Kerry Blasts the Deniers

Privatizing Government – Cui Bono?

Paul Krugman points out that rationale behind right-wing calls for privatizing many government functions, most recently and infamously prisons, does not stand up even to quick scrutiny.  The free-market can not respond with the best solution because there is no market.  There are two or three big groups which are essentially set up to suck at one big teat.


You might be tempted to say that it reflects conservative belief in the magic of the marketplace, in the superiority of free-market competition over government planning. And that’s certainly the way right-wing politicians like to frame the issue.

But if you think about it even for a minute, you realize that the one thing the companies that make up the prison-industrial complex — companies like Community Education or the private-prison giant Corrections Corporation of America — are definitely not doing is competing in a free market. They are, instead, living off government contracts. There isn’t any market here, and there is, therefore, no reason to expect any magical gains in efficiency.

And, sure enough, despite many promises that prison privatization will lead to big cost savings, such savings — as a comprehensive study by the Bureau of Justice Assistance, part of the U.S. Department of Justice, concluded — “have simply not materialized.” To the extent that private prison operators do manage to save money, they do so through “reductions in staffing patterns, fringe benefits, and other labor-related costs.”

And, as the series he mentions, done by the Times, shows, private companies mean less public scrutiny and more abuses.

Dought In Texas — $280 Million a Year from Lost Shade Trees

Texas is heading the way of the Sahara.  Even with recent rains, the drought has been so long and so fierce that the shape of life is in full shift.  This from StateImpact, a project of Texas NPR

A new study from the Texas Forest Service has bad news about the trees in your neighborhood. They estimate that 5.6 million trees in the urban areas of Texas –  those leafy providers of shade around your home and dotting your parks – are now dead. This number could be up to ten percent of the urban trees in Texas. (A separate study late last year of forest trees in non-urban areas said that 500 million of those could be dead due to the drought.)

… removing the dead trees (a safety hazard) will be costly, with an estimate of $560 million. The Forest Service also says the lost economic benefit of the trees (in the form of energy lost because the trees are no longer cooling homes, cleaning air and water, and keeping property values higher) is $280 million a year.


Carrier Task Force to Middle East

A recent analyis piece in the Nation suggested that the deployment of a carrier task force to the Middle East was sign certain of Bush plans for attacking Iran. I’m not so sure.

The aircraft carrier Eisenhower, fresh from refueling and overhaul at Northrop Grumman Newport News, sails Tuesday from Norfolk to relieve the USS Enterprise in the Middle East.

Commanded by Rear Adm. Allen G. Myers, the Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group also includes the guided-missile cruiser USS Anzio, guided-missile destroyer USS Ramage, guided-missile destroyer USS Mason and the fast-attack submarine USS Newport News.

The Enterprise group, being relieved, is almost the identical composition: the cruiser USS Leyte Gulf, the destroyer USS McFaul, the frigate USS Nicholas and the attack submarine USS Alexandria.

Daily Press: Newport News

This is not to say that Bush isn’t thinking about attacking Iran, or that he wants Iran to think he is thinking about attacking them. It is not to say that other information has not dribbled into the public sphere suggesting something is afoot (er, afloat). It is not to say that this carrier group, as the one it is replacing has been, won’t be sending lethal weapons to cities, towns and hamlets thousands of miles away. It is not to say that force projection of this magnitude is necessary or defensible. It is only to say that the deployment of a carrier task force is not a proof, or even a substantial piece of evidence as to new madness. Now, if the Enterprise group were stay, instead of returning, or if the 7th Fleet carrier group in and around Japan were to head to the Gulf of Oman — then we would properly fear the October Surprise was more than man-kisses-boy last minute headlines…

Hey Hey Ho Ho Donald Rumsfeld’s Got To Go!

Retired Maj. Gen. John R.S. Batiste, who commanded the 1st Infantry Division in Iraq in 2004 and 2005 and served as a senior military assistant to former deputy defense secretary Paul Wolfowitz had this to say before the Democratic Policy Committee today:

“Secretary Rumsfeld ignored 12 years of U.S. Central Command deliberate planning and strategy, dismissed honest dissent, and browbeat subordinates to build ‘his plan,’ which did not address the hard work to crush the insurgency, secure a post-Saddam Iraq, build the peace and set Iraq up for self-reliance,” Batiste said.

In addition, Rumsfeld “refused to acknowledge and even ignored the potential for the insurgency,” the retired general said. “At one point, he threatened to fire the next person who talked about the need for a post-war plan,” Batiste added.

He had more to say, as did other retired officers.

Maybe this is how spine is grown, one drop of marrow at a time.

Intelligence Report: Call ’em


Ring up your Congressional employees and tell them you want action on the National Intelligence Estimate. You, and your co-employers, want it made public so we can see exactly what all the intelligence agencies in the US think about the roots of, and present direction of, the course we are on.

See Josh Marshall for more.

The Shame of Nations

The Shame of Nations

U.S. Soldiers will be tortured under this “compromise” within the year. I promise you. American citizens will be extraordinarily rendered, following the American model of sending off Canadians, to torture holes around the world. And the torturers will cite, chapter and verse, this cowardly compromise.

Following the battle plan of the war in Vietnam our leaders are destroying America to save America.

… the three rebel senators achieved only modest improvements on the White House’s original positions. They wanted to bar evidence obtained through coercion. Now, they have agreed to allow it if a judge finds it reliable (which coerced evidence hardly can be) and relevant to guilt or innocence. The way coercion is measured in the bill, even those protections would not apply to the prisoners at Guantánamo Bay.

The deal does next to nothing to stop the president from reinterpreting the Geneva Conventions. While the White House agreed to a list of “grave breaches” of the conventions that could be prosecuted as war crimes, it stipulated that the president could decide on his own what actions might be a lesser breach of the Geneva Conventions and what interrogation techniques he considered permissible

NY Times

The national Democratic Party is no longer worth the cement needed to sink it to the bottom of the sea. For an entire week, it allowed a debate on changing the soul of the country to be conducted intramurally between the Torture Porn and Useful Idiot wings of the Republican Party, the latter best exemplified by John McCain, who keeps fashioning his apparently fathomless ambition into a pair of clown shoes with which he can do the monkey dance across the national stage. They’re laughing at him, too.

Charles Pierce at Tapped

Here is Marty Lederman with the most worked out critique of the scat so far. First take, second and the latest by guest blogger Sandy Levinson.