Oil drilling

With gas prices what they are, there's been a lot of news lately about possible drilling in ANWR and expanding off-shore oil drilling.  Of course, what is usually not mentioned is just how incredibly marginal the impact of this will actually be on energy prices.  The government's own Energy Information Administration estimates that when ANWR would be fully on-line– a couple decades from now– we could expect a drop in the price of oil by a whopping $.75 per barrel (courtesy, Kevin Drum).  Would that even save us $.01 a gallon?  The simple truth is, oil is a global commodity in a global marketplace and nothing the US ever does is going to be more than a drop in the bucket.  All else being equal, presumably more oil is better, but let's not kid ourselves about the actual benefits. 

The more you look

the more corruption you find in the Bush administration.  In what should be not the least bit surprising to anybody even half paying attention to politics:

Justice Department officials improperly used political and ideological
factors to screen applicants for the agency's prestigious honors and
summer intern programs, sometimes rejecting otherwise qualified
candidates because of their ties to Democrats, internal auditors said
in a report issued this morning.

Not at all surprisingly, two Bush political appointees are responsible…

Two members of the screening committee in 2006, Esther Slater McDonald,
an adviser to the associate attorney general, and Michael J. Elston,
chief of staff to the deputy attorney general, considered political and
ideological factors when rejecting candidates “and thereby committed
misconduct,” the investigators said.

McDonald allegedly wrote “disparaging” remarks about job seekers'
liberal ties on their applications, and Elston allegedly failed to take
action when the problems were brought to his attention by another
concerned member of the hiring panel, according to the report.

On the bright side for President Bush, when people look back years from now on his administration, the fiasco that is the Iraq War will surely largely overshadow the 19th century level of corruption he has brought to the executive branch.  This from the man who campaigned on restoring “honor and integrity” to the White House.

More on China’s cement production

Last week I reproduced a really cool graph created by my friend, political scientist extraordinaire, Kyle Saunders.  Turns out, I wasn't the only one who thought this was really cool and a lot of blogs that people actually read linked to this as well.  Consequently, Kyle has now achieved the ultimate goal of all political scientists– he was on NPR's “All Things Considered” this weekend discussing the impact of China's cement production on global warming.  What's pretty funny about this is that Kyle didn't actually know anything at all about the topic till Monday of last week, but thanks to a cool chart, he's NPR's go-to guy.  Nonetheless, he gives a pretty interesting interview on the topic (and actually really sounds like he knows what he's talking about) if you are curious.

McCain’s economic disinterest

As I've mentioned before, I think the fact that this is a really bad Republican year will defeat John McCain as much as anything.  The fact that he's utterly clueless on the economy and cares even less sure is not going to help him either.  Kevin Drum reports McCain's and Obama's comments from a recent Forbes interview:

What do you see as the gravest long-term threat to the U.S. economy?

Obama: If we don't get a handle on our energy
policy, it is possible that the kinds of trends we've seen over the
last year will just continue. Demand is clearly outstripping supply.
It's not a problem we can drill our way out of. It can be a drag on our
economy for a very long time unless we take steps to innovate and
invest in the research and development that's required to find
alternative fuels. I think it's very important for the federal
government to have a role in that process.

McCain: Well, I would think that the absolute
gravest threat is the struggle that we're in against Islamic extremism,
which can affect, if they prevail, our very existence. Another
successful attack on the United States of America could have
devastating consequences.

As Kevin puts it:

Two things are remarkable here. First, that McCain genuinely seems to
believe that Islamic extremism poses not just a threat, but a threat to
the very existence of the West. This is science fiction territory. Second, that he apparently can't come up with any better answer to Fortune's
question about economic threats. Not energy, not high taxes, not
runaway entitlement growth, not healthcare, not globalization, not any
of a dozen plausible answers that would have gone down fine with his
base. Instead, “His eyes are narrowed. Nine seconds of silence, ten
seconds, 11.” And then he came up with Islamic extremism.

I think this clearly shows McCain's general disinterest in the economy– far and away the number one issue for voters right now.  The press is giving him a complete free ride on this stuff right now, but at some point he's going to say something this useless when it matters. 

Pregnancy pact

Bill Boettcher has demanded that I blog this bizarre news story.  From time.com:

As summer vacation begins, 17 girls at Gloucester High School are
expecting babies?more than four times the number of pregnancies the
1,200-student school had last year. Some adults dismissed the statistic
as a blip. Others blamed hit movies like Juno and Knocked Up
for glamorizing young unwed mothers. But principal Joseph Sullivan
knows at least part of the reason there's been such a spike in teen
pregnancies in this Massachusetts fishing town. School officials
started looking into the matter as early as October after an unusual
number of girls began filing into the school clinic to find out if they
were pregnant. By May, several students had returned multiple times to
get pregnancy tests, and on hearing the results, “some girls seemed
more upset when they weren't pregnant than when they were,” Sullivan
says. All it took was a few simple questions before nearly half the
expecting students, none older than 16, confessed to making a pact to
get pregnant and raise their babies together. Then the story got worse.
“We found out one of the fathers is a 24-year-old homeless guy,” the
principal says, shaking his head.

Noted without further useless comment from me.

Children oppose Universal health care

Nobody does satire like the Onion.  This video is absolutely brilliant:


War criminals?

Wow!  An amazing indictment of the Bush administration's torture regime from former two-star general Anthony Taguba, the general charged with investigating the abuses at Abu Graib.  Dan Froomkin somes it up quite succinctly:

The two-star general who led an Army investigation into the horrific
detainee abuse at Abu Ghraib has accused the Bush administration of war
crimes and is calling for accountability.

In his 2004 report
on Abu Ghraib, then-Major General Anthony Taguba concluded that
“numerous incidents of sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal abuses
were inflicted on several detainees.” He called the abuse “systemic and
illegal.” And, as Seymour M. Hersh reported in the New Yorker, he was rewarded for his honesty by being forced into retirement.

Now, in a preface to a Physicians for Human Rights report based on medical examinations of former detainees, Taguba adds an epilogue to his own investigation.

The new report, he writes, “tells the largely untold human story of
what happened to detainees in our custody when the Commander-in-Chief
and those under him authorized a systematic regime of torture. This
story is not only written in words: It is scrawled for the rest of
these individual's lives on their bodies and minds. Our national honor
is stained by the indignity and inhumane treatment these men received
from their captors.

“The profiles of these eleven former detainees, none
of whom were ever charged with a crime or told why they were detained,
are tragic and brutal rebuttals to those who claim that torture is ever
justified. Through the experiences of these men in Iraq, Afghanistan,
and Guantanamo Bay, we can see the full-scope of the damage this
illegal and unsound policy has inflicted –both on America's
institutions and our nation's founding values, which the military,
intelligence services, and our justice system are duty-bound to defend.

“In order for these individuals to suffer the wanton cruelty to
which they were subjected, a government policy was promulgated to the
field whereby the Geneva Conventions and the Uniform Code of Military
Justice were disregarded. The UN Convention Against Torture was
indiscriminately ignored. . . .

This final paragraph is quite the damning indictment (bolding mine):

“After years of disclosures by government investigations, media
accounts, and reports from human rights organizations, there is no
longer any doubt as to whether the current administration has committed
war crimes
. The only question that remains to be answered is whether
those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account.”

Andrew Sullivan also has a great post on the matter.  My favorite part:

And all this was done not in the chaos of a battlefield or even by
rogue units or POW camps. It was not done in a war with anything like
as many soldiers and battles as World War II. It was done in a closely
managed war by a professional military and intelligence service in
every theater of combat as a concerted policy to get more intelligence
about Jihadist terror and the Iraq insurgency. It was authorized
directly in the chain of command by the president, who knowingly broke
the law and hired lawyers to tell him he hadn't. No clever
argumentation that “only” 270 prisoners remain at Gitmo can gainsay
that. And it is not, by the way, evidence against the fact that this
administration seized countless innocents and tortured them to say that
they eventually released most of them. It is no consolation to the
torture victims at Abu Ghraib that they were eventually set free and
their innocence confirmed. Those are the standards of benign
dictatorships, not democracies.

And, on the war criminal front, over at TNR, Scott Horton writes that a number of Bush administration officials better be careful where they travel, lest they actually be held accountable for their actions.  It would be nice to see some of these anti-democratic thugs masquerading as civil servants get what they deserve. 

Is your marriage suffering?

Now that gay marriages are happening in California, the huge damage to heterosexual couples must already be under way.  Imagine all the pain and fighting going on in California's heterosexual couples as “the institution of marriage is undermined.”  Oded Gross sums it all up perfectly in this video (thanks to Matt Yglesias):

Doubly-depressing

McClatchy continued its terrific series on Guantanamo today with a story about how the prison has taken ordinary Middle-Eastern thugs and turned them into radical Islamists bent on harming the United States.  Well done Bush administration!  The details:

A McClatchy investigation found that instead of confining
terrorists, Guantanamo often produced more of them by rounding up
common criminals, conscripts, low-level foot soldiers and men with no
allegiance to radical Islam ? thus inspiring a deep hatred of the
United States in them ? and then housing them in cells next to radical
Islamists.

The radicals were quick to exploit the flaws in the U.S. detention system.

Soldiers,
guards or interrogators at the U.S. bases at Bagram or Kandahar in
Afghanistan had abused many of the detainees, and they arrived at
Guantanamo enraged at America.

The Taliban and al Qaida leaders
in the cells around them were ready to preach their firebrand
interpretation of Islam and the need to wage jihad, Islamic holy war,
against the West. Guantanamo became a school for jihad, complete with a
council of elders who issued fatwas, binding religious instructions, to
the other detainees.

Rear Adm. Mark H. Buzby, until recently the
commanding officer at Guantanamo, acknowledged that senior militant
leaders gained influence and control in his prison.

File under, “not at all surprising” the fact that:

Pakistani police intelligence concluded that the men ? the majority of
whom had been subjected to “severe mental and physical torture,”
according to the report ? had “extreme feelings of resentment and
hatred against USA.”…

“A lot of our friends are working against the Americans now, because if
you torture someone without any reason, what do you expect?” Issa Khan,
a Pakistani former detainee, said in an interview in Islamabad. “Many
people who were in Guantanamo are now working with the Taliban.”

Anyway, once again, some truly outstanding reporting from not the New York Times or Washington Post, but sadly the latest news is that McClatchy is cutting 1400 jobs (10% of its workforce).  For the record, McClatchy recently combined with Knight-Ridder, about the only national news organization that got things right about the Iraq war.  Sadly, we can probably expect less of this great reporting in the future.  And the reason for this– the internet.  With everybody placing their ads in Craig's List, Cars.com, etc., newspaper revenues are way down.  So, I guess that means: saving money using on-line sources = decline in journalism.  Bummer.

“The worst Supreme Court decision” ever

John McCain shows himself to be as ignorant of Supreme Court history as he is of reasonable tax policy with his recent comments about last week's decision on the Guantanamo detainees.  George Will, of all people, rakes him over the coals in today's column.  (Though I usually disagree with George Will, he is no Republican hack and gets things spot-on on occasion).  Anyway, to Will:

The day after the Supreme Court ruled that detainees imprisoned at Guantanamo are entitled to seek habeas corpus hearings, John McCain called it “one of the worst decisions in the history of this country.” Well.

Does it rank with Dred Scott v. Sanford
(1857), which concocted a constitutional right, unmentioned in the
document, to own slaves and held that black people have no rights that
white people are bound to respect? With Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), which affirmed the constitutionality of legally enforced racial segregation? With Korematsu v. United States (1944), which affirmed the wartime right to sweep American citizens of Japanese ancestry into concentration camps?

Did McCain's extravagant condemnation of the court's habeas ruling
result from his reading the 126 pages of opinions and dissents? More
likely, some clever ignoramus convinced him that this decision could
make the Supreme Court — meaning, which candidate would select the
best judicial nominees — a campaign issue…

The purpose of a writ of habeas corpus is to cause a government to
release a prisoner or show through due process why the prisoner should
be held. Of Guantanamo's approximately 270 detainees, many certainly
are dangerous “enemy combatants.” Some probably are not. None will be released by
the court's decision, which does not even guarantee a right to a
hearing. Rather, it guarantees only a right to request a hearing.
Courts retain considerable discretion regarding such requests.

It will be interesting to see the depths John McCain sinks to in his right-wing pandering this election season.

A day in charts

I found this great chart, which seems to be making the rounds of the blogosphere, over at Ezra Klein today:

What this chart does is compare Obama's and McCain's tax plans.  If you aren't so good at reading charts, here's the upshot: Under Obama's plan 80% of taxpayers would see modest increases in after-tax income and the top quintile would see their after-tax income go down– most of this concentrated in the very richest Americans at the far right of the chart.  Under McCain's plan, all income quintiles would see modest percentage increases in after-tax income, but the richer you are, the more you benefit.  I can't wait to hear how he spins this during debates, etc., (actually, I'm pretty sure Mr. Straight Talk will just lie and the press will be too ignorant to call him on it).

And, just to make a post with two charts, a friend send me this rather fascinating chart today that compares China's cement usage to the rest of the world.  The difference is truly amazing:

What does this mean?  Find out here.

And why that decision is so important

The reason it is so important that we give the Guantanamo prisoners a reasonable opportunity to challenge their detention is that so many of them truly don't belong there.  While there are definitely some really bad dudes there, on the whole, this is definitely not, “the worst of the worst” as Bush and co. are so fond of saying.  McClatchy newspapers shows us what real journalism actually looks like with their great investigative report on who is actually at Guantanamo:

An eight-month McClatchy investigation in 11 countries on three
continents has found that Akhtiar was one of dozens of men ? and,
according to several officials, perhaps hundreds ? whom the U.S. has
wrongfully imprisoned in Afghanistan, Cuba and elsewhere on the basis
of flimsy or fabricated evidence, old personal scores or bounty
payments.

McClatchy interviewed 66 released detainees, more than
a dozen local officials ? primarily in Afghanistan ? and U.S. officials
with intimate knowledge of the detention program. The investigation
also reviewed thousands of pages of U.S. military tribunal documents
and other records.

This unprecedented compilation shows that most
of the 66 were low-level Taliban grunts, innocent Afghan villagers or
ordinary criminals. At least seven had been working for the U.S.-backed
Afghan government and had no ties to militants, according to Afghan
local officials. In effect, many of the detainees posed no danger to
the United States or its allies.

The investigation also found
that despite the uncertainty about whom they were holding, U.S.
soldiers beat and abused many prisoners…

Some details:

Army Spc. Eric Barclais, who was a military intelligence
interrogator at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan from September 2002
through January 2003, told military investigators in sworn testimony
that “We recommended lots of folks be released from (Bagram), but they
were not. I believe some people ended up at (Guantanamo) that had no
business being sent there.”

“You have to understand some folks
were detained because they got turned in by neighbors or family members
who were feuding with them,” Barclais said. “Yes, they had weapons.
Everyone had weapons. Some were Soviet-era and could not even be fired.”

A former Pentagon official told McClatchy that he was shocked at times by the backgrounds of men held at Guantanamo.

” 'Captured with weapon near the Pakistan border?' ” the official said. “Are you kidding me?”

“The screening, the understanding of who we had was horrible,” he said. “That's why we had so many useless people at Gitmo.”…

The majority of the detainees taken to Guantanamo came into U.S.
custody indirectly, from Afghan troops, warlords, mercenaries and
Pakistani police who often were paid cash by the number and alleged
importance of the men they handed over. Foot soldiers brought in
hundreds of dollars, but commanders were worth thousands. Because of
the bounties ? advertised in fliers that U.S. planes dropped all over
Afghanistan in late 2001 ? there was financial incentive for locals to
lie about the detainees' backgrounds. Only 33 percent of the former
detainees ? 22 out of 66 ? whom McClatchy interviewed were detained
initially by U.S. forces. Of those 22, 17 were Afghans who'd been
captured around mid-2002 or later as part of the peacekeeping mission
in Afghanistan, a fight that had more to do with counter-insurgency
than terrorism.

It would be upsetting that we had no interest in fair and impartial justice if we were actually dealing with terrorists.  To know that we were so mistreating so many innocent people is really an everlasting stain on our country, especially, President Bush.

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