September 27, 2007 archive

US Senate Goes Long on Iraq

While most of the sturm and drang about yesterday’s seemingly senseless Senate resolution has focused on implications for war with Iran, a closer look at the text reveals the other agenda of our Parliamentary Putzes – the codification of a long term US military presence in Iraq.

First the text: 

(b) Sense of Senate.–It is the sense of the Senate–

  (1) that the manner in which the United States transitions and structures its military presence in Iraq will have critical long-term consequences for the future of the Persian Gulf and the Middle East, in particular with regard to the capability of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran to pose a threat to the security of the region, the prospects for democracy for the people of the region, and the health of the global economy;

  (2) that it is a vital national interest of the United States to prevent the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran from turning Shi’a militia extremists in Iraq into a Hezbollah-like force that could serve its interests inside Iraq, including by overwhelming, subverting, or co-opting institutions of the legitimate Government of Iraq;

  (3) that it should be the policy of the United States to combat, contain, and roll back the violent activities and destabilizing influence inside Iraq of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran, its foreign facilitators such as Lebanese Hezbollah, and its indigenous Iraqi proxies;

  (4) to support the prudent and calibrated use of all instruments of United States national power in Iraq, including diplomatic, economic, intelligence, and military instruments, in support of the policy described in paragraph (3) with respect to the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran and its proxies;

  (5) that the United States should designate the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps as a foreign terrorist organization under section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act and place the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps on the list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists, as established under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and initiated under Executive Order 13224; and

  (6) that the Department of the Treasury should act with all possible expediency to complete the listing of those entities targeted under United Nations Security Council Resolutions 1737 and 1747 adopted unanimously on December 23, 2006 and March 24, 2007, respectively.

Not just simply a tantrum against Iran, the Senate resolution is, more importantly, a formal recognition of what many US legislators have long known would be the eventual fallback plan once the Surge inevitably failed: permanent occupation of Iraq.

Comedian Limbaugh Attacks The Troops

Jon Soltz of Vote Vets responds to Rush Limbuagh's attack on US soldiers who served in Iraq who oppose continuing the Debacle:

Rush Limbaugh, on his show said that those troops who come home and want to get America out of the middle of the religious civil war in Iraq are “phony soldiers.” I'd love for you, Rush, to have me on your show and tell that to me to my face.

First, in what universe is a guy who never served even close to being qualified to judge those who have worn the uniform? Rush Limbaugh has never worn a uniform in his life – not even one at Mickey D's – and somehow he's got the moral standing to pass judgment on the men and women who risked their lives for this nation, and his right to blather smears on the airwaves? . . .

Time for a Congressional resolution condemning Limbaugh. Yes, I am serious. This is how the game of politics has to be played.

[UPDATE] Dems firing hard at Limbaugh.

Four at Four

This is an OPEN THREAD. Here are four stories in the news at 4 o’clock to get you started.

  1. There is an uptick in news about global warming today. The Independent brings news from Washington D.C. as Bush prepares for ‘greenwashing’ climate summit. “For the first time in 16 years, a major environmental conference opens in Washington, hosted by the Bush administration. But no concrete results are expected, and that… is the point of this high-level meeting. ¶ Far from representing a Damascene conversion on climate change by… George Bush, the two-day gathering of the world’s biggest polluting nations is aimed at undermining the UN’s efforts to tackle global warming, say European sources. ‘The conference was called at very short notice,’ said one participant. ‘It’s a cynical exercise in destabilising the UN process.'” The Guardian also confirms that diplomats are accusing Bush of attempting to derail UN climate conference. “One European diplomat described the US meeting as a spoiler for a UN conference planned for Bali in December. Another… claimed that the US conference was merely a way of deflecting pressure from other world leaders who had asked at the G8 summit this year for the US to make concessions on global warming. ¶ They predicted that Mr Bush, who is to address the meeting tomorrow, will stress the need to make technological advances that can help combat climate change but will reject mandatory caps on emissions… ¶ One of those attending said the conference reflected ‘political hardball’ on the part of the Bush administration, aimed at undermining the UN, for which it holds long-term suspicion. Another said the conference was aimed at domestic politics, with Mr Bush seeking headlines and television coverage implying that he was doing something about climate change while, in fact, doing almost nothing.

    The Bush administration is doing nothing and taking credit for the work of others. The Washington Post reports the White House is taking unearned credit for emissions cuts. “Seeking to counter international pressure to adopt binding limits on greenhouse gas emissions, the Bush administration has been touting the success of three mandatory programs to curb U.S. energy consumption: gas mileage standards for vehicles, efficiency standards for home appliances and state laws requiring utilities to increase their use of renewable energy sources. ¶ But for most of the Bush presidency, the White House has either done little to promote these measures or, in some cases, has actively fought against them. Moreover, the fuel economy and appliance initiatives were first taken years ago to slash energy consumption, long before climate change became a pressing issue. ¶ The administration initially delayed plans to set improved energy-efficiency standards for 22 appliances, which led to a court battle with the Natural Resources Defense Council, an advocacy group. Under a 2006 legal settlement, the Energy Department is now working to finish the rules. The White House also tried to reverse strict efficiency standards for central air conditioners upon Bush’s taking office in 2001, a move the NRDC had reversed in a separate lawsuit.

  2. Spiegel brings news of the ever-increasing evidence that biofuels ’emit more greenhouse gases than fossil fuels’. “A team of researchers led by Nobel-prize winning chemist Paul Crutzen has found that growing and using biofuels emits up to 70 percent more greenhouse gases than fossil fuels. They are warning that the cure could end up being worse than the disease.”

    Biofuels, once championed as the great hope for fighting climate change, could end up being more damaging to the environment than oil or gasoline. A new study has found that the growth and use of crops to make biofuels produces more damaging greenhouse gases than previously thought.

    German* Nobel-prize winning chemist Paul Crutzen and his team of researchers have calculated the emissions released by the growth and burning of crops such as maize, rapeseed and cane sugar to produce biofuels. The team of American, British and German scientists has found that the process releases twice as much nitrous oxide (N2O) as previously thought. They estimate that 3 to 5 percent of nitrogen in fertilizer is converted and emitted, as opposed to the 2 percent used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in its calculations.

    Crutzen is widely respected in the field of climate research, having received the Nobel Prize in 1995 for his research into the ozone layer. The study, published in the scientific journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, finds that the growth and use of biofuels produced from rapeseed and maize can produce 70 percent and 50 percent more greenhouse gases respectively than fossil fuels.

    * Crutzen is actually Dutch according to his Wikipedia entry.

  3. Emily Wax reports for the Washington Post that boats are seen as the future in flood-prone Bangladesh. “Melting glaciers in the Himalayas are already causing sea levels to rise here, and scientists say Bangladesh may lose up to 20 percent of its land by 2030 as a result of flooding. That Bangladesh is among the most vulnerable countries on the planet to climate change is a tragedy for its 150 million people, most of whom are destitute… ¶ ‘For Bangladesh, boats are the future,’ said Abul Hasanat Mohammed Rezwan, an architect who started the boats project here and who now oversees it as executive director of the nonprofit Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha, a name that means self-reliance. ‘As Bangladeshi citizens, it’s our responsibility to find solutions because the potential for human disaster is so huge. We have to be bold. Everyone loves land. But the question is: Will there be enough? Millions of people will have nowhere to go.’ … ¶ Scientists in Dhaka, the capital, predict that as many as 20 million people in Bangladesh will become ‘climate refugees’ by 2030, unable to farm or survive on their flooded land. The migration has already started. In 1995, half of Bhola Island, Bangladesh’s biggest island, was swallowed by rising sea levels, leaving 500,000 people homeless.”

  4. Finally, a double shot of Blackwater news today.

    • The New York Times reports that shootings by Blackwater exceed those of all other firms in Iraq. “Blackwater USA has been involved in a far higher rate of shootings while guarding American diplomats in Iraq than other security firms providing similar services to the State Department, according to Bush administration officials and industry officials… ¶ The State Department keeps reports on each case in which weapons were fired by security personnel guarding American diplomats in Iraq… ¶ The officials said that Blackwater’s incident rate was at least twice that recorded by employees of DynCorp International and Triple Canopy, the two other United States-based security firms that have been contracted by the State Department to provide security for diplomats and other senior civilians in Iraq… Last year, the State Department gave Blackwater the lead role in diplomatic security in Iraq, reducing the roles of DynCorp and Triple Canopy. ¶ The company employs about 850 workers in Iraq under its diplomatic security contract, about three-quarters of them Americans, according to the State Department and the Congressional Research Service. DynCorp has 157 security guards in Iraq; Triple Canopy has about 250.” So, to eliminate private security contractors from Iraq, it would take reassignment of 1257 military personnel?

    • The Los Angeles Times reports that Defense War Secretary Robert Gates has moved to rein in contractors in Iraq. “Gates has ordered U.S. military commanders in Iraq to crack down on any abuses they uncover by private security contractors in the aftermath of a deadly shooting involving American guards that infuriated Iraqis… ¶ In a three-page directive sent Tuesday night to the Pentagon’s most senior officers, Gates’ top deputy ordered them to review rules governing contractors’ use of arms and to begin legal proceedings against any that have violated military law. ¶ Gates’ order contrasts with the reaction of State Department officials, who have been slow to acknowledge any potential failings in their oversight of Blackwater USA… The Pentagon directive does not affect private security guards under contract to other agencies, including the State Department, which is investigating the Blackwater shooting.” According to the Washington Post, Gates declined to describe the contractors as mercenaries. ” Asked by a senator whether he considered the contractors ‘mercenaries,’ Gates replied that many of the security contractors in Iraq are former members of the U.S. military and do not see themselves in that light.” McClatchy newspapers reports some in the Pentagon prefer soldiers over contractors. “Within the military, there’s disagreement about the role of contractors. During his confirmation hearing earlier this year, Petraeus said that he couldn’t effectively wage a counterinsurgency war without contactors, who do everything from security to food preparation. ¶ But… Navy Adm. William Fallon, the commander of the U.S. Central Command, which oversees the Middle East, said he didn’t want contractors seen as a ‘surrogate army.’ ‘My instinct is that it’s easier and better if they were in uniform and were working for me,’ Fallon said. ‘There’s a rule set out there, and these guys should adhere to it as far as action, training and accountability.'”

Of course, there is one more story below the fold…

Heartwarming Tale About the Failure of a Business

I have this friend.  Her name isn’t Mary, but that’s what we’ll call her.  I’ve never had a really good friend named Mary, so this will be fun for me.

When I met Mary, her father was the Democratic mayor of the small town we went to school in.  We lived on opposite sides of the town, each outside the town limits.  There were railroad tracks between our homes, and we often joked about which one of us lived on the ‘wrong’ side.  hint: it was me.

Mary and I have been friends for 26 years.  When we were teenagers, she was a svelte 5’8″, blonde, a model.  We always met lots of boys, had lots of fun, got in lots of trouble.  We once dated brothers who looked exactly alike, though not twins.  I introduced her to her husband.  I taught her how to work her son’s nebulizer.  She has a big mouth; she’s always liked to pick fights, and then have me fight them for her.  She makes the snowballs, and I throw them, as my grandmother would say.  That’s the heartwarming part.  A ‘buddy’ story, of sorts.  I gotta warn you, it gets a little ugly here. 

A Blind Psychologist and Rabbi…for Congress?

I’ve heard it said that the ideal political candidate is the individual who neither wants nor needs to hold public office. Instead, the ideal candidate is the individual who serves simply because he or she feels a civic and moral responsibility to do so.

This individual is Dennis Shulman, a Democrat running for New Jersey’s fifth congressional district seat in the United States House of Representatives.

So, who exactly is this ideal candidate? As a longtime student in Dennis’s classes and congregant at his services, I believe I’m in a unique position to answer this question.

Pony Party: What’s Right With America (Opera Edition)

Thought that title would get your attention.  It’s easy to see the cruelty and injustice of American power, at home and abroad, to feel the country is in the hands of…er…let’s not go there.  This is about what’s right with America!  What’s beautiful and laudable and grand. 

Please don’t rec the pony parties!  Another one will be along soon…

The Gore Narrative: Why he must run

The “inevitability” meme is beginning to set. Bill himself is being rolled out. Ordinarily this race would be all over but the counting. But the times we live in are anything but ordinary. In fact the urgency and magnitude of the challenge we and the rest of the world are facing call for leadership of historic proportions. I will argue that Hillary is not that leader. Though she is experienced, highly competent and immensely well-funded, she is the epitome of the hawkish, powerfully connected, corporate-funded Washington insider who are masterful only at the art of “politics as we know it”. But most of all she lacks en epic narrative, one that taps directly into the Power of Myth. She is no visionary, nor are any of her rivals. And a vision of unprecedented breadth and power is what these parlous times are crying for. The era of business-as-usual, lesser-of-two-evils American leadership cannot continue. The stakes are simply too high.

Jim Webb Gets It (Updated)

With bucketloads of respect to those who think yesterday’s vote in favor of the Lieberman-Kyl amendment on Iran was foolish politics at worst and meaningless at best, I can’t help but stick with my original reaction. This thing stinks to high heaven. (more)

Mayanmar Solders Fire Into Crowd (updated)

Up to 8 killed in Yangon protests, including 1 Japanese national

AP is reporting they were advised by the Japanese Foreign Ministry that Burmese Army solders fired upon a crowd of protestors near the Panzundaun River in East Yangon, Thursday, when they failed to disperse as ordered.

At least one Japanese national was killed in the attack with 7 other deaths (including one Buddhist Monk) reported but unconfirmed. Witness reported 5 men were severly beaten and arrested following the shooting.

Since Saturday, tens of thousands have joined the protests against the military junta, with crowds swelling to an estimated 70,000-100,000 before the shooting.

Tensions have been rising over the past month initially sparked by dissatisfaction with government mandated fuel price increases, but more recently escalated to mass protests by political dissidents, students and Buddhist monks.

Buddhists Protest Peacfully Monday in Defiance of Junta Ban

Over the weekend, sources within the country reported the government had stockpiled sandals and robes worn by devout Buddhists and ordered solders to shave their heads, presumably to infiltrate the protests disguised as monks.

I must add that Burmese people are devoutly Buddhist and monks, which take a vow of poverty and service, occupy a prestigous and influential position in society much as in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam.

Since this story is breaking as I write, I suggest you link directly to the following for the most up to date information:

New York Times
Xinhau EN

Several countries have issued statements condeming the incident and calling for calm.

In Beijing, Thursday, US Undersecretary of State Christopher Hill stated:

“We all need to agree on the fact that the Burmese government has got to stop thinking that this can be solved by police and military, and start thinking about the need for genuine reconciliation with the broad spectrum of political activists in the country.”

In a seperate press conference, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu stated:

“China hopes that all parties in Myanmar exercise restraint and properly handle the current issue so as to ensure the situation there does not escalate and get complicated.”

– snip –

“China expects Myanmar could commit itself to improving the living condition of people, safeguarding the rapprochement among different ethnic groups so to resume peace and stability as soon as possible.”

I would note that Mr. Hill is curently visiting Beijing and reliable sources in China indicate diplomatic pressure on Yangon is intensifying with the US urging China to lead due to it’s more direct ties.

The Myanmar regime, speaking through the mouthpiece New Light of Myanmar continued to underplay the scale of protests and place blame on outsiders, stating, Thrusday:

“Saboteurs from inside and outside the nation and some foreign radio stations, who are jealous of national peace and development, have been making instigative acts through lies to cause internal instability and civil commotion.”

As it is late here in China, I will be out for dinner and checking local sources but try to reply any commets later.

I regret my first topic is a sad one, but let’s hope for the best.


Update Follows the Jump

Pony Party, Happy (belated) Birthday Sam!!

  Believed to be born on September 26, 1722 (though other sources use Sept 16th), Samuel Adams lived his entire life in Boston, Massachusetts.  He died on October 2, 1803, in a state and a country which he helped to create.

Samuel Adams is one of your ‘Founding Fathers’.  Leader, activist, brewer. 


“Without the character of Samuel Adams, the true history of the American Revolution can never be written. For fifty years his pen, his tongue, his activity, were constantly exerted for his country without fee or reward.”~ John Adams

DINOs, DINOs, where are the DINOs?

reposted from daily Kos, with a lot of changes and edits

There is a lot of talk about DINOs (Democrats In Name Only).  There is, in fact, more talk than there are DINOs.  There is only ONE DINO in the senate (and it’s not Jolting Joe) and perhaps 5 or 8 in the House. And ALL those DINOs are from red red red areas

This is not to say that there are not a lot of disappointing Democrats.  There are.  I would rather have 435 house members who vote like my own rep (Jerry Nadler NY-08).  I am on the left wing of the party. 

It’s one thing to be less inspiring than you might be.  It’s another to be a DINO, or to be as bad as a Republican.  Or to slaim that the parties are identical. 

WTF? We Can’t Leave Iraq by 2013?!?

If this weren’t so depressing, it would be comical.

In last night’s Democratic Presidential candidate debate, Tim (Timmeh!) Russert asked the three front-running Democratic candidates if they would make a firm commitment to pull out all U.S. force from Iraq by 2013.

Not one of them — not Clinton, not Obama, not Edwards — took the pledge to do so.

We should all be asking — why the hell not?

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