Saturday, September 24, 2005

will this never end?

Now that Hurricane Rita's weakening over Louisiana and Arkansas and everyone's beginning to take stock of the damage (fortunately not nearly as bad as it could've been had Rita stayed a Category 5 storm), the NWS is already getting worried about TWO more potential cyclone-developing areas in the Atlantic.

Are "Stan" and "Tammy" gestating while everyone watches Texas? If the past few months are any indication, the northern one will visit Florida and the Gulf while the southern one will sail off into the Atlantic harmlessly.

With two more months of hurricane season left, how many more of these will we see?? I'm betting we see "Tropical Storm Delta" before we're finally done... in other words, at least four storms beyond the end of the year's list of names.


Tuesday, September 13, 2005

new nuclear weapons doctrine...

... includes preemptive use against nations or groups threatening attacks.... or just possessing biological, chemical or nuclear weapons. I haven't read it in detail yet, but this seems like a HUGE step in the wrong direction. What jumped out at me from a quick scan was the repeated reference to the fact that using nukes isn't technically illegal under international law -- blatant self-serving justification if I've ever heard it.

Obviously, this administration doesn't care that some things that are legal simply should not be done. But we all know that by now.

Anyway, read the document if you have time; I'll do so sometime soon and post on it in more detail.

Until then, here's the Washington Post article about it, with my emphasis and comments:

Strategy Includes Preemptive Use Against Banned Weapons
By Walter Pincus
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, September 11, 2005; A01

The Pentagon has drafted a revised doctrine for the use of nuclear weapons that envisions commanders requesting presidential approval to use them to preempt an attack by a nation or a terrorist group using weapons of mass destruction. The draft also includes the option of using nuclear arms to destroy known enemy stockpiles of nuclear, biological or chemical weapons.

Apparently, it doesn't matter that these weapons aren't USED, may have been there for years, and may even have been given to said nation BY US.

The document, written by the Pentagon's Joint Chiefs staff but not yet finally approved by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, would update rules and procedures governing use of nuclear weapons to reflect a preemption strategy first announced by the Bush White House in December 2002. The strategy was outlined in more detail at the time in classified national security directives.

At a White House briefing that year, a spokesman said the United States would "respond with overwhelming force" to the use of weapons of mass destruction against the United States, its forces or allies, and said "all options" would be available to the president.

That's NOT what this says. It says we'll INITIATE nuclear war if President Caligula determines nation X has WMDs, even if they aren't attacking anyone. Couldn't possibly be aimed at IRAN, could it?!?

The draft, dated March 15, would provide authoritative guidance for commanders to request presidential approval for using nuclear weapons, and represents the Pentagon's first attempt to revise procedures to reflect the Bush preemption doctrine. A previous version, completed in 1995 during the Clinton administration, contains no mention of using nuclear weapons preemptively or specifically against threats from weapons of mass destruction.

Titled "Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations" and written under the direction of Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the draft document is unclassified and available on a Pentagon Web site. It is expected to be signed within a few weeks by Air Force Lt. Gen. Norton A. Schwartz, director of the Joint Staff, according to Navy Cmdr. Dawn Cutler, a public affairs officer in Myers's office.

Meanwhile, the draft is going through final coordination with the military services, the combatant commanders, Pentagon legal authorities and Rumsfeld's office, Cutler said in a written statement.

A "summary of changes" included in the draft identifies differences from the 1995 doctrine, and says the new document "revises the discussion of nuclear weapons use across the range of military operations."

The first example for potential nuclear weapon use listed in the draft is against an enemy that is using "or intending to use WMD" against U.S. or allied, multinational military forces or civilian populations.

How do they determine INTENT? By this doctrine, we should immediately nuke about half a dozen countries who have promised to used WMDs if attacked under various circumstances. And if directed at non-national groups, how do we distinguish between them and the innocent populations they live within? Wouldn't using nukes against such groups violate this concept itself?

Another scenario for a possible nuclear preemptive strike is in case of an "imminent attack from adversary biological weapons that only effects from nuclear weapons can safely destroy."

That and other provisions in the document appear to refer to nuclear initiatives proposed by the administration that Congress has thus far declined to fully support.
Last year, for example, Congress refused to fund research toward development of nuclear weapons that could destroy biological or chemical weapons materials without dispersing them into the atmosphere.

No surprise there. This admin couldn't care less what Congress wants.

The draft document also envisions the use of atomic weapons for "attacks on adversary installations including WMD, deep, hardened bunkers containing chemical or biological weapons."

But Congress last year halted funding of a study to determine the viability of the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator warhead (RNEP) -- commonly called the bunker buster -- that the Pentagon has said is needed to attack hardened, deeply buried weapons sites.

I think I've already posted links showing how RNEPs don't work as they claim. The Bushites don't care how effective it is; it just has to make some of them millions and/or further their armageddon-fueled religious delusions.

The Joint Staff draft doctrine explains that despite the end of the Cold War, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction "raises the danger of nuclear weapons use." It says that there are "about thirty nations with WMD programs" along with "nonstate actors [terrorists] either independently or as sponsored by an adversarial state."

To meet that situation, the document says that "responsible security planning requires preparation for threats that are possible, though perhaps unlikely today."

That's true... but promoting more US policy reliance on nukes is not responsible and doesn't promote security. It promotes destabilization, by ENCOURAGING more nations to seek nukes. That's what's a big factor driving the Iranians -- they're afraid of US. I don't want my country feared; I want it respected, but Bush is incapable of comprehending the difference between those. (Drunks usually are.)

To deter the use of weapons of mass destruction against the United States, the Pentagon paper says preparations must be made to use nuclear weapons and show determination to use them "if necessary to prevent or retaliate against WMD use."

Hmmm... prevent WMD use by USING the world's worst WMDs. Why didn't I think of that?!?

The draft says that to deter a potential adversary from using such weapons, that adversary's leadership must "believe the United States has both the ability and will to pre-empt or retaliate promptly with responses that are credible and effective." The draft also notes that U.S. policy in the past has "repeatedly rejected calls for adoption of 'no first use' policy of nuclear weapons since this policy could undermine deterrence."

Technically true. We adopted a "no first STRIKE" policy, saying we wouldn't launch ICBMs first. But the distinction means shit if our use of tactical weapons causes someone else to launch ICBMs and/or causes the same kind of destruction and death using ICBM warheads does. Any nuke weapons use is likely to make Chernobyl, Hiroshima, and Katrina look like games.

Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-Calif.), a member of the House Armed Services Committee who has been a leading opponent of the bunker-buster program, said yesterday the draft was "apparently a follow-through on their nuclear posture review and they seem to bypass the idea that Congress had doubts about the program." She added that members "certainly don't want the administration to move forward with a [nuclear] preemption policy" without hearings, closed door if necessary.

This issue is way too important to the world for such hearings to be closed-door. Secrecy is what has gotten us into this mess.

A spokesman for Sen. John W. Warner (R-Va.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said yesterday the panel has not yet received a copy of the draft.

Hans M. Kristensen, a consultant to the Natural Resources Defense Council, who discovered the document on the Pentagon Web site, said yesterday that it "emphasizes the need for a robust nuclear arsenal ready to strike on short notice including new missions." Kristensen, who has specialized for more than a decade in nuclear weapons research, said a final version of the doctrine was due in August but has not yet appeared.

"This doctrine does not deliver on the Bush administration pledge of a reduced role for nuclear weapons," Kristensen said. "It provides justification for contentious concepts not proven and implies the need for RNEP."

One reason for the delay may be concern about raising publicly the possibility of preemptive use of nuclear weapons, or concern that it might interfere with attempts to persuade Congress to finance the bunker buster and other specialized nuclear weapons.

If that's their thinking, they're right, it will. (I hope!) But I suspect they're trying to give themselves time to come up with something convincing and/or something that will distract the public from this issue. Release now might do that, with Katrina on everyone's mind.

In April, Rumsfeld appeared before the Senate Armed Services panel and asked for the bunker buster study to be funded. He said the money was for research and not to begin production on any particular warhead. "The only thing we have is very large, very dirty, big nuclear weapons," Rumsfeld said. "It seems to me studying it [the RNEP] makes all the sense in the world."

Sure it makes sense to him. Bizarre things always make sense to delusional people.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company

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Monday, September 12, 2005

Oil Crisis 2005: A Timeline

As many observant people worldwide have known for some time, we have been skating on very thin ice for a long time due to our addiction to petroleum. Starting August 28, 2005, that ice began to crack for real, thanks to Hurricane Katrina, which peaked as a Category 5 storm packing 175 mph winds and pummeled the US Gulf Coast only slightly weaker. En route to and on land, it ravaged the eastern half of a region that supplies & processes 25% of the US's oil and around 12% of our natural gas.

If that seems redundant with other recent posts, it's intended to be. I'm postdating this blog entry to 1/1/06 purposely, because I intend it to serve as a chart of gas prices, relevant events, predictions and commentary sparked by Katrina, which could become a major turning point in US history.

What happens from here forward depends as much on humans as on the weather. The National Weather Service is predicting 3-5 more major (Cat. 3+) hurricanes this year, and that fact defines the key weather parameters we're probably facing. As I see it today (9/1/05), the best case scenario is this: The NWS is wrong, and there are no more hurricanes, or all of those that form follow the path of Hurricane Irene to a harmless death in the Atlantic. The worst case scenario is that NWS is right, and one of those major storms is Katrina's twin, only this one heads west to plaster the Houston area, shutting down that major oil port. In Mexico, a similar effect would happen if the Tampico area gets hit.

For the sake of simplicity and clarity, these parameters don't address hurricanes that pummel non-oil regions, no matter how strong they are. Yes, such storms will add to the oil crisis burden indirectly and may cause major suffering on the Atlantic coast, in the Caribbean, or elsewhere; they'll certainly be noted in the timeline. But for the most part, the timeline will have capsule summaries of two things: social & political events here and abroad related to the US's quest for her next oil fix, and how the crisis is affecting me and the people I know. I'll try to update the gas prices at least every few days, but will only include key events.

In the comments, I would really appreciate you periodically jotting down your reflections on the situation wherever you are. That's especially true if you're not in the US. What America does could easily help or hurt people worldwide, but we Americans have a notorious tendency to ignore those effects when we're in crisis...



8/29/05......$2.47-$2.54..........Katrina comes ashore in very early AM
8/30/05......$2.93-$2.99..........First talk of possible shortages
9/1/05.......$3.00-$3.47 (mostly ~$3.20)
9/2/02.......$3.09-$3.39..........60M barrels released from SPR, European sources
9/3/05.......$3.18-$3.43 (mostly ~$3.20)
9/13/05......$2.96-$3.39 ........ Prices falling. Good sign, but for how long?

Because prices have been stable and/or falling lately, I think I'll take this off the top of the pile. But I might bring it back if things start getting bad again...

9/24/05.....$2.75-$3.09....... Hurricane Rita hits East Texas, running through the western half of the Gulf's oil/natural gas fields. MSM predicting $5 gas by next week. Maybe time to start following this again...

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Sunday, September 04, 2005

photo ops while cities suffer

Have you seen this commentary from LA Sen. Mary Landreiu:

“I understand that the U.S. Forest Service had water-tanker aircraft available to help douse the fires raging on our riverfront, but FEMA has yet to accept the aid. When Amtrak offered trains to evacuate significant numbers of victims – far more efficiently than buses – FEMA again dragged its feet. Offers of medicine, communications equipment and other desperately needed items continue to flow in, only to be ignored by the agency.

“But perhaps the greatest disappointment stands at the breached 17th Street levee. Touring this critical site yesterday with the President, I saw what I believed to be a real and significant effort to get a handle on a major cause of this catastrophe. Flying over this critical spot again this morning, less than 24 hours later, it became apparent that yesterday we witnessed a hastily prepared stage set for a Presidential photo opportunity; and the desperately needed resources we saw were this morning reduced to a single, lonely piece of equipment. The good and decent people of southeast Louisiana and the Gulf Coast – black and white, rich and poor, young and old – deserve far better from their national government.

Or this, in Biloxi, as reported by German TV ZDF (copied from The Carpetbagger Report; a slightly different translation is at DailyKos):

On the ZDF web site, see

video is here

text is here

The relevent paragraphs are labeled
"Räumarbeiten nur für Bush?" My (non-expert)
translation follows.

Wo der US-Präsident das Katastrophengebiet besuchte, räumten Hilfstrupps vorher ordentlich auf - aber nur dort. Aus Biloxi zitierte ZDF-Korrespondentin Claudia Rüggeberg verzweifelte Einwohner, Bush solle in seinen Limousinen statt lauter Bodyguards und Assistenten lieber Hilfsgüter herbeischaffen.
Entlang seiner Route hätte Räumtrupps vor Bushs Besuch Schutt weggeräumt und Leichen geborgen. Dann sei Bush wieder abgereist "und mit ihm", so Rüggeberg, "die ganzen Hilfstrupps". An der Lage in Biloxi habe sich sonst nichts verändert, es fehle an allem.

Whevever the US President Bush in the catastrophie
area visited, helpers cleaned up beforhand, but
only there. In Biloxi, ZDF correspondent
Claudia Rüggeberg quoted demoralized residents
who said that Bush should bring food and water
in his limosine instead of bodyguards and

All along his route, before his visit,
debri was cleared and bodies removed. Then
Bush travelled on and with him, according to
Rüggeberg, the entire troup of helpers.
As for the situation in Biloxi, otherwise
nothing changed, everthing is lacking.

I don't know German, but my stepmother IS German, so I'm going to send this text to her for translation. If it's very different, I'll post it here.

Fucking incredible. Bush and his stage managers piss me off so much I don't even have words for it. Both of these events are crass frat-boy selfishness on Bush's part, but SO typical of his entire admin. Make it look like things are getting done, but when the cameras shut down, go back to playing games and leave the suffering to the everyday people he abuses. How come there are prison terms for spousal abuse and child abuse and animal abuse but not nation abuse?

When the people in danger are once again in a position resembling stability and safety, We the People need to do some homeowrk and find criminal charges to throw at Bush and company. One that seems plausible is negligent homicide, defined generally as "Unintentional killing(s) in which the actor(s) should have known they were creating substantial and unjustified risks of death by conduct that grossly deviated from ordinary care." Ordinary care in this case would've meant funding the levee reinforcements, ensuring the poor city folks had a practical form of transportation out of the city, ensuring the Guard and supplies got into the city without delay immediately afterward and other things. This horror, as I noted in a previous post, had been predicted in detail years ago, and those warnings were ignored.

What excuse does FEMA have for dilly-dallying? Other than its leader's ineptitude, I mean.

According to the N.O. Times-Picayune, LA is turning to a real FEMA administrator to clean up the mess, rather than some shmuck who got fired from tending horses:

Blanco Appoints Witt

Gov. Kathleen Blanco has appointed former FEMA Director James Lee Witt as a special adviser to help her manage the recovery and restoration efforts in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

Witt was FEMA director under former President Clinton, serving in that position from 1993-2001.


From Der Speigel's English version (the quote's from the cover story):

This isn't just any old city sinking into the water like some reincarnated Atlantis before the eyes of a horrified and still seemingly paralyzed America. It's one of America's legendary cities. It's New Orleans, "The Big Easy," the place Americans have always flocked to whenever they wanted to get a dose of sinful pleasure in the Deep South, a place whose seemingly well-functioning multiculturalism, whose largely harmonious blend of black, white and Latino has always been a beacon for the rest of the world.

I've always wanted to see that, but now doubt I will. We all hear talk of rebuilding N.O., but I'm not sure that makes much sense where it is. Maybe we should rebuild on the other side of Lake Pontchartrain, where the land's a lot more stable, and build a big canal from there to the Mississippi River for the boat traffic. Since the French Quarter was largely unflooded, maybe that area can be cleaned up and reinhabited as a town in its own right.

Given people's tendency to be rather superstitious about visiting places of terrible calamity, it will take a long time for N.O. to get back on its feet even if it is rebuilt, and that points to something that hasn't gotten much discussion yet. That city, and LA in general, benefited hugely from tourism. Was that included in the official pronouncements that Katrina wouldn't have a long-term economic effect on America? As usual, they're talking just about money (even if it is $100 BILLION and rising), not about the impossible to measure things that make up the culture of such a city as N.O and the other devastated areas. It's almost impossible to rebuild that, because it wasn't manufactured; it evolved over 200+ years.

Also, did they include the ripple effects on such things as food prices? Probably not.

NOTE: Biloxi & negiligent homicide material added Monday early AM. I had to convert Carpetbagger's original written-out links to hyperlinks to make them fit.

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Saturday, September 03, 2005

this was predicted... years ago

Before I vent a little steam, let me suggest an idea my girlfriend came up with to help the stranded people in N.O: Have the various cruise ship lines send their ships to the city to provide floating housing. It'd be a lot more comfortable than the Astrodome or any other refugee camp, and would also serve as a form of transportation for maybe 1,000 people per ship (far more than any bus!). Maybe they could then arrange to take the groups to various cities nationwide so that the cost of helping them doesn't all fall on one region.

I understand the Navy is sending a carrier there, and that would provide space for many more people than a cruise ship, but the Navy's noted for pretty spartan accomodations. Given how much these people have already suffered and the poverty many of them have been facing for years, it's long since time they got treated well for once.

OK, now for the rant:

Anyone who's awake is sad at the suffering in New Orleans and/or mad at the fact that this could have been prevented. Obviously, Katrina herself couldn't have been, but the fact that N.O. flooded could have.

The following comes from National Geographic, Oct. 2004 (yes, 2004):

Thousands drowned in the murky brew that was soon contaminated by sewage and industrial waste. Thousands more who survived the flood later perished from dehydration and disease as they waited to be rescued. It took two months to pump the city dry, and by then the Big Easy was buried under a blanket of putrid sediment, a million people were homeless, and 50,000 were dead. It was the worst natural disaster in the history of the United States.

When did this calamity happen? It hasn't—yet. But the doomsday scenario is not far-fetched. The Federal Emergency Management Agency lists a hurricane strike on New Orleans as one of the most dire threats to the nation, up there with a large earthquake in California or a terrorist attack on New York City. Even the Red Cross no longer opens hurricane shelters in the city, claiming the risk to its workers is too great.

"The killer for Louisiana is a Category Three storm at 72 hours before landfall that becomes a Category Four at 48 hours and a Category Five at 24 hours—coming from the worst direction," says Joe Suhayda, a retired coastal engineer at Louisiana State University who has spent 30 years studying the coast. Suhayda is sitting in a lakefront restaurant on an actual August afternoon sipping lemonade and talking about the chinks in the city's hurricane armor. "I don't think people realize how precarious we are,"
(Hurricane expert Joe) Suhayda says, watching sailboats glide by. "Our technology is great when it works. But when it fails, it's going to make things much worse."

Suhayda also comments in some depth in this PBS transcript from 2002.

Also, they had a "dry run" of this last year, with Hurricane Ivan, and apparently learned nothing...

Of course, Bush doesn't bother to read, especially anything that might have some semblance of science behind it. Instead, he told the world Tuesday he'd magnanimously cut his vacation short on FRIDAY, and when he did go to N.O., he flew OVER the city, but didn't bother to land in it. Any REAL leader would've gotten off his ass immediately and taken the next possible flight there. (Same's true of Dick(head) Cheney -- he apparently doesn't feel the loss of an American city by "merely" natural catastrophe is enough to even tell the country where he IS for six days. SO, wait... If BOTH Bush and Cheney are vacationing at the same time... who is running the show?!?

Oh, BTW, he apparently believes he can shut down food deliveries at will, :

Bush visit halts food delivery
By Michelle Krupa
Staff writer


Three tons of food ready for delivery by air to refugees in St. Bernard Parish and on Algiers Point sat on the Crescent City Connection bridge Friday afternoon as air traffic was halted because of President Bush’s visit to New Orleans, officials said.

The provisions, secured by U.S. Rep. Charlie Melancon, D-Napoleonville, and state Agriculture Commissioner Bob Odom, baked in the afternoon sun as Bush surveyed damage across southeast Louisiana five days after Katrina made landfall as a Category 4 storm, said Melancon’s chief of staff, Casey O’Shea.

“We had arrangements to airlift food by helicopter to these folks, and now the food is sitting in trucks because they won’t let helicopters fly,” O’Shea said Friday afternoon.

The food was expected to be in the hands of storm survivors after the president left the devastated region Friday night, he said.

The more this goes on, the more convinced I am that Bush and others who took funds from the Army Corps of Engineers' plans to strengthen the levees should be prosecuted for the deaths the flooding and chaos have caused -- many counts of negligent homicide, at least. Politically speaking, Bush is a kind of father figure, and his treatment of the American people can be considered neglect, at best. Any real father who was warned that his children were in a situation that would harm them but did nothing about it would be prosecuted, and so should Bush & Cheney.

Oh, and if THAT's not enough to be pissed about, the Houston Chronicle reported that Halliburton is making money off the disaster by cleaing up the region's Navy facilities.


OK. Enough venting for now.

If you haven't already visited them, here are a couple of good sites on the unfolding crisis in The Big (Un)easy:

The Tattered Coat
The Interdictor
Broken Windows
Larry King interview re: Red Cross not being allowed into N.O.

And a list of major places to donate here. but if you go here, PLEASE ignore "Operation Blessing." That's terrorist preacher Pat Robertson's outfit, and if that's not enough reason to avoid it, see this.

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Thursday, September 01, 2005

NeoCon arrogance...

In response to Alternet's article A Declaration of War, about the Bush/Bolton assault on the UN, a Canadian calling himself "JohnnyM" posted the following:

I fear this is the beginning of the end. WWIII is just around the corner, started by your arrogrance(sic), but declared by us out of necessity. My government may side with Washington, but us citizens will not.

Bring it on NeoCon...

That's something that I've thought could happen for some time. Eventually, the rest of the world will feel it has no choice (and may indeed not) but to combine militarily to oppose the US's aggressive attitudes and contempt for international cooperation and law.

Such a war would probably be an unmitigated disaster for most people, but could result in the citizens of many countries realizing what many already know: That everyday people have far more in common with each other regardless of nationality than we have with those who are power-obsessed and/or ultra-wealthy. Given the global issues we need to deal with and the potentially destructive technology we have, isn't it long overdue time for us to think of ourselves as human beings and Earthlings first, and Americans or any other nationality second?

Obviously, I'd like to see us do this without war, but I'm afraid some people have a too selfish, delusional view of their own importance to let that happen, because it would prove something they've been hiding from themselves for a long time: the fact that they and their worldview are unnecessary impediments to most of humanity.