Planet Swank wishes everyone a very merry Xmas and a happy New Year.
I have many links saved up that I hope to post in some kind of roundup, but we can't count on that. Posting will in fact likely be sparse indeed over the next week to ten days as we celebrate the holidays and visit family. Stay safe, everyone.
A memorable two-day winter storm was finally departing Central Indiana this morning, leaving behind a treacherous commute for those who dared to brave snow-covered roads.
Even some of the city's heavy snowplows had trouble navigating the streets.
The National Weather Service said 8.3 inches of snow fell from 7 p.m. Wednesday to 7 a.m. today at Indianapolis International Airport, bringing the total snowfall to 10 inches. WTHR-Channel 13 reported snow totals of 7 inches in Fishers.
Snow emergencies -- where police restrict movement of motorists for their safety and so plows can clear streets -- were declared in Boone, Johnson and other Central Indiana counties. No snow emergency was declared in Marion County, but the city today was warning commuters what to expect:
"Heavy snow on all streets. Streets will be treacherous. Travel only when extremely necessary. Travel with extreme caution," read the Department of Public Works Web site.
A big problem, even as the snowfall was ending around 6:30 a.m., were wind speeds from the northwest of 10 to 20 mph, with gusts to 25 mph.
That was causing snow to accumulate in places where it had been previously moved.
The interstate system was passable, but only in some places.
Indiana State Police at 7:30 a.m. said that anywhere on I-465, I-70 and I-65 was slick. Numerous slideoffs were reported, but no injuries.
"The problem is primarily following too closely, and (their) speed is too fast," said Trooper Cedric Merritt of the Indianapolis post. "We were hoping people would stay in, but it's not happening."
Of course, staying in was not an option, as my project at work is in a critical phase. The drive into work was long and hazardous, and I saw numerous accidents and slide-offs, but by driving slowly and carefully I made it. And the traffic is light, which bodes well, perhaps, for shopping later this afternoon.
As predicted, the Indianapolis area got a nice blanket of snow this morning. My lovely wife woke up around 5 this morning and it hadn't started yet, but by the time I left for work there were several inches of snow on the car. Not surprisingly, rush hour accidents were more frequent -- I passed at least two cars off to the side facing the wrong way on the Interstate, as if they'd spun at least 180 degrees.
The season's first significant snowfall began to blanket Central Indiana this morning -- and rush-hour accidents were beginning to snowball as well.
As of 6:30 a.m., there were 20 reported crashes on area interstates, said Indiana State Trooper William Dalton. One crash was slowing traffic in the northbound lanes of the I-65/I-70 split.
"It's mostly slideoffs," said Dalton. "People are driving too fast and following too closely."
The city reported only three property-damage crashes as of 6:30 a.m.
The entire region today is under a winter storm warning until 3 p.m.
At 11 p.m., 75-80 drivers began to spread a molasses-based salt mixture to de-ice bridges and overpasses before the snow moved into the region just after 3 a.m.
Snow was starting to pick up in time for the commute. After recording 1/2-inch early at Indianapolis International Airport, an additional 1-1/2 inches fell at the airport between 5:30 a.m. and 6:30 a.m., said Mike Shartran, with the National Weather Service.
Close to 3 inches was on the ground south of Indianapolis, but only 1/2-inch had fallen in Brownsburg. Depending upon your location, you can expect anywhere from 6 to 10 inches, forecasters said.
The area around my place of work on the north side of town is relatively untouched, and this morning's conference call revealed that offices a mile or so north got no snow at all.
Atrios links to an ACLU press release alleging that the President issued an executive order authorizing abusive treatment torture of detainees in the so-called "War on Terror."
A document released for the first time today by the American Civil Liberties Union suggests that President Bush issued an Executive Order authorizing the use of inhumane interrogation methods against detainees in Iraq. Also released by the ACLU today are a slew of other records including a December 2003 FBI e-mail that characterizes methods used by the Defense Department as "torture" and a June 2004 "Urgent Report" to the Director of the FBI that raises concerns that abuse of detainees is being covered up.
...The documents were obtained after the ACLU and other public interest organizations filed a lawsuit against the government for failing to respond to a Freedom of Information Act request.
The two-page e-mail that references an Executive Order states that the President directly authorized interrogation techniques including sleep deprivation, stress positions, the use of military dogs, and "sensory deprivation through the use of hoods, etc." The ACLU is urging the White House to confirm or deny the existence of such an order and immediately to release the order if it exists. The FBI e-mail, which was sent in May 2004 from "On Scene Commander--Baghdad" to a handful of senior FBI officials, notes that the FBI has prohibited its agents from employing the techniques that the President is said to have authorized.
Another e-mail, dated December 2003, describes an incident in which Defense Department interrogators at Guantánamo Bay impersonated FBI agents while using "torture techniques" against a detainee. The e-mail concludes "If this detainee is ever released or his story made public in any way, DOD interrogators will not be held accountable because these torture techniques were done [sic] the ‘FBI’ interrogators. The FBI will [sic] left holding the bag before the public."
The document also says that no "intelligence of a threat neutralization nature" was garnered by the "FBI" interrogation, and that the FBI’s Criminal Investigation Task Force (CITF) believes that the Defense Department’s actions have destroyed any chance of prosecuting the detainee. The e-mail’s author writes that he or she is documenting the incident "in order to protect the FBI." [emphasis added]
These allegations may prove false, and yet they may be confirmed. If so, it's clear that the excuses of Administration apologists that the disgusting conduct at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere were isolated occurrences by individuals is so much hogwash, and that torture is indeed the policy of this Republican Administration. The question is why some condone this vile and un-American practice.
The GYWO cartoon Atrios links to (scroll to the end) says it all.
A midday rocket attack on a U.S. military base in northern Iraq killed more than 20 people and wounded another 57, U.S. military and civilian officials said Tuesday.
The exact death toll remained unclear late Tuesday.
In Washington, the Pentagon said 22 people, including 19 U.S. troops, were killed in the attack. Details on the other three dead were not immediately known.
Meanwhile, military contractor Halliburton Co. reported seven deaths -- four employees with its subsidiary Kellogg, Brown & Root -- and three subcontractors.
It's unclear whether the three other deaths cited by military officials include any of the Halliburton workers.
Pentagon officials blamed the blast at Camp Marez in Mosul on a rocket attack. One rocket hit the dining hall. Another landed on the ground of the base but did not cause any casualties.
Two other rockets landed outside the base, which the U.S. Army shares with the Iraqi national guard, Pentagon officials said. The attack occurred while soldiers were sitting down to lunch in the mess tent.
"It's a sad day in Mosul," said Brig. Gen. Carter Ham, the commander of the Army's Task Force Olympia, which includes about 8,500 U.S. troops in the Mosul area.
Of course, Mosul was supposed to have been relatively secure, and the assault on Fallujah was supposed to have "broken the back" of the insurgency.
And the Bush Administration was supposed to execute its own policies halfway competently. Alas, it looks like none of those is the case.
Here's the so-called "Bush Boom" for you...the 2004 holiday shopping season seems to be shaping up into a dud.
Retailers are expected to increase discounting in the final days before Christmas after a late-buying binge failed to materialize during the last weekend before the holiday. And that's fueling worries that industry profits could be hurt in the fourth quarter.
"You will really see some dramatic desperation discounting" this week, said Burt Flickinger III, managing partner at Strategic Resource Group, a New York-based industry consultant. He estimated that profit margins will be cut by 3 percent to 5 percent in the fourth quarter as a result.
Merchants needed a hefty sales surge this past weekend to recoup lost business after seeing a slow start to a holiday selling season that never gathered steam. Now, they'll have to rely even more heavily on procrastinators during the final days before Christmas and post-holiday sales — expected to be boosted by the redemption of gift cards — to meet their holiday sales forecast. Gift cards are only recorded as sales when recipients redeem them.
ShopperTrak, which tracks sales at 30,000 retail outlets, reported on Monday that total sales fell 3.3 percent for Saturday and Sunday, compared with the same two days a year ago.
Jim Neal, a principal at Kurt Salmon Associates, also reduced on Monday his holiday sales forecast to the low end of his initial range of 3 percent to 3.5 percent. And he questioned whether "unplanned specials" will work. "Are consumers going to jump back in the car and get items that are on sale that are not on their list?" he asked.
Luxury stores — which have enjoyed robust sales as their well-heeled customers have benefited from the economy's recovery — had the best performance over the weekend, despite offering only selected discounts.
The president has never liked being questioned. It comes through in his rare press conferences; it came through with stark clarity in his debates with John Kerry. But answering questions is one of the centerpieces of accountability. And to the extent possible, Bush rejects it. The recent rumblings against Secretary Rumsfeld in the Senate are the first serious sign in a long while that someone may demand accountability from the Bush administration. Rumsfeld's continued presence at the Pentagon has been Exhibit A of the administration's disdain for accountabiliity--Iraq has gone so far wrong, in so many ways for which the Pentagon is responsible, that Rumsfeld's retention of his position simply can't be justified. And yet there he is.
...American democracy incfeasingly seems to be broken in some fundamental ways that the Sunstein quote underscored for me. Nothing that has happened in the weeks since the election gives me confidence that things will improve soon.
I agree. Accountability is the cornerstone of small-D democracy. The GOP's obvious disdain for accountability -- and the abject failure of the so-called "liberal media" to take its watchdog role seriously shows a very real illness of which November 2 was only a symptom.
Today's the winter solstice, although the temperature this morning was much warmer than the cold snap we experienced over the weekend, and today's high is expected to reach the low 40s. It's always amazed me how after a morning in the single digits, just-below-freezing temperatures feel almost balmy, but after all the difference between 10 and 30 degrees is the same as between 70 and 90.
Speaking of winter, the local paper predicts a moderate-to-heavy snowfall that could provide a white Xmas.
The high today is expected to hit 42 degrees with partly cloudy skies. Later tonight a moisture-laden cold front will push through, dropping the first bits of accumulating snow sometime around 4 a.m. By Wednesday evening, the region could see 4 to 7 inches -- more in the southeastern suburbs of Indianapolis, less in the northwestern suburbs.
Overall, "It looks like a possibility that the numbers could be shifting downward," said National Weather Service meteorologist Dave Tucek today, who was watching the storm develop in the plains, as cold air from the north collided with warm, most air from the Gulf of Mexico. The Weather Service will revise its total snowfall prediction today around 3 p.m.
In this morning's conference call, we discussed contingencies in case of snow, so it seems winter has indeed officially arrived.
...as if there wasn't already days of it behind. We're hella busy at work in a critical phase of the project, and of course there's lots of stuff going on in this runup week to Xmas. Posting will likely be light through the New Year, especially as my family visits relatives over the holidays.
I'd like to go on the record agreeing with Josh Marshall and Nick Confessore, among others, in saying that Democrats who support President Bush's plan to destroy Social Security should be cut off from the Democratic party's support.
Meanwhile, Paul Krugman has an excellent -- if typically shirill -- column that puts the nonsense behind Bush's disastrous Social Security destruction plan in perspective.
[T]he Bush administration wants to scrap a retirement system that works, and can be made financially sound for generations to come with modest reforms. Instead, it wants to buy into failure, emulating systems that, when tried elsewhere, have neither saved money nor protected the elderly from poverty.
We awoke this morning to chill temperatures and a light dusting of snow. Accumulation measured not quite an inch around our neighborhood, but it was pretty in the way it fully blanketed the ground. Fortunately, it was light and powedery enough not to interfere with the tasks we had today.
My lovely wife and I took The Girls to see a matinee of The Incredibles (IMDb entry) yesterday afternoon. I've always enjoyed Pixar's features, but this entry is likely to become my favorite. The animation was superb, rich with detail that extended to plant, hair and fabric texture. It was also smartly written and directed by Brad Bird (who helmed the superb Iron Giant). We all enjoyed it about equally -- even our three-year-old took great delight when one of the young heroes would use especially clever means of defeating an enemy. By all means, see this one.