Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Polar Bears Not Worth Trip to Capitol Hill

Update: A federal judge in Oakland ruled that the Department of Interior is in violation of the Endangered Species Act and cannot delay any longer a decision to list the polar bear as an endangered species. She gave the Department until May 15th to issue a final decision. The decision was due January 9th, but the Regime asked for a delay until June after oil and gas leasing in the Chukchi Sea was completed. The court ruled that the Department failed to show any reason for extension or further delay, waived a thirty day notice requirement, and noted that there is an oil industry operations permit pending before the Department.

[first post 4/4/08]
Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne "respectfully declined" to attend Senator Barbara Boxer's hearing to find out why the department has not yet made a decision to to list the polar bear as a threatened species in response to petitions filed more than three years ago by conservation groups. The polar bears' sea ice habitat is shrinking due to global warming and may be polluted by offshore oil exploration in the Chukchi Sea. Exploration in the arctic sea was approved in February despite sharp opposition by environmentalists. The deadline for a decision on the species' listing was January 9th. Other witnesses at the hearing testified that a polar bear's exposure to crude oil is basically fatal since it depends on its fur coat and fat layers to insulate itself from the frigid waters in which it hunts for food. Bears also ingest toxic crude in an attempt to clean themselves of the sticky sludge. About one-fifth of arctic bears obtain their food from the sea. The absent secretary justified his refusal to attend the hearing by saying he could not comment on matters in litigation since he had been sued by a conservation group attempting to obtain compliance with the Endangered Species Act.
[photo: WWF]

Zimbabwe Fights Back III

Update: A government recount confirms that Robert Mugabe has been defeated. His opponent, Morgan Tsvangiri won 47% of the vote to Mugabe's 44%. It is not clear if Tsvangiri will return to Zimbabwe to participate in a run off with Mugabe since he believes another poll will give Mugabe and his party Zanu-PF another opportunity to steal the election. Tsvangiri has suggested that he might be willing to participate in another election if the it were held under the scrutiny of UN monitors.

Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangiri has fled to Botswana fearing reprisal from Robert Mugabe by his thugs in Zanu-PF. Retaliation has begun in Zimbabwe according to a source in the capitol, Harare. Leading figures of the Movement for Democratic Change apparently escaped a police round up in a plot to charge them with high treason. The Secretary-General and party spokesman were tipped in advance of the raids and went into hiding. The plot will also allegedly involve the discovery of weapons caches whose existence will be blamed on MDC. Mugabe used this same ploy to defeat his rival Joshua Nkomo in the early 80s. A state of emergency was declared and thousands of Nkomo supporters were killed. Recounts now being conducted by the legally independent Zimbabwe Election Commission confirm Zanu-PF loosing parlamentary races to opposition parties. Results of the partial presidential recounts are due out tomorrow. But the extreme delay in releasing results has cast doubt on the legitimacy of the recount process. A positive development in the past week was the refusal by unionized dockworkers in South Africa to unload a Chinese freighter filled with weapons bound for Zimbabwe. The South African government would have allowed the transshipment, but union officials called complicity in the weapons' possible lethal use against Zimbabweans morally irresponsible. The freighter returned to China with it's cargo.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

America Exhibits All Twelve

12. Elections Stolen

To see all twelve "Warning Signs of Fascism" and their elaborations go to
Nota Bene: The Supremes upheld Indiana's restrictive voter ID requirement, 6-3. The state law requires voters to present a state issued or federal photo ID before casting their votes. The Census Bureau and Department of Transportation estimate there are 20-21 million voting age Americans without a photo ID. There is very little actual evidence of voter fraud relying on identity theft or impersonation.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

'Toontime Extra: "Whaddya Mean No Debate?"

Wackydoodle sez: "End the drama, vote for Obama"

Friday, April 25, 2008

Another Defeat by the Know Nothings in Congress

Lilly Ledbetter was a supervisor at the Gadsden, Alabama Goodyear plant for nearly two decades. She was a good employee and worked hard even though she was hazed by her male co-workers. Goodyear did not evaluate her performance fairly and paid her less than the male supervisors. When Lilly discovered the discrimination she filed suit and was awarded full back pay by a jury. The conservative majority on the Supreme Court overturned the verdict in a 5-4 ruling that requires persons denied equal pay for equal work to file within 180 days of the initial pay setting decision. The justices justified the limitation on the grounds that employers need to be protected from old claims based on obsolete practices so they have some certainty in their payroll decisions. But the rule goes against established case law and is unfair to employees who rarely have inside information on their employer's payroll decisions. Progressive Democrats attempted to overrule the Supreme Court's bad decision with the Fair Pay Restoration Act. The bill would allow employees to file suit within 180 of the most recent discriminatory pay check. But once again the radical minority in the Senate--including John McCain--and their collaborators successfully filibustered against fair pay for workers. Had enough? Sign Senator Ted Kennedy's petition to show your support for equal pay.

Hear, See and Speak No Evil

ABC ran a story two weeks ago saying top officials in the bunker with the Charlatan discussed and approved using torture on detainees. Even the Charlatan admitted that he was aware of the discussions. But it took the lap dogs of the Washington press corp three briefings and fourteen days before anyone had the temerity to ask about Der Leader's involvement in the decision. When finally asked about it by the senior member of the press covering the bunker, the Regime's press secretary had the breath taking audacity to again deny that the US tortured anyone as a matter of official policy. She claimed that with a straight face despite the fact CIA director Michael Hayden admitted in Senate testimony on February 5th that at least three top Al Qaeda members had been waterboarded.

'Toontime: Bill Does the Chores

credit: Kevin Siers, Charlotte Observer

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Le Shorter: Yes!, It's Double Digit--

9.2% according to the Pennsylvania Secretary of State. That is Hillary's margin of victory in the primary. Clearly not the 15-20% pounding she needed to justify more Democratic blood letting. The lesson from Pennsylvania is not her win, but the fact that Obama cut her 20 point lead at the post in half against some tough demographics.

Columbia River Sea Lions Loose in Court

Latest: Sea lions beat humans in court on Wednesday. The Earth lovers at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals granted an injunction against killing the hungry pinnipeds at Bonneville Dam, but granted permission to trap and relocate offending mammals. As of this posting about a dozen sea lions are now in a fenced enclosure at the base of the dam. A further hearing is scheduled in Pasadena on May 8th. Thanks to the US Humane Society and the Wild Fish Conservancy for saving our friends from a death sentence.
Update: The Humane Society has filed an appeal of the decision denying a temporary injunction to stop removing or killing sea lions. Oregon state officials say they cannot begin killing sea lions until next week. Even though the mammals are protected under the Marine Mammals Protection Act an exception allows their removal if they adversely affect fish stocks. The Humane Society argues that the exception is applicable to overall numbers of fish and not those in a specific location which consumption may annoy sportsmen. Estimates of the number of salmon eaten by their natural preditors are under 4%. [photo: basking sea lions at Pier 39, San Francisco]

A federal judge bowed to the arguments of frustrated sportsmen and government biologists on Wednesday and refused to issue a preliminary injunction against the trapping and eventual culling of California sea lions (Zalophus californianus) feeding on salmon below the Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River. Salmon stocks are at historic lows due primarily to overfishing, pollution, and hydroelectric power generation. But a relatively few adult male sea lions who have made the ninety mile trip from the coast to feast on endangered salmon in the river have been too conspicuous in their consumption. Anglers are very competitive about "their" salmon and have demanded action against the bodacious pinnipeds. The sea lions are responsible for consuming about 4% of the depleted runs based on actual observations. A National Marine Fisheries trapping program has been worked out with Washington and Oregon for the first thirty offenders which will be relocated to zoos and theme parks. More sea lions may be killed because the program allows eighty-five sea lions to be taken for five years. The marine mammal is also protected under federal law. A final ruling on the program is due from the court in May. Its not immediately clear if the relocated animals will be replaced by coastal sea lions willing to travel for a meal. The judge who ruled on the request for an injunction from the Humane Society of the United States admitted "it's a rather remarkable thing to say that [killing] an individual animal will cause irreparable harm." Only if you are irreparably homocentric, your honor.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

For the Record with Warren Buffett

I don't think there's a bubble in agricultural commodities like wheat, corn and soybeans. But in metals and oil there's been a terrific [price] move. It's like most trends: At the beginning, it's driven by fundamentals, then speculation takes over. As the old saying goes, what the wise man does in the beginning, fools do in the end. With any asset class that has a big move, first the fundamentals attract speculation, then the speculation becomes dominant. May 8, 2006, shareholder meeting

Nota Bene: Costco and Sam's Club, two large club merchandizers in the US, have put limits on the amount of selected types of rice that customers can purchase.

America is Still No. 1

That is, if you count the number of citizens incarcerated. America only has five percent of the world's population but accounts for a quarter of all persons imprisoned. Americans face prison if convicted for relatively minor offenses like writing a bad check or possessing marijuana for personal use that rarely result in a prison sentence elsewhere. And they are kept in prison longer than in other countries. The median rate of incarceration among nations is 125 per 100,000 citizens, roughly one-sixth of the American rate. One in a hundred Americans is behind bars. The figures for minorities are significantly higher. One in thirty-six adult Hispanics and one in fifteen adult African-Americans are imprisoned. US crime rates have dropped in recent years, as a result of our proclivity to throw people in the bins for long stretches of time. Our prison gulag has been studied by Europeans and they have "came away impressed", but only in a negative way. “Far from serving as a model for the world, contemporary America is viewed with horror,” James Q. Whitman, a Yale specialist in comparative law wrote last year in Social Research. “We have a highly politicized criminal justice system.”

'Toontime Extra: Double Team

[Rex Babin, Sacramento Bee]
Update: Senator Barrack Obama appears to have split the Pennsylvania delegation with Senator Clinton, thus insuring him an almost insurmountable lead in pledged delegates going into the Democratic Convention in Denver. Near total results show Senator Clinton with a lead of 55% to 45%. Political pundits earlier declared Senator Clinton needed to ace Obama in Pennsylvania with a double digit victory to keep her candidacy viable. Assuming Senator Clinton nets 14-16 delegates from her win in Pennsylvania, the Indiana delegation is evenly split, and Senator Obama wins a similar number of net delegates from North Carolina, Senator Clinton must win 80% or more of the delegates in the remaining primaries (West Virginia, Kentucky, Oregon, Puerto Rico, Montana, South Dakota) to overcome Obama's 150 pledged delegate lead. Obama is expected to win Oregon with 52 delegates at stake. With that assumption factored in only 169 delegates remain contested (Guam has 4 delegates). Yes, Hillary it is possible, but so is a huge asteroid hitting Earth between now and November 4th.
More: The question on pundits' minds is, why can Obama "not put Hillary away"? The answer is not "Marxist dialectic" Pat, but boils down once again to America's original sin--racism. About one in five Pennsylvania voters said the race of the candidates was among the top factors in deciding how to vote, according to exit polls, and white voters who cited race supported Clinton over Obama by a 3-to-1 margin. It is sad to think that older blue collar Americans have such a problem with race that they are willing to view a white woman who has never owned a business or run any government as being more qualified to head the world's largest federal bureaucracy and military machine.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008


Today is Earth Day, a moment when we take the time to care about our fragile planet which is the only home homo sapiens has ever known. Attend an Earth Day event, get out and enjoy nature, do something earth friendly such as planting a tree or picking up trash in a public place or simply make a phone call. Call your federal representatives and ask them to pass legislation to reduce US greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible: 202-224-3121. Thanks for reading Persona Non-Grata, where the Earth comes first.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Jimmy Carter Works for Peace

Nobel Peace Prize winner and former US President Jimmy Carter met with exiled Hamas leader Kahled Meshaal in Syria. Carter has suffered rebuke from his own government and fellow Democrats for meeting with the head of the party that forms the elected government of Palestine, but which is officially classed as a terrorist organization by the US government and Israel. A member of the US House of Representatives naively demanded on television that Carter's passport be revoked for his attempt to renew political dialogue between Palestinians and Israelis. Carter has roiled the potent Israel lobby in the US with his recent book on the sixty year conflict in the Levant. Several prominent Israelis have used the term "Jew hater" in connection with the former president[1].

Meshaal became the political chief of Hamas after the founder of the party was assassinated by Israel in March 2004. He survived his own attempted assassination at the hands of Israeli agents in 1997. Meshaal has stated publicly that Hamas is willing to accept a mutal ceasfire and recognition of Israel if it gives up territory captured in the Six Day War of 1967, ends Iraeli settlement of the West Bank, and allows Palestine to have it's capitol in East Jerusalem. Senior officials of Israel including Prime Minister Olmert have refused to meet with Carter after meeting with Meshaal saying it would be tantamount to negotiating with terrorists. But inquiring minds want to know Jimmy, do you love the flag?
[1] former Attorney General Michael Ben Yair, deputy mayor of Jerusalem Meron Benvenisti, former Education Minister Shulamit Aloni. See New York Review of Books, March 29,2007.

Right Whales Run Over by Regulatory Delay

North Atlantic Right Whales (Eubalaena glacialis) are one of the most endangered mammal species on the planet. Only about 350 remain. They were hunted to near extinction in the 19th century for their blubber and got their common name because they were the correct target for whalers. They never recovered from the onslaught once whaling was finally stopped in 1935. Now their biggest threat from man is colliding with ships. The slow swimming whales migrate up and down our busy eastern seaboard and are especially vulnerable when heading north after giving birth off Florida. Between 2002 and 2006 reports the Independent 17 right whales were killed by collision with ships, six of which were adult females. The death of a single pregnant female could mean the difference between the species surviving or becoming extinct. Scientist believe that the simple expedient of ships slowing down near whales will help save the remaining individuals. A regulation imposing a 10 knot speed limit around whales (11.5 mph) during the migration season has been pending for over a year, but the Vice President's office has been delaying the implementation of the speed limit. Apparently Darth has never met an animal he would not kill.

'Toontime: America Idles

[credit: JoelPett, Lexington Herald-Leader]

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Obama Advisor Talks Policy

Senator Obama rightly chided both his Democratic opponent and corporate talking heads for their obsession with personality and political gamesmanship in the twenty-first debate last night. Obama joked that a "new record was set" because 45 minutes had elapsed before the candidates discussed issues that matter to most Americans.

Today in Oregon, one of his senior policy advisers on the environment talked only policy at Portland State University's Urban Policy Center. Daniel Kammen is the director of the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory at UC Berkeley. Kammen is also a lead scientist and author in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize. He talked about Obama's environmental policies for an hour to students and interested activists. He began by making the broad observation that a vacuum had been created at the federal level in the past eight years of the Bush regime. He attributed that policy vacuum to the regime's long term denial of the scientific consensus on global climate effects of greenhouse gas emissions. States, like Oregon and California, have created their own policy initiatives such as renewable energy portfolios and clean energy standards in the absence of federal guidance. But he believes there is now considerable political momentum to make national progress on the climate crises and other neglected environmental issues. Despite growing public support for significant action, the effort will take an administration that has a mandate to overcome Washington's political gridlock. He intimated that an Obama administration would sign the Copenhagen Protocol in 2009 which is the follow-on agreement to the Kyoto Treaty. Kammen likened Senator McCain's recent energy proposal to cut gasoline taxes for the summer to "giving a coke addict free cocaine temporarily".

Questions from the informed audience followed his remarks. Some of the issues addressed:
Clean fuels: Mr. Kammen said Senator Obama is the first to adopt a "low carbon standard" for evaluating alternative fuels that is a sustainable approach to determining which fuels are best for our use. High fuel prices do not necessarily lead to good choices because high prices make less accessible fuels economically feasible such as oil extraction from tar sands. He estimated that American made plug electric cars will not be on the market until 2012.
Conservation: Conservation will play a role in the Obama scheme. Obama will develop domestic incentives that reward forest owners, farmers and ranchers for developing sustainable practices and restoring ecosystems to capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Pollution from intensive agriculture, manufacturing and urban development is affecting the health of salmon populations and their river habitats.
Nuclear Power: Its not clear if nuclear power will play a role in the near to mid term because of its high capital costs ($5-$10 billion per plant) and unsolved waste problems. In the long term nuclear may be a means of providing low carbon power, but there is no federal evaluation process in place to objectively compare nuclear to other power cycles such as coal with carbon sequestration. In twenty five years, all of America's 102 nuclear plants will be obsolete and require decommissioning, an expensive process.
Green Building: Endorses the concept of "walk to latte" building or putting urban residents within walking distance of services and amenities. Property owners should not face up front costs for retrofitting or installing green technologies, but be given tax incentives for doing so. Market disincentives for highly energy efficient products should be removed.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Fudging the Numbers

The corporate media and political opponents are fulminating over Senator Obama's less than graceful attempt to discuss the malaise of America's working class. His "inartful" wording should not obscure the fundamental truth he was expressing. The working class has been losing in America's economy for thirty years, and they do not see the federal government doing anything to help them[1]. They are justifiably bitter that not only are they left to make do while elites receive billions of dollars in direct subsidies, their government lies to them about almost everything from war to the economic health of the nation. The Gallup Poll reported late last year that public faith in the federal government had sunk below the level of post-Watergate. Subject to deep feelings of political impotence and social insecurity[2], they are understandably susceptible to all sorts of demagoguery, including the right wing's distracting mantra of God, guns and gay bashing.

The statistical indicators the government uses to report basic information about the condition of the American economy have been subjected to a gradual distortion process for so long, they no longer fairly represent reality. As an Obama economic advisor pointed out in the New York Times, the government "cooked the books" to make the 2001-02 recession look less serious. But the process of diluting economic indicators has been going on since the Kennedy administration according to Kevin Phillips writing in Harper's Magazine. In 1961, unemployed workers who had stopped looking for work were dropped from the official definition of the unemployed and reclassified "discouraged workers". Lyndon Johnson came up with a unified budget process that included Social Security surpluses thus making his deficit spending for the Vietnam War look smaller than it was. Nixon continued the unified budget process and added his own twist to the CPI index, the measure of inflation. His Federal Reserve Chairman, Arthur Burns, developed the "core index" of inflation that excluded the most volatile price sectors, food and energy, from the calculation of the CPI. It was precisely these two sectors that exhibited the most inflation in 1973-74. One financial columnist has described the CPI as "a testament to the art of spin". Reagan's administration added a major distortion to the CPI when it eliminated home ownership costs and substituted an equivalent rent figure. Reagan trimmed the unemployment rate by reclassifying military members as employed instead of outside the work force.

CPI measurements were further distorted by the Clinton Administration through a complicated recalculation designed to reflect the underlying changes in the American economy from an industrial one to a services and financial based economy. Critics charged that the reformulations were also intended to reduce the inflation rate, thereby reducing federal payments for index adjusted benefits and interest on the national debt. Government economists admit that the revisions reduced current inflation figures by a more than a percentage point. One economic analyst who follows the official numbers says the changes in CPI calculations since Jimmy Carter make it 3.5 to 4% lower than an accurate figure. Clinton also reduced reported unemployment by excluding more "discouraged" workers from the calculations and dropping inner city households from the sampling process. In 2006 the government stopped reporting the M-3 money supply figure which captured the large inflationary effect of private credit creation. This massive expansion in private credit fueled the real estate bubble now painfully contracting. GDP, a basic measure of economic growth, has also been fiddled. Until 1991 Gross National Product (GNP) was used in reporting until rising US international debt made Gross Domestic Product (GDP) appear more robust. That figure is further enhanced by the Bureau of Economic Analysis' "imputed income" amounts, for example the income from living in your own home or having a free checking account. In 2007 this phantom income made up 15% of GDP.

So what would the economy's scorecard look like if harder numbers were used as measures instead of the tampered indicators in use today? In a word, it would be shocking. The US unemployment rate, as measured by indicators used a quarter century ago, is about 9-12% not the official 5.0%. Inflation is as high as 7-10% instead of the official 2-3%. And growth is a paltry 1% instead of the politically acceptable 3-4%. But understating inflation is particularly unhealthy. To acknowledge real inflation rates would send interests rates climbing. That would upset the creaking edifice of public and private debt of $49 trillion underpinning the American economy. Index adjusted entitlements and interest payments could overwhelm a federal budget already straining with the cost of financial bailouts and two wars. The real economic outlook for the working class in America is enough to make anybody read their Bible daily and buy a gun to defend what they have left.
[1] A study by the Center on Budget & Policy Priorities and the Economic Policy Institute shows that during the time period from the late 1980s to the mid 2000s family incomes grew much less in the poorest fifth (9%) than the richest fifth (39%) in 37 states. Nationally the rich have average incomes seven times that of poor families. See for a state by state analysis.
[2] A Pew Research national opinion poll indicates fewer Americans now than in the past fifty years believe they are moving forward in life. middle class.
photo credit: Lewis Hine, National Archives

Zimbabwe Fights Back II

Update: Showing that they will stop a nothing to stay in power, Mugabe's ZANU-PF party members have killed at least two members of the opposition MDC and burned homes in Mugabe's stronghold around the capitol, Harare. Two hundred officers picked for their loyalty to the President have been dispatched around the country to take control of police, militias and paramilitary organizations. Moran Tsvangirai has called for a general strike, but previous attempts at mass action have not met with success. The supposedly independent Election Commission is pressing ahead with plans for a partial recount.

Reports from Zimbabwe indicate the President Robert Mugabe, who was defeated in the latest election, is taking steps to steal the victory from Morgan Tsvangirai and the Movement for Democratic Change. The dictator's party, Zanu-PF, is demanding recounts in 23 constituencies. Sources within the secret police say the recounts will be used as an opportunity to stuff ballot boxes and thereby insure Mugabe will win the recounts. Tsvangirai has refused to participate in any runoff election claiming outright victory in the first poll, and because a runoff will simply allow another opportunity for Zanu-PF to manipulate the vote. Some officials of the Zimbabwe Election Commission have been detained by police, and the offices of the Commission in Harare have moved to an unknown location. Official results are still not available more than two weeks after the election.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

For the Record with the Dean

My sense is that the vast majority of legal academics with a view of the matter disagree with substantial portions of Professor Yoo’s analyses, including a great many of his colleagues at Berkeley. If, however, this strong consensus were enough to fire or sanction someone, then academic freedom would be meaningless--Christopher Edley, Jr., U.C. Berkley Law School

translation for lay persons: The prof has tenure.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Toontime' : Four Star Power

[credit: Ben Sargent, American Statesman]

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Party Line on Iraq

General Petraeus' and Ambassador Crocker's testimony on Capitol Hill publicly confirms what has became obvious to the American people in the last year. Withdrawing from Iraq will absolutely require putting a Democrat in the White House. This fact alone may explain why independent voters are registering as Democrats in record numbers across the United States. The twin representatives of the fundamentally flawed policy to invade and occupy Iraq offered no solution to America's dilemma there. They repeatedly claimed the increase in US troop levels was working while studiously ignoring the primary reasons for the recent decrease in violence, both factors not under our direct control: Muqtada al Sadr's declaring a cease fire for his Shia militia so he could consolidate control, and the decision of Sunni tribal leaders to turn on foreign terrorists operating in Iraq (the so-called "Sunni Awakening"). A decision motivated in part by US payments and weapons. Ninety thousand Sunni volunteers are on the US payroll. The US will spend $150 million this year to insure Sunni tribal cooperation with the occupation. On balance, Iraq's government has made precious little progress towards national reconciliation despite our expenditure of over 4,000 American lives and $600 billion during the past five years. The recent Shia factional fighting in Basra drove the point home. The United States has so little political influence in Iraq that only Iranian Shias were able to broker a cease fire at Basra. Nevertheless, Republicans seem more than willing to go down saluting our military and blame the Democrats for sinking a ship full of holes when it was launched.

Republican war supporters are reduced to an absurd circular argument, saying it is too soon to withdraw more US troops because Iraq is not under complete control of the weak central government, while at the same time claiming that government has made "substantial" progress towards assuming responsibility for internal security which progress would be jeopardized by a US withdrawal. Often this mind bending assertion is followed by the prediction that the region will deteriorate into chaos if we leave Iraq. Of course the people who so prophesy are the same Cassandras who insisted Saddam was hiding nuclear, biological and chemical weapons and was harboring al Qaeda. The facts on the ground are more than just "hard", they are debilitating the US. More than a thousand of the government's troops deserted during the recent fighting in Basra. Oil prices are at historic highs and production levels are below those of the embargoed regime of Saddam Hussein. The Iraqi government is so corrupt that it runs a budget surplus while beleaguered America goes deeper into hock to the Chinese for a dysfunctional reconstruction which only lines the pockets of crooked Iraqi functionaries and connected American contractors. US troops are once again fighting al Sadr militia in the dangerous slums of Sadr City. A Democratic congressman interviewed on PBS compared the Charlatan's conduct of the war to watching the "Keystone Cops". I could not agree more with this caveat: the Keystone Cops were funny.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

For the Record with Senator McNasty

Three reporters from Arizona, on the condition of anonymity, also let me in on another incident involving McCain's intemperateness. In his 1992 Senate bid, McCain was joined on the campaign trail by his wife, Cindy, as well as campaign aide Doug Cole and consultant Wes Gullett. At one point, Cindy playfully twirled McCain's hair and said, "You're getting a little thin up there." McCain's face reddened, and he responded, "At least I don't plaster on the makeup like a trollop, you cunt." McCain's excuse was that it had been a long day. If elected president of the United States, McCain would have many long days. [from the new book, "The Real McCain" by Cliff Shecter]

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Yoo the Merciless

It is now undeniable the chamber of horrors that was Abu Ghraib was not just a bored night shift of immature "bad apples" torturing inmates for fun and profit. It was a policy directed by a chain of command that stretches to the bunker on Pennsylvania Avenue. This conclusion is based on the release of a 2003 memo written by that eminent Confucian legal scholar and Regime yes man, John R. Yoo. He was deputy assistant attorney general in the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC). Yoo co-authored an earlier memo in 2002 in which the Justice Department concluded that legal prohibitions of torture did not apply to the interrogation methods being used at Guantanamo by redefining torture absurdly narrow. The second memo, just recently released pursuant to a FIOA request by the American Civil Liberties Union, was much broader in scope. The memorandum concluded that constitutional protections and international treaties could be essentially ignored by a Commander in Chief exercising his war powers. The rulings of the OLC are binding on the executive branch including the Department of Defense. Military lawyers objecting to the "enhanced" interrogation methods were stymied by the opinions. Both memos were rescinded in 2004 when a new assistant attorney general took over. He wrote in his 2007 book that the Yoo memos "stood out" for "the unusual lack of care and sobriety in their legal analysis." Of course Yoo's abject cronyism and lack of independent professional judgment did not prevent him from getting a job as a professor of law at Boalt Hall, Berkeley. What I want to know is who taught Yoo constitutional law?

Monday, April 07, 2008

Zimbabwe Fights Back

Latest:Taking a page from the Bush league playbook, Robert Mugabe and his cronies in Zanu-PF are putting pressure on the Zimbabwe Supreme Court to delay releasing the official election results which show that a runoff election between the challenger MorganTsvangirai and the 84 year old dictator is necessary. The Court delayed again today a decision on whether poll results should be released now. It will decide tomorrow whether to hear the argument from from the Election Commission that it does not have jurisdiction on an emergency basis. The glacial judicial process in playing into the hands of Mugabe supporters who want to prevent the loosing results from becoming official. Tsvangirai wrote in the Guardian that outside powers should assist in breaking Mugabe's "white knuckle grip" on power and help end his "suicidal reign" of twenty four years.

President and dictator, Robert Mugabe, appears to have been soundly defeated in the presidential election held in Zimbabwe. Mugabe was once a respected icon of independence from colonial misrule, but in recent years took an increasingly violent and erratic path away from democracy towards a corrupt totalitarian regime. The people of Zimbabwe have suffered in the process. Prosperous white farmers who stayed behind after the white apartheid government was overthrown, were evicted by Mugabe as part of fulfilling his pledge for "land reform". His latest demand is for majority interest in all foreign owned businesses operating in the country. Inflation is rampant and the economy is in ruins. The unofficial winner according to reports from Harare appears to be Morgan Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change, a former colleague Mugabe had severely beaten for his opposition politics. Tsvangirai won 48% of the vote to Mugabe's 44%. Under Zimbabwe's constitution that result requires a run-off election. Whether the result holds up in the face of concerted election fraud remains to be determined.

Update: Zanu-PF, Robert Mugabe's party appears determined to fight a democratic change of power in Zimbabwe regardless of election results. MDC claims that it's presidential candidate, Morgan Tsvangirai, won a outright majority in the voting. Security forces have raided political opposition offices in Harare and detained a New York Times journalist. Military and veterans' organizations used in the past for violent action against democratic forces have been mobilized. The Independent reports election analysts have warned for days that the painfully slow announcement of official results concealed an effort to "pad" the numbers in constituencies where Zanu-PF won in order to manipulate the popular vote. In at least three constituencies the official turnout figure was 150 per cent of registered voters. To be continued.

Top Ten Things to Know about Senator Hothead

1. John McCain voted against establishing a national holiday in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Now he says his position has "evolved," yet he continues to oppose key civil rights laws.
2. According to Bloomberg News, McCain is more hawkish than Bush on Iraq, Russia and China. Conservative columnist Pat Buchanan says McCain "will make Cheney look like Gandhi."
3. His reputation is built on his opposition to torture, but McCain voted against a bill to ban waterboarding, and then applauded President Bush for vetoing that ban.
4. McCain opposes a woman's right to choose. He said, "I do not support Roe versus Wade. It should be overturned."
5. The Children's Defense Fund rated McCain as the worst senator in Congress for children. He voted against the children's health care bill last year, then defended Bush's veto of the bill.
6. He's one of the richest people in a Senate filled with millionaires. The Associated Press reports he and his wife own at least eight homes! Yet McCain says the solution to the housing crisis is for people facing foreclosure to get a "second job" and skip their vacations.
7. Many of McCain's fellow Republican senators say he's too reckless to be commander in chief. One Republican senator said: "The thought of his being president sends a cold chill down my spine. He's erratic. He's hotheaded. He loses his temper and he worries me."
8. McCain talks a lot about taking on special interests, but his campaign manager and top advisers are actually lobbyists. The government watchdog group Public Citizen says McCain has 59 lobbyists raising money for his campaign, more than any of the other presidential candidates.
9. McCain has sought closer ties to the extreme religious right in recent years. The pastor McCain calls his "spiritual guide," Rod Parsley, believes America's founding mission is to destroy Islam, which he calls a "false religion." McCain sought the political support of right-wing preacher John Hagee, who believes Hurricane Katrina was God's punishment for gay rights and called the Catholic Church "the Antichrist" and a "false cult."
10. He positions himself as pro-environment, but he scored a 0 from the League of Conservation Voters last year.

Friday, April 04, 2008

'Toontime: Captive Audience

[credit: Jim Morin, Miami Herald]

Thursday, April 03, 2008

The Real Mushroom Cloud

The Charlatan is in the Ukraine on his way to Bucharest for a NATO summit and a meeting with outgoing Russian President Vladimir Putin. Predictably he is taking a hard line on two issues that are of great concern to the Russians: European missile defense and membership in NATO for two former Soviet bloc countries, Ukraine and Georgia. He will attempt to sell the missile defense idea to Mr. Putin with little success. Short of complete and open American collaboration to establish a defense system, for which the Russians see little legitimate need, the Russian military will consider the American initiative as a threat to it's nuclear deterrence despite the fact no current anti-missile system has proven itself reliable. Ukraine's membership in the western military alliance faces opposition from within the western ranks. Germany has expressed its opposition to expanding the alliance eastward. Russia is a major supplier of natural gas in Europe, and some Europeans are loath to antagonize their energy rich neighbor. Ukrainians themselves are not united on the question of joining the western alliance.

This diplomatic summit does, however, present an opportunity for both sides of the Cold War to reconsider their strategic nuclear postures instead of seeking incremental advantages that could ignite another arms race. The official doctrines of both the United States and Russia are still immersed in the Cold War despite more cordial rhetoric. But even the talk has turned hard of late. Both countries maintain thousands of nuclear warheads of which 1300 to 1400 remain on military alert status [1]. The risk of an unpremeditated attack is admittedly small, but the risk of a mistaken, accidental or unauthorized launch remains a distinct possibility. The large size of the nuclear arsenals and attempts to find new technological countermeasures weakens the international consensus to prevent proliferation. Article IV of the Non-Proliferation Treaty requires the US and Russia to take serious steps toward nuclear disarmament.

The 2002 Treaty on Strategic Offensive Reductions does not limit the number of nuclear weapons that are stored or are classified as tactical weapons, such as air defense and anti-missile systems. The US has approximately 5350 warheads in storage while Russia is believed to have 10,000. Instead of antagonizing it's former opponent by insisting the western military nuclear alliance be brought to the Russian doorstep, the United States should seek ways to engage Russia in further nuclear disarmament. The US has made a start. The US arsenal contained roughly 10,000 warheads prior to December 2007. The US government has announced a further 15% cut in it's arsenal by the end of 2012. But the Regime has at the same time announced programs to revitalize aging infrastructure for developing and producing nuclear weapons, and a plan to replace aging warheads with four or more new designs over the next two decades. These programs represent incentives for existing nuclear powers to rearm and for other countries to become nuclear club members.

The United States should set an example of serious commitment to nuclear disarmament. When our president meets with President Putin he should disavow any and all first use of nuclear weapons, contrary to current doctrine which permits preemptive nuclear first strikes. This destabilizing military strategy is currently under consideration for use against Iran. He should direct that current targeting plans be revised so that instant retaliatory launches are replaced with more considered and deliberate deployment options tailored to specific situations such as confronting an accidental or "rogue" attack by another power or radical state. He should drop any plans to establish a European missile defense system without Russia's agreement, and curtail further deployment of the unproven, US based missile defense system. He should also work with the Senate to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. These policy pronouncements would build confidence and cost the US very little in the size or effectiveness of it's current nuclear arsenal. But to demonstrate our good will to the world--a gesture desperately needed after the debacle of the Iraq invasion--he should go further and announce more unilateral reductions in size of the US arsenal. The opportunity for giving peace a chance is now.
[1] Union of Concerned Scientists,Toward True Security, February 2008
photo: USSR test Joe 4, 1953
image: Committee for Nuclear Disarmament, UK 1958

Update: Before this entry was posted, AP reports that NATO has rejected the Charlatan's request to consider membership for Ukraine and Georgia. The formal announcement of the decision will be made today. Both Germany and France blocked the US proposal.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Hope for the Devil

Cedric has good genes. This feisty Tasmanian devil(Sarcophilus harrisii) named Cedric by researchers has something other devils do not have. Its not just sex appeal, but he probably has that too. The Independent reports Cedric is immune to the cancer that is killing devils to the point of extinction. The cancer forms tumors on the animals' muzzle and because the cancer is contagious it is spread when the animals fight--and Tasmanian devils fight a lot, hence the name--over food or mates. The disease takes root in the mouth and tumor development pushes out teeth. Many devils die of starvation. When Cedric was injected with killed cancer cells, his immune system formed antibodies. His half brother Clinky was not so lucky. The development holds the only hope so far in the five year battle to save the animal from certain extinction. Cedric could be the foundation of an effective vaccine and a breeding program to immunize other devils. Before now the only solution appeared to be a quarantine program in which uninfected devils would be trapped and transported to one of the island's isolated peninsulas or offshore islets. Half the population has been killed in the last decade and two thirds of Tasmania is affected by the disease. There may be only 20,000 devils left. If Cedric survives and other disease resistant devils are located, a program to immunize the remnant can be undertaken. Good on ya, Cedric.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

The Fat Lady is Singing

photo: Obama rolls in Altoona, PA; Seattle Intelligencer
As reported in this space previously Senator Barack Obama is winning more delegates that Senator Clinton in Texas even though she won the popular vote (51%-47%) and the media spin war. The Associated Press reports that Obama has won 59 percent of the delegates headed to the state party's June convention to Clinton’s 41 percent. That translates into 1,858 delegates for Obama and 1,270 for Clinton. In Texas's multi-layered delegate selection process 67 of its 206 national convention delegates are selected by the June state party convention. In a sometimes chaotic process lasting into the night in many places, participants in district conventions became frustrated, annoyed and left early not knowing if their votes would be counted. Read the full story at Had enough of the Clintons' scorched earth campaign? Join us.

Le Shorter: Doctors Agree

More than half (59%) of US doctors surveyed now support a national health insurance program.