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. 

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