Tuesday, July 31, 2007

When knowing how to surf

Can save your life:

Butte County, CA (AHN) - A FedEx driver trapped inside his truck after a bridge collapsed near Oroville, California, has been rescued.

At least one of the man's legs were crushed under heavy steel beams. Rescue workers had to cut the truck open to remove him. They reported that the biggest challenge was keeping him conscious while they attempted to free him from the wreck.

The driver, whose name has not been released, was delivered to a nearby hospital via helicopter. Roger Craven, a California Highway Patrol dispatcher, reported that he had major injuries.

Officials say that a construction worker, who was on top of the beams when they collapsed, was also injured. He reportedly "surfed" the beams to the ground and sustained non-fatal injuries. He is also being hospitalized.

Ethanol is a scam

As we knew from the beginning:

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Biofuel - gasoline or other fuel produced from refining food products - is being touted as a solution to the controversial global-warming problem. Leaving aside the faked science and the political interests behind the sudden hype about dangers of global warming, biofuels offer no net positive benefits over oil even under the best conditions.

Their advocates claim that present first-generation biofuels save up to 60% of the carbon emission of equivalent petroleum fuels. As well, amid rising oil prices at $75 per barrel for Brent marker grades, governments such as Brazil's are frantic to substitute home-grown biofuels for imported gasoline. In Brazil today, 70% of all cars have "flexi-fuel" engines able to switch from conventional gasoline to 100% biofuel or any mix. Biofuel production has become one of Brazil's major export industries as well.

The green claims for biofuel as a friendly and better fuel than gasoline are at best dubious, if not outright fraudulent. Depending on who runs the tests, ethanol has little if any effect on exhaust-pipe emissions in current car models. It has significant emission, however, of some toxins, including formaldehyde and acetaldehyde, a suspected neurotoxin that has been banned as carcinogenic in California.

Ethanol is not some benign substance as we are led to think from the industry propaganda. It is highly corrosive to pipelines as well as to seals and fuel systems of existing car or other gasoline engines. It requires special new pumps. All that conversion costs money.

But the killer about ethanol is that it holds at least 30% less energy per liter than normal gasoline, translating into a loss in fuel economy of at least 25% over gasoline for an Ethanol E-85% blend.

No advocate of the ethanol boondoggle addresses the huge social cost that is beginning to hit the dining-room tables across the US, Europe and the rest of the world. Food prices are exploding as corn, soybeans and all cereal-grain prices are going through the roof because of the astronomical - US Congress-driven - demand for corn to burn for biofuel.

This year the Massachusetts Institute of Technology issued a report concluding that using corn-based ethanol instead of gasoline would have no impact on greenhouse-gas emissions, and would even expand fossil-fuel use because of increased demand for fertilizer and irrigation to expand acreage of ethanol crops. And according to MIT, "natural-gas consumption is 66% of total corn-ethanol production energy", meaning huge new strains on natural-gas supply, pushing prices of that product higher.
The article concludes with this warning:
Today a new element has replaced Soviet grain demand and harvest shortfalls. Biofuel demand, fed by US government subsidies, is literally linking food prices to oil prices. The scale of the subsidized biofuel consumption has exploded so dramatically since the beginning of 2006, when the US Energy Policy Act of 2005 first began to impact crop-planting decisions, that there is emerging a de facto competition between people and cars for the same grains.

Environmental analyst Lester Brown recently noted, "We're looking at competition in the global market between 800 million automobiles and the world's 2 billion poorest people for the same commodity, the same grains. We are now in a new economic era where oil and food are interchangeable commodities because we can convert grain, sugarcane, soybeans - anything - into fuel for cars. In effect the price of oil is beginning to set the price of food."

In the mid-1970s, secretary of state Henry Kissinger, a protege of the Rockefeller family and of its institutions, stated, "Control the oil and you control entire nations; control the food and you control the people." The same cast of characters who brought the world the Iraq war, and who cry about the "problem of world overpopulation", are now backing conversion of global grain production to burn as fuel at a time of declining global grain reserves. That alone should give pause for thought. As the popular saying goes, "Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't out to get you."

More echoes from wars past:

Europe's soil is blood-soaked from centuries of fighting but rarely yields mass graves from battles that took place before the two world wars. One such grave has now been found near Berlin with over 100 soldiers who died in the 1636 Battle of Wittstock. Archaeologists say they can learn much from the skeletons which show terrible wounds.

Archaeologists in Germany are examining a mass grave containing the skeletons of more than 100 soldiers who fell in a major battle during the Thirty Years War.

Workers came across the graves by chance while digging in a sand pit near the town of Wittstock, northwest of Berlin, in June.

"The special thing about this find is that there are only very few mass graves in Europe between 1300 and 1850 that can be attributed to specific battles," Antje Grothe, the archaeologist leading the excavation, told SPIEGEL ONLINE.

Historians and archaeologists called to examine the neat rows of skeletons quickly concluded that they were men who died in the Battle of Wittstock on October 4, 1636, when a Protestant army of 16,000 Swedes beat a force of 22,000 from the Catholic alliance of the Holy Roman empire and Saxony. Some 6,000 men died in the fighting.

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War is a horror, no matter what era, no matter what religions...

Looked into his soul, huh?

Didja see this coming?

London, United Kingdom (AHN) - Iran and Russia may sign a $1 billion arms deal that will deliver warplanes and aerial refueling tankers to the Islamic state, the London-based IranMania website reported on Tuesday.

IranMania said the deal will supply Iran with 250 Su-30 fighters, advanced and versatile two-seater warplanes that have a maximum flying range of 3,000 kilometers. The deal will also include the supply of aerial refueling tankers that will increase the flight range of Su-30 to 8,000 kilometers.

The aircrafts, which are to be delivered at the end of the year, will reportedly make Iran's air force at par with Israel's.

Jes' think of all the money we could make, Pooty Poot, if'n you sell shit to Iran and we sell shit to Israel and Saudi Arabia.... an' then we just stand back and watch'em attack each other...

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Update: The Bush administration said on Monday it was selling arms to Saudi Arabia, so this must be a reaction to that. The Germans are not amused:
On Monday, the Bush administration officially announced its plan to provide advanced weapons worth billions to friendly states in the Persian Gulf in order to curb growing Iranian influence in the region.

Washington plans to sell $20 billion worth of satellite-guided bombs, and fighter and naval upgrades to Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates over the next 10 years. A further $13 billion is pledged to Egypt, and Israel will remain, with $30 billion in arms aid, the greatest recipient in the Middle East of American largesse.

The German government's coordinator for transatlantic relations voiced his concerns regarding the plan in a radio interview on Tuesday.

"I don't see the point of arming the Gulf States and Saudi Arabia with more weapons," said Karsten Voigt. "The region is not suffering from a lack of weapons, but from a lack of stability."

For excellent photoshopping skills

Check out this blog: Seeds of Doubt.

All I can say is that I'm glad they're on our side.

Hijacked one of their works:
No Recollection Gonzo

Monday, July 30, 2007

Dammit, man, then do a twofer....

Impeach BOTH Bush and Cheney!:

In spite of what he said was pervasive corruption in the White House, Charlie Rangel, the dean of New York’s congressional delegation, said today he wouldn’t want President Bush impeached. ‘God forbid!‘ he said.” The reason?

“I would vote against impeachment of Bush too because the corruption of the Vice President Cheney would even be worse,” Rangel said.

Remembering Jack Abramoff

Bill Moyers:

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Hanging your flag upside down with Bush's picture pinned to it

Is a jailing offense in North Carolina apparently. This couple could be looking at 420 days in the clink. Way to keep our homeland secure and snug, Asheville cops!:
Asheville – A couple who said they were protesting the state of the country by flying the U.S. flag upside down with signs pinned to it found themselves in jail following a scuffle with a deputy Wednesday morning.

Mark and Deborah Kuhn were arrested on two counts of assault on a government employee, resisting arrest and a rarely used charge, desecrating an American flag, all misdemeanors. The Kuhns were released from custody Wednesday afternoon.


Arrest reports show Buncombe County Sheriff’s deputy Brian Scarborough went to the Kuhns’ home on 68 Brevard Road about 8:45 a.m. Wednesday to investigate a complaint of an American flag on display after being desecrated.

State law prohibits anyone from knowingly mutilating, defiling, defacing or trampling the U.S. or North Carolina flags. Lt. Randy Sorrells of the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office said the Kuhns desecrated the flag by pinning signs to it, not by flying it upside down.

An upside-down flag typically is flown as a distress signal. The Kuhns said they flew it this way not out of disrespect but to symbolize the state of the country.

Deborah Kuhn said the signs pinned to the flag included an explanation on the meaning of an upside-down flag and asked to “help our country.” One of the signs was a photo of President Bush with “Out Now” written on it, they said.

The couple flew the flag for about a week before Wednesday.


According to the Sheriff’s Office, Scarborough went to the Kuhns’ home and gave Mark Kuhn a copy of the flag desecration statute. Scarborough told the Kuhns the flag was being displayed illegally.

Although the Kuhns live within the Asheville city limits, Sorrells said the complaint was made to a deputy.

“We have jurisdiction throughout the whole county of Buncombe,” Sorrells said. “We have a citizen that complains to us about a violation of law, we’re bound by oath to act on it.”

Scarborough told Mark Kuhn he was going to be issued a citation and asked for identification. Kuhn refused, slammed the door on the deputy’s hand, breaking the glass pane out of the door and cutting Scarborough’s hand, the Sheriff’s Office said.

Deborah Kuhn said they removed the flag from their front porch after Scarborough threatened to cite them, but they objected to showing Scarborough their IDs, which he needed to write the tickets. Scarborough then broke into their house and came after them, they said.

“He tried to keep us from closing the door, but we managed to get it closed,” Deborah Kuhn said. “We locked the door and he broke the glass to our front door and proceeded to assault my husband, saying, ‘You’re under arrest.’”

Obviously these people are dangerous terrorists...

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You want to see real terrorists? Read the comments. These people vote. That's scary.

The dead zone is the third largest ever mapped

No, it's not Bush's brain nor Cheney's heart, it's the ocean area off of Louisiana and Texas:
NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana (AP) -- The oxygen-poor "dead zone" off the Louisiana and Texas coasts isn't quite as big as predicted this year, but it is still the third-largest ever mapped, a scientist said Saturday.

Crabs, eels and other creatures usually found on the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico are swimming in crowds on the surface because there is too little oxygen in their usual habitat, said Nancy Rabalais, chief scientist for northern Gulf hypoxia studies.

"We very often see swarms of crabs, mostly blue crabs and their close relatives, swimming at the surface when the oxygen is low," she wrote in an e-mail from a research ship as it returned to Cocodrie from its annual measurement trip.

Eels, which live in sediments 60 to 70 feet below the water surface, are an even less common sight, she said.

The 7,900-square-mile area with almost no oxygen, a condition called hypoxia, is about the size of Connecticut and Delaware together. The Louisiana-Texas dead zone is the world's second-largest hypoxic area, she said.
I had no idea. Somehow this huge dead area is ... a common occurence? How long has this been happening?

Update: Bryan of Why Now?, Steve Bates of The Yellow Doggerel Democrat, and Hipparchia of Over the Cliffs, Onto The Rocks tell me it's been going on for a while, due to fertilizer run off and man made pollution, and offered links here and here and here.

How to create an angry American

Californians, don't say you weren't warned

About our aging infrastructure for water and power:

Something deeper and more illegal than we have imagined

Possibly took place with the warrantless wiretapping. Eavesdropping on senators' phone calls so they could be blackmailed? Sabotaging presidential candidates? Listening in on other countries diplomatic efforts?

Josh Marshall says it must be bad: (my bold)

Of course, 'data mining' can mean virtually anything. What kind of data and whose you're looking at makes all the difference in the world. Suggestively, the Times article includes this cryptic passage: "Some of the officials said the 2004 dispute involved other issues in addition to the data mining, but would not provide details. They would not say whether the differences were over how the databases were searched or how the resulting information was used."

To put this into perspective, remember that the White House has been willing to go to the public and make a positive argument for certain surveillance procedures (notably evasion of the FISA Court strictures) which appear to be illegal on their face. This must be much more serious and apparently something all but the most ravenous Bush authoritarians would never accept. It is supposedly no longer even happening and hasn't been for a few years. So disclosing it could not jeopardize a program. The only reason that suggests itself is that the political and legal consequences of disclosure are too grave to allow.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Something to keep you awake at night

Asking 'Why?'....

(Submitted by Ellroon's daughter)

A greenhouse sewage treatment center

Via Phila of Bouphonia's Friday Hope Blogging, look what the people of Weston, MA did:
In 1997, the businesses located in the town center of Weston, MA were required to upgrade their sewage treatment system. The majority of these businesses, including the Omni supermarket and 30 others, chose a solar aquatic system that was later constructed by the Ecological Engineering Group. The natural waste treatment plant had tremendous advantages over other, traditional options. Who could refuse a cheaper, cleaner, odorless, aesthetically pleasing system that could treat all your waste?
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When switching from the old waste treatment system, considerations included, cost, appearance and odor. The old waste treatment system cost 11 to 15 cents per gallon of waste treated, compared to the natural system, which costs merely 10 cents per gallon. This reduction in cost per gallon seems to be common after switching to natural systems. In Poughkeepsie, for instance, a newer reed bed operation costs 3 to 5 cents per a gallon, whereas the older mechanical systems cost 7 to 15 cents.

Weston’s solar aquatic system cost between $700,000 and $750,000 to build. Ten years after its construction, the treatment center is still in great shape; the pipes are going to be replaced for the first time in the near future.

Surprise surprise surprise....

How on earth can Senator Specter be surprised? We all could see what was coming, where was he?
During their nomination hearings, Roberts said he had “no agenda.” Alito said he would rule in a “neutral fashion.” Yet the two Bush nominees have sided with one another approximately 90 percent of the time.

The Senate is frustrated that the two justices have not lived up to their promises. Yesterday, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) said that the Senate “should not confirm another U.S. Supreme Court nominee under President Bush ‘except in extraordinary circumstances.’” Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA), who championed the nominations of Alito and Roberts, plans to review their Senate testimony to “determine if their reversal of several long-standing opinions conflicts with promises they made to senators to win confirmation.”

What do Delay, Santorum, and Lieberman have in common?

They came to support the Christians United for Israel Tour that eagerly awaits the Rapture and the second coming.

Max Blumenthal:
But CUFI has an ulterior agenda: its support for Israel derives from the belief of Hagee and his flock that Jesus will return to Jerusalem after the battle of Armageddon and cleanse the earth of evil. In the end, all the non-believers - Jews, Muslims, Hindus, mainline Christians, etc. - must convert or suffer the torture of eternal damnation. Over a dozen CUFI members eagerly revealed to me their excitement at the prospect of Armageddon occurring tomorrow. Among the rapture ready was Republican Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. None of this seemed to matter to Lieberman, who delivered a long sermon hailing Hagee as nothing less than a modern-day Moses. Lieberman went on to describe Hagee's flock as "even greater than the multitude Moses commanded."

...I was forbidden from asking Hagee about statements he made in his book, "Jerusalem Countdown," that appeared to blame Jews for their own persecution. After doing just that during a press conference, I was removed from the conference by off-duty DC cops summoned by members of Hagee's family.

I have covered the Christian right intensely for over four years. During this time, I attended dozens of Christian right conferences, regularly monitored movement publications and radio shows, and interviewed scores of its key leaders. I have never witnessed any spectacle as politically extreme, outrageous, or bizarre as the one Christians United for Israel produced last week in Washington. See for yourself.

Rapture Ready: The Unauthorized Christians United for Israel Tour from huffpost and Vimeo.

Update: Maha of Mahablog has more on the history of Christian fundamentalism.

The bombs that keep on killing

Long after they've exploded:
CAIRO — Iraq’s environment minister blamed Monday the use of depleted uranium weapons by U.S. forces during the 2003 Operation Shock and Awe for the current surge in cancer cases across the country.

As a result of “at least 350 sites in Iraq being contaminated during bombing” with depleted uranium (DU) weapons, Nermin Othman said, the nation is facing about 140,000 cases of cancer, with 7,000 to 8,000 new ones registered each year.

Speaking at a ministerial meeting of the Arab League, she also complained that many chemical plants and oil facilities had been destroyed during the two military campaigns since the 1990s, but the ecological consequences remain unclear.

“Our ministry is fledgling, and we need international support; notably, we need laboratories to better monitor air and water contamination,” she said.

The first major UN research on the consequences of the use of DU on the battlefield was conducted in 2003 in the wake of NATO operations in Kosovo, Bosnia, and Montenegro. The UN Environment Program (UNEP) said in its report after the research that DU poses little threat if spent munitions are cleared from the ground.

“Health risks primarily depend on the awareness of people coming into contact with DU,” UNEP writes in its 2004 brochure “Depleted Uranium Awareness.”

No major clean-up or public awareness campaigns have been reported in Iraq.
Oh, well done, Rumsfeld, Cheney, and Bush! The hatred you have unleashed will last hundreds of years.

Don't buy that can!

Until you've checked the list. Stores are continuing to sell recalled cans:

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WASHINGTON - Stores nationwide are continuing to sell recalled canned chili, stew, hash and other foods potentially contaminated with poisonous bacteria even after repeated warnings the products could kill.

Thousands of cans are being removed from store shelves as quickly as investigators find them, more than a week after Castleberry's Food Co. began recalling more than 90 potentially contaminated products over fears of botulism contamination.

The recall now covers two years' production at the company's Augusta, Ga., plant — a tally that spirals into the tens of millions of cans.

Spot checks by the Food and Drug Administration and state officials continue to turn up recalled products for sale in convenience stores, gas stations and family run groceries, from Florida to Alaska. The FDA alone has found them in roughly 250 of the more than 3,700 stores visited in nationwide checks, according to figures the agency provided to The Associated Press.

Why is this a big deal?

FDA investigators believe Castleberry's failed to properly cook some or all the products, allowing the Clostridium botulinum bacteria to survive the canning process. In the oxygen-free and moist environment of the sealed cans, the bacteria thrive and produce a toxin that causes botulism, a muscle-paralyzing disease.

"The longer this stuff stays in the can, the worse it gets," Acheson said.

The bacteria also produce gases that can cause contaminated cans to swell and burst. Already, cans being held in a company warehouse have begun to break open. Health officials say the extremely potent toxin can infect people if it is inhaled, swallowed or absorbed through the eye or breaks in the skin.

Health experts consider botulism a severe health threat but worry that word of the recall has not reached all consumers or retailers, especially mom-and-pop operations.

Here is the very long list of canned goods recalled.

What journalists actually could do to Georgie

If they weren't so afraid of Dick Cheney's dungeons:

We're invading Mexico?

With what army, Blackwater? Via GottaLaff at Cliff Schecter, McClatchy: (my bold)

For Washington, the stakes in Calderon’s anti-drug push go beyond law and order issues.

“If Calderon loses this battle,” says Noriega, “then there will be no wall high enough to keep out Mexicans who are displaced by violence and by the security threat that undermines Mexico’s growth.”

Bush and Calderon hinted at an aid package when they met in Merida, Mexico, on March 14. Bush praised Calderon for his tough stand against organized crime and drugs and recognized that as a consumer nation, “the United States has a responsibility in the fight against drugs.”

“Mexico’s obviously a sovereign nation,” Bush said, “and if (Calderon) so chooses, like he has, will lay out an agenda where the United States can be a constructive partner.”

People familiar with the talks say Mexico drew up a list that included equipment, training and technology, including Black Hawk helicopters, which are difficult to come by given the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan but are considered the transport of choice for security forces.

The price tag on the more ambitious aspiration is $1.2 billion, but a more modest proposal has emerged in recent weeks in the area of $700 million, said one person familiar with the talks.

It is not clear how the administration will request the funds from Congress, since the foreign operations spending bill for the coming year already has been approved by the House.


The aid package under consideration inevitably will spark comparisons to the similar program under way with Colombia since 2000. Under that program, the U.S. government has poured more than $5 billion to combat armed groups as well as to eradicate coca and heroin crops. Colombian authorities praise the program for helping reduce violence there, though the country continues to produce vast quantities of cocaine.

Mexican officials bristle at any comparisons with the Colombian operation, which they view as too ambitious and an infringement on Colombian sovereignty, given the heavy scrutiny by the U.S. Congress and direct involvement of U.S. personnel and equipment.

“Any type of a package called Plan Mexico,” said Armand Peschard-Sverdrup, a Mexico specialist with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, “would be dead on arrival.”

The Mexico package more likely will be cast as an effort to improve Mexico’s judicial system and its security forces. “The U.S. can play a role in bolstering that reform process,” he said.

Your votes will not count

If you are in a blue state. Greg Palast's video on NOW 'investigates a secret Republican plan designed to disqualify voters.'

Update: In California:
State-sanctioned teams of computer hackers were able to break through the security of virtually every model of California’s voting machines and change results or take control of some of the systems’ electronic functions, according to a University of California study released Friday.

The researchers “were able to bypass physical and software security in every machine they tested,” said Secretary of State Debra Bowen, who authorized the “top to bottom review” of every voting system certified by the state.

Neither Bowen nor the investigators were willing to say exactly how vulnerable California elections are to computer hackers, especially because the team of computer experts from the UC system had top-of-the-line security information plus more time and better access to the voting machines than would-be vote thieves likely would have.

“All information available to the secretary of state was made available to the testers,” including operating manuals, software and source codes usually kept secret by the voting machine companies, Matt Bishop, UC Davis computer science professor who led the “red team” hacking effort, said in his summary of the results.

What Tristero at Hullabaloo says

My bold:
The Bush/Iraq war wasn't merely a bad idea. It was screaming yellow bonkers. It had no chance - none - of creating a positive situation. Ever. It is complete nonsense to claim "the invasion could have succeeded" if only competents had been in charge. Why? Competent people would never have invaded Iraq in the first place.

The tragedy we see today was a foregone conclusion. It was predicted again and again, by genuinely sober, reasonable people. The war supporters - all of them - were the hysterics. They wern't "idealists." They were naive, pie-in-the-sky types. After all, it was Richard Perle and David Frum who penned a book called "An End to Evil" - an utterly insane notion, as Anatol Lieven noted.

It is ominous to note the congealing of conventional wisdom around the "great idea, incompetent execution" meme (this review is hardly the only place it has appeared recently). It means that the public discourse remains monopolized by genuine clowns. Until more serious people are permitted to address the American public on a regular basis, the US will continue to blunder into future Bush/Iraqs, with catastrophic consequences.
We have to continuously repeat this. We told them, the world told them, but the neocons had been talking so long and so incestuously to themselves in their little oxygen-deprived club house, they were sure flowers and candy awaited them. Reality still has yet to set in.

And then they'll just blame the Democrats....

Proof that Georgie and his staff are deeply closeted

Bush finally confesses:
THE PRESIDENT: I want to thank my economic advisors for joining me here in the Cabinet [sic] today.
Wonder if Jimmy/Jeff Gannon is in there....

This will not be in any headlines

Of U.S. papers. Via Moonbootica of Devizes Melting Pot:
The Muslim community has rallied round to donate more than 20,000 bottles of water to flood-hit areas.

Mosques in Leicester raised more than £5,000 after Friday prayers yesterday to help those caught up in the disaster.

They also organised transport and donations of bottled water to people in Gloucestershire, which has been worst hit by the recent flooding.

A truck filled with half-litre bottles of water - donated by a Leicester businessman - was due to set off this afternoon.

Gloucestershire police will escort the lorry to where the need for water is most desperate.

The 21,000 bottles were packed through the day yesterday outside Evington Road Mosque.

The first load of water has been donated by a city cash and carry, which wished to remain anonymous.

The £5,000 raised will pay for at least one more truck-load of bottles to be sent next week.
Islam supports charity and generosity. Have we in America been told this? When we realize that al-Qaeda militant Islam is similar to the worst branch of the KKK Christian movement, we can see how the religion of Islam has been hijacked by terrorists.

Shocked U.S. officials realize that 15 of the 9/11 hijackers

Came from Saudi Arabia. 'Hey!', said one official. 'How long has this been known?'
Bush administration officials are voicing increasing anger at what they say has been Saudi Arabia's counterproductive role in the Iraq war.


...Bush administration officials are voicing increasing anger at what they say has been Saudi Arabia's counterproductive role in the Iraq war. They say that beyond regarding Mr. Maliki as an Iranian agent, the Saudis have offered financial support to Sunni groups in Iraq. Of an estimated 60 to 80 foreign fighters who enter Iraq each month, American military and intelligence officials say that nearly half are coming from Saudi Arabia and that the Saudis have not done enough to stem the flow.

One senior administration official says he has seen evidence that Saudi Arabia is providing financial support to opponents of Mr. Maliki. He declined to say whether that support was going to Sunni insurgents because, he said, "That would get into disagreements over who is an insurgent and who is not."


Of course, the Saudi government has hardly masked its intention to prop up Sunni groups in Iraq and has for the past two years explicitly told senior Bush administration officials of the need to counterbalance the influence Iran has there. Last fall, King Abdullah warned Vice President Dick Cheney that Saudi Arabia might provide financial backing to Iraqi Sunnis in any war against Iraq's Shiites if the United States pulled its troops out of Iraq, American and Arab diplomats said.

Several officials interviewed for this article said they believed that Saudi Arabia's direct support to Sunni tribesmen increased this year as the Saudis lost faith in the Maliki government and felt they must bolster Sunni groups in the eventuality of a widespread civil war.

Just why are the Saudis our 'friends'? Oh... never mind....

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Update: Driftglass says it best.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Novak tells Bush to drop dead

So his poll numbers will go up.

Think Progress quotes Novak:
I’m 76 years old, and pretty soon I’m going to a place where there are no blogs,” said conservative pundit Robert Novak at an American Spectator breakfast on Thursday morning. Speaking of the land beyond, Novak added, “All presidents look better after they’re dead, and George W. Bush can count on that.”
I don't think it will work that way this time for Bush, Robert, nor for you....

and there will be bloggers in heaven by the way.

To lift your spirits

Phila of Bouphonia's Friday Hope Blogging.

Fridaiz kat blogn

W/ sombudi elz' kat:

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Thursday, July 26, 2007

Pat Tillman was murdered?

Via Crooks and Liars, the AP:
SAN FRANCISCO -Army medical examiners were suspicious about the close proximity of the three bullet holes in Pat Tillman's forehead and tried without success to get authorities to investigate whether the former NFL player's death amounted to a crime, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press.

"The medical evidence did not match up with the, with the scenario as described," a doctor who examined Tillman's body after he was killed on the battlefield in Afghanistan in 2004 told investigators.

The doctors - whose names were blacked out - said that the bullet holes were so close together that it appeared the Army Ranger was cut down by an M-16 fired from a mere 10 yards or so away

The glorious neocon experiment that is Iraq

Is using slave labor to build the embassy. I can see Cheney's fingerprints all over this.

Via Chet at Vanity Press:

The Oversight Committee holds a hearing, "Allegations of Waste, Fraud, and Abuse at the New U.S. Embassy in Iraq." The hearing examines the performance of the State Department and its contractors in the construction of the new $600 million U.S. embassy in Baghdad. The Committee reviews questions regarding the embassy compound construction as well as allegations of labor abuse through improper contracting practices. Rory Mayberry, a former subcontractor employee for First Kuwaiti Trading & Contracting Company, gives opening testimony.

Diplomacy with Iran?

Not if Cheney can help it.

Gareth Porter of Asia Times: (my bold)
WASHINGTON - As US and Iranian diplomats met in Baghdad on Tuesday for a second round of talks on Iraq, the domestic US political climate appeared decidedly more supportive of an aggressive US posture toward Iran than existed just a few months ago, reflecting the apparent triumph of the Bush administration's narrative on Iran's role in Iraq.

That new narrative threatens to obscure the bigger picture of Iranian policy toward Iraq, widely recognized by regional specialists. Iran's strategic interests in Iraq are far more compatible with those of the United States than those of the Sunni regimes in the region with which the US has aligned itself.

Contrary to the official narrative, Iranian support for Shi'ites is not aimed at destabilizing the country but does serve a rational Iranian desire to maximize its alliances with Iraqi Shi'ite factions, in the view of specialists on Iranian policy and on the security of the Persian Gulf region.

Symptomatic of the toughening attitude in the US Congress toward Iran was the 97-0 vote in the Senate last week for a resolution drafted by its leading proponent of war against Iran, Senator Joe Lieberman, stating, "The murder of members of the United States Armed Forces by a foreign government or its agents is an intolerable act of hostility against the United States." The resolution demanded that the government of Iran "take immediate action" to end all forms of support it is providing to Iraqi militias and insurgents.

That vote followed several months of intensive Bush administration propaganda charging that Iran is arming Shi'ite militias in Iraq, and characterizing Iranian financial support and training for Shi'ite militias as an aggressive effort to target US troops and to destabilize Iraq.

But this administration line ignores the fact that Iran's primary ties in Iraq have always been with those groups who have supported the government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, including the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council and Da'wa Party and their paramilitary arm, the Badr Corps, rather than with anti-government militias. That indicates that Iran's fundamental interest is to see the government stabilize the situation in the country, according to Professor Mohsen Milani of Florida International University, a specialist on Iran's national-security policies.

Milani argues that Iran's interests are more closely aligned with those of the US than any other state in the region. "I can't think of two other countries in the region who want the Iraqi government to succeed," said Milani.

He believes the Iranians are so upset with the efforts by the Saudis to undermine the Shi'ite-dominated government that they may try to use the talks with the US on the security of Iraq to introduce intelligence they have gathered on Saudi support for al-Qaeda and Sunni insurgents.
The actual degree of convergence between US and Iranian interests on Iraq could still be a factor in the bilateral talks on the subject, despite the determination of still-powerful Vice President Dick Cheney to make sure they fail.

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Quick! We only have until January 2009 to complete the PNAC agenda! Iran is next, then Syria, Greenland and New Zealand!

I think I'd freak

If this kitty became very affectionate to me:
Oscar has a habit of curling up next to patients at the home in Providence, Rhode Island, in their final hours.

According to the author of a study in the New England Journal of Medicine, the two-year-old cat has been observed to be correct in 25 cases so far.

Staff now alert the families of residents when he sits down next to their ailing loved one.

"He doesn't make many mistakes. He seems to understand when patients are about to die," David Dosa, a professor at Brown University who carried out the research, told the Associated Press news agency.

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(Picture from article.)

I wonder if the HMOs are trying to figure out what the kitty's billing hours should be....

Update 7/27: Steve Bates of The Yellow Doggerel Democrat suggests this would be a more appropriate pic:



This is how you help people deal with flooding, you tell them the perils and try to help:

Terry Standing, chief fire officer in the county, told thisisgloucestershire.co.uk: "It is a real tragedy that we have suffered two fatalities in the past 24 hours which were most likely due to people attempting to remove flood water."

He urged the public to think "safety first" when trying to pump out floodwaters

Despite widespread devastation, there have been few flood-related deaths so far.


News of the deaths came as thousands of Britons already hard-hit by the worst flooding for decades faced more downpours today in the wettest early summer on record.

The Met Office confirmed that the period from May to July was the soggiest since records began in 1766 - even before July has ended. According to the Met, 387.6mm (16 inches) of rain has already fallen across England and Wales, double the average.

The worst of the day's heavy rain was expected to fall south of the areas currently worst affected. But flood-hit communities in Gloucestershire, Berkshire and Oxfordshire also faced heavy spells.

However, the Met Office said this spell of rain should pass through relatively quickly in most places.

Even as Oxfordshire fire and rescue service confirmed that waters in Oxford had begun to subside, experts warned of the dangers of disease from the muck left behind.

A floods expert, Professor Ian Cluckie, told reporters: "People need to realise this is raw sewage they are walking around in. I've seen pictures of kids walking around in the flood water. For God's sake don't let them."

The health and protection agency said: "The floodwater affecting your home or other property may have been contaminated with sewage, animal waste and other contaminants. However infection problems arising from floods in the UK are actually rare."

The agency also advised people to avoid contact with the floodwaters. A spokeswoman said: "We would discourage people from walking around in the murky waters. They won't be able to see obstacles in the water, which could cause injury, and there's a risk of contamination from untreated sewage."


In Gloucestershire, officials were still struggling to distribute water supplies to 350,000 people left without running tap water.

Bowsers, or street tanks known, set up in almost 1,000 locations, were beginning to run dry in some places as Severn Trent Water said there had been difficulties filling them up as regularly as planned."We have had 34 tankers on the road to refill bowsers. We do know there are problems trying to achieve the four or five fills that are our target," David Wickens, Severn Trent's environmental manager, told BBC radio.

He said the issue had arisen because large tankers were struggling to navigate small streets while there was a lack of smaller tankers or qualified tanker lorry drivers.

The Red Cross, which has raised £500,000 through its national floods appeal, will also deliver 400 food parcels to the most vulnerable people affected.

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They were tired of being blamed for the Republican party?

New Delhi - Two elephants in India's eastern Assam state were shot dead by the police after they went on a rampage killing eight villagers and wounding nine, news reports said Thursday. The pair of domesticated elephants turned violent and mowed through five villages in southern Assam before entering neighbouring Mizoram state Tuesday, IANS news agency reported.

"Eight people including five women were killed and nine more injured. The beasts also damaged several houses in a 40-kilometre radius," a wildlife department official said.

Finally, a team of policemen in Mizoran shot down the elephants on Wednesday.

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Wars from the past

Still have an echo:

A ceremony has been held in Belarus to bury the remains of 224 Napoleonic soldiers killed in 1812 as the French imperial army retreated from Russia.

Their bodies were discovered last year and their regiments identified from remnants of their uniforms.

The soldiers were buried on the River Berezina, east of the capital Minsk.

The ceremony took place on the 194th anniversary of the crossing of the Berezina by Napoleon's troops, as Russian forces shelled them.

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Don't sign anything, Mr. Brown!

And don't do anything incriminating that can be used as blackmail while you are at Camp David!
PHILADELPHIA - The White House has confirmed that U.S. President George W. Bush will be meeting Britain's Prime Minister Gordon Brown at Camp David next week.

White House spokesman Tony Snow said Bush and Brown "will focus on continuing to move forward on issues of shared interests and concerns." The meeting follows the installation of Brown as the new British Prime Minster last month.

He took over from Tony Blair who had pursued a close relationship with the US and had co-operated in every aspect of foreign policy issues. However Brown has indicated that he would not be an 'yes" man to the US and his main aim is to win back voters to the Labour fold.
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With all that NSA spying, God knows what Bush and Cheney had on Blair....

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

When our politicians blather about making the Iraqi government

Do this or that, stand up, sit down, sign away their national resources; I always ask, "What government?" There never HAS been a functional Iraqi government.
Iraq's largest Sunni parliamentary bloc has announced it is expanding its boycott of cabinet meetings to a full withdrawal from the government.

Salim Abdullah, a spokesman for the National Accordance Front, said it would give Nuri al-Maliki, Iraq's prime minister, a week to meet its demands before taking further action.

Contempt charges passed in the House

Reading the final line of the quote, I get the mental picture of the Bush cabal hunkered down in the White House yelling out the window, "Yer never gonna git me, sheriff! I owns the judge!" (my bold):

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The House Judiciary Committee voted contempt of Congress citations Wednesday against White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten and President Bush's former legal counselor, Harriet Miers.

The 22-17 party-line vote - which would sanction for pair for failure to comply with subpoenas on the firings of several federal prosecutors - advanced the citation to the full House.

A senior Democratic official who spoke on condition of anonymity said the House itself likely would take up the citations after Congress' August recess. The official declined to speak on the record because no date had been set for the House vote.

Committee Chairman John Conyers said the panel had nothing to lose by advancing the citations because it could not allow presidential aides to flout Congress' authority. Republicans warned that a contempt citation would lose in federal court even if it got that far.

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Has anyone considered the fish's point of view?

The Fish 'n Flush...

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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

New York Sun: Cheney ‘Sees An Opening’ And Wants To Run For President

Think Progress:
In April, the New York Sun published an editorial entitled “Cheney’s Chance,” encouraging the Vice President to jump into the presidential race. The Sun argued that having a “defender on the campaign trail” would boost Bush’s approval ratings.

In a review of Stephen Hayes’ new biography of Cheney, Ira Stoll — the editor of the Sun — recycles his plea. Stoll writes that he believes the Hayes book is part of an effort by Cheney to drum up support for a potential campaign run...

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Why, when I listen to Abu Gonzales speak

I think of this guy?
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What hump?

I know it's your country

But you have to move so our embassy can be even bigger... like covering all of your oil fields...
The massive embassy rising in Baghdad's fortified green zone may not be big enough to house all the planned employees, the LA Times reports. "Despite its brash scale and nearly $600-million cost, the compound designed to accommodate more than 1,000 people is not big enough, and may not be safe enough if a major military pullout leaves the country engulfed in a heightened civil war, U.S. planners now say," the paper writes.

Exposed terrorist network!!

Bryan of Why Now? sent me linkage to Danger Room, where they have the details!

Squirrel Terrorism Master Plan

Noah Shachtman of Danger Room:
I'm sure the military's operational security officers will give me all kinds of grief for posting this. But the hidden link between Iraq's man-eating badgers, Iran's squirrel spies, China's cyborg pigeons has been discovered. Turns out they're all part of one grand, U.S. spy plan: the "Autonomous Coordinated Organic Reconnaissance Network" -- "Project ACORN," for short. MountainRunner and the Small Wars Journal first unearthed the plan, which is sure to take its rightful place next to Directed Energy Sea Mammals as one of the most ingenious Pentagon projects ever launched.

Monday, July 23, 2007

The 300th edition

of the Top Ten!

Every hair in place

GPSing your wandering hubby?

Keeping track of your teenager and the family car? Keeping control of which employee can get into a security room? What on earth could go wrong?

...the news that Americans had, for the first time, been injected with electronic identifiers to perform their jobs fired up a debate over the proliferation of ever-more-precise tracking technologies and their ability to erode privacy in the digital age.

To some, the microchip was a wondrous invention — a high-tech helper that could increase security at nuclear plants and military bases, help authorities identify wandering Alzheimer's patients, allow consumers to buy their groceries, literally, with the wave of a chipped hand.

To others, the notion of tagging people was Orwellian, a departure from centuries of history and tradition in which people had the right to go and do as they pleased, without being tracked, unless they were harming someone else.

Chipping, these critics said, might start with Alzheimer's patients or Army Rangers, but would eventually be suggested for convicts, then parolees, then sex offenders, then illegal aliens — until one day, a majority of Americans, falling into one category or another, would find themselves electronically tagged.

Gee, I wonder if Cheney has stock in this company too?

4 out of 5 people think David Brooks is a moron

But then I just made up those numbers:

Yesterday, Media Matters observed that on this week’s Meet the Press, New York Times columnist David Brooks admitted to using a made-up statistic in order to argue against withdrawal from Iraq.

Specifically, Brooks rehashed the right-wing talking point that withdrawal in Iraq would certainly lead to “genocide,” alleging that 10,000 Iraqis a month would die after redeployment. But Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward quickly forced Brooks’ to admit his statistics were baseless:

BOB WOODWARD: I mean, you cite numbers which you have pulled out of the air of 10,000 dying. I mean, that’s–that–where does that come from? […]

DAVID BROOKS: So I just picked that 10,000 out of the air.

So... can anyone do this?

Less than 3 people think Bush is a genius.

(This is fun!)

Newt tells Georgie to shut up

Or words to that effect...

Think Progress
This morning, Steve Thomma of McClatchy wrote that “When pressing a tough sale, Bush is a lousy salesman.” “He’s never really sold the country or Congress something it didn’t already want. And when he’s tried to sell something the people or the politicians didn’t want, he’s fallen flat,” wrote Thomma. Thomma’s thesis gained a high profile supporter earlier today: Newt Gingrich. Speaking at an American Spectator breakfast, the former Speaker of the House offered some words of advice for how President Bush can gain support for the Iraq war — “Simply be quiet, say nothing...

What you get when you toss the use of the soft voice

And use only the big stick.

The Bush administration's lack of diplomacy around the world is backfiring. Steve Benen at Talking Points Memo:

Walter Lohman, who covers Asian affairs for the conservative Heritage Foundation, noted, "Canceling a meeting here or there may not seem like a big deal, but the slights are piling up." He added, "Unless the Bush administration can quickly get back on track, the game is over; it will fall to the next president to revitalize the U.S. commitment" to Asia.

And Latin America. And Africa.

Charles Kupchan, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, said outside of Europe, where Bush has made some efforts at engagement, "things don't look as good," particularly in countries experiencing far-reaching changes stemming from China's rise. Kupchan added, "There doesn't seem to be anybody who's minding the store at the top level."

We've all seen the quality of work at the top level...

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Update: Apparently the top level is still trying to sell its tired old propaganda in place of diplomacy. Via Firedoglake:

A few months ago, she decided to write an opinion piece about Lebanon. She enlisted John Chambers, chief executive officer of Cisco Systems as a co-author, and they wrote about public/private partnerships and how they might be of use in rebuilding Lebanon after last summer’s war. No one would publish it.

Think about that. Every one of the major newspapers approached refused to publish an essay by the secretary of state. Price Floyd, who was the State Department’s director of media affairs until recently, recalls that it was sent to the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times and perhaps other papers before the department finally tried a foreign publication, the Financial Times of London, which also turned it down.

As a last-ditch strategy, the State Department briefly considered translating the article into Arabic and trying a Lebanese paper. But finally they just gave up. “I kept hearing the same thing: ‘There’s no news in this.’ ” Floyd said. The piece, he said, was littered with glowing references to President Bush’s wise leadership. “It read like a campaign document.”

Can Hillary deliver?

Blue Gal meets up with Former President Clinton to discuss Dennis Kucinich's single-payer, not-for-profit health care plan which would provide every man, woman, and child with comprehensive coverage from whatever doctors they choose. This would be achieved through a tax on employers that is lower than what employers who now provide coverage pay on average. Unlike other Democratic presidential candidates, Kucinich doesn't simply say, "Forget about it" when it comes to basic human rights. He has the courage to entirely eliminate private insurance companies from the equation.

Sunday, July 22, 2007


The new Republican way to govern:

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Think Progress:
This year, “Senate Republicans are threatening filibusters to block more legislation than ever before.” The pattern of obstructionism is demolishing previous records:

Nearly 1 in 6 roll-call votes in the Senate this year have been cloture votes. If this pace of blocking legislation continues, this 110th Congress will be on track to roughly triple the previous record number of cloture votes — 58 each in the two Congresses from 1999-2002, according to the Senate Historical Office.

Way to show us how to govern, Republicans!

Contempt of Congress

From Wikipedia:

Congressional rules empower all its standing committees with the authority to compel witnesses to produce testimony and documents for subjects under its jurisdiction. Committee rules may provide for the full Committee to issue a subpoena, or permit subcommittees or the Chairman (acting alone or with the ranking member) to issue subpoenas.

As announced in Wilkinson v. United States, 365 U.S. 399 (1961), the Congressional committee must meet three requirements for its subpoenas to be "legally sufficient." First, the committee investigation of the broad subject area must be authorized by its Chamber; second, the investigation must pursue "a valid legislative purpose" but does not need to involve legislation and does not need to specify the ultimate intent of Congress; and third, the specific inquiries must be pertinent to the subject matter area which have been authorized for investigation.

The Court held in Eastland v. United States Servicemen's Fund, 421 U.S. 491 (1975) that Congressional subpoenas are within the scope of the Speech and Debate clause which provides "an absolute bar to judicial interference" with such compulsory process. Under that ruling, Courts generally do not hear motions to quash Congressional subpoenas; even when executive branch officials refuse to comply, the Courts tend to rule that such matters are "political questions" unsuitable for judicial remedy.


Following the refusal of a witness to produce documents or to testify, the Committee is entitled to report a resolution of contempt to its parent chamber. A Committee may also cite a person for contempt but not immediately report the resolution to the floor. In the case of subcommittees, they report the resolution of contempt to the full Committee, which then has the option of rejecting it, accepting it but not reporting it to the floor, or accepting it and reporting it to the floor of the chamber for action. On the floor of the House or the Senate, the reported resolution is considered privileged and, if the resolution of contempt is passed, the chamber has several options to enforce its mandate.

Inherent contempt

Under this process, the procedure for holding a person in contempt involves only the chamber concerned. Following a contempt citation, the person cited for contempt is arrested by the Sergeant-at-Arms for the House or Senate, brought to the floor of the chamber, held to answer charges by the presiding officer, and then subject to punishment that the House may dictate (usually imprisonment for punishment reasons, imprisonment for coercive effect, or release from the contempt citation.)

Concerned with the time-consuming nature of a contempt proceeding and the inability to extend punishment further than the session of the Congress concerned (under Supreme Court rulings), Congress created a statutory process in 1857. While Congress retains its "inherent contempt" authority and may exercise it at any time, this inherent contempt process was last used by the Senate in 1934, in a Senate investigation of airlines and the U.S. Postmaster. After a one-week trial on the Senate floor (presided by the Vice-President of the United States, acting as Senate President), a lawyer who had allowed clients to rip up subpoenaed documents, William P. MacCracken, a lawyer and former Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Aeronautics, was found guilty and sentenced to 10 days imprisonment. [1]

MacCracken had filed a petition of Habeas Corpus in federal courts to overturn his arrest, but after litigation, the US Supreme Court ruled that Congress had acted constitutionally, and denied the petition in the case Jurney v. MacCracken, 294 U.S. 125 (1935). [2][3]

Presidential pardons appear not apply to civil contempt procedures like the above, since it is not an "offense against the United States" or an offense against "the dignity of public authority." [4]

And from Answers.com:
Contempt of Congress is any improper attempt to obstruct the legislative process, usually by a refusal to provide information that Congress has requested. The contempt power is critical to Congress's ability to investigate the activities of the executive branch or any issue about which it is considering enacting legislation. Congress can use contempt citations against witnesses who refuse to testify or to produce required evidence. Those found guilty of contempt of Congress may go to prison.

There are three methods of prosecuting for contempt of Congress. First, Congress can try contempt cases itself. In 1848 and 1871 the Senate did just that, imprisoning newspaper reporters in the Capitol for not revealing the source of the Senate secrets they had published. Congress can also turn contempt cases over to the Department of Justice for criminal prosecution. However, juries have often acquitted individuals charged with contempt, especially if it appears that the congressional committee abused its power. For example, between 1950 and 1966 the House Un-American Activities Committee issued 133 contempt citations, but only nine people were convicted. Finally, the Senate or House can also file civil charges of contempt. Using this procedure, a federal judge determines whether a question asked by Congress was legitimate. If the judge orders a witness to answer and the witness refuses, then the witness would be in contempt of court and could be fined or imprisoned.
And Capitol Questions:
Contempt of Congress is initiated by a resolution reported from the affected congressional committee which can cite any individual for contempt. The resolution must then be adopted by the House or Senate. If the relevant chamber adopts the contempt resolution recommended by one of its committees, the matter is referred to a U.S. Attorney for prosecution. The U.S. Attorney may call in a grand jury to decide whether or not to indict and prosecute. If prosecuted by the courts and found guilty of contempt, the punishment is presently set at up to one year in prison and/or up to $1,000 in fines.

Contempt resolutions have most often been issued in two categories: (1) for reasons of refusing to testify or failing to provide Congress with requested documents or answers, and (2) bribing or libeling a Member of Congress. Contempt citations are limited to matters which relate to legislative purposes and which fall within the affected committee's established jurisdiction.

Several Supreme Court decisions have upheld the contempt authority of Congress, most notably Anderson v. Dunn, decided in 1821. Congress sets the procedures and punishment for contempt by statute. The current contempt statute (2 USC 192) was adopted in 1857, and has been amended several times over the years. This statute also limits the issuance of contempt citations to matters which relate to legislative purposes and which fall within the affected committee's established jurisdiction as delegated to it by the full House or Senate.

Okay! We're waiting!

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Any chemist could have told you flat out

That ethanol is a ridiculous energy source. It is too small a hydrocarbon to produce much heat. The energy expended to till, fertilize, grow, harvest, take to the factory, change into ethanol, drive the ethanol to the gas refineries and then to the distributors will always be more than what we gain from using ethanol. They've even opened a coal-run plant to make ethanol. It's letting the farmers get some quick cash, but that's about it:

Ethanol fuel made from corn may be being "dangerously oversold" as a green energy solution according to a new review of biofuels.

The report concludes that the rapidly growing and heavily subsidised corn ethanol industry in the US will cause significant environmental damage without significantly reducing the country's dependence on fossil fuels.

"There are smarter solutions than rushing straight to corn-based ethanol," says Scott Cullen of the Network for New Energy Choices (NNEC) and a co-author of the study. "It's just one piece of a more complex puzzle."

The report analyses hundreds of previous studies, and was compiled by the environmental advocacy groups Food and Water Watch, NNEC and the Vermont Law School Institute for Energy and the Environment. The study was released as the US Congress debates key agriculture and energy laws that will determine biofuel policy for years to come.
Yet, even if all corn grown in the US was used for fuel, it would only offset 15% of the country's gasoline use, according to the study. The same reduction could be achieved by a 3.5-mile-per-gallon increase in fuel efficiency standards for all cars and light trucks, according a federal figures cited in the report.

And using corn-derived ethanol does not necessarily even reduce greenhouse gas emissions. A number of recent studies have attempted to assess the total carbon footprint – from the field to the tailpipe – of the biofuel. Conclusions vary widely from being worse than gasoline to being about the same.
"Corn-based ethanol hasn't been pursued because this is the best solution, it's been because this has been what's been pushed the hardest," Cullen says. The recent survey notes that Archer Daniels Midland, the largest US ethanol producer, received $10 billion in federal subsidies between 1980 and 1997.

But Brian Jennings, of the trade group, the American Coalition for Ethanol, disagrees. "We can release papers until we are blue in the face about what is theoretically going to be the best alternative to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and to reduce carbon emissions," he says. "But, from a practical standpoint, we have to start somewhere, and corn-based ethanol is the most viable alternative fuel on the planet today."

The current Farm Bill, which provides $16.5 billion in federal agricultural subsidies each year, will expire in September 2007. Proposals for a new Farm Bill are likely to include significant subsidies for the continued development of both corn-based ethanol and cellulosic ethanol.

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Update: Phila of Bouphonia addresses the concerns Iowans have about the huge demand on water aquafiers that the ethanol business is having, besides being worried about field runoff and contamination.

Tigers and foxes and dogs

Oh my! Must have been really shitty service....
Fox attacks restaurant worker in Maryland:

The attack happened near closing time Thursday, when customers encountered a wild fox in the parking lot. Feeling threatened, they ran inside the slow-release door at Chef Fred's Chesapeake Steakhouse, Bar & Grill. The fox followed them inside.

"It was a bizarre thing," said Sara Hall, a manager at Chef Fred's Chesapeake Steakhouse, Bar & Grill. "I've never been so scared in my life."

Once inside the building, the fox scampered into the dining room area, into the bar area and back to the dining area, causing employees and patrons to take cover. Several jumped onto tables or chairs.

Hall told The (Salisbury) Daily Times that she went to discover what was causing the ruckus, when the fox lunged at her and bit her hand.

"One of the bouncers at the bar starts to choke the fox, and it still wouldn't let go," Hall said.

Employees eventually got the fox outside, where it ran off.

How many times has this happened recently?

And this is new, a tiger loose in France:
BORDEAUX, France (Reuters) - Police in southwestern France are searching for a big cat, possibly a young tiger, that has been spotted prowling in a village near the city of Bordeaux, the village's mayor said Thursday.

Officials from the National Hunting Office have also laid traps for the animal after a woman and her daughter saw it repeatedly in their garden.

"At first they didn't believe it, but the third time the animal was 10 meters (yards) away from them," Pierre Soubabere, mayor of Saint-Louis-de-Montferrand, told Reuters.

Another resident has seen the cat roaming the countryside, and its tracks suggest it is a young tiger, though it could be a jaguar or a leopard.

Maybe it's because of the horrific things we do to animals, like dog fighting....

The jokes will just write themselves...

Prince Charles gives Camilla two sheep, a ram and an ewe for her birthday.
Camilla is delighted with the rare breed ram and ewe, which cost the heir to the throne around 300 pounds (446 euros, 617 dollars) each, according to the paper, which headlined its story "Happy birthday to ewe!"
Oh, deer....

Ah HA! See? I predicted this!

Remember the floodwaters sending millions of mice into Chinese towns?

Well lookee here:

The Information Times, a newspaper based in Guangzhou, the provincial capital of Guangdong, reported that trucks from Hunan had been seen delivering crates of black market mice by night to an illegal wild animal market in Guangzhou.

Mouse is turning up on restaurant menus in nearby cities, the paper reported.

The reports have alarmed health officials. Guangzhou's wild animal market is illegal for a reason: Scientists are convinced that SARS, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, first broke out in humans in Guangdong, among people who had eaten wild civet cat.

Since then, cooking and eating wild animals such as field mice has not been allowed.

Anyone think we'd better be checking Chinese food products for mystery meat any time soon?

Cheap solar cells

Developed by Korean scientists. Via Phila of Bouphonia:

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A team of Korean researchers has developed a cutting-edge solar cell that might help reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.

The discovery could make Korea a leader in the alternative energy industry as the research team plans to double the cell's efficiency and commercialize the technology by 2012.

The team's leader, Lee Kwang-hee of the Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology, said on Thursday, "Together with Prof. Alan Heeger at the University of California Santa Barbara, we have developed a plastic solar cell with 6.5 percent efficiency. That level of efficiency is sufficiently high for commercial products."

What a constitutional crisis

Looks like. Bush declares executive privilege makes him and all those connected to him above the law. Mustang Bobby at Bark Bark Woof Woof explains:
A couple of thoughts come to mind. First, I'm trying to imagine the thermonuclear reaction this would have caused among the Republicans and the wingnutosphere if President Clinton -- or any Democratic president, for that matter -- had tried to assert this level of executive privilege. Pennsylvania Avenue from the Capitol to the White House would have been littered with the bloody remnants of exploded heads of Republicans and all the punditry who would proclaim that Mr. Clinton is a rogue and a charlatan and all sorts of other Victorian terms that they dredged up from the Newt Gingrich list of naughty words.

The second thought is that this, along with the Iraq war funding, will be the true test of the Democrats in the Senate and the Congress. If they don't stand up and fight back with all the forces they can muster and make every attempt to win this battle, then there is little hope for them. All of the energy that they put in to winning the election in 2006 and all of the effort they're putting in to winning back the White House and a larger majority in the House and Senate won't mean anything.

It's clear that Mr. Bush and his administration are calling out the Democrats -- and anyone else who believes in the balance of power -- to defend the role of Congress and its equal place in our nation. If they don't rise to the challenge, we might as well just give up now and let the comfortable numbness of dictatorship and one-party rule lull us gently to our doom because we don't deserve to have our republic any longer.
Mustang Bobby then links to Greenwald:

Yes, it is true that, as various Democratic statements are claiming, this theory poses a constitutional crisis since, yet again, the President declares the other two branches of government impotent and himself omnipotent. But we have had such a crisis for the last five years. We have just chosen to ignore it, to acquiesce to it, to allow it to fester.

There is no magic force that is going to descend from the sky and strike with lighting at George Bush and Dick Cheney for so flagrantly subverting our constitutional order. The Founders created various checks for confronting tyrannical abuses of power, but they have to be activated by political will and the courage to confront it. That has been lacking. Hence, they have seized omnipotent powers with impunity.

At this point, the blame rests not with the Bush administration. They have long made clear what they believe and, especially, what they are. They have been rubbing in our faces for several years the fact that they believe they can ignore the law and do what they want because nobody is willing to do anything about it. Thus far, they have been right, and the blame rests with those who have acquiesced to it.

It has been six months since the Democrats took over Congress. Yes, they have commenced some investigations and highlighted some wrongdoing. But that is but the first step, not the ultimate step, which we desperately need. Where are the real confrontations needed to vindicate the rule of law and restore constitutional order? No reasonable person can dispute that in the absence of genuine compulsion (and perhaps even then), the administration will continue to treat "the law" as something optional, and their power as absolute. Their wrongdoing is extreme, and only equally extreme corrective measures will suffice.

It is up to the Democratic Congress to win or lose this fight. It is one that we cannot afford to lose.

Ahnold gropes for a state budget

While the Assembly escapes for vacation:
SACRAMENTO — Besieged Senate Republicans continued to block passage of a state budget Friday night even as Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger publicly sided with Democrats and urged GOP senators to give up the fight.

The deadlock in the Senate persisted despite the Assembly passing a budget on a bipartisan vote following an all-night session into Friday morning. The Assembly has since disbanded for a monthlong recess. GOP lawmakers complain that the Assembly spending plan does not cut deep enough and are holding out for more reductions.

On Friday night, Schwarzenegger, whose role in budget talks has largely been limited this year, stepped in to warn Senate Republicans that he will not support their demand to cut the state's operating deficit — $700 million under the budget plan passed by the Assembly on Friday — to zero.

"Bringing the operating deficit to zero this year would mean a cut to the education budget," he said. "The question now is whether we cut education funding, and I don't think that's what the people of California want. I will not cut education."

He said the Assembly plan is "a budget the people of California can be proud of."

The governor's statement came after repeated pleas by Senate Leader Don Perata (D-Oakland) for his help getting at least two Senate Republican votes — the number needed to implement a state budget. Schwarzenegger's comments suggest he is losing patience with the impasse and will begin putting political pressure on the GOP holdouts.

But Senate Republican Leader Dick Ackerman of Irvine said the members of his caucus were not ready to fold. He declared that no budget would be passed Friday. "There's a number of issues still outstanding," he said. "We're still spending too much."

Ackerman said that in addition to spending reductions, Republicans want to see certain environmental regulations on business relaxed and want more say in how billions of dollars in public-works borrowing approved by voters in November gets spent. He declined to disclose all his specific demands.

"I have a list, but I'm not going to give it to you," he told reporters. "We've given the list to all the negotiators, and they're the ones that can make the decision. Every time we give them a list, it gets rejected."

Democrats, who have already given in to several GOP demands, welcomed the governor's involvement. They have agreed to curb public transportation spending by nearly $1.3 billion, delay welfare cost-of-living increases for the elderly and disabled and scale back drug treatment programs for prisoners.

Any attempt by the Senate to adopt a budget that is substantially different from the one the Assembly passed could leave the state in financial limbo for weeks, since the Assembly won't be in town to approve it. Such a delay would leave the state unable to make scheduled payments to school districts, local governments and vendors.
Haven't we been here before?