Thursday, June 26, 2008

Hewitt: U.S. will get ‘Blown up by the Islamists under Obama.’

The Republicans have lost their minds. They have nothing to say or offer other than fear. If memory serves me right, it was under a Republican administration that the U.S. was attacked on 9-11.

On his radio show yesterday, conservative talker Hugh Hewitt announced that he was “living for” the Sept. 13 football game between USC and Ohio State, adding that he predicts that it will be the last game played before the United States “gets blown up by the Islamists under Obama.”:

Oil Prices Hit New Record; Some Predict $7-Per-Gallon Gas

This is a full-fledged crisis. We need to wake up. If something isn't done soon we could have either a depression or hyper-inflation on our hands. The markets have to be stabilized. There is panic going on which is causing skyrocketing oil prices. All this talk about offshore drilling is irrelevant and stupid. We don't a new energy policy. We need leadership. That idiot in the White House is obviously not providing it. He is the problem in the first place. Skyrocketing oil prices began with the Iraq War. Mr.Obama or McCain need to start providing leadership here. If they can do it.

Oil prices surged into record territory today, boosted by a report predicting that gas prices will hit $7 a gallon in the United States within two years.

Further compounding the rise in prices were statements by OPEC's president that a barrel of oil could soon be trading for more than $150 and reports that Libya is weighing cutting its oil production.

Investors also grew wary that the Federal Reserve will not raise interest rates until late this year, leaving little hope that the dollar with strengthen. Oil is traded in dollars and part of the run-up in oil prices has been attributed to the weak dollar.

Oil closed at $139.64 a barrel, a spike of more than $5 over yesterday's close. The intra-day trading high was $140.00.

As oil prices soared, stocks tumbled. The Dow Jones industrial average lost some 300 points by the late afternoon after fresh signs of trouble emerged in the financial, automotive and high-tech industries.

Senator Dodd Transcript on FISA Spy Bill: 'Enough'

This speech should've been made by Barack Obama. I guess the fact that Dodd is not running for President anymore explains the strong words. Read the entire transcript of Dodd's statement.

Mr. President: I rise—once again—to voice my strong opposition to the misguided FISA legislation before us today. I have strong reservations about the so-called improvements made to Title I. But more than that, this legislation includes provisions which would grant retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies that apparently have violated the privacy and the trust of millions of Americans by participating in the president’s warrantless wiretapping program. If we pass this legislation, the Senate will ratify a domestic spying regime that has already concentrated far too much unaccountable power in the president’s hands and will place the telecommunications companies above the law.

I am here today to implore my colleagues to vote against cloture in the morning.

And let me make clear, at the outset of this debate, that this is not about domestic surveillance itself. We all recognize the importance of domestic surveillance – in an age of unprecedented threats. This is about illegal, unwarranted, unchecked domestic surveillance.

And that difference—the difference between surveillance that is lawful, warranted and that which is not—is everything.

Mr. President, I had hoped I would not have to return to this floor again under these circumstances – hoped that in these negotiations we would have been able to turn aside retroactive immunity on the grounds that it is bad policy and sets a terrible precedent.

As all of my colleagues know, I have long fought against retroactive immunity, because I believe, quite simply, it is an abandonment of the rule of law. I’ve fought this with everything I had in me—and I haven’t waged this fight alone.

In December, I opposed retroactive immunity on the Senate floor. I spent ten hours on this floor then. In January and February, I came to the floor time and time again to discuss the dangers of granting retroactive immunity. Along with my colleague and friend Russ Feingold, who has shown remarkable leadership on this issue, I offered an amendment that would have stripped retroactive immunity from the Senate bill. Unfortunately, our amendment failed and to my extreme disappointment, the Senate adopted the underlying bill.

Since passage of the Senate bill, there has been extensive negotiations on how to move forward. Today, we are being asked to pass the so-called compromise that was reached by some of our colleagues and approved by the House of Representatives.

I am here today to say that I will not and cannot support this legislation. It goes against everything I have stood for – everything this body ought to stand for.

Bush Wants To Spy On You From The Sky

From Newsweek by way of The Huffington Post:

A Bush administration program to expand domestic use of Pentagon spy satellites has aroused new concerns in Congress about possible civil-liberties abuses.

On Tuesday, the House Appropriations Committee approved an amendment denying money for the new domestic intelligence operation—cryptically named the "National Applications Office"—until the Homeland Security secretary certifies that any programs undertaken by the center will "comply with all existing laws, including all applicable privacy and civil liberties standards."

Rep. Jane Harman, a California Democrat who chairs the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on intelligence, told Newsweek that majorities in both the House and Senate intend to block all funding for the domestic intelligence center at least until August, when the Government Accountability Office, an investigative agency that works for Congress, completes a report examining civil-liberties and privacy issues related to the domestic use of picture-taking spy satellites.

Harman, who was the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee when Republicans controlled Congress earlier in Bush's tenure, said she still felt burned by the president's secret expansion of domestic electronic spying after 9/11. At the time, she and other intel committee leaders were assured that the increased intelligence activity was legal, only to learn later that the basis for the new surveillance was a set of opinions by administration lawyers that are now widely considered to be legally questionable.

Because of the administration's poor handling of the electronic spying program (mainly conducted by the super-secret National Security Agency, which operates a worldwide web of electronic eavesdropping systems), Harman says she and other members of Congress will be more cautious about accepting civil-liberties assurances from administration officials. "We have to make sure this is not a back door for spying on Americans," Harman told Newsweek.

Harman said that she had discussed the administration's plans for expanding domestic use of picture-taking spy satellites—which are supposedly capable of taking very high-resolution photographs of buildings, vehicles and people—with Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. According to Harman, he promised strict procedures to protect the rights of Americans, including obtaining court authorization for law enforcement-related surveillance operations where appropriate. Despite Chertoff's assurances, however, Harman said that Congress probably would not fully approve the program until the administration is more explicit about how it would operate.

Study: Teachers not Being Taught Math Properly

Is it any wonder why we are increasingly becoming a poorly educated nation.
For kids to do better in math, their teachers might have to go back to school.

Elementary-school teachers are poorly prepared by education schools to teach math, finds a study being released Thursday by the National Council on Teacher Quality.

Math relies heavily on cumulative knowledge, making the early years critical.

The study by the nonpartisan research and advocacy group comes a few months after a federal panel reported that U.S. students have widespread difficulty with fractions, a problem that arises in elementary school and prevents kids from mastering more complicated topics like algebra later on.

The report looked at 77 elementary education programs around the country, or roughly 5 percent of the institutions that offer undergraduate elementary teacher certification.

It found the programs, within colleges and universities, spend too little time on elementary math topics.

Report Projects Energy, Fossil Fuel use to Grow

Whatever happened to global warming. Aren't we going backwards? We need reduce oil consumption, in the U.S. especially, not increasing our reliance on this substance.

World energy demand will grow 50 percent over the next two decades, oil prices could rise to $186 a barrel and coal will remain the biggest source of electricity despite its effect on global warming, government experts predict.

The Energy Information Administration's long-range forecast to 2030 said the world is not close to abandoning fossil fuels. They will continue to be at the core of energy production in transportation and electricity generation, according to the report released Wednesday.

It said the steepest increases in energy use will come in China and other developing economies, including some in the Middle East and Africa, where energy demand is expected to be 85 percent greater in 2030 than it is today.

We need alternative solutions.
To save money and support neighboring farms, Scott Dubbelde began mixing gasoline and cheaper, ethanol-based fuel in his cars years ago, driving first to the gasoline pump, and then to the ethanol pump.

It has worked so well that Dubbelde, who manages a local grain elevator, mixes fuels for all three of his family cars, though only one was designed to handle ethanol-heavy blends.

Japanese Shares Slip for 6th Day

Just in case you had forgotten that the financial crisis in the United States is also worldwide.

Japanese stocks edged down Thursday, extending losses for a sixth day as investors traded with caution following the Federal Reserve's mixed assessment of the U.S. economy.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 index slipped 7.6 points, or 0.05 percent, to 13,822.32.

"Sentiment was sluggish as the Fed's statement on the state of the U.S. economy was ambiguous," said Kazuki Miyazawa, market analyst at Daiwa Securities SMBC Co. Ltd.

On Wednesday, the U.S. central bank said after a two-day meeting it was keeping its benchmark federal funds rate at 2 percent in a widely expected move.

The Fed also issued a mixed assessment of the world's largest economy. It said there were a few positive economic signs, including "some firming in household spending," but argued rising energy prices were likely to limit growth.

U.S. to Take North Korea Off Terror List

Does this mean North Korea is no longer a "axis of evil" country? The double standard here is breathtaking. The Bushies want to go to war with Iran but want negotiate with a regime that is even worse threat to us. Could someone ask McCain how he explains the hypocrisy.

North Korea submitted a long-delayed declaration of its nuclear program on Thursday, as the Bush administration said it would remove the country it once described as part of the “axis of evil” from the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism.

“This can be a moment of opportunity for North Korea,” said President Bush, announcing the declaration at the White House. “If it continues to make the right choices it can repair its relationship with the international community.”

Mr. Bush said in the principal of “action for action”, the United States would lift some restrictions on commercial dealings with North Korea and within 45 days end its designation of North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism.

US Forces Face Spike in Deadly Violence in Iraq

Bad news for McCain, but more importantly our troops.

Roadside bombs killed four U.S. soldiers in northern Iraq, the military said Wednesday, in a spike of violence that pushed to at least 10 the number of Americans who have died here this week.

In the latest attack, one soldier was killed by an explosively formed penetrator, or EFP, about 9 a.m. Wednesday in the predominantly Shiite eastern half of Baghdad, the military said. The armor piercing bombs are believed to come from Iran and have been used by Shiite extremists to kill hundreds of American forces.

The U.S. military said three other U.S. soldiers and an Iraqi interpreter were killed late Tuesday by a roadside bomb in the northern Ninevah province, where al-Qaida in Iraq and other Sunni extremist groups remain active.

The four U.S. fatalities brought the monthly death toll for American troops in Iraq to at least 26 — well below figures of last year but an increase over the 19 who died in May, the lowest monthly tally of the war.

In all, at least 4,110 U.S. military service members have died in the Iraq war since it began in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.

World Condemnation of Zimbabwe Grows

Yeah? And so what. What is being done other than lots of talk and meaningless condemnation. The UN and/or Western Powers might make a deal with Mugabe to leave the country and be given a comfortable life in exile. This monster has slaughtered hundreds if not thousands of his own people and gotten away with it. He should be brought before a world court on human rights violations charges. Instead the entire world just fiddles its' collective fingers.

President Robert Mugabe faced deeper international isolation Wednesday, with African states demanding that a discredited runoff election be postponed and anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela rebuking the Zimbabwe leader for the first time.

Tougher sanctions, sporting bans and economic boycotts could be next — and world support may build for opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who called Wednesday for talks on power sharing.

Regional heads of state from southern Africa met in Swaziland and said Friday's runoff should be postponed until conditions permitted a free and fair vote.

President Bush said the runoff election appears to be a "sham," joining the international condemnation of Mugabe's actions.

At least 300 Zimbabwean opposition supporters, meanwhile, were seeking refuge at the South African Embassy in Zimbabwe. Ronnie Mamoepa, a spokesman for the South African Foreign Ministry, said the ambassador was talking with the group and that the situation was under control.

In London, Mandela made a carefully worded but pointed attack on Mugabe, saying there has been a "tragic failure of leadership in our neighboring Zimbabwe."

The speech, at a fundraiser that included Prime Minister Gordon Brown and former President Bill Clinton, was the first time the former South African president has spoken publicly about the political crisis in Zimbabwe. His words are devastating for Mugabe and will weaken his claim to be a champion of African interests.

Although out of office for nearly a decade, Mandela remains a commanding and respected figure. He uses his influence sparingly, and it is particularly rare for him to publicly differ with South Africa's current president, Thabo Mbeki. South Africans and other Africans have been increasingly questioning Mbeki's leadership on Zimbabwe, so Mandela's brief but sharp comments will have particular resonance.

For Mugabe, they are a rebuke from a leader he sees as a fellow freedom fighter, and will be hard to dismiss or ridicule — so often Mugabe's response to criticism.

Tsvangirai made the call for peacekeepers in a commentary published Wednesday in British newspaper The Guardian. Asked about it at a news conference later in Harare, Tsvangirai said: "What do you do when you don't have guns and the people are being brutalized out there?"

Seizing Laptops and Cameras Without Cause

Pretty scary. We are losing our freedoms before our very eyes. America could be seeing its final days as a great nation. Everything around us is crumbling and we just behave like nothing is happening.

Returning from a brief vacation to Germany in February, Bill Hogan was selected for additional screening by customs officials at Dulles International Airport outside Washington, D.C. Agents searched Hogan's luggage and then popped an unexpected question: Was he carrying any digital media cards or drives in his pockets? "Then they told me that they were impounding my laptop," says Hogan, a freelance investigative reporter whose recent stories have ranged from the origins of the Iraq war to the impact of money in presidential politics.

Shaken by the encounter, Hogan says he left the airport and examined his bags, finding that the agents had also removed and inspected the memory card from his digital camera. "It was fortunate that I didn't use that machine for work or I would have had to call up all my sources and tell them that the government had just seized their information," he said. When customs offered to return the machine nearly two weeks later, Hogan told them to ship it to his lawyer.