Thursday, May 31, 2007

District of Bizarro XIV: United States of Enron

Predictably the Senate Democrats, lacking a veto proof majority, caved to the Charlatan in the bunker and are preparing a war funding bill without strings for his signature. Every thinking American surely must realize by now that the regime could care less about the American people's desire to end the misguided conflict. It's mission is to service the corporate interests--especially oil interests--that fund it's misrule. To drive the point deeper, look at the tangled web of influence outlined by Public Citizen and created by one of the richest energy companies in the world, Enron:

  • 'Darth' Cheney allowed oil companies, including Enron, to literally write America's energy policy which can be summed up as drill more domestic wells and secure foreign sources;
  • 'Gonzo' Gonzales worked at Houston mega firm Vinson & Elkins that represented Enron and acquiesced in Enron's crooked accounting schemes;
  • Former Attorney General Ashcroft had to recuse himself after it was disclosed Enron had donated $57,499 to his failed Senate campaign;
  • Karl Rove was a major Enron stockholder when he met with Ken Lay to discuss Enron's regulatory problems;
  • Former Secretary of the Army Thomas White was a former Enron executive who sold off $12 million in Enron stock after he was appointed to public office;
  • Senator Phil Gramm pushed legislation to protect Enron from investigation and decided not to run again when the scandal erupted;
  • Wendy Gramm, the Senator's wife, sponsored a measure exempting Enron from federal oversight when she served as chairperson of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. She then joined Enron's board of directors and served on the audit committee;
  • Former Montana Governor Marc Racicot continued as a lobbyist getting paid $360,000 by Enron when he was appointed the head of the Republican National Committee;
  • Robert Zoellick was a US Trade Representative promoted to Deputy Secretary of State in 2005. Zoellick served on Enron's advisory council;
  • Spencer Abraham was appointed Secretary of Energy. As a Senator he took Enron campaign contributions;
  • Patrick H. Wood III was Ken Lay's personal choice to replace Federal Energy Regulatory Commission chair Curtis Herbert Jr, forced out because he disagreed with Ken Lay;
  • 2000 campaign manager, Ed Gillespie, was paid $75,000 per month to lobby on the California energy crisis;
  • Chief fundraiser, Don Evans, accepted Enron campaign contributions and was appointed Secretary of Commerce;
  • Christian Coalition leader, Ralph Reed, was paid $10,000 a month by Enron upon recommendation of political strategist Carl Rove to keep him loyal and out of the way during the campaign for president.

If this roll call of sleaze is not enough to sicken you recall that Enron's 500 lbs gorilla, Ken Lay Jr. made Enron the biggest corporate contributor to George W. Bushwack. Before dying of natural causes, he was found guilty by a jury of his peers of defrauding his own employees of their pensions. May he rest with Jerry Falwell.

Weekend Update: Crony capitalism is alive and well in the Bizzaro. Never one to surprise, the Charlatan has named one of the above heroes of sleaze to be Paul Wolfowitz's replacement at the World Bank. Wolfowitz, a co-creator of the Iraq nightmare, shot himself in the foot with the favoritism displayed toward his main squeeze and colleague in the building. He resigned under pressure. The Bank is the major institution for funding development in the third world, and should be a significant appointment for any administration, red or blue. Can you guess who the nominee is? (hint: he is alive and his name is in bold). Obviously, the Charlatan has not outgrown his frat days. Ambassador Zoellick is a protege of daddy's Secretary of State James Baker III, considered a member of the 'inner circle', and a free market fundamentalist. He is also thought to be a friend of the pharmaceutical industry since he played a role as US Trade Representative in negotiating bilateral trade agreements which blocked access to generic drugs. Currently the Bank allows its financial aid to be used for purchasing generic medications for AIDS patients in poor countries who cannot afford brand name medications. Leaders in the aid community fear that policy may change under a Zoellick led institution. In other unrelated news, the Charlatan announced his proposal to increase federal spending for overseas AIDS assistance, and the Dow Jones Industrial average of stock prices hit a new record high yesterday. Must be the invisible hand of the market. [Yawn] [Note to Ray: Mimicry is an effective form of satire.]

Sunday, May 27, 2007

The Liar In Chief

Like an old dog that cannot learn new tricks, the Charlatan used a captive military audience at the Coast Guard Academy to sow fear among the people. He reintegrated his discredited claim that Bin Laden sought to establish a cell in Iraq that was capable of attacking the U.S. It is the lowest of political tricks and an indication of the man's desperate attempt to justify his reckless decision to invade Iraq. Despite his obstinate refusal to accept reality, he is right about one thing. Al Qaeda is in Iraq now, but only because he insisted on overthrowing a dictator--which our government backed at one time--who refused to do business with Bin Laden. Because of his invasion, the Charlatan has actually made America more hated and less secure. Instead of convincing the President to begin an phased withdrawal, the Republicans are attacking John Edwards because he dared to speak the truth. The GWOT is a bumper sticker masquerading as foreign policy. If Republicans and Democratic hawks continue to allow this reckless expenditure of lives and money, the ensuing disaster will exceed the dimensions of the defeat in Vietnam.

In order to keep troops in Iraq and bully Congress into spending more on the war, the Charlatan now claims the terrorists will "follow us home" if the army redeploys from Iraq. Even the troops on the ground know that their position in the middle of a civil war is untenable. US soldiers in a Sunni neighborhood in western Baghdad call their fortified position "the Alamo". An army captain in command says the' surge' has increased enemy resistance and worries that this period "will go down here as their surge, not ours". The boy cried 'wolf' once too often. So has the President.

Weekend Update: British papers report that General David Petraeus sees the writing in the Book of Daniel and will change his strategy from force to negotiation in an attempt to reduce sectarian conflict. The 'surge' is not even completed, but it was doomed for the start as being too little, too late. Nouri al-Maliki has also proven to be totally unreliable as a strategic partner. Iraqi government forces are simply too compromised by divided loyalties to be effective. But being a team player, for which he received his fourth star, General Petraeus towed the White House line on 'victory' in Iraq despite the improbability of success.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Dialogue with Hillary VI: Paranoid?

Your staff may spin it as old news, but there are some interesting tidbits in the biographies about you. We found the allegation that you were very worried about being prosecuted when you were First Lady revealing. Believe me, we know what it feels like to be pursued by that "vast right wing conspiracy". No target is too small or too irrelevant if you forget that the business of America is still business. But your paranoia about being persecuted fits in with your manipulative and ruthless personality profile. You are not above turning the same method of character smear against your adversaries a la Gennifer Flowers.

Did you really not have time to read the National Intelligence Estimate about Iraq? It was full of equivocations and dissents about Iraq's capabilities and certainly a long way from George Tenant's "slam dunk" case. We know you are a policy wonk, and your bailiwick included national security issues, so we doubt the authors' allegation about this issue. No, what you decided was to continue your husband's policy of 'regime change' in Iraq, so the Estimate was superfluous verbiage in your view. You suffer the same insecurity complex about national defense that most Democrats suffer from: better to wage war than appear weak, especially if you are a woman.

But lets put these character issues aside and talk about what matters most: policy. Your current plan for reforming health care is fatally flawed because it fails to remove the single largest reason for the uncontrolled escalation in cost: the middle man in the game for profit. Insurance companies, as pointed out by Michael Moore and others, are making big money by beating patients out of coverage while increasing the price for coverage at the same time. Private insurance schemes have neither the incentive or the economic leverage to negotiate lower prices from the health care business. To control cost and provide universal coverage, the middle man must be eliminated from the equation, not simply "demanding a better return on our investment" as you proposed at George Washington University. With a monopoly position, the government could successfully demand that health care providers find delivery efficiencies, reduce administrative overheads and improve preventive care thereby lowering the astronomical cost of health care. Even corporate America realizes it does not want to be stuck with the outrageous private insurance bill anymore. Health care should be treated as a common good as it is other western industrialized countries. We think that the system is broken beyond incremental repair. It's for profit structure must be fundamentally altered. Your incremental approach and failure to succeed in 1993 demonstrate that you are not the woman to lead the next fight for health care for all Americans.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Hamburgesa en Paradiso II

Giant turtles (tortoises are terrestrial turtles) are synonymous with the Galapagos Islands. The islands' name is derived from a Spanish word for saddle reminiscent of the carapace shape of one of the races. Of the fifteen races unique to each island, four are extinct. Its likely that the only giant turtles a visitor sees are captive ones at Darwin Research Station. These are part of an on-going breeding program to replace the wild turtles that have disappeared from islands like Espanola. To see wild turtles, you either must be very lucky or trek to the interior of the big islands, Santa Clara or Isabela. Turtles were once numerous, but predation by humans and invasive herbivores such as goats have reduced their numbers drastically. The Ecuadorian government has made extraordinary efforts to eradicate the feral goat. It is a voracious eater that can survive in extremely rough terrain. Goats can compete more successfully than cold blooded reptiles. Flanks of the shield volcanoes that form Isabela have been denuded of vegetation by the mammal. The extermination program has cost Ecuador $20 million and has achieved some success. The last goat on Santa Fe was killed in the 1990s. Vegetation has recovered and the island's endemic land iguana is thriving. Goats were finally exterminated from the northern half of Isabela in 2005. As many as 100,000 were shot and their carcasses left to decompose. In this drastic way the island's nutrients were returned to the soil for use by indigenous species.

Six hundred or more invasive plant species have been introduced to the islands. Eight introduced mammals ranging in size from cows and pigs to cats and mice now inhabit the islands and are competing very successfully against endemic species. Thirty years were required to eradicate the feral pig from Santiago island. I was an eye witness to the problem of invasive insects. Our yatch and another sailing behind us encountered a swarm of paper wasps at sea between the islands of Floreana and Isabela. Several of the passengers enjoyed killing as many as they could with their flip flops. The guide found the event disturbing enough to report it to park authorities. When we landed on Isabela, the paper wasps were there too. The native pollinator is the carpenter bee--a large, slow flying and solitary bee. An organized colony of wasps could probably make short work of the native. Darwin finches, "a most singular group of finches" according to the great naturalist, are also experiencing a vicious assault by an introduced insect. Flies, probably brought in with food supplies from the mainland, are laying their eggs in finch nests. When hatched, the maggots feed on the finch chicks. The mangrove finch, the rarest, is particularly hard hit. Scientists estimate that the species is down to 50 pairs of birds on the northeast coast of Isabela. The finches are a living example of adaptive radiation. To loose even one finch species because of man's modern impact on the islands would be a tragedy.

Human habitation of the Galapagos is a 500 year old fact. No one is suggesting putting the islands off limits to humans even if that were feasible. What is needed to be establish are strict control of the number of visitors to the National Park each year and limits on the total population of residents. Better enforcement of marine reserve regulations are also needed. Visitor sites that are suffering adversely from tourist use should be closed and allowed to recover. I was told that the large amount of money contributed each year to the private Darwin Foundation is not shared with the National Park for it's protection or enhancement. If this statement reflects the current situation, the Foundation should consider helping the Ecuadorian government with contributions. The direct link between tourist revenue and park expenditures needs to be broken. Another criticism expressed was that scientific studies are often esoteric and of little practical value. The impacts of tourism on the Galapagos and it's wildlife should be closely studied and the results shared with responsible government officials. If international cooperation to protect the Galapagos is not increased to deal with the relatively new environmental dynamic of mass tourism, the isles will be enchanting no longer.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Hamburgesa en Paradiso

Moby Dick's Herman Melville knew whereof he wrote. He sailed aboard whaling ships as a crew member in the Pacific. His voyages took him to the Galapagos Islands where ships hunted offshore in the rich, cold waters and provisioned with fresh turtle meat and water. The feral goats, pigs, and cattle that still roam the islands are a legacy of early European visitation. Before the whalers, English pirates used the islands as a hideout from which they could prey on Spanish galleons. On early charts the island group was labeled "Las Encantadas" because often they were shrouded in mists and low clouds. Strong currents made navigation difficult and the islands appeared to float silently pass ships struggling to make way. Melville doubted whether any other spot on Earth could be as desolate as this volcanic archipelago. Even in this age of space exploration, as you sail around Cerra Azul volcano on the biggest island of Isabela, you are thankfully out of cell phone range. No one can hear you except your shipmates. On the equator and 1000km west of Ecuador, the isolation of the Galapagos is the main reason for its unique and diverse natural history. This factor more than any other allowed animals and plants to adapt to conditions unique to each of the 13 major islands The adaptive variations in four species of Galapagos mockingbirds were carefully observed by Charles Darwin. His 1835 voyage as naturalist on HMS Beagle to four of the islands changed man's understanding of the world and his place in it forever. Their isolation has ended.

Tourism has changed the Galapagos and not necessarily for the better. Tourism began as a trickle in the 1960s. There was only one airport on Baltra, abandoned by the Americans who had built a base to protect approaches to the Panama Canal during WWII. Now there are two airports and four flights a day from the mainland. In 1970 a master plan developed for the Galapagos estimated 12,000 tourists a year could be accommodated without impacting the environment. One hundred forty thousand visited last year. Puerto Ayora, the tourist business hub on Santa Cruz has grown from a fishing village of 2,000 people in the late 1950s to 18,000 living in a bustling tourist hot spot with streets lined by trinket and T shirt shops, bars, Internet cafes and hamburger joints. A conservative growth estimate of 5% per year means Puerto Ayora will be small city of 50,000 by 2020 if left unchecked. When my motor yacht anchored in the small harbor to resupply, I counted 15 tour vessels at anchor and numerous private sailing vessels. The dock was a zodiac traffic jam at 6pm when visitors returned to their boats after visiting the captive breeding tortoises at Darwin Research Station. The harbor is polluted because the growing town has no modern sewage treatment plant. Sewage has been pumped into the island's volcanic fissures, but it is beginning to back up into the town's domestic plumbing.

The success of the tour industry has brought more Ecuadorians from the mainland too. The Province of Galapagos has the highest per capita income in the country. Immigration was restricted by the government in 1998 by the passage of the "Ley de Galapagos" or Special Law for the Conservation and Special Use of the Galapagos Province. Only prior residents may live permanently in the islands. Temporary workers must have a job contract and return to the mainland when the contract expires. However, there is a growing illegal immigration problem. There are plans for deportation of illegals, but nothing has happened yet. The total human population for the four inhabited islands is currently estimated at 30,000. Supplying the tour industry and its support base also brings another problem to the islands, invasive species, which arrive in cargoes by sea and air.

Its easy for an observant visitor to see that burgeoning human activity is impacting wildlife. At the town fish wharf a local fisherman was feeding scraps to begging sea lions and pelicans despite park rules against feeding. Granted, Puerto Ayora is outside park boundaries, but the animals do not know that. Birds like frigates, boobies and the magnificent waved albatross court, mate and nests literally under the feet of hundreds of gawking tourists each day, year round. Its hard to understand how they cannot have their survival rhythms disrupted despite assurances to the contrary by naturalist guides. When questioned, my park guide had to admit that boobies have been moving their nesting spots out of the tourist tracks and deeper into the scrub. Meanwhile, the relentless tramp of boots continues to erode arid soil from the trails. During several snorkeling swims in water up to 30m deep, I was struck by two observations: the absence of sharks, except for two small reef sharks, and the sparsity of fish life in general. The seas around the Galapagos are relatively cold despite its tropical location so there are only about a half dozen coral types, but I expected to see more fish. There are plenty of sea lions to see in the water and on the beaches. Watching pups play in the surf under the protection of a bull will put a smile on the most cynical human face. Their amusing curiosity for humans can lead to trouble. Landing on Sante Fe island, a young pup waddle up to our group as if to display his injury to us. Clearly, it's tail had been deeply sliced by a propeller blade. The cut was deep enough to sever a nerve because one of its flippers was lame. It was a distressing sight, and a serious injury that will probably an early death. Seal lions need all the speed they can muster to escape sharks.

There is still significant populations of endemic wildlife on the islands that have little fear of visitors who do not molest them. The National Park was created to protect it on the centenary of the publication of Darwin's Origin of Species, 1959. Ninety seven percent of the uninhabited land mass was included. Little was done to actively protect endemic wildlife or deal with invasive species until the Charles Darwin Research Station was founded in 1964. The first management effort for marine life was suggested by an American Peace Corp volunteer in 1974. Surrounding waters were declared a marine reserve in 1986. The marine reserve boundary extends 40 miles out to sea and commercial fishing is prohibited. Artisanal fishing is permitted and there are 682 (2000) registered fishermen. Illegal fishing continues as enforcement is sporadic. Sharks are being wiped out for their fins, a Oriental delicacy that brings high prices. It is estimated that sharks will disappear from the area in ten years. I did see one Ecuadorian coast guard frigate at anchor in Baltra. My guide proudly pointed out that the "Guardia" had captured the four illegal fishing vessels anchored around the ship. Effective policing will require more ships and more severe punishment than mere fines. Imprisonment and forfeiture of vessels will be required to put poachers out of action.

Ecuador is not a rich country and it needs more resources than the income from tourism to effectively preserve one of the last great wild places on Earth. To its credit, the government is making earnest efforts to control invasive species. Humans should be included in that category despite the revenue tourism generates. The Galapagos is a popular holiday destination because of it's unique and vulnerable wildlife. The Galapagos is also a world heritage site that needs protection. More about efforts to preserve the islands' unique species and habitats in my next post on the enchanted isles.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Open Reply to Senator Gordon H. Smith

Dear Senator Smith:
Thank you for writing your letter to me of April 20, 2007. I apologize for the delay in responding to you, but I received your letter while on vacation. I too am concerned about Iran's efforts to obtain a nuclear arsenal and nuclear proliferation in general. Iran should comply with the United Nation's resolutions concerning it's nuclear program and I support the sanctions imposed. But I believe it is helpful to see that nation's arms program in the context of the current Middle East crises. The Palestinian peace process has collapsed. Iran's regional adversary possesses a nuclear arsenal. The US is currently occupying a neighboring Shiite nation. It's military alliance, NATO, is conducting operations against terrorists near Iran's eastern boarders. Understandably, Iran's fundamentalist leaders could consider the situation provocative.

Unilateral military action against Iran is neither feasible, given the current over extension of US military forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, nor would it ultimately be successful. A US strike would provoke a widespread regional conflict that could escalate to the use of nuclear weapons in defense of Israel. I continue to urge diplomacy and direct dialogue with regional powers to seek a tolerable arrangement for the future of Iraq and Palestine.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Turtle Island in the Sixth Extinction

Spirit Father asked Turtle to bring some mud from the bottom of the sea so he might make dry land on the Earth. Turtle dove down deep into the abyss. Deeper and deeper Turtle swam until at last in the perpetual blackness she touched the bottom with her beak. She scooped up as much mud as she could carry in her mouth and began to swim upwards. As she swam, some of the mud was washed from her jaws, so that when she finally broke the surface of the ocean only a small amount remained. Spirit Father took the ball of mud from Turtle, thanked her, and began to flatten it out in his hands. The mud grew larger and larger in Spirit Father's hands until the mud became the dry land. The land is called Turtle Island.

A native legend about the creation of North America that is hardly scientific. Yet Turtle Island is the symbol and spiritual inspiration of a modern conservation movement based on scientific principles and a radical vision to save the remaining wild species on the continent from extinction. There is a consensus among biologists that Earth is experiencing a loss of species at a rate that rivals previous episodes of mass extinctions in it's geologic history. It is the Sixth Extinction. You are probably familiar by now with the Cretaceous Period extinction in which the saurians died. There were also mass extinction at the end of the Triassic, the Permian, Devonian and Ordovician Periods. In the Third Extinction, ninety percent of all species died out. The significant difference of the Sixth Extinction is that human activity rather than natural cause is responsible. Edmund O. Wilson, eminent biologist, estimated in 1993 that 30,000 species a year are being lost. Man has had a negative affect on Earth's other species since he first arrived in an evolutionary perspective. The demise of Pleistocene mega fauna in North America was probably caused by man's extreme hunting pressure. But the effect has accelerated since he began agriculture, which allowed overpopulation, and then industry, which is changing climate. By 2050 over half of current species alive will be extinct.

The death of animal and plant life may leave some anthropocentric humans cold. Extinction of life on a mass scale means forces are at work that will eventually threaten man himself. One obvious example is the dying coral reefs around the world. A global survey of reef fisheries shows that more than half of reefs where governments collect data are being degraded beyond recovery by overfishing. Thirty million people depend on coral reef fisheries for food and livelihood. In previous extinctions, environmentally sensitive coral reefs have been among the first organisms to die resulting in a chain reaction of extinction. Pollution killing wildlife works its way up the food chain and poses a health threat to man. All fish in the United States are contaminated with mercury which causes brain damage and possibly heart disease. Increases in ultraviolet radiation and pollution may be killing amphibians whose remarkable skin is unable to adapt fast enough to environmental changes. Cancers are a leading cause of human deaths. Blanketing the Earth with microwaves may be causing bee colonies to collapse. US farmers are having difficulty finding enough bees to pollinate their crops. Green plants absorb carbon dioxide and expire oxygen. More examples of life's interdependence on Earth come to our attention daily. Preserving healthy populations of wildlife and their natural habitat therefore has positive effects on the survival of the human species.

The Wildlands Project has been a low profile movement to preserve, connect and later expand wild areas exclusively as biological reserves on the continent. A modern version of Noah's Arc if you will. It is a radical vision to reshape the continent that may take a century or more to realize. Wildlands are made up of core areas of national parks and preserves that allow for little human use. These cores are surrounded by buffer zones of acquired land that is open to more sustainable use. These large tracts of land including entire ecosystems, perhaps as large as 25 million acres, are connected to each other by corridors permitting wildlife migration and foraging. A mind boggling 50% of the North American continent would be locked away from development and exploitation according to these visionaries. The movement encompasses the ethics of "deep ecology" which mandates a fundamental change in the way man interacts with his home planet, a reduction of his population, and a respect for all life as having equal value to his own. Even its advocates admit the project is an "extreme manifestation" of public policy. Its scope is continental. Obviously capitalists and industries are scared to death of such a radical and unlikely re greening of 'Turtle Island' that will require a shrinking of America's industrial base. Nevertheless the project has corporate and philanthropic sponsors ranging from Ted Turner to Nike Industries to Patagonia, Inc. One of the frequent criticisms of the first Bush Administration was that it lacked a cohesive vision for a future America. The people who support the Wildlands Project principles certainly have a vision. Now that we are facing a human made ecological crises of global proportions, it's merit should be discussed seriously and extensively.

Note: US Person will be taking a break as he travels to the islands of Darwin's inspiration. Come back later for more high impact blog at Persona Non Grata.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Waxman on the Case II

Simon Dodge is an obscure nuclear intelligence analyst in the State Department and Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Ca) on the trial of the Italian Job wants to talk to him. But his boss, Secretary Rice, who herself is ignoring a subpoena to testify before Waxman's Oversight and Government Reform Committee, is refusing to let him speak to committee staff despite his own willingness to do so. Dodge apparently determined three months before the Charlatan's sixteen words to Congress about Saddam seeking bomb materials that the Niger connection was a likely hoax. He forwarded his conclusion by e-mail to members of the intelligence community on January 13, 2003, two weeks before the State of the Union address. Chairman Waxman sent a letter to the Secretary of State today telling her not to impede the investigation and requesting more documentation. The obvious question is, did Condi know about the assessment and if so, what did she do with the information.

Now everybody, except perhaps Christopher Hitchens, knows the Niger story was a put up job done with the help of fascistic elements of Italian military intelligence. The story is a classic example of black propaganda similar to what the notorious masonic cell, Propaganda Due (P2) successfully used against the Red Brigades in Italy as part of the "strategia della tensione". If that fantastic scenario can be authenticated, then impeachment should be a "slam dunk".

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Impeachment Gets Mo

Delegates at last Sunday's California State Democratic Party convention in San Diego voted to ask Congress to use subpoena power to investigate the misdeeds of the regime and to hold the Charlatan and Darth Cheney accountable for their malfeasance in office by instituting impeachment proceedings if appropriate. The state party resolution sent a strong signal to Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic leaders that their party supporters are dead serious about bringing the Executive to trial in the Senate for the lies it told Congress to achieve authorization for war.

Here is a passage from a letter I wrote to Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) concerning impeachment well before he became chairman of the House Judiciary Committee:

The fraudulent selling of the Iraq war and subsequent executive actions taken to combat terrorism in violation of our nation’s charter are indeed quite serious and well documented. I do not agree that we are “guessing”. There have been sufficient journalistic revelations, leaks of classified information, statements by former officials, and Supreme Court decisions to have probable cause to believe, that the Administration has violated numerous federal statutes, treaties, and the Constitution itself. Some of these violations are federal felonies, such as violations of the War Crimes Act of 1996.

I do agree that a formal investigation ending with the drafting of articles of impeachment by the House Judiciary Committee is necessary and appropriate. This process must go forward, however, despite stonewalling by the entire Republican Party. Preventing the impeachment of George W. Bush has become a fundamental test of party loyalty. Republicans see any attempt at accountability only as political revenge for the impeachment and near removal of President Clinton. This narrow attitude is extremely unfortunate for the country since the allegations against the current President are so much more fundamental than lying under oath about sexual dalliances.

When presidential candidate Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT) was asked if he supported impeachment, he said "no", because "it sucks all the oxygen out of the room". I am not sure what he means by that cliche, since there is darn little oxygen in the halls of power anyway. There might be a quid pro quo here. If the Charlatan were to accept a binding timetable for withdrawal from Iraq, might he be spared the humiliation of the dock despite his high crimes? If he remains belligerent, all bets are off. Stayed tune.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

District of Bizarro XIII: Killing the Deal

The Charlatan may have extruded his veto power over Congress' timetable for withdrawal, but the Kurds in the Iraqi debating society passing for a national parliament have put what may be the final kibosh on pulling Iraq out of it's fatal disintegration. Anyone analyzing the basis of a possible compromise between the three sides--Sunni, Shia and Kurds--must admit that an arrangement for sharing oil revenues is absolutely key. Iraq is estimated to have proven reserves of 115 billion barrels, making it the world's third largest possessor of petroleum resources. Its the only real wealth the country possesses and is therefore the financial basis for any reconstruction of the destroyed infrastructure, returning desperately needed social services, and rebuilding a shattered economy. Shoring up U.S. political support for the regime's failed occupation is directly dependant on Iraqi progress toward a national reconciliation. Hope of that occurring is being blown away as fast as sand by the hot desert wind.

Kurdish members of parliament announced on Monday their opposition to the technical annexes of the February agreement backed heavily by the U.S. They had agreed to the draft bill, but after looking at the annexes, they pronounced them in violation of the oil law. According to the Kurds, the annexes give control of 93% of the nation's oil reserves to the Iraqi National Oil Company. Kurds only hold 58 seats out of 275 in parliament. But almost all of the oil fields are located in autonomous Kurdistan and the Shia south. As we all know, possession is 9/10ths of the law.

Computers Got Warming Wrong

US climate scientists revealed that computer models vastly underestimated the rate of polar sea ice melting. Eighteen models used by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimated a melting rate of 2.8% per decade for the period 1953-2006. Scientist at the Boulder, Colorado center for National Atmospheric Research said that actual measurements show an actual melting rate of 7.8% per decade for the same period. The observed rate means that arctic ice cap melting is 30 years ahead of what observers previously thought. They think that greenhouse gases are playing a significantly greater role in the melting of arctic ice.

This picture by Gary Braasch from the tiny island nation of Tuvalu, shows what the impact of rising sea levels is for inhabited coastlines. Eleven thousand people live on the coral atolls that are the dry land of Tuvalu in the Pacific Ocean. The tide is washing over the main road in 2005. Tuvalu was one of the nations that signed the Kyoto Treaty.