Bush Still Confused About Why Intelligence Agencies Didn’t Predict a Terrorist Attack on the U.S.

Harriet Miers shows the day's PDB to President George W. Bush, Aug. 6, 2001

Last night George W. Bush was interviewed Peter Schnall on a National Geographic Channel special leading up to the 10th anniversary of 9/11. Bush said to Schnall:

“At some point in time in the immediate aftermath of the attacks, I thought about why didn’t we know this?” Bush recalled.

“I knew we needed to figure out what went wrong to prevent other attacks but I didn’t want start the finger pointing and say to our intelligence communities, ‘You fouled up. You should have caught this. Why didn’t you know?’”

On Aug. 6, 2001, President Bush received a presidential daily briefing entitled “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.” Here is the redacted text of the CIA briefing:

Clandestine, foreign government, and media reports indicate Bin Laden since 1997 has wanted to conduct terrorist attacks in the U.S. Bin Laden implied in U.S. television interviews in 1997 and 1998 that his followers would follow the example of World Trade Center bomber Ramzi Yousef and “bring the fighting to America.”:

After U.S. missile strikes on his base in Afghanistan in 1998, Bin Laden told followers he wanted to retaliate in Washington, according to a [deleted text] service.
An Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ) operative told [deleted text] service at the same time that Bin Laden was planning to exploit the operative success to the U.S. to mount a terrorist strike.

The millennium plotting in Canada in 1999 may have been part of Bin Laden’s first serious attempt to implement a terrorist strike in the U.S. Convicted plotter Ahmed Ressam has told the FBI that he conceived the idea to attack Los Angeles International Airport himself, but that BinLaden lieutenant Abu Zubaydah encouraged him and helped facilitate the operation. Ressam also said that in 1998 Abu Zubaydah was planning his own U.S. attack.

Ressam says Bin Laden was aware of the Los Angeles operation.

Although Bin Laden has not succeeded, his attacks against the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 demonstrate that he prepares operations years in advance and is not deterred by setbacks. Bin Laden associates surveilled our Embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam as early as 1993, and some members of the Nairobi cell planning the bombings were arrested and deported in 1997.

Al Qaeda members — including some who are U.S. citizens — have resided in and traveled to the U.S. for years, and the group apparently maintains a support structure that could aid attacks.

Two Al Qaeda members found guilty in the conspiracy to bomb our embassies in East Africa were U.S. citizens, and a senior EIJ member lived in California in the mid-1990s.

A clandestine source said in 1998 that a Bin Laden cell in New York was recruiting Muslim-American youth for attacks.

We have not been able to corroborate some of the more sensational threat reporting, such as that from a [deleted text] service in 1998 saying that Bin Laden wanted to hijack a U.S. aircraft to gain the release of “Blind Shaykh” ‘Umar’ Abd aI-Rahman and other U.S.-held extremists.

Nevertheless, FBI information since that time indicates patterns ofsuspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations forhijackings or other types of attacks, including recent surveillance of federal buildings in New York.

The FBI is conducting approximately 70 investigations throughout the U.S. that it considers Bin Laden-related. CIA and the FBI are investigating a call to our embassy in the UAE in May saying that a group or Bin Laden supporters was in the U.S. planning attacks with explosives.

From the Washington Post, October 1, 2006:

On July 10, 2001, two months before the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, then-CIA Director George J. Tenet met with his counterterrorism chief, J. Cofer Black, at CIA headquarters to review the latest on Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda terrorist organization. Black laid out the case, consisting of communications intercepts and other top-secret intelligence showing the increasing likelihood that al-Qaeda would soon attack the United States. It was a mass of fragments and dots that nonetheless made a compelling case, so compelling to Tenet that he decided he and Black should go to the White House immediately.

Tenet called National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, and insisted on meeting with her right away. For months, Tenet had been worried about a terrorist attack in the U.S.

Tenet hoped his abrupt request for an immediate meeting would shake Rice. He and Black, a veteran covert operator, had two main points when they met with her. First, al-Qaeda was going to attack American interests, possibly in the United States itself. Black emphasized that this amounted to a strategic warning, meaning the problem was so serious that it required an overall plan and strategy. Second, this was a major foreign policy problem that needed to be addressed immediately. They needed to take action that moment — covert, military, whatever — to thwart bin Laden.

The United States had human and technical sources, and all the intelligence was consistent, the two men told Rice. Black acknowledged that some of it was uncertain “voodoo” but said it was often this voodoo that was the best indicator.

Tenet and Black felt they were not getting through to Rice. She was polite, but they felt the brush-off. President Bush had said he didn’t want to swat at flies.

Rice later claimed she did not recall this meeting at all, but White House records showed that it indeed happened.

A review of White House records has determined that George J. Tenet, then the director of central intelligence, did brief Condoleezza Rice and other top officials on July 10, 2001, about the looming threat from Al Qaeda, a State Department spokesman said Monday.

The account by Sean McCormack came hours after Ms. Rice, the secretary of state, told reporters aboard her airplane that she did not recall the specific meeting on July 10, 2001, noting that she had met repeatedly with Mr. Tenet that summer about terrorist threats. Ms. Rice, the national security adviser at the time, said it was “incomprehensible” she ignored dire terrorist threats two months before the Sept. 11 attacks.

Mr. McCormack also said records show that the Sept. 11 commission was informed about the meeting, a fact that former intelligence officials and members of the commission confirmed on Monday.

Then on Aug. 6, while he was on vacation, Bush received the pdb, and did nothing about it. He didn’t even contact Tenet or Rice, who were also on vacation. According to Dana Millbank and Mike Allen at the Washington Post, Bush didn’t seem worried after he received the pdb.

President Bush was in an expansive mood on Aug. 7, 2001, when he ran into reporters while playing golf at the Ridgewood Country Club in Waco, Tex.

The day before, the president had received an intelligence briefing — the contents of which were declassified by the White House Saturday night — warning “Bin Ladin Determined To Strike in US.” But Bush seemed carefree as he spoke about the books he was reading, the work he was doing on his nearby ranch, his love of hot-weather jogging, his golf game and his 55th birthday.

“No mulligans, except on the first tee,” he said to laughter. “That’s just to loosen up. You see, most people get to hit practice balls, but as you know, I’m walking out here, I’m fixing to go hit. Tight back, older guy — I hit the speed limit on July 6th.”

[....]

Bush spent most of August 2001 on his ranch here. His staff said at the time that by far the biggest issue on his agenda was his decision on federal funding of stem cell research, followed by education, immigration and the Social Security “lockbox.”

Why is Bush permitted to continue lying about 9/11 without being challenged? Why didn’t National Geographic ask him why he didn’t do anything after receiving the Aug. 6 pdb?


SDB Evening News Reads for 082911: Musharraf’s Property Seized, Syria’s New Censorship and Bachmann’s “Joke”

Good Evening!

Do I have a juicy post for you today! H/T to Wonk the Vote who sent me the news about:

Pakistan court orders Musharraf assets seized – Central & South Asia – Al Jazeera English

A Pakistani court has ordered former president Pervez Musharraf’s financial assets to be frozen and confiscated, a prosecutor said.

A hearing in Adiyala prison in the garrison town of Rawalpindi on Saturday ruled for his property to be confiscated and his Pakistani bank accounts to be frozen, Chaudhry Azhar, a public prosecutor, told the AFP news agency.

The hearing is adjourned until September 10, Azhar said.

Musharraf, the former military ruler, has been living in self-imposed exile in London and Dubai since leaving office in 2008.

He is alleged to have been part of a “broad conspiracy” to have Benazir Bhutto, ex-premier and his political rival, killed in 2007 before presidential elections.

Prosecutors issued an arrest warrant in February over what they said was his failure to provide her with enough security.

The exact nature of the charges against him, however, has not so far been made clear.

Pakistani Court Orders Seizure of Musharraf’s Property – NYTimes.com

The court order was issued Saturday by Judge Shahid Raffique at a hearing in Rawalpindi, the garrison city next to Islamabad where Mrs. Bhutto was killed in a gun and suicide bomb attack on Dec. 27, 2007.

Mr. Musharraf was charged in the case earlier this year, but he left the country in 2008 under threat of impeachment and has been living in exile in London and Dubai.

He has not appeared at any court hearing in the case.

During the hearing on Saturday, the judge ordered the Federal Investigation Agency to confiscate all of Mr. Musharraf’s property for failing to respond to subpoenas.

At the time of the assassination, Mr. Musharraf’s government had accused the Taliban and Al Qaeda of being behind the plot to kill Mrs. Bhutto, his political rival.

A United Nations report released in April 2010 suggested that Pakistani authorities had deliberately failed to effectively investigate the killing, but it did not say who it believed to be responsible for her death.

Last October, Mr. Musharraf apologized to Pakistan for what he characterized as mistakes he made in office, and he said he would return to the country in time for elections due by 2013.

According to this report in the Telegraph, Musharraf’s Pakistani bank accounts totalling £625,000, where seized. Pervez Musharraf’s Pakistan property confiscated – Telegraph

A United Nations investigation published last year said Mr Musharraf’s government did too little to ensure her security and criticised investigators for hosing down the crime scene after her death and failing to perform a post mortem.

Two senior police officers arrested for alleged dereliction of duty apparently told investigators that Mr Musharraf himself had ordered the removal of a security detail on the day of her death.

When Wonk sent the link to the NYT’s article, she remembered that David Axelrod used the Bhutto’s assassination as an attack against Hillary Clinton during the 2008 campaign. Here are a few articles I found…

Did Hillary Clinton kill Benazir Bhutto? CNN.com – Anderson Cooper 360° Blog

Did Hillary Clinton kill Benazir Bhutto? Not quite, though Barack Obama’s right hand man thinks she may have had something to do with it.

“She was a strong supporter of the war in Iraq,” David Axelrod said, speaking of Hillary “which we would submit, is one of the reasons why we were diverted from Afghanistan, Pakistan and al-Qaeda, who may have been players in this event today. So that’s a judgment she’ll have to defend.”

[…]

Axelrod’s comments are not just distasteful. They’re nonsensical. Exactly how were we diverted from Pakistan because of the war in Iraq? If it weren’t for the Iraq war, and the larger war on terror, we would not give Pakistan a second’s thought. The country would still be under US sanctions for its illegal nuclear program.

Perhaps Axelrod means to say that our presence in Iraq has elevated the terrorist threat in Pakistan, thereby forcing the US into an uncomfortably cozy relationship with — and $10 billion in aid to — the country’s military dictator, Pervez Musharraf, which he seems to have squandered on military equipment to maintain a police state rather than fight al-Qaeda elements in the country, thereby compelling the US to send in Bhutto under a power sharing agreement with Musharraf to salvage what’s left of Pakistan’s democracy, thus tainting her as an American stooge and leading to her assassination by the very same al-Qaeda elements that Musharraf has yet to do anything about.

Now, there is no way I can do this story any justice…Wonk is the Hillary expert extraordinaire, but here is a quote from a New York Times article back in December of 2007, when Benazir Bhutto was assassinated.

Mrs. Clinton and Ms. Bhutto – NYTimes.com

Mrs. Clinton and Ms. Bhutto
Benazir Bhutto with Hillary Rodham Clinton and Chelsea Clinton after a dinner reception in Pakistan in 1995. (Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Benazir Bhutto, who was assassinated today, was the only celebrity whom Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton says she stood in a rope line to see. Later, after Mrs. Clinton came to international prominence, Ms. Bhutto would hold a luncheon for her and share an amusing observation about the status of husbands married to women politicians.

[…]

Mrs. Clinton apparently found in her a kindred spirit.

“Bhutto acknowledged the difficulties faced by women who were breaking with tradition and taking leading roles in public life,” she wrote. “She deftly managed to refer both to the challenges I had encountered during my White House tenure and to her own situation. ‘Women who take on tough issues and stake out new territory are often on the receiving end of ignorance,’ she concluded.”

I also found these little nuggets over at TalkLeft.  It is interesting to see what hindsight can do for you when you look back at the comments of this post…

Edwards Rips Axelrod – TalkLeft: The Politics Of Crime

I wonder…who is that RalphB? Well, whoever he was…he was right! Obama is Bush with a better vocabulary, as long as he has that  teleprompter to lean on, no question about that.

Steve Clemons: Is Axelrod Nuts? – TalkLeft: The Politics Of Crime

Steve Clemons, no one’s idea of a hothead, is dumbfounded by David Axelrod’s behavior:

[B]y David Axelrod’s own accounting, his candidate Barack Obama has complicity in our nation’s distraction from the serious, building threat of organized Islamic fundamentalist terrorism, by not commanding the resources under his control to raise attention. And then of course, Biden, Dodd and Edwards all voted for that Iraq War Resolution in 2002 as well. Did they all help to kill Benazir Bhutto too?

Here is something kind of funny from Steve:

Obama’s foreign policy team — of which Axelrod is not really a qualified member — needs to quickly assemble and get their candidate back in the game.

I guess Steve missed Susan Rice’s outrageous contribution to the Obama meltdown on this. Apparently, there are no grownups on the Obama campaign.

“No grownups?” Hey, who would have guessed that Obama would use the idea that he is the only “grownup” in the room during the Debt fiasco?

Thank you Wonk…for that heads up on this Musharraf story, and the nudge to find old articles about the Axelrod attack on Hillary.  Let me just say that I miss you Wonk, and when I see your name in the inbox of my email…I get very happy and excited…like a kid on Christmas morning, anticipating what your email has in store!

On to some other news items of interest…

Qadhafi family surfaces in Algeria – Jennifer Epstein – POLITICO.com

Former Libyan leader Muammar Qadhafi’s wife and three of his children have fled to Algeria, that country’s government said in a statement on Monday.

I wonder where the Mad Dog is? Algeria failed to make a statement about the former dictators where abouts…

The news that some of Qadhafi’s family members have departed Libya comes as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton prepares to put her summer vacation on hold this week for a trip to Paris, where she will meet with top officials from NATO countries to discuss ways to help the Libyan opposition take control of Tripoli.

There is also some news in Syria, Video: Syria imposes new censorship as protesters beg for “international protection” « Hot Air

Two interesting developments have taken place in Syria over the last couple of days. First, the Bashar Assad regime has included strict media censorship laws as part of its so-called “reforms” in Syria. CNN can no longer report from Syria, and now has to report on the story from Istanbul. This has been greeted with alarm in the region — so much so that CNN’s Ivan Watson reports that Assad has been told that he needs to listen to his people and conduct real reform by … Iran and Hezbollah?

It is amazing what global news you can miss when the coverage has been wall to wall Irene.  I linked to this Hot Air piece because it was not getting much play on left leaning blogs…

The tenor of the protests has changed as well.  People in the streets have begun calling for international intervention against the Assad regime, referring back to the principle of civilian protection and the precedent of UN Resolution 1973.  And on its face, it’s hard to distinguish between Libya in March and Syria almost ever since.

And what about that international intervention? Morrissey has this to say about that:

Will the Syrian protesters get international intervention?  I’d call it unlikely in the extreme.  NATO could go after Qaddafi because he didn’t have strong ties to a military power in the region; he managed to alienate everyone around him.  Assad’s ties to Iran would almost guarantee that any Western or even Arab-only intervention would provoke Tehran into joining the fight.  They have no intention of allowing their most critical alliance to disappear, and with it their pipeline to Hezbollah and Lebanon.  They might even consider threatening a strike on Israel as a way to sideline the Arab nations and force NATO back to the sidelines.  If the Syrians are to be rescued from Assad, they’ll have to do the rescuing themselves.

Which leads me to this article in the New York Times:  In Times of Unrest, Social Networks Can Be a Distraction – NYTimes.com

THE mass media, including interactive social-networking tools, make you passive, can sap your initiative, leave you content to watch the spectacle of life from your couch or smartphone.

Apparently even during a revolution.

That is the provocative thesis of a new paper by Navid Hassanpour, a political science graduate student at Yale, titled “Media Disruption Exacerbates Revolutionary Unrest.”

Using complex calculations and vectors representing decision-making by potential protesters, Mr. Hassanpour, who already has a Ph.D. in electrical engineering from Stanford, studied the recent uprising in Egypt.

His question was, how smart was the decision by the government of President Hosni Mubarak to completely shut down the Internet and cellphone service on Jan. 28, in the middle of the crucial protests in Tahrir Square?

His conclusion was, not so smart, but not for the reasons you might think. “Full connectivity in a social network sometimes can hinder collective action,” he writes.

To put it another way, all the Twitter posting, texting and Facebook wall-posting is great for organizing and spreading a message of protest, but it can also spread a message of caution, delay, confusion or, I don’t have time for all this politics, did you see what Lady Gaga is wearing?

I am not sure about that…I mean it all depends on who you are following right? During the Egyptian uprising, so much of our information came from reliable sources via twitter.  Hassanpour goes on to say…

“The disruption of cellphone coverage and Internet on the 28th exacerbated the unrest in at least three major ways,” he writes. “It implicated many apolitical citizens unaware of or uninterested in the unrest; it forced more face-to-face communication, i.e., more physical presence in streets; and finally it effectively decentralized the rebellion on the 28th through new hybrid communication tactics, producing a quagmire much harder to control and repress than one massive gathering in Tahrir.”

In an interview, he described “the strange darkness” that takes place in a society deprived of media outlets. “We become more normal when we actually know what is going on — we are more unpredictable when we don’t — on a mass scale that has interesting implications,” he said.

It is truly a fascinating article, please give it a full read…Hassanpour discusses Libya, Iran, and Great Britain…and then touches on Germany during the cold war.

And lastly, Bachmann is in the news yet again…this time channeling Pat Robertson… Bachmann Plays Down Comments Linking Disasters and Deficits – NYTimes.com

As municipal crews around the Northeast work to clean up after Hurricane Irene, Representative Michele Bachmann is doing her own damage control after she used a Florida political rally to suggest that the recent natural disasters were God’s way of sending a message to the politicians back in Washington.

“I don’t know how much God has to do to get the attention of the politicians,” she told a group of generally older residents in central Florida on Sunday, referring to the need to rein in spending. “We’ve had an earthquake; we’ve had a hurricane. He said, ‘Are you going to start listening to me here? Listen to the American people because the American people are roaring right now.’ ”

Mrs. Bachmann’s comments came less than a week after a 5.8-magnitude earthquake near Mineral, Va., shook a large swath of the East Coast, including Washington and New York — areas that would have to brace for a hurricane days later. Irene, as both a hurricane and tropical storm, knocked out power for more than a million people and left nearly 30 dead, according to The Associated Press’s latest count.

Her campaign downplayed the remarks of course, saying that she spoke “in jest.”  Bachmann Campaign: Bachmann Spoke ‘In Jest’ When She Said God Was Communicating Via Earthquakes And Hurricanes | TPMDC

“Obviously she was saying it in jest,” campaign spokesperson Alice Stewart told TPM in a statement.

Really? A joke, come on how dumb do you think we are? Wait…strike that…

Check out these registered voter’s remarks as Bachmann continued her Florida tour…

Michele Bachmann rally draws over 1,000 in Sarasota, but some prefer Rick Perry – St. Petersburg Times

“I spoke to Rick Perry Thursday night,” said Wes Maddox, a GOP activist in Tampa who went to Texas A&M with Perry, who is expected to make his first Florida stop Sept. 13 in Tampa Bay. “He said, ‘You tell them (in Florida) help is on the way.’ That’s what the governor’s message is — help is on the way.”

Bradenton retiree Philip Staples said he’s already sold on Bachmann. “She’s got the fire in the belly, and she’s a straight shooter. She’s one of the common people,” he said.

“I like Michele Bachmann a lot,” said Stephen Gately, a Republican activist from Pinellas County who was among more than 1,000 people at a Bachmann rally in Sarasota on Sunday afternoon. “But I’m supporting Gov. Perry. I prefer governors as our nominee.”

Hmmm, I wonder what Mr. Gately thinks about governors that say things like…social security and disability are nothing but a Ponzi scheme for the “young”..a scam…perhaps Mr. Gately is one of those “young” supporters of Perry?  I bet Gately gets his monthly “scam” checks…what do you think?

I don’t know why, but I also detect a hint of masochism in that comment from Gately…but maybe I am just experiencing some major PMS and I’m just a bit tired of all this GOP Godly Jesus Freak crap…from both the men and women who are preaching, sorry, campaigning there way to the nomination.

So that is it for me, what you all think of that? Catch ya later in the comments!


It’s still the jobs, stupid

In what I hope is not some symbolic hype, Alan Krueger–an actual economist and a labor one at that–was nominated by President Obama today to head the Council of Economic Advisors.  He will replace Austin Goolsbee.

As the Wall Street Journal noted, Krueger’s scholarship suggests he will “likely provide a voice inside the administration for more-aggressive government action to bring down unemployment and, particularly, to address long-term joblessness.”

If his name sounds familiar, it’s because Krueger’s academic work has frequently played a valuable role in the political discourse. When congressional Republicans blatantly lied about the costs of a cap-and-trade plan, it was Krueger who set the record straight. When conservatives said in 2009 that slashing the minimum wage would boost the economy, Krueger explained why the opposite is true.

The economist also brings relevant experience to the table.

I’m hoping this finally brings the correct policy priorities and prescriptions to the table. We’ve had nearly three years of confused messages and results and the economy is clearly the worse for it.  There’s an article up at The Guardian by economist Dean Baker that pretty much sums up all of my economic posts for the past few years.  Obama never seemed to understand that high unemployment is a problem and never instituted any kind of policy to target the problem directly.  He says he gets it now, but I’d just like to remind every one that he said he got it after the election that delivered the House of Representatives to the Tea Party terrorists and still has shown no sign that he understands that people expect bold fiscal policy in the face of low economic growth.  All we keep getting is tax breaks for rich people and opposites day fiscal policy.

President Obama has discovered how serious the recession is. That’s what he told an audience in Chicago last week. To be fair, he was referring to revised data from the commerce department showing that the falloff in GDP was larger than originally reported.

But ridicule is appropriate. He and we knew all along how many people were out of work. The employment numbers told us the size of the hole and the desperate need for government action.

This sort of ridiculous comment, and President Obama’s weak response to the recession over the first two and a half years of his presidency, explains the tidal wave of scepticism facing his widely hyped upcoming speech on jobs after the Labor Day weekend. The list of remedies leaked ahead of time does little to inspire hope.

At the top of the list of job-creating measures is extending the 2 percentage-point reduction in the social security payroll tax. This provides no boost to the economy, since it just keeps in place a tax cut that was already there, but if the cut is allowed to end at the start of 2012, it will be a drag on growth.

As it stands, the social security programme is being fully reimbursed for the lost tax revenue, but there is always the possibility that Republicans will use this as a basis for attacking the programme. Given President Obama’s willingness to support cuts to social security, it is understandable that this part of his jobs agenda doesn’t generate much enthusiasm.

Baker goes on to call for a new CCC and explains why trade agreements, tax cuts to business yet again that undermine social security, and all the rest of the “jobs” agenda touted by the President aren’t going to do much of anything.  Economist Nancy Folbre has a great piece of analysis up at the NYT explaining why letting this high level of unemployment go on for a period of time has an increasingly negative impact on the entire economy because things multiply over time.  However, a new study covered by Folber shows that the unemployed  just don’t sit around and act like they are on vacation.  They create value by doing unpaid work.  The same folks that think that the unemployed just lie around are the same ones that push the meme that homemakers spend their days eating bon bons and watching soap operas.

The overall increase in non-market work implies that household consumption among the unemployed fell less than market income, but it’s hard to put a dollar value on the unpaid work. When people make a voluntary decision to substitute time for money, we can infer something about the relative value they place on it.

But most unemployment is involuntary, and some unpaid work probably represents an effort to stay busy more than a significant contribution to household living standards.

The authors emphasize the relatively large impact of unemployment on unpaid work, in part because this is a new finding, and in part because it counters the wrong impression that, as Professor Hurst put it, the Great Recession was a Great Vacation.

But it is also important to note that most of the unemployed can’t allocate more of the free time they gain to productive uses, even if they want to. They lack the capital, land, tools and skills needed to flexibly shift from wage employment to production for their own use. Even when they can make a partial shift, their productivity is likely to be lower in unpaid work than paid work.

That’s why involuntary unemployment represents such a waste of human capabilities and loss of productive output for the economy as a whole.

So, what can Alan Krueger bring to the White House if the President will listen to this economist?  This is economist Mark Thoma’s take on the appointee.

His most well known research is on the minimum wage and immigration, The work is somewhat controversial in that the results show small negative effects from raising the minimum wage and from increasing immigration. In my view that is a sign of an economist who is willing to let the evidence do the talking, and that is a good trait to have in this job.

He has also worked in many other areas, including occupational licensing, the economics of terrorism, and more recently on job search in periods when unemployment is high, including how job search is affected by things such as unemployment insurance. But that is just a small taste of the large amount of research he has done.

Krueger’s been working at the Treasury so maybe that will give him access that many of the other Obama economic advisers seemed without.  Time is running out for policy to help the unemployed in any meaningful way.  I say this because as we get closer to the election, it will make the Republicans more surly and less likely to do anything to help a Democratic administration. They’ve already been rewarded for hostage-taking behavior.  Then, there’s the policy lags.  Things like infrastructure banks take a lot of time to set up. Ideas like  patent reform are laughable as job creation tools. I have no idea why the Obama administration won’t embrace things that worked in the past, but that doesn’t appear to be their MO.  They seemed to get their jobs mojo from reheating failed Republican canards and presenting them as the higher, middle ground. I continue to be discouraged.


Monday Reads

Good Morning!

Paul Krugman has a great piece in the NYT on how Republicans are against science.  They do appear to ignore it in favor of myth, conspiracy theories and wishful thinking.  However, it does us no good to send Democrats into office that won’t fight for science and rational thought, either.  How much more nonsense do you think will come out during the 2012 political season?

Mr. Perry, the governor of Texas, recently made headlines by dismissing evolution as “just a theory,” one that has “got some gaps in it” — an observation that will come as news to the vast majority of biologists. But what really got peoples’ attention was what he said about climate change: “I think there are a substantial number of scientists who have manipulated data so that they will have dollars rolling into their projects. And I think we are seeing almost weekly, or even daily, scientists are coming forward and questioning the original idea that man-made global warming is what is causing the climate to change.”

That’s a remarkable statement — or maybe the right adjective is “vile.”

The second part of Mr. Perry’s statement is, as it happens, just false: the scientific consensus about man-made global warming — which includes 97 percent to 98 percent of researchers in the field, according to the National Academy of Sciences — is getting stronger, not weaker, as the evidence for climate change just keeps mounting.

In fact, if you follow climate science at all you know that the main development over the past few years has been growing concern that projections of future climate are underestimating the likely amount of warming. Warnings that we may face civilization-threatening temperature change by the end of the century, once considered outlandish, are now coming out of mainstream research groups.

But never mind that, Mr. Perry suggests; those scientists are just in it for the money, “manipulating data” to create a fake threat. In his book “Fed Up,” he dismissed climate science as a “contrived phony mess that is falling apart.”

I could point out that Mr. Perry is buying into a truly crazy conspiracy theory, which asserts that thousands of scientists all around the world are on the take, with not one willing to break the code of silence. I could also point out that multiple investigations into charges of intellectual malpractice on the part of climate scientists have ended up exonerating the accused researchers of all accusations. But never mind: Mr. Perry and those who think like him know what they want to believe, and their response to anyone who contradicts them is to start a witch hunt.

All the candidates are pushing bad economics as well.

I’ve been kind’ve “blown away” by the news coverage of the remnants of Irene today.  It seems like most of the TV coverage has been 24 hours now worth of people saying we dodged a bullet and trying to find people impacted by the storm.  You’re beginning to see headlines like this now: Get Real: Hurricane Irene Should Be Renamed “Hurricane Hype”.  Last night Geraldo looked like he’d just re-opened that silly empty vault again.

Irene has put on a remarkably similar show. Within the limits of forecasting error, Irene’s projected path makes it was impossible to rule out a major disaster. But, as a dangerous Category 3 storm within two days of land, something similar to what happened to Gloria occurred. Instead of going slightly off course, the power of her winds dropped markedly, at least as measured by hurricane hunter aircraft. Because it is prudent to not respond to every little tropical cyclone twitch (such as Gloria’s jog or Thursday’s wind drop), the Thursday evening forecast was virtually unchanged, the Internet went thermonuclear, and the Weather Channel’s advertising rates skyrocketed. From that point on, it became all Irene, all the time. With this level of noise, the political process has to respond with full mobilization. Hype begets hype.

A day later, the smart money is still riding a very Gloria-like track, but with a cyclone that will be weaker than projected. It is doubtful that Irene will even cough up eight bodies (the number killed by Gloria), though power outages east of where the center makes landfall (probably on Long Island) may be extensive.

I think the body count’s at 21 now which kind’ve makes this hype on all the hype look like hype.  Well, at least all the governors of the mid Atlantic states got some air time praising civil servants instead of demonizing them for a change.  Is it just me or does Chris Christine remind you of those big boy statues in front of those 1960s hamburger joints?  That man looks like a heart attack about to happen.

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell–who cross party lines last year to hype Obama–is having second thoughts about hyping an Obama second term. Powell was on Face the Nation yesterday.

“I haven’t decided who I’m going to vote for,” Powell said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “Just as was the case in 2008, I am going to watch the campaign unfold. In the course of my life I have voted for Democrats, I have voted for Republicans, I have changed from one four-year cycle to another.

“I’ve always felt it my responsibility as a citizen to take a look at the issues, examine the candidates, and pick the person that I think is best qualified for the office of the president in that year. And not just solely on the basis of party affiliation,” he said.

Asked about the Republican field, Powell said there are some “interesting candidates,” but no one who has “emerged into the leading position.”

“So let’s see if anybody else is going to join, and we’ve got a long way to go,” he added.

Powell, the nation’s first African-American secretary of state, praised Obama’s leadership style in 2008 in endorsing him, saying shortly before the election that Obama “has a definite way of doing business that will serve us well.” He also said at the time that he didn’t think the GOP vice-presidential candidate, Sarah Palin, was “ready” to be president.

The really, really bad thing about the political system these days is that PACs are getting bigger and more powerful.  They also seem more closely aligned with candidates.  Here’s an interesting story from the NYT.  The Supreme Court decision on corporations and first amendment rights has definitely impacted the political money machine.

But some advocates for tighter campaign regulation say existing rules on independent groups did not anticipate the emergence of Super PACs so closely tied to a single candidate, leaving so much room to maneuver that the independent groups are able to act as surrogates for the candidates.

“There’s not a big difference between these candidate-specific Super PACs and candidate campaign committees,” said Paul S. Ryan, associate legal counsel at the Campaign Legal Center. “I think it’s a joke. What they are doing is abiding by the very meager restrictions on coordinations on expenditures and solicitations. But that leaves a wide swath of activities that can be fully coordinated under present law.”

Increasingly, the new Super PACs are taking on tasks that in previous years were handled by — and paid for — the candidates themselves. But instead of using money raised in the $2,500 increments that federal law imposes on candidates, the Super PACs can accept donations of unlimited amounts. (The groups must disclose their donors, though some Super PACs, including Priorities USA and the Karl Rove-founded American Crossroads, have affiliated nonprofit arms that do not have to disclose donors.)

Just in case you haven’t read Rick Perry’s outrageous lies about Social Security, here’s some more information.  Perry calls the popular government program unconstitutional and refers to it as a Ponzi Scheme.  I want to hear him say this in Florida.

But Perry returned to the “Ponzi scheme” description on the campaign trail in Iowa last night:

“It is a Ponzi scheme for these young people. The idea that they’re working and paying into Social Security today, that the current program is going to be there for them, is a lie,” Perry said. “It is a monstrous lie on this generation, and we can’t do that to them.”

Later, in Des Moines, when a reporter asked about the suggestion that his campaign was backing off some positions in the staunch states-rights book, Perry said, “I haven’t backed off anything in my book. So read the book again and get it right.”

Kay Henderson has more on this:

Another reporter pressed the issue, asking if Perry believes Medicare is “unconstitutional” as well.

“I never said it was unconstitutional,” Perry said. “I look at Medicare just like I look at Social Security. They’re programs that aren’t working and we ought to have a national conversation about it. You know, those that have said I’ve said they’re unconstitutional — I’m going to have them read the book. That’s not what I said.”

In his book, Perry called Social Security something akin to a “bad disease” that was created “at the expense of respect for the Constitution and limited government.”

This is going to be one weird, strange, political season. I’ve never seen so many people pushing so many unpopular positions.

Women may have hit the glass ceiling in the US, but women in emerging market countries are winding up in board rooms more and more all the time.  Remember, many of these countries have already had women presidents and prime ministers.

Seven of the 14 women identified on Forbes magazine’s list of self-made billionaires are Chinese. Many firms in emerging markets do a better job of promoting women than their Western rivals, some surveys suggest. In China, 32% of senior managers are female, compared with 23% in America and 19% in Britain. In India, 11% of chief executives of large companies are female, compared with 3% of Fortune 500 bosses in America and 3% of FTSE 100 bosses in Britain. Turkey and Brazil come third and joint fourth (behind Finland and Norway) in the World Economic Forum’s ranking of countries by the proportion of CEOs who are women. In Brazil, 11% of chief executives and 30% of senior executives are women.

Young, middle-class women are overtaking their male peers when it comes to education. In the United Arab Emirates 65% of university graduates are female. In Brazil and China the figures are 60% and 47% respectively. In Russia 57% of college-age women are enrolled in tertiary education; only 43% of men are. Business schools, those hothouses of capitalism, are feminising fast. Some 33% of students at the China Europe International Business School (CEIBS) in Shanghai and 26% at the Indian School of Business are female, a figure comparable with those of Western schools such as the Harvard Business School and INSEAD.

In “Winning the War for Talent in Emerging Markets: Why Women are the Solution”, Sylvia Ann Hewlett and Ripa Rashid point out that businesswomen face steep obstacles in emerging markets. How can they stay on the fast track if, as in the UAE, they cannot travel without a male chaperone? And how can they be taken seriously if, as in Russia, the term “businesswoman” is synonymous with prostitute? In every emerging market women bear the lioness’s share of family responsibilities. In many places, deals are sealed with booze and male bonding.

So, there’s some things to get us started on this Monday.  Hopefully, those of you on the east coast are getting back to normal after the storm.  Let us know how you’re doing!  What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Hurricane Irony: Lame Press Coverage

I’m hoping that all of you on the East Coast had an uneventful Hurricane Irene visit.  It’s always a pain to lose electricity and some tree branches, but hey, as I’ve been hearing all day today, it could’ve been worse.   I seriously can’t believe the coverage this weekend.  You’d have thought the martians had landed.  I think the corporate media out did itself.  So, I’m putting up any open thread so you can share your stories and I’m also putting up what I considered some of the most offensive press moments of the week.

My number one choice for stupid press tricks was who ever thought to call Ray Nagin on to the media circuit as a preparedness guru.  Remember, Ray Ray,  he was the mayor of New Orleans that basically put all the city buses right in the most flood prone sections of the city and hid in the penthouse of the Sheraton Hotel until the President showed up to offer him a shower about 5 days after landfall.  It gave all of us at Rising Tide 6 a source of endless jokes.

No, this wasn’t meant to be a joke. Although many believe the 2005 response to Hurricane Katrina was a colossal failure at every level of government, former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin appeared on MSNBC on Friday to offer preparedness advice for those in Hurricane Irene’s path.

Speaking with Martin Bashir, Nagin gave government agencies and their leaders high marks for their preparations. But he said only time will tell if the public follows their instructions.

“[I] think they’re doing an excellent job of alerting the public, which is one of the main things you need to do. One of the problems they’re having on the East Coast is that they have not experienced a storm like this in so long, so there are going to be many people who may not heed the warnings, or may move too late to try and evacuate. And that is when the drama will unfold.”

Nagin didn’t deny that he made some errors with Katrina in 2005. But he put much of the blame on New Orleanians themselves:

“Well, I would tell you this, Martin: It was a historic, catastrophic event … “[N]ow that I have had a chance to really go back and take a look, there are a number of things that I think that I could have done better. But in an evacuation situation where a catastrophic storm is approaching, the leader has one responsibility, but also the citizen has a responsibility to heed the warnings and act appropriately.”

My second lame press trick of the Hurricane coverage was how Geraldo Rivera couldn’t suppress his disappointment that there wasn’t more mayhem and death.  Every time I tried to find something on TV other than hurricane coverage, I would eventually see Geraldo.  The look on his face said “Damn! It’s empty again!!” every time I saw him.

Number three is up there on the Youtube.  That’s the Sea Foam covered Tucker Barnes in Ocean City telling us how he smells while reporting because he’s taking a sea foam shower.  If it doesn’t smell great and it’s coming in during flooding, chances are you don’t really want to be covered in it.
Number four is Howard Kurtz’s pronouncements that are just lame by definition:  “Cable news was utterly swept away by the notion that Irene would turn out to be Armageddon”.  No Howard, they were utterly swept away because it’s always all about them and this was doubly so.

The fact that New York, home to the nation’s top news outlets, was directly in the storm’s path clearly fed this story-on-steroids. Does anyone seriously believe the hurricane would have drawn the same level of coverage if it had been bearing down on, say, Ft. Lauderdale?

The symbiotic relationship between television and local officials played a huge role. Chris Christie, the New Jersey governor who was all over television on Sunday morning, had drawn saturation coverage with his blunt warnings to “get the hell off the beach.” New York’s mayor, Michael Bloomberg, who ordered evacuations of low-lying areas, has been a constant presence. President Obama and FEMA officials made sure to generate their share of news as well.

These officials have a responsibility to plan for worst-case scenarios, of course, but something more blatantly political is at work. Mayors and governors need to be seen as on top of the crisis, which means being visible on the tube. No one wants to be the next Ray Nagin or Heckuva Job Brownie, looking disorganized after Katrina. A badly handled snowstorm has contributed to more than one mayor’s defeat.

The blizzard of press conferences, in turn, enable the networks to keep their “Breaking News” banners up and furnished a sense of drama for a story that otherwise consisted of reporters on streets where the hurricane was expected to strike and weather experts with their maps in climate-controlled studios.

All I can say is that we’re lucky there is better stuff on the internet these days.  Otherwise, no one on the east coast would’ve probably gotten some real information at all.

This is an open thread, so have at it!!!


Nicholas Kristof Suddenly Discovers the Unemployment Crisis

I probably shouldn’t pick on Nicholas Kristof, because I guess as media elites go, he’s one of the least offensive. But really, his latest column just about sent me out into the street screaming and tearing my hair out. The piece is titled “Did We Drop the Ball on Unemployment?”

WHEN I’m in New York or Washington, people talk passionately about debt and political battles. But in the living rooms or on the front porches here in Yamhill, Ore., where I grew up, a different specter wakes friends up in the middle of the night.

It’s unemployment.

I’ve spent a chunk of summer vacation visiting old friends here, and I can’t help feeling that national politicians and national journalists alike have dropped the ball on jobs. Some 25 million Americans are unemployed or underemployed — that’s more than 16 percent of the work force — but jobs haven’t been nearly high enough on the national agenda.

Duh! I have a question for Captain Obvious Nick Kristof: Is the Pope Catholic? Here’s another one: Does a bear sh*t in the woods? Yes, Nick. You and your pals dropped the ball, missed the boat, and every other metaphorical cliche you can think of. Yes. And it’s way too late for your mealy-mouthed *concern* to make a difference.

What is wrong with these people? Kristof goes on to provide a few examples of people he knows in Oregon who are suffering from joblessness and hopelessness. Frankly, I found his little anecdotes rather patronizing. Maybe I’m being too hard on him, but really, if this man claims to be a “journalist,” why didn’t he recognize years ago that unemployment was a huge problem for the American people and for the economy as a whole? Kristof’s half-hearted prescriptions for solutions aren’t much better than Obama’s:

There are no quick fixes to joblessness, but Washington could temporarily make federal money available to pay for teachers who are otherwise being laid off. We could increase spending on service programs like AmeriCorps that have far more applicants than spots.

We could extend the payroll tax cut, which expires at the end of December. Astonishingly, Republicans in Congress seem to be lined up instinctively against this basic economic stimulus. Could the Tea Party actually favor tax reductions for billionaires but not for working Americans? Could we have found a tax increase the Republican Party favors?

Mr. Obama, with 25 million Americans hurting, will you fight — really fight! — to put jobs at the top of the national agenda?

Give me a break! Obama isn’t going to fight for anything except his own reelection and keeping his wealthy donors happy. And Nick Kristof, after tossing of a facile column in which he pretends to care about struggling Americans, will return to Washington and New York, smile his self-satisfied smile, and continue to ignore the depth of what is really happening to our country.

Why doesn’t The New York Times hire Jeffrey Kaye, who writes about important topics like torture? Joblessness can be a kind of torture too, and a couple of weeks ago, Kaye wrote a fine article about the links between unemployment, depression, and suicide.

When considering the effects of unemployment, and the desultory, really uncaring response of the current Democratic administration, as well as Republicans in Congress, to the human devastation of joblessness, it is important to consider the terrible emotional and psychological effects of such unemployment. Such effects are well-documented, but rarely mentioned in articles or blog postings.

A well-regarded 2010 study by the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, “The Anguish of Unemployment,” quantified the tremendous emotional suffering engendered by unemployment. “‘The lack of income and loss of health benefits hurts greatly, but losing the ability to provide for my wife and myself is killing me emotionally,’ wrote one respondent to the survey.” ….

Just last April, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released a study that showed that suicide rates rise and fall in tandem with the business cycle.

Kaye, a clinical psychologist actively working with clients, says he has seen the devastating effects of joblessness in his own practice since the financial crisis. He writes:

Unemployment is deadly. The effects of the capitalist boom-and-bust system seriously damage millions of lives. But with an almost daily bombast of propaganda about terrorism, the populace lives in fear, while wondering how they will make their bills, ground down between anxiety over ghostly terrorists and eviction, or how to put gas in their car, or afford a bus pass. Hopelessness stalks the land, not Al Qaeda. And yet the politicians in D.C. care little or nothing about the suffering their policies cause. Indeed, their pockets are lined with campaign donations from corporations that routinely layoff hundreds of thousands, and ship many thousands more jobs overseas.

Callous disregard for human lives is what links the terrible policies of war and torture with the policies of neglect and indifference towards the jobless. Such callousness is the by-product of a get-rich-quick ethos that worships profit over all else, over worship of a capitalist system that has brought about terrible world wars, massive depressions, colonial atrocities, and even genocide. U.S. society awaits its turn through the meat-grinder of history.

That is the kind of writing I’d like to see on the op-ed page of the NYT. Of course I know it will never happen. The elite media, the out-of-touch political class, and their wealthy enablers must not be made to feel even slightly uncomfortable about the effects of their actions–not even for the few minutes it takes to read a newspaper column.


Sunday Reads: Sea Cows, Paper Birds, and the Milky Way

Well, Irene must be pounding New York City…I hope that all our readers in its path are safe…as I was writing this post last night, it was reassuring to see some of you checking in.

Irene has put many events and sports games on hold, but as Boston Boomer mentioned yesterday, one of the postponed disappointments is the inauguration of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in D.C.  Rupert Cornwell: He had a dream – and now it’s set in stone – Rupert Cornwell, Commentators – The Independent

The new Martin Luther King memorial will be dedicated by President Barack Obama

afp/getty images

The new Martin Luther King memorial will be dedicated by President Barack Obama

In terms of physical damage and devastation, Hurricane Irene may have a great deal to answer for. But here in America’s capital, to injury has been added insult. The storm has forced the postponement of today’s planned formal inauguration of the new memorial to Martin Luther King on the National Mall in Washington DC. The dedication was to have been performed by the black president whose own miraculous ascent and inauguration would never have happened but for Dr King and the movement he led, and the speech he made close to that spot exactly 48 years ago.

[…]

But the mere dedication of a monument does of itself not turn wrongs into rights, or wipe a country’s conscience clean. Yes, the new King memorial is remarkable: the Mall is a place that honours wars and those who died in them, and the country’s greatest government leaders. Yet King was a pacifist (and widely reviled for it). He was an outsider, who made his reputation by defying the laws of the land.

He preached reconciliation, but as Cornel West, a Princeton professor and leading African-American intellectual, argued in The New York Times on Friday, King was also a revolutionary, who never ceased to decry the “racism, poverty, militarism and materialism” of American society.

Obama was supposed to speak at the event, which has been postponed indefinitely, and although I am disgusted with Obama, his lack of leadership and his pro-GOP policies… that a black president would be officiating at the MLK memorial’s opening is sure to bring emotional feelings for anyone, no matter what you think of Obama.

Yes, we have come a long way since that speech King gave 48 years ago, but it is sad that under this first black US president, African-Americans are experiencing a trend that is not moving blacks forward toward the dream that Mr. King spoke so eloquently about.

Since the 2008 crash, blacks have gone backwards economically. Since George W Bush left office, black unemployment has risen from 11 per cent to nearly 16 per cent, compared with an overall national rate of just over 9 per cent. According to one recent study, the median wealth of black households is one-twentieth of that of white households.

In 1963, King declared that the March on Washington was not an end but a beginning, and so it proved. The same goes for the new memorial, a reminder not of what has been achieved, but of what remains to be achieved.

Over in China, workers face unbearable conditions and forced overtime…in a toy factory that also employs children.  Disney factory faces probe into sweatshop suicide claims | World news | The Observer

Sturdy Products

A Sturdy Products’ employee works to fulfil orders, for ranges that include Disney ­merchandise. But a monitoring group claims that workers’ rights are often abused

Disney’s best-selling Cars toys are being made in a factory in China that uses child labour and forces staff to do three times the amount of overtime allowed by law, according to an investigation.

One worker reportedly killed herself after being repeatedly shouted at by bosses. Others cited worries over poisonous chemicals. Disney has now launched its own investigation.

It is claimed some of the 6,000 employees have to work an extra 120 hours every month to meet demand from western shops for the latest toys.

The factory, called Sturdy Products, makes toys for the giant Mattel company, which last month announced quarterly profits of £48m on the back of strong sales of Barbie dolls and Cars 2 toys. Sturdy Products, in the city of Shenzhen, also makes toys for US superstore chain Walmart. Among the brands produced are the Thomas the Tank Engine range, Matchbox cars, Cars, Toy Story, Barbie and Fisher Price products, Scrabble and the Hot Wheels sets.

So, this factory makes toys for Disney, Mattel and Walmart…

Sacom’s accusations against the factory include:

■ The employment of a 14-year-old. Staff also reported the presence of other child workers, according to the investigator.

■ Routine excessive overtime. Employees produced a “voluntary” document they said they had to sign agreeing to work beyond the maximum overtime legal limit of 36 hours a month, along with wage slips that suggested they were averaging 120 hours of overtime a month.

■ A harsh working environment in which workers complained of mistreatment by management. One worker injured on the production line was shouted at and ordered back to work despite needing medical treatment.

■ Concerns about the chemicals in use and poor ventilation. Employees claimed three workers had fallen ill. They said they had to hide pots of adhesive and thinners during audits of the factory by its client companies.

■ They also claimed that they were paid by the factory to give misleading answers during audits and that they were fined for failing to hit targets. The calculation of wages for different workers was described by Sacom as arbitrary.

The International Council of Toy Industries’ Care Foundation, oof what a long name…is supposed to be overseeing the production of toy’s made overseas.

Sacom’s findings brought a rebuke from the International Council of Toy Industries’ Care Foundation. “We are the first to concede that much more work lies ahead of us, but we refuse to accept the sensationalist, media-oriented declarations of any group, especially when they are carping and filled with incorrect information. It is simply counter-productive,” the foundation said.

“The plain truth is that workers in many toy factories in China are better off now than they were before and that this is due in considerable part to the ICTI Care Process.”

Hmmm, that is some attitude to take isn’t it? Can you imagine how bad the factories were before the ICTI Care Process was enacted.

Now that Gaddafi has been pushed out of Tripoli, large mass graves are being found.  Charred remains of massacre victims found in Tripoli – Africa, World – The Independent

The terrible price many Libyan people have paid to be free of Colonel Gaddafi is becoming plain. Yesterday, only a day after more than 120 decomposing bodies were found in a Tripoli hospital, a British television team filmed the charred remains of an estimated 53 people in a burnt-out warehouse in the south of the city.

Stuart Ramsay of Sky News was led to the building by residents who had made the discovery. Inside was a scene of mass cremation: more than four dozen corpses of what were once human beings, their ages and genders impossible to tell. Ribcages, skulls and other bones lay in a blackened mess. Local people told of how the bodies of perhaps as many as 100 others lay nearby, including those of two soldiers with their hands behind their backs who had been executed for refusing to fire on the victims of the massacre, be they regime critics, civilians, or other refusenik soldiers.

The residents said they had been alerted by shooting some days ago, but when they tried to approach they were told by regime snipers that they would be shot if they did not retreat. After the Gaddafi men left, they went inside the warehouse, which is next to a military base. They said that in the past few weeks, they had seen people digging at night and the sound of gunfire. In the morning, the holes would be filled in.

But this is, like all civil wars, an exceptionally brutal conflict, with blame on both sides, and victims everywhere. The bodies keep piling up – civilians caught in crossfire, fighters lying where they fell, and the executed of both sides, including men from sub-Saharan Africa who may have been Gaddafi mercenaries, or just some poor wretch gone north to find work.

The article points out that Gaddafi loyalist are not the only ones who have been involved in brutal violence, it also questions the background of the  leader of the Rebel forces.

Yesterday, The Independent on Sunday learned that the rebel military commander behind the successful assault on Tripoli had fought in Afghanistan alongside the Taliban and was an Islamist terror suspect interrogated by the CIA. Abdelhakim Belhadj, the newly appointed commander of the Tripoli Military Council is a former emir of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) – banned by Britain and the US as a terrorist organisation after the 9/11 attacks.

If this is the case, it gives me the willies. But it would not be the first time the US has put its support behind a questionable leader of a rebel force.  That is one tricky mess the State Department will be dealing with. I am just glad that Clinton, someone I trust completely, is there to put her expertise to work.

Going back to Irene, and the impact it is having on New York City.  For some perspective, here is an article that discusses New York’s History of Being Buffeted, Starting in 1821 – NYTimes.com

Remains of houses littered Westhampton after hurricane in 1938.
The New York TimesRemains of houses littered Westhampton, N.Y., after a hurricane in 1938.

Stephen Fybish, a 74-year-old weather historian from Manhattan’s Upper West Side, celebrated his second birthday in Jackson Heights, Queens, on Sept. 20, 1938, the day before the great hurricane struck New York City. Nonetheless, his mother often proudly reminded him, everybody who was invited made it to his party.

The 1938 storm, which claimed 600 lives in the Northeast, devastated eastern Long Island, but spared much of the city, which, Mr. Fybish recalled, was soaked by about five inches of rain over two days and whipped by 60 m.p.h. winds.

Like other hurricanes, even that storm paled in comparison to the fiercest gale ever recorded, the one that that slammed the city head-on near what is now Kennedy International Airport on Sept. 3, 1821 — before Mr. Fybish’s time, he acknowledges. The tide rose 13 feet and the Hudson and East Rivers converged in lower Manhattan.

Take a look at the rest of that article. It summarizes the various hurricanes that have hit the city, Irene isn’t the first, and it surely will not be the last.

In another NYT article…The question of global warming and the effect on weather is debated. As Climate Changes, Scientists See Irene as a Harbinger – NYTimes.com

While the number of the most intense storms has clearly been rising since the 1970s, researchers have come to differing conclusions about whether that increase can be attributed to human activities.

“On a longer time scale, I think — but not all of my colleagues agree — that the evidence for a connection between Atlantic hurricanes and global climate change is fairly compelling,” said Kerry Emanuel, an expert on the issue at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

[…]

Storms are one of nature’s ways of moving heat around, and high temperatures at the ocean surface tend to feed hurricanes and make them stronger. That appears to be a prime factor in explaining the power of Hurricane Irene, since temperatures in the Atlantic are well above their long-term average for this time of year.

The ocean has been getting warmer for decades, and most climate scientists say it is because greenhouse gases are trapping extra heat. Rising sea-surface temperatures are factored into both Mr. Knutson’s and Dr. Emanuel’s analyses, but they disagree on the effect that warming in remote areas of the tropics will have on Atlantic hurricanes.

Air temperatures are also rising because of greenhouse gases, scientists say. That causes land ice to melt, one of several factors leading to a rise in sea level. That increase, in turn, is making coastlines more vulnerable to damage from the storm surges that can accompany powerful hurricanes.

Powerful cyclone storms have also affected the environment in Australia.  Famine threatens Australia’s gentle sea cows – Nature, Environment – The Independent

The dugong is under pressure from pollution, encroaching industrial development, and hunting

PHOTOLIBRARY.COM

The dugong is under pressure from pollution, encroaching industrial development, and hunting

An underwater famine is posing the latest threat to one of Australia’s most endangered marine species, the dugong, which lives entirely on sea grass. At least 100 have starved to death in recent months and many more are likely to follow in the absence of their only food source.

Torrential rain and storms, including Cyclone Yasi earlier this year, have destroyed vast swathes of sea grass from northern Queensland to the New South Wales border. More than 1,000 miles of coastline which once provided the perfect habitat for these oddly shaped and gentle creatures are now denuded of the dugong’s natural foodstuff.

[…]

“This is a national environmental disaster,” says Professor Ellen Ariel, a marine biologist at James Cook University in Townsville. “What’s happening now is they have nothing to eat and it’s not going to change in any way soon. Sea grass takes between two to three years to recover, if there are no other extreme weather events in the meantime.”

Those dugong look a lot like manatees don’t they?  They are in fact in the same order of species. Dugongs, Dugong Pictures, Dugong Facts – National Geographic

Photo: Dugong under water

Possibly the inspiration for mariners’ tales of mermaids, dugongs are closely related to elephants.

For those of you who are not getting hit by Irene, Look overhead to see the summer Milky Way | Tonight | EarthSky

The moon will be new tomorrow and then in a waxing crescent phase in the west after sunset in the next few days. That means that, over the coming week, the moon will set soon after sunset and be mostly absent from the evening sky.

And a moonless sky means this is a good time to get out into the country for a look at the summer Milky Way: the edgewise view into our own galaxy.

Here is the view if you are standing facing east – but craning your neck to look overhead. The galaxy stretches across the sky during the evening hours now. When you look at it with the eye alone, you might think it looks hazy. But you’ll see the truth if you’ll peer at the Milky Way with an ordinary pair of binoculars. Binoculars cause the so-called haze to explode into view as myriad, distant stars.

We are going to try to get a look at the Milky Way from our back porch…I will let you know if we do get to see it with the naked eye.

From the Minx Missing Link File: Ah, this missing link is from yesterday, and is from one of my favorite sites,  Medieval News: 500 years ago, yeast’s epic journey gave rise to lager beer

In the 15th century, when Europeans first began moving people and goods across the Atlantic, a microscopic stowaway somehow made its way to the caves and monasteries of Bavaria.

The stowaway, a yeast that may have been transported from a distant shore on a piece of wood or in the stomach of a fruit fly, was destined for great things. In the dank caves and monastery cellars where 15th century brewmeisters stored their product, the newly arrived yeast fused with a distant relative, the domesticated yeast used for millennia to make leavened bread and ferment wine and ale. The resulting hybrid – representing a marriage of species as evolutionarily separated as humans and chickens – would give us lager, the clear, cold-fermented beer first brewed by 15th century Bavarians and that today is among the most popular – if not the most popular – alcoholic beverage in the world.

Click the link above to read the full paper this little “tease” of an abstract is giving.

Easy Like Sunday Morning Link of the WeekThe Makerie Shows off Beautiful Paper Birds | Geekosystem Take a look at these paper birds…cool stuff indeed.

Artists Joyanne Horscroft and Julie Wilkinson comprise The Makerie, makers of incredible works of paper art. While their work has encompassed many different subjects, they’ve recently produced some truly amazing birds made from paper. While birds are a favorite subject for origami artists, The Makerie shirks the ancient approach for a more sculptural and dynamic look. The feathers cascade, the colors pop, and there’s an eerie sense of life in some of these works. Be sure to read on below for some more examples of their work.

There is your Sunday reads for today.  If you are in the path of Irene, please take care and let us know that you are okay.

Are you finding anything interesting this morning? Post some links, and I will catch y’all later in the comments!