Saturday, December 30, 2006

I'm only writing about it now but last month Thomas Friedman wrote a column about China's worsening pollution problem. (Pollution and saving the planet seems to be Friedman's preferred subjects of late, before he likely becomes bored and moves on to some other attention-grabbing topic).

In the column, Friedman states that "three big shifts will be needed" if China hopes to reverse this form of neglect that is literally choking the country. The first shift involves simply not just building hundreds of additional coal-fired plants, but rather to stress innovation and efficiency. By conserving power where possible, capacity is freed up and less polluting plants need to be built. Money is saved and there is no cost to or drag on the economy; in fact quite the opposite.

The next shift involves enforcement. It's not enough to just have well-meaning targets or regulations. There must be stiff repercussions that are stringently enforced. This area is very weak in China but needless to say, it's dropped off considerably in our country over the last six years.

The final shift involves awareness, implying the public needs to always be clued in on what's going on. Facts -- not propaganda -- based on sound science must be conveyed, widely. Education on the problems must exist and be encouraged to proliferate. Again, in the U.S. this area has taken several severe blows from this administration over the last few years.

Enough with the tired right-wing line that tackling pollution comes with too high a toll on the economy. It's bullcrap. In fact, China's mess costs the country over $200 billion (yes, billion) per year.

We're all in this together. China's pollution effects us and our neighboring countries, and vice versa with our pollution.

One day, China may be cleaner than us on a per capita basis, and that will be good for them but truly a sad statement about us.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Wise words from often-not-wise Richard Cohen:
As with Vietnam, the ending is inevitable. We will get out, and the only question that remains is whether we get out with 3,000 dead or 4,000 or 5,000. At some point the American people will not countenance, and Congress will not support, a war that cannot be won. Just how many lives will be wasted in what we all know is a wasted effort is about the only question still left on the table. Realism dictates as few as possible.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

(I started writing the below post prior to Christmas, but then got all caught up in festive activities and haven't had the chance to finish it until now. I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday!)

It should be no surprise that Bush has "decided" to ignore the advice of the ISG and instead "double down" on Iraq. The two key reasons for doing so: concern about his legacy and oil.

The former has been obvious for some time, with GW's presidency already ranking near the bottom of the presidential heap, with many believing he's the worst ever. There are multiple reasons for this "worst ever" title, but Iraq is the biggie and it appears very unlikely he's going to be able to reverse the situation there and thus manage to move ahead of at least Nixon and Harding.

The other reason for GW opting to "surge" rather than withdraw is due to the oil in Iraq. Given Saudi Arabia and the many oil interests in this administration's back pocket, you can bet he's receiving very direct, stern words of advice from some of the most powerful voices in the world. The short message: he cannot risk losing this region to civil war and insurgents.

The following depiction (from Simmons & Co.) shows perhaps the most valuable section of real estate on the planet.

This relatively small horseshoe-shaped area forms the epicenter of the current geopolitical struggle, with nations continuously plotting and strategizing in an attempt to secure this region for their side.

Yes, one reason GW initially invaded Iraq was to show-up his father, to attempt to finish the job that Bush 41 wisely left undone. Junior didn't appear to listen to anything his dad had to say about Iraq before invading the country, and if anything GW likely flouted anything he did manage to hear and went the other way (case and point, hiring the likes of Rumsfeld and the gang of neocons).

But make no mistake, the powerful global energy entities -- whether in the form of country or company -- made themselves heard loud and clear at the start of this mess and to this day continue to make themselves heard with high-impact. Latest example: Cheney's "curious" meeting with the Saudis.

So if you ever wonder why GW continues to be so stubborn and set in his ways regarding this nightmare, despite 70+% public opinion desiring a withdrawal and even many in his own party beginning to question the motives and gameplan (assuming there is one), the above offers at least a few items and suggestions to chew on.

Finally, Nicholas von Hoffman has a terrific column in the latest NY Observer, with the final two paragraphs making some very convincing points:
Baker-Hamilton could not look defeat in the face. The document is a fudge, a way of putting off conceding that we have lost. That last statement will enrage many a patriotic supporter of our armed forces, who will say that we haven’t lost a single engagement. They will be correct, though it means nothing. Military historians tell us that in a guerrilla conflict, the occupying power wins every battle and still loses the war. That is what happened in Vietnam. We never lost a battle, not one.

And if we do pull out? Will there be worse chaos, a full-scale civil war, a failed state that Al Qaeda can use as a base, more horrors for the Iraqi people, a battle pitting the Sunni powers against the Shia and Iran? Maybe and maybe not. At this juncture, there is nothing else for us to do but pull out, prepare for the worst and hope for the best.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Kevin Drum recently wrote, "One way or another, conservatives are going to find a way to blame the Iraq disaster on liberals."

Yup, they're starting with the Iraqis, but it won't take long for them to work down to those dastardly, despicable liberals.

They'll employ the usual method: throw enough garbage to their rabid base and hope that something resonates and sticks. Never mind that it will undoubtedly be completely false, just pure manufactured tripe. Like a vampire in dire thirst for a blood feeding, the conservatives need to place blame ASAP.

Look for the putrid spaghetti hurling to commence with the start of the new year.
Hold on, hold on, wait just one minute. GW now says we're "not winning" in Iraq. But then what about the sh*t storm that erupted when Gates said the exact same thing about two weeks ago?! Tony Snow had to engage in pathetic word play. And just before the election GW stated we're "absolutely winning" in Iraq; from winning to not winning in a matter of weeks?!

As much as Iraq is a very serious situation, how can anyone take what Bush has to say about anything seriously? It appears as if he's simply making things up as he goes along, trying to just get through another day, another week.

Iraq is his quagmire and he hasn't a clue what to do about it. Unfortunately, he won't admit to that and instead will continue to hope, experiment, pray, flail in the dark, etc.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Does this administration have an entire staff on the payroll that spends all of its time searching for anyone or anything to censor? (For a recent example, click here to view video).

Hello Orwell's 1984.
As GW's legacy goes, so goes Tony Blair's.

And to think, Blair's star was rising when he clung to anything Bill Clinton did or endorsed. Funny how he couldn't seem to recognize that GW was quite a different sort, indeed.
During Robert Gates' senate confirmation hearing, did I miss something or did anyone hear one question put to Gates about his role in Reagan's Iran-Contra scandal? Weren't any of the distinguished senators the least bit interested?

To get a sense of his role, just type the words Robert Gates Iran Contra in Google. That will get you started....
Who is to blame for Iraq? As Peter Beinart writes, it's not the Iraqis fault.
It was Americans (not Iraqis) who bore the responsibility under international law to provide security after Americans (not Iraqis) overthrew Saddam. It was we who failed.
Colin Powell hit the nail on the head when he once uttered something along the lines of "if you break it, you own it." We invaded them and then did not provide adequate conditions for the country to reorganize, restructure, and eventually thrive.

What followed the "shock and awe" bombings? What plan was immediately initiated and put into action? Really none that anyone can recognize. Rumsfeld simply shrugged at the time and said shit happens during wartime.

Yes, we -- or more specifically Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld -- failed, not the Iraqis.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Surprise! Soon-to-be Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, has stated that he will oppose the efforts by Democrats to allow Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices and to repeal corporate welfare subsidies for oil companies.

Despite the election results last month, despite the current opinion polls, some things will never change -- like the GOP favoring big business over the average citizen.
Americans say they are willing to make it happen, but it's still astonishing to think that this country has never had a female President. Not the case for many other nations around the world.

Unfortunately, this fact will be a tremendous drag on Hillary's 2008 run as it's always the most difficult being the first at something.

Monday, December 11, 2006

With all of Bush's (likely) empty rhetoric about coming together with the opposition party for the good of the country, there still exists many troubling environmental items that need addressing.
EPA Air Pollution Decision Threatens Public Health. Disregarding and misrepresenting recommendations from their own scientists, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently finalized new air pollution standards that do not sufficiently protect public health. The new rules apply to fine particulate matter pollution, sources of which include agricultural activity, vehicle exhaust, and emissions from coal-fired power plants. Over 2,000 recent studies have linked particulate matter exposure to heart disease, respiratory ailments, and premature death.

Pollution 'putting millions of children at brain damage risk'. Millions of children throughout the world may have suffered brain damage as a result of industrial pollution, researchers say. Common pollutants may be causing a “silent pandemic” of neurodevelopmental disorders by impairing the brain development of foetuses and infants, scientists writing today in The Lancet medical journal say.

EPA scientists file mass petition for action on global warming. Majority of Entire EPA Workforce Calls for Regulation of Greenhouse Gases. In an unprecedented action, representatives for more than 10,000 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency scientists are calling on Congress to take immediate action against global warming, according to a petition released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The petition also calls for an end to censorship of agency scientists and other specialists on topics of climate change and the effects of air pollution.

Carbon emissions show sharp rise. The rise in humanity's emissions of carbon dioxide has accelerated sharply, according to a new analysis. The Global Carbon Project says that emissions were rising by less than 1% annually up to the year 2000, but are now rising at 2.5% per year. It says the acceleration comes mainly from a rise in charcoal consumption and a lack of new energy efficiency gains.
For more, click here.

An immediate step towards improvement comes from getting rid of crackpot Sen. Inhofe (R-OK) as head of the environmental committee. Barbara Boxer and the Dems plan on correcting all of the many wrongs perpetrated by this administration under the rubber-stamping of the Republicans. Boxer said environmental rollbacks from this administration "in the dead of the night" are history, "that's over. We are going to bring these things into the light."

And hopefully this item is a sign of things to come: "The Bush administration, looking at the prospect of stronger oversight from a Democratic-led Congress, is withdrawing a proposal to let big polluters report less often on what they spew from their smokestacks."

Just a year ago, this would've been one of those rollbacks, occurring in the still of the night, threatening our health and environment all for the sake of big business. Thankfully, there's a new sheriff in town, and already many of the bad guys are high-tailing it the hell out. Good riddance.

Friday, December 08, 2006

The ISQ report recommends at least four things that Bush has resisted in the past: 1) abandon open-ended commitment regarding troop deployment, 2) a suggested timetable for withdrawal, 3) the use of quantifiable benchmarks, and 4) actively employ diplomacy (talk to Iran and Syria). Bush stated he will look to work with the Democrats "to find common ground," but with the many leaks of this report over the past several weeks, when has GW given any indication that he will yield and work towards compromises?

An earlier version of the report even had the authors deciding that the war had already been lost, stating "there is even doubt that any level of resources could achieve the administration's stated goals."

Meanwhile, after the Gates hearing, Tony Snow continued to make an ass of himself, replying to a reporter who asked how Gates' statement that we're "not winning" in Iraq is consistent with the administration's position and Snow answered, "he also said we're not losing."

Yes folks, the grave situation in Iraq has devolved here into childish, irresponsible semantics. Pathetic word-play that mocks reality for the sheer sake of political gamesmanship.

This administration has slid beneath rock bottom.
Did Republican voters even realize that the GOP-controlled Congress was working only late Tuesday to early Thursday each week? That's OK with them?

I realize rubber-stamping with no oversight takes little time and effort, but you'd think they'd clock in just for appearance sake alone....

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Joining Colin Powell and other experts in declaring civil war in Iraq, Kofi Annan has come out stating, "Given the level of violence, the level of killing and bitterness and the way that forces are arranged against each other, a few years ago, when we had the strife in Lebanon and other places, we called that a civil war; this is much worse."

In response, GW said this to Brit Hume, "Some would argue that the fact that 90 percent of the country -- let me just say this -- most of the country outside of the Baghdad area, is relatively peaceful, doesn't indicate a civil war as far as they`re concerned."

Gads, where to start. First off, Iraq has a population of about 28 million people and about seven million, or 25% of the country's population, live in the city of Baghdad. Iraq is about the size of California and that would be like 25% of the population in the U.S., or about 75 million, living in say Los Angeles. So I would imagine if violence and insurgency were to occur in LA with 1/4 of the country's population, it would be quite significant to say the least.

Of course, Bush is being misleading on purpose (right?), for even he has to know that much of Iraq -- when he talks of "90% of the country" -- is desert, uninhabitable and yes, "relatively peaceful." As is much of Arizona and New Mexico; lots of land, not as many people. And odds would greatly favor that if insurgents were to pick an area to attack and cause mayhem and unrest, it would be an area with 25% of the population and not a place like Montana, Idaho or North Dakota. (Duh).

But as you would expect, Bush is wrong even about violence occurring just within Baghdad. I recently wrote about how Al-Qaeda has infiltrated Anbar and are basically running things there. Just yesterday, a suicide car bomb struck in the northern city of Mosul, described as "some 400 km north of Baghdad, has long been a bastion of insurgency against U.S. and Iraqi security forces." 400 km is pretty far away from Baghdad. And the insurgency exists in southern Iraq, with Basra over 500 km away from Baghdad. Go ahead, Google various parts of Iraq, you'll come up with violence in places far away from Baghdad.

Junior continues to be way out of touch with facts or he's just lying. It's no wonder his father has begun to show the stress in public. Daddy likely feels the weight, the shame and dread, but not smirking GW. He continues to have a dream.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

From Stephen Cohen, a scholar at the Israel Policy Forum:
What the Baker group appears to have done is try to change the direction of the political momentum on Iraq. They have made clear that there isn't a scenario for a democratic Iraq, at least for a very long time. They have called into question the logic of a lengthy U.S. presence. And once you've done that, what is the case for Americans dying in order to have this end slowly?
In other words, it appears as if Iraq has become that much more like Vietnam as the overall goal is lost and yet U.S. soldiers continue to perish in the name of false hope as decreed by a craven man in charge.

The question now is how many more soldiers must die for an unachievable cause -- that being to salvage GW's pitiful legacy? It's bad enough he's looking to raise half a billion dollars for his presidential library, which will no doubt dole out the money to any author willing to paint a pretty picture. But in the desperate attempt at looking better in history books, Bush continues to cling to the fantasy that Iraq can be turned around sooner rather than later.

It's self-absorbed delusion at its most fatal and tragically ruinous. Even Daddy Bush will soon give up on trying to remedy what he can, realizing his son is impossible and too much is just too far gone.

And America has and will continue to pay the dear price.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Bush recently said, "This business about graceful exit just simply has no realism to it at all." GW posing as the authority on what defines "realism" -- just laughably surreal.

As if we need anymore proof, what does the following say about Bush as a "decider" of what comprises realism?
On November 15th, the President renominated four of his hardest-right candidates for the federal courts of appeals: a Defense Department lawyer who has been denounced by a score of retired generals and admirals for his role as an architect of the Administration’s infamous interrogation regime; a former Interior Department attorney and mining and ranching lobbyist who sees the Clean Water Act as “regulatory excess”; a district-court judge whose decisions have been reversed or vacated more than a hundred and fifty times, an astounding record that includes two reversals from the Supreme Court—one of them in a unanimous opinion written by Justice Clarence Thomas—in voting-rights cases; and a former aide to Senator Trent Lott who is the first federal-appeals-court nominee in a quarter of a century to be unanimously rated “not qualified” by the American Bar Association.
Do these four nominees appear to be the end result of prudent, rational decisions based on a realistically objective litmus test, as opposed to sheer partisan will? I think not. They are clearly not qualified and indefensible choices.

The madness of King George continues....

Friday, December 01, 2006

Study Shows GW Supporters = Psychotic

Finally some proof of what we always suspected:
A direct link between mental illness and support for President Bush....The thesis draws on a survey of 69 psychiatric outpatients in three Connecticut locations during the 2004 presidential election. Lohse’s study, backed by SCSU Psychology professor Jaak Rakfeldt and statistician Misty Ginacola, found a correlation between the severity of a person’s psychosis and their preferences for president: The more psychotic the voter, the more likely they were to vote for Bush.
“Bush supporters had significantly less knowledge about current issues, government and politics than those who supported Kerry,” the study says.
For his part, Lohse is a self-described “Reagan revolution fanatic” but said that W. is just “beyond the pale.”