Friday, August 31, 2007

George Bush won't accept a Labor victory in Australia?

A reporter from Sky News in Australia asks a simple question:
Speers: You've had a very close relationship with John Howard. You famously called him the ‘Man of Steel'. If he doesn't win the election and Kevin Rudd does become Prime Minister, given you have differences over such a big issue as Iraq will the alliance still be the same?

The correct answer is: "Australia is a close ally and we will work closely with the democratically elected government, no matter who the winner is."

Bush: I refuse to accept your hypothesis.

Speers: Well if, if he wins.

Bush: Well that's if. I mean you're asking me to answer a hypothetical. I'm...

Speers: But will the alliance change?

Bush: All I can tell you is is that I remember John Howard has been behind in polls before and he's won it, so I... certainly I'm not going to prejudge the, ah, the decision of the Australian people, and I will end up dealing with whomever and work hard to make sure that the Australian and U.S. relationship is good, but I don't buy into your hypothesis.

Speers: But essentially the relationship won't suffer if Kevin Rudd becomes Prime Minister?

Bush: Look, I'll be glad to deal with the situation. See, that's a loaded question.

Kevin Rudd is the leader of the opposition Australian Labor Party currently favored to defeat John Howard in the next election. Howard is so far behind in the polls that he may lose his own seat in parliament as well as his position as leader of Australia.

Americans may remember John Howard as the man who said that al Qaida is praying for an Obama victory.

Dick Cheney is suspected of arranging the secret plea bargain that freed Guantanamo detainee David Hicks (complete with temporary gag order) to aid in Howard's reelection effort.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Couldn't you just keep quiet for another 9-10 years?

Apparently the militias in Iraq weren't a real problem until the Democrats got elected.
While debate over a war's merits -- and whether to withdraw -- is a sign of a healthy democracy, Iraq unfortunately highlights many of the difficulties a democracy faces in a long-term counterinsurgency or nation-building campaign. Such debate can be detrimental to the battle for perceptions. Having linked its future to an antiwar stance, the Democratic Congress has in effect told Iraqis that they are best off joining militias, because the dissolution of Iraq is only going to accelerate.

This is the same Democratic Congress that rubber stamped George Bush's last request for just under $100 billion dollars.

You might've thought that the threat of sectarian death squads was a bigger motivator for potential recruits.

Honestly, if this is the thinking of a man who bills himself as "a co-author of the military's counterinsurgency field manual" I'm not surprised that our efforts in Iraq are going so badly. We aren't failing in because people are debating it. We're failing because the people running it think it can be won with the best propaganda strategy.

h/t Matt Yglesias

Shah Wali Kot: snapshots of a battle zone

Canadian forces speaking with elders in Shah Wali Kot image uploaded by lafrancevi

The battle in southern Kandahar province's Shah Wali Kot district started after the joint force was ambushed by a large group of insurgents who tried to overrun their position several times, before being strafed by airstrikes.

"Coalition aircraft destroyed the reinforced enemy emplacements and sniper positions as well as two trucks used to reinforce and re-supply the insurgent force,"

Taliban militants kidnapped four Afghan engineers in the southern Kandahar province, the police said Saturday. The engineers, who were building a bridge, were abducted in Shah Wali Kot district in northern Kandahar on Friday afternoon, provincial police chief Sayed Aqa Saqib told Xinhua.

On Monday, Taliban fighters attacked Afghan and U.S.-led coalition troops with rockets and gunfire in the Shah Wali Kot district of Kandahar province, sparking a four-hour battle, a coalition statement said. Fighter aircraft bombed three enemy positions, it said.

While they have some beefs with the tactics of Canadian troops, Afghan villagers in Gumbad denied Monday that they had any involvement in the weekend bombing that killed four soldiers in the area.

The Shah Wali Kot district, of which Gumbad is a part, is routinely a hotbed of rumour and innuendo, a state that went into overdrive following the Saturday morning attack.

Published U.S. reports suggested Canadian troops brought the attack upon themselves by conducting inappropriate searches of homes and mosques, sometimes using dogs - considered unclean animals by Muslims.

The Shah Wali Kot district is considered to be one of the last Taliban strongholds in Kandahar province, but Ges said that may soon end as the patience of the district’s residents grows thin with anti-coalition forces.

“For the most part, the people out here are tired of the Taliban,” said Ges.

“Because there is no government representation out here, the Taliban come out of the hills and take their food, beat on them, harass them, and then leave.”

Establishing security in the district is the first priority, said Ges, but another is to strengthen the positions of the district leadership. Once this is done, reconstruction efforts can begin in the embattled region.

Since then, Taliban militants have indeed displayed a new assertiveness; they have even set up their own roadblocks. It was Talibs manning one such roadblock in the Shah Wali Kot district near Kandahar who stopped International Committee of the Red Cross irrigation engineer Ricardo Munguia, a citizen of El Salvador, and his Afghan co-workers. Acting on Mullah Dadullah's orders after Munguia's captors had used a satellite phone to request instructions as to his fate, the militants shot the engineer. (The murder was tragically ironic since the Talib leading the operation had once had his life saved by ICRC.)

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Just spot me another $50 billion

This plan can't lose!

Like a compulsive gambler begging for a loan,George Bush is asking for a supplemental to his supplemental:

The revised supplemental would total about $200 billion, indicating that the cost of the war in Iraq now exceeds $3 billion a week. The bill also covers the far smaller costs of the war in Afghanistan. The Pentagon said recently that the cost of the Iraq war has surpassed $330 billion, while the war in Afghanistan has cost $78 billion.

The article quotes an unnamed White House official saying that the additional spending is "relatively noncontroversial".... it just keeps the war running.

Last year at this time, the headline was that the cost of the war in Iraq had reached $2 billion a week.

Here's what we've spent over the years:

$2.5 billion in 2002
$51 billion in 2003
$77.3 billion in 2004
$87.3 billion in 2005
$101.8 billion in 2006

We are not fighting for a "free Kurdistan"

In his latest defense of the war in Iraq, Christopher Hitchens makes the astonishing argument that we are fighting in part to enable the Kurdish minority to "defend and consolidate its regional government in the north".

An American family that lost a son or a daughter in the defense of free Kurdistan or in the struggle against AQM could console itself that the death was in a worthwhile cause.

This may come as a surprise to most Americans who thought we went to Iraq to eliminate Saddam's WMD stockpile.

[W]e can point to Kurdistan as the most outstanding success of the past four years, with its economically flourishing provinces run along broadly secular lines, and with the old Kurd-on-Kurd civil war now in real abeyance for almost a decade (which shows that people can and do come to their senses). The Kurds are also active in the center of the country; their ministers of foreign affairs and water are universally regarded as the most capable and intelligent, and they have also been secure enough to lend units of their own peshmerga forces to the coalition's efforts in Baghdad, Fallujah, and elsewhere.
The Kurds were certainly the group in Iraq happiest to see the American forces arrive. However, when Hitchens talks of the Kurds "consolidating" their hold on the north, that includes some very brutal fighting. The peshmerga have been accused of driving ethnic Arabs and Turkmen from their homes in Kirkuk and have battled in Mosul and Irbil as each attempts to lay claim to a wide swath of the oil rich northern portion of the country. The peshmerga are one of the many factions in Iraq. They aren't loyal to the central government and they aren't selflessly working for the common good.

Hitchens is apparently focusing on the freedom and independence of Iraqi Kurdistan, but his choice of the phrase "free Kurdistan" is hardly accidental. Free Kurdistan, sometimes referred to as Greater Kurdistan, usually refers to the idea of a unified Kurdish state. Maps of Free Kurdistan vary, but (like the one above) typically encompass large portions of Iran, Iraq, Syria and America's close NATO ally, Turkey.

It's the reason 40,000 turkish troops recently threatened to invade northern Iraq.

Fighting in defense of a free Kurdistan would set the entire Middle East on fire.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Iraq is not a sovereign country

Nouri al Maliki, prime minister of Iraq, has begun striking back against the rising calls for his resignation, furious that foreigners are making demands of his government.
"Iraq is a sovereign country, and we will not allow anyone to talk about it as if it belongs to this country or that," Mr. Maliki said.

Unfortunately for both the people of Iraq and America, Iraq is not a sovereign country. A sovereign country is at the very least capable of ensuring its own internal security. It's almost universally agreed that the Iraqi government would cease to exist the day U.S. forces left the country.

Sovereignty is not like a gold star to be handed out as a prize to a good student. Paul Bremer's ridiculous stunt, transferring "sovereignty" to Iyad Allawi in a secret ceremony just before he hightailed it out of the country, only reinforced the point that even then Iraq was descending into chaos:

Allawi repeated earlier suggestions that soon he will declare martial law, impose curfews and suspend some civil liberties to battle the insurgents, a disparate mix of Islamic extremists and Iraqi nationalists. He said he would announce the new legal measures today.

U.S. administrator Paul Bremer gave a short speech and answered only two questions from the media before rushing off in a swarm of bodyguards.

Immediately afterward, Bremer was helicoptered to the Baghdad airport, boarded a military airplane and returned to the United States, ending his 13- month reign as the supreme ruler of Iraq.

Like all things done by this administration, bestowing sovereignty onto an unformed and ill-prepared government was nothing more than a P.R. stunt. An attempt to declare victory without actually doing the work needed to accomplish it.

Hillary Clinton declares the surge a failure

From her statement on the recent Iraq NIE:

As I have said many times before, there is not a military solution in Iraq. Progress will only come from political reconciliation and compromise from the Iraqis themselves. In January, President Bush argued that the escalation of U.S. troops into Iraq would create the political space for reconciliation among the Iraqis. At the time that the President announced the escalation, I opposed this new strategy because I did not believe the Iraqi government was committed to making the tough political decisions necessary for Iraq to resolve its sectarian divisions. Indeed, the declassified key judgments from the most recent National Intelligence Estimate regarding "Prospects for Iraq's Stability" clearly demonstrate that progress toward political reconciliation in Iraq has not been achieved since the beginning of the President's decision to add additional troops into Iraq. The NIE's key judgments provide additional evidence that the President's escalation strategy has failed. We need to stop refereeing this civil war, and start getting out now.

Hillary Clinton calls for the ouster of Maliki

From her statement calling for political change in Iraq:
During my last visit to Iraq in January, I expressed my reservations about the ability of the Iraqi government, led by Prime Minister Maliki, to make the tough political decisions necessary for Iraq to resolve its sectarian divisions. Since my visit, Iraqi leaders have not met their own political benchmarks to share power, modify the de-Ba'athification laws, pass an oil law, schedule provincial elections, and amend their constitution. During his trip to Iraq last week, Senator Carl Levin, the Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee on which I serve, confirmed that the Iraqi Government’s failures have reinforced the widely held view that the Maliki government is nonfunctional and cannot produce a political settlement, because it is too beholden to religious and sectarian leaders.

I share Senator Levin’s hope that the Iraqi parliament will replace Prime Minister Maliki with a less divisive and more unifying figure when it returns in a few weeks.

Such as who?

The sad fact is that there is currently no unifying figure in Iraq. In fact, Maliki was the original "unity" candidate. Picked after the Shiite's preferred candidate al-Jaafari was pushed aside with a shove from the American ambassador. Maliki was supposed to be acceptable to the Shiite majority, and the Sunni and Kurdish minorities, alike.

The problem is not Mr. Maliki’s narrow-mindedness or incompetence. He is the logical product of the system the United States created, one that deliberately empowered the long-persecuted Shiite majority and deliberately marginalized the long-dominant Sunni Arab minority. It was all but sure to produce someone very like Mr. Maliki, a sectarian Shiite far more interested in settling scores than in reconciling all Iraqis to share power in a unified and peaceful democracy.

Maliki was our choice. As was Allawi. As was Chalabi. Americans have had a pathetic record at selecting Iraq's leaders. If Senator Clinton knows of a good candidate, now is the time to speak up.

Bill Richardson: leave Iraq, target al Qaeda

From Bill Richardson's "Grand Strategy on Terrorism":

Al Qaeda is not the only terrorist group. But it is unique -- it has declared war on America, it has attacked us on our soil -- and it continues to plan another spectacular domestic attack like 9-11 or worse.

Iraq diverted critical intelligence and military resources from the fight against Al Qaeda. We let up the pressure and Al Qaeda recovered -- and struck back. Since 2002, Al Qaeda and its affiliates have carried out attacks in Algiers, Casablanca, Madrid, London, Istanbul, Riyadh, Tel Aviv, Jeddah, Karachi, Sharm al Shaykh, Taba, Mombassa, Kuwait, Mumbai, New Delhi, Dacca, Bali and elsewhere.

The target of our military strategy needs to be the Al Qaeda leadership. As long as these men are active, they symbolize the success of resistance to America, and attract new recruits. It is not good enough to have them "hiding in caves." The death or capture of Osama bin Ladin and his associates in Pakistan and Afghanistan will not end the Al Qaeda movement, but it will deal it a serious setback. So how do we do it?

We urgently must redirect our military effort away from Iraq (where Al Qaeda's leadership is not located) and toward the Afghanistan-Pakistan border (where they ARE located).

[Economic reconstruction] efforts also must extend into Pakistan. The border regions are poverty-stricken breeding grounds for Jihadism. We need to read the riot act to Dick Cheney's pal, President Musharraf. We have provided him with $10 billion, in mostly military aid. Future aid must be linked to a real crackdown on terrorists -- including Arabs, Afghans and Kashmiris.

We cannot defeat Al Qaeda until we get out of Iraq. An orderly, phased and complete troop withdrawal could be completed rapidly -- and it is imperative that it be complete. The key to an exit strategy is to exit. We don't need a South Korea-like solution as the President suggests, an open-ended military base in Iraq that will alienate succeeding generations of Iraqis and other Muslims.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Of Moose and Men

The UK magazine TimesOnline picks up where Der Spiegel left off on the absurd story of Norwegian moose causing climate change:
“To put it into perspective, the return flight from Oslo to Santiago in Chile leaves a carbon footprint of 880 kilos,” said the biologist Reidar Andersen, a biologist. "Shoot a moose and you have saved the equivalent of two long-haul flights.
To put it in better perspective, at roughly the 2 metric tons, a Norwegian moose puts out about one fifth of the carbon equivalent of the typical Norwegian. You could exterminate the whole species and you'd never know the difference.

Not to be hard on the Norwegians. After all, people in the United States have twice the carbon footprint that they do (or roughly the equivalent of 10 Norwegian moose each). But these are the numbers:

120,000 Moose x 2 metric tons/year = 240,000 tons per year
4.6 Million Norwegians x 9.9 metric tons/year = 45 million tons per year
300 Million Americans x 19.8 metric tons/year = 5.94 billion tons per year

Saturday, August 25, 2007

I thought Hillary wouldn't answer hypothetical questions

Continuing her unfortunate habit of embracing the Republican talking points, Hillary Clinton declares that another terrorist attack on the U.S. will benefit the same incompetents who let the first one happen.

"It's a horrible prospect to ask yourself, 'What if? What if?' But if certain things happen between now and the election, particularly with respect to terrorism, that will automatically give the Republicans an advantage again, no matter how badly they have mishandled it, no matter how much more dangerous they have made the world," Clinton told supporters in Concord.

"So I think I'm the best of the Democrats to deal with that," she added.

I'm not sure why she considers herself the best Democrat to deal with that. (If she explained herself, the NY Post didn't bother to tell us). We all know that the first reaction of the Republicans will be to blame Bill Clinton for destroying the U.S. military.

We know that, because that's what they're doing right now.

Here's Mitt Romney, casually ignoring the fact that almost 7 years have passed since Bill was in charge and that George Bush Junior has been given carte blanche to rebuild the military as he sees fit:
After President George H. W. Bush left office, in 1993, the Clinton administration began to dismantle the military, taking advantage of what has been called a "peace dividend" from the end of the Cold War. It took a dividend, but we did not get the peace. It seems that our leaders had come to believe that war and security threats were gone forever; as Charles Krauthammer observed, we took a holiday from history.

Here's Fred Thompson, echoing the same quote by Krauthammer:
Our country was not prepared for our current situation. We took a holiday from history in the 90’s. We cut our military, our procurement and our research and development. Now our military is stretched too thin. We are wearing out our equipment. Our intelligence capabilities are inadequate.

And here's Rudy Giuliani, explicitly blaming Bill Clinton for the attacks on 9/11:
"Islamic terrorists killed more than 500 Americans before Sept. 11. Many people think the first attack was on Sept. 11, 2001. It was not. It was in 1993," said the former mayor.

"The United States government, then President Clinton, did not respond," Giuliani said. "(Osama) bin Laden declared war on us. We didn't hear it."

h/t TPMCafe

Rudy Giuliani defines "fiscal conservatism"

I had a surplus once but I spended it.

Mayor Giuliani “turned a $2.3 billion deficit into a multibillion dollar surplus.” ... and then turned that into a $4.8 billion deficit.

The Giuliani campaign defended the advertisement, noting that it merely states that Mr. Giuliani created a multibillion-dollar surplus, not that he passed one on to his successor.

Rudy cut taxes, increased spending, and raided the city's pension fund. The plan worked great while the economy was booming. Then the stock market collapsed. Then 9/11 changed everything.

Friday, August 24, 2007

The Norwegians solve global warming

Illustrating the human habit of being overcareful about trivial things and undercareful about important ones, millions of Norwegians are apparently worried that the country's moose population is responsible for global warming.
The poor old Scandinavian moose is now being blamed for climate change, with researchers in Norway claiming that a grown moose can produce 2,100 kilos of carbon dioxide a year -- equivalent to the CO2 output resulting from a 13,000 kilometer car journey.

But don't worry the country has a solution:
Norway has some 120,000 moose but an estimated 35,000 are expected to be killed in this year's moose hunting season, which starts on September 25, Norwegian newspaper VG reported.

Norway has about 4.5 million people and roughly 2 million cars. So unless the Norse drive less than 1,000 kilometers a year on average (620 miles American), they need to find a different scapegoat.

Warner calls for pullout by winter (of 2039)

John Warner is getting a lot of credit in the press for his "sharp and clear message" suggesting that it would be nice if the president pulled a few troops from Iraq by Christmas.

In a misleadingly titled article ("Warner Calls for Pullouts by Winter") the Washington Post quotes exactly what the senior Republican moderate considers a significant change in course.
"I can think of no clearer form of that than if the president were to announce on the 15th that, in consultation with our senior military commanders, he's decided to initiate the first step in a withdrawal of armed forces," Warner said. "I say to the president respectfully, 'Pick whatever number you wish.' . . . Say, 5,000 could begin to redeploy and be home to their families and loved ones no later than Christmas of this year. That's the first step."

5000 troops brought home by Christmas. At that rate, we'll be out of Iraq in 32 years.

But only if the president really thinks we should do that, of course.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Just the right number of troops in Iraq

It's strange how, these days, everyone realizes that the Iraq war is stretching the military to the breaking point.

After all it wasn't very long ago that senior administration officials were telling us that we had millions of troops to draw upon.

Condoleeza Rice, September 2005:
SECRETARY RICE: There were, I think as of today, more than 70,000 forces in the Louisiana area. So we have an active and reserve and guard force of 2.5 million people; 139,000 people are in Iraq. So this is just not an argument that holds water. What is the question is how we better coordinate and decide when federal resources of this magnitude are going to be brought to bear.

Donald Rumsfeld, January 2006:
"And there isn't any reason in the world why we shouldn't be able to maintain, with an active and reserve total force ... of over 2 million people, why we shouldn't be able to maintain 138,000" troops in Iraq, he said.

We didn't send 150,000 Americans to Iraq because that's all we had. We sent 150,000 Americans to Iraq because that was the perfect number. This was the operative argument right up until the elections last November.

Rumsfeld again
, January 2005:
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, there’s of course a debate going on in our country as to whether or not the number of troops is the right number...

The one place there is not a varying opinion on that is among the general officers who are responsible for providing the U.S. military effort in Iraq. ... everyone of them believes that the goal is not to increase the number of troops because then we’d look more and more like an occupying force. We have more and more people that could be attacked. It takes more and more force protection people, more and more logistics support people. And their unanimous recommendation to the president and to me has been that what we want to do is to have right about this – we went from about 140,000 up to 153,000 during this election period, after the election bring down that number and work with the coalition over the period ahead to adjust the force levels downward towards whatever the security situation may or may not require.

From the Heritage Foundation, July 2006:
In Vietnam, the United States employed a flawed strategy referred to as “graduated pressure.” The idea behind this was that increasing levels of military force, applied incrementally, could ultimately push the North Vietnamese to some abstract breaking point, achieving victory for the U.S. and South Viet­nam. The strategy focused on mini­mizing costs rather than winning the war, relied on faulty assumptions about the enemy’s psychology, and, most of all, offered no real solutions about how to defeat the Communists other than essentially throwing more troops at the problem.

Free Speechless Zones

Protecting the president from all criticism has been an obsession with this White House.

From the Presidential Advance Manual (stamped "Sensitive - Do Not Copy"):
The first step to keeping demonstrators out of events, the manual tells the president's event staff, is to encourage the Secret Service to "ask the local police department to designate a protest area...preferably not in view of the event site or the motorcade route."
Protest areas and "free speech zones" have no place in American society. Their only purpose is to protect the powerful and muzzle dissent.

Also in the document, we learn the true purpose of rally squads.
These squads should be instructed always to look for demonstators. The rally squad's task is to use their signs and banners as shields between the demonstrators and the main press platform. If the demonstrators are yelling, rally squads can begin and lead supportive chants to drown out the protestors (USA! USA! USA!).

As a last resort, security should remove the demonstrators from the event site.

For large rallies... at least one squad should be 'roaming' throughout the perimeter of the event to look for potential problems.

via Americablog

Saturday, August 18, 2007

George Bush's plan to run out the clock on Iraq (part 2)

Just in case anyone is still wondering what the purpose of the surge is:

One administration official made it clear that the goal of the planned announcement was to counter public pressure for a more rapid reduction and to try to win support for a plan that could keep American involvement in Iraq on “a sustainable footing” at least through the end of the Bush presidency.

It's not about a defeating al Qaeda or getting the Iraqis to form a democratic government. It's about saving George Bush's pride. The president only cares that he won't be the one who has to make the hard decision to call an end to this fiasco.

Many Republicans have urged Mr. Bush to unveil a new strategy, and even to propose a gradual reduction of American troops to the levels before this year’s troop increase — about 130,000 — or even lower to head off Democratic-led efforts to force the withdrawal of all combat forces by early next year.

That's about the number of troops we had in Iraq in June of 2005.
Of course, this is just business as usual for this White House:

"We should gum this to death," Sampson wrote to a White House aide on Dec. 19. "[A]sk the senators to give Tim a chance . . . then we can tell them we'll look for other candidates, ask them for recommendations, evaluate the recommendations, interview their candidates, and otherwise run out the clock. All of this should be done in 'good faith,' of course."

Friday, August 17, 2007

Mitt Romney gets 373 votes in Illinois straw poll

Or 40.4% as he prefers to describe it.

Non-candidate Fred Thompson came in second with 184 votes and blog favorite Ron Paul came in third with 174 votes.

Notable by his poor showing was Mike Huckabee, whose second place finish at Ames gave him some positive press. He only received 28 votes at the Illinois fair.

You wouldn't expect much excitement at such a poorly attended event. But apparently, Ron Paul is getting under the skin of Romney's campaign committee:
Paul's libertarian stylings and campaign of strict interpretation of the Constitution has earned him an unorthodox band of sign-carrying supporters. They frequently interrupted TV reports of the event and at one point, Romney's Illinois chairman, state Sen. Dan Rutherford (R-Chenoa), ripped a sign out of one Paul supporter's hands and threw it on the ground.

What's a "seismic bump"?

A term most of us have probably never heard before, has been popping up a lot today after several rescue workers were killed trying to find survivors in the Crandall Canyon Mine.

In simple terms a seismic bump occurs when the stresses caused by mining aren't properly compensated. It's one of the reasons we need well enforced safety regulations in this hazardous line of work.

Bumps occur when too much stress builds on mine support structures. Often the mine's roof and floor are strong, so what gives under the pressure is the coal, usually on the support pillars. It can cause the floor and roof to buckle, too.

It's a benign name for something that explodes like a hand grenade. Mine "bumps'' shoot high-speed coal and rock at anyone in the way as support pillars buckle.

This is not related to earthquakes or natural seismicity, despite the efforts of some (like Utah Senator Orrin Hatch) to claim otherwise:
"You use the best technology you can, you do best you possibly can. You hope natural disasters don't occur, like did occur. I don't think anybody could say it's anything but a natural disaster," Hatch said.
Actually, people who know earthquakes are saying it wasn't a natural disaster.

It'd be nice if the Senator was as concerned about the safety of mine workers as he is about the welfare of mine owners.

h/t Schreinervideo

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Tony Snow earns $168,000 a year

As of 2007, according to the White House staff list at the Washington Post.

I only mention this because some of you might have gotten the impression that Press Secretary might be a volunteer position, given his recent comment to Hugh Hewitt:

SNOW: No, I’m not going to be…I’ve already made it clear I’m not going to be able to go the distance, but that’s primarily for financial reasons. I’ve told people when my money runs out, then I’ve got to go.

I'm not sure what he spends his money on, but for comparison, that puts him in the top 5% of U.S. earners. It's over 3 times the median salary and it's 65% higher than the the average for those with Professional and Doctoral degrees ( doctors, lawyers, scientists, engineers, etc. )

His assistant, Dana Perino, makes over $141,000.

Hillary Clinton: First choice of conservative Republicans

It's pretty incredible given the years of Hillary hatred on the right but she's now their favorite liberal. Conservatives are arguing, "If you must vote for a Democrat for God's sake vote for Hillary".

First came Rupert Murdoch, magnate of the FOX news empire.
Murdoch to host fundraiser for Hillary Clinton

One media lobbyist said: “Murdoch will be for the Republicans but he is also smart enough to know that the Republicans might not win. At some level, whether nationally or in New York, Hillary is the future and what savvy businessman would not want to put a line of interest in someone who will be the future?”

And now we have neoconservative icon Bill Kristol singing her praises.
William Kristol, editor of the conservative Weekly Standard, sounded more effusive. "Obama," he said, "is becoming the antiwar candidate, and Hillary Clinton is becoming the responsible Democrat who could become commander in chief in a post-9/11 world."

But why would conservatives, to whom Hillary has come to personify everything that's wrong with the left, pick her as their best hope?

First, given the hard times the Republicans have fallen on, they realize that she's may be their best bet. With the possible exception of Joe Biden, she's the most conservative candidate on the Democratic side.

Here's Bruce Bartlett.
Having come to this realization, it became necessary to judge the Democratic field to determine which candidate would be the least bad from my point of view. I concluded that Hillary Clinton was less objectionable that the others. She appeared to be a clone of her husband on economic policy--which is good as far as I am concerned--and a realist on foreign policy. Given the choices facing us, I concluded that conservatives ought to consider supporting Hillary in order to ensure that a more liberal candidate such as Barack Obama or John Edwards didn't become our next president.

Republicans hated Bill because he kept stealing their ideas, not because he was a radical leftist. Now they're worried that the choice is between a triangulator and an liberal ideologue.

They also think she's more of an opportunist than an idealist - she might be happy just to get the brass ring. Ross Douthat:

As a conservative, I see this as an advertisement for a Clinton presidency, not a mark against her candidacy. I like my liberal Presidents to offer "no big ideas, no crusading causes" - particularly after eight years of George W. Bush, Big Thinker.

... And yet, and yet. She has a real record now, and it's no more left-wing than her rivals, and a good deal more restrained. Whether you're a libertarian like Andrew or a social conservative like me, you're not going to be wild about any Democratic president. But better a liberal "Nixon in a Pant Suit," I often think - and whatever her pathologies they can't hold a candle to Tricky Dick's - than the liberal, realigning Reagan that Obama has an outside chance of turning out to be.

Moderate Republicans see in her a bit of themselves. Here's Andrew Sullivan, who dislikes Hillary, but can still identify with her on a fundamental level:

I've written before that Clinton's relentless sensibleness on many issues - including the war, where her own journey has been in the same direction as mine - makes her hard to oppose.

And finally, for the far right, there's the war. Hillary is the only Democrat running who hasn't completely repudiated the case for the Iraq war.

(Rich Lowry)

In those moments in the Democratic debates that have offered a choice between saying what the pacifist left wants to hear or saying what someone who might someday be president should say, she has done the latter. Her default mode is seriousness, and all her preparation shows. When she was asked in the most recent debate about the possibility of nearly three decades of a Bush or Clinton in the While House, I found myself commenting to a friend, “Watch — she’ll hit this out of the park.” Which she did with a joke about regretting that Bush won in 2000.

(Fred Barnes)

There was a key moment, however, and once again it pitted Clinton, the New York senator, against Barack Obama, her counterpart from Illinois. The question was whether they'd promise to meet in the first year of their presidency with the leaders of such enemy nations as Cuba, Venezuela, North Korea, Iran, and Syria.

"I would," Obama said, foolishly showing his inexperience, and perhaps his naivete as well, in foreign affairs. After all, he said, President Reagan called the Soviet Union an "evil empire" and still talked to Soviet leaders. "I think it's a disgrace we haven't talked" to leaders of the five anti-American countries, Obama said.

(Charles Krauthammer)

From the Nation's David Corn to super-blogger Mickey Kaus, a near-audible gasp. For Hillary Clinton, next in line at the debate, an unmissable opportunity. She pounced: "I will not promise to meet with the leaders of these countries during my first year." And she proceeded to give the reasons any graduate student could tick off: You don't want to be used for their propaganda. You need to know their intentions. Such meetings can make the situation worse.

Just to make sure no one missed how the grizzled veteran showed up the clueless rookie, the next day Clinton told the Quad-City Times of Davenport, Iowa, that Obama's comment "was irresponsible and frankly naive.

None of these men will vote for Clinton. With the exception of Andrew Sullivan, they look at the Democratic field and think, "she's a person I could vote for, but I'd rather have a real Republican".

Deep down they believe Hillary is the smart move for Republicans. She motivates their base helping Republicans generally, but if she wins, she's still the most conservative Democrat. It keeps the debate shifted to the right.

And they dream of a rematch in 2012.

The magnitude 7.9 Peruvian earthquake

A magnitude 7.9 earthquake struck Peru 90 miles south of Lima causing significant shaking and a small tsunami. So far (6:10 GMT) it's been followed by 10 aftershocks larger than magnitude 5.0. The quake struck at the junction of two oceanic plates near the location of two previous magnitude 8 events (1908 and 1974). The USGS map below shows the area of greatest intensity.

"There was a pretty big, intense, long-wave earthquake," a woman named Erica in Lima told APTN television. "You could see all the buildings here in San Isidro and the glass shaking."

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Huge drop in casualties or deja vu all over again?

August 2007:
U.S. officials say the number of civilian casualties in the Iraqi capital is down 50 percent. But U.S. officials declined to provide specific numbers, and statistics gathered by McClatchy Newspapers don't support the claim.

Let's hope it's true. But there is reason to suspect the official count if it's not backed up by specifics.

September 2006:
It turns out the official toll of violent deaths in August was just revised upwards to 1535 from 550, tripling the total. Now, we’re depressingly used to hearing about deaths here, so much so that the numbers can be numbing. But this means that a much-publicized drop-off in violence in August - heralded by both the Iraqi government and the US military as a sign that a new security effort in Baghdad was working - apparently didn’t exist. […] Violent deaths now appear roughly in line with the earlier trend: 1855 in July and 1595 in June.

And why was the count so low?

BAGHDAD, Iraq - U.S. officials, seeking a way to measure the results of a program aimed at decreasing violence in Baghdad, aren't counting scores of dead killed in car bombings and mortar attacks as victims of the country's sectarian violence.

In a distinction previously undisclosed, U.S. military spokesman Lt. Col. Barry Johnson said Friday that the United States is including in its tabulations of sectarian violence only deaths of individuals killed in drive-by shootings or by torture and execution.

That has allowed U.S. officials to boast that the number of deaths from sectarian violence in Baghdad declined by more than 52 percent in August over July.

500 Iraqis may be dead because of a blood feud

Virtually everyone is pointing fingers after the recent suicide bombings that has killed at least 250 people in northern Iraq. Americans blame al Qaida (in Iraq). Shiite leaders blame the Sunni insurgency, and Kurds put the blame on the battle for northern oil fields. But according to McClatchy it may be the latest shot in a religious vendetta.

U.S. officials blamed al Qaida in Iraq, a Sunni Muslim extremist group that has targeted American troops, Iraqi government forces and Shiite Muslim civilians. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki, a Shiite, blamed Sunni extremists. Kurdish officials said the blast was part of the jockeying between Kurds and Arabs for control of northern Iraq, though Nineveh province lies outside the Kurdish autonomous region.

Many, however, said the blast appeared to be the latest spasm in a blood feud that erupted earlier this year when members of Iraq's non-Muslim Yazidi ethnic minority stoned to death a teenage girl they accused of dating a Sunni Arab man and converting to Islam.

The brutal death of Doaa Khalil Aswad, 17, in April was captured on video by cell phone. Stomach-turning images of her writhing as she was beaten and pelted with stones by hundreds of young Yazidi men spread across the Internet.

Two weeks later, 23 Yazidi men were taken from a bus and executed.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Southern Justice: Tennessee frees a convicted killer

67 days for murder?

The woman convicted of manslaughter in the shotgun slaying of her minister husband was freed Tuesday after serving 67 days in custody.

I thought only ACLU loving, Northeastern states were this soft on confessed killers.

She even remembered holding the shotgun later that morning. But she insisted she had no recollection of what happened thereafter, until she saw her dying husband lying on the floor in a pool of blood.

Her testimony contrasted sharply with the prosecution's portrayal of Mary as a calculated killer who shot her husband after he confronted her with a check-kiting scheme she had become involved in. Matthew, according to the prosecution, was a loving husband, caring father and beloved minister.

Because there was no dispute that Mary shot Matthew, the jury was faced with deciding first whether it believed Mary and, if so, whether the physical, verbal and sexual abuse excused her husband's murder.

Basra: how not to make an exit from Iraq

For a picture of what a poorly planned American pullout might look like, look no farther than Basra:

Attacks on British forces in Basra are soaring. Deaths and injuries are higher than any time since the invasion.

The [British base at the Basra airport] has become a shooting gallery for Iraqi insurgents. British forces are housed in tents, many near the airport tower which is visible from well beyond the heavily defended airport perimeter. Insurgents using 107mm or 120mm rockets, fired from old drainpipes or other makeshift launchpads, simply aim at the tower and hope to cause mayhem in the camp.

Basra is the major city in oil rich southern Iraq. Controlled by the majority Shiites, the battles in Basra are dominated by factional power struggles, not the ethnic slaughter currently seen in Baghdad. The small Sunni community along with intellectuals and teachers is being driven out by the militias.

Earlier this year, Tony Blair decided to call it quits and begin pulling out completely. But that hasn't spared British troops who largely remain confined to the airport.

Basra, mind you, is Dick Cheney's idea of a success story:

"The British have done what is really the plan for the country as a whole, which is to be able to transfer security responsibilities to the Iraqis, as conditions permit," Cheney said. "What I see is an affirmation of the fact that there are parts of Iraq where things are going pretty well."

This also lends the lie to the idea that a "soft partition" along ethnic lines would prevent the collapse of Iraq into civil war. Ethnic rivalries are only the most obvious conflicts to those of us on the outside. The Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds are themselves divided into hostile factions who target each other as often as they target anyone else.

Couldn't we just get rid of the electoral college?

California Republicans, led by Arnold Schwarzenegger's lawyer are the latest in a string of partisans who would like to guarantee that their team wins the presidency regardless of the whims of the little people:

Instead of laboring in vain to turn California Red, a clever lawyer for the state Republican Party thought of a gimmicky shortcut. Thomas Hiltachk, who specializes in ballot referenda that try to fool people in the titles and fine print, is sponsoring a ballot initiative for the June 3, 2008, California primary (which now falls four months after the state's presidential primary). The Presidential Election Reform Act would award the state's electoral votes based on who wins each congressional district. Had this idea been in effect in 2004, Bush would have won 22 electoral votes from California, about the same number awarded the winners of states like Illinois or Pennsylvania. In practical terms, adopting the initiative would mean that the Democratic candidate would likely have to win both Ohio and Florida in 2008 (instead of one or the other) to be elected.

The strategy is a simple one. Take 40% of the electoral votes in states dominated by the opposition party, add 100% of the electoral votes in states dominated by your own party and suddenly you've got a system where an extremely unpopular candidate could win the presidency while losing by 10 or 20 million votes nationwide.

Partisans who cheer the effort when it works to their advantage are typically outraged when the other guy pulls the same stunt:

North Carolina appears headed to becoming the third state in the nation to abandon the winner-take-all method for awarding its electoral votes as the House tentatively agreed Thursday to shelf the method.

Republicans called the change a cheap way to give Democrats, who have been shut out in North Carolina since 1980, some electoral votes.

"This is clearly a partisan bill. There's no question about that," said Rep. Leo Daughtry, R-Johnston. "You've got to change the law to make it an advantage."

Not that Republicans wouldn't trade a few votes in North Carolina for a couple of dozen in California.

And of course, partisans like the idea of a national popular vote even less than the current system. Governor Schwarzenegger, who hasn't taken a position on his lawyer's scheme (and denies being involved personally) vetoed a bill that would have given California's sizeable electoral to the overall winner.

Monday, August 13, 2007

So long, Johnny, we hardly knew ye

What's that?...........It's Tommy Thompson?.......... Seriously?

Sunday, August 12, 2007

We may lose in Afghanistan because George Bush got bored

For an example of the number one reason critics opposed the Iraq war from the start.

At critical moments in the fight for Afghanistan, the Bush administration diverted scarce intelligence and reconstruction resources to Iraq, including elite C.I.A. teams and Special Forces units involved in the search for terrorists. As sophisticated Predator drone spy planes rolled off assembly lines in the United States, they were shipped to Iraq, undercutting the search for Taliban and terrorist leaders, according to senior military and intelligence officials.

Unfortunately, Afghanistan remains the forgotten front, even as the Taliban rebuilds and the Afghan population tire of being caught between American guns and their targets.

In all the posturing about expanding or ending the Iraq war, few in the Congress and none in the Executive branch make any mention of the risk that we could lose on both fronts.

Friday, August 10, 2007

How do they know it wasn't caused by an earthquake?

Much to the chagrin of Robert Murray, CEO of the company that owns the Utah mine where 6 workers are trapped; scientists have confirmed that the collapse was not caused by an earthquake. The magnitude 3.9 event was the collapse itself.

Murray insisted there was no way the collapse was not caused by an earthquake - "It was a natural disaster and I'll prove it to you" - even though a federal geologist said Tuesday evening the collapse was absolutely not caused by an earthquake

Murray spent as much time attacking union workers, environmentalists and global warming theory as he did addressing the concerns of the miner's families so he's hardly a sympathetic figure.

Still, how do seismologists really know that there was no earthquake?

By looking at the data from seismometers, scientists can determine how the energy emerged from the source. In simple terms, if all the energy is expanding outward you've got an explosion, all the energy moving inwards identifies an implosion or collapse. Earthquakes slip along faults and some of the energy moves outwards, some inwards in a characteristic pattern called a double-couple.

Scientists at the Berkeley Seismology Lab looked at the data from 16 nearby instruments and the identified the source as a collapse. In the figure above earthquakes fall in the blue region, explosions in the red, and collapses in the green. The Utah event, indicated by the red star, falls well outside the earthquake zone.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Climatologists make a near term prediction

....Plan for warmer weather soon.

Because of the complexity of the Earth system, most forecasts of climate change are long-range predictions. External forcing becomes dominant over the long term (decades to centuries), but in the near term natural signals such as El Nino play a larger role. Now a new method which includes the initial state of the ocean and atmosphere and accounts for this natural variability provides improved near term forecasts:

From news@nature:

When called on to forecast the coming decade, [the Decadal Climate Prediction System] produced a 10-year temperature curve distinctly different from those predicted by conventional models. The curve is based on 20 different model runs starting on 20 different days in 2005, each with its own set of initial conditions.

If the model is correct, in the next few years natural variability — mainly in factors affecting the heat content of the ocean — will offset some of the climate warming resulting from humanity's greenhouse emissions. But global warming will be taking only a brief breather: [at least] half the years from 2009 to 2014 will be warmer than 1998, which is currently the warmest year on record.

Those with subscriptions to Science can read the original paper here.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Petraeus: what's a couple of missing weapons

..when you've got a crackerjack force like the Iraqi military.

These comments are infuriating:

"Some percentage" of weapons the U.S. military provided to the Iraqi army and Iraqi police units were not tracked by serial number because there were no procedures in place to do so within the Iraqi units, Petraeus said in an interview broadcast last night on Fox News Radio's "Alan Colmes Show."

From a practical standpoint, Petraeus added, it was more important to get the weapons to the Iraqis as they started to enter the fight against a strong insurgency than it was to keep meticulous records.

Of course the worry is that we've been arming the insurgency ourselves all this time. That Iraqi units have either gone AWOL, sold their weapons on the black market, acted as death squads against rival factions or turned those guns on American soldiers.

Hillary Clinton: How could you possibly doubt me?

Hillary Clinton: “I don’t think, based on my 35 years of fighting for what I believe in, I don’t think anybody seriously believes I’m going to be influenced by a lobbyist”.
Actually, they do. Just like they'd believe it about any other candidate. The idea that some people are incorruptible because they've spent a lifetime in politics is a little bit absurd at this point.

It's like the claim that you can't bribe a wealthy man.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Somebody really doesn't want to be a Senator anymore

From the Washington Post site, these are the number of votes missed during the current session of Congress:

Hillary Clinton (D) ......... 11 votes (3.5%)
Dennis Kucinich (D) ......... 71 votes (8.4%)
Barack Obama (D) .......... 59 votes (19.0%)
Ron Paul (R) ................ 169 votes (20.0%)
Christopher Dodd (D) ....... 74 votes (23.9%)
Joseph Biden (D) ............ 78 votes (25.2%)
Tom Tancredo (R) ......... 225 votes (26.6%)
Duncan Hunter (R) ......... 244 votes (28.8%)
Sam Brownback (R) ........ 123 votes (39.7%)
John McCain (R) ........... 149 votes (48.1%)

Most Senators and Congressmen have missed less than 3% of scheduled votes. Only the seriously ill Senator Tim Johnson has missed more votes than John McCain.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Mitt Romney and the Attack of the Clones

I've always found it a little baffling that Mitt Romney, recent convert to the pro-life cause, wasn't won over by the fact that millions of children have been aborted since Roe vs. Wade was decided.

He was won over by the fantasy that scientists were on the verge of creating a new clone army:

ROMNEY: I am pro-life. That’s the truth. And several years ago, when we faced the issue of cloning of embryos in our state, I wrote an op-ed piece in the Boston Globe and said I’m pro-life.

Here were his views on abortion when he was campaigning for Senator of the most liberal state in the Union:

In an October 1994 debate with US Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, Romney said: ''I believe that abortion should be safe and legal in this country. I have since the time that my mom took that position when she ran in 1970 as a US Senate candidate. I believe that since Roe v. Wade has been the law for 20 years we should sustain and support it."

Mitt Romney: we need to have a "person of faith" lead the country.

But you must never, ever, ever ask me about mine.

Romney: "Let me, uh, let me offer just a thought. And that is, uh, one of the great things about this great land, is we have people of different faiths and different persuasions. And uh, I'm convinced that the nation, that the nation does need, the nation does need to have people of different faiths but we need to have a person of faith lead the country."

There's something a little pathetic about a man who runs on cleaning up the "cesspool" that is our culture, and appeals for votes among the most partisan fundamentalists complaining when people ask him about his personal religious values.

Romney likes to cite the fact that many voters want a religious person to lead the country. His problem is that many of the same people who would never vote for an atheist, would never vote for a Mormon, either.

Poor Tommy Thompson gets no respect

Even the political junkies at Americablog have forgotten that there's a already a candidate named Thompson in the GOP field:

And this is the alleged savior of the GOP presidential field -- the yet-to-announce Fred Thompson, at Sunday's GOP clown car debate:
"I believe that Vice President Cheney is criticized for a lot of things that he doesn't do. And I believe that Dick Cheney is an honorable individual. And I think the president of the United States depends a great deal upon him."
Like the Freepers are begging, run, Fred, run.

That comment was, of course, made by Tommy Thompson not Fred. Fred doesn't do debates. He does fireside chats.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

The law is meant to protect the powerful from embarassment

George Bush and Alberto Gonzales will likely never be made accountable for violating the FISA law. But the whistleblower who exposed their program - that's a different story:

[T]he raid was related to a Justice criminal probe into who leaked details of the warrantless eavesdropping program to the news media. The raid appears to be the first significant development in the probe since The New York Times reported in December 2005 that Bush had authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on the international phone calls and e-mails of U.S. residents without court warrants. (At the time, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said of the leak: "This is really hurting national security; this has really hurt our country.")

Don't expect many tearful editorials bemoaning the fate of the leaker if he is caught in this case. Those laments are saved for members of the dinner party set.

It's the sign of a completely corrupt government when we struggle to retroactively legalize official wrongdoing while the perpetrators have the gall to prosecute those who expose their actions. State secrets are meant to protect the nation, not its ruling class.

h/t John Cole

Rudy Giuliani defines political correctness

Apparently now political correctness is when you won't say what I want you to say:

Giuliani saved his sharpest jabs for Democrats. "In four debates, not a single Democrat said the word, 'Islamic terrorists.' Now that is taking political correctness to extreme," he said.

Originally the term was used by old-guard communists to mean toeing the party line, as in: "we're fighting Islamic terrorists in Iraq".

Ron Paul: the favorite candidate of active duty soldiers

Ron Paul, alternatively described as a "crank" and an "also ran" by the mainstream media for his opposition to the Iraq war and belief in a smaller government, leads all candidates in donations from the American military.

“Lots of military people turned out to be aware that our campaign got more donations from soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines than any other,” said Paul in a statement on his website. “Funny, that made a big impression in Congress too. Many of my colleagues were amazed and encouraged that you can be against this unconstitutional and disastrous war, and get military support.”

Paul said it is “an outrage that we are accused of not supporting the troops” and called it a “scam when the warmongers claim to be pro-soldier.”

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Senate Democrats cave to Bush, again

Unable to hold fast against a president now mired in the high 20's, the Democrats are rapidly proving that the November victory didn't include a backbone transplant. Having caved completely to Bush on the Iraq war supplemental, they've now caved completely to his demands for domestic spying:

The Senate bowed to White House pressure last night and passed a Republican plan for overhauling the federal government's terrorist surveillance laws, approving changes that would temporarily give U.S. spy agencies expanded power to eavesdrop on foreign suspects without a court order.

The 60 to 28 vote, which was quickly denounced by civil rights and privacy advocates, came after Democrats in the House failed to win support for more modest changes that would have required closer court supervision of government surveillance. Earlier in the day, President Bush threatened to hold Congress in session into its scheduled summer recess if it did not approve the changes he wanted.

Anyone who believed that September was going to be a magic drop dead date for the president's war strategy should take a lesson from this. Congress believes it is subservient to George Bush. He will continue to treat them with utter contempt until they give him a reason to take them seriously.

Prepare to see Congress's approval numbers drop dramatically again, as voters who elected Democrats to serve as a check on this president, realize that the rubber stamp Congress just changed leadership.

Update - the political consequences are summarized best here:

The Democrats have seriously alienated a significant portion of their base and they will not replace those voters with the Fox News viewers they sought to appease. It's not easy to win an argument (if it's possible at all) against people who claim there's no difference between the parties. Right now, the results are the same as they were seven months ago.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Mitt Romney makes the case for government health care

Unintentionally, I think:

Romney was quick to say he didn't like Clinton's plan and opposed taxes to pay for health care subsidies, but that prompted a question from another patron. "Who's paying for the subsidies if it's not the government of Massachusetts?"

"We found it cost us more money to be giving free care out at hospitals than to help people buy their own private care," Romney said.

That, of course, is one of the standard arguments for the single payer system. It's cheaper to pay up front than to pay for the uninsured when they show up at the emergency room.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Scientists discover the perfect diet

Eat all you want, stay slim, live longer.

Via Nature, we learn that scientists may have stumbled upon a significant breakthrough in life extension while researching heart health.

Researchers have created a mutant mouse that lives longer despite eating more and weighing less — all thanks to the loss of a single protein.

Without this protein, the body is less susceptible to the heart-pounding effects of the hormone adrenaline, and may become more resistant to some forms of stress.

Currently, the main focus of ageing research is on using calorie restriction as a way of activating a metabolic 'fountain of youth'. The new discovery, that knocking out a single cardiac gene could lengthen lifespan, was an unexpected byproduct of heart research.

But in the process, the research team also realised that the mutant mice lived longer than their normal counterparts. Now, in a paper published in Cell this week2, they report that the treated mice lived 30% longer and did not develop the heart stress and bone deterioration that often accompanies ageing.

If this can be extended to humans, it's pretty much the world's dream diet. It's also guaranteed to be more popular than the current leading contender for life extension: Extreme calorie restriction demands a life-long regimen of near starvation.

John McCain votes against ethics reform

Sacrificing the last shreds of his dignity, John McCain joined 13 other Senate Republicans voting against ethics reform today. Despite missing a record number of votes this year, he cut short a campaign stop to make his voice heard against this one.

Enactment of the bill would mark the most sweeping ethics reforms since the Watergate era, requiring lawmakers for the first time to disclose fundraising by lobbyists, tightening rules on gift-giving to staff and lawmakers, forcing lobbyists to disclose their contacts, clamping down on members’ junkets and requiring lawmakers to disclose when they seek earmarked funds for projects in their home states.

Despite having failed to advance Congressional ethics reform during the years his own party was in control, McCain thought this bill was too timid.

But a bloc of conservative Republicans said the plan does not go far enough in shining a light on earmarks, the source of recent corruption scandals on the Hill. They slammed their Republican colleagues for backing the earmark disclosure requirements, which they said would allow members to hide their pet projects by exploiting loopholes in the legislation.

He lent his reputation as a reformer to the same Republican leaders who presided over the biggest pork-barrel spending in history.

This unfortunately isn't the first time McCain has gone soft on transparency in politics.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Fred Thompson: "scientists are morons"

The Republican war on science rages on as Fred Thompson "debunks" global warming theory:
Some people think that our planet is suffering from a fever. Now scientists are telling us that Mars is experiencing its own planetary warming: Martian warming. It seems scientists have noticed recently that quite a few planets in our solar system seem to be heating up a bit, including Pluto.

NASA says the Martian South Pole's ice cap has been shrinking for three summers in a row. Maybe Mars got its fever from earth. If so, I guess Jupiter's caught the same cold, because it's warming up too, like Pluto.

This has led some people, not necessarily scientists, to wonder if Mars and Jupiter, non-signatories to the Kyoto Treaty, are actually inhabited by alien SUV-driving industrialists who run their air-conditioning at 60 degrees and refuse to recycle.

Silly, I know, but I wonder what all those planets, dwarf planets and moons in our SOLAR system have in common. Hmmmm. SOLAR system. Hmmmm. Solar? I wonder. Nah, I guess we shouldn't even be talking about this. The science is absolutely decided. There's a consensus.

Ask Galileo.

That's right, the guy from Die Hard believes that thousands of scientists who spend their lives studying the Earth's climate simply forgot that the Sun is the driving force heating the planet. Unfortunately, he's hardly the only conservative digging in his heels against global warming science and making absurd arguments against it.

Of course, scientists do measure the variations of the Sun and its effects on our climate. Left out of all the commentaries about Mars' ice cap and the Solar connection is that fact that Solar activity has not increased in decades and that the actual measurements of air temperature significantly exceed the predictions based on solar forcing.

Couple that with the fact that, on average, half of the planets in the solar system will be warming and half cooling at any time, that Pluto has just passed the point closest to the sun in it's 248 year orbit, that there is no evidence that Jupiter is warming globally and that 3 years of pictures of a shrinking polar cap is a short term local measurement, not a long term global one -- well you start to wonder where all the evidence against man-made global warming went.

As stated at RealClimate:
There is a slight irony in people rushing to claim that the glacier changes on Mars are a sure sign of global warming, while not being swayed by the much more persuasive analogous phenomena here on Earth…