Monday, December 31, 2007


Let's hope the country is done with this kind of crap:

On NBC’s Meet The Press this morning, host Tim Russert asked former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee if he believed “people are born gay or choose to be gay?” “I don’t know whether people are born that way,” responded Huckabee, “but one thing I know, that the behavior one practices is a choice.”
Ok. So it doesn't matter if they're born that way, right? So what does he expect if they are? I wonder if Huckabee would be willing to have given up sex his whole life?


Quote Of The Day

"You can’t nice these people to death. You’d better send somebody into that arena who’s ready."

-- John Edwards, quoted by the New York Times, referring how Sen. Barack Obama would deal with insurance companies and drug companies.
I don't think there's much dispute that having a personal injury attorney, a successful one at that, would be a good choice to go into negotiations with insurance companies. Here's hoping his rise in the polls is Edwards peaking at the right time.


A Breakthrough .....

.... or a venture capitalists press release?

The holy grail of renewable energy came a step closer yesterday as thousands of mass-produced wafer-thin solar cells printed on aluminium film rolled off a production line in California, heralding what British scientists called "a revolution" in generating electricity.

The solar panels produced by a Silicon Valley start-up company, Nanosolar, are radically different from the kind that European consumers are increasingly buying to generate power from their own roofs. Printed like a newspaper directly on to aluminium foil, they are flexible, light and, if you believe the company, expected to make it as cheap to produce electricity from sunlight as from coal.


Sunday, December 30, 2007

Make Nice My Ass

Digby has written another great post on how the village elders think the Democrats should all make nice with Republicans. I have no further comment other than to totally agree with Digby's point of view.

One portion of the post features this chart of filibusters that is astounding:

I knew it was bad. But historically it's really bad. Have you seen any of the village elders getting up in arms about the obstructionist Republicans? How can the likes of David Broder look at himself in the mirror when he writes such drivel about getting along?


The Times Is Stupid

Where do you start?

First off, the NY Times has now hired Bill Kristol to do op-ed's. The liberal blogosphere is peeved about it, but not for the reasons you'd think. Bill Kristol has a right to his opinions just like anyone else, and a right to write about it in major newspapers. But why does he remain so "respected" as an "intellectual" when he's so consistently wrong (see: war, Iraq)? The guy gets a promotion and raise after being thoroughly wrong, over and over again.

Then the Times writes a supposedly nice piece about a blogging pioneer who died recently. Except they get a lot of it wrong. Did Matt Bai even talk to Steve's friends?

The Times has become a sloppy information source constructed by lazy elite journalists. Too bad. And they wonder why they're dying on the vine?

Added: Could it be said (and documented) any more clearly?

All of you aspiring pundits out there take note. The key to reaching the pinnacle of your profession is, apparently, to be 1) catastrophically wrong about everything, 2) utterly unwilling to acknowledge error, 3) willing to repeatedly lie and mislead your readers, and 4) completely batshit crazy.

In all seriousness, it would be difficult to find anyone who has been more consistently and embarrassingly wrong about everything over the last six years than Bill Kristol. When Kristol got his most recent gig at TIME Magazine, I actually went to the trouble of compiling a highlight reel of Kristol's past pronouncements. It didn't take long. Virtually every column he had written since 2001 had some mortifyingly embarrassing passage. And I didn't even start to search through the comments he'd made during his countless television appearances.


I'll leave you with my favorite Kristol quote. He wrote this on the eve of our invasion of Iraq:

We are tempted to comment, in these last days before the war, on the U.N., and the French, and the Democrats. But the war itself will clarify who was right and who was wrong about weapons of mass destruction. It will reveal the aspirations of the people of Iraq, and expose the truth about Saddam's regime. It will produce whatever effects it will produce on neighboring countries and on the broader war on terror. We would note now that even the threat of war against Saddam seems to be encouraging stirrings toward political reform in Iran and Saudi Arabia, and a measure of cooperation in the war against al Qaeda from other governments in the region. It turns out it really is better to be respected and feared than to be thought to share, with exquisite sensitivity, other people's pain. History and reality are about to weigh in, and we are inclined simply to let them render their verdicts.
Yep. The verdict is in. And no matter how wrong you are, you get a new gig!


Friday, December 28, 2007

Keister Landing

As Atrios says, Lucy .... football.


Good To Know

Particularly if you are a foreign policy expert (click to enlarge):

We might want to rethink our foreign policy with regard to Hugo Chavez, and start being a little nicer to Canadians. The other interesting thing is that Mexico's oil reserves are falling precipitously, and someone will have to fill a very big void in the near term.


Retail Votes

I'm sure they'd rather have the dough:

If the turnout is as predicted [in Iowa], Democrats could end up spending $140 to $150 on advertisements per caucusgoer, while the figure for the Republicans would be somewhere around $95 to $105.


The Evidence Mounts

See my previous theories on Musharraf being behind Bhutto's death:

The Los Angeles Times makes clear that "the attack occurred with devastating speed," and no one is sure exactly what happened. Some believe the shooter and the bomber were the same person, while others said "there were two assailants."The New York Times says some witnesses reported seeing a sniper firing from a nearby building.
Whoever is the guilty party, one thing is clear. Bhutto's fatal mistake was allying herself with the U.S. and Rice's initiatives in Pakistan.

Added: Now they're saying it was an accident? And no autopsy? Yeah, right. Ask yourself, who would benefit from such a story?

Added II: That famous whipping boy al Qaeda is being blamed by our intrepid media, who has swallowed the administration and Musharraf's story right down the line. And of course, Pakistan is providing all the evidence that is needed.


Thursday, December 27, 2007

Go Ahead

Join the party.


Why Pro-Forma Isn't Petty

Contrary to the Politico's BS:

Democrats wanted to block one such recess appointment in particular: Steven Bradbury, acting chief of the Justice Department’s Office of Legislative Counsel. Bush nominated Bradbury for the job and asked the Senate to remove the “acting” in his title.

Democrats would have none of it, complaining Bradbury had signed two secret memos in 2005 saying it was OK for the CIA to use harsh interrogation techniques — some call it torture — on terrorism detainees.



Benazir Bhutto was assassinated last night. Musharraf is blaming fundamentalists.

I don't believe it.

Ask yourself. Who has the most to gain by Bhutto's death? That's where you'll find the perp.

This is a huge story with immense implications for America in the Middle East.

Added: Oh yeah, and how about this too!


Sign O' The Times

Bush is turning out to be quite a good president for the calendar industry, reports USAT. The Bush Out of Office Countdown desk calendar ranks No. 2 on the humor calendar best-seller list, behind the Far Side.




The New York Times leads with news that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has approved a new rule allowing employers to either cut back or eliminate retiree health benefits when retirees reach 65 and become eligible for Medicare. The new rule comes in response to employers threatening to get rid of retiree health benefits as a whole if they couldn't get an exemption from age-discrimination laws.


Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Politico .... Junk

I accidentally ran across this piece of junk at the Politico. You know, the serious blog of professionals! The blog author is discussing the pro-forma sessions that the Democrats are having in the Senate to keep Bush from making recess appointments:

To put this relatively petty Washington spat in perspective, on this day in 1941 Congress held a dramatic joint session in the Senate chamber to hear an address by Winston Churchill, just three weeks after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.

The Senate's unproductive holiday sessions will continue on Friday at 10 a.m.
So this petty move is so historically irrelevant eh? What about a nutbar President who continually usurps the intent of the Constitution by appointing whacko people without Senate consideration? What an idiot. That serious media, they're all over it alright.


Pakistan, Here We Come

Don't look now, but it appears that there will be an increase of American military presence in Pakistan. We know how well that worked out in Iraq and Saudi Arabia .......


Top Ten Iraqi Myths

Very nicely outlined by Juan Cole:

10. Myth: The US public no longer sees Iraq as a central issue in the 2008 presidential campaign.

In a recent ABC News/ Washington Post poll, Iraq and the economy were virtually tied among voters nationally, with nearly a quarter of voters in each case saying it was their number one issue. The economy had become more important to them than in previous months (in November only 14% said it was their most pressing concern), but Iraq still rivals it as an issue!

9. Myth: There have been steps toward religious and political reconciliation in Iraq in 2007. Fact: The government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has for the moment lost the support of the Sunni Arabs in parliament. The Sunnis in his cabinet have resigned. Even some Shiite parties have abandoned the government. Sunni Arabs, who are aware that under his government Sunnis have largely been ethnically cleansed from Baghdad, see al-Maliki as a sectarian politician uninterested in the welfare of Sunnis.

8. Myth: The US troop surge stopped the civil war that had been raging between Sunni Arabs and Shiites in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad.

Fact: The civil war in Baghdad escalated during the US troop escalation. Between January, 2007, and July, 2007, Baghdad went from 65% Shiite to 75% Shiite. UN polling among Iraqi refugees in Syria suggests that 78% are from Baghdad and that nearly a million refugees relocated to Syria from Iraq in 2007 alone. This data suggests that over 700,000 residents of Baghdad have fled this city of 6 million during the US 'surge,' or more than 10 percent of the capital's population. Among the primary effects of the 'surge' has been to turn Baghdad into an overwhelmingly Shiite city and to displace hundreds of thousands of Iraqis from the capital.

7. Myth: Iran was supplying explosively formed projectiles (a deadly form of roadside bomb) to Salafi Jihadi (radical Sunni) guerrilla groups in Iraq. Fact: Iran has not been proved to have sent weapons to any Iraqi guerrillas at all. It certainly would not send weapons to those who have a raging hostility toward Shiites. (Iran may have supplied war materiel to its client, the Supreme Islamic Council of Iraq (ISCI), which was then sold off from warehouses because of graft, going on the arms market and being bought by guerrillas and militiamen.

6. Myth: The US overthrow of the Baath regime and military occupation of Iraq has helped liberate Iraqi women. Fact: Iraqi women have suffered significant reversals of status, ability to circulate freely, and economic situation under the Bush administration.

5. Myth: Some progress has been made by the Iraqi government in meeting the "benchmarks" worked out with the Bush administration. Fact: in the words of Democratic Senator Carl Levin, "Those legislative benchmarks include approving a hydrocarbon law, approving a debaathification law, completing the work of a constitutional review committee, and holding provincial elections. Those commitments, made 1 1/2 years ago, which were to have been completed by January of 2007, have not yet been kept by the Iraqi political leaders despite the breathing space the surge has provided."

4. Myth: The Sunni Arab "Awakening Councils," who are on the US payroll, are reconciling with the Shiite government of PM Nuri al-Maliki even as they take on al-Qaeda remnants. Fact: In interviews with the Western press, Awakening Council tribesmen often speak of attacking the Shiites after they have polished off al-Qaeda. A major pollster working in Iraq observed,
' Most of the recent survey results he has seen about political reconciliation, Warshaw said, are "more about [Iraqis] reconciling with the United States within their own particular territory, like in Anbar. . . . But it doesn't say anything about how Sunni groups feel about Shiite groups in Baghdad." Warshaw added: "In Iraq, I just don't hear statements that come from any of the Sunni, Shiite or Kurdish groups that say 'We recognize that we need to share power with the others, that we can't truly dominate.' " ' '
The polling shows that "the Iraqi government has still made no significant progress toward its fundamental goal of national reconciliation."

3. Myth: The Iraqi north is relatively quiet and a site of economic growth. Fact: The subterranean battle among Kurds, Turkmen and Arabs for control of the oil-rich Kirkuk province makes the Iraqi north a political mine field. Kurdistan now also hosts the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) guerrillas that sneak over the border and kill Turkish troops. The north is so unstable that the Iraqi north is now undergoing regular bombing raids from Turkey.

2. Myth: Iraq has been "calm" in fall of 2007 and the Iraqi public, despite some grumbling, is not eager for the US to depart. Fact: in the past 6 weeks, there have been an average of 600 attacks a month, or 20 a day, which has held steady since the beginning of November. About 600 civilians are being killed in direct political violence per month, but that number excludes deaths of soldiers and police. Across the board, Iraqis believe that their conflicts are mainly caused by the US military presence and they are eager for it to end.

1. Myth: The reduction in violence in Iraq is mostly because of the escalation in the number of US troops, or "surge."

Fact: Although violence has been reduced in Iraq, much of the reduction did not take place because of US troop activity. Guerrilla attacks in al-Anbar Province were reduced from 400 a week to 100 a week between July, 2006 and July, 2007. But there was no significant US troop escalation in al-Anbar. Likewise, attacks on British troops in Basra have declined precipitously since they were moved out to the airport away from population centers. But this change had nothing to do with US troops.


Friday, December 21, 2007

All But ....

Chrysler. All but bankrupt.


Oh The Irony .....

Atrios points this out, which only makes sense:

Nov. 8 (Bloomberg) -- Washington Mutual Inc. got what it wanted in 2005: A revised bankruptcy code that no longer lets people walk away from credit card bills.

The largest U.S. savings and loan didn't count on a housing recession. The new bankruptcy laws are helping drive foreclosures to a record as homeowners default on mortgages and struggle to pay credit card debts that might have been wiped out under the old code, said Jay Westbrook, a professor of business law at the University of Texas Law School in Austin and a former adviser to the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

``Be careful what you wish for,'' Westbrook said. ``They wanted to make sure that people kept paying their credit cards, and what they're getting is more foreclosures.''
File in "unintended consequences".

I find it astounding how conservatives continue to completely miss the boat on the current economy. Wealth creation in the U.S. today is dependent on consumer spending. This means that joe-six pack has to have money to blow or the economy tanks. Yet conservative policies are all about killing joe-six pack.


Corruption Fatigue

Not only have I not blogged about the latest scandal involving the White House and the destroyed CIA tapes, but I haven't even been reading about it. Oh, I've read some cursory stories. But the moment I do, I get this overwhelming feeling of "so what?". Put another way, "same shit, different day".

I applaud those who continue to follow the scandals with enthusiasm, passion and vigor. We really can't stop being outraged by such behavior. But I'm not sure I can personally keep up the energy just now.

Let me give you a short version of my take on the scandal. The CIA interrogation tapes showed:

1. the horrors of torture that would be shocking if shown publically,
2. that CIA torturers were really really good at it, smiles and all,
3. that the victim would say anything to get them to stop,
4. that the information provided was useless,

and finally

5. that the White House had meetings, including Bush, where the decision was made to destroy the tapes because of their potential for criminal legal liability by everyone involved.

It's really that simple.

And the investigation will go nowhere because fundamentally, everyone has corruption fatigue.

Added: Dana Perino's faux outrage at the NY Times is typical Rovian strategy to divert attention from the reality, and a joke. Stage left, enter Claude Rains from Casablanca.



This is just a quickie followup on my throw-away comment about Alan Greenspan. Here's a quote from the man:

In a 1963 essay for Ms. Rand’s newsletter, Mr. Greenspan dismissed as a “collectivist” myth the idea that businessmen, left to their own devices, “would attempt to sell unsafe food and drugs, fraudulent securities, and shoddy buildings.” On the contrary, he declared, “it is in the self-interest of every businessman to have a reputation for honest dealings and a quality product.”
Now, this was 1963 and maybe Big Al grew up a little after that. But his handling of the financial markets, particularly the mortgage businesses during his tenure as Fed chair would suggest that he didn't learn much.

Hey Al! Ever hear of a little book called "The Jungle"? I had to read it in 8th grade. Did you?


One Little Indicator

If economics makes you immediately look away, don't be afraid of this post. It's a simple explanation of what it means when credit markets "seize".

If you pay attention to economic news, even on a cursory basis, you've likely heard there's a lot of "fear" or "lack of confidence" in the credit markets. What exactly does this mean?

This chart (click to enlarge) looks daunting, but it's really quite simple. It's a chart that measures the difference between the cost of money lent to high quality companies vs. riskier companies. As you can see, that "spread" has grown and is getting worse again. The spreads increase when economics look shaky.

This means that financial markets are getting very afraid that companies will fail, that defaults will grow and are therefore not lending. Think of it another way. This chart is a measure of the fear and lack of confidence by those in-the-know about how well business is doing.

Why does it matter to us? Because if these folks are afraid, then you should be afraid that there are really serious problems in the economy which could affect your job, your investments or your personal finances. This is why the Fed, Congress and apparently Bush are looking at ways to restore confidence. It's also why no one should ever buy Alan Greenspan's book.


Oh NO!

Please. Bear with me. I'm going to sound old and cranky for a minute.

Well .... like usual.

But that doesn't mean I'm wrong.

I saw two stories in the first five minutes in front of my computer this morning about Jamie Lynn Spears being pregnant. Both stories included quotes from mothers like this one:

Yasmine shook her head. "I never expected her, of all people, to do this," she said, referring to the girl who in her mind is both Zoey and Jamie, the actress who plays her. "She's supposed to be the good one in the family."

High school girls who had already had their hearts broken by the all-too-public life of Jamie Lynn's older sister, Britney, known as a hard-partying mother of two, worried that their younger sisters would be devastated by the news -- or, worse, that now their sisters might think it was "cool" to be 16 and pregnant.
This is BS. If you, as a parent, are worried that your children will be "devastated" by the news that Spears in pregnant at sixteen, then you're quite simply an inadequate parent. To leave your children to learn about the world and it's complications via Nickelodeon is, in my humble opinon, virtually child abuse.

Jamie Lynn Spears and her show are entertainment ferchristsakes, not real life and not real people. If you aren't talking to your child about sex by that age (and you can check out studies and statistics on this if you like) then you are begging your child to have sex prematurely. And if you haven't taught your child these realities by the time they are eight to twelve, then I promise you that you'll have a world of hurt with your children for the rest of your (and their) lives.

No wonder the country is in the state it's in.


Thursday, December 20, 2007

Joke of the Day

Except it's not a joke. Britney Spears mother has a book coming out on parenting. You just can't make this s#@t up.


While We Were Out Shopping

The guerrilla movement in Iraq is generating a steady 600 attacks a week using bombs, small-arms, mortars and sniping. This number has not changed during the past six weeks, and although it is lower than the rate in September, it is a very significant number of attacks. Roadside bomb attacks in specific are down, but there is no change in the number of over-all attacks. The Iraqi government statistics show 600 civilian deaths a month (the US military's statistics are lower).


The Nut Of The Issue

This quote of Harry Reid speaks volumes:

"Mr. Reid said that in 40 years of public service he had not had a tougher relationship [with Bush].

"'He is impossible to work with,' the senator said. 'There are times I say: 'Is there something more I can do? Have I done something wrong?' But even his own people tell me he won't compromise.'"
This quote encapsulates the problem Democrats have with Republicans. The modern Republican party takes this dynamic and burns the opposition.

Here's the deal. It's a chronic condition in American culture to believe that an individual has some sort of control over others around them. It's stems from a cultural history of abusive parenting. When children are abused (at whatever level), they develop a fantasy that if the child had just done something different, they wouldn't have been hurt. For example, "if I had just picked up my toys before dad came home, my (drunk out of his mind) father wouldn't have beat the crap out of my mother" or, "if I was funnier my mother would have been happy". Parents unwittingly perpetuate the myth with blaming, lack of insight, dishonesty, and lousy communication that says to the child, "it's always your fault."

Put another way, it's a self protective mechanism that naturally occurs in kids to maintain a sense of power in the midst of a powerless situation . Without that power fantasy and survival sense, children simply will not thrive. This occurs to all children in all families. In healthy families, children (with the help of caregivers and significants in their lives) are taught that this fantasy is wrong, delusional, and not operational in the adult world.

But what if the fantasy is not un-learned? Taking that ingrained delusional myth into adult relationships is disastrous. And Harry Reid demonstrates one aspect of it. Reid's belief that, in some way as yet undiscovered after nearly eight years, if he just finds the right formula he can turn Bush around. That leaves Reid with a sense of power .... and incredible frustration as his fantasy is proven wrong over and over again. Yet, most adults will hang on to this mythic power-over-others fantasy despite all available life experience to the contrary (teaching old dogs new tricks anyone?) because the perceived risks of trying something different can be overwhelming (see: Democrats, captitulating over and over again). Incidentally, the Republican party and Bush demonstrate the same dynamic except they play the role of the abuser. But that's another post.

But Harry? You know what? Here's the fact.

Bush is a disordered individual that cannot be controlled or influenced except by being confronted. He, and his sort (see: Cheney, Rumsfeld, Addington et. al.) with the the help from the perceived power of some of the most disordered of people (spare the rod, spoil the child-evangelicals) have moved the Republican party in the direction of their pathology. They cannot be reasoned with, they can only be fought. Like an abusive husband, you can't change em'. You can only confront them and take care of yourself. And until the Democratic party learns this lesson, they will continue to be the whipping boys of the Republicans.


Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Not Just Christmas

Too cool:



From the you-just-can't-make-this-crap-up file (via Kevin Drum):

According to the Pentagon, new focus group findings in Iraq have produced some good news: it turns out that Iraqis have a number of "shared beliefs" about their current situation that "cut across sectarian lines."

[ok now.... wait for it .... wait for it ...... waaaaaait]

Great! And what is this good news? "Iraqis of all sectarian and ethnic groups believe that the U.S. military invasion is the primary root of the violent differences among them, and see the departure of 'occupying forces' as the key to national reconciliation."

From the pentagon.


Things To Come?

Via Atrios:

Dem wins special election to Texas State House.

District went 34% to Gore in '00 and 36% to Kerry in '04.


Obama Health

Paul Krugman makes a very good case for Barack Obama not being a good potential leader on health care reform.


Oil Punked

I read two convincing blog posts (here and here) today about oil exploration and future oil production. Both predict a dramatic increase in exploration, drilling, and production in the coming years.

While making a very good case that oil prices, at least temporarily, have peaked, both are depending on new production outstripping increasing demand and decreasing production from current oil fields. And perhaps that's true despite the convincing arguments of peak oilers. But I digress.

My point in this post is I hope these folks are wrong about peaking prices. I'm quite sympathetic to consumers that have to pay higher prices and strain budgets to keep functioning. But really, has anything but higher prices worked to spur alternative development and conservation? It's my contention that a fall-back in oil prices is a bad thing causing people, as in the 1970's, 80's and 90's to be seduced into thinking that the petroleum economy is a good thing. It most definitely is not. Our oil dependency has led to climate destruction, immoral wars, pollution and community disconnect. I've always advocated moving away from a petroeconomy on a measured basis via government intervention. But if that's not possible (and clearly it isn't), then price will have to do it.


Just A Comment

Don't count John McCain out. He may be the least undesireable of the Republican bunch to Republicans. The latest fair haired boy is being thoroughly trashed by the conservative media as the "huckster", so maybe we'll be back to square one.


Chart Porn, Speaks For Itself

(click to enlarge)


Not A Good Sign

Given our economy is 70% based on the American pathology of compulsive shopping, this is worrisome:

Still haven't started on the Christmas shopping? No need to worry; you'll have plenty of time this weekend. Nervous retailers are keeping their stores open longer to encourage shoppers. Many stores will be open before dawn and close in the early hours of the morning, but some are choosing not to close at all. One Macy's store plans to stay open from 7 a.m. Thursday until 6 p.m. Monday. "There's a lot of desperation out there," said a retail expert. "This is a weird, wacky holiday."
Is fiscal sanity returning to the American household?


Nah ............


A Quick Anecdote

Related to the stupidity below, I have a short story for you.

I have a friend who just installed solar panels on his 1800 sq. ft. house. The cost, after rebates was pricey at $22,000, although that's about average for the purchase of a new car. But he now is energy independent. In fact, he returns electricity to the grid on a net basis.

Now what would happen if the U.S. (like Germany for example) committed to solar power? Suppose all new construction was required to be energy independent via solar power? At least two things would happen. First, the cost of solar installations would fall precipitously (see: flat screen tv's, DVRs, etc.). Second, our energy demands would fall through the floor. Oh, and btw, our mercury and CO2 emissions would also fall precipitously.

But noooooo. Let's go with ethanol!



From Today's Papers:

The energy bill also mandates a five-fold increase in ethanol production by 2022
Sigh .....

This particular movement is a poster child for two key elements in U.S. policy making. First, the power of corporations to push their agenda in Congress via the power of regional interests to thwart the needs of the whole. Big agriculture loves this provision because it will boost the price of corn big time while the midwest, which really probably shouldn't be farmed at all, is the recipient of a big Federal wet kiss. Bush's ethanol initiative has already caused a huge price increase in corn with a resulting inflationary response in all food prices.

The second element is ignorance. Making ethanol out of corn is horribly inefficient. The best case scenarios have the energy output barely equaling the energy input to produce ethanol (unlike sugar which is used to great effect in Brazil). But never mind the science, see element number one above.

Let me give you an investment tip. If this bio-energy movement continues, and it looks like it will for the foreseeable future, invest in agricultural commodities. Moo is one of my personal favorites.


Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Lie As Easily As They Breathe

You know that meme floating around that torture actually works? Of course it's all a lie.

Added: By the way, the evidence is that not a single terrorist plot has been stopped by the Bush administration. Nada. And why would terrorist actually launch any attack when they have such a thorough self-destruction occurring while they release video-tapes?


In A Nutshell

Perfectly asked:

Is the Great Awakening inside the Sunni Arab community the road to Iraq's stability, or is it just a pause for Sunni rearmament and reorganization? Is it a means to secure American military bases inside an emerging Sunni client state generously supplied with cash from Saudi Arabia, a kind of cordon sanitaire along the fault line that separates the Sunni Arab world from Shiite Iran and its beachhead in southern Iraq? Does this development mean America wins when our former Sunni Arab enemies regain power in central Iraq? Or—here's the most disturbing question—will the presumed successes of today be catalysts for yet bloodier civil war inside Iraq or, worse, larger regional war?


Good News

Keeping in the spirit of shouting out good news, New Jersey residents and politicians had to good sense and moral rectitude to outlaw the death penalty!


What Atrios Said

First edition, shamelessly copied in full:

Jane has a good rundown on the absurdity of Reid's claim that Dodd's actions had nothing to do with the pulling of the telecom bill. And I want to highlight this bit from Glenn:
The most important value of victories of this sort is that they ought to serve as a potent tonic against defeatism, regardless of the ultimate outcome. And successes like this can and should provide a template for how to continue to strengthen these efforts. Yesterday's victory, temporary as it is, shouldn't be over-stated, but it also shouldn't be minimized. All of it stemmed from the spontaneous passion and anger of hundreds of thousands of individuals demanding that telecoms be subject to the rule of law like everyone else. And this effort could have been -- and, with this additional time, still can be -- much bigger and stronger still.
One of my pet peeves has long been a certain strain of defeatism. Understandably we all feel defeated at times, but there's a certain kind of defeatist out there on the internets, people who spend most of their time chastising others for thinking it's possible to have any influence and attacking the "stupidity" of those who even bother to try. Maybe those people are right. Maybe there never is anything to be done. But if that's the case, get a new goddamn hobby. It's rather odd to spend all your time following political news and blogs if the only reason to do it is to provide justification for your view that All Is Lost. Just go out and have some fun instead.
Yep. But it's not always easy when you've been bathed in defeat to keep up optimism. But I trudge forward anyway ......



How strange is it that the U.S. provides intelligence for Turkey to attack a country that we occupy?


Factoid of the Day

John Cook blogs for Radar Online: "Federal spending on paper shredding has increased more than 600 percent since George W. Bush took office."

How much of that, I wonder, was done here?


A Victory .....

.... of sorts:

In other news out of Capitol Hill, everyone notes that the Senate Democratic leadership delayed considering a new eavesdropping bill that would have given telecommunication companies retroactive immunity. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid decided to remove the bill after it became clear lawmakers wouldn't be able to work out their differences before the break. The bill will probably be debated again when Congress gets back to work in January.
My guess is that Reid is hoping the heat will calm down, and Chris Dodd will settle down, if he hides the bill for awhile. This means that we'll have to remain vigilant for when he brings it back to the floor.


Monday, December 17, 2007

Well Put

Kevin Drum made a statement today that is so right on I must reproduce it here. It's so fundamentally correct yet so misunderstood that it's pathetic:

[Bob] Kerrey wasn't suggesting that electing Obama would have any direct effect on hardcore al-Qaeda jihadists. But terrorists can't function unless they have a critical mass of support or, at a minimum, tolerance from a surrounding population. This is Mao's sea in which the jihadists swim. Without it, terrorists simply don't have enough freedom of movement to be effective, and their careers are short. It's why the Red Brigades in Italy and the Baader-Meinhof gang in Germany lasted only a few years, while the IRA in Ireland has lasted decades.
So-called "hard power" (as used by Drum) is the last resort, the resort of fools who have screwed up the real tools to eliminate extremism. Unfortunately we have many fools running our government right now.


The Surge In Shovel Sales

Needlenose picks up a very interesting story:

There's no question that violence across Iraq has declined: in December 2006, approximately 3,000 Iraqi civilians were killed across the country; this November about 600 were. But the problem—and the reason no one from U.S. commander Gen. David Petraeus on down is declaring victory yet—is that those statistics do not tell the whole story: [. . .] militias are making more of an effort to disguise their grisly handiwork—burying bodies in shallow graves, dumping them in city sewers. . . .

In the past two months, more than half a dozen mass graves have been found in Iraq, at least half of them in Baghdad. At one site discovered in late November, in a yard in Baghdad's Saydiya neighborhood, bodies and their severed heads were buried in two separate holes, according to a source at the Ministry of Interior who isn't authorized to speak on the record. An additional 16 bodies were found buried in a ditch north of Baghdad last Thursday.

. . . in the heat of the civil war, militias boldly advertised their slaughter. Bodies—headless, burned, slashed open and perforated with drill holes—were left in plain sight as a message to others. Now, with most Baghdad neighborhoods dominated by one sect or the other, the death squads can afford to be more subtle in their killing. . . .

The strategy also reflects some positive developments in Baghdad. With many more U.S. and Iraqi troops out on the streets, killers cannot be as brazen as before.
Why? Because the fundamental problems in Iraq remain and will remain until they decide to solve it. With the Americans in country, that decision to resolve the internal conflicts can be postponed indefinitely as the U.S. props up one side or the other.


This n' That

Did you know that Boltin' Joe has endorsed John McCain. What a shock.

The other news is that Chris Dodd is going to do a real filibuster in the Senate against the telecom immunity bill today (you can offer support here). Why? Dodd has to do the real thing because the Democratic leadership refuses to honor his "hold" and is ready to roll over. Will Dodd be successful? Probably not. But at least he gets it and is trying. I wonder if Hillary or Obama will go to the Senate to speak for awhile, helping Dodd to filibuster?

I have generally been supportive of Harry Reid. But within the last six months he's lost me. I'm done with him and about done with Pelosi. By the way, Reid honors the hold put on by Tom Coburn, (R, Nutbar-Oklahoma) of a bill with widespread support in the Senate while ignoring Dodd, a member of his own party.

Added: Looks like Huckleberry Graham's holds get honored too. This one to block a bill requiring the military to not torture.



Join Congressman John Wexler's call for Cheney Hearings here. Go. Do it.


Sunday, December 16, 2007


This is some really sick thinking.

It all sounds so logical, but it's pure nuts. Yet, like Kevin Drum, I agree that it's what we're up against and why I contend that we're always about an foot outside the jungle.

To prove this is crap, all you need to do is remember that former Israeli prime minister, and American darling, Menachem Begin once bombed the beejesus out of British troops.


Surveillance State

While we've all been shopping, Congress is giving the telecoms a big wet kiss:

The vast bulk of those on whom the Government spies have never been accused, let alone convicted, of having done anything wrong. One can dismiss those observations as hyperbole if one likes -- people want to believe that their own government is basically benevolent and "tyranny" is something that happens somewhere else -- but publicly available facts simply compel the conclusion that, by definition, we live in a lawless surveillance state, and most of our political officials are indifferent to, if not supportive of, that development.

That's precisely why our political class is about to bestow amnesty on telecoms which broke multiple laws in how they enabled the government to spy on us, even though what the telecoms did -- on purpose and for years -- is unquestionably illegal. Our political leaders in both parties plainly want this limitless surveillance to continue, and they don't think that telecoms do anything wrong even when they work with the government in spying on Americans in ways that are against the law.

And they're saying that explicitly. The legislation jointly created and about to be enacted by Jay Rockefeller, Dick Cheney, Congressional Republicans and Harry Reid -- with a vital assist from the Jane-Harman-led "Blue Dogs" in the House -- is all designed to conceal and protect this state of affairs and to enable it to grow.
And they're doing it despite this:
The N.S.A.’s reliance on telecommunications companies is broader and deeper than ever before, according to government and industry officials, yet that alliance is strained by legal worries and the fear of public exposure.
Many bloggers are now wondering if we won the cold war or not?


Pop Quiz

What's going to cost the U.S. more over the next decade: the exploding costs of entitlements like Social Security and Medicare or Bush's tax cuts?

Answer here.


Take The Blindfold

Via Digby, we have a story the perfectly summarizes the Democratic Congressional strategy in dealing with Bush:

Three Jews were going to be executed. They were lined up in front of a firing squad and the sergeant in charge asked each one whether he wanted a blindfold or not.

"Do you want a blindfold?" he asked the first. "Yes," he said, in a resigned tone.

"Do you want a blindfold?" he asked the second. "Ok," said the second.

"Do you want a blindfold?" he asked the third. "No," said the third.

At this point the second leaned over to the third one and said "Take a blindfold. Don't make trouble."


What Digby Said

This is another edition of what Digby said:

For some reason the political class and the gasbags don't seem to get what this means:

If we don't reform the health care system overall, that's what's going to happen.
I'll only add that this chart clearly demonstrates what a "problem" social security is ..... right?


I Told Ya

I told you hell wouldn't freeze over.



Why Iowa should be interesting:

Why Edwards Can Win Iowa

For months, John Edwards "has been rounding up support" in Iowa's "rural precincts where the front runners have paid less attention," Newsweek reports.

"While Obama and Clinton have drawn crowds in the thousands in places like Des Moines and Ames, Edwards has been winning over people in tiny towns like Sac City (population: 2,189). That's important, the strategists say, because under Iowa's arcane caucus rules, a precinct where 25 people show up to vote gets the same number of delegates as a place that packs in 2,500. In other words, even if he loses to Obama and Clinton in the state's bigger cities, he can still win by wrapping up smaller, far-flung precincts that other candidates have ignored."
Added: It looks like Edwards lost the Des Moines Registers endorsement due to his stand against corporate influence. That independent media at work again!


Friday, December 14, 2007

Pop Quiz

What do you call an economic environment where growth is slowing to a crawl while prices are going through the roof?


Thursday, December 13, 2007


Here's the headline from Juan Cole's blog today:

40 Dead, 125 Wounded in Amara Bombings;
Bombings in Baghdad leave 30 Dead or Wounded
Just another day in the American supervised paradise!



Froomkin is doing a column today about the difficulties of Congress. Republican obstruction tactics and Bush's vetos have become chronic and have worked, while Democrats continue to try to get along. This particular quote from Steny Hoyer summarizes the situation:

"House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., told reporters that Democrats have done all they can. 'We were not elected to do what the president tells us to do,' Hoyer said. But acknowledging political realities, he added: 'If he vetoes and we can't override the veto, then we have to go in some other direction.'

"In every case, Bush's veto powers or senators' filibuster powers have forced Democrats to retreat. . . .
The likes of Hoyer simply STILL don't get the realities of politics today.

First off. Congresspeople assume that if they are elected, the only thing they are supposed to do is pass legislation. If they pass lots of legislation they've been "successful". That is a fallacy. In the current session of Congress no one with any knowledge of politics had any large expectation that major legislation would be passed. The majority is simply too thin and the pugilism of Republicans too profound. My expectation was that this session would be marked by an opportunity to stop Bush, investigate, and use the bully pulpit.

Which brings me to the second and more key issue. Democrats have been awful at not using the media. If the situation were reversed and Democrats were obstructing, do you honestly believe that the Republicans would be sitting back and trying to "find a way" to get along? Hell no. Anyone remember the hub hub over the "nuculur option" and Democratic obstructionism during Bush's first term? They'd be all over the media spewing froth about the obstructionist Democracts, fireballing at every opportunity the opposition.

And the media would be eating it up with a spoon. And it would be working to sway the electorate.

Congressional Dems, by-in-large, have done a fair job stopping Bush and a good job investigating. But they've been awful and timid at using the Republican obstructionism as a political lever to either force Republicans to capitualte or to make the case to the American voting public. Another opportunity lost and even more reason to elect more and better democrats. I'm sorry that political discourse comes down to getting media attention via spectacular media trash. But you live in the world you're given, not the one you want.

Update: This says it all.


Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Geeky Chart That Matters

This is from the ETF Digest Daily Summary. "DBA" is a basket of agricultrual commodities and the chart is reflective of prices of those commodities. Note the little bubble that suggests that there is currently a six week inventory of wheat right now due to problems in Australia and ethanol production (thanks George).

Be prepared for food prices to continue to climb significantly down the road.



If this wasn't so pathetic it would be funny.

Republicans have been thoroughly obstructionist in Congress thinking this gives them an advantage in the upcoming election. They've perfected the art of stopping legislation through the "F" word (funny, you never hear about the "F" word in the media anymore) such that when legislation on the Alternative Minimum Tax was proposed, they blocked it ..... even though Democrats had acquiesced (another pathetic trend) to all the GOP's demands.


Torture Part Deux

I wrote a bit yesterday about the revelation by a former intelligence officer that torture was used by the CIA and that it "worked". Dan Froomkin has a very salient commentary on that story today:

[Brian Ross, ABC News] Ross asked Kiriakou to say a bit more about those thwarted attacks: "Were they on US soil? Were they in Pakistan?"

Kiriakou replied: "You know, I was out of it by then. I had moved onto a new job. And I-- I don't recall. To the best of my recollection, no, they weren't on US soil. They were overseas."

But where's the evidence?

Like Kiriakou, Bush last year described Zubaydah as a senior terrorist leader who divulged crucial information under questioning.

But, as I wrote in Friday's column, Bush and the Torture Tapes, investigative reporter Ron Suskind has written that Zubaydah was a mentally ill minor functionary, and that most if not all of the information he provided to the CIA was either old news -- or entirely made up.

There are many reasons why Americans should be skeptical about assertions that terrorist attacks were thwarted as a result of what administration officials would call "enhanced interrogation." (I enumerated some of the reasons last month at, where I am deputy editor.)

But it all boils down to the fact that, so far, no one from Bush on down has come up with a single documented example of American lives saved thanks to torture.

To me, it doesn't matter if torture works or not, it's wrong. But in this case (like most things Bush), it appears to be highly suspect that the torture actually resulted in good information.


New Bush Coins

Oh, this is too funny. You've got to watch this.


Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Did You Know?

Did you know that the Washington Post is still harping on the Edwards $400 haircut thing?



Ned Parker writes in the Los Angeles Times:

"The U.S. troop buildup in Iraq was meant to freeze the country's civil war so political leaders could rebuild their fractured nation. Ten months later, the country's bloodshed has dropped, but the military strategy has failed to reverse Iraq's disintegration into areas dominated by militias, tribes and parties, with a weak central government struggling to assert its influence. . . .

"'Iraq is moving in the direction of a failed state, a highly decentralized situation -- totally unplanned, of course -- with competing centers of power run by warlords and militias,' said Joost Hiltermann of the International Crisis Group. 'The central government has no political control whatsoever beyond Baghdad, maybe not even beyond the Green Zone.'"

Yep. And while I agree the violence is down, it's far from gone. And just what does everyone think is going to happen when the U.S. leaves? Oh. I forgot. We're going to stay there forever, or least until all Americans are broke.


Follow The Bouncing Ball

This is hilarious:

The NYT fronts word that lawyers at the CIA's clandestine branch approved the destruction of the tapes, which had hundreds of hours of footage. (The WP says most are of a detainee alone in his cell.) A former senior official tells the NYT that there had been discussions about the tapes with different agencies for two years, and both White House and Justice Department lawyers had advised against destroying the tapes. But since they weren't ever given a direct decision, the head of the clandestine branch decided to go ahead with their destruction after a lawyer within the same department said he had the proper authority. The top CIA lawyer was not asked to approve the move, which several former officials said was more than a little surprising.
Now everyone but some obscure department head can claim they "don't know nuthin' about the birthin' of no babies".


Shouldn't Need To Say

This is an issue that troubles me. And what I'm about to say should be so ingrained in our culture as to not even need mentioning. But, we're not in a Utopia. From Today's Papers:

The Washington Post fronts the Supreme Court decisions but leads with a former CIA officer speaking out about water-boarding. John Kiriakou, a former interrogator, said the first high-level al-Qaida detainee was defiant for weeks but broke down 35 seconds after the water-boarding started. Although the information he gave "probably saved lives," Kiriakou now says that he considers water-boarding to be torture, and "Americans are better than that."
One of the hallmarks of citizen government is that it's messy, inefficient and requires prodigious amounts of courage. A dictatorship (on either end of the political spectrum) is much more efficient and simple. But one of the important and necessary elements of a culture that harbors citizen government is that it's citizens must be courageous. Whether it's in your personal dealings or in social contracts, being willing to stay true to democratic values can be quite a difficult and dirty proposition at times, requiring great moral rectitude.

Torture is one such issue. Study after study has shown that torture doesn't work. But let's assume it does for a moment (as in the situation cited above). It's the old "does the ends justify the means" discussion. Do we sell out our values or have courage to take the risks associated with being true to ourselves?

I contend that this is the same issue at work in the death penalty debate. Alas and unfortunately, America continues to fall short of it's values showing a distinct lack of courage. I fear the situation is only getting worse as great affluence has resulted in pandering to our greed and worst natures. And unfortunately, these are the things of dictatorship.


Monday, December 10, 2007

Libby Drops Appeal

Convicted liar Scooter Libby is dropping his appeal. Why? Here's what his attorney says:

"We remain firmly convinced of Mr. Libby's innocence," attorney Theodore Wells said. "However, the realities were, that after five years of government service by Mr. Libby and several years of defending against this case, the burden on Mr. Libby and his young family of continuing to pursue his complete vindication are too great to ask them to bear."
Ah huh.

And I have a bridge that I'd like to sell ya.

The fix is in. Pardon here we come!

Update: If you'll remember, the reason given by Bush that he won't comment on Libby is due to a "pending appeal". Well, given that, I'm positive that now Bush will hold a press conference and fully discuss the Plame outing.


Don't Get It

William Arkin has put his finger on a very important flaw in U.S. foreign policy in the middle east.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates attended a middle eastern conference and gave a speech that was largely derisive of Iran. At the end of the speech was a Q&A in which Gates got a very pointed question.

Rather, the notable moment came during the subsequent question-and-answer session, when Bahraini Labor Minister Majeed al-Alawi asked him whether he thought "the Zionist [Israeli] nuclear weapon is a threat to the region" the way a potential Iranian nuclear weapon would be.

"No, I do not," Gates said. "I think Israel is not training terrorists to subvert its neighbors. It has not shipped weapons into a place like Iraq to kill thousands of innocent civilians covertly. So I think that there are significant differences in terms of both the history and the behavior of the Iranian and Israeli governments."

His answer was greeted by laughter and derision.
Laughter indeed because his answer is a joke. Like a parent who lies to their children, statements like Gates simply highlight American bias or naivete, weakening any possible authority we may have in the region. Until the U.S., and more generally the so-called "western countries", begin to view Israel in a more even-handed way, the problems of the middle east will persist and our ability to change anything there will dissapate.



WaPo is doing another hit piece on earmarks and is shocked to report that majority leaders get more of what they want.

I've always contended that one person earmark is another persons key important legislation. I certainly believe that a greater degree of transparency and accountability is needed in earmark oversight. But earmarks have taken on the patina of a dirty word when in fact they often are key parts of the representative legislative function.


SS Disability

I found this interesting:

The New York Times leads with a look at how appealing an initial rejection of Social Security disability claims can now take as long as three years. About two-thirds of those who are initially turned down get the decision reversed on appeal, but the long wait times leave "hundreds of thousands of people in a kind of purgatory" waiting for a resolution while frequently facing mounting financial hardship.
I remember working with individuals who were involved with social security disability. It was standard practice for initial claims to be denied. I don't know if it was "policy" per se, just standard operating procedure. There is an entire legal industry that has developed around the appeal process. This story is certainly not new, but I think it's worth a look in terms of ways that benefit programs put obstacles in the way to attaining benefits.


Sunday, December 9, 2007

Quote Of The Day

Boy did Obama get this right .....

"That would be a demotion."

-- Sen. Barack Obama, quoted by Time, in response to calls for Oprah Winfrey to be his running mate.


An Oldie But A Goodie

Paul Krugman on who invented the internets.


A Metaphor

Do you think this is a metaphor for something?

The Pentagon is closing down three of the 20 NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command) early-warning radar sites in northern Alaska because the ground they’re built on in some cases is literally crumbling into the Arctic Ocean as a result of erosion caused by waves on ice-free waters, military officials at the U.S. Northern Command tell me. One site, Point Lonely, a short-range radar on Alaska’s North Slope, was closed specifically because of soil erosion. In two other cases, short-range radars in Bullen Point and Wainwright, are being shuttered for both erosion and budget reasons.
A metaphor on many many levels.



Isn't it just another statement of our times, and shallowness, that Oprah Winfrey could draw such buzz from the media when she appears with a presidential candidate? Can someone explain to me why Oprah's political opinion is anymore valuable than the local McDonalds cashier?



How about this little gem:

Since September 2002, the CIA has been briefing Congress' "Gang of Four"—senior members of the House and Senate intelligence committees (including Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.)—on the use of "advanced interrogation techniques" and secret overseas prisons. It's not clear what the group was told, but their attitude was one of "quiet acquiescence, if not outright support." After press leaks in 2005, they started to voice concerns, prompting the CIA to brief other committee members as well.
I'm not sure just how true this is, but it wouldn't surprise me. It's simply stunning just how nuts this country went after 911. It's a reminder that democracy and civil liberties are very very fragile, just as fragile as human nature.


Friday, December 7, 2007


Swopa has a great post up outlining a key problem in Iraq.

While the U.S. has been arming and training Sunni's, and encouraging them to work with the government, the Shiite dominated government seems less than enamored to have the Sunni's involved.

So what happens when the Sunni's are all trained/armed-up and are rejected by team Shiite?



Here's everything you really need to know about the Mitt-sters speech yesterday on religion. The short version is that Romney is merely feeding the beast that is trying to chew his leg off.


Israel And Iran

I've contended in past posts that I think Iran is a non-issue unless the Israeli's feel threatened enough to do something. Well it appears that Israeli intelligence completely disagrees with the U.S. intelligence estimate about Iran's ability to make a bomb.

I wonder.

Israeli intelligence used to be gold. Under the current conservative administration in Israel they've been more prone to the kind of errors made by Bush. But given this, I still think that Israel's actions will be a "tell" about Iran and represent a real threat to stability in the area. If Israel does attack Iran, does anyone really think the U.S. interests won't be just as vulnerable as if American's had attacked?

The heat may have been turned down within the U.S. But given this analysis, you've got to wonder if the unintended consequence isn't that the heat has been turned up in the area?


Rosemary Woods Moment

Ok, so the CIA has admitted destroying tapes of torture interrogation to protect themselves against prosecution, even though it's legal. But watch out! Senators are so outraged!!! that they are threatening to, to, to, HOLD HEARINGS!!!!

Update: Senator Dick Durbin is calling on Attorney General Michael Mukasey to investigate possible obstruction of justice. There's a saying about pigs and flying that comes to mind.


Thursday, December 6, 2007

Mortgage Bailout

Well, today's the day that Bush/Paulson roll out the mortgage bailout program. As expected, this plan is much more about helping the banks than helping borrowers.


Are We Out Yet?

Atrios reminds us of today's anniversary:

It was just one year ago today that the Iraq Study Group report was released. What would we do without bipartisan commissions of elder Villagers to save us?

Or a media to tell us what it all means.

Approximately 980 US troops have been killed since the world-changing report was released.
If it wasn't all so freaking tragic, it would be funny.


Energy Bill

Congress is about to vote on a new energy bill. It has some good elements, and some poor ones. But the biggest weakness of the bill is summarized here:

The problem, as I have said before, is that we have no consistent, long-term energy policy. If we are going to get a new energy bill every other year - in which tax breaks are granted and then repealed - it makes it difficult to execute long-term projects. Imagine that two years ago you started in on a five-year project, based the project economics on the rules in place at that time, and then half way through the project the rules are changed on you. You have basically created a climate that discourages investment in the U.S., because the rules are apt to change at any time.
If anyone ever argues that the U.S. culture is socialist driven, energy is a poster child counter argument. We've known since the 1970's that energy was going to be a big problem. BIG problem. Yet government has done nothing preferring to let the marketplace decide on what's to be done. And that trend continues.

This is why I've advocated a gasoline tax to pay for an comprehensive energy program for some time. But instead, the marketplace is now imposing a "tax" in the form of supply shortages that may finally spur innovation. You know the old oil filter commercial: "pay me now or pay me later". The only question remains is just how quickly the "energy problem" grows and what the costs are of allowing the marketplace to spur innovation. We know a portion of the cost of not proactively solving the energy problem is this little embranglement we've got going in the middle east. Who knows what the ultimate costs will be.


Corporate Profits

As you may know, I regularly read a number of economics blogs. In a post outlining the elements of an upcoming economic slowdown, this blogger put this chart up on corporate profits:

Yes, year over year profits are falling. But geez .... look at the level of those profits! In fact, corporations have done quite well during the Bush administration and a little growth slowdown is overdue, doncha think?


Wednesday, December 5, 2007

More On Iran

Josh Marshall provides us with a great brief documentary on the Bush crap on Iran:

They lie as easily as they breath.


What Digby Said

In this edition, Digby takes us through recent U.S. history showing how conservatives have consistently, and I mean consistently, over-estimated the security threats to the U.S., much like they are doing now with Iran.

The short version is that they have NEVER been right about the actual threat.


A True Message

But will it fly?

"And we can say as long as we get Democrats in, everything's gonna be O.K. It's a lie. It's not the truth. Do you really believe if we replace a crowd of corporate Republicans with a crowd of corporate Democrats that anything meaningful's gonna change?"

-- John Edwards, in a new television ad running in New Hampshire


How We've Adapted

It's funny. No funny ha ha. But funny sad.

A story like this eight years ago would have been huge. The fact that Bush can take the national intelligence agency's report on Iran and say that it confirms that Iran is a threat is eye-popping in it's up is downism. Yet today, I barely gave it a notice. The lying by the Bush administration, and unfortunately setting a new standard of lying for future Presidents, is so complete, brazen and chronic, that it barely even penetrates any longer.



Something happened today that I think is quite significant, but not for the reasons you may think.

OPEC met and decided not to boost oil production. Their stated position is that there is plenty of oil and the elevated price is due to speculation. And there may be some truth in that. Within OPEC, the battle over production quotas was between the likes of Venezula who wanted to maintain production levels to keep prices high, and Saudi Arabia who "wanted" to increase production to ease prices (the don't kill the golden goose approach).

Ok, so why is this a story? Because it's hard for me to believe that Saudi Arabia would give-in to Venezula if they really wanted to increase production. After all, the Arabs are the 300 ton elephant in OPEC. So why would the Arabs fold like a cheap tent in the face of minor OPEC players?

Because they don't have the extra production.

There's been a debate raging about whether Saudi Arabia has peaked out or not. Since other OPEC producers are already at max production, any increase would have to come from the Saudi's. I see this as evidence that Saudi's, despite their public comments, simply don't have more to produce. And that my friends is a very significant bit of news.


The Short Version

Do they? Or don't they?

That seems to be the big story these days. Does Iran have a program to make the bomb. Our intelligence agencies say no. Experts I've read say that it's highly unlikely because of the technology and difficulty. The nutbars say they do (that's evidence they don't btw).

My take on it is very much like the way I felt on Iraq. If Iran has anything going on, the Israelis will know and will do something. Their intelligence is better, they're geographically proximite to the "problem" and they've never been shy about using force to inflict their will.

So, if and when Israel attacks Iran, I'll start to wonder if they have nukes.


Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Oh NO!

Now he's done it. I'm sure that Bush is shaking in his Texas boots:

"That's why I want to be very clear: If the President takes us to war with Iran without congressional approval, I will call for his impeachment. I am dead serious. ... I'm saying this now to put the administration on notice and hopefully to deter the president from taking unilateral action in the last year of his administration."

-- Sen. Joe Biden, quoted by the Des Moines Register.


Monday, December 3, 2007


Here's a terrific article on why solar is the answer to our energy problems.


News You'll Not See Published

Please remember this every time you hear administration nonsense (particularly over the next 6-8 months) about Iran:

WASHINGTON, Dec. 3 — A new assessment by American intelligence agencies concludes that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003 and that the program remains on hold, contradicting an assessment two years ago that Tehran was working inexorably toward building a bomb.

The conclusions of the new assessment are likely to be explosive in the middle of tense international negotiations aimed at getting Iran to halt its nuclear energy program, and in the middle of a presidential campaign during which a possible military strike against Iran’s nuclear program has been discussed.

The assessment, a National Intelligence Estimate that represents the consensus view of all 16 American spy agencies, states that Tehran’s ultimate intentions about gaining a nuclear weapon remain unclear, but that Iran’s “decisions are guided by a cost-benefit approach rather than a rush to a weapon irrespective of the political, economic and military costs.”


Independent Attorney General?

Remember all those pledges of Michael Mukasey to be "independent" of the White House?

I guess we'll soon find out because Rep. Henry Waxman is asking Mukasey to allow Patrick Fitzgerald to testify before Congress.

Care to take a guess on what Mukasey will say?


Regime Change

Hedrick Hertzberg, in this short essay, details how the Bush policy of regime change has actually worked.


Putting Ideology To The Test

There's an old saying (paraphrasing)

"When a borrower can't pay back a million dollar loan, it's the borrower's problem. When a borrower can't pay back a hundred million dollar loan, it's the bank's problem".
The current administration is chalk full of free marketers believing that the market is right and should be left alone.

Until the big money boys get in trouble.

Treasury Sec. Paulson is working fast a furious on a bailout plan for homeowners who are defaulting. Do you think he's doing it because of the pain of the average borrower? Look for a plan to come out soon that will be sold as helping average people keep their homes. Of course, we all know better.


Sunday, December 2, 2007

Ritzy Rudy

(Pictured in their Hamptons summer home)

Just a brief reminder that Rudy and his mistress wife are blue-collar hardhat type folk.

Oh. And just for context:


Something You'll Not See In The News

Every once in awhile I like to post this roundup that is regularly available via Reuters news service. You'll not see in in the mainstream media because,..... well,..... you just won't:

BAGHDAD - One U.S. soldier was killed and three wounded when a roadside bomb exploded near their patrol in eastern Baghdad, the U.S. military said.

BAGHDAD - Five bodies were found in different areas of Baghdad on Saturday, police said. . .

BAGHDAD - A bomb left in a taxi wounded the driver and another person in the New Baghdad district of the capital, police said.

BAGHDAD - A roadside bomb wounded three police commandos when it targeted their patrol in the Shaab district of northern Baghdad, police said. . .

MOSUL - Gunmen killed a policeman in front of his house in eastern Mosul, 390 km (240 miles) north of Baghdad, police said.

MOSUL - Three bodies were found in different areas of Mosul, police said.

GHALBIYA - Four tribal sheikhs were wounded in a roadside bomb attack in Ghalbiya near Baquba, 65 km (40 miles) north of Baghdad, police said. The attack targeted the convoy of the Khalis police chief but he was unhurt. . .

BAQUBA - One U.S. soldier was killed by a roadside bomb which struck his patrol near the city of Baquba, 65 km (40 miles) north of Baghdad, on Friday, the U.S. military said.

SALMAN PAK - A suicide attack killed one civilian and wounded five others in Salman Pak, 45 km (25 miles) south of Baghdad, police said . . . '
Lots of dead people ..... check
Lots of violence ..... check
A corrupt government that is stealing everyone blind ..... check.

Yep. Things are going quite well in the Eyeraq war.


Give Er' The Chair

Only in Amurika:

The Post goes above the fold with a profile of Elizabeth Whiteside, an Army reservist who faces court martial after attempting suicide while serving in Iraq; the prosecutor dismissed reports that she had a severe mental disorder as "psychobabble".
Your enlightened military. Watch her be convicted and sentenced to death.



I know you'll be shocked by this. I know I am:

The NYT off-leads on reports that corruption has reached epidemic proportions in Iraq: Bribery and petty crime are a way of life, and virtually everything the government buys or sells can now be found on the black market. Meanwhile, U.S. officials say one-third of what they spend on Iraqi contracts and grants goes unaccounted for; an estimated $18 billion has gone missing from Iraqi government coffers since 2004. "Everyone is stealing from the state," says one Shiite leader. "It's a very large meal, and everyone wants to eat."
I'm so far past outrage it's pathetic, especially when I get into an online argument discussion with a conservative about using taxpayer dollars to bail out homeowners facing foreclosure.


Can You Picture This?

I found this kinda humorous:

The New York Times leads on news that business lobbyists are racing to win approval for a wide range of health, safety, labor, and economic measures before the end of George Bush's presidency, spurred by concerns that the next tenant of the Oval Office will be less sympathetic to their causes.


Fearing that Democrats could sweep the board in next year's elections, business groups are rushing to persuade the Bush administration to pass rules covering everything from mountaintop mining to medical leave. "There's a growing sense, a growing probability, that the next administration could be Democratic," says one senior lobbyist. "Lobbying firms have begun to recalibrate their strategies." The so-called "midnight regulations" passed by outgoing administrations can prove difficult to reverse; the Supreme Court has ruled that new presidents cannot arbitrarily revoke rules that have passed into law.
When I read this, it conjures up an image of German military folks burning important papers as the allies descend on Berlin during WWII.


Friday, November 30, 2007

In Case You Care

I'm still not in primary mode. And I'm particularly uninterested in the Republicans. But if you are, and particularly if you want to follow the exploits of that lying sack of crap Rudy Guiliani, Josh Marshall and crew have the goods on him. And boy, are there a lot of goods to be had.


Why Worry?

After all, we're just being fair!

The hidden story in all of this are the Saudi Arabians. The U.S. is so in debt to the will of the Saudi's, on many levels, that Bush may have no other choice but to foster an ultimate coup by Sunnis.


Run Out The Clock

Via Dan Froomkin:

In an excerpt from his upcoming book, McClellan wrote that Bush and Cheney, among others "were involved" in his passing along of false information about Rove and Cheney aide Scooter Libby's involvement in the leak of Plame's identity.

Writes Mulshine: "McClellan's remarks give the Democrats the perfect opportunity to haul him before a committee to finally get answers to some of the questions left hanging ever since special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald closed up shop.

"So why aren't the Democrats doing so?

"'To stand up for that, one would need a spine,' says Larry Johnson. Johnson is a former CIA agent who has been taking the lead in defending Plame, his classmate in CIA training back in 1985, against the attacks by the White House."

I know it's a popular theme to consider the Dems don't have a spine. And the net effect looks just like that.

I think Congressional Dems think they have a larger majority sewed up in 2008. They, therefore, see little need to rock the boat and doing anything to risk that advantage at this point. And I can understand their thinking.

But I think this strategy misses an important point. The American public is anxious and angry. Passivity in politics in not what they want to see. Yes, aggression (i.e. contempt of Congress charges or the above reopening of Plame) appear more risky. But I think aggressively pursuing Bush is of less risk than is perceived and have the upside of actually, like, upholding principle. We're in a time where the public wants politicians to be able to uphold principle. Be electable, yes. But be principled too.

The primaries will be interesting to see if this thesis bears out. Wins by the likes of Edwards or Hukabee will be validation in my opinion. Wins by Hillary and/or any of the other Republicans will tend to prove the Congressional conservative strategy correct. We'll see!


Typical Bush

On the new "agreement" with Iraq for the U.S. to remain permanently:

The pact is finally getting some of the attention it deserves. Particularly galling to some was the assertion by White House "war czar" Army Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute that only the Iraqi parliament, not the U.S. Congress, would needs to formally approve the final agreement.
Of course any reasonably intelligent person who understand the Constitution knows that Lute's assertion is bullshit. But that's how our government runs these days, powered by bullshit.

The next President is going to have a whole lot of unwinding to do, if they choose too.


Thursday, November 29, 2007

Who Coulda Predicted It?

Via Atrios:

BAGHDAD — The American campaign to turn Sunni Muslims against Islamic extremists is growing so quickly that Iraq's Shiite Muslim leaders fear that it's out of control and threatens to create a potent armed force that will turn against the government one day.

The United States, which credits much of the drop in violence to the campaign, is enrolling hundreds of people daily in "concerned local citizens" groups. More than 5,000 have been sworn in in the last eight days, for a total of 77,542 as of Tuesday. As many as 10 groups were created in the past week, bringing the total number to 192, according to the American military.


"There is a danger here that we are going to have armed all three sides: the Kurds in the north, the Shiite and now the Sunni militias," said Bruce Riedel, a former CIA analyst who's now at The Brookings Institution, a center-left policy organization in Washington, D.C.
That's right. We've now effectively armed all three sides in Iraq. Violence is down while everyone takes a breath and while the Sunni's reload thanks to Gen. Petraeus. Should be a fun time in the ole' town tonight a little down the road.


Interesting Poll

This poll is somewhat interesting:

A new Rasmussen Reports poll in Iowa finds the Democratic presidential race in a three way statistical tie.

Sen. Hillary Clinton leads with 27%, followed by Sen. Barack Obama at 25%, and John Edwards at 24%. Bill Richardson is the only other Democrat in double-digits at 10%.

Key finding: "In terms of second-choices in Iowa, John Edwards tops the list of candidates. He is the second choice for 28% of likely caucus participants. Obama is the second choice for 18%, Clinton for 16%, and Richardson for 15%. Second choice preferences are especially important given the nature of the Iowa caucuses. In a particular caucus setting, if a candidate receives less than 15% of the vote, their supporters will be re-allocated to other candidates."
The dead heat thing is interesting enough, but the second choice aspect is particularly interesting. The rules in the Iowa caucuses are such that the second choice candidate has a distinct advantage in the ultimate outcome.

Could a "win" for Edwards or Obama in Iowa change the dynamics in the Dem race? Stranger things have happened and it wouldn't break my heart any.