2008 - %3, May

More War Profiteering, KBR-style

| Thu May 29, 2008 4:20 PM EDT

Believe it or not, 12 soldiers have died in Iraq by electrocution from their own faulty equipment. Like showers and power washers for vehicles. Twelve. Unless they all died on one day, something's rotten in Denmark, that is, if that's where our old pals Kellogg, Brown and Root are headquartered.

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Border Harassment

| Thu May 29, 2008 3:54 PM EDT

On May 11, the Rio Grande Guardian reported that customs agents in the Rio Grande Valley have devised a plan to check the documents of evacuees who attempt to board evacuation buses in the event of a hurricane.

The article [no link] reads:

Anyone who is not a citizen or is not a legal resident will be held in specially designed areas in the Valley that are 'made to withstand hurricanes' said Dan Doty, a Border Patrol spokesperson for the Valley sector.

When the weather clears, of course, they'll be deported.

This incident--and with several other examples of the threat the national security state poses to civil liberties--have come to the attention of Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), who chairs the House Judiciary committee. On Friday, he brought the issue up before the Congress: "[T]he Border Patrol [has] said that they have reassessed the policy in light of last week's exercise. They told us that [their] 'primary role in such events will be the safeguarding of life. No enforcement role will be undertaken that will in any way impede the safe and orderly evacuation of any member of the south Texas population.'"

That's a slightly different tune. And unfortunately, we may only learn the Border Patrol's true intentions when a real disaster strikes.

Sen. Feinstein Kills Off False Iran Report

| Thu May 29, 2008 2:58 PM EDT

The office of Senator Dianne Feinstein has weighed in to kill off once and for all a false report that appeared in Asia Times earlier this week that claimed she had been briefed about planned air strikes on Iran. The report is "plain wrong," Feinstein's spokesman said.

"Sen. Feinstein has not received any briefing classified or unclassified from the administration about any plans to strike Iran," Scott Gerber, a spokesman for the California Democrat, told me today. "And we're seeking a correction to the Asia Times report."

As I reported yesterday, Asia Times ran an article Tuesday saying "Bush plans air strikes" on Iran by August: "After receiving secret briefings on the planned air strike," the outlet reported, "Senator Diane Feinstein, Democrat of California, and Senator Richard Lugar, Republican of Indiana, said they would write a New York Times op-ed piece 'within days', the source said last week, to express their opposition."

Yesterday, I reported that Senator Lugar's spokesman had called the report flat out untrue. Lugar "wasn't briefed, there's no oped," Lugar spokesman Andy Fischer told Mother Jones.

Clinton at Rushmore: Our Soundbite Culture Paralyzes

| Thu May 29, 2008 1:17 PM EDT

I find this interaction sad:

Clinton stood before the four former presidents [on Mount Rushmore] and listened in as a park ranger explained some of the history. At one point, she was asked if she could one day picture herself up there. She smirked and shook her head as she contemplated whether to offer a quick soundbite.
"I …" she started to say, before throwing her hands up.
"You think Bill Clinton should be up there?" another reporter asked.
"Why don't you learn something about the monument," Clinton finally said, before walking away to greet some more tourists.

Maybe Clinton is fatigued and frustrated and beleaguered. Maybe the soundbite-hungry nature of our culture, our technology, and our media weighed so heavily on her mind she was unable to say anything, paralyzed by the fear that she would again make instant, accidental, and unwanted news.

I don't know. Whatever the reason, I'm strongly and perhaps irrationally sympathetic.

CA Gay Marriage Will Start June 17

| Wed May 28, 2008 10:11 PM EDT

The California state Office of Vital Records just announced that gay couples will be able to legally marry in the state starting June 17. The marriages, unless some legal impediment arises, will be valid until November, when a state-wide ballot gives Californians the opportunity to ban gay marriage. However, a poll released today showed that 51 percent of Californians approved of gay marriage, while only 41 percent disapproved. The remaining 7 percent had "no opinion."

If gay marriage stays legal in California, it may be a boon for everyone, not just the couples getting married. Gov. Schwarzenegger has already said that gay couples traveling to California to get married could provide a nice economic boost. California has the highest number of same-sex couples in the nation. If only a quarter of the 184,500 cohabiting, same-sex couples got married, it would mean 46,125 weddings. Multiply that by $27,852, the average cost of a wedding according to study by Conde Nast Bridal Group, and it would mean more than $1 billion for the state economy.

If you wanted to take things further, you could calculate in money saved by shared health care coverage, being bumped up a tax bracket on joint returns, and other similar measures, which could add up to more than $3 billion.

Gay marriage: good for the economy, bad for bigots.

The Similar Governing Philosophies of George W. Bush and Saddam Hussein

| Wed May 28, 2008 8:17 PM EDT

From the Politico story about Scott McClellan's new book:

Bush was "clearly irritated, … steamed," when McClellan informed him that chief economic adviser Larry Lindsey had told The Wall Street Journal that a possible war in Iraq could cost from $100 billion to $200 billion: "'It's unacceptable,' Bush continued, his voice rising. 'He shouldn't be talking about that.'"

From the CIA's 2004 report on Iraq's WMD:

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Climate Change Hammering Land, Water, Farms, Biodiversity

| Wed May 28, 2008 6:50 PM EDT

395742119_89e6d6a97f.jpg Climate change is already affecting US agriculture, water resources, land resources, and biodiversity, and will continue to do so. This based on a new report—the synthesis of 13 federal research agencies and 38 authors from a variety of universities, national laboratories, non-governmental organizations, and federal services. That fact that so many government agencies are involved in this study—released by the US Department of Agriculture—is as much the news as the study itself. New Scientist quotes ecologist and author Anthony Janetos of the Joint Global Change Research Institute in College Park, Maryland: "The fact is, we're seeing lots of effects and impacts right now. These effects appear to be happening faster than expected, and the magnitude is bigger than expected. That's a surprise."

For example, climate change has already brought forward the start of spring growing seasons by as much as two weeks, and similar changes have occurred in the timing of bird migrations. Warmer conditions have also resulted in many plants and animals extending their geographic range further northward and higher up mountains. As climate change alters precipitation patterns, much of the eastern US has already become moister, while the west has become more arid. This means less winter snowpack in western mountains, and thus less snowmelt to keep rivers running cold and full in summertime. The higher stream temperatures are likely to put added stress on aquatic ecosystems.

You can access the final report in its entirety here. The highlights:

• Grain and oilseed crops will mature more rapidly, but increasing temperatures will increase the risk of crop failures, particularly if precipitation decreases or becomes more variable.

Pork: The Other Clear Nail Polish

| Wed May 28, 2008 5:00 PM EDT

Pork-pic-155x200.jpg

This is, of course, an ad for pork. I can't believe it took the industry this long to help us females make the important connection between clear nail polish and pork tenderloin.

Then again, maybe we should have figured this out on our own. I mean, after all, clear nail polish is the "estrogen equivalent of duct tape." As for a pork tenderloin, one "can fix just about anything with it lickity-split too—Asian Grilled Pork Tenderloin, Hawaiian Cobb Salad..." I mean, let's not mince words: you can basically forget about snaring a husband sans pork and polish.

Not sure which makes me gag more, the kicker ("The Other White Meat and clear nail polish. Two handy-dandy things I can't live without") or the very pink color of the raw pork in the ad, which if I am not mistaken looks unnaturally pink...

Found on Salon's women's blog, Broadsheet. Originally spotted on Copyranter.

Citizen's Arrest of Bolton Fails

| Wed May 28, 2008 4:42 PM EDT

Nothing came of this. From the Guardian:

As Bolton, a former US ambassador to the UN, ended his hour-long discussion at the Hay festival, Monbiot, who had earlier challenged him for alleged breaches of the post-war Nuremburg Principles, moved towards the stage waving a charge sheet.
But security staff, alerted by pre-publicity, intervened and bundled Monbiot out of the tent as 20 supporters chanted "war criminal" and waved placards. The comedian, Marcus Brigstocke, who tried to pursue Bolton as he left the other side of the tent, was also blocked by security staff.

How sadly anti-climactic.

FOIA Works

| Wed May 28, 2008 4:37 PM EDT

The federal government firmly believes in the freedom of information.