Compare and Contrast
Posted on May 30th, 2008 at 2:37 pm by Steve
Compare and contrast, words vs. deeds:
The United Nations' most recent human rights report on Iraq recorded 88 civilian deaths caused by U.S. airstrikes during the March-through-June period last year . It urged the U.S. to pursue a "vigorous" investigation of the events leading to the deaths.
Asked whether the request had led to changes, Air Force Brig. Gen. Burt Field said, "No, I'm afraid not, and the reason is that we are doing everything humanly possible to avoid the death of innocent people."
Among the weapons in use, he said, were 500-pound guided missiles intended to create extremely targeted explosions. "One of the bombs we are using has been dubbed the 'Martha Stewart Bomb' because you can drop it, and it will blow up a house and not even touch the buildings to the left or the right," Field said.
Maj. Gen. David Edgington, the top Air Force commander in Iraq, said the military ensures that each airstrike meets rules in place to minimize civilian casualties. Factors considered include building materials, civilian schedules in the area and intelligence, he said.
"It's a very scientific process," he said.
"We make these analyses on every bomb we're going to drop and make sure it falls within the criteria" to keep harm to civilians low. "We can pretty much guarantee one bomb for one target."
Source: Los Angeles
Times, February 6, 2008
Diplomats from 111 nations formally adopted a landmark treaty banning cluster bombs on Friday after futile calls for participation by the weapons' biggest makers and users, particularly the United States.
Source: Associated Press, via Yahoo News, May 30, 2008
Cluster bombs, which nearly 100 countries are seeking to ban, should not be considered bad as long as states involved in conflicts use them responsibly, a senior United States official said on Wednesday.
The official, who declined to be identified, also told a background briefing that Washington was planning to create a "quick reaction force", or QRF, to handle threats to civilians from remnants of war, like cluster bombs.
The official's remarks, which could not be quoted directly, clearly confirmed that Washington -- like Russia, China and some other powers -- remained opposed to banning the weapon.
Source: Reuters, January 16, 2008
WASHINGTON, Aug. 10 — Israel has asked the Bush administration to speed delivery of short-range antipersonnel rockets armed with cluster munitions, which it could use to strike Hezbollah missile sites in Lebanon, two American officials said Thursday.
The request for M-26 artillery rockets, which are fired in barrages and carry hundreds of grenade-like bomblets that scatter and explode over a broad area, is likely to be approved shortly, along with other arms, a senior official said.
The United States had approved the sale of M-26’s to Israel some time ago, but the weapons had not yet been delivered when the crisis in Lebanon erupted. If the shipment is approved, Israel may be told that it must be especially careful about firing the rockets into populated areas, the senior official said.
Source: New York
Times, August 11, 2006
"What we did was insane and monstrous, we covered entire towns in cluster bombs," the head of an IDF [Israeli Defense Forces] rocket unit in Lebanon said regarding the use of cluster bombs and phosphorous shells during the war.
Quoting his battalion commander, the rocket unit head stated that the IDF fired around 1,800 cluster bombs, containing over 1.2 million cluster bomblets.
In addition, soldiers in IDF artillery units testified that the army used phosphorous shells during the war, widely forbidden by international law. According to their claims, the vast majority of said explosive ordinance was fired in the final 10 days of the war.
Ha'aretz, September 12, 2006
Landmines and cluster munitions are continuing to kill and injure between three and four civilians in Lebanon each day, a campaign group has said.
Landmine Action is calling for an international ban on the weapons.
The UN estimates that there may be as many as one million unexploded cluster bomblets in south Lebanon, fired by Israel during the month-long conflict.
Source: BBC News, October 20, 2006
Meanwhile, on Bizzaro World…
Posted on May 30th, 2008 at 12:31 pm by Steve
At a Midtown hotel ballroom on Thursday, Vice President Dick Cheney declared that the United States was “succeeding brilliantly” in Iraq and assailed Democrats on taxes, gas prices, and national security.
If they didn't have so many tools of violence and destruction at their beck and call, Republicans would be funny.
Posted on May 30th, 2008 at 11:25 am by dr.hoo
NY Times has and interesting story on folks stealing rancid cooking oil from restaurants
. Thieves include "do-it-yourself environmentalists worried about their carbon footprints, warring waste management firms trying to beat each other on the sly, and petty thieves who are profiting from the oil’s rising value on the black market."
“Fryer grease has become gold,” Mr. Damianidis said. “And just over a year ago, I had to pay someone to take it away.”
Much to the surprise of Mr. Damianidis and many other people, processed fryer oil, which is called yellow grease, is actually not trash. The grease is traded on the booming commodities market. Its value has increased in recent months to historic highs, driven by the even higher prices of gas and ethanol, making it an ever more popular form of biodiesel to fuel cars and trucks.
In 2000, yellow grease was trading for 7.6 cents per pound. On Thursday, its price was about 33 cents a pound, or almost $2.50 a gallon. (That would make the 2,500-gallon haul in the Burger King case worth more than $6,000.)
Driving up the price of Oil
Posted on May 30th, 2008 at 11:20 am by dr.hoo
The Big Picture has an interesting article on how the US energy policy has worked to drive up the price of oil.
It turns out that for the past 3 decades, we've had a George Costanza Energy policy -- every decision we have made as a country has worked to drive energy prices higher. Had we made the opposite decisions, Crude Oil prices would be much lower than they are today ($130.17 as I type this).
What follows is a list of energy-related policies of the United States. On many of these, I have no opinion -- but I wanted to list as many as I could to demonstrate why Oil is where it is
US Policies with an impact on Energy:
1. Limited areas available for offshore drilling;
2. Stopped the rise of CAFE standards for automobiles;
3. Restricted nuclear power generation of Electrical;
4. Federal Reserve policies since 2001 led to a very weak US dollar (raising Oil prices);
5. Energy conservation policies? None
6. Iraq and Afghanistan wars contributing to Middle East tensions
7. No major United States funding for R&D on energy;
Is $8 Gallon Gas a Good Thing?
Posted on May 30th, 2008 at 11:16 am by dr.hoo
Chris Pummer at Market Watch comments on why $8 gas might not be so bad in the long run.
Americans should be celebrating rather than shuddering over the arrival of $4-a-gallon gasoline. We lived on cheap gas too long, failed to innovate and now face the consequences of competing for a finite resource amid fast-expanding global demand.
The Unbelievable Precedent for Today’s Military Tribunals
Posted on May 29th, 2008 at 6:08 pm by Steve
In 1942, eight Nazi spies came ashore on Long Island, the vanguard of a German attempt to sabotage America's transportation and manufacturing infrastructure. Because they wanted men who knew the terrain and the culture, the Germans selected men who had lived in the U.S. It turned out that the leader of the first group (a man named Dasch) actually had no intention of completing his mission: he planned to turn himself in to the FBI and reveal the plot as soon as possible, because he hated the Nazis. He enlisted one of his suborniates – Burger, a man who himself had spent 17 months in a concentration camp – in his plans, and called the FBI.
The FBI hung up on him.
Undaunted, Dasch traveled to Washington and asked to meet with J. Edgar Hoover. He was rebuffed, transferred from office to office, and eventually met with an underling of Hoover's. The underling listened to his story and was attempting to shuffle him out the door of the office when the German spy threw open the briefcase he was carrying, which contained the $84,000 in cash the Nazis had supplied him with. That got the FBI's attention.
The FBI then interrogated Dasch and promised him his freedom in exchange for cooperation. He and Burger gladly divulged all of the details of their operations, enabling the FBI to intercept the next round of four spies who had just landed. Then, they arrested all eight of them, including the one who had turned himself in (repeatedly) to the FBI.
J. Edgar Hoover told President Roosevelt the same story he told the nation: that cunning detective work by the FBI had foiled this Nazi plot. He somehow forgot to mention the fact that the spies had turned themselves in and revealed their entire plot. Roosevelt was determined to see these spies put to death.
Knowing that they had not yet actually committed any crimes in the U.S. (other than being German and having instructions to commit sabotage), Roosevelt insisted that they be tried by a military tribunal rather than a civilian court – the first such trial since the Civil War. In words that have an eerie resonance today, Roosevelt wrote to his Attorney General:
Surely they are as guilty as it is possible to be and it seems to me that the death penalty is almost obligatory... I won’t hand them over to any United States marshal armed with a writ of habeas corpus.
This newly-constituted military tribunal heard their cases, and sentenced all eight of the men to death.
Roosevelt didn't learn that Hoover had lied to him until he actually read the transcripts of the tribunal. Even at that, he only commuted Dasch's sentence to 30 years of hard labor, and Burger's to life in prison. The other six men were executed within the week.
And today, this case, Ex parte Quirin
– wherein the executive chose to sidestep the American justice system in order to ensure his desired outcome – is the legal basis for the Military Commissions set up to try so-called "Enemy Combatants" at Guantánamo Bay.
I learned all this from an incredible story
on the website Damn Interesting!
Colbert Nails Evangelicals on Gay Marriage Debate
Posted on May 29th, 2008 at 3:44 pm by dr.hoo
Check out this briliant clip
of Colbert at his finest up on Crooks and Liars. He asks Perkins why he isn't "keeping kosher" or supporting adult male circumcision.
Last night on the “The Report,” Stephen Colbert hosted Family Research Council President Tony Perkins to discuss the recent landmark court ruling in California legalizing same sex marriages, and ended up catching the “family values” crusader in some serious contradictions in the way only Colbert can.
The Cost of Gasoline – Who’s to Blame?
Posted on May 29th, 2008 at 2:41 pm by dr.hoo
Just took a small photography gig working on a project for Chevron. The day I started working on the project I read that Chevron reported $5 billion in profits for the first quarter of 2008. Looking at the $4 gas prices at the pump my first reaction was one of disgust, for Chevron's apparent greed, and myself for working for them. It seemed pretty obvious that someone was making out like a bandit, a blatant case of price gouging by a greedy multinational corporation at the expense of the average american.
Then a friend sent me an article published today on Salon.com
that breaks down the price of gas and it seems it's not so simple. While Chevron is making record profits for drilling oil, there profits from refining and retail sales are actually down from last year.
According to the article, Chevron is not really responsible for price gouging because they don't actually set the prices for crude:
In 2008, Chevron recorded its largest first-quarter profit ever: $5.17 billion. But according to the San Francisco Chronicle, Chevron's profits from refining and selling gasoline in the United States were actually down 99 percent in the first quarter of 2008 from a year earlier, and "during the previous two quarters, the company actually lost money making gas." That $5 billion in profits is derived primarily from extracting the oil out of the ground and selling it on the open market where prices are set.
The knee-jerk liberal in me wants to look at gas prices and blame the greedy corp. What the article concludes is that the real problem is the worldwide addiction to oil and the growing demand.
Hmmm, I did drive to the Chevron photo shoot even though it's only 3 miles from my house.
p.s. Got this shot of a great remix of their carwash sign:
p.p.s. NYTimes just ran a story
on how many gas pumps dials are burning out from rolling so fast and that many price read outs aren't designed to go over $3.99. They are having to result to charging by the half gallon.
Are we entering a new politcal era?
Posted on May 29th, 2008 at 12:32 pm by dr.hoo
Here's a fascinating article from George Packer
in this week's New Yorker which tracks the arc of the conservative movement from Pat Buchannan in the 1960's to the upcoming election. The article outlines the history of the movement and it's politics of division, through it's successes of the past 40 years to it's current crisis.
It seems that it is a fairly widely held belief among conservative leadership that their movement is in serious trouble and has basically lost it's steam. Most of them predict, As David Frum does, that the republicans will lose this next election, badly, and that the movement itself is caught up in rhetoric that is no longer relevant to the American people and that it's not likely to change course anytime soon.
One criticism that some of those interviewed for the article put forth is that the Republicans have put all their focus into politics and winning elections and have followed through on their promise to "starve government". While this tactic held value for the Regan era right wing, Americans today have become fed up with the ineffectiveness of the republican non-governing approach. They themselves freely admit that the republican response to Katrina was a striking final blow to an already failing stance.
The past 8 years have been like a nightmare to me and the thought that we are perhaps entering a new era in American politics brings me hope. The fact that even the most central to the creation of the conservative movement recognize that they have failed the American people and that it's time for a change is even more encouraging.
For the past 8 years, the very concept of hope has been pigeon holed and discredited as a "threat to our national security" and a frivolous distraction. I don't know about you guys, but I'm ready for a new day!