can’t see the forest

Democrats: US Occupations in Middle East Are Costing Double the Official Figures

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…and we’re merely talking dollars here, to say nothing of the military and civilian lives, national sovereignties, diplomatic standards, and international reputes which are being devoured by the New Colonialism.

In what White House spokes-Barbie Dana Perino has laughably referred to as an “attempt to muddy the waters,” a report drafted by Democratic members of Congress’ Joint Economic Committee (JEC) outlines how, in economic terms, American military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan are costing as much as double the officially reported figures—up to $1.3 trillion in direct costs, and at least that much more in tangential or derivative costs to the economy.

DanaPerino Only a few weeks ago, you may recall, Perino educated the White House press corps on the unexpected health benefits of global warming:

“This is an issue where I’m sure lots of people would love to ridicule me when I say this, but it is true that many people die from cold-related deaths every winter. And there are studies that say that climate change in certain areas of the world would help those individuals.”

No, Ms. Perino, I don’t enjoy ridiculing you. I’m just—at least for the moment—profoundly embarrassed that you are the principal public voice of the Chief Executive of the United States of America. And that means I don’t relish paying your salary.

On the new war report, which states that, between 2002 and 2008, the Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns will have cost over $20,000 for a U.S. family of four, the BBC writes:

The White House has called the report politically motivated.

graph

“This report was put out by Democrats on Capitol Hill,” White House press secretary Dana Perino was quoted by the Associated Press as saying. “This committee is known for being partisan and political.”

“They did not consult or co-operate with the Republicans on the committee, and so I think it is an attempt to muddy the waters on what has been some positive developments being reported out of Iraq.”

And some of the figures the report contains were labeled speculative by funding experts, the Washington Post newspaper reported.

‘Lost earnings’

The report was written by Democratic members of Congress’s Joint Economic Committee (JEC).

The cost of the war… is becoming the first thing the people mention after the loss of life when they are opposed to this war

Chuck Schumer
JEC chairman

The BBC’s Justin Webb in Washington says it was designed to shock Americans into stronger opposition to the war in Iraq.

The Democrats calculate that between 2002 and 2008 the campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan will have cost the average US family of four about $20,900.

The report adds that the amount could rise to $46,400 over the next decade.

It cites costs such as interest payments on money borrowed from abroad to pay for the wars, lost investment in US businesses, and the cost of oil market disruptions.

Oil prices have surged since the start of the war in Iraq, from about $37 a barrel to more than $90 a barrel in recent weeks. The report says the rise has hit US consumers.

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Diplomats Describe Bush Climate Meeting as Foil to UN Summit

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Bush Today in Washington, US President George W. Bush addressed attendees of an international climate conference independent of UN auspices. He performed as expected, urging the establishment of goals for the reduction of emissions, but refusing to adhere to mandatory statutes as recommended by the United Nations.

From MSNBC:

President Bush on Friday urged nations to set a goal for curbing emissions tied to global warming, but stopped short of accepting mandatory curbs laid out in an existing U.N. accord . . .

He said each nation should establish for itself what methods it will use to rein in emissions without stunting economic growth.

He also proposed the creation of an international fund to finance research into clean-energy technology, announcing that the U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson would coordinate the effort . . .

Europeans say technology is crucial but not a substitute for binding targets on emissions.

“One of the striking features of this meeting is how isolated this administration has become. There is absolutely no support that I can see in the international community that we can drive this effort on the basis of voluntary efforts,” John Ashton, a special representative on climate change for the British foreign secretary, said in an interview. “I don’t think that this meeting by itself moves the ball very much at all. The much more significant meeting this week was at the U.N., where there was a sense of urgency.”

According to The Guardian, Ashton told the U.N. Foundation on Tuesday that “the question on the mind of everybody heading into those meetings will be: Is this talking about talking, or deciding about doing?” His concerns echo those of many European diplomats who say the U.S. needs to take a much more proactive approach to curbing greenhouse emissions, not least since other major industrialized nations such as China and India are unlikely to move absent a strong example from Washington. More from that article:

President George Bush was yesterday criticised by diplomats for attempting to derail a UN initiative on climate change by pressing ahead with his own conference, which starts in Washington today.

One European diplomat described the US meeting as a spoiler for a UN conference planned for Bali in December. Another, who spoke to the Guardian on condition of anonymity, claimed that the US conference was merely a way of deflecting pressure from other world leaders who had asked at the G8 summit this year for the US to make concessions on global warming.

They predicted that Mr Bush, who is to address the meeting tomorrow, will stress the need to make technological advances that can help combat climate change but will reject mandatory caps on emissions.

The British government shares the frustration of other European governments with the lack of urgency on the part of the Bush administration. The British assessment of Mr Bush’s conference is reflected in the level of representation – Phil Woolas, a junior environment minister.

Mr Bush invited 15 countries, plus all EU members.

The highest-ranking representative from outside the US is the German environment minister, Sigmar Gabriel. He said yesterday he did not expect the US or other nations attending the conference to budge. “One cannot expect concrete results.”

One of those attending said the conference reflected “political hardball” on the part of the Bush administration, aimed at undermining the UN, for which it holds long-term suspicion. Another said the conference was aimed at domestic politics, with Mr Bush seeking headlines and television coverage implying that he was doing something about climate change while, in fact, doing almost nothing.

Within the U.S., there has been speculation that a secondary motivation for the White House and the Republican Party may be to preemptively curtail suggestions from Democratic Presidential contenders that the Republican Party has been too passive on the issue of climate change. If the feeling of international diplomats is any reliable gauge, Bush showed hospitality but no Texas-sized gumption during the course of the events of yesterday and today.

Environmentalists have long been aware that any meaningful solution to the problem of climate change will not come without an uncomfortable economic price tag, the majority of which will be shouldered by major corporations, but which will also affect employees and consumers.

Oregon Federal Judge Rules Two Patriot Act Provisions Unconstitutional

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According to the Associated Press, Judge Ann Aiken of the U.S. District of Oregon has ruled that the Patriot Act, a controversial piece of legislation pushed by the Bush White House and passed by Congress in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks, violates the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, part of the country’s Bill of Rights. The Fourth Amendment protects U.S. citizens from unreasonable “searches and seizures” without just cause.

From 1010 Wins:

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A federal judge issued a stern rebuke of a key White House antiterror law, striking down as unconstitutional two pillars of the USA Patriot Act.

U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken ruled Wednesday that using the act to authorize secret searches and wiretapping to gather criminal evidence – instead of intelligence gathering – violates the constitutional protection against unreasonable searches and seizures.

“For over 200 years, this nation has adhered to the rule of law – with unparalleled success. A shift to a nation based on extra-constitutional authority is prohibited, as well as ill-advised,” Aiken wrote.

The case began when the FBI misidentified a fingerprint in the Madrid train bombings that killed 191 people in 2004, leading investigators to a Portland attorney whose home and office were secretly searched and bugged.

The FBI eventually apologized to the attorney, Brandon Mayfield, for its mistake and the federal government settled his lawsuit for $2 million.

But Mayfield challenged the Patriot Act over the searches and surveillance, claiming various civil rights violations.

By asking her to dismiss Mayfield’s lawsuit, the judge said, the U.S. attorney general’s office was “asking this court to, in essence, amend the Bill of Rights, by giving it an interpretation that would deprive it of any real meaning. This court declines to do so.”

If the court’s ruling is upheld upon appeal, it could force the federal government to exercise more caution and discretion in the investigation of so-called “suspicious activity.”

Sorry, neocons—looks like those “activist judges” might be trying to protect your freedoms and uphold your Constitution again.

What the—?

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What—what’s happening? Why is my—my hand, it’s—something—I do believe the Holy Ghost is using my hand to move the mouse—-and to click—Publish—no!—I don’t und—aaaaaaaaaaaaah. Gurgle. Churgle. Smack.

First Lady Now

I didn’t do that. Honest. But, then . . . why do I feel so much better?