Thursday, July 31, 2008


The wildfires in California are no joking matter. Fires killed two firefighters and have destroyed many homes. The Telegraph Fire, a 26,000 acre blaze in Mariposa County threatens Yosemite National Park and the town of Midpines. Over a million acres have burned since June when lightning ignited thousands of fires. 98% have been contained thanks to the efforts of firefighters.

But a recent quote attributed to the 'Governator' that "Caulifornia is filled with smoke." reminded me of another kind of smoke of which California has a lot. Yes, Ahnold, if you smell that smell, the smell of it surrounds you. Since the state passed Proposition 215, legalizing the use and growing of medical marijuana, the cannabis crop has exploded. Californians grew an estimated twenty million plants in 2006 worth billions of dollars. While growing weed for medical purposes may be legal at the state level, it is still a federal offense to grow, sell or smoke marijuana. The state and twelve others that passed medical marijuana laws now have a growth industry of quasi legal growers and dispensaries supplying 200,000 pot users with doctors' notes in California alone. The laws have elevated what used to be a totally underground industry to a gray zone of business occupied by porn shops and strip joints. Between 1981 and 2006 domestic marijuana production increased ten fold replacing corn as America's leading cash crop. A State Department put the 2005 crop at more than twenty-two million pounds. These figures are from an article in the July 28 New Yorker by David Samuels. According to Mr. Samuels first hand reporting the medical grade stuff produces better highs, is better tasting, and consequently is much more expensive than the right-of-way weed available when I was a teen angel. It's not considered polite in the medicinal cannabis trade to ask legal buyers if they are going to smoke it all themselves. So who would not fire up their bong with a quarter bag of O.G. Kush if your doctor said its good for your nerves? Wackydoodle sez: Smoke 'em if you got 'em.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Prince of Darkness Cashes In

Richard Perle the eminence gris of the Zionist neocon world, co-author of the report Clean Break published by an Israeli think-tank that advocated protecting Israel by deposing Saddam Hussein and thereby reordering the Middle East, spent a decade lobbying for war. He is credited for his strenuous efforts as the architect of the Iraq war, and now he is cashing in on the privatization of Iraq's oil industry as a result of it. According to the Wall Street Journal, Perle has been discussing a possible deal with officials of northern Iraq's Kurdistan regional government. The negotiations concern a tract near the Kurdistan city of Erbil. It is not the first time Perle has business interests benefiting from the Iraq conflict. He was a director of Autonomy Corporation, a UK firm selling sophisticated eavesdropping software to intelligence agencies including Italian intelligence, US Homeland Security, NSA and DIA. Perle was forced to resign his post as chairman of the influential Defense Policy Board in 2003 because of allegations that his company would profit from the war. Autonomy Corporation recruited Perle shortly before the neocons took office in 2000.

Monday, July 28, 2008

'Toontime Extra: 100% Pure

[credit: Dwane Powell, Raleigh News & Observer]
Wackydoodle sez: Garunteed to cure what ails ya!

The Obama Grandstand

The reviews are coming in about Obama's performance on the Euro stage and they are mixed. Some saw the "world citizen"'s speech before an encouraging sea of American flags held aloft by Berliners on Thursday as overly cautious, even banal and vague in its content. Others saw the intended historic parallels too grandiose for a one term senator to convincingly carry off. Citizen Obama's handlers were counting on at least a week of inundating press coverage that was uniformly positive. That goal was largely achieved, aided by the elderly McBush's repeated gaffes and confusion while on the domestic campaign trail. Even CBS anchor Katie Couric had to cover for him. Contrastingly, a Der Speigel commentator raved that a "young, decisive and focused" Senator Obama will be the 44th president of the United States. The trip was a half clever idea--a sort of good news rebound off the transatlantic backboard--that the candidate can use in his defense when the GOP resumes pounding him for lack of experience. Americans apparently, are less impressed than their European allies. The emphasis on foreign affairs created by the extensive trip may have reminded voters that the junior senator from Illinois is a relative newcomer to foreign policy. Polls show McBush breaking out in several jurisdictions that actually have Electorial College votes. According to Time, McBush is ahead in Florida where he was trailing by five points. Obama's lead in New Hampshire has shrunk from twelve to two. In Colorado, a western state Democratic strategists want to win, McBush is leading by three to four points. If the trip helped clarify Obama's thinking about our country's difficult role in world affairs, then some negative PR was probably worth it, but the tour was definitely not a three point basket at the buzzer.
[cartoon credit: Rex Babin]

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Surge, Splurge, Inflated Nonsense

One of my goals here at Persona Non Grata is to poke holes in the propaganda balloons sent up by the conservatives in Washington--a full time, unpaid job. Just last night on the venerable rant fest, McLaughlin Report, a right-wing gas bag had the temerity to shout out the party line about how the "surge" in Iraq has worked. She irritated me more than usual because this fantasy is often repeated by their elderly presidential candidate on down. It is a documented fact that the "Anbar Awakening" began in November, 2005 when US commanders in Ramadi reached out to Sunni tribal elders in an effort to quash insurgents affiliated with Al Qaeda[1]. (The fact that Al Qaeda in Iraq is a violent reaction to the US occupation is a consequence never discussed by war supporters.) The Awakening was a tipping factor in the security equation, and started well before the introduction of more U.S. troops which did not reach a zenith until September 2007. What amounts to bribery of Sunni tribesman to fight with the U.S. against terrorists in Western Iraq has largely worked, even though the tactic contravenes Army counter-insurgency doctrine developed in part by General Petraeus. Paying Sunni tribal mercenaries to fight with US forces does not increase their loyalty to an Iraq central government dominated by Shiites. There are some 90,000 Sunni fighters on the U.S. payroll.

Another critical factor contributing to the recent reduction of US casualties is that Baghdad has been ethnically cleansed by Shia and Sunni militia fighting in 2005-07. These ethnic fault lines have been opportunistically adopted and reinforced by US troops. The Sunni minority in the city has either been killed, or has fled to Syria and Jordan. (1.5 million Iraqi refugees in Syria, 750,000 in Jordan) The remnant is huddled in fortified neighborhoods protected by US patrols and outposts from further depredations. The security equation is further simplified for General Petraeus by the decision of nationalist cleric Muqtada Al Sadr in August 2007 to stop fighting the al Maliki coalition with his Mehdi militia. Muqtada, who is a seasoned political in-fighter, has his own reasons for not making occupation more difficult for American troops. According to US agent Ahmed Chalabi, "Muqtada and the Sadrists have benefited from the ceasefire. Despite what people say it has done them good because it makes them look reasonable--something they badly needed." The Sadrist movement is the only real mass movement in Iraq, according to observer Patrick Cockburn, and is the voice of the poor Shia who make up much of the Iraqi population. Muqtada's goal is to end the occupation one way or another. So the next time you hear someone besides McBush gassing about how "doubling down" has worked in Iraq, tell them why they are full of hot air.
[1]cooperation with US forces spread after an influential young sheik, Abdul Sattar al Rishawi, set up a council of tribal leaders, the Anbar Salvation Council, to establish an alliance in September 2006. The sheik was later killed by insurgents despite US protection.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Vox Versi: Willfull Ignorance

Politics: "[Caribou] couldn’t care less whether…the [Trans-Alaska oil] pipeline was there, or the oil company was there”--House Republican Leader on CNN, 7/23/08


Science: A survey of radio-collared females between 1980 and 1993 showed that the caribou reduced their use of the more heavily developed Prudhoe Bay oil fields by 78 percent, and their east-west movements declined by 90 percent..."As surface development continues, the caribou are effectively crowded out of these areas," said Ray Cameron, the University of Alaska professor, who has studied the effects of roads and pipelines on the Central Arctic herd. "They’ve decided it’s not the place to be."--SF Chronicle, 8/28/05

Plug It In, America

General Motors announced in San Jose, CA on Monday that it would cooperate on research and development with 34 utilities to facilitate the plug in of electric hybrid motor cars in the US according to ENS. These vehicles can achieve up to 100 mpg of fuel economy by running primarily on electricity stored in on-board batteries, while using small combustion engines for recharging when not plugged into the grid. The announcement came at "Plug In 2008" the first conference dedicated to the marketing, research and development of plug-in electric hybrid vehicles. Widespread use of electric vehicles will require the US to upgrade and improve its aging electrical infrastructure. Cooperation between vehicle manufacturers and utilities will also be essential to insure that cars and consumers are compatible and utilities are able to handle the load. The cost of operating an electric hybrid in California is estimated to be less than one quarter the cost of gasoline. Electric cars reduce the nation's dependence on foreign oil and contribute to solving the climate crisis by drastically reducing CO2 emissions. Pollution will be even further reduced if the grid is made much more efficient and powered by renewable, clean energy. NRDC in conjunction with the Electric Power Research Institute released a study last year showing the reductions in greenhouse gas emissions that can be achieved using PHEVs (Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles). View the findings here.

In a related development the University of Michigan's solar powered car, "Continuum" won the 2008 North American Solar Challenge. The flying saucer shaped car, powered entirely by the sun, won the 2400 mile race from Plano, Texas to Calgary, Alberta averaging 45 mph. The win was a comeback for the Michigan team whose car crashed at last year's race in Australia.
[image: Chevrolet Volt concept car. Read details about GM's PHEV at]

'Toontime: A Portrait of Darth as Stealth President

[image credit: Jim Morin]
"Coercion? Go f*&% yourself. Those loosers get three squares and a Koran."

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Scorecard: Got Wilderness?

From a Zogby International poll of 1039 likely voters across the U.S:

Americans who want wilderness protected: 9 out of 10
Americans who would vote for a candidate who strongly supports wilderness protection: 71%
Americans who want more wilderness designated: 65% (2003)
Democrats who say wilderness is important to them: 93%
Republicans who say wilderness is important to them: 81%
Independents who say wilderness is important to them: 88%

Wackydoodle sez: "Wilderness is more 'merican than apple pie!"

Pull the Senate's Plug

One way to eliminate gridlock in the Senate is to do away with the privilege that allows a single senator to hold up legislation by placing a "hold" on a bill he or she does not like. (Rule VII of the Senate's Standing Rules) Think of it as a lazy way of filibustering without making the physical effort required to hold the floor for hours or perhaps days on end. And it is a privilege that is being abused, most notably by a Republican, Senator Tom Colburn of Oklahoma. He was responsible for preventing the expansion of the Mt. Hood Wilderness, a popular bill that had the bipartisan support of both Oregon senators and would have surely passed but for Mr. Colburn's objection. He currently has holds on about 80 bills some of which would pass with bipartisan support. Because of his consistent obstruction Senate aides on both sides of the aisle now take legislation directly to Coburn’s office before moving forward to make sure he has no objections— whether he’s on the relevant committee or not according to Colburn has announced to his colleagues his objection to any unanimous consent request that requires more government spending as a matter of conservative principle. As the situation now stands in the Senate a single senator can hold up the progress of a nation with no accountability to his constituents or the public for his intransigence. Clearly a rule that needs changing.
Update: Faced with the depressing prospect of a Democratic super majority after the November election, desperate Republicans in the Senate are resorting to ruthless parliamentary gimmicks in order to serve their oil company masters. As if eighty-three filibusters were not enough, Republican leaders are now holding the upper chamber hostage to their demand for more offshore drilling. Minority leader McConnell (R-Ky) said that any other business can wait until after the long August recess if Democrats do not vote to remove the moratorium on offshore leasing. The White House has already done so and wants Congress to follow suit. Republicans will oppose any procedural vote to take up other business which will require sixty votes. They are counting on public ire at high gas prices to intimidate Democrats into voting with them to end the congressional moratorium on outer continental shelf drilling which has been in place since 1982 along the California coast. The moratorium was expanded by the first President Bush in 1990 to include all coastal areas except the Gulf of Mexico and a small section of Alaska's arctic coast. President Clinton extended the executive order to 2012 until the current occupant rescinded it. The Republican grandstanding comes days after Vice President Al Gore challenged the nation to produce all of its electrical energy from clean solar and wind power within 10 years. Many experts believe that the ambitious goal is technically achievable. Even oil industry experts admit that increased OCS drilling will take a least a decade to deliver production onshore [1]. The GOP has blocked six attempts this summer to address the nation's lack of a coherent, rational energy policy. Their zombie-like response to ending the nation's dependence on fossil fuels continues to be, "Drill more here". Because its good for business.
[1] Mathew Simmons of Simmons & Co. International, Houston Business Journal 1/18/04

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Scorecard: The Rich Get Richer

According to IRS data, the richest 1% of Americans in 2006 garnered the highest share of the nation's adjusted gross income for two decades and possibly the highest since 1929. Meanwhile, the average tax rate of the wealthiest 1% fell to its lowest level in at least 18 years. Wackydoodle sez: "Pass that bottle this way, Mr Preznit"

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Scorecard: Westerners v. Wolves

Westerners 106 Wolves 0
That's how many Yellowstone basin grey wolves have been killed since the federal government allowed states to again declare an open season. For a European perspective on the age old conflict between man and wolves see this story

Update: Yesterday, a federal district court judge in Missoula, Montana ordered a temporary injuction preventing grey wolves from being exterminated in the Northern Rocky Mountain states of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho until a legal determination can be made of the intent of Congress as the Endangered Species Act may apply to recovering species. Wolves were exterminated from the western US in the last century because of the demands of the livestock industry, but have been recovering under the protection of the Act since 1973. Wolves were reintroduced to their former Northern Rocky Mountain home in 1995. Judge Molloy found that the plaintiffs were likely to succeed on their arguments that the US Fish and Wildlife Service exceeded its authority and acted arbitrarily when it approved state "management plans" it had previously rejected as insufficient, and delisted the wolf without considering the need for breeding between groups to insure genetic health. Thank you Earthjustice and Judge Molloy for giving the wolves a fighting chance for survival.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Le Shorter: Zimbabwe Fights Back

Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the opposition in Zimbabwe, and President Robert Mugabe have signed an agreement to negotiate a power sharing arrangement in crisis torn Zimbabwe. The agreement was brokered by South African President Mbeki. See the video.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Al Gore's Clean Energy Challenge to the Nation

Vice President Gore rightly invokes JKF's moon landing challenge of four decades ago. This nation still has the technical ability that built the Saturn V-Apollo moon rocket. General Motors designed and built a light weight, electrically powered rover that carried the astronauts across the moon's surface. I would like to add my commitment to the Vice President's challenge: if you build a reliable, affordable electric car on earth,I will buy it. His is an inspiring speech you should watch entirely. The "Ozone Man" has never flipped, flopped or tweaked on this issue.

'Toontime: Obamabytes

[credit: Robert Ariail,The State]

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Scorecard: Mind the Gap

The Human Development Index has some shocking news about America's rank in the world:
Percent of global population: 5
Percent of prisoners: 24
US share of world military spending: More than 40%
Top 15 causes of death: include murder and suicide
Amount spent on health per capita: 1
Infant Survival: 34th
Life Expectancy: 42nd, shorter than all European & Nordic countries except Denmark
" Gap between male Asian-Americans & male Black-Americans: 50 years
" Gap between citizens of Connecticut and Mississippi: 30 years

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Death To Elephants

The Environmental News Service reports a disturbing and retrograde vote yesterday at the UN in Geneva to allow China to become a licensed buyer of ivory in a one-time sale of 108 metric tons of government owned ivory remains. China has a large market in ivory even after the CITIES (Convention on Trade in Endangered Species) ban prohibiting the trade in 1989. Many experts think that Chinese lacks comprehensive internal trade controls to identify and suppress ivory taken illegally. According to the WWF, "large quantities of African ivory are still finding their way in to illegal markets in Africa and beyond in places such as Asia". The UK supported China in its application on behalf of the EU along with Bulgaria. The wildlife minister defended her vote by saying the measure would allow China to purchase ivory only from legal stockpiles in South Africa, Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe. South Africa recently resumed killing elephants as a method of population control. Legal sales of ivory derive from elephants that have died as a result of natural causes or authorized animal control. Wildlife activists deplored the naive justification saying the profit pressure from China's continued lust for ivory will almost certainly lead to an increase in poaching. Thousands of African elephants are poached each year. One wildlife defender on the scene quipped, "approving China [as a trading partner] is like pouring petrol on a fire". You can read a current CITIES report on the status of trade in elephant remains here.

The Obama Moonwalk

Looking like Michael Jackson doing the 'moonwalk', Senator Obama hit reverse and backtracked this week on his incendiary verbal foray into the subject of how much longer in Iraq. The suggestion on Monday by Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki, who faces upcoming parliamentary elections in Iraq, that a withdrawal time line be part of any status of forces agreement must have made it perfectly clear to Senator Obama that staying in Iraq indefinitely is not politically possible. A recent dip in his poll numbers after his waffling on the subject probably also clarified his thinking, if not his choreography. A forthcoming Pentagon lengthy document (number of pages unknown at this point) proposes a force level of 50,000 by 2009 according to Newsweek. It seems official Washington is reluctantly coalescing on withdrawal mode. The Senator wrote this week in the New York Times that the occupation is a costly distraction causing a myopic focus on tactics inside Iraq with little attention to a regional strategy, and recommitted himself to a phased withdrawal of all combat troops within 16 months after taking office. Meanwhile in Afghanistan, the recrudescent Taliban stunned NATO forces with a coordinated attack in numbers on an isolated, unfinished outpost temporarily breaching the position and inflicting a 50% casualty rate on US defenders. It was the first time insurgent fighters successfully attacked any of the three dozen joint Afghan-NATO positions. Currently there are only 32,000 American troops there.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Finally, Great Apes Get Some Rights

When I think of the number of Great Apes that have served humanity in labs, sometimes under horrendous conditions and in extreme pain, it makes me shudder from revulsion. Humans as a species are unparalleled in their cruelty, and are unique in the animal kingdom as primates who kill for entertainment or pleasure. Spain, to its credit, is expected to take a bold first step in protecting Great Apes from torture and abuse including experimentation, arbitrary imprisonment, and killing except in self-defense. The pending legislation is tied to the findings of the Great Ape Project whose analysis by a group of scientists and scholars of the "undeniable scientific proof that non-human great apes share more than genetically similar DNA with their human counterparts" caused them to conclude that Great Apes should be according some basic fundamental rights and protections. Animal activists would argue the legislation is long overdue, but originating in the land of bullfights, the bill is a breathtaking advance in human wisdom and ethics. Bravo!
[photo credit: Kevin Bonobo by Franz de Waal, 2003 ]

Subprime Melt Down Continues

The mortgage lending meltdown incinerated another bank victim last week, the $32 billion "IndyMac" of Pasadena. Federal regulators seized the institution and turned its operation over to the FDIC. The bank was brought down by a run on deposits reaching $100 million a day. The collapse was expected by analysts, but regulators pointed to Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) as having influenced the run by his written inquiries about the bank's loan holdings. Schumer responded to the finger pointing, saying that the bank was brought down by "shoddy lending practices". The bank had problems dealing with defaulting mortgage loans and their derivatives, and its stock price fell to $1. It was the second largest bank failure in US history after the collapse of Continental Illinois in 1984. The subsequent bailout is expected to cost the FDIC $4 to $8 billion. If this failure is not enough to strain the government's financial safety net, the two major federally chartered, home mortgage lending institutions, Freddie Mac and Freddie Mae, are also on the edge of collapse. Under fair accounting principles, Freddie Mac is already insolvent. The fair value of Fannie Mae's assets have dropped 66%. Between the two they guarantee or own half of all mortgage debt created in America. A massive rescue operation has been proposed for the ailing institutions that allows them to borrow directly from the Federal Reserve for the first time. The plan also would allow the US Treasury to buy the stock of these private companies if they cannot raise capital privately. Part of the problem at both institutions is their thin capitalization. Again the taxpayer is stuck bailing out stockholder owned companies that because of their privileged status as federally chartered, are 'too big to fail'. Financial experts think that as many as 300 banks could fail in the next three years. Wackydoodle sez: Uncle Trotsky, can you spare a job?

Update: Nobody is really paying attention to the current occupant of the bunker, now. His reassurances about the fiscal soundness of the banking system are falling on deaf ears. FDIC (Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.) which insures depositors bank accounts up to $100,000, has limits to its resources. The IndyMac collapse will cost the guarantor around $8 billion. The NY Times says that analysts expect another 150 banks will go under within a year to 18 months. The S &L debacle about fifteen years ago cost taxpayers $125 billion to bail out a thousand savings and loans in trouble because of commercial real estate speculation. FDIC currently has about $53 billion available to pay depositors. The large problem facing regulators is compounded by a weak dollar and credit paralysis innocuously referred to as a "lack of liquidity". Short sellers are already piling on bank stocks considered to be at risk. Respected financial analyst Bridgewater Associates estimates that there are losses lurking in the prime and Alt-A loan portfolios that could be much bigger than the subprime problems, as those loans are more than six times the size of the subprime. Bridgewater says, "The US commercial banks are in a position to suffer the greatest losses, because the core of their portfolio is risky US debt assets. If we use this current market pricing as a guide, there is a long way to go, as these institutions have only acknowledged about 1/6 of the expected losses that they will incur as a result of the credit crisis." Citigroup in New York raised billions in capital from Sovereign Wealth Funds in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere to stay in business. That company has $2.2 billion in liabilities on on its books, but another $1.1 trillion in "off book" debt that includes some of the most risky real estate deals in the era of debt securitization.[1] Undoubtedly, taxpayers will be asked to pay for the excesses and mismanagement of finance capitalists on a scale never before seen.
[1] F. William Engdahl, The Market Oracle, July 15, 2008
[image credit: F. William Engdahl]

Monday, July 14, 2008

US Navy v. The Whales

Regular readers know I have closely followed NRDC's efforts to protect marine mammals from the lethal onslaught of military sonar. Environmental groups succeeded in getting the federal appeals court in California to limit the use of sonar during training exercises near the coast. The Navy's own estimates say that as many as 450 whales could be permanently injured by the ultrasonic blasts of sound. Other military organizations such as NATO and the Australian navy take precautions when using sonar devices in the vicinity of whales. The Regime is not going to take the imposition of reasonable restraints on military training exercises lying down. Believing that the American military is a law unto itself, the Regime has taken the case to its packed Supreme Court for a final verdict. The conservative majority may not be swayed by previous findings that the Navy's arguments of necessity and national security are largely hollow. Help NRDC protect our intelligent and social marine neighbors.

Le Shorter: Quid Pro Quo

In return for a $250,000 donation to the Charlatan's library, Stephan Payne will give you access to Darth Cheney or Kinda Sleezy Rice. The Times of London has video. See it here For a list of of Bush's payola "Pioneers" and "Rangers" see this.

Le Shorter: Colony Denied

US and Iraqi negotiators abandoned attempts to reach agreement on a status of forces agreement. Several issues such as immunity for US mercenaries and soldiers, and an Iraqi demand for a date certain for withdrawal of foreign troops, could not be bridged in the term remaining to the Regime. A stop gap agreement allowing US forces to legally remain through 2009 will be negotiated instead, giving the next president an opportunity to revisit the issue.

Friday, July 11, 2008

'Toontime: The Oracle

[credit: Lisa Benson, 2008]

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Le Shorter: Goodbye, Joe

We will hardly miss you. Liberal activists dropped off a petition calling for Democratic leaders to remove Senator Joe Lieberman, who became an Independent from Connecticut in the 2006 election cycle, but who still caucuses with the Democrats, as chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee in the next Congress. The petition contained 43,000 signatures. Lieberman's outspoken support of John W. McBush is probably the last straw for fellow Democratic lawmakers. At this point in his political journey from Democratic vice-presidential candidate, and the prospect of a larger Democratic majority in the Senate, Lieberman is little more than a spy.

Senate Votes to Spy on YOU

The Senate voted down amendments to the House FISA bill that allows the executive branch to eavesdrop on Americans without a warrant, and grants retroactive immunity to communication companies that cooperated with the Regime's illegal domestic surveillance operations.

"Ask me for a contribution?....Brother, all I can tell you is you'll have to wait".--John Lennon

Update: In a significant betrayal of his progressive supporters, Barack Obama voted for the fundamentally flawed FISA reform bill that the Charlatan immediately signed into law. A combination of fear, paranoia and fatigue contributed to the passage of the legislation which in essence legitimizes the illegal spying on citizens by the Regime in its misguided and mismanaged "War on Terror". Even before receiving the party's nomination Senator Obama has revealed his true stripes: a pragmatic Washington politician willing to trade on constitutional principles when expediency dictates. There will be no accountability for those corporate executives who bowed to the Regime's demands for massive eavesdropping. The forty pending civil rights suits will be dismissed as moot in accordance with the predictions by conservatives in Congress. Business as usual in the nation's capital. To count Barack Obama among those who do not think Americans deserve their privacy is truly sad, but a succinct indication of the alarming degradation of our democracy. ACLU President Anthony Romero, in a letter to supporters, said the provision means, "your phone calls can be tapped and e-mails read with virtually no proof of threat, and there's no chance to learn how the telecoms invaded your privacy." Railing against the collaborators' blindness and thanking the senators who stood for the Constitution is about all you can do that is still legal. Go to and tell the Senator what you think.

Monday, July 07, 2008

The Obama Sidestep

Update: Blogs flacking for Obama say his change in Iraq policy is simply a potential president keeping his foreign policy positions flexible, a laudable characteristic. They see his flip-flop on the war as adapting to changed circumstances on the ground. If the situation in Iraq has improved so much that it is now thinkable to keep occupation troops there indefinitely as in South Korea, that is all the more reason for withdrawing sooner rather than later. Our invasion of Iraq was never morally justified. Saddam Hussein nor Iraqis had anything to do with the terror attacks on the United States. The one way to amend our aggression is too hand the country back to its elected government as soon as possible. Apparently Iraqi security forces and political circumstances are mature enough to bring relative calm to the country. American forces have decimated Al Qaeda in Iraq. According to reports about 1,200 out of about 12,000 insurgents remain in Mosul enclaves, and are unable to mount sustained operations. Their leader, Abu Khalaf, is dead. After five years of costly fighting the US can only now declare victory with a modicum of credibility, and leave before the favorable situation deteriorates. If conditions do deteriorate, Iraqis must assume responsibility for their fate as a nation.

Many progressive commentators have noticed Senator Obama's continued tack to the right since securing a first ballot nomination at the Democratic convention. His rightward sidesteps can be seen in his decision to further undermine public financing of presidential campaigns by embracing the Clinton corporate money machine. He also stunned progressives when he initially announced he would vote for the FISA "reform" bill passed by the House. That bill grants collaborating telecom companies retroactive immunity, and more ominously allows the government to eavesdrop on citizens' communications without a prior determination of cause by the judicial branch. After howls of outrage from progressives, he later said he would vote against retroactive immunity. The latest defection is his apparent re-think of the central tenant of his primary campaign: the unqualified promise to withdraw American troops from Iraq within 16 months of taking office, and not establishing permanent bases there. It is obvious that Obama's solicitation of the Democratic Party's right wing, represented by the Clintons and the Democratic Leadership Conference (DLC) is having an effect on his policy positions. The DLC policy toward the occupation of Iraq is not much different from the Republicans. Perhaps instead of McBush's 100 years, they would only stay for ten. Recent reductions in the level of violence in Iraq and consequently fewer American casualties are emboldening conservative Democratic politicians who think they see light at the end of this tunnel. Informed observers think that the reduced violence is as much due to more US troops as internal Iraqi politics. Nevertheless the possibility of getting something useful out of the Iraq misadventure in return for the huge American investment of lives and money is a powerful inducement to reevaluate his previously categorical statements about withdrawal. Obama told reporters in Fargo, North Dakota today, "I am going to do a thorough assessment when I'm there. I'm sure I'll have more information and continue to refine my policy." When people voted for Obama in the primaries they thought they were voting for policy change. Lately what they are getting is only change in rhetoric.

"You Can't Handle the Truth" Redux

As noted previously {Running Out the Clock, 12/24/07} the Supremes ruled in Massachusetts v. EPA that the EPA has the authority under Section 202 of the Clean Air Act to regulate emissions of greenhouse gases including CO2, rebuking the Regime's illogical position that the Act could not be used to regulate CO2 emissions causing global warming, and that the causal link between greenhouse emissions and warming has not been conclusively established. A year later, the EPA still has not issued regulations to address the problem. Congressional investigations have revealed that agency staff worked to develop a regulatory scheme after the court ruling including a required finding that the public's health is endangered, only to have the White House suppress their work product. The Dow Jones Newswire called the infighting between agency officials and White House aides "intense". A multi-million dollar, two-year study shows how greenhouse gases from all sources could be regulated, and in a required cost-benefit analysis concludes that the net benefit of higher fuel efficiency standards for America would be in excess of $2 trillion. But no way, said the Regime watchdogs at the Office of Management and Budget. They have been suppressing the report since last December. OMB demanded that the favorable cost benefit analysis be removed from EPA's report. The Regime wants a report that concludes the Clean Air Act is so fundamentally flawed that an entirely new regulatory scheme--presumably one more industry friendly--must be developed. It has been warning of a regulatory "train wreck" if the Clean Air Act standards are developed to cover greenhouse gases. The opposition to the Clean Air Act mandate is so entrenched that the White House literally refused to accept EPA's e-mail transmitting the unwanted findings. After meeting the Regime's stonewall, EPA Director Stephen Johnson censored EPA staff's conclusions and reformed them as an "Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking" requesting more public comment, thereby delaying any action on the issue until the next administration. According to Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), who has been investigating the lack of progress on regulation, this further delaying tactic was suggested by the conservative think tank, Heritage Foundation. The Charlatan has also invoked executive privilege in response to subpoenas from Chairman Waxman's House Oversight Committee. Apparently the President is using the controversial legal privilege to cover up his direct intervention in the dispute over greenhouse gas regulation. Waxman's committee investigations have revealed that Director Johnson's decision to reject California's Clean Air Act waiver petition was made only after discussions were held with the White House. Similarly, the Washington Post reported that the President intervened in a controversy between OMB and the EPA, prompting the EPA to reject scientific recommendations for smog standards. It boggles the mind to think the Charlatan made a campaign pledge in 2000 to regulate CO2 emissions from power plants.
[photo: "Heh, heh, let me just delete this here spam before I go!"]

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Le Shorter: How to Steal an Election

This video, smuggled out of the country, shows how Mugabe's operatives make a mockery of democracy in Zimbabwe.

"You Can't Handle the Truth"

That is what Jack Nicholson's uptight marine colonel told Tom Cruise's young Navy JAG officer in the movie, "A Few Good Men". Art imitates life. The ACLU released this week thousands of documents that the Pentagon suppressed concerning the truth about civilian casualties caused by US forces in Iraq. The documents were given up as a result of a Freedom of Information Act request by the civil rights advocacy group filed in June 2006. The documents are from the files of eight Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) investigations of civilian deaths, including a cousin of the Iraqi ambassador to the United States. Through the release of information, the ACLU has made public Defense Department policies designed to control information about the human costs of war. These practices include: banning photographers on U.S. military bases from covering the arrival of caskets containing the remains of U.S. soldiers killed overseas; paying Iraqi journalists to write positive accounts of the U.S. war effort; inviting U.S. journalists to "embed" with military units but requiring them to submit their stories for pre-publication review; erasing journalists' footage of civilian deaths in Afghanistan; and refusing to disclose statistics on civilian casualties. A retired Army colonel and ACLU board member said that the document release shows that many war crimes have not yet seen the light of day, "There are many discoveries here that should bring pause to any American who cares about this country and hopes to restore the United States' respected role in the world. It is time to bring the facts about this war into the sunlight and end practices that go against our laws and national values." I could not have said it better.

Le Shorter: Milch Cow

Believe me the Europeans know a sacred cow when they see one. And the Poles are no slouches despite all the jokes. The Regime's idol is missile defense, and the Poles want a lot before they let the US install unproven and probably worthless Patriot batteries (see Jerusalem during Desert Storm) against "rogue state" ICBMs on their soil. Poland rejected the latest US offer to increase Poland's security in exchange for basing the anti-missile systems. What that means in layman's term is more US military aid to Poland. I have lost count of how many times Poland has been overrun by either Germany or Russia, so they are understandably sensitive about their geography. Lithuania has been proposed as an alternative site for the golden calves, er, missiles. Russia has said it will target Poland and the Czech Republic if the missiles and radar are installed.

Friday, July 04, 2008

For the Record with B. Franklin

Mrs. Powell: What type of government have you given us, Mr. Franklin?

Mr. Franklin: A republic madam, if you can keep it.--Philadelphia, 1787

Want to be a true patriot? Go to and sign the petition to impeach the President of the United States for war crimes. I did.

'Toontime: Fronting Up

[credit: Jack Ohman]

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

For the Record with Darth Cheney

IMUS: Why don’t we make Israel do it?

CHENEY: Well, one of the concerns people have is that Israel might do it without being asked, that if, in fact, the Israelis became convinced the Iranians had significant nuclear capability, given the fact that Iran has a stated policy that their objective is the destruction of Israel, the Israelis might well decide to act first, and let the rest of the world worry about cleaning up the diplomatic mess afterwards. 1/20/2005

Wackydoodle sez: I got my shovel handy.

Le Shorter: Help Chris Dodd

Do something really patriotic and help Senator Chris Dodd protect our civil rights from those who think it is constitutional to spy on their fellow citizens without cause. Be a citizen co-sponsor to amend the FISA bill.