Blogs

Cheney: 300 Endangered Whales Is 300 Too Many

| Wed Apr. 30, 2008 2:54 PM EDT

right_whale.jpgHot on the heels of a GAO report detailing the Bush administration's assault on the EPA, this little tidbit pops up.

Cheney's office has been delaying attempts to issue speed limits near the habitat of the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale for FOUR YEARS. There are only about 300 right whales alive today, and ship collisions are their leading cause of death. As Henry Waxman wrote in his letter to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, "the death of even a single whale, particularly a breeding female, may contribute to the extinction of the species."

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Iran Picking Sides in Iraq?

| Wed Apr. 30, 2008 2:51 PM EDT

From Juan Cole, via Kevin Drum:

Sadr spokesman Salah al-Obeidi (al-Ubaydi) in Najaf bitterly attacked Iran, accusing it of seeking to share with the US in influence over Iraq. He pointed to the Iranian's regime's failure to condemn the long-term mutual security agreement being crafted by the Bush administration and the al-Maliki government. Al-Obeidi's angry denunciation suggests that Iran is backing PM Nuri al-Maliki and his current chief ally, the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq led by Abdul Aziz al-Hakim against the Sadr Movement of Muqtada al-Sadr.

This could be misinformation or it could be the beginning of something major.

Hawks Try To Throw Mylroie Overboard

| Wed Apr. 30, 2008 1:49 PM EDT

Former American Enterprise Institute Iraq hand Laurie Mylroie wrote a book alleging that Iraq's Saddam Hussein was really behind the 1993 Al Qaeda attack on the World Trade Center. In the wake of 9/11, Mylroie's book and theories were highly influential on the thinking especially of then deputy defense secretary Paul Wolfowitz and former CIA director James Woolsey, who wrote a blurb for her book. Indeed, shortly after the 9/11 attacks, Woolsey was reportedly dispatched to the UK to pursue one of Mylroie's theories.

Now, the Weekly Standard's Stephen Hayes, the authorized biographer of Vice President Dick Cheney and like both the Veep and Mylroie, a proponent of the theory that Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda worked closely together, tries to throw Mylroie overboard:

Mylroie comes up In several of the books written about the Iraq War as a terrorism analyst who led the Bush Administration into making questionable claims about Iraq and al Qaeda. (George Packer, the New Yorker writer and author of the otherwise well-reported book, "The Assassin's Gate," makes this mistake.) This vastly overstates her role. Although her emails may have occasionally made their way to Bush administration officials, no one I know took her arguments very seriously. For good reason. Mylroie has seen an Iraqi hand behind virtually every terrorist attack on American interests. Indeed, in our one brief conversation, she faulted me for failing to understand that al Qaeda is little more than an Iraqi "front group." That's crazy. Iraq was an active state sponsor of terror and, as the recent Pentagon report confirms, a willing sponsor of al Qaeda leaders, their terrorist associates, and a wide variety of jihadist groups.

Hey, at least the hawks are still loyal to Chalabi.

Siegelman Speaks

| Wed Apr. 30, 2008 1:40 PM EDT

don_siegelman.jpg We've covered former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman around these parts before. You can learn about him here or here. Suffice to say, it appears that Alabama Republicans couldn't find a way to beat the Democratic Siegelman, so they stole an election from him and then gamed the legal system until they were able to throw him into prison. Below, you'll find an hour-long interview he did with Air America (Siegelman is out of prison now) in which he puts a large share of blame on Karl Rove and suggests that Rep. John Conyers, head of the House Judiciary Committee, is going to do something about his situation. Settle in.

Fox News: Stephen Douglas and Frederick Douglass, What's the Difference?

| Wed Apr. 30, 2008 12:24 PM EDT

Lately, Hillary Clinton has been calling for a "Lincoln-Douglas style" debate, in which she and Barack Obama would speak directly to one another without moderators, in response to the Obama campaign's refusal to do any further televised debates.

Of course, the reference is to the famous series of debates held between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas when both men were campaigning for an Illinois senate seat in 1858.

Fox News apparently didn't get the memo.

I suspect a debate between Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln wouldn't be all that exciting.

Douglass: We should abolish slavery.
Lincoln: I dunno.
Douglass: It's the only way to save the Union.
Lincoln: Okay.

And scene.

Update: Oh, I almost forgot. More Fox hilarity here.

Citing Fort Bragg Conditions, U.S. Army Broadens Barracks Inquiry

| Wed Apr. 30, 2008 11:33 AM EDT

In case you haven't seen it, check out the video to the right for a look at the conditions of the 82nd Airborne Division's barracks at Fort Bragg. The footage was taken by Ed Frawley, the outraged father of one of the soldiers living there—a soldier who, along with the rest of his unit, had just returned from a 15-month deployment in Afghanistan, most of it spent at a remote firebase in the mountains. I hazard to guess that upon their return to North Carolina, some of the soldiers may have experienced pangs of nostalgia for the relative comfort of a combat post.

In response to the controversy brought on by the Fort Bragg video, the Army has announced an audit of all its barracks worldwide. According to Brigadier General Dennis Rogers, the officer in charge of barracks maintenance, initial inspections were carried out last weekend. The results have not yet been released. According to the Associated Press:

Rogers said it was too soon to know whether the Fort Bragg problem was an isolated incident. He acknowledged the revelations from a video shot by the father of an 82nd Airborne Division soldier showing poor conditions such as mold inside the barracks, peeling interior paint and a bathroom drain plugged with sewage...

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It's a Boondoggle: the Gas Tax Holiday

| Wed Apr. 30, 2008 11:19 AM EDT

Everybody who knows anything about energy policy and/or tax policy is calling the gas tax holiday a cynical political pander by Senators McCain and Clinton. Here's the usually Clinton-friendly Paul Krugman:

John McCain has a really bad idea on gasoline, Hillary Clinton is emulating him (but with a twist that makes her plan pointless rather than evil), and Barack Obama, to his credit, says no.
Why doesn't cutting the gas tax this summer make sense? It's Econ 101 tax incidence theory: if the supply of a good is more or less unresponsive to the price, the price to consumers will always rise until the quantity demanded falls to match the quantity supplied. Cut taxes, and all that happens is that the pretax price rises by the same amount. The McCain gas tax plan is a giveaway to oil companies, disguised as a gift to consumers.

Here's economist Dean Baker:

...almost all economists would agree that the tax cut proposed by Senators Clinton and McCain would save consumers nothing. With the supply of gas largely fixed by the capacity of the oil industry (they claim to be running their refineries at full capacity), the price will not change in response to the elimination of the tax. The only difference will be that money that used to go to the government in tax revenues will instead go to the oil industry as higher profits.

Tom Friedman:

[The idea] is so ridiculous, so unworthy of the people aspiring to lead our nation, it takes your breath away. Hillary Clinton has decided to line up with John McCain in pushing to suspend the federal excise tax on gasoline, 18.4 cents a gallon, for this summer's travel season. This is not an energy policy. This is money laundering: we borrow money from China and ship it to Saudi Arabia and take a little cut for ourselves as it goes through our gas tanks. What a way to build our country.

Here are the Washington Post, Robert Reich, and the Los Angeles Times. Here are Grist and Vanity Fair. Here's Newsweek, maybe the best of the bunch.

At worst, the gax tax holiday pads the pockets of the oil industry (McCain's version). At best, it accomplishes nothing at all (Clinton's version). So why propose it? Because voters are struggling with gas prices and by suggesting we chop 18 cents off the price of every gallon, a candidate sounds like a populist champion. But it's nonsense and a pander and the candidates know it.

Hillary Clinton has TV ads up in Indiana and North Carolina that attack Barack Obama for saying no to the idea. Awesome.

Carbon Offsets For Tummy Tucks?

| Wed Apr. 30, 2008 10:45 AM EDT

Plastic surgery has long posed serious risks for many of its vain victims: death from infection, bursting boobs, migrating silicone and the like. But who knew it was also bad for the environment? The Washington City Paper reports that disposing of all the fat sucked out of people during liposuction and tummy tucks puts 1,000 tons of carbon into the atmosphere every year, largely because the fat (which is 78 percent carbon) is incinerated.

Since belly fat as biodiesel is a tough sell, a local upscale plastic surgery practice is now buying carbon offsets to cover disposing of its nips and tucks. The surgeons tell CP that while jogging would be a healthier alternative for shedding all that fat, it wouldn't make much difference on the environment because the exercise would still "liberate" carbon into the atmosphere. I find this claim somewhat dubious (especially given the self-interest of the source), but since I'm too science challenged to work this out on my own, I'll put this to you, dear readers: Are joggers really the human versions of farting cows, huffing out more carbon that fat incinerators?

Frank Black Takes on The Golem

| Tue Apr. 29, 2008 8:55 PM EDT

golem-160x248.jpgThe San Francisco International Film Festival this weekend presented a screening of The Golem with live original music by Frank Black, and it reminded me of two things: Frank Black is a dynamic, talented rock musician, and The Golem is a wickedly odd piece of cinema.

The Golem is a 1920 German silent film based on a legend about a clay figure brought to life by Jews living in the late 16th Century Prague ghetto. Yup, CLAY. Similar to Frankenstein, the figure is larger and more powerful than the average human. But instead of a square, flat head, the Golem sports a Dutch boy helmet/haircut (mud-cut?!). He initially protects, and then turns on, everyone in the ghetto and then dies. I had watched scenes of The Golem years ago in a film class, but had forgotten how strange this film really is. The film seems to celebrate the triumph of Jews over adversity, but also caricatures them all as worrisome old men with long, shaggy beards and silly, elf-like hats. The most fascinating part of the film is Hans Poelzig's set design. His stylized ghetto feels like a dark, dingy version of Dr. Seuss drawings.

Frank Black, whose shrill, nasal vocals never completely wow-ed me when he was fronting the Pixies in the 90s, led the pit band like a true storyteller. Songs ebbed and flowed with the movie's weird plot, and lyrics seemed to convey key elements of sadness, fear, joy, and love in the story. Black has said that he wrote all the music in a day, and is considering releasing his Golem music as a Black Francis (his pseudonym) record. Black's music helped ground the film and made it more enjoyable, although not enough to keep one of my friends from leaving early and others in our group from dozing off.

Considering that Black's music was written for a movie about a monster, it felt incredibly safe and tasteful. A more relentless, risky, and scary approach would have really made the night—and the Golem—sing.

Ex-Gitmo Prosecutor Lays Politicization Bare

| Tue Apr. 29, 2008 4:29 PM EDT

morris-davis.jpg Air Force Col. Morris Davis, who used to be the chief prosecutor at Guantanamo Bay and a defender of the Bush Administration's military tribunal system, took the stand Monday on behalf of a man alleged to be Osama bin Laden's former driver in order to disseminate the truth about Guantanamo.

Davis was cross-examined by the Army officer who replaced him after his resignation last October, Col. Lawrence Morris, in one of the most dramatic challenges to the first American war-crimes tribunals since World War II...
Davis said he resigned hours after he was put in a chain of command beneath Defense Department General Counsel William Haynes, one of several officials who had encouraged the use of evidence even if it was gathered through waterboarding... "The guy who said waterboarding is A-OK I was not going to take orders from. I quit," Davis said.

More after the jump...