June 2008 Archives

Who gets the credit?

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Good point by Daniel Larison on the surge:

The point isn't that Baghdad has not become a multifaith enclave, but that it used to be something like that and was then turned into a highly segregated and divided city thanks to the mix of invasion, insecurity and sectarian-cum-democratic politics. Hence, the nightmarish violence of 2006 has subsided into merely horrible because most of the potential victims of new sectarian violence have been pushed into new parts of the country, fled to Syria and Jordan or elsewhere or were killed in the first waves. And this is dubbed success.

This was the point Klein was making here - the causes of reduced violence are many and some have nothing to do with the additional brigades, and some are the after-effects of the magnificent failure of the occupation to fulfill its obligations to secure the population of the country it ostensibly controlled. Meanwhile, "surge" defenders would very much like to credit the change in tactics with most or all of the improvements, and then allow this reduction in violence to make it seem as if something fundamental had changed about a society in which armed gangs were butchering civilians just a year and a half ago for happening to be in the wrong district. That is what I call an unpersuasive case.

The end results of sectarian ethnic cleansing in Baghdad neighborhoods, Muqtada al-Sadr's unilateral ceasefire and the Sunni chieftains' alliance against al Qaeda in Iraq are the prime factors in the somewhat reduced level of violence in Iraq. The surge in and of itself had very little to do with causing the reduction.

That said, Petreus's philosophy on how to work as an occupying force with the Iraqis should have been implemented far earlier in our occupation than it was. Had it been implemented earlier as opposed to the policies that produced Abu Ghraib, the discussions we're having today would probably be quite different.

H/T to Sully

Keith Olberman on Daily Kos, Obama & the FISA bill

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Keith came in for some harsh words on Daily Kos about his comments on Obama's handling of the FISA bill. He makes a couple good points in his response. He opens with an insightful anecdote about John Dean to underscore Dean's pre-eminence as an interpreter of legal matters. Then he moves onto the core of his reasoning for support of Obama's approach to the FISA bill.

With that preamble out of the way, here goes. John said his reading of the revised FISA statute suggested it was so poorly constructed (or maybe so sublimely constructed) that it clearly did not preclude future criminal prosecution of the telecoms - it only stopped civil suits.

I have repeated his observation each night since. Maybe I didn't sell my conviction of its conclusiveness. I think John Dean is worth 25 Glenn Greenwalds (maybe 26 Keith Olbermanns).

Thus, as I phrased it on the air tonight, obviously Obama kicked the left in the teeth by supporting the bill. But anybody who got as hot about this as I did would prefer to see a President Obama prosecuting the telecoms criminally, instead of seeing a Senator Obama engender more "soft on terror" crap by casting a token vote in favor of civil litigation that isn't going to pass since so many other Democrats caved anyway.

I think his last sentence is his strongest point. I've seen this in reaction to issues that Senator Kerry is deeply involved in. People forget that passing laws isn't a 'one-time and you're done' kind of effort. It is always a repetitive process of moving the ball a little further down the field until you finally make the touchdown. I've seen a list of famous legislation and how many times each bill was submitted to Congress before it was finally passed into law. I wish I'd bookmarked it because it makes this point beautifully.

Here's the scary thing

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Cross-posted at KerryVision


OK, there are a couple of them. First, the cost of home heating oil is projected to increase 36% this coming winter. That's 36% more than what folks couldn't afford to pay last year when they saw a 30% increase over the previous winter. So, people who can't pay to heat their homes and businesses won't be able to, and many small businesses who supply fuel to consumers will go into debt or go under. And the scary thing is that unless someone does something, that's what's going to happen in the northeast this winter.

"Winter is months away -- and we New Englanders know the cold times it will bring with it -- but we need to act now to make sure that this winter no one has to choose between food or fuel."

Burning Bridges: Why Kerry doesn't owe McCain a thing.

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It is pretty clear now that Barack Obama is going to deploy John Kerry as an attack dog. There are a variety of reasons why this is a good idea: John Kerry is considered an elder statesman of the Democratic party, especially on matters of foreign policy, the environment, and energy policy, so McCain's charges on the Obama campaign of inexperience ring hollow with JK as a surrogate. I am sure Obama views Kerry as a loyal soldier who endorsed him way back in January after Hillary won New Hampshire, not to mention that Kerry chose to pluck Obama out of relative obscurity to be the keynote speaker at the 2004 Democratic National Convention.

But the most compelling reason to deploy Sen. Kerry as attack dog, is that he clearly pushes McCain's buttons. John Kerry drives McCain completely up the wall. After all, the only time this entire election season where we have seen McCain giving us a glimpse of his famed temper was when John Kerry's name came up. Given this reality (whether you love or hate Kerry), I am serving this diary up with a comprehensive history of why Kerry can attack McCain with abandon, and to set the record straight from the selective amnesia of right wingers and the traditional media.

The Daily Show vs. Network News

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The state of our media in the US is perilous for our democracy and this story, "Reporters Say Networks Put Wars on Back Burner", kvcostofwar.png from the New York Times illustrates it most clearly. Via KerryVision at noon on 6-23-2008, the counters reflected the US's commitment to Iraq. But you'd never know it by the coverage in our television media.

According to data compiled by Andrew Tyndall, a television consultant who monitors the three network evening newscasts, coverage of Iraq has been "massively scaled back this year." Almost halfway into 2008, the three newscasts have shown 181 weekday minutes of Iraq coverage, compared with 1,157 minutes for all of 2007. The "CBS Evening News" has devoted the fewest minutes to Iraq, 51, versus 55 minutes on ABC's "World News" and 74 minutes on "NBC Nightly News." (The average evening newscast is 22 minutes long.)

CBS News no longer stations a single full-time correspondent in Iraq, where some 150,000 United States troops are deployed.

The Times reporter opens his article with a quote from Lara Logan's appearance on The Daily Show. You can tell that her appearance was probably the inspiration for the article. She did not hold back.



Almost halfway done with 2008 and they've only shown 181 weekday minutes of Iraq coverage. As Lara points out,
More soldiers died in Afghanistan last month than in Iraq. Who's paying attention to that? 33,000 - highest troop level since the war began - seven years after we defeated the Taliban.


Her whole appearance is riveting -- do watch it.


The new Bush energy plan: "Get more addicted to oil."

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Readers of past dwahzon's village posts will know that I don't think much of Thomas Friedman's reasoning ability or rather his ability to ignore large parts of reality in coming up with some of his columns. But this time he got it right.

Two years ago, President Bush declared that America was "addicted to oil," and, by gosh, he was going to do something about it. Well, now he has. Now we have the new Bush energy plan: "Get more addicted to oil."

Actually, it's more sophisticated than that: Get Saudi Arabia, our chief oil pusher, to up our dosage for a little while and bring down the oil price just enough so the renewable energy alternatives can't totally take off. Then try to strong arm Congress into lifting the ban on drilling offshore and in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

It's as if our addict-in-chief is saying to us: "C'mon guys, you know you want a little more of the good stuff. One more hit, baby. Just one more toke on the ole oil pipe. I promise, next year, we'll all go straight. I'll even put a wind turbine on my presidential library. But for now, give me one more pop from that drill, please, baby. Just one more transfusion of that sweet offshore crude."

It is hard for me to find the words to express what a massive, fraudulent, pathetic excuse for an energy policy this is. But it gets better.

Following up on Sully's "Disgrace" post

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Sully has posted the email of a marine who wrote to him about his Disgrace and Disgrace Ctd. posts. It's gritty but it underscores once again that torture does not provide useful information.

newsrackblog.com » Interview with an interrogator

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Thomas Nephew at newsrackblog attended a Human Rights First session the other day which he described as follows:

Human Rights First has brought together about twenty pros with significant interrogation experience this week to lobby Congress and the presidential campaigns, and to speak to the public about what works and what doesn't when it comes to gaining credible intelligence -- as opposed to unreliable information -- from interrogations.

Among them are Colonel Stuart A. Herrington, U.S. Army (Retired), with service in Vietnam, Panama , and Operation Desert Storm; Joe Navarro, who served for more than 25 years with the FBI as an interrogator, an agent and a supervisor working in the area of counter-terrorism and counter-intelligence; and Ken Robinson, who served a twenty-year career in a variety of tactical, operational, and strategic assignments including Ranger, Special Forces, and clandestine special operations units, the National Security Agency, Defense Intelligence Agency, and the Central Intelligence Agency.

In other words, seasoned professionals who know what they're talking about, not a hippie among them. These three are speaking today at an "Effectively Interrogating Terrorism Suspects" panel hosted by HRF and the CSIS (Center for Strategic and International Studies) Human Rights and Security Initiative.

While I didn't speak with any of them, I did wind up talking for a while to another interrogator -- now retired from government service -- with a resume fitting in with those described above, including interrogations of the so-called "deck of cards" Baathist Iraqi officials and the like in the aftermath of the 2003 invasion. Since the reception was "off the record", I won't say who he was, but can report the gist of what we discussed.*

Thomas then goes on to talk about his discussion with this interrogator known by the pseudonym of Ray Bennett. The post is interesting as is the discussion in the comments on the post.

But what is of more interest is that Thomas followed up with Ray and did a formal interview with some very interesting Q&As.

Obama on the FISA bill

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Via Ben Smith at Politico,

Here's his statement on the compromise, which offers retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies who helped the government listen in on American citizens -- which Obama says he'll fight to remove from the legislation -- and expands legal wiretapping powers. Obama praises it for restoring a legal framework and judicial oversight to the process.

Given the grave threats that we face, our national security agencies must have the capability to gather intelligence and track down terrorists before they strike, while respecting the rule of law and the privacy and civil liberties of the American people. There is also little doubt that the Bush Administration, with the cooperation of major telecommunications companies, has abused that authority and undermined the Constitution by intercepting the communications of innocent Americans without their knowledge or the required court orders.

That is why last year I opposed the so-called Protect America Act, which expanded the surveillance powers of the government without sufficient independent oversight to protect the privacy and civil liberties of innocent Americans. I have also opposed the granting of retroactive immunity to those who were allegedly complicit in acts of illegal spying in the past.

After months of negotiation, the House today passed a compromise that, while far from perfect, is a marked improvement over last year's Protect America Act.

Under this compromise legislation, an important tool in the fight against terrorism will continue, but the President's illegal program of warrantless surveillance will be over. It restores FISA and existing criminal wiretap statutes as the exclusive means to conduct surveillance - making it clear that the President cannot circumvent the law and disregard the civil liberties of the American people. It also firmly re-establishes basic judicial oversight over all domestic surveillance in the future. It does, however, grant retroactive immunity, and I will work in the Senate to remove this provision so that we can seek full accountability for past offenses. But this compromise guarantees a thorough review by the Inspectors General of our national security agencies to determine what took place in the past, and ensures that there will be accountability going forward. By demanding oversight and accountability, a grassroots movement of Americans has helped yield a bill that is far better than the Protect America Act.

It is not all that I would want. But given the legitimate threats we face, providing effective intelligence collection tools with appropriate safeguards is too important to delay. So I support the compromise, but do so with a firm pledge that as President, I will carefully monitor the program, review the report by the Inspectors General, and work with the Congress to take any additional steps I deem necessary to protect the lives - and the liberty - of the American people.

What is obvious is that our nominee took his time examining the bill and working out what the best approach was to working with what was in it. He refused to be rushed by the media news cycles just so it could be reported that he'd said something.

All of the emotion being displayed in some corners of the liberal blogosphere over Obama's statement on the FISA bill just passed by the house reminded me of this piece by Cass Sunstein.

Not so long ago, the phone rang in my office. It was Barack Obama. For more than a decade, Obama was my colleague at the University of Chicago Law School.

He is also a friend. But since his election to the Senate, he does not exactly call every day. On this occasion, he had an important topic to discuss: the controversy over President George W. Bush's warrantless surveillance of international telephone calls between Americans and suspected terrorists. I had written a short essay suggesting that the surveillance might be lawful. Before taking a public position, Obama wanted to talk the problem through. In the space of about 20 minutes, he and I investigated the legal details. He asked me to explore all sorts of issues: the President's power as commander-in-chief, the Constitution's protection against unreasonable searches and seizures, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the Authorization for Use of Military Force and more.

Obama wanted to consider the best possible defense of what Bush had done. To every argument I made, he listened carefully and offered a specific counter-argument. After the issue had been exhausted, Obama said that he thought the program was illegal, but now had a better understanding of both sides. He thanked me for my time.

This was a pretty amazing conversation, not only because of Obama's mastery of the legal details, but also because many prominent Democratic leaders had already blasted the Bush initiative as blatantly illegal. He did not want to take a public position until he had listened to, and explored, what might be said on the other side. This is the Barack Obama I have known for nearly 15 years--a careful and even-handed analyst of law and policy, unusually attentive to multiple points of view.

Sounds like someone I'd like to see in the White House. Even if I don't agree with him on every step.

The Disgrace

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Andrew Sullivan has two posts, Disgrace and Disgrace Ctd., that I wanted to highlight for the manner in which he addresses neocon arguments concerning torture and the treatment of detainees. I was first drawn to Sully's blog because of his stand on torture and his championing of Captain Ian Fishback. He has lost none of his passion in writing about this topic.

From Disgrace:

Pete talks about a moral disgrace. You know what is a moral disgrace? Conflating innocent people with those who "want to slit the throats and watch innocent Americans bleed and die." Here's also what is a disgrace: that an American administration knowingly seized individuals who were innocent of any crime, tortured and abused hundreds of them, and lied about it. That Dick Cheney and George W. Bush decided in advance to bypass the Congress in setting clear, legal, constitutional rules for the handling of detainees in the war on terror and so ended up in the Gitmo mess. That, in a time of war and great peril, Bush and Cheney decided to go on an executive branch power-grab because they knew full well that what they intended to do - torture their way to "intelligence" - was illegal. That the Bush policy has neither brought anyone to justice nor provided a decent alternative to habeas rights and poisoned the reputation of American justice for a generation around the world. That the United States coopted former Soviet prison camps in Eastern Europe in order to perpetrate Gestapo methods of interrogation. That's a disgrace.

In Disgrace Ctd., he goes on:

Pete concedes that the administration originally seized far, far more detainees than it could prove guilty (or ever tried to prove guilty) and has released thousands falsely imprisoned. Of the thousands seized, Pete concedes many were abused and tortured, with over a hundred deaths occurring during interrogation, two score of whom the administration has itself conceded were murder-by-interrogation. All this occurred after the president decided his actions as commander-in-chief could not be constrained by the law, after he had waived the baseline Geneva Convention protections for prisoners in wartime - in violation of the policy of every previous president of the United States from Washington on - and after critical memos were signed allowing American interrogators to do anything to prisoners short of death or loss of a major organ. [...]

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.

Now, you could argue that the administration, after initial understandable over-reach, has tried to set things right. But you would be wrong. [...]

Major Gen Antonio Taguba, trusted enough by this administration to run an earlier report on the abuse scandal, puts it plainly enough:

"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."

The Bush - Cheney administration has much to answer for. The question remains in what court or venue will they be held accountable?


Caving In on FISA or Steny Hoyer hates our country

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America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.
-- Abraham Lincoln

 
There are so many who've been following the FISA and telecom immunity battle in detail that it seems pointless to attempt to write something new about it. Glenn Greenwald, a constitutional law and civil rights litigator, has covered it in detail and provides this update on yesterday's activities.

CQ reports (sub. req.) that "a final deal has been reached" on FISA and telecom amnesty and "the House is likely to take up the legislation Friday." I've now just read a copy of the final "compromise" bill. It's even worse than expected. When you read it, it's actually hard to believe that the Congress is about to make this into our law. Then again, this is the same Congress that abolished habeas corpus with the Military Commissions Act, and legalized George Bush's warrantless eavesdropping program with the "Protect America Act," so it shouldn't be hard to believe at all. Seeing the words in print, though, adds a new dimension to appreciating just how corrupt and repugnant this is:

The provision granting amnesty to lawbreaking telecoms, Title VIII, has the exact Orwellian title it should have: "Protection of Persons Assisting the Government." Section 802(a) provides:

[A] civil action may not lie or be maintained in a Federal or State court against any person for providing assistance to an element of the intelligence community, and shall be properly dismissed, if the Attorney General certifies to the district court of the United States in which such action is pending that . . . (4) the assistance alleged to have been provided . . . was --

(A) in connection with intelligence activity involving communications that was (i) authorized by the President during the period beginning on September 11, 2001, and ending on January 17, 2007 and (ii) designed to prevent or detect a terrorist attack, or activities in preparation of a terrorist attack, against the United States" and

(B) the subject of a written request or directive . . . indicating that the activity was (i) authorized by the President; and (ii) determined to be lawful.

So all the Attorney General has to do is recite those magic words -- the President requested this eavesdropping and did it in order to save us from the Terrorists -- and the minute he utters those words, the courts are required to dismiss the lawsuits against the telecoms, no matter how illegal their behavior was.

That's the "compromise" Steny Hoyer negotiated and which he is now -- according to very credible reports -- pressuring every member of the Democratic caucus to support. It's full-scale, unconditional amnesty with no inquiry into whether anyone broke the law. In the U.S. now, thanks to the Democratic Congress, we'll have a new law based on the premise that the President has the power to order private actors to break the law, and when he issues such an order, the private actors will be protected from liability of any kind on the ground that the Leader told them to do it -- the very theory that the Nuremberg Trial rejected.

In his last update of the day yesterday Glenn noted just how bad this bill is.

Now that Democrats have agreed to this bill, the GOP isn't even bothering with the pretense anymore that this is a "compromise." Instead, they're rubbing the Democrats' noses in the fact that this was a full-scale capitulation. From Eric Lichtblau's New York Times article:

With some AT&T and other telecommunications companies now facing some 40 lawsuits over their reported participation in the wiretapping program, Republican leaders described this narrow court review on the immunity question as a mere "formality."

"The lawsuits will be dismissed," Representative Roy Blunt of Missouri, the No. 2 Republican in the House, predicted with confidence.

The proposal -- particularly the immunity provision -- represents a major victory for the White House after months of dispute. "I think the White House got a better deal than even they had hoped to get," said Senator Christopher Bond, the Missouri Republican who led the negotiations.

The White House immediately endorsed the proposal, which is likely to be voted on in the House on Friday and in the Senate next week.

"The White House got a better deal than even they had hoped to get." The administration should know better by now than to underestimate the Democratic leadership's complete cravenness and eagerness to please the White House.

What more can be said? The Democrats that stood up for the rule of law appear to have caved in yet again. We are destroying our country from within -- doing Osama bin Laden's work for him -- tearing down our liberties, eliminating the rights of our citizens and the rule of law.

Steny Hoyer, your role and your accomplices will be remembered. Do not doubt that ordinary citizens will reject this soundly. I'd start working on your resume if I were you.

 
Other sources of FISA analysis and action: Daily Kos, hilzoy and publius at Obsidian Wings, jane @ firedoglake, emptywheel @ firedoglake, EFF

The Right-Wing Offshore Drilling Scam

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Bush and McCain are pushing a lifting of a ban on off-shore drilling. What they are really doing is taking advantage of the average citizen's ignorance of the actual state of affairs with regard to oil prospecting and production in the United States.

Environmentalist points out:

First of all, there is no "ban".

"Ban" is just more GOPer-speak. In reality, there is a moratorium on drilling in certain coastal areas. Other areas are not only open to drilling but leases and drilling permits have already been issued.

And they are not being drilled.

In fact, only 17% of the leased areas is in production. So, with about 33 million acres of offshore areas already available to drill and not being drilled, why does the oil and gas industry need to have access to still more?

The fact is that nearly 25 BILLION barrels of oil off the coast of the United States is currently available for drilling...and industry is not drilling it.

Not to mention natural gas. Most of the natural gas occurring offshore (over 328 TRILLION cubic feet - an eleven year supply at current consumption rates) is currently available for leasing and development.

And they're not going after it.

This is the story throughout the country, more than 44 million acres of onshore public lands are leased for oil and gas development and yet most of it is not being drilled. All told (onshore and offshore), 68 million acres are leased and sitting idle. Over 10,000 permits are currently 'stockpiled' by industry. But still they want more.

Between 1999 and 2007, the number of drilling permits issued for development of public lands increased by more than 361%. And did you see your gasoline costs drop? How about your electricity costs? Propane? natural gas? Uh...no. There is absolutely no correlation between the industrialization of public lands and the price of fossil fuels.

It has been estimated that if all of those currently inactive leases were drilled, the USA would produce an additional 4.8 million barrels of oil and 44.7 billion cubic feet of natural gas EVERY DAY, accounting for a doubling of US oil production and a 75% increase in US natural gas production. The Minerals Management Service tells us that about 80% of fossil fuels available in offshore are currently available for development.

What's going on here is yet another cynical attempt by the GOP and the oil and gas robber barons to increase and assure huge industry profits at the expense of the American people. These companies don't want to drill these areas. They want to hold them as assets to limit the amount of oil and gas on the market so that prices rise still further - and they make more money. They want to hold on to these areas so that they can drill them ten or fifteen years from now and make an even bigger fortune. [...]

Source: Some of the numbers cited in this post came directly from these documents:

Energy Information Administration, Analysis of Crude Oil Production in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge,May 2008.

Inventory of Onshore Federal Oil and Natural Gas Resources and Restrictions to Their Development, U.S. Departments of the Interior, Agriculture, and Energy; May 2008.

What is amazing to me is that we have had almost 8 years of an administration with 2 oilmen in charge and did they use their time to set up a wise plan for peak oil and weaning this nation away from fossil fuels? No. Instead we get mouthings like we got from George Bush the other day.

Digby put up a chart that makes part of the point in graphic form. But aside from the point that drilling in ANWR is so far from productive and would do nothing to lower the rates when it eventually did come online many years from now, the real issue is why aren't the oil companies drilling in the areas that they already hold permits for?

As DIgby said:

Private corporations have potentially billions of barrels of oil sitting in capped wells and untapped leased fields, some of which have been lying fallow for as much as thirty years. They won't open them because they are more profitable as untapped reserves, which inflates the stock price and goes directly into the execs' wallets. Bush and McCain say they want more drilling, but the oil companies don't. They want more untapped reserves so they can pump up their balance sheets.

This is all a game. Bush and McCain want to funnel oil services contracts to corporate boardrooms, not oil to consumers. They either have some polling about how fear of higher gas prices will allow them to gain some populist support for these measures, or they're just following the Republican playbook since the energy crisis of the late 1970s. Whatever it is, they certainly aren't interested in delivering more oil.

Via Jerome a Paris, Climate Progress reports:

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) recently did a detailed study of the likely outcome of offshore drilling for their Annual Energy Outlook 2007, "Impacts of Increased Access to Oil and Natural Gas Resources in the Lower 48 Federal Outer Continental Shelf (OCS)." The sobering conclusion:

The projections in the OCS access case indicate that access to the Pacific, Atlantic, and eastern Gulf regions would not have a significant impact on domestic crude oil and natural gas production or prices before 2030.

And the impact of the projected 7% (!) increase in lower-48 oil production that might result in 2030 thanks to opening the OCS is ... wait for it ...

... any impact on average wellhead prices is expected to be insignificant.

We need to be focusing on reducing our energy consumption, developing technology dependent on renewable energy sources and weaning our nation off its dependency on fossil fuels. Any other priority is anti-American. It does not have our country's long term interests at heart. They're gambling with our children's future for more short-term profit and gain for the oil company execs. I think that I've had enough of Exxon-Mobil's record profits and horribly over-compensated executives.

Abramoff's criminal web update by dengre

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dengre research posse appeal
Dailykos diarist dengre is one of those excellent resource people in the blogosphere with particular expertise in the scandal of the Northern Marianas Islands and in the far-reaching web of Jack Abramoff's criminal activities within the highest reaches of the Republican administration, party and congressional representatives of the last 7 years. He's been tracking it since 1999.

The other day he updated us on the current status and connected the dots on some new items that have come out. And yes there does appear to be connections to John McCain.
Email dengre if you can help out.

Tom Hayden on Bobby and Barack

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Tom Hayden has a very interesting piece on his perceptions of Bobby Kennedy and parallels between Bobby and Barack at Huffington Post.

For one who has experienced both eras, the current movement for Barack Obama has achieved a living remembrance of Bobby Kennedy's campaign in the week when RFK's murder is painfully remembered.

On June 4, 1968, I watched from a New York townhouse the murder of a second Kennedy in five years. Martin Luther King already was gone, Vietnam and our cities were burning. I was in the midst of chaotic planning for anti-war demonstrations at the Democratic Convention coming in August.

I drifted off with friends to St. Patrick's Cathedral where Kennedy staffers let us through the doors late at night. After sitting a while in silence, I found myself as a member of a makeshift honor guard standing next to his simple coffin. I was wearing a green Cuban hat and weeping. The last political hope of the Sixties vision -- a movement-driven progressive government -- was finished, whether by chance or plot, it mattered little. The violence I had resisted under white racism in the South was seeping into my veins. Like many who took their rage even farther, I was hardening, and never dared again to recover my young idealism.

Not a bargaining chip but a Democrat

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I wrote a longer post about this earlier but it disappeared somewhere in the interweb so here's just a quick nod to Hilary Rosen at Huffpo. I think she said it well in great contrast in Erica's temper tantrum.

So, I am also so very disappointed at how she has handled this last week. I know she is exhausted and she had pledged to finish the primaries and let every state vote before any final action. But by the time she got on that podium last night, she knew it was over and that she had lost. I am sure I was not alone in privately urging the campaign over the last two weeks to use the moment to take her due, pass the torch and cement her grace. She had an opportunity to soar and unite. She had a chance to surprise her party and the nation after the day-long denials about expecting any concession and send Obama off on the campaign trail of the general election with the best possible platform. I wrote before how she had a chance for her "Al Gore moment." And if she had done so, the whole country ALL would be talking today about how great she is and give her her due.

Instead she left her supporters empty, Obama's angry, and party leaders trashing her. She said she was stepping back to think about her options. She is waiting to figure out how she would "use" her 18 million voters.

But not my vote. I will enthusiastically support Barack Obama's campaign. Because I am not a bargaining chip. I am a Democrat.

NYT's Waste of Money

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I have commented before on NYT's waste of money on columnists who don't know what they're talking about. This time Oliver Willis, Kagro X and Steve Benen all beat me to it. Here's video courtesy of Media Matters. I think Steve summed it up best for me:

Obama has spent a lot of time, Brooks says, in "university towns" -- meaning that he's one of those guys interested in book learnin'. Can't have someone like that in the Oval Office. No siree.

As for the focus group that apparently hadn't heard much from the media other than news about Jeremiah Wright, this might be a clue to Brooks and his colleagues that the coverage of the campaign is not serving the voters especially well.

Brooks concludes that arguing that McCain offers voters another term of Bush is "factually inaccurate." Fair enough. McCain agrees with Bush on economic policy, tax policy, foreign policy, national security policy, judicial policy, healthcare policy, immigration policy, and housing policy. Other than that, though, it's completely irresponsible to argue that McCain offers the nation more of the same. What we were thinking?

Thank goodness we have someone as insightful as Brooks to explain these matters to us in the nation's most prestigious news outlet.


Erica's Temper Tantrum

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Erica Jong is having a public temper tantrum over at Huffpo:

I didn't know it would feel this bad. I didn't know it would feel this personal. I'm all for a united Democratic party. But losing my last chance to see a woman in the White House feels like shit. And the gloating by the press is even worse. It sounds like "I told you so." It feels like watching Joan of Arc burned at the stake. You can smell the burning flesh. And then all the crowing about breaking the race barrier -- which we haven't done yet.

Talk about over-the-top hyperbole.

Erica, you're 12 years older than I am but we're of the same demographic that always gets lumped together as Hillary supporters whenever the media talk ... older white women. My feminist credentials are quite secure. I still have my ERA pin. And yet I have to say, I think you're missing the point of what's happened the last few days and the last few months.

Hillary was a good candidate; she was a very good candidate. I'm proud that the Democrats had such a strong woman as a top contender in the nomination race. But she wasn't the best choice for president according to a lot of your fellow Democrats.

She ran into a competitor who was better organized for the campaign that had to be won, who developed a much stronger fund-raising strategy, who built an organization prepared to capitalize on the volunteers who responded by the thousands to the invitation to make his campaign their own. Someone who had a message that was, yes, more inspiring for a nation that is so tired and angry over what's happened during the last 7 years.

From my experience in the male-dominated IT world, I can tell you that whining about sexist behavior does not guarantee one a promotion. Being better qualified and being able to make the case that one is better qualified gets the promotion or the desired position, whatever that may be.

A woman will be president of the USA ... when she is the best choice among those running for the nomination. This is not a "it's her turn" kind of affair. The position of president of the United States is not a consolation prize to be handed to someone because some people behaved badly.

Hillary was out-organized, out-campaigned and out-voted in the count that really counts. Delegates.

That she is willing to consider continuing tells me that she's developed a bubble much like that which enclosed Bush during much of his administration; one where senior staff are afraid to voice anything that doesn't support the stated goal.

We don't need another president in a bubble, isolated from the real world, unable to manage or appoint effective managers. And her campaign has been ample illustration of a management style that relies on loyalty.

We've just had 7 1/2 years of that. Why would we want more of the same?

I have no doubt that the first female president of the United States has already been elected to office somewhere in these United States and that she will emerge soon.

I will happily vote for her when she does step forward and demonstrate that she is the best possible choice for the office of President of the United States.

Just words - ahh but such words

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Obama's soul-stirring conclusion last night:

In our country, I have found that this cooperation happens not because we agree on everything, but because behind all the false labels and false divisions and categories that define us; beyond all the petty bickering and point-scoring in Washington, Americans are a decent, generous, compassionate people, united by common challenges and common hopes. And every so often, there are moments which call on that fundamental goodness to make this country great again.

 
So it was for that band of patriots who declared in a Philadelphia hall the formation of a more perfect union; and for all those who gave on the fields of Gettysburg and Antietam their last full measure of devotion to save that same union.

So it was for the Greatest Generation that conquered fear itself, and liberated a continent from tyranny, and made this country home to untold opportunity and prosperity.

So it was for the workers who stood out on the picket lines; the women who shattered glass ceilings; the children who braved a Selma bridge for freedom's cause.

So it has been for every generation that faced down the greatest challenges and the most improbable odds to leave their children a world that's better, and kinder, and more just.

And so it must be for us.

America, this is our moment. This is our time. Our time to turn the page on the policies of the past. Our time to bring new energy and new ideas to the challenges we face. Our time to offer a new direction for the country we love.

The journey will be difficult. The road will be long. I face this challenge with profound humility, and knowledge of my own limitations. But I also face it with limitless faith in the capacity of the American people. Because if we are willing to work for it, and fight for it, and believe in it, then I am absolutely certain that generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless; this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal; this was the moment when we ended a war and secured our nation and restored our image as the last, best hope on Earth. This was the moment - this was the time - when we came together to remake this great nation so that it may always reflect our very best selves, and our highest ideals.

 
Thank you, Minnesota. God Bless you. God Bless the United States of America.


 
There are some unfortunate skips in the youtube video after the 12:00 min mark. Here's the NPR audio of Obama's speech. His speech starts at about 10:00 min in and runs approx. 29 min.
 
There's a complete transcript of Obama's speech as given after the jump.
 

Time to celebrate

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From Andrew Sullivan:

As we absorb the news that an African-American is now the Democratic party's presumptive nominee for the presidency of the United States, a few words. No one should allow the tortuous end of this primary journey to obscure the passion and insurrection that made it possible. That passion came from a simple place, the way it often does in politics. It came from the gut instinct that we have lost our way, that the United States needs to start again after the debt, depravity, and destruction of the Bush years. It came from hope that the future need not be as bleak as it seemed not too long ago. It came from a sense that the deepest divisions were not as deep as the political class needed them to be and wanted them to be. And it came from the astonishing nostrum that a liberal, black first-term senator could overturn the biggest machine, the biggest name and the biggest dynasty in Democratic party politics.

He did it, because we did it. Because many of us refused to accept the choices we were being offered and looked to a new direction and new way worthy of the next generation. And this song is still part of the history we just made. Yes We Can:

 

Historic

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From Chuck Todd of MSNBC:

 
"The greatest political upset maybe in the history of American politics."

Who is Thomas?

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The 'who' is Thomas Jefferson, although this is not about Thomas the person, but about the research tool that bears the name of our third President.

Most of us get the majority of our news from television, internet news sites, newspapers or a combination. I depend on all three to get the latest headlines and commentary. The problem, though, is that unless you can cut through the spin, your facts are colored by others' opinion, and there's a whole lot left out.

If, for example, you want information on what members of Congress are doing to support veterans and you're looking for it on the TV, you're not likely to get a very good picture of who is doing what. You could use 'the Google', but there's a whole lot to wade through.

That's where Thomas comes in.

THOMAS was launched in January of 1995, at the inception of the 104th Congress. The leadership of the 104th Congress directed the Library of Congress to make federal legislative information freely available to the public.

So, for regular folks who just want to know who supports what in Congress, it's pretty easy to just search on a member's name and a key word and get what you're looking for. For example, I can search on 'McCain' and 'veterans', and find legislation containing both the Senator's name and the word 'veterans' and look at the details of the 8 pieces of legislation that my search returns. Or I can enter 'Kerry' and 'veterans' and search through the 46 entries, or 'Obama' and 'veterans' and peruse 49.

Fascinating, isn't it?