Friday, December 29, 2006

Gilliard's People of the Year

Find them here.

State of the Blogosphere

Check it out, from David Sifry, founder and CEO of Technorati, the blog search engine.

Via Digby

Blog of the Year?

Digby nominates John Amato's Crooks and Liars video blog for blog of the year. I'd have a hard time disagreeing.

Norbizness Year in Review

Ah, the memories.

Happy Furry Puppy Story Time with Norbizness has spent some time recapping the highlights from the year that was: January, February, March, April, (no May), June, July, August, September, October, November and December of 2006.

White House Briefing Year in Review

From Dan Froomkin at the

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Inhabited Island Swallowed by Rising Sea

The first inhabited island to fall victim to rising ocean levels: Lohachara, once home to 10,000 people.

As the Independent puts it:
The obliteration of Lohachara island, in India's part of the Sundarbans where the Ganges and the Brahmaputra rivers empty into the Bay of Bengal, marks the moment when one of the most apocalyptic predictions of environmentalists and climate scientists has started coming true.

As the seas continue to swell, they will swallow whole island nations, from the Maldives to the Marshall Islands, inundate vast areas of countries from Bangladesh to Egypt, and submerge parts of scores of coastal cities.
Here's an illustrative graphic I found at spiiderweb:

"Note the change to Lohachara island between 1969 and 2001 and in 5 more years the island has completely disappeared."

There's more on this story at the Calcutta Telegraph.

Here's a satellite image of the ex-island.

Top 10 Myths about Iraq - 2006

Prof. Juan Cole runs down his top ten myths about Iraq at Informed Comment.

The Fugitive II

From TChris at TalkLeft:

If his life were made into a movie, Orlando Boquete would like Johnny Depp to star. Depp probably wouldn’t take a role that seems like a rip-off of The Fugitive: innocent man serves a dozen years in prison before escaping, then spends another decade evading capture. Boquete didn’t find the one-armed man, but the ending of his story is almost as dramatic. New DNA testing proved he didn’t commit the rape that resulted in his conviction, and Boquete walked free.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Meteorite's Organic Matter Older Than the Sun

Very cool:
"We don't really look at this research as telling us something about [the meteorite itself] as much as telling us something about the origins of the solar system," said Scott Messenger of the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.

. . .

"The material we see today is arguably the most representative of the material that first went into making up the solar system."

The meteorite likely formed in the outer reaches of the asteroid belt, but the organic material it contains probably had a far more distant origin.

. . .

Some scientists speculate that organic matter arriving via ancient meteorites and comets are responsible for the rise of life on Earth.
(via Philosoraptor)

Steal a home, get your families and friends cursed for Christmas

Susette Kelo, the homeowner who was the unfortunate subject of the Supreme Court's recent decision on eminent domain, and who was forced to sell her home to make way for private developers, is still not happy. Her Christmas cards to the New London officials that forced her to leave bear a nice picture of her pink house and a message that reads, in part, "Your houses, your homes, your family, your friends. May they live in misery that never ends. I curse you all. May you rot in hell. To each of you I send this spell."

Via Roy at alicublog

Don't escalate the war!

Oppose escalation (aka "surge")

Can you really believe that now we're debating making the war in Iraq BIGGER? Proving once again that when faced with a decision, the Decider will always make the wrong decision.

Here, the Decider's going the Max Power way -- it's the wrong way, but faster!

Seeking the source of the murkiness

Lederman in brief:
A detailed article in today's [ed. Dec. 16] Washington Post about the CIA's extraordinary renditions program in Europe quotes this justification from John Bellinger, State Department Legal Advisor: "I'd say that many European government officials and academics acknowledge now that there is a legal murkiness that applies to international terrorism."Legal murkiness? Gosh, I wonder why that is?

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Government backs away from unconstitutional use of subpoena power

Balkin in brief:
Yesterday [ed. Monday the 18th] the government backed away from its attempt to use the subpoena power as a prior restraint to force the ACLU to hand over all copies of a secret document. Not only that, the government declassified the document itself. Here is the judge's order noting the government's change of mind, and here (gasp!) is the secret document whose disclosure the government insisted was so important that it had to abuse the investigative powers of the grand jury.

. . .

This episode aptly demonstrates why claims that we must surrender our freedoms following 9/11 and the War on Terror must be taken with an enormous grain of salt. It's very easy for the government to make these claims, and, as this case shows, it is likely to make them when they are completely bogus. The reasons have to do less with the venality of specific individuals than with the nature of bureacracies, which are naturally allergic to oversight, and which usually seek to maxmize their authority and their lack of accountability.

Nobody could have predicted . . .

We've all heard that classic chestnut coming from the talking heads on the TV and radio (and Cheney): "Nobody could have predicted" that the Iraq invasion would turn out to have been such a bad idea, or some such CYA sentiment. Of course, this is always just self-serving nonsense served up by the people who brought us this (very predictably) disastorous war.

Plenty of people both in and out of government and the mainstream press called this thing right from the very beginning. When you go back and actually look, it's stunning how true this is. Proving the point, Billmon over at the Whiskey Bar dug into his 2003 archives, and the prescience is undeniable.

Not bad for a blogger.

Just don't tell WSJ editorial features editor Joe Rago. His newspaper's editorial board consistently missed every important point about the Iraq War, but he's busy over at the Opinion Journal writing yet another lazy "blogs are destroying the world" article.


The Carpetbagger Report points out a deviation from the usual hysterical "blogs are destroying America" articles we usually see in the major papers. Here's the Chicago Sun-Times’ Rich Miller with a defense of the unwashed masses:
This phenomenon is not going away, no matter how much it is dismissed or chastised. The Internet has been seized on as a democratizing tool by millions of perpetually democracy-hungry Americans. Bloggers should definitely be open to criticism by the mainstream media. That’s America. But lumping everyone together with the crackpots is neither fair nor honest. And the fact that so many reporters and pundits can’t seem to get the story right just proves the bloggers’ point that too many of them don’t know what they’re talking about on everything else.

Welcome Rich Lowry to the Reality-Based Community

Well, it seems that the guy who wrote this May 2005 front page article for the National Review:

. . . is finally coming to terms with the fact that he was full of it:
. . . Most of the pessimistic warnings from the mainstream media have turned out to be right -- that the initial invasion would be the easy part, that seeming turning points (the capture of Saddam, the elections, the killing of Zarqawi) were illusory, that the country was dissolving into a civil war.
Unfortunately, it also seems that Lowry can't admit to being a buffoon who got everything wrong without at least one attempt to blame the "liberals" for forcing his and the President's stupid actions. You see, the liberals are responsible for being right about Iraq -- so annoyingly right that it just FORCED the President and his neoconservative enablers to continue to be wrong just to spite the hated media and liberals:
Partly because he felt it necessary to counteract the pessimism of the media, President Bush accentuated the positive for far too long. Bush allowed himself to be cornered by his media critics. They wanted him to admit mistakes, so for the longest time, he would admit none. They wanted him to fire Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, so for too long he kept him on. They wanted him to abandon "stay the course," so he stuck to it. In so doing, he eroded his own credibility and delayed making the major strategic readjustment he needed to try to check the downward slide in Iraq.
Well, at least he is finally admitting that some new schools getting painted isn't exactly of the same newsworthiness as a burgeoning civil war with our troops exposed perilously in the middle, which empowers our enemies, weakens our international position, and threatens to expand to a broad regional war:
The "good news" that conservatives have accused the media of not reporting has generally been pretty weak. The Iraqi elections were indeed major accomplishments. But the opening of schools and hospitals is not particularly newsworthy, at least not compared with American casualties and with sectarian attacks meant to bring Iraq down around everyone's heads in a full-scale civil war. An old conservative chestnut has it that only four of Iraq's 18 provinces are beset by violence. True, but those provinces include 40 percent of the population, as well as the capital city, where the battle over the country's future is being waged.

In their distrust of the mainstream media, their defensiveness over President Bush and the war, and their understandable urge to buck up the nation's will, many conservatives lost touch with reality on Iraq. They thought that they were contributing to our success, but they were only helping to forestall a cold look at conditions there and the change in strategy and tactics that would be dictated by it.
I suppose this is as good as can be expected from Lowry.

Some of his cohorts are even slower on the uptake, opting to cling with all their might to something, anything, to blame for their mistakes in judgment -- other than themselves and their ideological leaders, of course. See, for example, National Review Online's Stanley Kurtz, who proposes that the REAL reason he and the rest of the "Iraq is going swimmingly" chorus got everything so wrong is (get this) because they couldn't tell it was going badly because the media wouldn't tell them how well it was going. No, seriously. That's the stunning argument. Conservatives are so distrustful of news reporting from non-Rupert Murdoch-owned media outlets that unless the media reports things are going well, conservatives apparently cannot believe that it is actually going badly. It's an honest to goodness proof of the reverse-psychology psych-out theory of how to communicate with the right wing paranoid mind:
Media coverage of Iraq has been biased, and that bias has indeed helped to shape events there for the worse. At the same time, conservative distrust of the media’s very real bias has inclined us to dismiss reports about problems in Iraq that are real.

In the end, I think the media bears fundamental responsibility for this. Had they been less biased–had they reported acts of heroism and the many good things we have done in Iraq–I think conservatives would actually have taken their reporting of the problems in Iraq more seriously. In effect, the media’s consistent liberal bias discredits even its valid reports.

But you are right that MSM’s failings place a burden on smart conservatives not to be too dismissive, just because of the bias. We wish the media were more balanced, and therefore more believable. But we only hurt ourselves if we automatically dismiss anything MSM reports. Again, I think the media bears the lion’s share of the responsibility for this problem. But conservatives still need to be smart about this, or we only end up hurting ourselves.

. . . The media has discredited themselves, making it tough to take them seriously even when they are right, and that has hurt us all.
A commenter at Matthew Yglesias' place nailed it:
Shorter Kurtz: If the media had reported that things were going great in Iraq, we would have perceived more quickly that things were going badly.
It's an interesting shift from the "the American People are to blame for not having the will power to support the President's disastorous, I mean totally awesome and working if we only gave it more of a chance, war" meme (actual quote: "President Bush bet his presidency — and America’s world leadership — on the war in Iraq. Tragically, it looks as though he bit off more than the American people were willing to chew."). And if this scapegoat of the week doesn't catch on, there's a few others waiting in the wings.


Even Scarborough Country can see the problem for what it is:
But when all of his generals abandon him, when the Joint Chiefs abandon him, the admirals abandon him, when John Abizaid abandons him, when Colin Powell abandons him, everybody abandons him, he‘s standing alone! He just doesn‘t seem to have any credibility. And this is extraordinarily disturbing to me, as a guy who supported this war and supported this president twice.

. . .

Well, this is uncharted territory. And Josh Green, I want you, if you will, to imagine, how would Republicans have responded if President Bill Clinton had ignored the advice of all of his Joint Chiefs, his top general in the war zone, his former secretary of state, and 80 percent of Americans? Is it not a stretch to say that many Republicans would have considered impeachment proceedings against Bill Clinton if this situation were identical?
And that isn't even the worst of it.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Don't Privatize Pennsylvania's Highways

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Judge Upholds Congress' Unconstitutional Suspension of Habeas Corpus

From TalkLeft:
Federal Judge James Robertson [ed.: the judge who granted Hamdan’s habeas petition in November 2004] has ruled in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld that Salim Ahmed Hamdan cannot challenge his confinement at Guantanamo because of the Military Commissions Act passed in September, which prevents the detainees from bringing habeas challenges.
What this means is that the Bush Administration has successfully convinced a court that Congress can suspend habeas corpus without there having been a "rebellion" or "invasion," and without considering it a "suspension of habeas corpus"--which would, of course, be unconstitutional. He did this by concluding, in essence, that the suspension only applies to non-citizens under the jurisdiction and control of the United States but not on U.S. soil, and that this set of persons do not have constitutional rights.

How Appealing has a copy of the decision here.

Glenn Greenwald has more on on this over at his place. Here's the upside of the decision:
As Lyle Denniston notes, Judge Robertson's ruling heavily depends upon the fact that Hamdan has no established connections to the U.S. -- i.e., he never voluntarily entered the U.S., never resided here, etc. The decision makes clear (albeit in a non-binding way) that any alien who (unlike Hamdan) does have strong ties to the U.S. (such as legal residents here in the U.S.) would have a constitutional right to petition a court for habeas corpus relief and Congress could not deny that right.

Thus, at least according to this ruling, it is unconstitutional for Congress to deny legal residents (such as Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri) access to federal courts for habeas petitions. Since the MCA does purport to strip even legal residents of that right, Judge Robertson's ruling, in essence, concluded that that part of the MCA is unconstitutional.

The MCA does not purport to strip habeas rights for U.S. citizens. Thus, if Judge Robertson's decision is correct and upheld, it would mean that (a) U.S. citizens, along with alien detainees who have a substantial connection to the U.S., would have the right to file habeas petitions in federal court, but (b) alien detainees with no such connection (the overwhelming majority of detainees in U.S. custody) would have no such right.
(emphasis added)


Armando has more legal analysis at TalkLeft.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The Wedge Issue that Cuts Both Ways

Democrat Ciro Rodriguez beat Henry Bonilla in the TX-23 run-off election, marking the second Democratic pickup in Texas this cycle (Tom Delay was the other), increasing the Democratic majority in the House to 233, and marking a wave bigger than the Republicans' in 1994.

So apparently, Republicans are paying a price for their race-baiting on illegal immigration, such as efforts to turn illegal immigrants into felons and build a fence between the U.S. and Mexico. Good.

And as a bonus bit of karma, this also appears to be the unexpected result of the crooked Texas redistricting gambit.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Where is the outrage?

From former Third Circuit Judge H. Lee Sarokin's new blog:

This is my first entry in to the world of blog, because I am astonished by the lack of outrage over the case of Jose Padilla---an American citizen who has been held in solitary confinement for 31/2 years, been deprived of the right to counsel for 21 months, all as a result of the unfettered discretion of the President in designating Mr Padilla as an "enemy combatant".
(hat tip to Eric Muller at Is That Legal, who clerked with Judge Sarokin)

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Travelers Abandons New Orleans (Is It Time to Trust-Bust?)

Travelers has apparently decided to take the money and run, at a time when their policyholders need them most. This move by Travelers, Louisiana’s largest commercial insurance provider, could severely hamper already stalled rebuilding efforts, hitting New Orleans while it's already down.

The lede from the Times-Picayune:

St. Paul Travelers Cos. Inc., Louisiana's largest commercial insurance provider, plans to cancel all its commercial property policies in the New Orleans area next year, sparking fears that other insurers will follow and slow the region's economic recovery.

While the St. Paul, Minn., company refused to say how many commercial policies will be affected or specify where the cuts will be in South Louisiana, two insurance brokers who were briefed by the company this week say Travelers will not renew any property insurance for businesses in Orleans, Jefferson, Plaquemines, St. Bernard and eastern St. Tammany parishes. Cuts will also affect individual businesses in other parts of South Louisiana, including St. Charles and St. John the Baptist parishes.

"I said, 'May I tell anybody who asks that Travelers is withdrawing from the commercial property insurance market in southeast Louisiana?' " said Anderson Baker, president of the New Orleans agency Gillis, Ellis & Baker, who met with the company Wednesday. "The answer was, 'Yes.' "
As scout prime explained at First Draft, “The importance of this can not be overstated. If there is no insurance there is no rebuilding. George Bush can claim the levees are hunky dory but NOLA residents do not have faith in them and now we see neither does the insurance industry."

Will the rest of the insurance industry abandon an American city? What will the federal, state and local government do?

The insurance industry is a monopolistic trust, with fifty different state markets and state regulators. It is an anti-competitive nineteenth-century relic, with businesses allowed to share information, strategy, pricing and policy language in ways that would be illegal for almost any other type of business. There is no real reason that insurers should be permitted exceptions to the anti-trust laws if they are simply going to hold cities (New Orleans), states (Florida) and entire regions hostage whenever the very events that justify their existence (disasters) occur. An insurance company should not be allowed to simply insure low-risk states and abandon those with higher risks. The very purpose of insurance is to spread the risks around a large market, not skim the easiest profits off the top.

Perhaps it's time for some good old fashioned trust-busting, for the federal government to destroy the insurance monopoly and begin regulating the market to protect against an industry willing to abandon entire states.