Friday, February 29, 2008

Own a Geiger counter, go to jail?

What on earth are they trying to prevent us from learning? When the next dirty bomb goes off? Not knowing whether the air you breathe has asbestos?:
Ken sez, "The Village Voice has a great overview of a uber-nanny NYPD's deputy commissioner (of counterterrorism, natch) attempt to fast-track a piece of legislation that would make mere possession of many sensors, from Geiger counters to asbestos detectors, illegal without a police permit. Send you to jail, illegal, too. Luckily, dozens of university researchers, public-health professionals, and environmental lawyers were somehow alerted and showed up at the city council session, blocking the quick enactment with old-fashioned argument and analysis. The commissioner is still dead set on taking away your ability to test for pollutants without a license (it's For the Children?!), but they pledge to 'accommodate all the concerns' as they draw up the new bill."
We should trust this government (or any government) to tell us the truth about the water we drink, the air we breathe, the beef we eat, the radioactive particles we are irradiated with?

Don't answer that...

Furday Cat Blogging

Kitten about to experience a time out.


Almost too true to be funny

Diebold Accidentally Leaks Results Of 2008 Election Early

More wars and less jobs!

Feminism is not an excuse for being cranky, bitchy about every little thing

Feminism makes one able to recognize society's acceptance of misogyny and its unawareness of how pervasive it is, that it is the little daily things that allow misogyny to grow.

Melissa McEwan of Shakesville:
Of all the condescending, dismissive, and factually incorrect accusations used by concern trolls (or hostile trolls) to attempt to silence, shame, or in some other way discourage feminists from addressing sexism in all its manifestations, perhaps none is quite so stupid as the charge that feminists are "looking" for things about which to be offended—as if feminism is a product that will go out of production if there aren't enough buyers and sales are waning because sexism is, like, so over, dude.

This notion is ridiculous for a couple of reasons. For a start, misogyny is so pervasive that no one has to look for it.


The idea that feminism should be kept under glass, broken only in case of a "real" and "serious" emergency, is predicated on the erroneous assumption that "the little things" happen in a void, as do, presumably, the "real" and "serious" things, when, in reality, they are interwoven strands of the same rope. And as soon as one begins to judge the worthiness of feminists' attention on a sliding scale, even generally-regarded "serious issues" like equal pay are dwarfed by global concerns like sex trafficking or government-sanctioned use of rape as a tool of war. It doesn't have to be one or the other—feminists can multi-task.

And, in a very real way, ignoring "the little things" in favor of "the big stuff" makes the big stuff that much harder to eradicate, because it is the pervasive, ubiquitous, inescapable little things that create the foundation of a sexist culture on which the big stuff is dependent for its survival. It's the little things, the constant drumbeat of inequality and objectification, that inure us to increasingly horrible acts and attitudes toward women.

Irrespective of intent, the recommendation to "ignore the little stuff," so often intertwined with accusations of looking for things about which to get offended, is not just ill-advised, but counter to the ultimate goal of full equality. It's like a knife in my gut when I see feminists accusing other feminists of "hurting the cause" by focusing on "the little stuff," because that's Itthat's the stuff, that's the fertile soil in which everything else takes root and from whence everything else springs, that's the way that the fundamental idea that women are not equal to men is conveyed over and over and over again.
Even though I am a woman, I confess I have indulged in misogyny because it brings a cheap laugh, but in the end I have created one more 'little' thing that will end up hurting myself, my daughter, women. Vigilance is required and it's so much easier to be lazy and say that's just how things are.

I still have a lot to learn.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Help Stony Brook University Political Science guy do his dissertation project!

The purpose of this survey is to examine how people think and feel about the political issues, parties, and candidates in the upcoming election. In the survey, you will be asked a series of questions about two political candidates, John McCain and Hillary Clinton. We are very interested in how individuals that find information on the web think about politics, and your participation would be greatly appreciated. In total, the survey should take about 15 minutes to complete. The survey is completely anonymous and you can skip any questions you do not wish to answer.
I take it 1) Pffffft! and 2) Definitely! won't suffice?

Ok, ok... off to take the survey.

There's been no rise in crime

But there has been a huge rise in prison inmates:

For the first time in history, more than one in every 100 American adults is in jail or prison, according to a new report tracking the surge in inmate population and urging states to rein in corrections costs with alternative sentencing programs.

The report, released Thursday by the Pew Center on the States, said the 50 states spent more than $49 billion on corrections last year, up from less than $11 billion 20 years earlier. The rate of increase for prison costs was six times greater than for higher education spending, the report said.

Using updated state-by-state data, the report said 2,319,258 adults were held in U.S. prisons or jails at the start of 2008 — one out of every 99.1 adults, and more than any other country in the world.


The report said prison growth and higher incarceration rates do not reflect a parallel increase in crime or in the nation's overall population. Instead, it said, more people are behind bars mainly because of tough sentencing measures, such as "three-strikes" laws, that result in longer prison stays.

"For some groups, the incarceration numbers are especially startling," the report said. "While one in 30 men between the ages of 20 and 34 is behind bars, for black males in that age group the figure is one in nine."

The nationwide figures, as of Jan. 1, include 1,596,127 people in state and federal prisons and 723,131 in local jails — a total 2,319,258 out of almost 230 million American adults.

The report said the United States is the world's incarceration leader, far ahead of more populous China with 1.5 million people behind bars. It said the U.S. also is the leader in inmates per capita (750 per 100,000 people), ahead of Russia (628 per 100,000) and other former Soviet bloc nations which make up the rest of the Top 10.

We beat Russia! We're number one!

But wait... just why are we number one? Besides taking our resources to fight the unwinable War on Drugs, who else is getting rich off this? Who could it be?....
And with just a tiny scratch or research those billions can be followed right into the pockets of companies tied intimately to republicans.

The nation’s largest private prison company, Corrections Corporation of America, and most of its senior officers, give nearly all their political money to Republicans, according to federal election filings through August.

CCA’s political action committee has given 96 percent of its money to Republicans so far this election cycle.


CCA, the nation’s largest private prison company, has credited the Bush administration’s expansion of federal police for creating new business for the firm.

Three times, the Corrections Corporation of America Political Action Committee made $15,000 donations to the National Republican Senatorial Committee. A number of $5,000 donations went to the Bush-Cheney campaign, the New Republican Majority Fund, and other GOP money groups.

Wherever there is money, there will soon be a politician. Now if we could just get the right people to serve some jail time....


Life without Garfield

Exposes a whole different world:
Who would have guessed that when you remove Garfield from the Garfield comic strips, the result is an even better comic about schizophrenia, bipolor disorder, and the empty desperation of modern life? Friends, meet Jon Arbuckle. Let’s laugh and learn with him on a journey deep into the tortured mind of an isolated young everyman as he fights a losing battle against lonliness and methamphetamine addiction in a quiet American suburb.

Enlisting the help of children


In watching the seasonal shift to earlier and earlier blooms:
Phenology is the science of tracking seasonal behaviors in plants and animals. It's an old science, with roots in ancient traditions that are tied to blossoming trees. In Japan and China, for instance, cherry and peach tree blooms signal the time of millennium-old festivals. Already it's been shown that Japan's cherry trees now bloom four days earlier than in the 1950s.

Similar warming trends are underway in North America, and the Project BudBurst will help fill in the details of how dozens of native species are adapting to global warming.


Children are playing a big role in the project, said Henderson, both at home as well as via teachers who are incorporating the project into their regular curriculum.

"We found that really exciting, to reconnect children with the outside world," said Henderson.

"My kids enjoyed it and I think they learned a good deal," said Jenny Whittaker a teacher at St. Monica Academy in Chicago, where she involved students in a pilot version of the project last year. "They picked their trees and we labeled them."

Then the kids made daily visits to their trees, photographing and drawing pictures of the trees as spring awakened them. In fact, it was almost hard to keep the kids away from their trees, she said. The students later compiled their data and presented it to the school.

"The kids are very interested in global warming," Whittaker told Discovery News, "because they hear so much about it in the news."

And because it is their future that we're messing up right now.

Using them up and throwing them out

The 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment (3/4) based at Twentynine Palms, California, reportedly became the first Marine Corps unit to be deployed to Iraq a record five times.

There's been much ado about how, even though these repeated deployments are taking their toll on units and families, there is a bright side. Repeated deployments are also helping to develop the most combat-experienced force in decades. But, interestingly, the 3/4's deployment suggests that, while that may be true within the higher echelons of the officer corps, it does not necessarily hold true at the grunt level. In an interview featured on the front page of Wednesday's San Francisco Chronicle, Col. William Vistead, the 3/4's commanding officer, estimates that 60 percent of his men will be going to Iraq for the first time. In other words, grunts are serving their four years and getting out. The same is happening within the junior and mid-level officer ranks. And there's no bright side to that.
But it is something of a milestone that the Marines are now sending a unit for a fifth time, as the war nears its five-year anniversary, on March 19. Marines typically send units over for seven-month tours, while Army units go for 12 or 15 months.

The endless cycle of deployments has taken a toll on the troops and their families. When units are not in Iraq, they are training to go there. And the experience level of the Marines does not necessarily grow. An average amount of time for an enlisted man on active duty is four years, and then they get out.

Vistead estimated that 60 percent of his men will be going to Iraq for the first time.
And who knows what they will experience, whether they will survive, and what condition they will been in when they come home.

Here is the personal storyof this woman trying to get the system to help her husband whom she is losing to PTSD:
This man has given 15 years to the army, three tours overseas in war zones and not once has ever been in trouble, not even ever threatened with a article 15...and for all of that and the fact that he laid his mind and body down for this country, literally, he was medically retired as a air traffic controller for the army because after coming back from Iraq he has PTSD so bad that he couldnt do his job, his devastating injury to his back and knees, oh, thanks for going over there and giving it your all, now we are going to as unceromoniously as possible evict you from the army, take away more than 2000.00 of your pay,wait three months before we even ackowledge you were in the army and then all we are going to give you is a army accomodation medal, which is kind of like getting the yearly, " hey we appreciate you and your work" you'd get for being at any job come bonus just ...hey thanks...Oh but the good news is you now qualify for food stamps!
So far we have gotten three appointments for his VA intake and three cancelations. Social Security sends us a letter that says, we got your information but we have a huge influx of requests for benefits, we will get to you eventually!
The Bush administration demands much of the military but cuts benefits and services at every turn. Supporting the troops means forcing them to wait for equipment made by warmongering defense contractors, making them wear inferior body armor, ignoring their actual needs if someone is not making money off of it. There are many Walter Reed stories reflected all over the country when and if our soldiers do come home. Then they try to drown them in a maze of paperwork, denials, and misplaced files.

This is Bush's glorious war on a noun: full of idiocy, incompetence and greed.


Abu Ghraib and Gitmo have been horrific in the treatment of prisoners

But it has also taken a terrible toll on those forced to be the guards: (my bold)
The guards at the Guantánamo Bay prison camp are the "overlooked victims" of America's controversial detention facility in Cuba, according to a psychiatrist who has treated some of them.

In some cases, a tour of duty at the camp has made guards suicidal and prompted a variety of psychiatric symptoms, from depression and insomnia to flashbacks. The guards' testimony also provides a harrowing insight into the treatment of prisoners.

Professor John Smith, a retired US Air Force captain, treated a patient who was a guard at the camp. "I think the guards of Guantánamo are an overlooked group of victims," Smith told the American Academy of Forensic Sciences annual meeting in Washington DC on Saturday. "They do not complain a lot. You do not hear about them."

The patient ('Mr H') is a national guardsman in his early 40s who was sent to Guantánamo in the first months of its operation, when prisoners captured in Afghanistan were beginning to flood into the camp. Mr H reported that he found conditions at the camp extremely disturbing. For example, in the first month two detainees and two prison guards committed suicide.

Painful positions

The taunts of prisoners and the things his superiors required him to do to them had a severe psychological impact on Mr H. "He was called upon to bring detainees, enemy combatants, to certain places and to see that they were handcuffed in particularly painful and difficult positions, usually naked, in anticipation of their interrogation," said Smith.

On occasion he was told to make prisoners kneel, naked and handcuffed, on sharp stones. To avoid interrogation the prisoners would often rub their wounds afterwards to make them worse so that they would be taken to hospital.

Some of the techniques used by interrogators resulted in detainees defecating, urinating, vomiting and screaming.

Mr H told Smith he felt profoundly guilty about his participation. "It was wrong what we did," he said.

The prisoners also threatened Mr H. "They would tell him they had networks of people throughout the world," said Smith. "If he did not take letters out and mail them then they would see to it that his family suffered the consequences."

Flashbacks and depression

When he returned to the US he was suffering from panic attacks, insomnia, nightmares, flashbacks and depression.

Another guard whom Smith treated described an incident in which a prisoner had hanged himself in his cell after partially gnawing his own arm off. The prisoner lost a substantial amount of blood but was cut down by guards and survived.

Amnesty International UK spokesperson Neil Durkin pointed out that the psychological trauma inflicted on the Guantánamo inmates should not be overlooked. "With numerous suicide attempts and reports of Guantánamo prisoners on the edge of psychosis, we are extremely concerned that even those eventually released from the camp will be mentally scarred for the rest of their lives," he said. "Over 200 of the Guantánamo prisoners are now held in solitary confinement - and after years of detention without charge or trial this is taking a heavy toll."

Gnawing.... GNAWING his own arm off?

Gitmo has become the cesspool of depravity which reflects the Bush and the neocons. They wanted torture, they obsessed about torture. They thought it would shock and awe the world, for they only see the world in terms of domination, subjugation, humiliation and cannot see how weak they actually appear to others.

All it did was show how craven and cowardly those who torture are, how perverted those who think that torture will strengthen their hold on power. All of us are debased by the actions of the Bush administration and the sooner we can address the evils done, the better we will become as a nation.

Update: Comments from those who desperately want to pretend what we do is not torture:
As part of his defense of the techniques used by the Bush administration to gain information, Bradbury went out of his way to play the historian, claiming that the water torture of yore differed from today's American-style version in crucial ways. The waterboarding employed by interrogators during the infamous Spanish Inquisition, he insisted, "involved the forced consumption of a mass amount of water". This led, he claimed, to the "lungs filling with water" to the point of "agony and death".

The CIA, on the other hand, employed "strict time limits", "safeguards", and "restrictions", making it a far more controlled technique. As he put it: "Something can be quite distressing or uncomfortable, even frightening, [but] if it doesn't involve severe physical pain, and it doesn't last very long, it may not constitute severe physical suffering" - and so would not qualify as torture. Bradbury summed up his historical case this way: "There's been a lot of discussion in the public about historical uses of waterboarding", but the "only thing in common is the use of water".

To remind readers, Bradbury is the government lawyer who, in 2005, drafted two secret memos authorizing the use of freezing temperatures and waterboarding in CIA attempts to break terrorism detainees. Nor is Bradbury the only one with the urge to distinguish any current American proclivity towards torture from the barbaric procedures used until the Enlightenment set in.

As Senator Joseph Lieberman commented last week, citing another medieval torture technique, waterboarding "is not like putting burning coals on people's bodies. The person is in no real danger. The impact is psychological." Waterboarding isn't torture, both men claimed, because it leaves no "permanent damage".

An example of why planning ahead is a good idea

Two armed robbers who targeted a Sydney bar that was hosting a bikers' meeting must have "failed robber school", said the club's chairman.

The men stormed the bar brandishing machetes and wearing balaclavas - unaware that 50 bikers were holding a meeting in an adjoining room.

You think all the motorcycles parked outside would have been an obvious clue....


Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Hand over your papers


That you must carry with you at all times. Just your passport is not enough:
The Department of Homeland Security has placed an odious new requirement on international air travel to, from, and over the United States. Where previously passenger lists had to be supplied to DHS within 15 minutes of a US bound flight taking off, now those lists must be made available in advance and every passenger must be given “permission” by DHS to board the flight in question. Think about that for a second. A passport is no longer sufficient to allow you to travel abroad, and DHS have given themselves the ability to deny you reentry to the United States…indefinitely.
Next we need to talk about getting really cool uniforms for the Der Department ov Homeland Sekurity, maybe some really shiny knee-high black boots? And some red banners with some sort of symbol on them...

You'll have to put white duct tape all over this post

Because Preznit Bush said there's no global warming and what he says is law:

Washington, D.C. (AHN) - An Environmental Protection Agency chief was given a warning against the potential rejection of California's proposal to enforce it's own carbon emission laws, as doing so would compromise the EPA's credibility, eventually calling for the chief's resignation.

The warning, sent out by Margot Oge, head of the agency's office of transportation and air quality, was directed to EPA Director Stephen Johnson, who was also informed that despite opposing claims, barring California's intentions to enact its own environmental laws had no legal or technical basis.

The documents were among the findings uncovered upon submission of EPA records released Tuesday upon the request of California Sen. Barbara Boxer.


The submitted records were in relation to California's ongoing push to enact its own laws regarding greenhouse emission standards, which 16 states have showed intentions of backing up and eventually adopting for their own areas.


The LA Times reported that another document showed EPA staff insisting on California's vulnerability to global warming consequences, running counter to Johnson's statement that the state had no "compelling and extraordinary conditions" to earn it its own tailpipe law.

Johnson was accused of making decisions while being swayed by political pressures, an allegation which he denied.

But Johnson is truly a loyal Bushie:

Johnson’s injection of President Bush’s politics into science is notorious. Earlier this year, he censored documents with white duct tape on the EPA’s decision-making process on the California waiver. Asked whether global warming was “a major crisis” facing the world, Johnson replied, “I don’t know what you mean by major crisis.”

Ironically, Boxer said today that the documents revealed an EPA “in crisis.”

Global warming? What global warming? There's no global warming! Ohhhh... THAT global warming...


Give us this day our daily bread

And stop making corn for ethanol:
Wheat prices have hit record highs and tight supplies of the staple crop have ignited concern about rising food costs.

The price of higher-quality spring wheat jumped almost 25% on Monday - the biggest one-day increase to date.

The rise comes as the UN's World Food Programme warns that it will have to start cutting rations or feeding fewer people if it does not get more money to cope with the higher cost of food.
The article goes on to list export curbs, drought, land for biofuels, growing demand, and speculation by investors as reasons for the climbing prices.

The US could help by acknowledging that ethanol is a ridiculous choice for a biofuel, inefficient in the extreme. The ruin of the water aquifers, the enlarging dead zones from fertilizer overuse, the extra pollution ethanol releases into the atmosphere, the loss of farm land to the mega-agriculture corporations, the infiltration into all our food of corn and corn byproducts, all this could be cut back by trying for another type of more efficient biofuel.

Nobody does it better

I think the Democratic Underground has covered just about all of it (from number 6 addressing Ralph Nader):
Sit back and watch Bush spend eight years shredding the Constitution, voiding decades-old international treaties, illegally invading other countries, wiretapping American citizens without a warrant, politicizing the Department of Justice, appointing radical conservative Supreme Court justices, whipping the religious right into an apocalyptic frenzy, sinking the economy into recession, robbing working Americans to pay for generous tax cuts for millionaires and generally destroying America's reputation around the world.
More of the top 10 worst conservatives for this week.


Crossposted at SteveAudio

Monday, February 25, 2008

So when they start aiming this at the master bedroom in your house

You'll be ok with it?

Motorists will be targeted by a new generation of road cameras which work out how many people are in a car by measuring the amount of bodily fluid it contains.

The latest snooping device on the nation's roads aims to penalise lone drivers who abuse car-sharing lanes, and is part of a Government effort to combat congestion at busy times.

The cameras work by sending an infrared beam through the windscreen of vehicles which detects the unique make-up of blood and water content in human skin.

The system's inventors believe it will catch out motorists who try to fool existing CCTV road cameras by placing mannequins in passenger seats or fixing photographs to windscreens.

It will at first be used to police car-sharing lanes in Leeds, but councils across the country have already expressed an interest in using them.

Professor John Tyrer, who headed the Loughborough University team which created the device, said it would reduce congestion.

"It allows you to automatically count people," he said.

"That pools through to the congestion charging, so they can charge differently or reduce the rates dramatically if you've got more people in the cars."

But motoring organisations claim the cameras are a further intrusion on private lives and say car-sharing lanes – which are already in operation in Birmingham and Leeds and are being built on the M1 in Hertfordshire – do not work.

Because it worked so well for Georgie

Bill Kristol recommends using the fear part of the Hate and Fear Republican Party tactics to Hillary Clinton:

This morning on Fox News Sunday, New York Times columnist Bill Kristol recommended that Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) employ the “politics of fear” to attack Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL):

KRISTOL: [Obama’s] riding a wave of euphoria. She [Clinton] needs to puncture it. The way you puncture euphoria is reality, or to be more blunt, fear. I recommend to Senator Clinton the politics of fear.

Lessee.... Bush is polling at 19%. There are more than twice as many Democratic voters as Republican voters coming out for this campaign. People have begun to figure out that hate and fear aren't reality but just a very unpleasant state of mind. People are sick of dirty politics. People are really sick of negative politics. Hillary Clinton was booed when she tried to go negative on Barack Obama.

And Bill Kristol is a Neocon Rovian smirkfest.


So... tell us again why this man is getting air time?

Censorship in Alabama

From Harper's Magazine:
CBS aired its long-awaited feature on the prosecution and imprisonment of former Alabama Governor Don E. Siegelman this evening at 7:00. In a stunning move of censorship, the transmission was blocked across the northern third of Alabama by CBS affiliate WHNT, which is owned by interests of the Bass Family. Those who were in the zone of censorship or who missed it, can catch the whole segment here.
They're not even trying to hide it anymore.

Update 2/26:
People are asking why the Siegelman article was dropped and want specifics. WHNT re-aired the missing segment but it won't stop the questions.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

For those of you who know the earth is older than 6000 years...

Chasing mammoths was ... difficult.

Doing what greedy unethical people do when given a truckload of government money

They totally pig out and ignore what they were supposed to be doing with it:
From prostitutes to Super bowl tickets, a federal probe reveals how contractors in Iraq cheated the U.S.
Are we suprised at this? No accountability, no oversight, no consequences. Bush literally opened the vault and invited these people to steal our tax dollars.
ROCK ISLAND, Ill.—Inside the stout federal courthouse of this Mississippi River town, the dirty secrets of Iraq war profiteering keep pouring out.

Hundreds of pages of recently unsealed court records detail how kickbacks shaped the war's largest troop support contract months before the first wave of U.S. soldiers plunged their boots into Iraqi sand.
Notice how these contractors knew long before the US citizens knew we were absolutely going to war. Bush's statements about not wanting to attack Iraq and trying to the last for diplomatic solutions were obvious lies.
The graft continued well beyond the 2004 congressional hearings that first called attention to it. And the massive fraud endangered the health of American soldiers even as it lined contractors' pockets, records show.
Bush's defense contractors were in it for the money. They ripped off the US military, in their indifference, they put our soldiers' lives at risk. Rumsfeld's glorious war plan was just giving money away.
Federal prosecutors in Rock Island have indicted four former supervisors from KBR, the giant defense firm that holds the contract, along with a decorated Army officer and five executives from KBR subcontractors based in the U.S. or the Middle East. Those defendants, along with two other KBR employees who have pleaded guilty in Virginia, account for a third of the 36 people indicted to date on Iraq war-contract crimes, Justice Department records show.
Indictments and jail time are fine.

But I want my money back.

I want it back from every 'defense' contractor that signed up and didn't deliver. I want it back from the twits who drove empty trucks about Iraq because that and only that was on the contract. I want it back from those who were signed up to supply food and water to our troops and gave them unclean water and old food, or no food at all because, being contractors, a war zone was a scary place. I want it back from incompetent body armor manufacturers that made soldiers take off good armor to wear their mandatory inefficient stuff and then were wounded. I want it back from Blackwater and DynCorp and other mercenary groups whose business is war and see no reason to try and help fix the country. I want it back from every warmonger in the Bush administration who plans to leave office and go into the ever so conveniently waiting defense contractor boardroom.

I want my money back and I want every business who benefited from Bush's idiot war to be fined. In fact, put them out of business and give the CEO jail time. Let them learn that we demand accountability, oversight, and justice. Let them learn that actions or non-actions have consequences.

I want my money and my country back.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

A man of integrity

Does not fit in the Bush administration:

The Pentagon was successful in preventing Col. Morris Davis from testifying before Congress. But he's taking a step that could be even more damaging: agreeing to testify as a defense witness in a Guantanamo Bay tribunal.
From the AP:

Air Force Col. Morris Davis, who resigned in October over alleged political interference in the U.S. military tribunals, told The Associated Press he will appear at a hearing for Salim Ahmed Hamdan.

"I expect to be called as a witness ... I'm more than happy to testify," Davis said in a telephone interview from Washington. He called it "an opportunity to tell the truth."

At the April pretrial hearing inside the U.S. military base in southeast Cuba, Hamdan's defense team plans to argue that alleged political interference cited by Davis violates the Military Commissions Act, Hamdan's military lawyer, Navy Lt. Brian Mizer, told the AP.

The Wall Street Journal reports (sub. req.) that Morris' testimony could potentially impact all of the tribunals.

Have you ever dreamed you were IN a video game?

And you didn't know whether you were the hero or one of the extraneous side kicks? And realized there was no reset button?

Via Monkeyfister "Frontlines: Fuel of War", wars over oil:

This isn't a game.... it's our future.

That's MY drinking water you're wasting!


Via Cookie Jill at skippy the bush kangaroo, The Christian Science Monitor:

Lake Mead and Lake Powell, which supply water and power to millions in the American Southwest, stand a 50 percent chance of running dry by 2021 unless dramatic changes take place in how the region uses water, according to a new study.

Causes include growing population, rising demand for Colorado River water, which feeds both lakes, and global warming, according to scientists at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, Calif., who conducted the study.

The results underscore the importance of water-conservation measures that many communities throughout the region are putting into place. Other studies, some dating back nearly 20 years, have projected that Lake Mead could fall to virtually useless levels as climate warmed, but they lacked a sense of the timing. The new results, the Scripps scientists say, represent a first attempt to answer when lakes Mead and Powell would run dry, squeezing water supplies in Arizona, California, Nevada, and New Mexico.

Here in Southern California, we've been through droughts. The worst came with restrictions on water usage: no washing of cars, no watering of lawns, no automatic glasses of water given at restaurants, a certain percent drop demanded of each household based on the last year's usage unless appealed. We had neighbors reporting on each other, dead of night furtive sprinkler usage, general idiot behavior exposed for what it was. Politicians cringe at activating drought prevention programs. We need to make it part of normal life so people don't feel their liberties are being denied when they're asked not to waste water.

We need to educate from kindergarten up: respect potable water no matter where you live. Water that has been processed so that it is safe to drink is a wonderful luxury and we need to respect it.

Start by turning off the water while you brush your teeth. Do you realize how many gallons you just saved?

Update: In China: (my bold)

Beijing, China (AHN) - More than 40 percent of drinking water in rural China is unfit for drinking, a health ministry study said Monday. The drinking water in the country's rural areas has failed to meet government standards leading to outbreaks of diarrhea and other diseases, a Ministry of Health spokesman said.


Unhealthy water led to outbreaks of diarrhea and other diseases, with 40.44 percent of surface water and 45.94 percent of ground water below the regulatory standards released in 2006.

The Ministry of Health and the National Committee for the Patriotic Public Health Campaign conducted a joint survey of nearly 7,000 samples from villages across the country. The survey found that 74.9 percent of people drank underground water while 25.1 percent drank surface water.

"Most people living in rural areas do not have their drinking water sterilized. Often they just drink the well water, which may have been polluted," Mao said.

The unhealthy water is mainly attributed to unchecked industrialization, polluting factories that cause disruptions to water supplies and microbial contamination.

However, in densely populated areas, 85.23 percent of people living in villages or counties often having their water boiled before drinking, thus lowering the chance of contracting a serious enteric infectious disease.

Because we who lived through the 60s know what can happen

Take better care of this man:

DALLAS -- Security details at Barack Obama's rally Wednesday stopped screening people for weapons at the front gates more than an hour before the Democratic presidential candidate took the stage at Reunion Arena.

The order to put down the metal detectors and stop checking purses and laptop bags came as a surprise to several Dallas police officers who said they believed it was a lapse in security.

The Secret Service responds:

"There were no security lapses at that venue," said Eric Zahren, a spokesman for the Secret Service in Washington. He added there was "no deviation" from the "comprehensive and layered" security plan, implemented in "very close cooperation with our law enforcement partners."

Zahren rebutted suggestions by several Dallas police officers at the rally who thought the Secret Service ordered a halt to the time-consuming weapons check because long lines were moving slowly, and many seats remained empty as time neared for Obama to appear.

"It was never a part of the plan at this particular venue to have each and every person in the crowd pass through the Magnetometer," said Zahren, referring to the device used to detect metal in clothing and bags.

He declined to give the reason for checking people for weapons at the front of the lines and letting those farther back go in without inspection.

"We would not want, by providing those details, to have people trying to derive ways in which they could defeat the security at any particular venue," Zahren said.

Barack Obama is freaking out the racists in this country. Do not think they won't go literally ballistic if he wins the election.

Protect him.

I must polish it a bit more

And hang it on my blog:


Michael of Cannablog
gave this to me ... why ask questions? Now I get to choose out ten other bloggers... which makes me cringe each time I do these things because I read so many. But by chainlinking back, I'll try to prevent repeating bloggitteers who have been chosen already:

Mustang Bobby at Bark Bark Woof Woof

Carrie, Uncensored

distributorcap NY

Morse of Media Needle

Tengrain of Mock, Paper, Scissors

Eli of Multi Medium


Sorghum Crow at his General Store

Mapaghimagsik of Taking Stock

Steve Bates of The Yellow Doggerel Democrat

Excellent bloggers all!

Friday, February 22, 2008

Gassing the poor and the helpless

No, not Saddam, George Bush:

Hope, Arkansas (AHN) - The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that there were high levels of formaldehyde in travel trailers and mobile homes that were used by victims of hurricane Katrina and Rita as emergency housing.

FEMA officials said that the residents of these trailers will be transferred as quickly as possible into hotels and apartments because exposing them to formaldehyde makes them sick. They said that transferring them will be beneficial for those who already have symptoms of respiratory illnesses such as the children, elderly persons or occupants.

Formaldehyde is a gas at room temperature. When exposed to this, it can cause burning eyes and/or nose, coughing and difficulty breathing. It is also shown to be carcinogenic - causing nasal and nasopharyngeal cancer and possibly leukemia also.

CDC director Dr. Julie Gerberding said that higher temperatures may cause formaldehyde levels to go up. She also added that the high levels were found in December and January and that the people should be relocated before summer.

Heckovajob, Georgie!

crossposted at SteveAudio.

Just wait until they do this for the military!

Gamers will soon be able to interact with the virtual world using their thoughts and emotions alone.

A neuro-headset which interprets the interaction of neurons in the brain will go on sale later this year.

"It picks up electrical activity from the brain and sends wireless signals to a computer," said Tan Le, president of US/Australian firm Emotiv.

"It allows the user to manipulate a game or virtual environment naturally and intuitively," she added.

The brain is made up of about 100 billion nerve cells, or neurons, which emit an electrical impulse when interacting. The headset implements a technology known as non-invasive electroencephalography (EEG) to read the neural activity.

Ms Le said: "Emotiv is a neuro-engineering company and we've created a brain computer interface that reads electrical impulses in the brain and translates them into commands that a video game can accept and control the game dynamically."

Headsets which read neural activity are not new, but Ms Le said the Epoc was the first consumer device that can be used for gaming.

"This is the first headset that doesn't require a large net of electrodes, or a technician to calibrate or operate it and does require gel on the scalp," she said. "It also doesn't cost tens of thousands of dollars."


There is no reset button, no do over, no ability to change

What the telecoms did. They assisted a rogue administration break the law to spy on Americans. It was illegal. There should be consequences. If there are no consequences, why do we have laws?

And why should people go to jail for breaking these laws but corporations and administrations don't?

From Michael at Cannablog:

Sign the petition.

The word 'Probably' is the new 'Oops'

Or even 'I fucked up but I'm a Republican so I never have to admit to a mistake'.

Via Thers at Whiskey Fire, Think Progress:
During a town hall meeting in Muskogee, Oklahoma this past weekend, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) admitted that it was “a mistake” for the United States to invade Iraq in 2003. “I will tell you personally that I think it was probably a mistake going to Iraq,” Coburn told the crowd.

Are you guys going to be soon saying things like, "You know, that whole Bush, Rove, Cheney, Rumsfeld thing was probably a mistake"? Or, "You know, fucking up a sovereign nation that had nothing to do with 9/11, bombing the hell out of innocent people, getting the whole world to think we've gone mad, galvanizing millions more would be terrorists to start taking sides... now THAT was probably a mistake."

Ya think, Senator Coburn? Probably?

Friday Cat Blogging

Ilsa: But what about us?
Rick: We'll always have Paris. We didn't have...we'd...we'd lost it until you came to Casablanca. We got it back last night.
Ilsa: When I said I would never leave you...
Rick: And you never will. But I've got a job to do, too. Where I'm going, you can't follow. What I've got to do, you can't be any part of. Ilsa, I'm no good at being noble, but it doesn't take much to see that the problems of three little people don't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. Someday you'll understand that. Now, now... Here's looking at you kid.


Hey! You feel like arguing? Do ya, punk? Huh?

Well then. Have at it.

NOW we know why Georgie bought all that land in Paraguay

From Scott Fraser's Stock Advisory:

Pantera Petroleum (PTPE) has just revealed the early indicators of a world-record oil / gas discovery in Paraguay’s first Super-Field. These potential reserve numbers – which are included in a 2007 independent geological report by world-renowned Energy Consulting International, Inc. – are the BIGGEST I have ever seen.

Quoting directly from the company’s website at

Pantera Petroleum Inc. has rights to five concessions in northern Paraguay, covering nearly 16,000 square kilometers, with combined potential reserves of 6.7 TCFE of gas or 1100 million barrels of oil.

Not only oil... but he's atop the largest fresh water aqufier in the world. Looks like the Bushes are sitting pretty nicely.

And then something like this happens:
Thousands of people in Paraguay have been queuing for vaccines against yellow fever, after the first outbreak of the disease in 30 years.

At least four people have died, and the government declared a state of emergency last week.

Health workers have given 160,000 vaccines in recent days, but officials say they need to administer many more.

Another health alert was declared in Paraguay last month amid a suspected outbreak of dengue fever.

Damn, those poor people sure are such a nuisance, aren't they, Georgie? Too bad we can't just declare war on Paraguay and invade....

Uh oh. Forget I suggested that...

Thursday, February 21, 2008

There's nothing cultish about it

Four Legs Good at Got Pitchfork writes about a visit to Obamaland:
Over and over I heard conversations of people describing why they were there- how frustrated they've been and how they feel the tide is turning, because they, themselves are turning it. There were a lot of strangers connecting in almost a sweet way- lots of shy smiles and nods, the sharing of stories... there was some kind of basic, almost primal recognition going on. "I know you, you are part of my tribe." It was community, which is what being a democrat is all about, no? For me it was extraordinarily moving. I've rarely been so proud to be an American.
Thousands of students walk seven miles to vote:

Early voting starts today in Texas. In Waller County, a primarily rural county about 60 miles outside Houston, the county made the decision to offer only one early voting location: at the County Courthouse in Hempstead, TX, the county seat.

Prairie View A&M students organized to protest the decision, because they felt it hindered their ability to vote. For background, Prairie View A&M is one of Texas' historically Black universities. It has a very different demographic feel than the rest of the county. There has been a long history of dispute over what the students feel is disenfranchisement. There was a lot of outrage in 2006, when students felt they were unfairly denied the right to vote when their registrations somehow did not get processed.

According to an article in today's Houston Chronicle:

Waller County has faced numerous lawsuits involving voting rights in the past 30 years and remains under investigation by the Texas Attorney General's Office based on complaints by local black leaders. Those allegations, concerning the November 2006 general election, related to voting machine failures, inadequate staffing and long delays for voting results.

The article adds,

"I was angry after registering to vote in the 2006 election only to be turned away at the voting booth," said sophomore Dee Dee Williams.

So what are the students doing?

1000 students, along with an additional 1000 friends and supporters, are this morning walking the 7.3 miles between Prairie View and Hempstead in order to vote today. According to the piece I saw on the news (there's no video up, so I can't link to it), the students plan to all vote today. There are only 2 machines available at the courthouse for early voting, so they hope to tie them up all day and into the night.

I love stories like this where people rise up and do what is good. But the rabid wingnuts are not going to take this lying down. Just a note of caution and a warning to be alert:

David Neiwert of Orcinus reminds us of the horrible pestilence lurking in the sludge.

And Lance Mannion
warns us of the incoming ugliness of the Right Wing Smear Machine as it grinds into high gear :
Now that he's the clear front-runner and favorite to win the nomination the bloom isn't off the rose yet but plenty of the petals are showing signs of blight. The Media Insiders are beginning to see him and write about him as what he is, the Democrat who would be President unless they stop him.

And the Right Wing Smear Machine, which for some reason some very smart people seemed to think would go silent as long as we didn't nominate Hillary, is already geared up and ready to roll against Obama, and if you thought it would was going to be ugly if Clinton was running, watch and listen to the race-baiting that's on the way. No dog-whistles either. The attacks will be overt and unashamed, except for the National Review types who will phrase their racism with their usual apparent cognitive dissonance: "Since I know I'm not a racist, I can say whatever racist thing pops into my head, and if you think the racist thing I just said was racist that proves you are the real racist."
Glenn Greenwald of Salon:

Nor, contrary to what appears to be the unduly optimistic belief of some Obama supporters, will the sleazy right-wing noise machine change its tactics in the slightest. Immediately before I read Lisa Schiffren's "half black/half Jewish, red diaper baby" rant, I watched Mike Gallagher on Fox News explain, to a sympathetic host, that Sharon Stone ought to be "charged with treason" for pointing out that insufficient attention is paid to the death of Iraqi civilians.

It's vitally important to remember that our political life is suffuse with lowlifes and hatemongers like this. Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Ann Coulter -- the heart and soul of the right-wing -- aren't going anywhere, nor are the media-connected, Swiftboat-spewing operatives who function in the shadows and the sewers. As Digby pointed out yesterday, the Right has already created a new, extremely well-funded organization -- overseen by the incomparably slimy and truth-free Ari Fleischer -- preparing to unleash exactly this sort of bile. As Digby said, the Democratic primary is exceedingly polite when compared to what is coming: "Just wait until you see what Ari Fleischer and his quarter of a billion have in store for us."

Rise up with joy and go forth with strength. But don't be naive and don't be shocked.

But we can do this, bring a Democrat into the White House, and we can protect him (or her) while we make sure his (or her) administration does not run off the rails. The Republicans will resist helping, the Bush administration will most assuredly have deposited land mines both within the White House and outside in the world. There will be determined sabotage. Because this is what they do.

But we can be ready.

Gay earthquakes, the new terrorist threat

An Israeli MP has blamed parliament's tolerance of gays for earthquakes that have rocked the Holy Land recently.

Shlomo Benizri, of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish Shas Party, said the tremors had been caused by lawmaking that gave "legitimacy to sodomy".

Israel decriminalised homosexuality in 1988 and has since passed several laws recognising gay rights.

Two earthquakes shook the region last week and a further four struck in November and December.

Well, there's a whole lot of shaking goin' on:
OSLO — A magnitude-6.2 earthquake, the largest ever recorded on Norwegian territory, hit off the Arctic Svalbard islands early Thursday, the national seismic monitoring center said. No casualties or damage were reported.

The quake could have been catastrophic if it had hit a more densely populated area, said Conrad Lindholm, senior researcher of the seismic institute NORSAR.
And in Nevada:
WELLS, Nev. - Windows shattered and building facades and signs fell, but no one was seriously injured when a powerful earthquake shook this rural northeastern town on Thursday.

The quake, which had an estimated magnitude of 6.0, according to the U.S. Geological Survey's National Earthquake Information Center in Golden, Colo., struck at 6:16 a.m., near Wells in a sparsely populated area near the Nevada-Utah line.

Elko County commissioners declared a state of emergency. "Almost all of the businesses are shut down. We have no services and no fuel," Commissioner Mike Nannini said.
Damn those gays! We told them to keep the stereo down and not to jump up and down on the ceiling after 10pm...


Founded in June 2004, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America is the nation's first and largest group dedicated to the Troops and Veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the civilian supporters of those Troops and Veterans.

From the people who were there.

(Update 2/22. Found where I got the link: Madison Guy at Letter From Here. A nice story goes with it.)

19 percent?


But we're not gloating.

We're even not saying we told you so.


Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Probably?? After all that money, probably?

WASHINGTON - A Navy missile soaring 130 miles above the Pacific smashed a dying and potentially deadly U.S. spy satellite Wednesday and probably destroyed a tank carrying 1,000 pounds of toxic fuel, officials said.
I still say they launched a faulty satellite filled with explosives so they could 'lose control' over it and then pretend to shoot it down to shock and awe the Chinese who did this last year.

The sad thing is.. we can't trust anything Bush and his cohorts say or do. So if we shot down a satellite, I'll wait until somebody else in some other country with some other satellite photos verifies it.

Update 2/22: Bryan of Why Now? says it better.

We have to find them guilty

Because we've held innocent people so long in jail, we'd lose face if we didn't convict them:

Col. Morris Davis resigned his position as chief prosecutor for Guantánamo Bay’s military commissions after being placed under the command of torture advocate William J. Haynes. As a result of a conversation he had with Haynes in 2005, Davis tells The Nation that he doesn’t believe “the men at Guantánamo could receive a fair trial“:

“I said to him that if we come up short and there are some acquittals in our cases, it will at least validate the process,” Davis continued. “At which point, [Haynes’s] eyes got wide and he said, ‘Wait a minute, we can’t have acquittals. If we’ve been holding these guys for so long, how can we explain letting them get off? We can’t have acquittals, we’ve got to have convictions.’”

And this whole thing has been about shock and awing people. How can we shock and awe people when we let them go free? It's us or them!


I am so proud of our students

To see them stand up against this administration:
This evening, hundreds of protestors — mostly students — “converged on the steps of the Washington University Music Building” to demonstrate against former attorney general Alberto Gonzales, who was delivering a speech hosted by the College Republicans. Gonzales agreed to answer only pre-approved questions and closed the talk to the press.

And I said no no no

Habits are so hard to break. Like ignoring the wishes of the people and forcing them to accept someone they didn't vote for.

Think Progress:
Despite the defeat of President Pervez Musharraf’s party in the Pakistani parliamentary elections, the Bush administration is still trying to “construct a coalition that will keep Mr. Musharraf in power as president.” Officials admit that Musharraf “remains the administration’s preferred Pakistani leader.”

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) -- Pakistan's president will not step down as head of state and intends to serve out his five-year term, his spokesman said, despite a sweeping victory by his opponents in an election that President Bush on Wednesday judged to be fair.

But with the vote count nearly complete, two opposition parties have won enough seats to form a new government, though they will likely fall short of the two-thirds needed to impeach the president.

The result is seen as a major political setback for Musharraf, a key ally of Washington in fighting Taliban and al-Qaida, whose popularity has plummeted over the past year. The victors were secular political parties; Islamic hard-liners fared badly.

Bush, the Pakistani leader's chief foreign backer, declared Wednesday that the elections were a "victory in the war on terror."

"There were elections held that have been judged as being fair, and the people have spoken," Bush said in Ghana during his current trip to Africa.

Let me interrupt the article to point out the supportive threat ... statement Georgie makes:
"It's now time for the newly elected folks to show up and form their government," Bush said. "The question then is 'Will they be friends of the United States?' I certainly hope so.
You called Osama and his band of merry men 'folks', too, George. Just saying...

So Pakistan tries to figure out what to do next:
As the fallout from Pakistan's general elections comes into focus, one enormous question mark has emerged: who will be included in the new government? Some major domestic political players have made hasty, if strategic, retreats from the government-making process and have adopted policies of wait and see.

Meanwhile, Washington has moved to mend bridges between embattled President Pervez Musharraf and the opposition camps in order to preserve its interests in the regional "war on terror". Analysts believe that if Islamabad is gripped by further political turmoil, and if Musharraf exits the corridors of power, the US-led operation could flounder.

"We shall prefer to sit in the opposition and would rather provide support for the issues of national interest instead of making any bid to be a part of any set-up," Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed, secretary general of the former ruling Pakistan Muslim League Quaid-i-Azam (PML-Q), told Asia Times Online. "I think there are a lot of issues where any future set-up needs our support, especially in the 'war on terror', and we would provide our support while sitting in the opposition benches."
Most Pakistanis view this vote as a denial of American might:
Washington officially applauded the election process in Pakistan, which it termed transparent, among other praises. At the same time, however, the US has grave concerns that the vulnerability of a new government, or its unwillingness to cooperate with the US, could spell doom for the "war on terror".

"I suggest that political parties should demand that until Musharraf's resignation they would not take the oath in the parliament. Because, if they take the oath, it means they legitimize Musharraf's presidency," said retired Lieutenant General Hamid Gul, who has recently played a major role in organizing Pakistani veterans' groups to demand retired general Musharraf's resignation.

Gul was optimistic that the present vote against Musharraf and his allies was a vote against American domination of the region. He expressed hope that eventually mass support would push Islamabad to abandon all military operations in tribal areas.

"Americans cannot do anything if we stop the operations in tribal areas. If they stop military aid, they are welcome to do so. We don't need military aid. All we need is economic aid and they just cannot afford to stop it. Why? Because all NATO supply lines pass through Pakistan and if they stop economic aid, Pakistan can stop supply lines which would end their regional war on terror theater once and for all. This is the biggest crime of Musharraf - that he could not understand the strategic value of Pakistan in the region and could not exploit it," said Gul.
Amid all this, who is watching ... you know... the nukes? India is freaking out:

NEW DELHI (AFP) — India should be deeply concerned about the possibility of Pakistan's nuclear weapons falling into the hands of extremists, a top official was reported as saying.

"The nature of the dangers which nuclear weapons pose has dramatically intensified with the growing risk that such weapons may be acquired by terrorists..." Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's special envoy Shyam Saran said on Monday

"The mounting concern over the likelihood that in a situation of chaos, Pakistan's nuclear assets may fall into the hands of jihadi elements... underscores how real this danger has become," Saran was quoted as saying by the Press Trust of India at a lecture in New Delhi.


The United States and other Western countries have expressed mounting concern over the security of Islamabad's estimated 50 warheads, with Pakistani forces battling a growing insurgency by Al-Qaeda-linked militants.

So what will Musharraf do?:
The remaining question is what will happen to Musharraf. Among those who have come into personal contact with him, there is a sense that he will understand the depth of his current predicament.

"He is an intelligent man. He will know he is not in a position to dictate things," says Mahmood Shah, who helped coordinate Musharraf's policies in the tribal belt as former secretary of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. "Even if he tries to cling to power, it will be very difficult," Mr. Shah continues.

The coming days or weeks will be a test of whether Musharraf's legendary survival instincts have their limits, say others. "He will first try to see if he has any future working with these political parties," says Ikram Sehgal, editor of Defence Journal. "If it is not tenable, he will lay out a plan to say good-bye."

"He knows very well that the Army will not support him" if he challenges the parliament, Mr. Sehgal adds.

Should Musharraf prove confrontational, however, Zardari has said he would not rule out impeachment. This is particularly bad news for Musharraf, since Zardari's PPP has generally been more tolerant of Musharraf than Sharif's PML-N, which has categorically refused to work with Musharraf, partly because Musharraf overthrew Sharif in his 1999 coup.

The process of impeachment is relatively simple, requiring only a two-thirds vote in the general assembly and the Senate. The Senate is still filled with Musharraf's allies, since it is not up for reelection until next year. But senators might be tempted to abandon Musharraf if his situation looks untenable. The Army, however, would be loath to see its former leader humiliated in such a way and could step in to convince Musharraf to go, if it came to that point, says Sehgal.
crossposted at SteveAudio

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Global warming can kill

(My bold) WASHINGTON — What's likely to happen if the world does nothing to combat global warming? The answer from the Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was jaw-dropping: more than 40 percent of known plant and animal species could become extinct by the end of this century.

Many scientists who've been studying climate change say extinctions aren't inevitable if the world greatly reduces its dependence on oil, coal and natural gas. As daunting as the warning signs and projections are, there's still time to fend off the worst, they say. But they also warn that "business as usual" would bring devastating changes in the decades ahead.

"We're locked into a different planet, but we can still make it a planet similar to what we have known," said Lara Hansen, an ecologist who's the chief climate-change scientist at the World Wildlife Fund. The Arctic Ocean will be ice free in the summer in a few years, "but we're not locked into the Arctic being ice-free year round, or Greenland melting."


Some paleontologists have suggested that the world already is witnessing a sixth mass extinction, after five others known from the fossil record. The fifth was the end of the dinosaurs and some 70 percent of other species 65 million years ago. Some of the projections of a do-nothing trend on global warming suggest that 70 percent of all living things could become extinct again.


The World Conservation Union says that the rapid loss of species today is 1,000 to 10,000 times higher than the natural rate of species loss over the past millions of years. The causes of the current threat go back through human history: habitat destruction for development and agriculture, overexploitation, diseases and invasions of alien species. Climate change adds to the pressure on vulnerable species.

The group's "Red List" comprises 16,306 plant and animal species that the group says are threatened with extinction. It also says that there's evidence from the effects of climate change on species around the world that rising temperatures will be "catastrophic for many species."

Biologist Camille Parmesan of the University of Texas at Austin, who participated on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said that some 40 scientific studies found that the risk at higher temperature increases, 7 to 9 degrees Fahrenheit, could range from an extinction rate of more than 40 percent to more than 70 percent.


Earth's average temperature has increased by about 1 degree Fahrenheit since 1890, and roughly another degree is expected from the greenhouse gases that already have been released, because of a lag in the climate system and because carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, stays in the atmosphere for hundreds of years.

Many scientists say that the world would be in trouble with any warming of more than 2 degrees Celsius — about 3.5 degrees Fahrenheit — above 19th-century levels. At that temperature, the panel's report said, up to 30 percent of species would be at increasing risk of extinction and most corals would be bleached.

The report found that temperatures could be kept below that level by reducing greenhouse gas emissions by about 80 percent by 2050, or about 2 percent per year. They're now increasing by about 3 percent per year.

Thomas Lovejoy, a conservation biologist who heads the Heinz Center for Science, Economics and the Environment, said he thought that the world would see serious disruptions in ecosystems before global warming hit 3.5 degrees. But he said that the high level of extinction the panel projected wasn't inevitable if society greatly reduced fossil fuel pollution and invested more in wildlife protection.

Lovejoy, Parmesan and some 600 other scientists sent a letter last month urging Congress to pass legislation to curb U.S. global-warming pollution and invest more in protecting wildlife and habitats.

The National Wildlife Federation sent a similar appeal this week from 670 hunting and fishing organizations in all the states.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Killing the messenger

Wikileaks is shut down by a judge. Several mirror sites have gone up in response.

Paul Kiel of TPM:

As for why this California judge ordered the whole site taken down over a few documents, that's not clear. As the BBC reports, "The case was brought by lawyers working for the Swiss banking group Julius Baer. It concerned several documents posted on the site which allegedly reveal that the bank was involved with money laundering and tax evasion." Why didn't the judge just didn't order the documents taken down instead of the whole site? We hope to get some expert guidance on the question.

Update: Just spoke with Steve Aftergood of the Project on Government Secrecy, who offered a clue. "My hunch is that the action was dictated by the practical options. [The judge and Julius Baer] don't know who is or who the responsible parties are upon whom a court order could be served. What they did know was the U.S. based internet service provider." So they got the ISP to shut the site down. "If they had known who to serve the order to – who represents Wikileaks --, then they might have chosen a more targeted action." Nevertheless, he thought the judge's move was "extraordinary," based as it was on the bank's contention that these were legally protected documents.

A large number of mirror sites have sprung up to counter the judge's move -- sites mirroring not only wikileaks, but also the Julius Baer documents at issue.

"Wikileaks had boasted that they were impervious to censorship," Aftergood told me. "This is the most serious test they've faced in their year-long existence. They may lose their current website, but dozens of mirrors around the world will endure. And I expect they will regroup."

Corporations over people, business over justice. We need to protect our whistleblowers like Sibel Edmonds, Mark Klein, and places like Wikileaks.

A complete waste of time

But strangely satisfying....

Build a city... incompetently. Tower Bloxx game! From this site (don't look! don't look!)

And from hipparchia at Over the Cliff, Onto the Rocks, the world map game.

Some ... interesting music ... to play by:

Edible cars

Made from corn.... parts of it at least:
How organic is your vehicle? While corn-based door panels and dashboards made from hemp may sound like a pipe dream, major car manufacturers have begun ditching traditional petroleum-based plastics and composites in favour of bio-based materials.

Indeed, researchers have predicted that by 2015, 100 kilograms of every car could come from materials made from plants like soy, wheat, canola and sugar cane.

"By and large, anything you make from oil you can make from biological material," says Terry Daynard, chief executive officer of the Ontario BioAuto Council, an industry-driven group working to promote biomaterials. "The question, of course, is can you do it in a cost-effective manner and can you do it with all the quality requirements the auto manufacturers want."


Biomaterials are considered "greener" than those based on materials such as fossil fuels because they don't generate greenhouse gases. Replacing one tonne of conventional plastic with a bio-equivalent eliminates three tonnes of planet-warming carbon dioxide, for example.

That's a big plus for manufacturers who see Europe setting hard targets for carbon dioxide emissions and want to be prepared if similar regulations are enacted here.

Bioplastics are also generally lighter than their petroleum-based counterparts, which translates into better mileage. Every one-kilogram reduction in vehicle weight saves up to nine litres of fuel a year.

Finally, when the life the vehicle ends, plant-based parts can be composted instead of consigned to landfills.
As long as it doesn't turn into compost while still being driven....

The best of the worst

For this week.


Sunday, February 17, 2008

Watching the spy satellite come down

Keeping track of it as its orbit decays:
When and where will it hit the Earth ?
This is the question which interests most people, and unfortunately very difficult to answer. The satellite is being slowed down by friction with the tenuous upper atmosphere and losing height steadily, as can be seen in the plot below, which shows the orbital height over the last year. As it sinks further, the atmospheric density increases and so does the friction, making the descent faster and faster. Re-entry will happen when the height reaches about 100km.

What are the risks ?

Fortunately, the risk to people on the ground is extremely low. The Earth is large and two-thirds of it is covered by ocean. Most of the satellite will burn up in the upper atmosphere, but a few large pieces are expected to survive the re-entry and fall to Earth. It would be very unlikely for any of them to hit someone.

Where is USA 193 now ?

You can see the current position in the ground track below.


From one English as a second language person to another

Start with the simple words first...


Mad cow for elementary school lunches!


A non-ambulatory animal can be an indication of mad cow disease:

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Sunday ordered the recall of 143 million pounds of frozen beef from a California slaughterhouse, the subject of an animal-abuse investigation, that provided meat to school lunch programs.

Officials said it was the largest beef recall in the United States, surpassing a 1999 ban of 35 million pounds of ready-to-eat meats. No illnesses have been linked to the newly recalled meat, and officials said the health threat was likely small.

The recall will affect beef products dating to Feb. 1, 2006, that came from Chino-based Westland/Hallmark Meat Co., the federal agency said.

Secretary of Agriculture Ed Schafer said his department has evidence that Westland did not routinely contact its veterinarian when cattle became non-ambulatory after passing inspection, violating health regulations.


Federal officials suspended operations at Westland/Hallmark after an undercover video from the Humane Society of the United States surfaced showing crippled and sick animals being shoved with forklifts.

Two former employees were charged Friday. Five felony counts of animal cruelty and three misdemeanors were filed against a pen manager. Three misdemeanor counts - illegal movement of a non-ambulatory animal - were filed against an employee who worked under that manager. Both were fired.

It's simple. Time to start eating other meats than beef, or not eating meat at all.

Update 2/22: The horrific peek into the slaughter house:

If it's not the crabs, it's the lawyers

I mean sharks:

Boston, MA (AHN) - If the present trend of global warming continues, the marine life in Antarctica will be at risk from an invasion of sharks, crabs and other predators, biologists have warned. Expressing their concerns at the annual conference of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the biologists warned that the presence of sharks in the Antarctica could prove devastating to its underwater ecosystem.

Since the temperature of Antarctica's surrounding waters remain at the freezing point, they become too cold for sharks and other fish living in the vast continent's seas. This makes the Antarctic seafloor occupied mainly by relatively soft-bodied, slow-moving invertebrates.

If this happens, the presence of sharks would completely change the ecology of the Antarctic underwater community. In the last 50 years, sea surface temperatures around Antarctica have risen by 1 to 2C, which is more than twice the global average. This has lead to the presence of crabs in the waters for the first time in ages. This will disrupt the composition of the archaic marine communities scientists said.

Professor Cheryl Wilga of the University of Rhode Island (URI), U.S. said, "Sharks are going to arrive in Antarctica as long as the warming trend continues, a bit more slowly than crabs - crabs are going to get there first,"

"But once they do get there they are capable of eating the organisms that live there."
Nice. Not only do we wreck up the planet and melt the polar ice caps, we get to watch all the species disappear, one by one by one.

Update 2/18:

Starting with polar bears (and denied by the US Senate: U.S. Senate Report Debunks Polar Bear Extinction Fears )

And now penguins.

Update 2/20: Hipparchia in comments noted the site United States Senate Environment and Public Works Committee is connected to Senator Inhofe, a rabid global warming denier.

McCain says no new taxes and embraces his inner Bush


I think we've maxed out the credit cards enough already, John:
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Republican John McCain says there will be no new taxes during his administration if he is elected president.

"No new taxes," the likely GOP presidential nominee said during a taped interview broadcast Sunday.

McCain told ABC's "This Week" that under no circumstances would he increase taxes, and added that he could "see an argument, if our economy continues to deteriorate, for lower interest rates, lower tax rates, and certainly decreasing corporate tax rates," as well as giving people the ability to write off depreciation and eliminating the alternative minimum tax.
McCain's "no new taxes" statement marked a turnaround. Last September, he was forced to defend his refusal to sign a no-new tax pledge offered by the conservative Americans for Tax Reform.

"I stand on my record," he said during a televised debate in Durham, N.H. "I don't have to sign pledges."

The leading contender for his party's presidential nomination, McCain blamed out-of-control spending for a lack of enthusiasm among Republican voters.

"Spending restraint is why our base is not energized," he said. "I think it's very important that we send a signal to the American people we're going to stop the earmark pork-barrel spending."