Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Nightowl Newswrap

Republicans throw tantrum; Democrats stop. this. car.
The House Appropriations Committee adjourned abruptly this morning after Jerry Lewis, the ranking republican member tried to hijack the proceedings and force off-shore drilling down the throats of the majority who oppose it. The stunt infuriated Chairman David Obey, who threatened to bring all appropriations work to a stop and put the government on continuing resolutions after October 1 when the new fiscal year starts. “I think we probably had our last meeting for the year, and that this is going on a continuing resolution,” said the Wisconsin Democrat. “We only have six weeks left of the session, and if they are going to spend it in partisan wrangling and posturing, that’s not a productive use of time. There are too many real things that Congress can do.”

Oil hits $140 bbl, Dow falls 300 points
SAN FRANCISCO (MarketWatch) -- Crude-oil futures climbed to unprecedented levels Thursday, as weakness in the U.S. dollar, influenced by the U.S. Federal Reserve's decision to stand pat on interest rates, sent prices to a peak above $140 a barrel...Comments from OPEC's president warning of higher oil prices because of the dollar's decline as well as reports that Libya threatened to cut crude output, helped bolster energy prices...Crude oil for August delivery reached a high of $140.39 a barrel in electronic trading on Globex as of 3 p.m. Eastern. $150 per barrel now looks likely within weeks.

We told you that popping sound was exploding Neocon heads
The lunatic fringe tighty-righties in congress wasted no time in vehemently denouncing the current occupant's "appeasement" of North Korea. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Peter Hoekstra wasted no time in going batshit-crazy. “Lifting sanctions and removing North Korea from the list of state sponsors of terrorism flies in the face of history and rewards its brutal dictator for shallow gestures,” said Hoekstra. Phillip Carter explains how it might have happened:President Bush announced today that he was lifting certain trade sanctions against North Korea in exchange for its delivery of a report on its nuclear weapons program. In addition, according to The Post and other reports, North Korea is expected demolish the cooling tower at its Yongbyon nuclear plant -- while being taped by U.S. television networks -- and take other concrete steps towards ending its nuclear weapons program and suspected efforts to sell those weapons abroad. It's hard to find words to describe the significance of this diplomatic breakthrough -- and the irony that one of the Bush administration's greatest foreign policy successes would come via diplomacy, and not force. Since the Agreed Framework broke down in 2003, relations with North Korea have run hot and cold. For much of this time, the six-party talks appeared unlikely to produce any meaningful results, particularly as North Korea continued weapons testing, weapons exporting and other recalcitrant behavior. What I'm hearing through the grapevine is that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan required so much attention from senior decision makers that it allowed career diplomats and junior political appointees to do their work in East Asia. In essence, the six-party talks needed less attention to work well, so that diplomats and national leaders could get down to business without all of the posturing that goes along with highly public diplomacy. This may or may not be true, but it's an interesting view of how diplomacy can work. I look forward to learning the full story. I read that to mean that the absence of Condoleezza Rice was a good thing. Maybe she should just shop for shoes from now on.

Repeat after me: Tom Coburn's name is synonymous with vapid, petty, insipid and trite republican obstructionism In an over-the-top exhibition of pettiness and spite, one of Oklahoma's wingnut senators has placed holds on approximately 100 pieces of non-controversial legislation, because he fancies that being a petty sumbitch works for him. In a move born of frustration, Harry Ried is threatening to show some leadership qualities. In a stroke of legislative creativity that may have no precedent, Reid could lump all of the bills into one package and bring up the Coburn Omnibus for a single vote. Coburn can still object, but the broad popularity of the bills means that there would likely be more than enough support for veto-proof passage.

Hookermobile busted in Florida
Detectives in Miami Beach paid a forty dollar cover and got aboard a stretch-limo bus that was essentially a rolling whorehouse. They found inside a fully stocked bar and nubile young sluts who stripped down to cash-stuffed g-strings and offered lewd and lascivious sex acts in exchange for cash. They were arrested and so was the driver.

New Zealand signs historic Maori land deal
In a historic agreement, New Zealand has agreed to transfer huge swaths of nine forests to seven Maori tribes with ancestral claims to the land. The deal returns 435,000 acres (176,000 hectares) of land in the central North Island to tribal control. Between them, the seven tribes include more than 100,000 members. They will manage the land collectively, setting up a holding company structure and forestry management structure to oversee the land, which is comprised mostly of large commercial pine plantations, which generate about $13 million (NZ) every year. The chairman of the collective, Maori paramount chief Tumu Te Heu Heu, said the objective was to provide tribes with "a strong, durable and sustainable economic future", in particular young members and the coming generations. "This is our legacy to them," he said.

That Darwin fish on your neighbor's Prius is no longer a joke
A study published in the current issue of Nature reports a new fossil discovery that provides a water-land link. The creature had a fish-like body but the head of an animal more suited to land than water. Scientists say the 365-million-year-old species, Ventastega curonica, which became an evolutionary dead end, would have looked similar to a small alligator.

The tragic loss of a researcher and adviser:
Nicole Suveges, a Johns Hopkins University graduate student in political science who was working in Iraq while doing research for her dissertation, was among four Americans killed in an explosion Tuesday in the offices of the district council in the critical Sadr City section of Baghdad. Two U.S. soldiers, a State Department employee, an Italian translator working for the Defense Department, and six Iraqis also were killed, according to news reports. Suveges, 38, was in Iraq as a civilian political scientist working in the Army's Human Terrain System program, advising the 3rd Brigade Combat Team of the 4th Infantry Division, according to BAE Systems, the company that employed her. BAE said she helped Army leaders in efforts to reduce violence in Sadr City and rebuild local infrastructure. Her knowledge and experience, including a previous tour in Iraq as a civilian contractor and her time as an Army reservist serving in Bosnia in the 1990s, reportedly made her especially effective in working to improve the lives of everyday Iraqis.

He still sucks as a Governor, but what the hell: California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger made a guest appearance today at the Florida Climate Change Summit in Miami hosted by Governor Charlie Crist. Arnold had lots of praise for Crist's leadership in Florida on tackling climate change. But he appeared to issue a firm rebuke to politicians (including Senator John McCain and Crist) who have suggested ending a ban on offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. "Anyone who tells you this will lower our gas prices anytime soon is blowing smoke," he said. Schwarzenegger's press spokesman Aaron McLear called me a short while ago to stress that this comment was NOT directed at Crist or McCain, and instead was targeted specifically at the impact of offshore drilling on gas prices. "He was not referring to either one of them. Neither Crist nor McCain has said offshore drilling is going to immediately reduce gas prices," McLear said. However, the California Governor remained firmly opposed to offshore drilling, McLear added. "He doesn't believe in offshore drilling. Her certainly doesn't agree with McCain and Crist on that."

Glenn Greenwald explains a new syndrome: The number one problem facing the Democratic Party is that, as events of the last week demonstrate, it continues to be plagued by The New Republic Syndrome, one of the most fatal political afflictions that exist. In 2002 and 2003, The New Republic was one of the leading crusaders for an attack on Iraq, railing against what it called "the intellectual incoherence of the liberal war critics." In a February 2003 Editorial, they decreed that "the United States must disarm Iraq by force" and declared war opponents guilty of "abject pacifism." TNR's Jonathan Chait appeared at events with Ken Pollack in 2002 to advocate the so-called "liberal case for war." On March 10, 2003, Chait appeared on Hardball, said the imminent attack was a "just war," and proclaimed: "I don't think you can argue that a regime change in Iraq won't demonstrably and almost immediately improve the living conditions of the Iraqi people." Peter Beinart was the media's designated Democrat to rail against weak, subversive liberals who refused to accept the imperatives of the Bush administration's case for war. In 2004, TNR expressed regret because "the central assumption underlying this magazine's strategic rationale for war now appears to have been wrong," but they still insisted that "if our strategic rationale for war has collapsed, our moral one has not." But by December 2006 -- hundreds of thousands of dead bodies later -- that very partial acknowledgment of wrongdoing turned into this: "The New Republic deeply regrets its early support for this war." Well, WE don't have the syndrome--we condemn their early support for the war--do you?

Here's a fascinating article--remember when gas was $1 (yes, one dollar!) a gallon? Well, Clinton was President, and it was only nine years ago: With gasoline prices at less than a dollar a gallon--an all-time low--it's getting easy for Americans to fill up their gas-guzzling Pathfinders or Tahoes without a twinge of worry. But the same low fuel prices have also set two trends in motion overseas that could prove disastrous for the economy of the Middle East, the fortunes of Western oil companies and, ultimately, the pocketbooks of those same American consumers. First, profit-hungry U.S. energy companies, which aggressively pursued alternative sources of oil after the 1973 Arab oil embargo, are now beginning to seek out cheap investment opportunities in the Persian Gulf. If the trend continues, America could once again become overly dependent on oil from the Middle East. Second, the region's growing economic instability, prompted by the low fuel prices, is fomenting scattered social and political unrest. This could leave Americans more vulnerable to disruptions in supply, such as physical attacks on pipelines and other oil installations. Despite some attempts to diversify, most Middle Eastern countries have remained "petrodollar" economies, deriving most of their foreign exchange earnings from oil exports. The United Arab Emirates, for example, derives 60 percent of its income from oil sales. In both Yemen and Iran, oil accounts for more than 80 percent of total exports. In Saudi Arabia, oil income has risen steadily since 1993 as a percentage of government revenue, and oil sales now account for 35 to 40 percent of its GDP. The drop in crude oil prices, due in part to falling demand from the battered economies of Asia and in part to an excessive buildup of oil production, has already had an impact on both Middle Eastern economies and Western oil company profits. Throughout the Persian Gulf, budget deficits have widened dramatically, necessitating both tax increases and significant cuts in government spending. Iranian ministries have received less than half of their proposed budgets this year. The Yemeni government, which lost half its income, has cut 55 percent from its budget since 1998 and raised taxes significantly despite fierce opposition in parliament. The Saudi government, which lost one-third of its revenues last year and is now $13 billion in the red, has adopted an austerity budget for 1999 that includes cutting state spending by almost 16 percent. Yeah, so what changed? Oh, riiiiight.

Good riddance to a disgrace in blue: An Air Force colonel was sentenced to nine years in prison Thursday and will be kicked out of the military for assaulting a woman, misusing his government travel card and other crimes at Sheppard Air Force Base. Prosecutors said Col. Samuel Lofton III assaulted a woman and stole from the government. Col. Samuel Lofton III faced 140 years in prison after being convicted of 34 counts, including indecent assault, larceny, being absent without leave and conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman. The 49-year-old former training commander "systematically abused his power, position and authority to the detriment of the Air Force and to the detriment of those around him," Capt. John Montgomery, a prosecutor, said during closing arguments in the sentencing phase Thursday. "The Air Force will recover, and the stains will fade over time. But [the assault victim] will have memories of this for the rest of her life." Lofton was convicted Wednesday of assaulting one woman but acquitted of rape and two other assault charges involving another. He was convicted of bad conduct charges involving a third woman. He also racked up $26,000 in personal expenses on his government travel card and was reimbursed $14,000 for trips he never took. He pleaded guilty to those charges last week.

Have you signed the "Lieberman Must Go" petition yet?
As if we didn't already know that his douchbaggery knows no bounds, he was on Bill Bennett's radio show trashing Democrats this morning. Click the link and sign now - the Democratic leadership needs to not just take his gavel, but beat him bloody with it.

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