Thursday, May 31, 2007

Henry Kissinger: Still Delusional After All These Years

Just when you thought that he was beyond all relevance to current events, Henry Kissinger rears his head by way of an LA Times op ed piece, and completely confirms it. Well, mostly.

His thinking is that the resolution of the Iraqi war can best be understood by examining events that brought about the end of the Viet Nam war. And it is his theory that those opposing the Viet Nam war had a large role in bringing about an unsatisfactory closure.


Of course, history never repeats itself exactly. Vietnam and Iraq are different conflicts in different times, but there is an important similarity: A point was reached during the Vietnam War when the domestic debate became so bitter as to preclude rational discussion of hard choices. Administrations of both political parties perceived the survival of South Vietnam as a significant national interest. They were opposed by a protest movement that coalesced behind the conviction that the war reflected an amorality that had to be purged by confrontational methods. This impasse doomed the U.S. effort in Vietnam; it must not be repeated over Iraq.

Yes, until the anti war movement first arose in the 1960s and gained the public's attention things were going so very well. It was largely do to those damned hippies that it all turned out so badly.

It must begin with dispelling the myth that the Nixon administration settled in 1972 for terms that had been available in 1969 and therefore prolonged the war needlessly. Whether the agreement, officially signed in January 1973, could have preserved an independent South Vietnam and avoided the carnage following the fall of Indochina will never be known. We do know that American disunity prevented such an outcome when Congress prohibited the use of military force to maintain the agreement and cut off aid after all U.S. military forces (except a few hundred advisors) had left South Vietnam. American dissociation triggered a massive North Vietnamese invasion, in blatant violation of existing agreements, to which the nations that had endorsed these agreements turned their backs.

See, Henry, it's always been my understanding that the government serves the wishes of the people, and not the other way around. But while we're rewriting history, why stop there?

With respect to President Nixon's alleged desired terms for ending the Viet Nam war:

American disunity was a major element in dashing these hopes. Watergate fatally weakened the Nixon administration through its own mistakes, and the 1974 midterm congressional elections brought to power the most unforgiving of Nixon's opponents, who cut off aid so the agreement couldn't work as planned. The imperatives of domestic debate took precedence over geopolitical necessities.

So the preferred way is just STFU, and unify. Because to do otherwise would frustrate the grand design of our fearless leader and his fellow neocons. (and possibly impact upon corporate cash flow!)

Two lessons emerge from this account. A strategic design cannot be achieved on a fixed, arbitrary deadline; it must reflect conditions on the ground.
But it also must not test the endurance of the American public to a point where the outcome can no longer be sustained by our political process. In Iraq, rapid, unilateral withdrawal would be disastrous. At the same time, a political solution remains imperative.

So things in Iraq could actually be worse?

But finally Henry actually has some good advice.

...President Bush owes it to his successor to make as much progress toward this goal as possible; not to hand the problem over but to reduce it to more manageable proportions. What we need most is a rebuilding of bipartisanship in both this presidency and in the next.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

2 Years Old!!!

SLB is 2 years old today!!! Thanks for visiting and showing your continuing support, either by your greatly appreciated comments or just stopping by every so often.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Saturday Painting Palooza Vol.94

Welcome back.

This week we'll be continuing with our 5x7 painting of the new Gehry building in New York City. It is seen in the photo directly below.

When last we were together, the painting appeared as it does in the photo directly below.

Since that time, I have continued working on the painting. I have painted the outlines of the various segments that will help define the edges of the building as the painting progresses. I've used a diluted version of the blue to cover the sky and foreground. Yes, this blue (or a derivative thereof) will likely be a dominant color in this piece.

The current state of the painting is seen in the photo directly below.

That's about it for now. See you next week.

Bush: It's going to get worse

Speaking on Thursday in the White House Rose Garden, President Bush was apparently preparing an already skeptical audience for things yet to come. He indicated that things in Iraq will likely get far worse, before (if) they get better.  Left unsaid was his precise definition of the term better, but one would assume that coporate profits must figure in there somewhere.  

NYT link

"We're going to expect heavy fighting in the weeks and months. We can expect more American and Iraqi casualties." He added, "It could be a bloody -- it could be a very difficult August."

Would that be a difficult August for Mr.Bush or for our armed forces?  In the current administration one can never be precisely sure.

And the strategy apparently continues to be peace through war, taken up a notch or two.

In this case, he said that while the troop increase might mean more casualties in the short run, it would ultimately lead to a more stable Baghdad.  "Our new strategy is designed to help Iraq's leaders provide security for their people and get control of their capital, so they can move forward with reconciliation and reconstruction," Mr. Bush said. "As these reinforcements carry out their missions, the enemies of a free Iraq -- including Al Qaeda and illegal militias -- will continue to bomb and murder in an attempt to stop us."

If there is anyone left to govern, that is.

Referring to recommendations of the Iraq Study Group:

"The recommendations of Baker-Hamilton appeal to me," Mr. Bush said, referring to the study group's co-chairmen, James A. Baker III and Lee H. Hamilton. "And that is to be embedded and to train and to guard the territorial integrity of the country, and to have Special Forces to chase down Al Qaeda."

One can only wonder if Mr.Bush has actually read these recommendations, but having a special force dedicated to chasing down Al Qaeda was likely not amongst them.

He did offer advice to the next inhabitant of the oval office.

"They are a threat to your children," Mr. Bush said of Al Qaeda. "Whoever is in the Oval Office better understand it, and take measures necessary to protect the American people."

My 8 year old takes note.

But a certain winged critic had the last say.

And not even the sight of a bird relieving itself upon the president's arm during the news briefing, and his wiping the residue away, could dampen spirits. "It's our lucky day," said Dana Perino, a deputy White House press secretary.

Yeah, lucky, that's the word.


Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Bush Appointee Sez "It's all about me, me, me!!!

Julie MacDonald, former Interior Department deputy assistant secretary for fish, wildlife and parks, resigned earlier this month after the release of the Inspector General's report.  The report stated that she leaked internal agency documents to lobbyists, attempted to manipulate agency scientists and changed scientific recommendations regarding endangered species.

Now, in a theme repeated often under the current administration, it seems she not only acted to benefit industry, but also acted to benefit her own interests.  Ms.MacDonald owns some 80 acres in an area deemed habitat for threatened fish.  Her efforts to remove the fish from the threatened species list have now given rise to a Congressional inquiry.  

ENS link

WASHINGTON, DC, May 21, 2007 (ENS) - Two senior House Democrats launched an inquiry today into reports that a Bush political appointee may have improperly removed a California fish from a list of threatened species in order to protect her own financial interests.

Julie MacDonald, who resigned this month as Interior Department deputy assistant secretary for fish, wildlife and parks, was actively involved in removing the Sacramento splittail fish from the federal threatened and endangered species list at the same time that she was profiting from her ownership of a farm that lies within the habitat area of the threatened fish, according to an investigative report published Sunday by the "Contra Costa Times" newspaper.

Her income from the said property?  Considerable.

MacDonald's financial disclosure statement shows that she earns as much as $1 million per year from her ownership of the 80 acre active farm in Dixon, California.

Good reason to seek her former appointment.  Why work from outside the system when such means are available?

Representative George Miller of California:

"It looks like another Bush administration official was protecting her own bottom line instead of protecting the public interest," said Miller, a senior member and former chairman of the Natural Resources Committee and a long-time proponent of the Endangered Species Act and Bay-Delta fish and wildlife issues.

They all seem to play from the same script.  

Saturday, May 19, 2007

BooMan Tribune: Almost Unrecognizable

It is with great sadness that I write this post, usually left to more appropriate locales such as mobettameta. BMT is almost unrecognizable. It had been a place to comment/debate upon current events and chat in the cafe. But so many old names are gone (though a few have snuck back in) and the cafe is almost completely dead. I still go there but find that the many new names are interested in a different atmosphere.

Yes, I have been around long enough to know the evolution of BMT, the how/why of its current state. But there has been a recent influx of new individuals, or what appears to be new individuals. Many have a very narrow range of interests, only showing up for specific (one issue) issues. I have also found that the narrow range of interests includes a narrow range of openmindedness. To be blunt, narrow-minded is, perhaps, being kind. Meanwhile, in a striking irony, my openmindedness to various viewpoints has left me open to being likened to an operative for another large well known blog, otherwise known as big orange. If I ran in those circles, I wouldn't need to post at a very lonely blogspot blog which few, if any, will ever read. This post is therapy more than anything else.

If you happen to pass by and read this, thank you. Leave a comment if you wish. If you are BooMan, please take this in the spirit that it is meant.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Saturday Painting Palooza Vol.93

Welcome back.

This week we'll be starting an entirely new project. For this cycle, we'll be taking something of a diversion. From our Phoenix, Arizona used car lot, we'll be travelling to New York City, about 40 miles or so south of my own home.

Skyscrapers now sprout around the globe, with increasingly tall structures taking shape in a number of Asian countries. But once upon a time, New York City was the undisputed king of such buildings. Yes, Chicago, San Francisco and other American cities have their own notable buildings. But none are like the NYC skyscrapers of the twentieth century, especially the first half. That earlier era gave rise to many notable buildings, most prominently (to my mind), the Chrysler Building, an art deco masterpiece. (Forget about the competing Empire State Building, which pales by comparison. Sorry, ESB fans.)

New Yorks's latest building of note is the first in the city by noted architect, Frank Gehry. While the building has received something less than universal acclaim, it is an attractive and interesting addition to the city's skyline. And it will be the next subject of this diary series.

The photo that I will be using is from my original copy of the New York Times, seen directly below.

I'm sketching the initial lines in pencil because of the very small size of the canvas being used this time around, 5x7 inches. Those very first lines are seen in the photo directly below.

Next week, we'll start with some paint.

That's about it for now, see you next week.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Bushco Postpones Poop For Next POTUS

During the dwindling time remaining in the current administration, it has become unstated official policy that many unresolved issues will become the obligations of coming presidents.  Included amongst these gifts are water pollution rules regarding factory farms, those enteprises housing thousands of animals.  ALso known as concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), it is rules regarding their animal wastes that is the subject of the delaying tactic.

ENS link

MANURE PILES LEFT FOR NEXT ADMINISTRATION -- EPA Defers Factory Farm Water Pollution Rules until February 2009

Washington, DC -- The Bush administration has pushed deadlines for new court-ordered water pollution rules back from this July to February 2009. This action evidences an emerging trend in the waning months of the Bush second term of putting off addressing knotty environmental problems until the next administration takes office, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).

On May 4, 2007, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced that new rules to tighten water quality standards for factory farms, otherwise known as concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), would be delayed from July 31, 2007 until February 27, 2009, approximately one month after the next U.S. President is sworn in. This is the second postponement of the "compliance date" for this new rule. Last year, EPA extended the original April 13, 2006 deadline to July 31, 2007.

Making it someone else's problem might be a good thing if recent environmental activity is any indication of how this would go.  Unfortunately, the rules have been delayed by a period of years already, long past the time when this should have been a done deal.  But nothing is too much for industry.

Meanwhile, back on the ranch:

"What a lovely parting gift for the next administration," exclaimed PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, noting that EPA staff members working on the proposed new rules are unaware of any new complications that would have justified further delays. "Manure control is hard work but it is not rocket science."

The EPA statement is here.


Tuesday, May 15, 2007

DOE Mishandling Radioactive Waste?

Is the DOE now sending radioactive waste to ordinary landfills? Maybe so.

ENS link

TAKOMA PARK, Maryland, May 14, 2007 (ENS) - Radioactive materials from nuclear weapons facilities are being released to regular landfills and could get into commercial recycling streams, finds a report issued today by the nonprofit Nuclear Information and Resource Service, NIRS. Radioactive scrap, concrete, equipment, asphalt, plastic, wood, chemicals, and soil are placed in ordinary landfills, researchers learned.

Contaminated by nuclear bomb production at Department of Energy, DOE, facilities, some of the radioactive waste is processed by state-licensed companies. In some cases it is "redefined" as "special" and then disposed of in regular landfills.

There is much, much more at the link. It would be difficult to understate the significance of this report. Go read the entire piece.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Saturday Painting Palooza Vol.92

Welcome back.

This week we'll be continuing (and completing) with our painting of the used car lot, featuring a 1959 Volvo. The photo which I am using is seen directly below. (The painting is 9x12.)

When last seen here, the painting appeared as it does directly below.

Since that time I have continued working on the painting. I've added faint mountains to the distant background, a change that is hopefully visible. They complete this painting. I am rather pleased with it. And that's it for this cycle.

Below is the entire series, the last photo of which is the current and final state of the painting. (Dial-up users, don't hate me, I too use it.)

That's it for this cycle. Next week, an entirely new project. See you then.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Bushco and Species Extinction

ENS link

According to a report released today by the Center for Biological Diversity, the Bush administration has listed fewer species under the Endangered Species Act than any other administration since the law was enacted in 1973.

The Center for Biological Diversity has recently completed an extensive report. It is here, in pdf format.

The Bush administration is systematically undermining the recovery of mammals, birds, fish, amphibians, reptiles, invertebrates and plants," said William Snape, senior counsel with the Center for Biological Diversity. "Not only is it refusing to list species in need of protection, it is also ignoring or undercutting recovery plans at the request of its political supporters in industry."

From the CBD report:

Designation of critical habitat provides important protection for endangered wildlife by demarking habitats necessary for their survival and recovery. The Bush administration has been forced to designate critical habitat for large numbers of species by court order. In nearly every case, the administration has overruled its own biologists and ignored the comments of peer reviewers and the public to reduce the area covered by designated critical habitat.

More contrast:

The Bush administration has completed fewer recovery plans than any administration since the Carter administration, to date only completing 100 plans compared to 577 plans completed under the Clinton administration and 174 under the first Bush administration.

And finally:

The consequences of delayed protection are severe, allowing species to decline, making recovery more costly and difficult, and in a number of cases resulting in species extinction. Indeed, at least 25 species have become extinct after being recognized as a candidate species.2 One of these extinctions was announced as recently as October 2006, when the Fish and Wildlife Service concluded that there are “no extant wild individuals and there is no material in genetic storage” of the Hawaiian plant “Haha” (Cyanea eleeleensis) and thus that the species “appears to be extinct.”3

Go to the CBD link and read the whole thing.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

The Price of That Green Lawn

Here at Casa boran, we do the natural thing when it comes to lawncare. I've taken this route to avoid both being enveloped in a chemical cloud during the application process and having nasty compounds sitting in my child's play area. I mulch leaves into the lawn in the fall and do the same with clippings during the mowing season. (Yes, the lazy approach.)
Inorganic fertilizers contain nitrates, at least some of which gets into the groundwater.  

University of Minnesota Extension

Inorganic fertilizers such as ammonium nitrate and ammonium sulfate are all water-soluble or quick-release N sources. ...

Once beyond the rootzone, nitrates can continue moving through the soil and may find their way into groundwater sources. ...

New research has now shown a relationship between use of fertilizers and pesticides and premature births/birth defects.

ENS link

INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana, May 7, 2007 (ENS) - The rising premature birth rate in the United States is associated with increased use of pesticides and fertilizers containing nitrates, according to research by a professor of clinical pediatrics at the Indiana University School of Medicine. ...

Winchester and his colleagues found that preterm birth rates peaked when pesticides and nitrates measurements in surface water were highest, from April through July, and were lowest when nitrates and pesticides were lowest, in August and September.

The highest rate of prematurity, 11.91 percent, occurred in May and June and the lowest, 10.79 percent in August and September. These results were independent of maternal age, race, education, marital status, alcohol or cigarette use, or whether the mother was an urban, suburban or rural resident.

Nitrates can have several effects.

Nitrates and pesticides can disrupt endocrine hormones and nitric oxide pathways in the developing fetus," Winchester said. ...

In young infants, ingestion of nitrates, components of fertilizers that are often washed into surface water and groundwater, can reduce the blood's ability to carry oxygen.

THe lazy approach is looking better and better.  For those with greater needs, there are organic fertilizers now on the market.


Friday, May 04, 2007

Saturday Painting Palooza Vol.91

Welcome back.

This week we'll be continuing with our painting of the used car lot, featuring a 1959 Volvo. The photo which I am using is seen directly below. (The painting is 9x12.)

When last seen here, the painting appeared as it does directly below.

Since that time, I have continued working on the painting. I've redone the tent in shades that seem more appropriate. The front, directly facing the fading afternoon light, is a light pink shade. The side, away from the light, is done in a darker pink. I've attempted to account for the lighting in the roof as well. There is now a bit of an roof overhang on the side.

The coke machine to the rear now has a shadow, suggested by a kossack in last week's installment, painted in blue.

In the windshield of the Volvo is the number 59 to reflect the its vintage, 1959. It's a cheesy detail found in virtually every used car lot, of course.

The current state of the painting is seen in the photo directly below.

That's about it for now. Next week, the grand finale to this cycle. See you next week.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Rule of Law: Officially Dead

Apparently, every statute will now need further clarification to highlight the circumstances to which it will apply.  In a neener-neener moment, the Labor Department has determined that whistleblower statutes won't provide protection against retaliation for federal employees.  In de rigeur Bushco style, the determination is buried in a footnote to a March 30, 2007 ruling by the Labor Department.

PEER link

Washington, DC -- The Bush administration has declared itself immune from whistleblower protections for federal workers under the Clean Water Act, according to legal documents released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). As a result of an opinion issued by a unit within the Office of the Attorney General, federal workers will have little protection from official retaliation for reporting water pollution enforcement breakdowns, manipulations of science or cleanup failures.

Citing an "unpublished opinion of the [Attorney General's] Office of Legal Counsel," the Secretary of Labor's Administrative Review Board has ruled federal employees may no longer pursue whistleblower claims under the Clean Water Act. The opinion invoked the ancient doctrine of sovereign immunity which is based on the old English legal maxim that "The King Can Do No Wrong." It is an absolute defense to any legal action unless the "sovereign" consents to be sued.

The original upublished opinion can be found at the PEER link.

The offending footnote in its entirety is as follows.  (bold added)

PEER link

Footnote 1

The Clean Air Act, 42 U.S.C.A. § 7622(a) (CAA) (West 2003); the Safe Drinking Water Act, 42 U.S.C.A. § 300j-9(i)(1)(A) (SDWA) (West 2003); the Comprehensive

Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, 42 U.S.C.A. § 9610(a)(CERCLA) (West 2005); the Toxic Substances Control Act, 15 U.S.C.A. § 622(a)(TSCA) (West 1998); the Federal Water Pollution Prevention and Control Act, 33 U.S.C.A. § 1367(a)(FWPPCA) (West 2001); and the Solid Waste Disposal Act, 42 U.S.C.A. § 6971(a) (SWDA) (West 2001). Regulations implementing these statutes are found at 29 C.F.R. Part 24 (2006). The Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) assumed that all of the statutes applied. Recommended Decision and Order (R. D. & O.) at 52.

Though neither the parties nor the ALJ addressed the issue, federal agencies such as the EPA are immune from suit unless Congress unequivocally waives that immunity. We have recently decided that among these six environmental whistleblower statutes, Congress waived federal sovereign immunity only with respect to the employee protections of the SWDA and CAA. See Erickson v. U.S. Envtl. Prot .Agency, ARB Nos. 03-002 - 004, 03-064; ALJ Nos. 99-CAA-2, 01-CAA-8, 13, 02-CAA-3, 18, slip op. at 10-12 (ARB May 31, 2006). EPA has not argued against coverage under either of these statutes, nor has Lewis specifically argued for such coverage. Our decision would be the same regardless of which of the two statutes is assumed to apply. Therefore, for purposes of this decision we will assume coverage under the CAA.

PEER again:

"Federal workers who are working to clean up pollution should not be penalized for their pains," stated PEER Senior Counsel Paula Dinerstein, who is now litigating against the Labor Department's earlier ruling before the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Atlanta. "This bald assertion of immunity is both legally unsupported and the precise opposite of the direction in which we as a nation should be heading."

Of course, turning back the clock on protections has been an overriding Bush theme since day one.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Almost 2 Years

It's almost 2 years of SLB. (How did you ever get along without it?) Watch this space for details of our gala weeklong celebration terminating with a black tie event.

Advance ticket sales to begin shortly. For press inquiries, e-mail please.