providing food for 'up to 5,000 detainees' [there] and will also cover 150 Iraqi nationals, who apparently will work at the facility." Another "reconciliation center" is to be opened at Ramadi in al-Anbar Province.

All of this is, again, being done through private contractors, including a contract for some company to "guard" the "property" of up to 60,000 Iraqi detainees. ("The contracted personnel will be responsible for the accountability, inventory, and storage of all property.") This, reports Sharon Weinberger of Wired's Danger Room blog, is evidently in anticipation of a "surge of approximately 15,000 detainees in the upcoming six months."

In addition, the Iraqi military, with its embedded American advisors, remains almost totally dependent on the U.S. military. According to a recent Government Accountability Office report, based on "a classified study of Iraqi Army battalions," just 10% of them "are capable of operating independently in counterinsurgency operations and… even then they rely on American support." For logistics, planning, supplies -- almost everything that makes a military function -- the Iraqi military relies on the U.S. military and would be helpless without it.

More than five years after Baghdad fell, there still is no real Iraqi air force. The Iraqi military now depends ever more on the quick and constant application of American air power -- and U.S. air power in the region has surged in the last year and a half. The use of drones like the Predator and Reaper, whose pilots are stationed at Nellis Air Force Base outside Las Vegas and other distant spots, has also surged, doubling since the beginning of 2007. Meanwhile, new machines, including a "platoon" of 30 of the Army's experimental Micro Air Vehicles, which can hover "in one place [and] stare down with 'electro-optical and infrared cameras,'" are being rushed into action in Iraq, which is increasingly a laboratory for the testing of the latest U.S. weaponry.

In addition, for unknown billions of dollars, the upgrading of American bases in that country, especially the mega-bases, continues, while possibly the largest embassy on the planet, a vast citadel inside Baghdad's fortified Green Zone meant to house 1,000 "diplomats" (and large numbers of guards and support staff of every sort), is nearly finished.

Finally, among the various surges of these last 18 months, there has been a surge in Bush administration demands for an American future in Iraq. In ongoing negotiations for a Status of Forces Agreement, U.S. negotiators have demanded access to nearly 60 bases, control of Iraqi air space to 29,000 feet, the right to arrest Iraqis without explanation or permission, the right to bring troops into and out of the country without permission or notification, the right to launch military operations on the same basis, and immunity from prosecution in Iraqi courts for troops and private contractors.

In other words, wherever you might have looked over the last year or more, a surge-athon was under way. It was meant to solidify the American position in Iraq for the long term as an occupying power. Not withdrawing or drawing down, but ramping up has been the order of the day, no matter what was being debated, discussed, or written about in the United States.

That ramping up makes some sense of the "good news" and "stability" of this moment. Among other things, it's hardly surprising that weakly armed guerrilla forces (whether Shiite or Sunni), when faced with such a display of power have no desire to take it on frontally.

Given the situation of Iraq more than five years after the invasion, to speak of this urge to surge and its results as "success" or as "good news" is essentially obscene. Think of Iraq instead as a cocked gun. It's loaded, it's held to your head, and things are improving only to the extent that, recently, it hasn't gone off.

Iraq itself is wreckage beyond anything that could have been imagined back in March 2003; liberation is, by now, a black joke; the Bush administration's "benchmarks" for Iraqi success remain largely unmet, and still we keep "liberating" that land, still we keep killing Iraqis in prodigious numbers. A Vietnam-style body count, once banished by an administration that wanted no reminders of the last disastrous American counterinsurgency war, is now back with a vengeance, even if violence is down. These days, in its statements, the U.S. military is counting scalps almost everywhere there's fighting in Iraq.

A Great Lie of History

"We have no ambition in Iraq, except to remove a threat and restore control of that country to its own people." This was one of the great lies of history. And all the while, the price of oil -- the one product Iraq has and, in present conditions, can't get at adequately -- continues to soar. There is no "good news" in any of this, unless you happen to be an undertaker, nor is there any end to it in sight.

Of the political surge in Iraq -- all those advisers and Provincial Reconstruction Teams pouring into the country -- Michael Massing has written bluntly: "[I]t has been an utter failure. 'Dysfunctional' is how one visiting adviser described it, citing bitter inter-agency battles, micromanagement from Washington, and an acute mismatch between the skills of the advisers and the needs of the Iraqi government."

The same could be said -- and someday undoubtedly will be -- of the rest of the U.S. effort, including the much lauded recent counterinsurgency part of it.

So let me offer this bit of advice. When you read the news, skip the "good" part. The figures demonstrating "improvement" may (or may not) be perfectly real, but they also represent an effort to dominate (as well as divide and conquer) in an essentially colonial fashion; worse yet, it's an effort barely held together by baling wire and reliant on the destruction of ever more Iraqi neighborhoods.

If you want a prediction, here it is and it couldn't be simpler: This cannot end well. Not for Washington. Not for the U.S. military. Not for Americans. And, above all, not for Iraqis.

____________________________________________________________________


[Note for readers: This piece could profitably be read in conjunction with Juan Cole's recent post, "The Real State of Iraq," for a full and thoroughly devastating picture of what American policy has meant in that country.]


Tom Engelhardt, co-founder of the American Empire Project, runs the Nation Institute's TomDispatch.com. The World According to TomDispatch: America in the New Age of Empire (Verso, 2008), a collection of some of the best pieces from his site, has just been published. Focusing on what the mainstream media hasn't covered, it is an alternative history of the mad Bush years.

Original article listed here:
http://www.alternet.org/waroniraq/89840/?page=entire

Thursday, July 3, 2008

TERRIFIC Question (from/at alternet.org)

Will the Last Superpower Recognize In Time What We Must Do to Save the Planet?

By David Korten, YES! Magazine. Posted June 27, 2008.

In a time when the old order is shattering, a global movement is emerging to challenge the use of war as a tool of statecraft.

The Last Superpower and an Opportunity to End War
David Korten


Cheap oil provided an energy subsidy that defined the wars, economies, settlements, values, and lifestyles of the 20th century. The result was a century of wasteful extravagance and inefficiency that encouraged us to squander virtually all Earth's resources -- including water, land, forests, fisheries, soils, minerals, and natural waste recycling capacity. We are now waking up to the morning-after consequences of a brief but raucous party. These include depleted natural systems, unsustainable economies, an obsolete physical infrastructure, and a six-fold increase in the human population dependent on the diminished resources of a finite planet.

Cheap oil also fueled a zero sum global competition for access to resources -- particularly cheap oil -- and for the military superiority required to secure that access. The United States combined the global projection of military power with the global projection of economic and cultural power to achieve unchallenged global dominance as the sole reigning superpower.

Cheap oil is no more and the global projection of military and economic power it made possible is no longer viable. In May 2008 the price of oil hit a new high of $135 a barrel in contrast to the historic inflation adjusted price of $27.00. We are only beginning to awake as a nation to the reality that our reign as a global superpower is coming to an abrupt end. (See the summer 2008 issue of YES! Magazine.) If we hold to business as usual, we will exhaust what remains of our power and credibility in a bloody and violent no win-competition to consume the last tree, fish, drop of oil, drink of potable water, and breath of clean air -- sealing our own fate as well as that of our species.

A Defining Challenge

According to the scientific consensus, to avoid driving Earth's system of climate regulation into irrevocable collapse we humans must achieve at least an 80 percent reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions no later than 2050 and possibly sooner. Less noted is the corresponding imperative that to avoid irrevocable social collapse, we must simultaneously achieve an equitable allocation of allowable emissions to meet the essential needs of every person on the planet.
This presents a particular challenge for the United States. As the world's leading producer of green house gases, our emissions reduction must be closer to 90 percent.

There is no place in this equation for war or the global projection of military power. Beyond the fact that military planes, ships, and vehicles are gluttonous consumers of oil, the central activity of warfare is to kill and maim people and destroy critical infrastructure to impair capacity for normal life. The collateral damage includes massive scale toxic and radioactive environmental contamination that renders growing portions of our crowded planet uninhabitable. The more we humans war the more certain our ultimate collective demise.

The Last Superpower

The United States is well positioned to take the lead among nations in renouncing war as an instrument of national policy and dismantling the means of conducting war. We account for roughly half of world military expenditures and our military expenditures account for more than half of the U.S. federal discretionary budget to the neglect of major education, health, infrastructure, and environmental needs.

Yet the only military threat to our domestic security is from a handful of terrorists armed with box cutters and a willingness to die for their cause. We face a greater danger from our own children brandishing guns in our schools than from any opposing army. If a band of terrorists were to attack us with an atomic weapon, it would likely be delivered in a suitcase or packing crate. Such threats share in common the simple fact that even the mightiest military force in the world offers no protection. The solutions depend more on strengthening our families and communities, than on increasing military budgets.

Military science has long recognized that the use of conventional military force against an unconventional enemy that blends in with the civilian population is futile, even counterproductive, because the inevitable collateral damage fuels resentment and increases the numbers and commitment of the enemy. In the case of the United States, it drains our resources, divides us as a nation, weakens our moral standing in the world, and creates more unconventional enemies -- as our fruitless occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan currently demonstrates.

Getting Smart

The greatest threats to U.S. security come from weather chaos, oil dependence, disruption of food supplies, water scarcity, domestic gun violence, profligate borrowing, and a collapsing dollar -- threats increased by our current military security policies.

This is the moment for a pragmatic turn from military security to smart security. Among the potential starting points, two stand out as particularly promising. The first is a call by establishment insiders like George Shultz, who was U.S. Secretary of State under Ronald Reagan, to dismantle all the world's nuclear weapons (see Sarah van Gelder's interview with George Shultz).

The second is an emergent social movement calling all the world's parliaments to adopt the principles of Article 9 added to the Japanese Constitution following World War II. In the official translation it reads:

ARTICLE 9. Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes.(2) In order to accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized.

Italy and Germany adopted similar, but less stringent, provisions following World War II. Each renounced war as a sovereign right.

A Global Movement

In May 1999, 6000 global citizens gathered in The Hague for what at that time was the largest peace conference in history and issued The Hague Appeal for Peace. Among other measures, they recommended, "every Parliament should adopt a resolution prohibiting their government from going to war, like the Japanese article number nine." On Japanese Constitution day, May 3, 2008, over 8,000 Japanese gathered in Tokyo for the Global Article Nine Conference to Abolish War where numerous international speakers endorsed a call to the parliaments of the world to adopt national equivalents of Article 9 of the Japanese constitution.

A Smart Security Policy for the United States

The experience of the U.S. occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan demonstrates the folly of responding to terrorism with conventional military force and affirms the validity of Article 9. Public awareness of the costly failure of these misadventures has created a moment of opportunity for the U.S. peace movement to build popular political support for a Smart Security policy that renounces war as an instrument of foreign policy and sets forth a plan to:

Dismantle the obsolete machinery of war that is depleting our national treasure,
Convert our war economy of the past to a green economy of the future,
Mobilize our human and materials resources to address the real threats to our security, and
Work with the other nations of the world to do the same.

It is an opportunity to at once increase our security, improve the quality of our lives, and regain a position of principled global leadership.

A Just Foreign Policy, the Summer 2008 issue of YES! Magazine.

Find the original article at this link:
http://www.alternet.org/audits/89452/?page=entire

Don't like it? In this White House, you just ignore it

White House Refused to Open Pollutants E-Mail
Wednesday 25 June 2008

by: Felicity Barringer, The New York Times

White House refused to open pollutants e-mail.

The White House in December refused to accept the Environmental Protection Agency's conclusion that greenhouse gases are pollutants that must be controlled, telling agency officials that an e-mail message containing the document would not be opened, senior E.P.A. officials said last week.

The document, which ended up in e-mail limbo, without official status, was the E.P.A.'s answer to a 2007 Supreme Court ruling that required it to determine whether greenhouse gases represent a danger to health or the environment, the officials said.

This week, more than six months later, the E.P.A. is set to respond to that order by releasing a watered-down version of the original proposal that offers no conclusion. Instead, the document reviews the legal and economic issues presented by declaring greenhouse gases a pollutant.

Over the past five days, the officials said, the White House successfully put pressure on the E.P.A. to eliminate large sections of the original analysis that supported regulation, including a finding that tough regulation of motor vehicle emissions could produce $500 billion to $2 trillion in economic benefits over the next 32 years. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter.

Both documents, as prepared by the E.P.A., "showed that the Clean Air Act can work for certain sectors of the economy, to reduce greenhouse gases," one of the senior E.P.A. officials said. "That's not what the administration wants to show. They want to show that the Clean Air Act can't work."

The Bush administration's climate-change policies have been evolving over the past two years. It now accepts the work of government scientists studying global warming, such as last week's review forecasting more drenching rains, parching droughts and intense hurricanes as global temperatures warm (www.climatescience.gov).

But no administration decisions have supported the regulation of greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act or other environmental laws.

Tony Fratto, a White House spokesman, refused to comment on discussions between the White House and the Environmental Protection Agency. Asked about changes in the original report, Mr. Fratto said, "It's the E.P.A. that determines what analysis it wants to make available" in its documents.

The new document, a road map laying out the issues involved in regulation, is to be signed by Stephen L. Johnson, the agency's administrator, and published as early as Wednesday.

The derailment of the original E.P.A. report was first made known in March by Representative Henry A. Waxman, Democrat of California, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. The refusal to open the e-mail has not been made public.

In early December, the E.P.A.'s draft finding that greenhouse gases endanger the environment used Energy Department data from 2007 to conclude that it would be cost effective to require the nation's motor vehicle fleet to average 37.7 miles per gallon in 2018, according to government officials familiar with the document.

About 10 days after the finding was left unopened by officials at the Office of Management and Budget, Congress passed and President Bush signed a new energy bill mandating an increase in average fuel-economy standards to 35 miles per gallon by 2020. The day the law was signed, the E.P.A. administrator rejected the unanimous recommendation of his staff and denied California a waiver needed to regulate vehicle emissions of greenhouse gases in the state, saying the new law's approach was preferable and climate change required global, not regional, solutions.

California's regulations would have imposed tougher standards.

The Transportation Department made its own fuel-economy proposals public almost two months ago; they were based on the assumption that gasoline would range from $2.26 per gallon in 2016 to $2.51 per gallon in 2030, and set a maximum average standard of 35 miles per gallon in 2020.

The White House, which did not oppose the Transportation Department proposals, has become more outspoken on the need for a comprehensive approach to greenhouse gases, specifically rejecting possible controls deriving from older environmental laws.

In a speech in April, Mr. Bush called for an end to the growth of greenhouse gases by 2025 - a timetable slower than many scientists say is required. His chairman of the Council of Environmental Quality, James Connaughton, said a "train wreck" would result if regulations to control greenhouse gases were authorized piecemeal under laws like the Clean Air Act and the Endangered Species Act.

White House pressure to ignore or edit the E.P.A.'s climate-change findings led to the resignation of one agency official earlier this month: Jason Burnett, the associate deputy administrator. Mr. Burnett, a political appointee with broad authority over climate-change regulations, said in an interview that he had resigned because "no more constructive work could be done" on the agency's response to the Supreme Court.

He added, "The next administration will have to face what this one did not."

The House Select Committee for Energy Independence and Global Warming, led by Representative Edward J. Markey, Democrat of Massachusetts, has been seeking the discarded E.P.A. finding on the dangers of climate change.

After reading it last week, Mr. Markey's office sent a letter to Mr. Bush saying, "E.P.A. Administrator Stephen Johnson determined that man-made global warming is unequivocal, the evidence is compelling and robust, and the administration must act to prevent harm rather than wait for harm to occur."

Simultaneously, Mr. Waxman's committee is weighing its response to the White House's refusal to turn over subpoenaed documents relating to the E.P.A.'s handling of recent climate-change and air-pollution decisions. The White House, which has turned over other material to the committee, last week asserted a claim of executive privilege over the remaining documents.

In an interview on Sunday, Mr. Fratto, the White House spokesman, said the committee chairmen did not understand the legal precedent underlying executive privilege. "There is a long legal history supporting the principle that the president should have the candid advice of his advisers," Mr. Fratto said.