The Ethanol Debate

Maybe Fidel and Hugo aren't so dumb! Stanard Schaefer in Counterpunch points out that the ethanol binge already has driven corn prices through the roof and, now wrapped in the Bush (and most Democrats') free trade mantra, promises to earmark corn in the developing world for export, thus, removing land from the production of food.

"There are other potential problems," he says. "In Indonesia, ancient forests are being burned up to make room for oil-palm biofuel. They're already digging up the rainforests in Brazil to plant soybeans that will be used in NutriSystem microwavable food packages designed to help fat Americans lose weight. As demand for ethanol increases to be equal to current oil consumption, it is almost guarantees forests will be dug up in the Global South to plant more sugar cane, since after all that is where it grows best. How then can ethanol be called carbon neutral when it will increase deforestation, when its promoters such as BP are notorious human rights violators, when companies such as BP are under a grand jury investigation for spilling 267,000 gallons of oil in Prudhoe Bay?"

I slammed Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama for this yesterday, so I suppose I should do the same with the Republicans: John McCain, Mitt Romney, and Rudy Giuliani have all refused to give a straight response on whether or not homosexuality should be considered immoral. Romney and Giuliani, who have a history of supporting the gay community, actually come off as pretty good guys, though, and I think their relatively nuanced answers are worth evaluating in full. Each candidate's response taken from this Politico article...


"The senator thinks such questions are a matter of conscience and faith for people to decide for themselves. As a public official, Senator McCain supports don't ask, don't tell." --McCain spokesman Danny Diaz. Per the AP, McCain was asked about the matter on the campaign trail in Iowa yesterday and declined to answer.

Romney, who once was a strong supporter of gay rights:

"I think General Pace has said that he regrets having said that, and I think he was wise to have issued an apology, or a withdrawal of that comment. I think that we, as a society, welcome people of all differences, whether there are differences in ethnicity, faith or sexual preference, and I think he was wise to correct his comment and to suggest that that was an inappropriate point to have made."

Giuliani, who supported civil unions as mayor of New York:

"We should be tolerant, fair, open, and we should understand the rights that all people have in our society."

Sam Brownback, who is crazy:

Sen. Sam Brownback... not only affirmed his view that homosexuality is immoral but sent a letter of support on behalf of Pace to the White House.

Still More KSM Doubts

Jonathan's and my blogs yesterday raised questions about Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's confessions. Today suspicions continue to grow. Larisa Alexandrovna of Raw Story suggests in her blog, At-Largely, that at least one of KSM's targets didn't exist when he decided to blow it up.

KSM says in his confession: "I was responsible for planning, training, surveying, and financing for the New (or Second) Wave of attacks against the following skyscrapers after 9/11: ...Plaza Bank, Washington state."

Larisa looked up Plaza Bank's website and found that the Plaza Bank was not founded until 2006. According to their official Web site:

"Founded in early 2006, with a vision of creating the leading commercial bank in the Pacific Northwest, Plaza Bank's story quickly captured the hearts and passion of some of the region's leading business minds. From Jack Creighton, former CEO of Weyerhaeuser and United Airlines, to former Seattle Mariner Edgar Martinez, and nationally acclaimed salon operator Gene Juárez, the story of a bank founded to bring "class to the mass" simply could not be contained."

Though federal law requires the Department of Labor to safeguard whistle-blowers from reprisal, the department has been ignoring the law with regard to those who have complained about environmental and nuclear safety problems. Rep. John Dingell of Michigan, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Commission, is accusing the DOL of being compliant in blacklisting, which is a violation of federal law.

According to DOL documents Dingell obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, over 60% of nuclear industry-related whistle-blower settlements since 2000 have included permanent bans on working for the employer in question. The Government Accountability Project has petitioned the DOL to prohibit the bans. The department says it is "giving careful consideration" to the petition. One supposes that under this administration, "giving careful consideration" to the prospect of obeying the law should be looked at as progress.

We won't bore you with another news article about Viacom lunging at Google's YouTube jugular. But there's oh so much more to learn about these finicky media giants beyond copyright squabbles.

Dollars may be at issue with this lawsuit but its content that's the real battleground. With each merger or media consolidation and with each ownership change, content is owned and determined by fewer, wealthier folks. News organizations are dealing with content wars in all kinds of ways, such as buying out older employees and investing more in online and niche operations. Eric Klinenberg offers, another take on the media melee, arguing that the hunt for larger profit margins among traditional media companies, not the Internet and its subversion of original content, is what is in fact killing the news. And for well over 25 years Viacom has been trying smash the little guys with media mergers.

What do DreamWorks, Infinity Broadcasting, King World, BET, Blockbuster, Paramount, Showtime, UPN, and VH1 all have in common? They are all part of the Viacom/CBS media machine. Google, too, is not exactly an innocent bystander in the media intimidation game. The gobbler in many a merger, the fledgling giant runs fast and loose with that little thing called privacy. So we'll see how things play out with this lawsuit, but truth be told they might just end up being one company someday, all owned by Time Warner maybe?

For a doomsday scenario for media in general check out the Museum of Media History's mockumentary EPIC 2012 that predicts the final collapse of the Fourth Estate.

--Gary Moskowitz

Obama's Poor Showing on the Gay Immorality Question

This morning, I wrote about Hillary Clinton's refusal to give a straight answer to a question about whether she agreed Gen. Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who got in hot water for saying homosexuality is immoral. Instead of saying, "No, I don't agree with General Pace. I am a long time supporter of gay rights," Clinton said, "I'm going to leave that to others to conclude." Realizing the insanity of the situation, Clinton's campaign later released a statement saying that Clinton does not agree with the General.

Looks like Obama did the same thing, at least sort of. A Newsday reporter caught Obama as he was leaving Capitol Hill and asked him if he agreed with Pace. Obama said, "I think traditionally the Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman has restricted his public comments to military matters. That's probably a good tradition to follow." When asked for a straight answer, the senator from Illinois, in an attempt to reframe the question as one about "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," said, "I think the question here is whether somebody is willing to sacrifice for their country."

Actually, the question is, "Do you think homosexuality is immoral?" And the answer is "Of course not." Recognizing that, the Obama campaign did like the Clinton one and released a statement later in the day saying Obama disagrees with Pace.

I truly look forward to a time a generation from now when America will have politicians who will face questions like the ones Obama and Clinton faced today, and say, "Don't be ridiculous." I know homophobia won't be stamped out, but at least being a homophobe won't be acceptable publicly and even desirable (!) politically.

I love Feministing for finds like this. They call it "Head-banging emergency contraception." Ha. It's a Planned Parenthood commercial for ec.

More on the KSM Confessions

In addition to Jonathan's post below, there are other reasons to think something is fishy with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's confessions. Kyle Hence at the 9/11 Citizens Watch puts it this way: "For a number of reasons I am just not buying this so-called confession by KSM. Why can't we hear the audio of the so-called confessions? And why is it no one in the media or general public, not a single person, has a seen but two photos of this man and not a single clip of video? Think about it. It's been three years since his capture and we have only two photos of the man whose story was at the core of the 9/11 Commission Report. Why are there no cameras, even military ones, in the tribunal courtroom? Were there no photographers, even military photographers, on the flight that transferred him to Guantanamo? What national security concerns could possibly nix cameras or digital audio recorders from documenting the professed 'mastermind' of the worst terrorist attack in history?"

Readers: Any idea what's going on here?

So it looks like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the al Qaeda No. 3 long-reputed to be the mastermind behind 9/11, was a worse dude than anyone thought. Last night, the Pentagon released a 26-page transcript of a closed hearing in which KSM (as he's called) admitted to planning or executing 31 terrorist acts, some successful and some unsuccessful. I think it's safe to assume he's sealed his death sentence.

From the AP, snippets of things KSM reportedly admitted to:

- The 9/11 attacks.

- The 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

- The failed Richard Reid shoe bombing.

- The beheading of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.

- Attempted assassinations of Pope John Paul II, President Clinton and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf.

- The 2002 bombing of a Kenya beach resort.

- The 2002 nightclub bombings in Bali, Indonesia.

- Planned but unexecuted attacks on the Sears Tower, the Empire State Building, the New York Stock Exchange, the Panama Canal, the Big Ben clock tower in London, and Heathrow Airport.

The two questions I have are:

(1) Were these admissions the product of torture? I mean torture in the immediate sense and in the "KSM has been through the black site prison system for three years and has probably been tortured dozens of times, creating a lasting psychological effect that might impair his ability to think, judge, and communicate." If KSM were to be tried in a court of law, would his confessions hold up?

(2) Should we be suspicious of the timing? Who knows when these admissions were actually made. All we do know -- as Josh Marshall points out -- is that their release is timed to knock Alberto Gonzales and the Attorney General flap off the front pages. Remember when Jose Padilla's arrest was announced? John Ashcroft interrupted a trip to Russia to declare that the U.S. had arrested a domestic terrorist and heroically stopped his "dirty bomb" attack. As it turned out, Padilla had been arrested a month before and Ashcroft's announcement was timed to knock a bunch of bad news out of the headlines. And the government could never prove the "dirty bomb" charge.

It's a true shame that even when a really nasty guy is caught and proven guilty, alert citizens have to be suspicious and skeptical of the Administration's behavior. But it poisoned the well from which we all drink.

In an encouraging sign for right-wing Bible thumpers who want to see the American government run like a Christian theocracy, Kansas Senator Sam Brownback ("God's Senator"!) has done surprisingly well in recent head-to-head polls against Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

Sen. Hillary Clinton - 46%
Sen. Sam Brownback - 41%

Sen. Barack Obama - 49%
Sen. Sam Brownback - 34%

I hope we can chalk this up to the fact that most Americans don't know much about Sam Brownback. Like how he refused to sign Newt Gingrich's Contract with America because it wasn't conservative enough. Or how his political idol is Jesse Helms. Or how his wife boasts, "Basically, I live in the kitchen." Or how he once stonewalled a judicial confirmation because the nominee had attended the lesbian commitment ceremony of a longtime neighbor's daughter. Or how he said that abortion has become such a problem in America that youth today "feel they're the survivors of a holocaust." Either Americans are willing to answer poll questions about people they are almost completely ignorant of, or there's some divine intervention going on here.