30 January 2008

Iraq vs. Kurdistan and SK

The following story, from STRATFOR, suggests that Kurdistan has become a virtually independent country. I guess the real test will come when we see how this all plays out:

Iraq’s government will cut off oil exports to South Korean energy firm SK Energy if the company does not exit an oil deal with the Kurdistan Regional Government by Jan. 31. Intent on keeping Iraqi Kurdistan in check, Baghdad has created fears of similar moves against other countries with firms doing oil deals with the Kurds. Though many of the small- and medium-sized firms involved in exploration contracts in northern Iraq are unlikely to be affected, the few involved in both transport and exploration are at greater risk. These firms must reconsider investments in Iraqi Kurdistan, will all eyes on South Korea’s next move.

28 January 2008

Worst than even the housing numbers...

Shrub's approval rating in the Gallup Poll around the time of each State of the Union address:

February 2001: 62 percent approval
January 2002: 84 percent
January 2003: 60 percent
January 2004: 53 percent
February 2005: 51 percent
January 2006: 43 percent
January 2007: 36 percent
January 2008: 32 percent

What I want to know is who these remaining 32% are--Halliburton executives polled from their hotel rooms in Dubai?

26 January 2008

Edwards on Big Brother

While the other candidates waffle, Edwards gets this right:

When it comes to protecting the rule of law, words are not enough. We need action.

It's wrong for your government to spy on you. That's why I'm asking you to join me today in calling on Senate Democrats to filibuster revisions to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) that would give "retroactive immunity" to the giant telecom companies for their role in aiding George W. Bush's illegal eavesdropping on American citizens . . . Granting retroactive immunity is wrong. It will let corporate law-breakers off the hook. It will hamstring efforts to learn the truth about Bush's illegal spying program. And it will flip on its head a core principle that has guided our nation since our founding: the belief that no one, no matter how well connected or what office they hold, is above the law.

But in Washington today, the telecom lobbyists have launched a full-court press for retroactive immunity. George Bush and Dick Cheney are doing everything in their power to ensure it passes. And too many Senate Democrats are ready to give the lobbyists and the Bush administration exactly what they want.

Please join me in calling on every Senate Democrat to do everything in their power -- including joining Senator Dodd's efforts to filibuster this legislation -- to stop retroactive immunity and stand up for the rule of law. The Constitution should not be for sale at any price.

Thank you for taking action.

John Edwards January 24, 2008

25 January 2008

Obama

Democracy for California has now formally endorsed Obama. Although I'm disappointed, for the most part, with the front runners, I strongly feel that Hillary shouldn't win for a number of reasons--especially her support for Shrub's War and the fact that she's a member of the bi-dynastic royal clique that has been ruling the U.S. for much of our lives.

Citrullus lanatu


Why doesn't my supermarket sell square watermelons?
日本に行きたい!

24 January 2008

Rhino horns

I don't know why I'm suddenly getting so much comment spam. At any rate, if anyone wants to buy some ground up rhinocerous horn (probably ground up cow bones mixed with lime) or dessicated bear livers, I know where to send you. I've resorted to turning on comment moderation--something I've avoided doing until now.

23 January 2008

The Aptera


Another cool concept car, the Aptera, will cost $26,900 for the all electric version is and$29,900 for the plug-in hybrid and will be sold only in California. It's set to go into production in late 2008.

22 January 2008

The Air Car

What are your thoughts on the new Air Car (1) (2) ? The question I always have about these inventions is if they're so great and so cheap, why haven't they taken off yet? Is there a catch? Will major automobile manufacturers lobby for legislation to keep them off the roads?

The . . . product is a light weigh vehicle that can reach speeds up to 220 km/h (even though the legal limit is 120.) A product that does not pollute like twentieth century vehicles and does not take a lifetime to pay off. Essentially, MDI has developed a modern, clean, and cheap car that meets most peoples needs. That is to say that 60% of drivers drive less than 50km a day, and 80% of those 60%, never leave urban areas.

In the single energy mode MDI cars consume less than one euro every 100Km. (around 0.75 Euros) that is to say, 10 time less than gasoline powered cars.

When there is no combustion, there is no pollution. The vehicle's driving range is close to twice that of the most advanced electric cars (from 200 to 300 km or 8 hours of circulation) This is exactly what the urban market needs where, as previously mentioned, 80% of the drivers move less than 60Km. a day.

19 January 2008

Meiru

This is just too much multitasking if you ask me. Japanese writers have taken to penning novels on their cell phones.

18 January 2008

Alan Stang

It thoroughly warmed my funny bone to learn today that Alan Stang is still around and kicking--saving the world from the impending Communist (always to be capitalized) revolution. True blue Alan is so far right that Fox News , Lincoln, and Reagan are considered to be part of the Commy conspiracy and Rudy Giuliani is considered a "far left apparatchik." So let's peer into the mind of a far-right advocate of freedom and liberty.

First, we need some clarification. Freedom isn't for everyone. Part of the Commy master plan is, after all, the freeing of women:

We have established that many of today’s women are a lot crazier than nature meant them to be, and we are searching for the reason. Our thesis of course is that the disorder is not accidental, that it is the product of a carefully orchestrated plan.

Watch out for those crazy women with their red bandanas. If you do come in contact with them, immediately wash you hands and say some prayers to get rid of the pollution. And if that isn't enough, there's the . . .

Aqua-Chi footbath, which we recommend, because many people say it has helped them detoxify.

I don't quite know what to make of these ultra-right wing conspiracy theorists with their aqua-Chi footbaths. In addition to crazy lefty women, Alan warns us away from flouride (actually, he's probably right on that!) and the evils of sustainable development (another vile plan to take away our liberty). Of course, no rightwing intellectual could earn his bona fides solely through attacks on women and sustainable development. At some point, there has to be a racist remark. While most of the Republic Party cadre have, since Nixon, had sense to talk in code when beyond closed doors, Alan is quite open about feelings.

The “Abolitionist” movement that provoked Lincoln’s Communist War to Destroy the Union is a good place to start. At this distance it is easy to see that the “Abolitionists” extruded a species of madness, a fanatic mania personified by lunatics like John Brown, who fastened onto Negro slavery as a vehicle to express it. Had there never been Negro slavery in our country, their madness would have fastened onto something else . . .

John Brown has been called a "fanatic" so many times that we find this "fact" repeated in fairly mainstream histories: There isn't a shred of historical evidence to support it. John Brown was a deeply principled person who was willing to give his life to a noble cause, but according to Stang, this was just someone who didn't have anything to do on the weekend and wanted to jump on the latest political bandwagon (not a very crowded bandwagon). If slavery hadn't been around, John Brown would probably be out campaigning for other frivilous causes such as the emancipation of women or sustainability. (Just thinking about this, I could really use an AquaChi footbath.) Alan adds . . .

I was recently dismayed by the sudden realization that there could be pockets of population, however small, whom I have not yet managed to offend.

I can think of a few pockets . . . racists, religious zealots, conspiracy theorists living in psychiatric wards . . .

16 January 2008

Protecting keptoplutocracy at home and abroad

The brazenness with which our plutocrats are now openly fleecing the American sheeple leaves me with a baaad feeling in my gut. We've learned that former Attorney Kleptocrat General John Ashcroft has been HIRED in a NO-BID contract to monitor shady companies who have settled out of court. Really . . . I'm not making this up. Instead of punishing companies that swindle and steal from the public, the government is now demanding that the companies share some of their booty with "retired" politicos. (Of course, we'll have to pitch in some of our tax dollars as well.) I guess this is the political equivalent of the Chinese practice of having Tiananmen protesters' families pay for the bullet after their kids are shot. Looks like we've finally perfected that great American invention called the 3-partitioned revolving door. We elect corrupt businessmen to represent our political interests and then once they step down, pay them to watch over other corrupt businessmen.

The Shenon article from the 11th: WASHINGTON — The chairmen of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees joined in asking the Justice Department on Thursday for details of contracts that the department directed to former Attorney General John Ashcroft and other outside lawyers who are monitoring companies in out-of-court settlements of criminal allegations.

The requests were in separate letters to Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey from Representative John Conyers Jr. of Michigan, the chairman of the House panel, and Senator Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, his Senate counterpart. Both are Democrats.

The letters followed news reports that the top federal prosecutor in New Jersey directed a medical-supplies company to hire Mr. Ashcroft as a monitor in an out-of-court settlement with the Justice Department last fall. Mr. Ashcroft’s consulting company is to receive payments of $28 million to $52 million under the no-bid contract.

The Justice Department confirmed Thursday that it was conducting an internal review of the procedures used to hire monitors, although it insisted that the review predated the news reports about Mr. Ashcroft’s contract and that the inquiry did not focus on it. There has been no accusation of wrongdoing by Mr. Ashcroft or by the New Jersey prosecutor, United States Attorney Christopher J. Christie.

In his letter to Mr. Mukasey, Mr. Conyers said that he was concerned about “the lack of real oversight and transparency” in the selection of monitors and that many of the monitoring contracts “have been completely shielded from review by either the legislative or judicial branches of the government.”

Mr. Leahy asked Mr. Mukasey for “a list of all contracts, including dollar amounts, awarded since 2001 to outside lawyers retained by companies for monitoring compliance” and to “explain the procedure followed to select the person or firm.”

And in other completely unrelated news (wink, wink), Shrubby is off kissing and fondling his oil buddies over in the gulf.

13 January 2008

Mike McConnell on waterboarding

The U.S. intelligence chief says waterboarding "would be torture" if used against him or if someone under interrogation actually was taking water into his lungs. It would also be torture if it were used against Karlo here at Swerve Left. When CIA leaders and Republican front runners (McCain) are able to look at the myriad shadows dancing before the fire of the cave and see things as I do, the facts must be pretty cold and hard. It's a sign of the times that we're "debating" whether drowning someone and then reviving them (while they're strapped to a board) is torture.

In related news, the D.C. Court of Appeals today upheld the dismissal of a lawsuit for damages filed by four Britons who had been detained at Guantanamo. Shafiq Rasul, Asif Iqbal, Rhuhel Ahmed and Jamal Al-Harith had sued Donald Rumsfeld and other top military officers for ordering torture and religious abuse during the two years they spent at Guantanamo before being sent back to Britain. In its decision, the trial court dismissed all of the claims except the one over religious discrimination. The appeals court dismissed that as well. The judges said that torture was a "foreseeable consequence" of military detention and that the men were not "persons" under U.S. law (p. 37). (Shouldn't they get to be at least three-fifths of a person?) The decision also makes much of the fact that the detainees were outside of U.S. borders. I guess they need to address their claims to the Cuban government.

It's pretty hard to for non-humans detained in a non-country to seek redress, especially when "the contours" of the constitutional right were not "sufficiently clear" at the time.

Filipino Monkey

Could it be that we're marching off to war because of a heckler called Filipino Monkey? At any rate, the official version of events is highly suspicious.

11 January 2008

Mittstock

Zencomix has a good series of funnies on the "Mittstock Muzak and Walmart Festival" (dealing with the Iowa primary).

Thanks for pointing these out Katharine!

9 January 2008

In defense of Old Speak

As George Lakoff points out, the religious right's success at Orwellian contortions of language have had a disastrous effect on Americans' ability to rationally discuss issues. Self-nominated pundits describe Hillary as a communist and Iran as the equivalent of the Nazis to a simpleton audience that couldn't describe the basic history and ideas of communism, fascism, anarchism (or for that matter, capitalism) if their lives depended on it--the same sort of crowd that believes the Grand Canyon was carved out during a week of intense flooding.

Octogenarian has an excellent discussion of some of these linguistic contortions:

[Excerpt] Take "socialized medicine," for example. As I understand what "socialized medicine" really is-- as actually practiced in some foreign countries--doctors are employed directly by the government and citizens cannot choose a doctor or hospital for their medical care.

None of the medical insurance plans proposed by the Democratic Presidential candidates contain such provisions. As I've studied their proposals, the plans would essentially extend the current Medicare system, which now limits coverage to the aged and the disabled, to any citizen willing to pay for the insurance.

Since I became eligible for Medicare in 1989, I have always selected my own doctors and hospitals and have never been forced by the government to seek treatment from a specific physician. For me and millions of other senior citizens, Medicare has been a blessing.

As a World War II veteran, I have on rare occasions used the services of the Veterans Administration. I have received hearing aids, which were available free to qualified veterans. I also occasionally buy prescription drugs from the VA at relatively low cost.

Some critics might describe the VA medical system as "socialized medicine." But it covers only those veterans who want to use it. Some veterans may complain about by the quality and availability of VA services. I am unaware, however, of any ideological complaints about socialized medicine, particularly from veterans too young to qualify for Medicare.

The opposition to extending Medicare coverage to all citizens, as proposed by the Democrats, comes largely from some elements of the medical establishment and from insurance and pharmaceutical industries concerned about the potential impact on profits. Allied with them are social reactionaries who want to reduce the role of government in American private lives.

8 January 2008

Around the internets

The low buzzing hum of a thousand keyboards tapping....

Beggars Can Be Choosers points out the real lesson of the Obama surge--Americans are (STILL!) sick of Shrub's War.

It's Morning Somewhere gives us a sneak peek at the Deluxe Animal Warmer X5000.

The Needs of the Few continues to protest against Shrub's War and nationwide bans on transvestite Panda pornography by refusing to post on his blog. (At least this is my reading of the strange enigmatic silence.)

And for further tales of the bizarre, check out this story of international intrigue.

And last but not least, I found this very poignant cartoon over at Seeking a Little Truth.

7 January 2008

What are these people tonkin about?

For some reason, this sounds terribly familiar. Hopefully, our current cast of political leaders can come up with something a bit more creative.

McGovern calls for impeachment.

McGovern has put forth an excellent argument for impeaching Bush and Cheney. I don't think it's enough to let their terms expire. The U.S. really needs to reflect clearly (and publicly) on the crimes of this administration and then needs to methodically undue the damage.

4 January 2008

The 5% jobless rate

If history is any guide, the U.S. economy is either already in or on the verge of a recession.