Friday, October 12, 2007

Heads Exploding

Have you been hearing the blasts; feeling the ground shake?

It's because conservative bloggers, pundits, newscritters and politicians heads are all exploding at the fact that Al Gore won the nobel prize.

It's amusing actually to read about all the crying and whining going on. Go to any blog and you'll read about it ... if you care.


Give A Little Love

If you want to help progressive bloggers put some heat on conservative Democrats to override Bush's veto on SChip, go here and give them a little.


Economic State

The economic state of America can be fairly summarized with this statement:

The “richest Americans’ share of national income has hit a postwar record,” with the “wealthiest 1% of Americans earn[ing] 21.2% of all income in 2005, according to new data from the Internal Revenue Service. … The bottom 50% earned 12.8% of all income, down from 13.4% in 2004.”
And this data is 2 1/2 years old. It certainly hasn't gotten any better.

Heckuva job Bush.


Northern Peace?

The only relatively peaceful part of Iraq, northern Iraq's Kurdish region, has been experiencing skirmishes for some time. Now it looks like it's turning hot, and could turn hotter.

The Turks, perhaps using the House resolution condemning the Armenian genocide, seem to be increasing their military activities against the Kurds. This is not a new story, but rather an escalating story.

Iraq is a mess, and will be for some time.



Well, I think I'm changing my view of Blackwater. Bob Bateman begins telling of his experiences with this graph:

I know something about Blackwater USA. This opinion is both intellectually driven as well as moderately emotional. You see, during my own yearlong tour in Iraq, the bad boys of Blackwater twice came closer to killing me than did any of the insurgents or Al Qaeda types. That sort of thing sticks with you. One story will suffice to make my point.
Go read the whole thing ... it's not long. It seems to be fairly illustrative of Blackwater's approach to security in Iraq.


Budget Deficit

You'll likely be hearing some cheerful news from the Bushies on the budget deficit. Don't believe it (don't believe anything they say). It's not true.

Here's the true story.

The short version is that the budget deficit is over $500 billion without including the "supplementary allocations" that time to time come up for the Iraq war. The reason the headline looks so good is because the social security trust fund is building huge reserves for the baby boomers. This was the plan years ago. But because we don't have a "lock box" the government continues to use those tax revenues for a "unified budget" deficit, making things look more rosey.

Here's another piece of wonderful news:

China's foreign exchange reserve had reached 1.43 trillion U.S. dollars by the end of September, up 45.1 percent year-on-year, the People's Bank of China announced on Friday.

A total of 367.3 billion U.S. dollars were added to the country's foreign exchange reserve in the first nine months of 2007, said the central bank.

In September alone, the forex reserve rose by 25 billion U.S. dollars.

China's soaring trade surplus is still the major contributing factor to the forex reserve boom
China owns an awful lot of America. Hope they don't do anything rash with it.


For Al

Congrats and it's about time you got the recognition you deserve.


Thursday, October 11, 2007

Let Me Get This Straight

We outsource to mercenaries who get paid a whole bunch of money creating an entire industry supported by taxpayers. Then we have to compete against those mercenaries to keep our own military?

WASHINGTON - The Pentagon has paid more than $100 million in bonuses to veteran Green Berets and Navy SEALs, reversing the flow of top commandos to the corporate world where security companies such as Blackwater USA are offering big salaries.

The retention effort, started nearly three years ago and overseen by U.S. Special Operations Command in Tampa, Fla., has helped preserve a small but elite group of enlisted troops with vast experience fighting the unconventional wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to Defense Department statistics.

Overall, more than 1,200 of the military's most specialized personnel near or already eligible for retirement have opted for payments of up to $150,000 in return for staying in uniform several more years


Lest We Forget ...

The news media has certainly been quiet lately about Iraq. You'd almost think that the situation is going quite well and that violence has stopped! All except ......

TIKRIT - Six people were killed and 10 wounded when a car bomb exploded near the convoy of Colonel Jassim Hussein Mohammed, the chief of security of Salahuddin province, in the city of Tikrit, 175 km (110 miles) north of Baghdad, a joint U.S. and Iraqi security centre said.

ZAAB - A suicide truck bomber killed one Iraqi soldier and wounded five others, including two civilians, in an attack on an Iraqi army base in the town of Zaab, 70 km (45 miles) southwest of Kirkuk, a police official said. Another police official reported seven casualties but no fatalities.

TAL AFAR - A Katyusha rocket landed on a house in the northern town of Tal Afar, killing five members of the same family and wounding five others, police said.

BAGHDAD - A roadside bomb targeting a U.S. patrol wounded three civilians in the Karrada district of central Baghdad, police said.

BAGHDAD - A roadside bomb targeting a police patrol wounded two policemen and two civilians in eastern Baghdad, police said.

BAGHDAD - Gunmen opened fire on a minibus, killing one person and wounding six, in the Saidiya district of southern Baghdad, police said.

BAGHDAD - A roadside bomb wounded two people in Baghdad's Karrada district, police said.

BAGHDAD - One civilian was killed and six wounded by a roadside bomb targeting a U.S. patrol in Baghdad's Karrada district, police said.

BAGHDAD - One person was killed and five wounded when gunmen attacked a small bus carrying civil servants in the Bayaa district of southwestern Baghdad, police said.

MOSUL - A member of the Kurdistan Democratic Party and another person were killed when an explosives-rigged minibus targeted a KDP office near the city of Mosul, 390 km (240 miles) north of Baghdad, Mosul's deputy governor Khesro Goran said. Sixteen people were wounded.

DIWANIYA - Gunmen killed two policemen in separate incidents in the city of Diwaniya, 180 km (110 miles) south of Baghdad, police said.

DIWANIYA - Three mortar rounds which landed in and around a girls' primary school in Diwaniya wounded 11 girls, three teachers and a man, police said.
Note. This is from one day, and only what is officially reported. Multiple this by every day. Guess things have to "deteriorate" before our media notices.


Well, At Least It's Innovative

One of the places that is hit hardest by the entire housing bubble is the Florida condo market. Now someone has decided to sell their condo by the inch ...

So here it is. Believe it or not I am going to try to sell my condo one square inch at a time. So what do you get when you buy a ‘link unit‘? Well, I will send you a beautiful certificate which you can frame and put on your wall. Plus, you’ll get a link from my website. I’ll buy the shares back when and if I sell the condo.
Given the size of my feet, I'd need at least ten square inches. But hey, that's only $350! I could go to Florida and have a place to stay!


Turning The Clock Back

This would be the epitome of conservative:

The LAT fronts a look at how women students at the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary can earn credit toward their bachelor's degrees by taking classes in homemaking. The seminary is even building a model house to better teach women "how to set tables, sew buttons, and sustain lively dinnertime conversation." More moderate Southern Baptists disagree with the seminary's vision ("we're confusing 1950s culture with the teaching of Scripture," one pastor said), but the students say they're happy with the program. "My created purpose as a woman is to be a helper," a 19-year-old student said. "This is a college education that I can use."
I guess if this kind of thing floats your boat, go for it. I'll not necessarily turn my nose up these kinds of values. But I will get highly agitated when these types of individuals try to influence government and laws to require all of us to adhere to 1950's standards.


Fantastic Idea!

If you're a Marine that is.

Hey, let's play shuffle the troops:

The New York Times leads with word that the Marine Corps is proposing to have its troops be the main U.S. force in Afghanistan and leave the Army in charge of operations in Iraq. Those that support the idea say it would allow both the Army and Marines to operate more efficiently. There are currently about 25,000 Marines in Iraq and no major units in Afghanistan, where there are approximately 26,000 U.S. troops.
Like the proverbial deck chairs ....


Wednesday, October 10, 2007

A New Front

In the war on Bush.

Gonzales has lawyered up. And maybe for good reason.


Fun Times With The Nutbars

Seems that blue staters aren't the only ones who know how to have a good time. Shamelessly reprinted here from Tristero for your edification:

Whenever anyone tells me Manhattan is decadent, I'm telling them they ain't seen nothing 'til they've mingled amongst some of the religious in Montgomery, Alabama. Hoo, boy...

PZ gives the sanitized version of the death of Reverend Gary Aldridge, a graduate of Jerry Falwell's Liberty University, home to some of this country's greatest master debaters. Oh, the Rev. Aldridge also worked for Falwell:

Clothing: The decedent was received wearing two (2) wet suits, one scuba diving mask, one pair of diving gloves, one pair of slippers, one pair of rubber underwear, two (2) ties, five (5) belts, eleven (11) straps.

Personal Effects: One yellow metal ring intact on left ring finger, one dildo.

The Smoking Gun has the details but I would strongly suggest you think twice about clicking there if you are in the least bit squeamish.

If you go on over to the website of the Rev. Aldridge's Church (he was there for 15 years), you will find an elablorate site with links to Focus on the Family and other groups. You will also find, on the front page of the site, a notice for a new Bible Study Group:

Words fail me.
In fact the last line of the autopsy report says: "There is a dildo in the anus covered with a condom."

Rough night.


And Another!

Yesterday Star Wars, today Star Trek!


Quote Of The Day

I'll second this:

I'm more afraid of George Bush than I am Al Qaeda. Some asshole hiding in Pakistan can only do so much, but George Bush can bankrupt me, future generations -- if he doesn't get me killed first.


Yet Another Little War

Turkey is shelling suspected Kurdish rebel camps across the border in northern Iraq, a newspaper reported Wednesday, but the government appeared unlikely to move toward sending ground troops until next week.

A large-scale military incursion would disrupt one of the few relatively peaceful areas of Iraq and jeopardize Turkey's ties with the United States, which has urged Ankara not to take unilateral steps.

The Turkish military launched a major offensive on its side of the border this week in response to more than a week of deadly attacks in southeastern Turkey by the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK.

A member of the governing Justice and Development Party said a request for parliamentary approval for a cross-border ground offensive was unlikely to come to the floor before the end of a four-day religious holiday on Sunday. He asked not to be named because he was not authorized to speak to reporters.
It's amazing that Turkey hasn't invaded northern Iraq. These regular "incursions" are simply an ongoing guerilla war.


Religion Strikes Again

This is what happens when the religious right rule.

The religious have won in Nicaragua and as a result 82 women have died since November.

Without anaesthetic or proper instruments it was more akin to mutilation than surgery, but González insisted. The haemhorraging was intense, and the agony can only be imagined. It was in vain. Maria died. "We heard there was a lot of blood, a lot of pain," says Esperanza Zeledon, 52, one of the Managua aunts.

González was not stupid and did not want to die. She knew her chance of surviving the butchery was small. But being a practical woman, she recognised it was her only chance, and took it. The story of why it was her only chance is an unfolding drama of religion, politics and power that has made Nicaragua a crucible in the global battle over abortion rights. This central American country has become the third country in the world, after Chile and El Salvador, to criminalise all abortions. It is a blanket ban. There are no exceptions for rape, incest, or life- or health-threatening pregnancies.
The anti-abortion camp, in contrast, is euphoric. The new law, it says, is a beacon in the fight to protect the unborn. It is time to celebrate.

Al Franken said it best when he observed that to the religious right life begins at conception and ends at birth. Maria González was 28 years old.


Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Too Good To Miss

For all you Star Trek Wars aficionados, it doesn't get any better than this:


Yet Another Reason

This is good ... and right on. There is yet another reason for the religious nutbars to run a third party candidate:

These religious right leaders are making bold threats, but they really don't have any choice. Dobson & Co., not to mention their loyal followers, believe they have enormous influence in Republican circles, and can dictate the party's direction. If the Republicans nominate a pro-choice, pro-gay, pro-gun control, thrice-married serial adulterer who wants to invest in stem-cell research, the religious right's masquerade will be over. It will be obvious that the movement is practically powerless in the party, and the groups' benefactors will have far less reason to keep writing the checks that keeps the movement afloat.
As I've said, if they run a candidate and he/she he bombs, they lose influence also. But. Might as well stick with the ideals and continue to count the money coming in from idealogues who love to pay preciously to go down in flames rather than playing politics with the Republicans and losing whether the candidate wins or not.


To The Moon Alice!

How long can this go on? What happens when the music finally stops?

And to think that I used to think the 80's were heavily leveraged with credit.


On Fredricks Of Hollywood

An oldie but a goodie.

Nixon:"Oh sh--, he's dumb as hell. Fred Thompson," Nixon interjects. "Who is he? He won't say anything."

In another conversation some weeks later, Nixon and his advisers were still describing Thompson as not very smart but at least beginning to play ball.

"Our approach is now, we've got a pretty good rapport with Fred Thompson. He came through fine for us this morning," White House counsel Fred Buzhardt says on a tape from June 6.

"He isn't very smart, is he?" Nixon asks.

"Not extremely so, but --," Buzhardt says, interrupted by the president.

"But he's friendly," Nixon says.

"But he's, he's friendly," Buzhardt echoes.

Friendly's enough. Isn't it?


The Other War

Lest we all forget, there is another war going on and it's not going so hot:

MIRAN SHAH, Pakistan - Fighting between Islamic militants and security forces near the Afghan border has killed as many as 250 people over four days _ the deadliest clashes in Pakistan since it threw its support behind the U.S.-led war on terrorism in 2001, the army said Tuesday.

Airstrikes hit a village bazaar in North Waziristan tribal region on Tuesday afternoon, killing more than 50 militants and civilians and wounding scores more, said resident Noor Hassan. "The bombing destroyed many shops and homes," Hassan said by telephone from the village of Epi. "We are leaving."

Twelve huge explosions rocked the village and bombs also hit the nearby village of Hader Khel, Hassan said.


"We had confirmed reports about the presence of militants, and the air power was used to target those militant hideouts," he told The Associated Press.

Also Tuesday, a roadside bomb killed two soldiers, the army said.


Brits Bailout

Talk about vulnerable:

Military analysts point out that the effective [British] force in Basra will really only be 1250, since that is all the troops that could be spared for an operation in Basra or another nearby trouble spot, while the other 1250 would need to remain to secure the base. In turn, one could imagine a perilous situation emerging in Basra (population 1.5 million), dealing with which would require more than 1250 troops.

The British are defacto out of Iraq. Southern Iraq is now under total control of Shiite militia groups. As of now, they seem to be getting along which may or may not be a good thing.

Why? Because the American supply lines run through Basra from Kuwait.

What would happen if Shiites decide they've had enough of the U.S. occupation? Or how about an American bombing campaign against Iran, the Shiites biggest ally? Juan Cole suggests that American troops will inevitably have to occupy southern Iraq to guarantee their own supply lines and safety. I think he's right.


New, Improved!

Dems are semi-caving in on FISA:

The New York Times leads with word that it looks like Democratic lawmakers will approve extending the National Security Agency's broad eavesdropping powers, which were temporarily granted in legislation that passed Congress hastily in August. At the time, Democrats said they had been pressured and vowed to push back when it came time for reauthorization. But now adminsitration officials appear confident they'll get the extension. The NYT chalks it up to the same old fear that many Democratic lawmakers have of appearing soft on terrorism.


Although it looks like the NSA will once again be given broad powers to carry out its eavesdropping activities, the administration isn't quite ready to claim victory. A Democratic bill that will be proposed in the House today would extend the powers but also "require a more active role by the special foreign intelligence court that oversees the interception of foreign-based communications," reports the NYT. Although civil liberties groups acknowledge the bill is an improvement over what was approved in August, they're not happy about the broad authority that is being granted to the NSA. The Senate's bill is still in progress but it might give in to the administration's wishes even further and grant telecommunications companies blanket immunity for participating in the warrantless eavesdropping program. This immunity question will likely become the big fight between the Senate and the House versions, as some Democrats are making it clear that's the line they're unwilling to cross.
Clearly this level of domestic surveillance is being institutionalized.

I have a question.

Few (if any) technologies have been developed that haven't been used in both positive and negative ways. The loss of civil liberties is directly proportional to our ability to spy. If you had to give up some of the technological conveniences, i.e. computers and the internet, in order to have more civil liberties, would you?

Update: Some folks don't see this bill as capitulation at all, but rather as a good bill.


Monday, October 8, 2007

Conservatives Embrace Global Warming!

That's right

In a new series billed by Fox News as the “Race for the Arctic,” the network has responded by sending a reporter to Greenland to document first-hand observations of glaciers receding, icebergs breaking off, and other drastic climate-changing effects.

But if you think that Fox’s “race for the arctic” is a race to educate and inform the public about global warming, you are mistaken. In fact, from Fox’s perspective, the “race” is actually a race for oil. Fox News reporter Jonathan Hunt explained:

The melting ice cap is making the Arctic’s resources much more accessible. Now that is vital. Because beneath the Arctic Ocean, scientists estimate there may be a full 25 percent of the world’s undiscovered oil reserves. There is now a race on to get to those reserves.




Quote Of The Day

Via Atrios:

For myself, I am about to declare a unilateral, immediate and unconditional moratorium on the subject of Vietnam. I have had it up to here.

I do so in the firm expectation that the President, despite the Cold War rhetoric of his speech and despite the false bravado engendered by his temporarily inflated polls, remembers 1968 well enough to know that he and his party will lose if Vietnam ever truly becomes "Nixon's war."

It is likely that along the way he will need to be encouraged or prodded to make the hard choices that must be made to extricate us from that mess. When that time comes, it may be necessary to return to the subject of Vietnam.
--David Broder, Washington Post, Nov. 11, 1969

Still wrong after all these years. How do these people keep their jobs other than providing the best cocktail weenies at their parties?


Reconcile This

Ok. So Iraq leaders have given up on reconciliation.

We escalated the war to enable a safer atmosphere for reconciliation.

Q.E.D. We should leave.

See how easy it is?


Monday Humor

This is a must read. It's a very well done parody of this.


Oral Problems

Oh my. Looks like Oral Roberts son is in trouble.

As Digby says:

We really are getting to the point where it's easier to assume that conservative religious leaders are crooks, perverts or liars. Sometimes all three. It's amazing that the Christian right (to which I would add the Catholic Church's moral teachings in light of the priest scandal) has thrived as long as it did.
Some of us have known this for some time.

Added: Oh my, even more ....


Lab Experiment

The British have done a lab experiment for us in southern Iraq:

In a speech to the British Parliament this morning, Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced that he will cut troop levels in Iraq to 2,500 in early 2008, trimming the force by nearly half. “Britain has around 5,000 troops based mainly at an air base camp on the fringe of the southern city of Basra.”

Brown explained that since British forces “handed over our base in Basra City in early September, the present security situation has been calmer.” As evidence, he noted, “In the last month, there have been five indirect fire attacks on Basra Air Station compared with 87 in July.”

Indeed, Reuters reported last week, “Residents of Iraq’s southern city of Basra have begun strolling riverfront streets again after four years of fear, their city much quieter since British troops withdrew from the grand Saddam Hussein-era Basra Palace.”

Given the success of the withdrawal to date, Brown announced that the British would proceed with the next phase of redeployment
I'll just add that coincident with these events, Shiites in southern Iraq have seemed more compelled to work out their differences as well.


A Great Reminder

(h/t to An Angry Dakota Democrat)

Go here and read about the Blue State of America.


Waste -> Energy

There is a great article over at the Oil Drum.

In the early oil days, gasoline was a waste product. When refined, they used to dump it wherever possible to get rid of it. It wasn't until someone found out that it could be burned in an engine that it actually became useful.

There is a similar situation developing today:

This story starts about as far away from PV [photo voltaic solar cells] as you could think of, back in mines producing phosphate rock. Phosphates have long been in high demand as fertilizer (phosphorus is an essential element of life) and phosphate rock (fluoroapatite, Ca3(PO4)3CaF2) is today's major mineral source of the P in the KNP of fertilizers. This rock is dissolved in sulfuric acid (H2SO4) to release phosphoric acid, gypsum (CaSO4) and hydrogen fluoride (HF).

Hydrogen fluoride is nasty stuff. Today's method of disposal is to combine it with silicon dioxide (quartz sand) to make fluorosilicic acid, and then neutralize it with sodium hydroxide (lye) to make sodium fluorosilicate, Na2SiF6. This has some minor uses as a source of fluoride for drinking water, but far more is produced than can be used. It's been piling up for a long time. If Fluoride Alert's figures can be trusted, roughly a million tons of this stuff (containing about 600,000 tons of fluorine) is made every year.

That million tons of silicate also contains about 147,000 tons of silicon. It's been sitting there ever since.

That resource got noticed some time ago, during the alt-energy boom which followed the 1970's energy crisis. SRI International engineered a process which mixes sodium fluorosilicate with metallic sodium (Na). The fluorine has a greater affinity for sodium than silicon, so the result is sodium fluoride and elemental silicon. SRI claims that this process is simple and cheap (under $15/kg in volume), and easily scaled up to 1000 tons/year. The process got shelved after energy got cheap during the mid-80's, but the world has changed again and SRI has dusted it off. Per their presentation at last May's Clean Tech conference, the silicon can be turned into solid pellets, or cast directly into round crystals or ribbons.

Enter Evergreen Solar. Evergreen's "string ribbon" process produces 100-micron (0.1 mm) thick polycrystalline silicon ribbons directly from a molten silicon bath. Here's the new prospect for PV silicon: semi-toxic fertilizer waste and metallic sodium in, production-ready rectangular polysilicon wafers out.
Voila'. Cheap photo voltaic solar cells.

Turns out we make enough of this stuff to crank out inexpensively produced photovoltaic cells. Enough cells to produce 10% of the U.S. energy needs each year.

It's a long and wonkish read, but it demonstrates the possiblities of creating efficient energy resources that are clean and reliable.


Ironic Parallel

There really is a whole lot of irony in this story of the attempt to eliminated the growing of opium poppies in Afghanistan:

The New York Times leads with word that a recent push by U.S. officials to convince the Afghan government that it should begin a program to spray the country's opium poppies has been having some results. Although President Hamid Karzai has long objected to these types of efforts, some in his administration are beginning to reconsider, even as there are growing concerns that a spraying program could destabilize the government.


Poppy cultivation in Afghanistand is growing, and Taliban insurgents get much of their money from the crop, but there's concern that an official program that would spray chemicals over farms would merely increase the insurgents' popularity and decrease support for Karzai and his government. The NYT says that "in something of a reversal of traditional roles," Pentagon and CIA officials are trying to convince the White House and State Department not to push for the program. There's concern the spraying would kill food crops that are planted alongside poppies, which could easily be depicted by the Taliban as an attack on the livelihood of the common Afghan. Although the NYT does briefly mention Plan Colombia, it fails to analyze whether these types of spraying programs have worked effectively in the past.
Karzai would be removed without the support of the opium warlords. The economy of Afghanistan would get even worse creating an even greater breeding ground for fundamentalism. The U.S. can do whatever they want to try and eliminate opium poppies, but there's no way they'll be able to (see: marijuana, U.S. production). And the Afghanis will fight it one way or the other.

Isn't it ironic that the two stupidest "wars" perpetrated by conservatives are intersecting in Afghanistan? It's no accident.

Both wars are being fought with the same stupid naivete. Neither can be extinguished "at the source", neither problem is a result of supply, and both are driven by demand. Without any serious effort to stem demand, the "wars" simply continues in perpetuity at very high cost to everyone.


Sunday, October 7, 2007

Poster Child

This is the best poster child for the Iraq adventure:

The Post off-leads on word that the planned U.S. embassy in Baghdad could cost $144 million more than projected and looks set to open months behind schedule thanks to poor planning, shoddy workmanship, and infighting at the State Department. The price tag for the massive 21-building complex, set to be the largest U.S. diplomatic mission in the world, has now spiraled to nearly three quarters of a billion dollars; it won't be finished until early 2009.
You. And I. Both know that this building will ultimately be occupied by insurgents, just like the U.S. did in Saddam's palaces.


The Big One

Yep. The championship. It happened here. And it was brutal ......