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This discovery is being reported in the November 25 issue of Science, a well-respected, stringently peer-reviewed weekly journal.

A High-Yield Biomass Alternative to Petroleum for Industrial Chemicals

ScienceDaily (Nov. 25, 2010)

A team of University of Massachusetts Amherst chemical engineers report in November 25 issue of Science that they have developed a way to produce high-volume chemical feedstocks including benzene, toluene, xylenes and olefins from pyrolytic bio-oils, the cheapest liquid fuels available today derived from biomass. The new process could reduce or eliminate industry's reliance on fossil fuels to make industrial chemicals worth an estimated $400 billion annually.

Instead of buying petroleum by the barrel, chemical manufacturers will now be able to use relatively cheaper, widely available pyrolysis oils made from waste wood, agricultural waste and non-food energy crops to produce the same high-value materials for making everything from solvents and detergents to plastics and fibers.

As principal investigator George Huber, associate professor of chemical engineering at UMass Amherst, explains, "Thanks to this breakthrough, we can meet the need to make commodity chemical feedstocks entirely through processing pyrolysis oils. We are making the same molecules from biomass that are currently being produced from petroleum, with no infrastructure changes required."

He adds, "We think this technology will provide a big boost to the economy because pyrolysis oils are commercially available now. The major difference between our approach and the current method is the feedstock; our process uses a renewable feedstock, that is, plant biomass. Rather than purchasing petroleum to make these chemicals, we use pyrolysis oils made from non-food agricultural crops and woody biomass grown domestically. This will also provide United States farmers and landowners a large additional revenue stream."


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Toxic Oil Dispersant Used in Gulf Despite Better Alternative

By Brandon Keim May 5, 2010 | 5:18 pm

British Petroleum and government disaster-relief agencies are using a toxic chemical (Corexit 9500) to disperse oil in the Gulf of Mexico, even though a better alternative appears to be available.


The decision has been a controversial one. A few scientists think dispersants are mostly useful as public relations strategy, as they make the oil slick invisible, even though oil particles continue to do damage. Others consider Corexit the lesser of two evils: It’s known to be highly toxic, adding to the harm caused by oil, but at least it will concentrate damage at sea, sparing sensitive and highly productive coastal areas. Better to sacrifice the deep sea than the shorelines.


Called Dispersit, it’s manufactured by the U.S. Polychemical Corporation and has been approved for use by the Environmental Protection Agency. Both Corexit and Dispersit were tested by the EPA, and according to those results, Corexit was 54.7 percent effective at breaking down crude oil from the Gulf, and Dispersit was 100 percent effective.

Not only did Corexit do a worse job of dispersing oil, but it was three times as lethal to silverfish – used as a benchmark organism in toxicity testing — and more than twice as lethal to shrimp, another benchmark organism and an important part of Gulf fisheries.


My comment: follow the money.
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Posted by Nothing Without Hope in Latest Breaking News
Thu Jan 07th 2010, 01:52 PM
and keep him all know it. The corporatist priorities of all of these people are clear, and everything they do reflects them. I don't understand the wailing chorus of "But WHY?" coming from people reading about these latest "revelations."

Issa is so, so NOT one of the good guys, and I have to wonder if the corporatists have decided that the time has come to throw Geithner under the bus and blame him for all the money he has made them. Timely scapegoating to get the heat off Saint Obama and keep the ignorant, blind plebes from realizing he's a corporatist too. Geithner was, of course, chosen with full knowledge of what he is and would do, but maybe we will be seeing much more on how he single-handedly and evilly betrayed Obama's honest team of right-thinking do-gooders. Alternatively, Issa may be making a bid to discredit Obama and the Democratic party by revealing something of the scope of this criminal conspiracy to defraud the American people. Maybe both scenarios are operative.
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Posted by Nothing Without Hope in Environment/Energy
Tue Nov 03rd 2009, 02:24 PM
Traditionally, killing lions as part of male coming of age rituals and as revenge for cattle killings has been an integral part of the culture of the Masai of Kenya. As a result, what was once a population of tens of thousands of lions has been reduced to about 2000, threatening the economically important local tourist industry as well as the natural ecological balance. Now the warriors are compensated for cattle deaths and earn an income from tracking lion prides using antennas to follow lions they have collared. The location of the prides allows them to select safer areas to herd their cattle. This video, from the Scientific American web site, tells the story.

The video lasts about 5 minutes.

I posted this originally in General Discussion ( ), but it sank instantly into oblivion. Hoping for more visibility here.
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faster than it can be replaced by natural processes. This process is not unique to India and represents a major danger to the ability of the world's peoples to support themselves with agriculture as it is practiced now and also to maintaining cities and settlements in arid areas. Ways MUST be found to reduce water wastage and to produce and distribute clean, desalinated water cheaply.
Satellites Unlock Secret To Northern India's Vanishing Water

ScienceDaily (Aug. 19, 2009) — Using satellite data, UC Irvine and NASA hydrologists have found that groundwater beneath northern India has been receding by as much as 1 foot per year over the past decade – and they believe human consumption is almost entirely to blame.


People are pumping northern India's underground water, mostly to irrigate cropland, faster than natural processes can replenish it, said Jay Famiglietti and Isabella Velicogna, UCI Earth system scientists, and Matt Rodell of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.

"If measures are not soon taken to ensure sustainable groundwater usage, consequences for the 114 million residents of the region may include a collapse of agricultural output, severe shortages of potable water, conflict and suffering," said Rodell, lead author of the study and former doctoral student of Famiglietti's at the University of Texas at Austin.

Study results will be published online Aug. 12 in the journal Nature.


The map shows groundwater changes in India during 2002-08, with losses in red and gains in blue, based on GRACE satellite observations. The estimated rate of depletion of groundwater in northwestern India is 4.0 centimeters of water per year, equivalent to a water table decline of 33 centimeters per year. Increases in groundwater in southern India are due to recent above-average rainfall, whereas rain in northwestern India was close to normal during the study period. (Credit: I. Velicogna/UC Irvine)

Water is tomorrow's oil in the sense that it is an ever more precious and limited resource that is not evenly distributed. Indeed, it is far MORE precious than oil, because it is essential to life. When one country occupies or otherwise seeks to dominate another, it is always important to evaluate what part is played by the battle for water rights.
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This is at the end of the current post on his blog, after an intensive discussion of Ike's present and future:

The tragedy in Haiti

The death toll in Haiti due to the onslaught of Hurricanes Gustav, Hanna, and Ike, plus Tropical Storm Fay, is now over 1,000 people ( ). At least 14,000 homes have been destroyed, and 800,000 people are without food, water, and/or shelter. The death toll is sure to rise higher as rescuers reach more remote flooded areas in coming days. The economic impact of the disaster is projected to be ( ) greater than the 2004 devastation wrought by Hurricane Jeanne, which killed over 2,000 people. Haiti needs all the help it can get, and I want to thank everyone who has donated to the Lambi Fund of Haiti charity. They're an outstanding group that I've supported for a number of years, and they focus on fixing the underlying causes of poverty and natural disasters in Haiti.

Tonight, at 9pm EDT, I'll make my annual appearance on the Internet Partnership Radio program, "Center of Circulation". You can listen in at /. I'm usually on for at least 45 minutes.

I'll have an update this afternoon.

Jeff Masters
Updated: 2:49 PM GMT on September 09, 2008

So - he'll be speaking on an internet radio program this afternoon.
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Before I look at the official NOAA site for tropical storm updates ( ), I turn to Jeff Masters' blog ( ) for his thorough updates and insightful comments. I see there things I find nowhere else, not only detailed analysis, forecasts and historical comparisons on current hurricanes and tropical storms, but also his thoughtful discussions of impacts on the various countries in the storms' path.

I want to pass on to you his recommendation for a place to donate to help storm victims in Haiti:

The Lambi Fund of Haiti

( ). Here is what Jeff said about it in two recent posts in his blog:
7:36 PM GMT on September 07, 2008, updated 2:21 PM GMT on September 08, 2008


The tragedy in Haiti

As Ike pounds Haiti with torrential rains today, it is clear that Haiti will need massive assistance to recover from this latest disaster. If you're looking to contribute to the cause, I recommend the Lambi Fund of Haiti charity. I've been a contributor for a number of years, and have been impressed with their leadership and aims. The charity seeks not just to provide much needed temporary food aid, but to make investments in sustainable development in an effort to restore environmental integrity and reduce poverty. One of the main places my donations have gone is to fund the purchase and planting of thousands of trees on Haiti's denuded mountainsides. These treeless slopes, missing more than 98% of their original forest cover, allow flood waters from hurricanes to rush down and cause the mind-numbing loss of life we've grown to expect with each hurricane that affects Haiti. If you're looking to help out in the country in the Western Hemisphere that needs the most help, consider a donation to the Lambi Fund.


(An update 8:56 PM GMT on September 08, 2008)

The death toll in Haiti due to the onslaught of Hurricanes Gustav, Hanna, and Ike, plus Tropical Storm Fay, grew to at least 630 today ( ), as more victims of Hurricane Hanna were identified. Rains from Hurricane Ike have killed at least 61 people, and the death toll is sure to rise higher as rescuers reach more remote flooded areas in coming days. Haiti needs all the help it can get, and I want to thank all of you who donated to the Lambi Fund of Haiti charity I recommended yesterday. I've heard from the administrators of the charity that several hundred of you have made on-line donations. Wow! Heartfelt thanks!

Figure: The flooded city of Gonaives after Hurricane Hanna, September 3, 2008. Image credit: Lambi Fund of Haiti.


The Lambi Fund not only is helping the victims of the recent series of violent storms there, but it is deeply involved in developing long-term betterment for all of Haiti's people.
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There are well over a hundred thousand military contractors now in Iraq, and according to a 2004 edict passed by the American occupation authorities there, they are all immunized from prosecution. They are above the law and answerable only to their paymasters: the Bush administration and its crony corporations in Iraq. Erik Prince, the founder and head of Blackwater, has close ties with the radical religious right in the US and, of course, with the Bush White House. Given the Administration’s clear, in fact stated, intention to illegally occupy Iraq for many years ( ), they and the other mercenaries plan to hold and extend their lawless power indefinitely.

Meanwhile, the legitimate, loyal US troops are being overextended, abused, broken, and I have to wonder if this is deliberate. They are stretched thinner and thinner while Bush’s paramilitary thugs profit and grow stronger under the cover of secrecy and official collusion. It doesn’t take much of a tinfoil hat to see the trend and consider where it is leading.

Read this article and judge for yourself – and spread the word. All too many Americans have no idea of their danger, and the corporate-owned media have no intention of informing them. /
Published on Sunday, June 3, 2007 by the Philadelphia Inquirer

What If Our Mercenaries Turn On Us?

by Chris Hedges

Armed units from the private security firm Blackwater USA opened fire in Baghdad streets twice in two days last week. It triggered a standoff between the security contractors and Iraqi forces, a reminder that the war in Iraq may be remembered mostly in our history books for empowering and building America’s first modern mercenary army.There are an estimated 20,000 to 30,000 armed security contractors working in Iraq, although there are no official figures and some estimates run much higher. Security contractors are not counted as part of the coalition forces. When the number of private mercenary fighters is added to other civilian military “contractors” who carry out logistical support activities such as food preparation, the number rises to about 126,000.


The privatization of war hands an incentive to American corporations, many with tremendous political clout, to keep us mired down in Iraq. But even more disturbing is the steady rise of this modern Praetorian Guard. The Praetorian Guard in ancient Rome was a paramilitary force that defied legal constraints, made violence part of the political discourse, and eventually plunged the Roman Republic into tyranny and despotism. Despotic movements need paramilitary forces that operate outside the law, forces that sow fear among potential opponents, and are capable of physically silencing those branded by their leaders as traitors. And in the wrong hands, a Blackwater could well become that force.

Blackwater, barely a decade old, has migrated from Iraq to set up operations in the United States and nine other countries. It trains Afghan security forces and has established a base a few miles from the Iranian border. The huge contracts from the war - including $750 million from the State Department since 2004 - have allowed Blackwater to amass a fleet of more than 20 aircraft, including helicopter gunships. Jeremy Scahill, the author of Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army ( ), points out that Blackwater has also constructed “the world’s largest private military facility - a 7,000-acre compound near the Great Dismal Swamp of North Carolina.” Blackwater also recently opened a facility in Illinois (”Blackwater North”) and, despite local opposition, is moving ahead with plans to build another huge training base near San Diego. The company recently announced it was creating a private intelligence branch called “Total Intelligence.”


The word contractor helps launder the fear and threat out of a more accurate term: “paramilitary force.” We’re not supposed to have such forces in the United States, but we now do. And if we have them, we have a potential threat to democracy. On U.S. soil, Blackwater so far has shown few signs of being an out-and-out rogue retainer army, though they looked the part in New Orleans. But were this country to become even a little less stable, outfits like Blackwater might see a heyday. If the United States falls into a period of instability caused by another catastrophic terrorist attack, an economic meltdown that triggers social unrest, or a series of environmental disasters, such paramilitary forces, protected and assisted by fellow ideologues in the police and military, could ruthlessly abolish what is left of our eroding democracy. War, with the huge profits it hands to corporations, and to right-wing interests such as the Christian Right, could become a permanent condition. And the thugs with automatic weapons, black uniforms and wraparound sunglasses who appeared on the streets in New Orleans could appear on our streets.

Chris Hedges ( ) is a graduate of Harvard Divinity School and won a Pulitzer Prize as a foreign correspondent for the New York Times. He is author, mostly recently, of “American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America ( ).”

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It can be found at:
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that Israel has demanded. Major springs about 3 miles on the Lebanese side of the border have been the subject of demands and threats from Israel for years; I predict that one Israel's planned outcomes of this preemptive war against Lebanon will be an arrangement that allows Israel to grab this water from the southern areas it has attacked. Read the following brief description from the New York Times and see if you feel chills down your neck too:

World Briefing | Middle East: Lebanon: Water Dispute With Israel

Published: October 8, 2002

Senior officials from the United States Embassy in Beirut met Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri to try to defuse a dispute with Israel over Lebanon's plans to use water both countries say they need. Israel has said it takes a ''grave view'' of Lebanon's plan to pipe water to southern villages from the Wazzani Springs, three miles north of the Israeli border. The springs feed the Hasbani River, a tributary of the Jordan River, which is a major source of Israel's fresh water. Lebanon says that it is within its rights under international law and that it plans to open a pumping station soon.

DU threads on the significance in this war of Israel's desire for Lebanese water:

Book on how those who seize water resources are set to become the new Big Oil:

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completely in its attacks in Gaza and Lebanon. It was ALREADY PASSED by a voice vote, so there is no accountability.


Go to THIS THREAD for more info on the upcoming HOUSE RESOLUTION:
thread title (7-19-06): ACTION ALERT: Oppose House Resolution Supporting Israel's Attacks!

And read what the Senate has ALREADY passed:
You'll note that they call for sanctions on Syria and Iran and are clearly laying the groundwork for more. Israel has absolute open season to do anything it wants with the US arms our taxes have paid for:

Here is the pdf file at CSPAN from which I took these image files for easier viewing:


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Juan Cole gave the heads-up on this in his blog here:

The craven US Senate ALREADY passed such a resolution, using a voice vote (so there are no recorded votes for us to see).

YOU MUST READ THE ALREADY-PASSED SENATE VERSION OF THIS RESOLUTION - it is frightening and aggressive in so many ways. It calls for the President to impose sanctions (guess it's just one more unitary executive power) on Syria and Iran and opens the way for more. It gives Israel absolutely open season to do whatever the hell they want in the MidEast.

CSPAN pdf file of the Senate Resolution is HERE -
In an edit, I'm adding IMAGE FILES of the four pages of the Senate Resolution at the end of this opening post as well as a link to a new thread on this

Now it is the House's turn to pass a similarly craven, horrible resolution. Here's what Juan Cole received from CNI:

Call Your Representative Now!
Oppose Unbalanced Resolution Supporting Israel's Attacks on Lebanon and Gaza
House Vote Scheduled for Today

The Council for the National Interest has learned that the House of Representatives will vote sometime today on an unbalanced resolution on the current crisis between Israel, Lebanon and the Palestinians. The bill, H.Res. 921, includes no criticism of the month of Israeli attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure in Gaza and Lebanon, which have been carried out with American-made weapons paid for with U.S. taxpayer money. A Senate version of the bill passed by a voice vote (meaning there was no recorded vote) yesterday.

The Council for the National Interest encourages its members to call their member of Congress immediately to express their opposition to this bill for its lack of balance. You can reach your Representative's office by calling the main House switchboard at (202) 225-3121 or by looking of the number at this website:

The House is scheduled to start at least two hours of debate on the resolution shortly, which you can watch live on C-SPAN.


Israel's attacks on innocent civilians and civilian infrastructure in Gaza and Lebanon are a violation of U.S. law, specifically the U.S. Arms Export Control Act and the U.S. Foreign Assistance Act. The U.S. Arms Export Control Act restricts the use of U.S. weapons to legitimate self-defense and internal policing; U.S. weapons cannot be used to attack civilians in offensive operations. The U.S. Foreign Assistance Act prohibits U.S. aid of any kind to a country with a pattern of gross human rights violations.

Israel's attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure in Gaza and Lebanon are examples of collective punishment, which are prohibited under the Geneva Conventions.

Continued Israeli actions against the civilian population of Gaza and Lebanon are not only against U.S. laws and the Geneva Conventions, which Israel has reportedly been given a "green light" to continue for another week by the Administration, but they are destroying the American ability to fight the war on terror. They are also destroying Israel's ability to make peace with her neighbors through negotiations, the only real road to security for the state of Israel.

Council for the National Interest Foundation
1250 4th Street SW, Suite WG-1
Washington, District of Columbia 20024

Here is the CSPAN link to the pdf file of the horrible voice-passed Senate resolution:

I don't yet have a CSPAN link to the House debate, which will surely pass this resolution without even a recorded vote unless something is done.

Edited to add images of the four pages of the Senate Resolution (from the pdf file link above):


Here is a new thread on the already-passed Senate Resolution:
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and much more - like purchasing a major US defense contractor!!! House vote scheduled Thursday and is expected to be much closer than the Senate vote. Lot of bought-off or intimidated Congressional voters - much pressure is needed NOW. The Senate ALREADY PASSED IT LAST MONTH.

David Sirota reports:

REPORT: Oman Trade Pact Permits Foreign Ownership of U.S. Nat’l Security Assets

In an explosive report tonight, top House Democrats discovered provisions in the controversial Oman Free Trade Agreement that would permit foreign ownership of U.S. ports and other key national security assets ( ). Three Democrats and one Republican held an emergency press conference today to expose the provisions just before the House is scheduled to vote on the Oman pact on Thursday. As Reuters reports, "Rep. John Murtha, a Pennsylvania Democrat who serves on the House Defense Appropriations subcommittee, said the pact would allow companies such as Dubai Ports World to acquire U.S. port operations by establishing a shell company in Oman." Those provisions might also allow foreign ownership of other key national security assets, considering just after the recent Dubai Ports controversy, that country went ahead with plans to purchase a major U.S. defense contractor ( ).

Last month, lawmakers from both parties in the U.S. Senate ( ) joined hands to pass the Oman Free Trade Agreement - which is being pushed aggressively by the Bush administration and its largest corporate donors. Lawmakers ignored major labor, human rights and environmental objections to the pact put forward by more than 400 union, religious and consumer groups. Among those voting for the pact in the Senate were Mike DeWine (R-OH) and Joe Lieberman (D-CT), two Senators facing tough re-election bids who could face renewed criticism in their home states that they have sold out their constituents.

The House vote is expected to be much closer than the Senate vote, and the explosive news tonight puts a new level of pressure on congressional lawmakers of both parties not to sell out. To date, a number of Democratic lawmakers have yet to say how they will vote on the Oman pact. Corporate lobbyists are aggressively targeting the 15 Democrats ( ) who last year capitulated to Big Money's demands and backed the corporate-written Central American Free Trade Agreement. They are also targeting members of the New Democratic Coalition - the group of Democrats most closely affiliated with the Democratic Leadership Council.

This vote is going to be extremely close - and bought-off lawmakers are scrambling to hide and/or obscure the details of these national security provisions. But as Reuters notes, even the Bush adminstration's trade representative acknowleges that the national security provisions create an exploitable security hole. That means that regardless of the propaganda efforts, the upcoming vote will put House members on record not only on economic issues, but on national security issues. Are these lawmakers going to sell out America's national security? Or are they going to stand up to Big Money interests and say this trade deal and others like it are unacceptable? Contact your House Member immediately and tell them you expect them to put America's national security first.

(snip - David Sirota has added updates and may add more)

David Sirota points out in an update that the story was originally broken by Lou Dobbs and Democratic Rep Sherrod Brown. (Brown and Sen. Byron Dorgan of North Dakota spoke against this dangerous and craven bill on Lou Dobbs - )

Transcript from Lou Dobbs' June 29 show including this urgent topic:

Rep. Sherrod Brown's June 30 post on this at Huffington Post:

Trading Away Our Security

Rep. Sherrod Brown, June 30 2006

After the public outcry over the Dubai ports deal, you'd think Republicans in Washington would think twice before proposing another trade deal that could threaten our national and economic security.

Think again.

Yesterday, Senator Mike DeWine voted for a free trade agreement with Oman ( ) which then passed the Republican-controlled Senate.

A troubling provision in the agreement permits corporations from Oman and subsidiaries based there to operate U.S. ports.


The House vote on this is coming up very soon, possibly tomorrow, according to David Sirota's report. It's already passed the Senate and is strongly backed by the White House (of course). Strong pressure is being put on representatives to pass this terrible bill, which would put the security of our country into the hands of whatever powers wanted to set up a shell country in Oman. And there has been mostly DEAFENING SILENCE. Heat up those fax machines, people!!!! Write your representatives!!!

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The findings on the psychology of authoritarianism may explain Bush's persistent postive ratings among a solid minority of Americans and meshes well with the methods and agenda of the Bush tacticians. To fight our enemy and to reach those who STILL have their eyes closed to what is really happening, we need to know these things. (By the way, Adolf Hitler's approval ratings were about the same as Bush's are now, a little over 1/3 of the voters ( )

I suggest that, to get the most out of Dean's op/ed, you watch his superb interview with Keith Olbermann on the same subject first. Links to web discussions, reviews and VIDEO of the Olbermann/Dean interview here:

Here is John Dean's Boston Globe op/ed: /


Triumph of the authoritarians

By John W. Dean | July 14, 2006


I started my inquiry in the mid-1990s, after a series of conversations with Goldwater, whom I had known for more than 40 years. Goldwater was also mystified (when not miffed) by the direction of today's professed conservatives -- their growing incivility, pugnacious attitudes, and arrogant and antagonistic style, along with a narrow outlook intolerant of those who challenge their thinking. He worried that the Republican Party had sold its soul to Christian fundamentalists, whose divisive social values would polarize the nation. From those conversations, Goldwater and I planned to study why these people behave as they do, and to author a book laying out what we found. Sadly, the senator's declining health soon precluded his continuing on the project, so I put it on the shelf. But I kept digging until I found some answers, and here are my thoughts.

For almost half a century, social scientists have been exploring authoritarianism. We do not typically associate authoritarianism with our democracy, but as I discovered while examining decades of empirical research, we ignore some findings at our risk. Unfortunately, the social scientists who have studied these issues report their findings in monographs and professional journals written for their peers, not for general readers. With the help of a leading researcher and others, I waded into this massive body of work.

What I found provided a personal epiphany. Authoritarian conservatives are, as a researcher told me, ``enemies of freedom, antidemocratic, antiequality, highly prejudiced, mean-spirited, power hungry, Machiavellian and amoral." And that's not just his view. To the contrary, this is how these people have consistently described themselves when being anonymously tested, by the tens of thousands over the past several decades.

Authoritarianism's impact on contemporary conservatism is beyond question. Because this impact is still growing and has troubling (if not actually evil) implications, I hope that social scientists will begin to write about this issue for general readers. It is long past time to bring the telling results of their empirical work into the public square and to the attention of American voters. No less than the health of our democracy may depend on this being done. We need to stop thinking we are dealing with traditional conservatives on the modern stage, and instead recognize that they've often been supplanted by authoritarians.

John W. Dean, former Nixon White House counsel, just published his seventh nonfiction book, Conservatives Without Conscience.

Here's the Amazon page on John Dean's new book -- released July 11 and currently running 4-1/2 stars -- with with more reviews and information:

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Windows Media and QuckTime video links at the Crooks & Liars site:

Cafferty: Bush and his signing statements: He’s the Decider!

By: John Amato on Wednesday, June 28th, 2006 at 12:17 pm

Cafferty: Some members of Congress want to know why President Bush claims he can sometimes just ignore the law if he feels like it. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter is holding hearings on Mr. Bush’s use of something called bill-signing statements.

The president reserves the right to revise, interpret or disregard a measure on national security or constitutional grounds. President Bush has done this 110 times to challenge 750 separate laws passed by the Congress, including a ban on the torture of detainees and the renewal of the Patriot Act.

Specter calls it a challenge to quote the plain language of the Constitution. And Senator Dianne Feinstein says if the president’s going to nullify part of the law, it should be done using the veto, something President Bush has never done. But the White House insists it’s important for the president to express reservations about the constitutionality of certain provisions of laws, because, of course, he’s the decider and he can decide these things just by looking at them.

The Justice Department, of course, also defended the president. No surprise there. It’s the president’s Justice Department. You think Alberto Gonzales is going to come out and say President Bush is abusing his power? Not a chance.

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