Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The War Is Making You Poor

"The costs of the war have been rendered invisible," Grayson said on the floor of the House. "There's no draft. Instead, we take the most vulnerable elements of our population, and give them a choice between unemployment and missile fodder. Government deficits conceal the need to pay in cash for the war.

"We put the cost of both guns and butter on our Chinese credit card. In fact, we don't even put these wars on budget; they are still passed using supplemental'. A nine-year 'emergency'." – Alan Grayson


It seems that Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) would agree, perpetual war is making you poor.

To begin rectifying the situation, he's joined with Congressman Alan Grayson (D-FL) in co-sponsoring the "War is Making You Poor Act," which would limit defense spending to $548.9 billion: the exact figure alloted in the fiscal year 2011 budget.


The bill, H.R. 5353, is currently before the House Armed Services and Ways and Means committees.

  Raw Story

[S]upport the 'War is Making You Poor' Act. This bill would eliminate the separate funding for the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, and eliminate federal income taxes for everyone's first $35,000 of income (or $70,000 for couples) each year. And it would help pay down our national debt.


....but hey, do what you want....you will anyway.

A Larger Perspective

Monday, June 28, 2010

Tick, Tick, Tick

As unconfirmed reports of an imminent Israeli strike on Iran's nuclear facilities pick up steam in the Middle Eastern media, a US-based strategic intelligence company has released a chart showing US naval carriers massing near Iranian waters.


On June 19, the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz reported that 12 US and Israeli warships were seen moving through the Suez Canal from the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea.

And a report from the Associated Press published Saturday evening cited "unconfirmed" reports from Israeli and Iranian media that Saudi Arabia has allowed Israel to use its territory in preparation for an attack on Iranian nuclear facilities.


An article in the Gulf Daily News, largely dismissed by Western observers, did not mention any Saudi involvement but said Israel is preparing to attack Iranian targets from the former Soviet republics of Azerbaijan and Georgia.


The claims that Israel may be preparing for an assault on Iranian nuclear facilities were strengthened this weekend by Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who told reporters at the G8 summit in Canada that G8 leaders "believe absolutely" that Israel will "probably" strike Iran.

  Raw Story

....but hey, do what you want....you will anyway.

FUBAR in the Gulf - Part 2

Glenn Greenwald posts an mp3 of an interview with Mother Jones reporter Mac McClelland. He promises a transcript to follow.

In this interview, Ms. McClelland reports on her efforts to try to cover what's happening in the Gulf and constantly being thwarted by police and Coast Guard in cahoots with BP to keep reporters at bay. She says the Coast Guard informed her they had 20,000 people working on the clean-up of a group of islands off the coast, but when she asked them for a breakdown of the figures, they told her they didn't have that information – the 20,000 figure was "BP's". She actually did manage to get onto one island, on which a clean-up laborer told her there were only 60 workers on that particular 8-mile-long island. And she also found out that on the island that was the source of AP's first photos of those horrendously crude-covered birds - a 5-mile long island – there are only 30 workers. Mac tells Glenn that from all appearances, it doesn't look as if anybody is doing much of anything to clean up what's already there, and there's more oil on the way. She also says that (a la Coast Guard ignorance) it doesn't appear as though the federal government is providing oversight.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Who Got to Them?

International observers (including certain overworked Middle East correspondents) breathed a deep sigh of relief Friday after Iran called off its plan to try to break through Israel's blockade of the Palestinian enclave.


"This flotilla was initially scheduled to leave on Thursday heading for Gaza. But due to the constraints created by the usurping Zionist government in not allowing certain types of goods to pass through, it was decided that the vessel would leave on Sunday, June 27. This will also not happen now."


"Although Iranian aid is not dispatched by Iranian ships, these sorts of aid would be sent by other means," Sheikoleslam said. "The Zionist regime has turned the issue of sending aid to Gaza into a political one. We do not want such humanitarian issues to be turned into a political matter. For us, the most important thing is the breaking of the blockade."


Hey, do what you want....you will anyway.

If I Had a Nickel for Every Time....

Central Intelligence Agency Director Leon Panetta offered a grim assessment of the war Sunday, saying the fight has been “harder” and “slower” than anticipated.


How is that possible any more? Don't they learn that lesson? I think they know. I think they also know that this is a good line for when they inevitably fail to achieve their goal.

“Our purpose, our whole mission is to make sure that Al Queda never finds another safe haven from which to attack this country. That is the fundamental goal of why the U.S. is there. The measure of success for is: Do you have an Afghanistan stable enough to make sure that never happens?"

Good luck with that. But he didn't stop there with the stupid talk.

“At most we’re looking maybe 50 to 100[ members of al Qaeda in Afghanistan] , maybe less,” Panetta said. “There’s no question that the main location of Al Qaeda is in the tribal areas of Pakistan.”

These people don't hear themselves, do they?

Asked about the whereabouts of Osama Bin Laden, “it’s been a while" since the U.S. has had precise information, Panetta said. "I think it almost goes back to the early 2000s in terms of actually when he was moving from Afghanistan to Pakistan that we had the last precise information about where he might be located. Since then, it’s been very difficult to get any intelligence on his exact location."

We could just ask the CIA where they send the checks if we really wanted to know.

....but hey, do what you want....you will anyway.

And It Will Ever Be Thus

The Interior Department follies will end promptly only if Obama has learned the lessons of the attenuated McChrystal debacle. Lesson No. 1 should be to revisit some of his initial hiring decisions. The general’s significant role in the Pentagon’s politically motivated cover-up of Pat Tillman’s friendly-fire death in 2004 should have been disqualifying from the start. The official investigation into that scandal — finding that McChrystal peddled “inaccurate and misleading assertions” — was unambiguous and damning.


He should have been cashiered after he took his first public shot at Joe Biden during a London speaking appearance last October. That’s when McChrystal said he would not support the vice president’s more limited war strategy, should the president choose it over his own. According to Jonathan Alter in his book “The Promise,”McChrystal’s London remarks also disclosed information from a C.I.A. report that the general “had no authority to declassify.” These weren’t his only offenses. McChrystal had gone on a showboating personal publicity tour that culminated with “60 Minutes” — even as his own histrionic Afghanistan recommendation somehow leaked to Bob Woodward, disrupting Obama’s war deliberations. The president was livid, Alter writes, but McChrystal was spared because of a White House consensus that he was na├»ve, not “out of control.”

  Frank Rich NYT

Unfortunately, that would be Obama, not McChrsytal.

Or not. It seems every bit as likely that Obama is completely owned by corporate interests, just like all the others.

[Top] environmentalists warn, the suspension of drilling appears to be little more than a stalling tactic designed to let public anger over BP's spill subside before giving Big Oil the go-ahead to drill in an area that has long been off-limits: the Arctic Ocean. The administration has approved plans by both BP and Shell Oil to drill a total of 11 exploratory wells in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas above Alaska — waters far more remote and hostile than the Gulf. Shell's operations could proceed as soon as the president's suspension expires in January. And thanks to an odd twist in its rig design, BP's drilling in the Arctic is on track to get the green light as soon as this fall.


"Everything I've heard internally, from sources within both the administration and industry, tells me that the administration is all over wanting these guys out in the Arctic Ocean," says Rick Steiner, a top marine scientist in Alaska who helped guide the response to the Exxon Valdez spill. "They're trying to solve this political problem with this Gulf spill in time to get these guys out in the Arctic next summer."


[An] administration spokesman admits that BP's plan — which uses an unproven approach to extracting undersea oil — is not covered by the six-month moratorium on offshore drilling. This fall, the company plans to begin drilling for oil near Prudhoe Bay via an oil rig it created by building an island — a glorified mound of gravel — three miles out in state waters. Because the island rig is connected to the mainland by a causeway, BP and Interior agree that the "onshore" facility is not subject to restrictions on "offshore" drilling. It's the same kind of legal fiction that states like Indiana use to permit gambling on "riverboat" casinos that are permanently docked on dry land.


Here's what BP has in store for the Arctic: First, the company will drill two miles beneath its tiny island, which it has christened "Liberty." Then, in an ingenious twist, it will drill sideways for another six to eight miles, until it reaches an offshore reservoir estimated to hold 105 million barrels of oil. This would be the longest "extended reach" well ever attempted, and the effort has required BP to push drilling technology beyond its proven limits. As the most powerful "land-based" oil rig ever built, Liberty requires special pipe to withstand the 105,000 foot-pounds of torque — the equivalent of 50 Mack truck engines — needed to turn the drill.


Experts also warn that a spill in the Arctic would be far worse than the disaster currently unfolding in the Gulf, where experienced contractors and relief equipment are close at hand. By contrast, the sites in the Arctic where Shell plans to drill are devilishly remote. The closest Coast Guard station is on Kodiak Island, some 1,000 miles away. The nearest cache of boom to help contain a spill is in Seattle — a distance of 2,000 miles. There are only two small airports in the region, and even if relief supplies could somehow be airlifted to the tundra, there are no industrial ports to offload equipment into the water. Relief equipment can realistically be brought to the region only by boat — and then only seasonally. The Arctic is encased in ice for more than half the year, and even icebreakers can't assure access in the dark of winter.


The Arctic, it turns out, is not the only place that the Obama administration is poised to give oil companies a new lease on life. In another indication that the president's six-month moratorium on deep-water drilling may be nothing but a stalling tactic, MMS has continued to accept bids on drilling tracts in the Gulf. Indeed, since President Obama announced his halt to deep-water drilling on May 27th, MMS has approved bids on at least 96 tracts in deep water. Two of the bids are from BP — and one is in the same undersea canyon where the company's gusher continues to foul the Gulf.


"These new leases are based on the same fundamentally flawed and patently illegal environmental analyses used to greenlight Deepwater Horizon," says Mike Senatore of Defenders of Wildlife, which filed suit against MMS in June to block the expansion of drilling. "This agency is at the epicenter of the worst environmental disaster in history, and yet it's still going about business as usual."

  Rolling Stone

....but hey, do what you want....you will anyway.

So Much for the "Easing" of Sanctions

[The Israeli Likud] party's central committee voted in favor of resuming settlement construction when the 10-month West Bank settlement freeze expires in September.


The settlement freeze has always been a token gesture: It was time-limited from the beginning, it didn't include East Jerusalem, and it has frequently been ignored by settlers. Still, it was a prerequisite for Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas to endorse indirect talks. It's hard to imagine those talks being renewed when the freeze ends in September.

  The Majlis

....but hey, do what you want....you will anyway.

Hooray for Change

Guantanamo -- the closing of which was one of Obama's central campaign promises -- will still be open as of 2013, by which point many of the detainees will have been imprisoned for more than a decade without charges of any kind and without any real prospect for either due process or release, at least four of those years under a President who was elected on a commitment to close that camp and restore the rule of law.

  Glenn Greenwald

....but hey, do what you want....you will anyway.

90 Degrees in the Shade at 7:30 AM

It's Sunday

In Bruges

Roger Vangheluwe, the bishop of Bruges since 1984, resigned on April 23, 2010, after admitting to sexually abusing a young man years ago.


Bishop Vangheluwe was the first Belgian bishop to step down in the wave of allegations, but he was not the first bishop to resign in the scandal. His resignation came just one day after church authorities in Germany said that Bishop Walter Mixa had tendered his resignation after being accused of beating children decades ago.


The scandal over sexual abuse of children by priests continued to reverberate across Europe on Thursday when authorities raided the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church in Belgium and the home of the country’s former archbishop, according to the prosecutors’ office and local media reports. Officials searched the palace of the Archbishop of Mechelen-Brussels Thursday.


As part of the operation, the home of Godfried Danneels, Belgium’s recently retired archbishop, was also raided.


In addition to the raid in Mechelen, the Belgian authorities also searched the offices in Leuven of the independent commission.


'Bout time someone outside the church should be investigating the church.

Saturday, June 26, 2010


Former Vice President Dick Cheney was admitted to the hospital Friday after experiencing discomfort, the latest health scare for the 69-year-old Republican leader who has a long history of heart disease.


Discomfort may be a new experience to Evil Incarnate.

Don't worry, he can't die. Nature has been trying to abort him for years. He's had five heart attacks in his lifetime, and he's still going.

Looked at another way, his heart has been struggling to exert its influence for years, with no luck.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Definitely Not a Democratic Planet

So who (or what) originally came here to spread democracy?

To report oiled or injured wildlife in the Gulf Coast area, call 866-557-1401.

According to Wednesday's U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service numbers, rescue officials have collected 1,075 birds. Of those, 442 were alive and "visibly oiled." Another 633 were found dead, and 109 of those were visibly oiled.


"How long will the birds survive that have been cleaned and released? We don't know yet," Hemley said, explaining it depends on a variety of factors.

Included are the bird's age and size and the length of exposure to the oil, she said.


Seabirds' feathers are weatherproofed by natural oils, stimulated by a gland in their lower back. This is why birds nuzzle their tail feathers when they're preening, Hollingsworth said.

"If that gland is damaged," he said, "then that no longer secretes oil."

Holding the birds in captivity to protect them or moving them to a new habitat can be unhealthy for the bird as well, he said. Captivity is stressful, and changing a bird's environment introduces it to new prey and predators when it was accustomed to its food and enemies in its natural habitat.


At least a few experts have openly advocated killing all oiled wildlife immediately, claiming that animal lovers are merely prolonging their distress and suffering.

"Kill, don't clean," recommends Silvia Gaus, a biologist at NationalPark Wattenmeer (Wadden Sea National Park) in the German state of Schleswig-Holstein. Unfortunately, despite some short-term success in cleaning birds and releasing them into the wild, few, if any, have a chance of surviving even for a few months, reports Ms Gaus, who has worked as a biologist for 20 years.

"According to serious studies, the middle-term survival rate of oil-soaked birds is under 1 percent," Ms Gaus explained. "We, therefore, oppose cleaning birds."

  Science Blogs

Popular Mechanics

Beaches near oil spills are often where oiled birds land. "Oil creates a hole in the wetsuit," says Nils Warnock, who oversees search and rescue of oiled wildlife for the University of California–Davis Wildlife Health Center, an Oiled Wildlife Care Network (OWCN) affiliate. "When that starts to happen to some of the marine birds, they get cold and they want to come onshore to try to get warm," he says.


Affected birds are often hypothermic, dehydrated from preening excessively to remove the oil from their feathers and possibly poisoned from ingesting the toxin.


Once stable, birds are given a bubble bath made from a solution of one percent Dawn soap and warm water. It's a two-person job. "Cleaning, of course, is stressful. This isn't something that happens to them day to day," Wamock says. As one person holds the bird, another washes its feathers vigorously. Toothbrushes and cotton swabs help remove caked oil from the bird's head and eyes, and a Waterpik removes oil exclusively around the eyes. When tub water gets dirty, rescuers move the bird to a second, third and fourth tub until the water remains clear. It can take up to 15 tubs until the bird gets clean; one pelican can require 300 gallons of water.


Trained volunteers, biologists and vets use a special spa nozzle, set to a specific water pressure, to rinse the detergent from the bird's feathers. When the suds are all gone, the birds sit under a pet drier (hairdryers hurt aquatic birds' skin) and preen their feathers. "Bird feathers are naturally waterproof but after washing, each feather must be aligned properly," writes IBRRC executive director Jay Holocomb on the organization's website. "Each feather is made up of microscopic barbs and barbules that hook together like Velcro. Once hooked together, they become a tight waterproof barrier.


Recuperating birds often swim around in outdoor pools before rescuers release them. "It can take as little as a few days, but for some birds it can take a long time, up to months," Wamock says. Wildlife veterinarians determine if the birds are fit for flight, and often band them before releasing them back into their designated habitat. Release rates are usually between 50 and 80 percent, the IBRRC reports, and the group is collecting information on how many treated birds thrive in the wild.

It could be argued that it's a shame one animal should have such a profound impact – negative effect – on the world's other animals.

American scientists who shot nearly 1,000 sperm whales with tissue-sampling darts discovered stunningly high levels of toxic and heavy metals in the animals.


Analysis of cells from the sperm whales showed that pollution is reaching the farthest corners of the oceans, from deep in the polar region to "the middle of nowhere" in the equatorial regions, said biologist Roger Payne, founder and president of Ocean Alliance that conducted the research.

"The entire ocean life is just loaded with a series of contaminants, most of which have been released by human beings," Payne said in an interview on the sidelines of the International Whaling Commission's annual meeting.

"These contaminants, I think, are threatening the human food supply.


It could also be argued that we will be reaping what we sow.

We came. We had fun. We trashed the park.

....but hey, do what you want....you will anyway.

More Change

Afghan prisoners are being abused in a "secret jail" at Bagram airbase, according to nine witnesses whose stories the BBC has documented.

The abuses are all said to have taken place since US President Barack Obama was elected, promising to end torture.

The US military has denied the existence of a secret detention site and promised to look into allegations.


Look into the allegations? In other words, how to stop or discredit the allegations.

"They call it the Black Hole," said Sher Agha who spent six days in the facility last autumn.

"When they released us they told us we should not tell our stories to outsiders because that will harm us."


In 2002, two prisoners were killed in the Bagram prison while in US custody after being suspended from the ceilings of their cells and brutally beaten.


The ex-prisoners said they were imprisoned at the secret jail before being taken to the main detention centre at the Bagram airbase, a new complex called The Detention Facility in Parwan.


The BBC was allowed into the new Bagram prison for an hour.

This was one of the first opportunities any outsider has had to set eyes on Bagram's interned prisoners since a jail was first established at Bagram soon after 9/11.

In the new jail, prisoners were being moved around in wheelchairs with goggles and headphones on.


The prisoners are represented by soldiers who are not lawyers.

"To this date, no prisoner has ever seen a lawyer in Bagram", said Tina Foster, who represents several of Bagram's prisoners in cases she has filed in on their behalf in the US.

....but hey, do what you want....you will anyway.

Uh Oh

Venezuela will nationalize a fleet of oil rigs belonging to U.S. company Helmerich and Payne, the latest takeover in a push to socialism as President Hugo Chavez struggles with lower oil output and a recession.


....but hey, do what you want....you will anyway.

So What's the Down Side?

Republican leaders warned Wednesday that their House members will withhold support [for more war spending] if Democrats attempt to add new domestic spending, including $10 billion to help local school boards avert teacher layoffs in the fall.


American War Lords

(Embiggen with a click on the pic.)

One must strike just the right balance of smug and sober for public displays of "leadership". I think they're doing pretty good. Except perhaps for Gates. He looks as though he's not certain of his god powers.

But then, he always looks that way.

What Changed?

Obama should be choking on that "change" business. Anyway, from McChrystal to Petraeus - the big difference is Petraeus will not likely ever utter anything against his keepers.

The counter-insurgency push in the Pashtun areas of Afghanistan could go either way. It could tamp down the Taliban and other insurgents and produce a population grateful for increased security, even at the cost of increased foreign control. Or it could involve Fallujah-like leveling of towns and large numbers of killed and displaced clansmen, pushing Pashtuns now favorable to Karzai into insurgency. I would give the former a 10% chance of happening.


It is frequently asserted that Gen. Petraeus “succeeded” in Iraq via a troop escalation or “surge” of 30,000 extra US troops that he dedicated to counter-insurgency purposes in al-Anbar and Baghdad Provinces.

But it would be a huge mistake to see Iraq either as a success story or as stable. It is the scene of an ongoing civil war between Sunnis and Shiites that is killing roughly 300 civilians a month. It can’t form a government months after the March 7 elections, even though the outcomes are known, having a permanently hung parliament, wherein the four major parties find it difficult to agree on a prime minister. The political vacuum has proved an opening for Sunni Arab insurgents, who have mounted effective bombing campaigns and more recently are targeting the banks. And now the caretaker government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki is being shaken by a wave of violent mass protests even in Shiite cities that voted for him, against his government’s failure to provide key services, especially electricity in the midst of a sweltering summer heat wave. On Saturday, a big protest rally denouncing the lack of electricity turned violent, and police shot dead two protesters. In some parts of Iraq temperatures reach 120 degrees Fahrenheit, and few places have electricity more than 6 or 7 hours a day. The minister of electricity has been forced to resign. On Thursday, the headline in al-Zaman, the Times of Baghdad, read“Electricity Uprisings Break out in Hilla and Diyala under the Banner of Ousting al-Maliki.”


As I argued a couple of summers ago, working in part from the intrepid journalism of Karen DeYoung at WaPo, the main reason for decrease in the virulence of the Civil War (it is not over) was that the Shiites succeeded in ethnically cleansing the Sunnis from Baghdad. Based on US military and NGO statistics, on patterns of ambient light from West Baghdad visible by satellite, on the on-the-ground investigations of journalists like AP’s Hamza Hendawi, and on subsequent voting patterns, I don’t think Baghdad is now more than 10-15% Sunni, whereas it was probably about half and half Sunni and Shiite at the time of Bush’s invasion in 2003.

The Shiite victory in the Civil War was thus absolutely crucial as an Iraqi social-history background for what success Petraeus’s policies had.

  Juan Cole

But, but, maybe it will work this time.

Iraq is an oil state with an income of $60 billion a year from petroleum alone. Afghanistan’s entire nominal GDP is $12 bn. a year. Afghanistan is 28% literate and its army is 10% literate. It is largely rural, poorly educated, and decades of civil war have destroyed or chased abroad its small managerial classes. Afghanistan is far more dependent on kinship ties (clans and tribes) in politics than Iraq (only 1/3 of Iraqis in polling say that tribal identity is important to them). Clan politics is notoriously insular and difficult for foreigners to enter into.


The Pashtuns do not believe that they have been conquered by anyone, and the vast majority of them wants US and NATO troops out of their country. They would fall down laughing at the idea of being afraid of the Tajiks and Hazarahs. So they will not be as easy to turn as the terrified and traumatized Sunnis of Iraq were in 2007.


The heavy US dependence on Blackwater and other private security contractors went badly awry when they kept going cowboy and committed a massacre at Nissour Square in 2007. (The same firm, now renamed, is being brought into Afghanistan.)

....but hey, do what you want....you will anyway.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Not Getting Any Better

Not that BP's oil gusher cap was actually collecting enough oil to make any difference, but…

Adm. Thad Allen, commander of the Gulf oil response, announced today that BP has removed the containment cap collecting some of the oil spewing out of the Deepwater Horizon rig after encountering problems.


They are now checking the cap to see if hydrates have collected inside. If there are no hydrates, Allen said, they will try to reinstall the cap later today. If there are hydrates, workers will likely have to rerun the pipeline, which will take "a considerable amount longer," Allen said.

Allen also announced that two people associated with the response have died. One died in what Allen only described as a "swimming pool incident." The other was the operator of a so-called "vessel of opportunity" -- that is, a private boat volunteered to help out in the response -- in Gulf Shores, Miss. Allen said the Gulf Shores Police Department is investigating.


Investigating because "the other" didn't simply die.

A boat captain working in the oil spill response died from a gunshot wound this morning.


Don't look at me. I just pass along the information.

....but hey, do what you want....you will anyway.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

FUBAR in the Gulf of Mexico

[The] president's Flow Rate Technical Group – a team of scientists charged with establishing the gusher's output – announced a new estimate of 12,000 to 25,000 barrels, based on calculations from video of the plume. In fact, according to interviews with team members and scientists familiar with its work, that figure represents the plume group's minimum estimate. The upper range was not included in their report because scientists analyzing the flow were unable to reach a consensus on how bad it could be. "The upper bound from the plume group, if it had come out, is very high," says Timothy Crone, a marine geophysicist at Columbia University who has consulted with the government's team. "That's why they had resistance internally. We're talking 100,000 barrels a day."

The median figure for Crone's independent calculations is 55,000 barrels a day – the equivalent of an Exxon Valdez every five days. "That's what the plume team's numbers show too," Crone says. A source privy to internal discussions at one of the world's top oil companies confirms that the industry privately agrees with such estimates. "The industry definitely believes the higher-end values," the source says. "That's accurate – if not more than that." The reason, he adds, is that BP appears to have unleashed one of the 10 most productive wells in the Gulf. "BP screwed up a really big, big find," the source says. "And if they can't cap this, it's not going to blow itself out anytime soon."


Most troubling of all, the government has allowed BP to continue deep-sea production at its Atlantis rig – one of the world's largest oil platforms. Capable of drawing 200,000 barrels a day from the seafloor, Atlantis is located only 150 miles off the coast of Louisiana, in waters nearly 2,000 feet deeper than BP drilled at Deepwater Horizon. According to congressional documents, the platform lacks required engineering certification for as much as 90 percent of its subsea components – a flaw that internal BP documents reveal could lead to "catastrophic" errors.


According to an e-mail to a congressional aide from a staff member at MMS, the agency has had "zero contact" with Atlantis about its safety risks since the Deepwater rig went down.

  Rolling Stone

I urge you to read the whole Rolling Stone article for its information on Obama administration's lack of oversight in the face of all it knew about the oil industry, and BP in particular, BP's horrific history of bad action, and the huge scandal that the disastrous fuckup in the Gulf really is.

FUBAR in Afghanistan

A lot of people didn't think much of Obama's appointment of Stanley McChrystal to head up the war in Afghanistan. Obama himself may be feeling the same way now.

McChrystal's complaints about his commander in chief and Obama's aides put his job in jeopardy. Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs said Tuesday "the magnitude and greatness of the mistake here are profound" and repeatedly declined to say McChrystal's job was safe. "All options are on the table," he said.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the commander's comments in Rolling Stone magazine were "distractions" to the war in Afghanistan.

McChrystal publicly apologized Tuesday for using "poor judgment" in interviews for the magazine. He then left Afghanistan to appear, as ordered by Obama, at the White House on Wednesday.


He'll be expected to explain his comments to the president and Pentagon officials who, as Gibbs put it, want "to see what in the world he was thinking."


Apparently he didn't realize he wasn't in a free speech zone.

Practically the only expression of confidence in McChrystal on Tuesday came from Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

Ah, the kiss of death.

And here's the Rolling Stone article: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/17390/119236, where he is quoted as saying in a Paris hotel room recently, "I'd rather have my ass kicked by a roomful of people than go out to this dinner." Looks like he's about to have gotten both.

Last fall, during the question-and-answer session following a speech he gave in London, McChrystal dismissed the counterterrorism strategy being advocated by Vice President Joe Biden as "shortsighted," saying it would lead to a state of "Chaos-istan." The remarks earned him a smackdown from the president himself, who summoned the general to a terse private meeting aboard Air Force One. The message to McChrystal seemed clear: Shut the fuck up, and keep a lower profile.

I guess he forgot that part.

....but hey, do what you want....you will anyway.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Tony Hayward Takes the Prize

A rare and endangered species of sea turtle is being burned alive in BP's controlled burns of the oil swirling around the Gulf of Mexico, and a boat captain tasked with saving them says the company has blocked rescue efforts.

  Raw Story

Jeesus H. Christ. Earlier, there were reports of BP refusing to say what was in its chemical disbursants, telling its clean-up laborers that they weren't to wear masks because it would create hysteria, and forcing them to go to BP doctors for health issues.

And now Tony Hayward, BP CEO, says the sick workers probably have food poisoning due to a large number of people being confined together in temporary camps. Say what? This guy is a real piece of work.

[Mike] Michael suggests that, given the size of the fines BP could face as a result of the turtle deaths, the company may be happy to let turtles burn, as it would make it impossible to calculate exactly how many turtles died. He notes that the bodies of dead animals are being kept as evidence to determine how much in fines BP will be liable for.

"Is BP destroying evidence to keep their liability down?" he asks. "Is anyone going to stop them?"

Asked if he had suffered health problems as a result of being exposed to the chemicals swirling around the Gulf, boat captain Ellis said he had been suffering from "pretty wicked headaches," but said he didn't know "if that was just from seeing everything you know just destroyed and just disgusting."

  Raw Story

Probably food poisoning.

Assess This

[Ambassador Richard Holbrooke,] visited Marja, a key town, to assess whether the new U.S. counter insurgency strategy is working or falling short.
Taliban gunmen tried to shoot down Holbrooke's V22 Osprey as it approached for a landing, triggering a gunbattle with the insurgents that lasted for about 10 minutes. And a trio of suicide bombers detonated themselves during an attack on the U.S. base as Holbrooke was leaving.


Afghan police said the explosion was the premature detonation of the bombs of three suicide bombers. They were planning an attack on Afghan officials and Holbrooke, the police said.


Do you suppose he "got it?"

Holbrooke shrugged off the attack. "I've been shot at in other countries, a lot of other countries," he said with a laugh.

I guess not.

Too. Damned. Hot.

Rare words coming from me, indeed.

And to all those silly so-and-sos who seem to think every frigid cold snap somewhere in the world disproves global warming, come on down to Galveston! We haven't had a break from August's blood-curdling heat since the first of May.

However, I will say that at least the streets don't burn through the soles of your shoes like they do in a Sacramento summer.

Mission Accomplished

Use of opiates such as heroin and opium has doubled in Afghanistan in the last five years, the U.N. said Monday, as hundreds of thousands of Afghans turn to drugs to escape the misery of poverty and war.


Sunday, June 20, 2010

Signs of the Times

Despite the breathless flurry of approving statements provoked by the English-language pledge issued by the prime minister of Israel, Binyamin Netanyahu that the blockade of Gaza would be ‘eased,’ in fact , Haaretz reports, the Hebrew text of the communique does not indicate that the cabinet made any such decision, and there has been no change at the border checkpoint.

  Juan Cole

Fresh off apparently being taken off Gulf Spill duty, BP CEO Tony Hayward isspending today on the Isle of Wight watching his yacht "Bob" participate in the J.P. Morgan Asset Management Round the Island Race.


Dino Rossi is keeping his day job while he runs for Senate in Washington. There's nothing inherently wrong with that. But Rossi's day job entails very publicly helping rich people profit off the misfortune of those unlucky enough to have obtained a mortgage in the last four years or so.


Rossi has decided stay on as the headline speaker for a series of seminars advising real estate speculators on how to profit off the collapsed mortgage market.


....but hey, do what you want....you will anyway.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Happy Juneteenth!

Juneteenth was celebrated in many places today, and of course here in Galveston, Texas, where it originated. If you don't know about Juneteenth, read here.

....but hey, do what you want....you will anyway.

Talk About Fishy!

Does a company that both builds oil rigs and cleans up oil spills have any motivation to prevent oil rig disasters?

That's the question some people in business and politics are asking themselves after Halliburton's purchase of an oil clean-up company 10 days before the Deepwater Horizon explosion that killed 11 workers and launched the worst oil spill in US history.

  Raw Story

About the time complaints were being made about faulty gear?

....but hey, do what you want....you will anyway.


In case you are wondering what's up with the government's threat to WikiLeaks and its founder, and a young soldier who leaked a video of a government attack on Afghan civilians (yet to be published), Glenn Greenwald has it thoroughly covered here. And I do mean 'thoroughly'.


A related story:

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange hired lawyers to represent the Army intel analyst accused of leaking State Dept. secrets. But the Pentagon sent them away. Philip Shenon reports on WikiLeaks concerns about Bradley Manning's treatment in custody—and the video of a U.S. massacre in Afghanistan, coming as soon as next week.

  The Daily Beast

Also related:

A new bill rocketing through Congress would give the president sweeping powers to police the Web for national-security reasons. Could this be a way to block WikiLeaks?

  The Daily Beast


After several days underground, the founder of the secretive website WikiLeaks has gone public to disclose that he is preparing to release a classified Pentagon video of a U.S. airstrike in Afghanistan last year that left as many as 140 civilians dead, most of them children and teenagers.

  The Daily Beast

And another:

Speigel Online is today releasing an interview with Daniel Ellsberg in which Ellsberg criticizes the Obama administration for increasing the use of criminal prosecutions against whistleblowers

  Whistleblowers Blog

Apologize to BP

Hat tip to Dependable Renegade for posting this link. Read the apologies, they're pretty darned clever.

....but hey, do what you want....you will anyway.

Waiting for Armageddon

In the meantime, I'm really looking forward to this crop. Blue Java (Ice Cream) bananas. Next: is there such a thing as a dwarf key lime? Orange? Cherimoya? If not, I may just have to cram a full-size tree back in the corner and relocate the little oleander.

This is why I haven't been blogging the news from Hell so much lately. I've been focusing on plants. I have added oleanders, black and blue salvia, a brilliant orange ixora, lavender, a couple of tomato plants, yellow bell pepper, mandevilla, gardenia, jasmine, honeysuckle, bougainvillea, basil, tarragon and mint, and am considering wisteria or clematis, and what to put in a perennial bed on the northeast corner. Must plant some stargazers somewhere.

Until they privatize water...

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Destroy the Ring!

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Respect My Authoritah
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

....but hey, do what you want....you will anyway.

Dear Governor Perry

Shouldn't we be seceding?

EPA is taking another important step to address deficiencies in the state’s air operating permit program by proposing an audit program to help companies with Texas flexible permits obtain an air permit that meets the protections of the Clean Air Act.


Help them.

The conflict between the U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Texas is heating up. On Tuesday the federal agency took over two state issued air permits, one for Garland Power and Light’s natural gas fired Ray Olinger plant on Lavon Lake in Collin County, and one for Chevron Phillips Chemical Co.’s Baytown plant. The plants now have to seek new permits from EPA by September 30, 2010 in order to continue operations.


Last month EPA took over the air permit for Flint Hills Resources refinery in Corpus Christi, and said it objected to 39 other major Texas permits.

“Our flexible permits are an integral part of the state’s success in cleaning our air”, said TCEQ Commissioner Carlos Rubinstein.< p>[…]

Still, on Wednesday the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality approved proposed revisions to the state’s flexible permit rules. The proposed changes include rules that would make it impossible for a company to use state rules to circumvent federal regulation.

  Houston Examiner

Aw, surely they haven’t been doing that!

For the second time, Texas is refusing to apply for federal "Race to the Top" education funds.

The state could be eligible for up to $700 million in this second round of funding through the U.S. Department of Education. However, Governor Rick Perry said […] he doesn't want Texas to abandon state educational standards in favor of adopting national standards and the costs that go with them.


You know – that Texas children might grow up thinking the earth is older than 6,000 years.

But wait…there’s more.

Facing [BP CEO Tony] Hayward at the witness table, [Texas Republican congressman Joe Barton] said, "I'm ashamed of what happened in the White House" on Wednesday, [… accusing]the White House Thursday of a "$20 billion shakedown" of oil giant BP by requiring the company to establish a huge fund to compensate those hurt by the Gulf Coast oil spill. […] Barton was referring to the agreement that President Barack Obama announced with BP for establishment of a $20 billion relief fund.


Celestial page to Ann Richards: please return.

....but hey, do what you want....you will anyway.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Oil On the Edge?

Now, part of what the pundits are saying when they say the Gulf oil gusher is your fault is that you like to drive your car inexpensively to work, and so you are part of a consumer market that motivates BP to drill. But it is grossly unfair to blame you, the worker, for the difficulty of getting to work by much more efficient rail or for allegedly rejecting electric vehicles powered by .e.g. wind farms.

The US government gives and has for decades given massive hidden subsidies to the petroleum industry that make gasoline seem far less expensive than than it is, and auto, cement and oil corporations successfully lobbied for taxpayer subsidies for highway systems rather than for rail and public transport.


Back in the 1960s when the environmental movement got going, major US corporations responsible for much of the nation’s pollution decided to fight it by paying for television advertising that urged individuals not to litter, thus implying that pollution is produced by anarchic individuals rather than by organized businesses. It was a crock then and it is a crock now.


The cost of licenses for offshore drilling have been mysteriously slashed by the Department of the Interior, a way of transferring your money to the oil companies and of actually promoting offshore drilling, with all its potential to harm you environmentally and economically.


The subsidies for petroleum are unlikely to be lifted. This outcome is not because you will lobby congress and the senate to keep supporting big oil with your tax dollars. It is because of legislative capture. Too many elected representatives secretly run on the Big Oil Party ticket.

  Informed Comment

Democrats are eyeing polling that shows public ire focused on BP. They are pushing to expand the company's liability and to use the disaster to reboot their push for alternative energy, climate-change legislation and perhaps some kind of tax on oil or carbon that would begin to reduce the nation's reliance on oil.


Talk about reducing the nation's reliance on petroleum has been ongoing since the Nixon administration, said Richard M. Abrams, a professor emeritus of history at UC Berkeley.

"Obama should call for a tax on carbon, he should call for a higher federal tax on gasoline, making it more expensive so people don't use gasoline the way they use water," Abrams said. "There's too much money to be made in oil, and the dragging of feet has resulted in our not being prepared technologically to replace oil in a major way."


I don't believe that for a minute. He's right about there being money to be made in oil – still, and so far. But he's wrong about not being prepared for something else. The same people who run Big Oil and other corporations are prepared. They already have alternative energy plans and have cornered anything related that can be exploited for profit. They're just waiting to be forced to go there. After all, why should they give up the oil game until they've squeezed every last nickel out of it? That wouldn't be smart business.

....but hey, do what you want....you will anyway.


A BP ship was also struck by lightning, and General Petraeus passed out under questioning on Capitol Hill.

The Rapture Has Begun!

Jesus was struck by lightning and burned to the ground.


....but hey, do what you want....you will anyway.

UPDATE: Actually, he has just been revealed to be a giant mechanical insect. Run!

FURTHER UPDATE: In case you missed it when I offered it earlier:

It never occurred to me that they made it with a steel frame - right by the water - what a great lightning rod.

Damn! I wish somebody had video of the moment of the strike.

Monday, June 14, 2010

For This, Hundreds of Thousands Have Died

Continuing the theme of Iraqi politics as depressing theater, the parliament convened today for its first meeting since the election [at the beginning of March].

The session lasted eighteen minutes, long enough for an opening prayer, the oath of office (taken in either Arabic or Kurdish), and an apologetic statement from MP Fouad Masoum, the chair of the session, who told Iraq that legislators need time "for further deliberations" on the next government.

And that was it! They adjourned without setting a date for another meeting, let alone selecting a president or parliamentary speaker.

  The Majlis

....but hey, do what you want....you will anyway.

This Could Get Dicey

Iran is sending aid ships to blockaded Gaza, state radio said on Monday.


One ship left port on Sunday and another will depart by Friday, loaded with food, construction material and toys, the report said.


....but hey, do what you want....you will anyway.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

All About Oil

Residents of this onetime Taliban sanctuary [Marja] see signs that the insurgents have regained momentum in recent weeks, despite early claims of success by U.S. Marines. The longer-than-expected effort to secure Marja is prompting alarm among top American commanders that they will not be able to change the course of the war in the timePresident Obama has given them.

Firefights between insurgents and security forces occur daily, resulting in more Marine fatalities and casualties over the past month than in the first month of the operation, which began in mid-February.


The Afghan government has assigned representatives to help deliver basic services to the population, but most of them spend their days in the better-appointed provincial capital 20 miles to the northeast.


Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, told officers here in late May that there is a growing perception that Marja has become "a bleeding ulcer."


Nearly nine years into the Afghan war, with the number of troops here climbing toward 100,000, the pace for air crews that retrieve the wounded has become pitched.

In each month this year, more American troops inAfghanistan have been killed than in any of the same months of any previous year.


The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan said Thursday that the civilian-military offensive scheduled to begin in the southern city of Kandahar this spring would take months longer than planned.


"There's no point in clearing an area until you have the capacity to do the hold, to bring governance" that does not now exist, one military official in Afghanistan said. "Without the Afghan government civilian capacity -- without a district government that can provide some basic services -- you'll end up with what we're experiencing in Marja right now."


In the last administration, he would have been canned for that assessment.

The Afghan government has not produced the civilian leadership and trained security forces it was to contribute to the effort, U.S. officials said, and the support from Kandaharis that the United States was counting on Karzai to deliver has not materialized.


President Obama has said he will begin withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan in July 2011.


By June, more than 10,000 newly deployed U.S. troops were to begin clearing the Taliban from the outlying districts [of Kandahar], up to 80 percent of which the military estimates is controlled by insurgents.


Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, said Thursday […] the Kandahar operation has been pushed back until at least September.


Karzai's promises to stem corruption have yielded few results. Last week, he fired Interior Minister Hanif Atmar and intelligence chief Amrullah Saleh, two top cabinet officials whom the United States considered among the few who are competent and honest, in the culmination of long-running feuds with both.

Sometimes it's hard to keep your puppets in hand. They have a way of getting swelled heads and thinking they're in charge.

The Americans are reluctant to blame Karzai and his government directly for the delays in Kandahar. But the Marja experience, with troops fighting to provide political space for government officials who still have not appeared, taught them that their efforts must be matched by the Afghans.

Ah yes, the "Government in a Box."

"You've got to have the governance part ready to go," Brig. Gen. Frederick Hodges, one of the top U.S. commanders in southern Afghanistan, said in an interview last week. "We talked about doing that in Marja, but didn't realize how hard it was to do."


[Gen. McChrystal] acknowledged that winning support from local leaders was tougher than expected.

When will they stop thinking that everything they want to do will be a cakewalk? How they long for the days of Mohammad Reza Shah of Iran.

As for Karzai's view point….

President Hamid Karzai has lost faith in the US strategy in Afghanistanand is increasingly looking to Pakistan to end the insurgency, according to those close to Afghanistan's former head of intelligence services. Amrullah Saleh, who resigned last weekend, believes the president lost confidence some time ago in the ability of Nato forces to defeat theTaliban.

  Guardian UK

Not completely dense then, is he?

Saleh's colleagues say that Karzai even accused the two men of a plot with the Americans and the British to wreck his peace plan.
That sounds like he's lost his faith in more than the strategy. Bye-bye Karzai.

The latest casualties yesterday took Nato's toll to 29 deaths in nine days, according to an AP count. The United States, whose some 94,000 troops vastly outnumber the rest of the allies' contributions in Afghanistan, has lost 17 service members since Sunday.

If you were to read a military report, however – say: June 12: This Week's Operational Update on Afghanistan you would think everything is coming along swimmingly. And regarding a wedding slaughter by suicide bomber last week, you would learn that when it's not us doing the slaughtering (47 at a July 2008 Afghan wedding – or 90 in a separate air strike in November of that year ), "These cowardly attacks against innocent civilians reflect the Taliban’s lack of vision for a peaceful, prosperous Afghanistan."

So the news out of Afghanistan is about what you might have been expecting. But there is a dropped sentence in that NYTimes article that I'd like to have fleshed out: "[Medics working rescue in Afghanistan] picked up two Marines bitten by their unit’s bomb-sniffing dog."

Another "Spill"

A leak from Chevron's underground oil pipeline may have gone undetected for hours as it spilled 50 gallons of crude a minute Saturday into Salt Lake City's Red Butte Creek.

The oil blackened the east-side creek, stained scores of birds, prompted the closure of Liberty Park and sent oil as far west as the Jordan River.

"This is extremely harmful," said disgusted resident Peter G. Hayes, a biology teacher who showed oily rocks from his creek-side home to Chevron officials at Liberty Park. "I want to know when are you going to send someone to my backyard and clean up my mess because I can't even live in my house because of the smell."

Chevron pledged to clean up the 6-mile mess, but the company could not quantify the damage. As of late Saturday, Chevron said the leak had been stopped. But company representatives could not say when it began, how much oil spilled into city waterways and why -- despite pipeline monitors -- it apparently took hours to learn of the accident.

  Salt Lake Tribune

It must be Muslims. Or maybe Mexicans. Where will they strike next?

No, wait. Rival sabotage! BP, Chevron...let's wait to see which company doesn't have a major incident in the next few months.

....but hey, do what you want....you will anyway.

It's Sunday

The Way It Was

Here's 10 minutes of a wonderful British comedy about the acquisition of intel to support the invasion of Iraq: In the Loop

One of my favorite scenes, which isn't in this clip, is when a US Army general who does not support the invasion is discussing the insanity of the idea. He indicates that the plan is to send 12,000 troops who are expected to carry the day. He then says that 12,000 is the number of troops who are going to die in this war, and that the goal of a war is to have some soldiers left alive at the end, otherwise "it looks like you lost."

Post-Democracy America

The era of corporatist governing may be peaking.

BP, it is alleged, is not telling what chemicals are in the dispersants it's using in the Gulf, insists that its clean-up crews NOT wear filtration masks (because it would cause hysteria), and that they see only BP physicians if they get sick.

And the oil is still flowing freely, with only a small percentage being captured.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Seriously Effed

With each new look by scientists, the oil spill just keeps looking worse.


It is the third — and perhaps not the last — time the U.S. government has had to increase its estimate of how much oil is gushing.


Most of Thursday's estimates had more oil flowing in an hour than what officials once said was spilling in an entire day.


Thursday, June 10, 2010

Meanwhile in Afghanistan

How about that push to Qandahar?

The headlines tell the story:

U.S. delays Kandahar operation as gains in Marja falter

Marja’s ‘Government in a Box’ Is Empty


Wednesday, June 09, 2010

That Should Show Us

Israel has loosened its death grip on Palestine! The occupied can now receive "soda, juice, jam, spices, shaving cream, potato chips, cookies and candy."

So lay off the Israel bashing and demands for an international investigation into the murderous raid on the aid flotilla, okay?

Toon Town

It's perhaps a bit encouraging that birther Oily Titz didn't win the California vote to become secretary of state. On the other hand, she was beaten by a football player.

America still likes its jocks better than anybody.

So let me give the Democrats a big hint for 2012 against Sarah Palin: run a hockey player.

So far into the world of the absurd, we may as well get used to riding in the passenger seat beside behind Roger Rabbit.

....but hey, do what you want....you will anyway.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

"Securing" the Border

May 25:

The White House announced it would send 1,200 troops to the U.S.-Mexican border after Senate Republicans told the president immigration reform depended on border security.

Senate Democratic leaders have made it clear to the president that immigration reform has no chance of passing the upper chamber unless a handful of Republicans sign on to the effort.

Obama also has come under pressure from conservatives since Arizona passed its law to crack down on illegal immigrants. Conservatives contend the action was necessary because of a failure by the federal government to secure the southern border.

  The Hill

June 8:

The Associated Press reports, "A US Border Patrol agent shot and killed a 14-year-old boy after a confrontation at an international bridge near downtown El Paso, Mexican authorities said Tuesday."


"An emergency radio broadcast to El Paso police at 6:43 p.m. stated a Border Patrol agent had fired into a crowd of people."

LATEST: Updated AP story: "Agents detaining suspected illegal immigrants Monday came under assault from rock throwers across the border in Mexico, FBI spokeswoman Andrea Simmons said." National Border Patrol Council president T.J. Bonner tells Associated Press that rock throwing incidents are "deadly force encounters" which "justifies the use of deadly force."


"The Border Patrol agent shot from El Paso, Texas, across the border into Ciudad Juarez, Mexico,"CNN reports.

  Raw Story

Hmmmm…there's a river between the two cities. A 14-year-old throwing a rock across the distance of the Rio Grande is considered a "deadly force encounter"?? Well, Goliath won this one.

Barack Obama: Republican tool.

....but hey, do what you want....you will anyway.