Saturday, April 28, 2007

RBOB Update

To the moon Alice!

Yes, this is the update on the wholesale price of gasoline as of Friday. And there was a lightening strike at an Oklahoma refinery that set the whole place on fire. Wonder what that will do to the price of gasoline? I paid $52 to fill up my little Toyota pickup today.


Friday, April 27, 2007

To: David Broder

I think you may have gotten something wrong.

Broder, the "dean" of the Washington press, wrote the other day that Harry Reid was an embarrassment and that "many" Senators want him out as majority leader.

Fifty Democratic U.S. Senators wrote Broder a letter today explaining that Reid is a hero. Here's the opening grafs:

We, the members of the Senate Democratic Caucus, contest the attack on Sen. Harry Reid's leadership by David S. Broder in his April 26 column, "The Democrats' Gonzales."

In contrast to Mr. Broder's insinuations, we believe Mr. Reid is an extraordinary leader who has effectively guided the new Democratic majority through these first few months with skill and aplomb.
Please David. Retire.



Well, George Tenet's book is out. Or maybe I should say, George Tenet's rehab project is underway.

George "wheat in the wind" Tenet is using his book and tour to prove that he wasn't the slam dunk cheerleader we all think he is. I'm afraid I don't buy it. Tenet's basic personality is to get along and kiss butt. He can now spin the events to make himself not look like such a dolt, but I'm afraid it doesn't pass the smell test. Sure, Bushies probably ate him for lunch. But he jumped into the cooking pot (see: Powell, Colin).

Look for the punditry and media to be carrying a bunch of quotes from the book over the next week or so. And keep your skeptic hat on.


What Next?

A couple of related issues.

First, I love the mantra invented by the Democrats to cover the next week or so. Now that Congress has passed a war funding act that contains a withdrawal timeline, they're saying "we're one signature away from ending the war". Great politics. Of course Bush plans to veto the bill.

Second, there does not yet seem to be a concensus on what to do after the veto. Of everything I've read thus far, Murtha's proposal seems to make the most sense to me:

Some House Democrats, led by Rep. John Murtha of Pennsylvania, want to pass a shorter-term bill that would provide funding for a few months and allow Congress to revisit the issue.
This is a measure that is a defacto timeline. Give Bush unfettered money through, oh say, August then force Congressional Republicans to make a choice about further Friedman's.



Ooops. GDP (gross domestic product, the measure of all the goods and services and an indicator of whether the economy is growing or contracting) came in at a much lower than expected 1.3%. This number is highly subject to revision so we'll not know the final number in a month or so. Either way, this seems to be suggesting a serious deceleration in economic growth. But here's the kicker. Another measure in the report was of inflation which exceeded expectations.

Let's see. What do they call that? I know there's a word for it ...... ah ..... hmmmm ... it's on the tip of my tongue. I KNOW. Got it. STAGFLATION.

Update: The GDP number was made up of an astonishing 71% consumer spending, and was basically the only area of the economy that is growing. You really have to wonder just how long consumers can keep spending given the reverse wealth effect of housing.


Thursday, April 26, 2007

Part Deux

Here is part two of Josh Marshall's report on prosecutorgate:

The entire scheme is laid out nicely here. Give it a read and see how unkie Karl intends to slide yet again.



Indeed, David Broder is a big gasbag.



Bush hits 28% approval rating!


Interesting Chart

If you ever had any doubts that inside information drives the stock market, allow me to dispell them with this handy dandy little chart:

For those of you unfamiliar with these type of charts, allow me to explain. This is the weekly stock chart for Amazon, who released it's earnings report yesterday. The blue circle in the middle of the chart is what the stock has been doing (around 45) over the past several weeks. The top blue circle is what the stock did last week, around 55. The bottom square blue box is the amount of trading volume in the stock last week ... huge by comparison to other weeks.

Amazon's reported earnings were exceptionally good ... well above expectations. This chart would suggest that "someone" knew what the earnings were going to be ahead of time and "traded" on the news before we regular schmucks knew about it.


Natives Get Restless

It's pretty amazing how people will get agitated when they actually find out that they have rights, and those rights are being violated:

In its filing with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, the Justice Department says the frequent visits by lawyers to Guantanamo have resulted in unrest among the detainees and are at least partly responsible for the hunger strikes and protests at the detention center. To fix these problems, the department proposes a new system that would limit the number of times a lawyer can go to see any current (three visits) or prospective (one visit) clients. Lawyers say these restrictions would make it impossible to represent the detainees and insist that one visit is usually not enough to convince detainees they're not government interrogators. The proposal would also give officials the authority to deny access to secret evidence as well as to read attorney-client mail. A lawyer involved with the defense of detainees says the proposal is merely "an effort to restore Guantanamo to its prior status as a legal black hole."
We don't want any "unrest" among the prisoners now do we?

The United States, the beacon of freedom and justice for all!


Up Is Downism

The administration will be saying how much improvement is being made in Iraq:

USA Today leads with a new human rights report by the U.N. mission in Iraq that says the situation in the country is "rapidly worsening" as violence continues to increase. The report takes aim at the Iraqi government for not addressing persistent problems with the torture of detainees, and for its failure to release civilian casualty figures.


U.N. staffers said Iraqi government officials told them privately they didn't want to release the civilian death toll figures out of fear that they would further undermine public opinion.
Update: Funny. Next I run into this story about how things are getting better in Iraq while they actually aren't:
WASHINGTON - U.S. officials who say there has been a dramatic drop in sectarian violence in Iraq since President Bush began sending more American troops into Baghdad aren't counting one of the main killers of Iraqi civilians.

Car bombs and other explosive devices have killed thousands of Iraqis in the past three years, but the administration doesn't include them in the casualty counts it has been citing as evidence that the surge of additional U.S. forces is beginning to defuse tensions between Shiite and Sunni Muslims.
Got it? There's more peace in Baghdad because we don't count the violence!

I'm going to perform a miracle. Right now. Right before your reading eyes.


The United States murder rate just dropped to zero because I refuse to count them as murder!


Wednesday, April 25, 2007

For Your Viewing Pleasure

For the unaware, the individual in this ... ah ... "video?" is Michelle Malkin, conservative commentator, bookwriter, and blogger-in-chief.

Has to be one of the most ridiculous things I've ever seen. But then, have you really ever seen a conservative nutbar with a good sense of humor?


Gonzo, My Pet Rock

Sure sounds like that his role in the administration.

Robert Novak: “While the current cliché is that Bush never should have named Gonzales as attorney general in the first place, the consensus in the administration was that he was already at sea in his first post as White House counsel. Colin Powell, Bush’s first-term secretary of State, was so appalled by Gonzales that he would shunt him off to Deputy Secretary Richard Armitage, who in turn handed him down to lower levels along the State Department chain of command.”
If Novakula says that, you know Gonzo must be even worse. I guess someone's gotta make the boss look good.



Looks like ole' Monica "5th amendment" Goodling is going to have to tesify. She's been given immunity.


Suffering in Absence

Froomkin, one of my all-time favorite columnists, writes a piece today about the Bush's and whether the war is taking a toll on them. In the piece he quotes a number of reporters who suggest they don't seem to be suffering much yet he quotes Laura on The Today Show today talking about how hard it is for she and the Preznit to watch the terror of the Iraq war.

So has the war affected Bush?

Let me explain something. First, Bush believes that people who are dying are either a) dying for freeedum or b) destined and faited to die by god. But even more to the point, you have to have a conscience in order for something like people dying, particularly those under your command, to bother you. And please allow me to make this clear, George Bush has no conscience. None. Zip. Nada. It comes with the territory of his particular type of pathological personality. So Bush was being sincere when he said he sleeps well at night, better than you'd think. Because you see? You and I have a conscience and think that being in his position would be hard. But we're not like him (thank god).

You want to see George Bush experience some pain? Take away his bicycle. Or even better, tell him "no" about anything.

Added: Digby:

For all his faults, one of the hoariest myths about Bush that persists to this day is that he is loyal to a fault --- one of those backhanded criticisms that actually makes him somewhat sympathetic. It's nonsense. Bush uses people like kleenex, always has.
Added Again (h/t Kevin Drum) This is David Ignatius talking about the state of the Presidency:
If you want to hear despair in Washington these days, talk to Republicans...."This is the most incompetent White House I've seen since I came to Washington," said one GOP senator.

[Etc. etc.]

When a presidency is as severely damaged as this one, the normal drill is to empower a strong and politically adept White House chief of staff to make the necessary changes....The current White House chief of staff, Josh Bolten, needs to mount a similar salvage mission, argue several prominent Republicans. They question whether he's politically adept enough. But most of all, they question whether Bolten or anyone else can break through Bush's tight, tough shell and tell him the truth. What's starting to crack isn't the obdurate Bush, but the country.
Allow me to answer the question. No. No one will penetrate Bush's thick head.


Fair Warning

Yep. This is the wholesale price of gasoline. I'll repeat. WHOLESALE. $4.00/gal. gasoline is looking really possible soon.


Tin Ear

I also noticed the unusual level of venom coming out of the administration for the last couple of days:

The New York Times leads, and the Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide newsbox, with President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney criticizing Democrats in Congress for coming up with a war-spending bill that includes timetables for withdrawal. "Instead of fashioning a bill I could sign, the Democratic leaders … chose to make a political statement," Bush said yesterday.
I can't believe these guys are doing this. And yet, on the other hand, I'm not sure there's anything else they can do. I hope they keep it up.

Every time the Republicans blast Democrats on the war they are blasting the voting public and further isolating other Republicans who will ultimately have to face election. So Cheney, snarl away!


Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Jack, We Hardly Knew Ye

Just when I was forgetting how to spell Jack Abramhoff's name, the investigation heats up again! Looks like there may be a few more Republicans yet to go down.


Smoking Canon

I've picked this up from Angry Bear, a reputable blog. I cannot vouche for it's accuracy, but the players involved are not normally whacko. If this is true, this would appear to be some pretty damning evidence of Republican voter fraud in the Ohio election of 2004:

Netcraft is showing that an event happened in the Ohio 2004 election that is difficult to explain. The Secretary of State's website, which handles election reporting, normally is directed to an Ohio-based IP address hosted by the Ohio Supercomputer Center. On Nov. 3 2004, Netcraft shows the website pointing out of state to a server owned by Smartech Corp. According to the American Registry on Internet Numbers, Smartech's block of IP addresses – encompasses the entire range of addresses owned by the Republican National Committee. Smartech hosted the recently notorious domain used from the White House in apparent violation of the Presidential Records Act, from which thousands of White House emails vanished. Can anyone suggest a good explanations for this seemingly dubious election-eve transfer?
Here is the source post at Slashdot, whom I'm not familiar with.

With the revelations of the White House email system, it would make sense that a smart IT blogger-type would take 1 + 1 and get 2 at this time. And if true, this would be some solid physical evidence of tampering by the GOP in the Ohio election results. I hope this story gets picked up elsewhere and is either debunked of moved forward.

I will say this. It would not surprise me in the least to find out this is completely true.


For The Record

Just to keep track:

Under Clinton from 1992 to 2000, according to Princeton political scientist David Lewis, political appointees in the federal government dropped by nearly 17 percent – from 3,423 to 2,845. From 2000 to 2004, that figure climbed back up 12.5 percent to 3,202.
I guess it makes a certain kind of sense. Afterall, Bush has vowed to do nothing like Clinton.


Learning At The Man's Knee

This is hilarious:

U.S. and Iraqi military officials scrambling to deflect criticism of a wall being erected to separate a volatile Sunni Muslim neighborhood from surrounding Shiite areas insisted Monday that the structure is not a wall at all. It's a barrier.
The alleged "barrier" is twelve feet tall, runs three miles, has one entry/exit point and is contructed with one ton concrete blocks.

If it weren't all so tragic it would make a great comedic film. In fact, I can't wait for the serio-comic film to come out of this era.


Confidence ..... NOT!

Here is a major difference between 2003 and 2007. Congressional Democrats now have some tools to take it to the nutbars:

With Attorney General Alberto Gonzales vowing to remain in his job and President Bush standing by him, Senate Democratic leaders are seriously considering bringing a resolution to the floor expressing no confidence in Gonzales, according to a senior leadership source.
The individual reporting this further says that there is no way Gonzales could survive this. I say that all Gonzales needs is the support of one co-conspirator person, Bush.


Horses Mouth

Thanks to Josh Marshall who is responsible for insuring that this story even got started, we get some of the dots connected right from the horse's mouth:

I know Josh promises to let us know about the validity of Rove's charges tomorrow, and I'll put that up as well. But I can tell you the short version right now. The charges are, as the cartalk guys say, Booooooooogus.


Accidental Truth

Froomkin again, this time quoting Dana Perino, White House talking head:

"MS. PERINO: I think that the President is confident that Prime Minister Maliki understands that the Iraqi people have limited patience, as well, and they are desperate for the security and to get their lives back to what they were before."

Back to what their lives were before? As in, before the invasion?

Later in the briefing, a reporter read that back to her.

"MS. PERINO: Well, obviously that's -- I should -- let me -- are you giving me a chance to expand, revise and extend my remarks? Obviously, they want to be in a time -- in a place where they can feel safe, and I don't believe that, at least most of the population, felt safe under Saddam Hussein."
I'd be willing to bet a fair amount of dough that if you took a poll, a majority of Iraqi's would go back to the Saddam days ... even Shiites.


Hypocrisy Watch

From Froomkin today:

President Bush made another pitch for his war plans on the South Lawn today. One of the many talking points he repeated was that politicians shouldn't overrule military commanders.

"To accept the bill proposed by the Democratic leadership would be to accept a policy that directly contradicts the judgment of our military commanders," he said today.

But moments later Bush took credit for spearheading a policy change that did precisely that. "Last November, the American people said they were frustrated and wanted a change in our strategy in Iraq. I listened," he said.

As it happens, however, Bush's "surge" plan was neither what the voters said they wanted -- nor what his commanders wanted. Bush overruled and then replaced his command structure, installing a team that supported his plan. See, for instance, this January Washington Post story.
I could write a long post every single day about some level of hypocrisy occurring in this administration. I'm getting to point of reading these stories and yawning. They're ubiquitious.

But, to the point. Aside from the hypocrisy that Froomkin is highlighting, I thought politicians/elected leaders were responsible for deciding strategy? My understanding of the American system is that military folks are responsible for the tactics of how to carry out policy dictated by President/Congress. So Bush, in attempting to score political points against Democrats, is basically making no sense.

I know I know. What else is new. But I think we've got to keep pointing it out, over and over and over and over .....



This is very fertile ground. But I'm not optimistic about it's success:

The LAT goes inside with a look at how there's likely to be more trouble ahead for the Bush administration as the Office of Special Counsel, "an obscure federal investigative unit," prepares to delve "into one of the most sensitive and potentially explosive issues in Washington." The office will carry out a broad investigation into political operations at the White House that will look into the firing of at least one U.S. attorney, the infamous missing e-mails, and the way in which officials briefed different agencies about Republican electoral priorities. This means the Office of Special Counsel, in the most "high-profile inquiry in its history," will be looking directly at operations headed by Karl Rove.
Sometimes breakthroughs occur in the most unusual ways ... the unpredictable ways. I think those who care about the American way should keep swingin' at these guys.

Update: So much for this investigation. I should have known it was too good to be true. This investigation looks just like calling in Mr. Wolf from Pulp Fiction:
The Office of Special Counsel (OSC), headed up by highly controversial presidential appointee Scott Bloch, is the wrong entity for this investigation. The fact that OSC has been charged with handling these matters suggests the possibility that the White House is orchestrating a cover-up of its illegal and improper activities.

Bloch has come under widespread criticism for his gross mismanagement and politicization of the office. Bloch is currently under investigation by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) for his mistreatment of career appointees, who have alleged the exact kind of retaliation that OSC is designed to investigate. OSC employees have alleged that Bloch has tossed out legitimate whistleblower cases to reduce the office backlog. The probe into Bloch’s conduct has been stymied by the fear of OSC staff that speaking to investigators will result in reprisal. Prominent conservatives, who support Bloch in part because he adopted a sexual orientation policy that makes it more difficult for gay employees to allege discrimination, have called on President Bush to protect Bloch from the OPM investigation.



Remember that new "strategy" (which is really a tactic) of placing troops in outposts? It turns out that the nine American soldiers killed yesterday by a suicide bomber were in one of those isolated outposts:

BAGHDAD, April 24 -- A suicide bomber rammed an explosives-rigged truck into a U.S. military outpost near Baqubah on Monday, killing nine soldiers and wounding 20 in one of the deadliest single ground attacks on U.S. forces since the start of the war in Iraq, military officials said early Tuesday.

Suicide attackers rarely penetrate defenses that surround American troops, but a 10-week-old U.S. counterinsurgency strategy has placed them in outposts and police stations that some soldiers say have made them more vulnerable.
More vulnerable for sure. And it's not the first Alamo attack. The insurgents now have a new set of targets that are relatively thinly guarded and often infilitrated. If I were a soldiers, I'd be increadibly pissed at being put in such vulnerable conditions.


Monday, April 23, 2007

Plenty of Evidence

If y0u ever doubted it, here's plenty of evidence that the Federal prosecutor "scandal" is about voter suppression, and that Karl "Rover" Rove is behind the whole thing.

Bush is saying that he thinks Gonzales is just swell since he went to Congress and apologized. Of course Bush has to say this. If he gets rid of Gonzo he knows that the firewall will be removed and Rover is next. So Gonzo will join the Scooter Libby club of abestos suits protecting the White House.


Friedman Update

Atrios does another in his ongoing series of Friedman Unit updates:Boehner,

90 days ago:

BOEHNER: I think it will be rather clear in the next 60 to 90 days as to whether this plan is going to work. And, again, that's why we need to have close oversight, so that we just don't look up 60 or 90 days from now and realize that -- that this plan is not working. We need to know, as we -- as we're -- we move through these benchmarks, that the Iraqis are doing what they have to do.
Remember though. The next talking point will be that it is working. Right?

Yeah ... right.


Wanker Time

Got to do one of these post every once in awhile.

David Broder, the "dean" of the Washington Press Corpse shows us exactly why they're so unbelievable stupid:

BRODER: "Democrats by and large wish that Harry Reid would learn to engage mind before mouth opens.This has become kind of a pattern for him. I think at some point down the road the Democrats are going to have to have a little caucus to decide how much further they want to carry Harry Reid. They've got able people on the Senate side and they don't have to put up with this kind of bumbling performance forever."

EDWARDS: "Think Harry Reid is an embarrassment to the Democrats?"

BRODER: "I think so. I mean, he has been a pretty effective leader but he is verbally just a real loose cannon and it seems to me, Bob, that about every six weeks or so there's another episode where he has to apologize for the way in which he has bungled the Democratic case."
I was going to take the time to show how Broder is such an idiot in this interview when I decided to say simply this. There is nothing he says in this segment that is true. Nothing.


Iraq News

William Arkin was on vacation last week. He reports receiving his news via the local San Diego paper, hardly a left-wing newspaper given the dominance of military families in the area. Yet all the news coming from Iraq was bad news. Go read Arkin if you want to see the list of messes that is Iraq.

I want to add this about the "wall" being built in Baghdad. Al Maliki has now apparently stopped it. It was an American idea and goes to just how disconnected the U.S. leadership is from the situation in Iraq. Who in their right mind would build a wall in any city to attempt to provide security. And who would build a wall that is reminiscent of the wall built by Israeli's in Palestine? Predictably the Iraqi people (all sides) are rebelling against the idea. But again, it just shows how completely out of touch the American leadership really is about Iraq.


Earth Day

Ms. Jan explains it all to us.


Economics, Politics

There seems to be some evidence that the rest of the world's economies are beginning to diverge from the U.S. What I mean by that is that foreign economies are becoming less dependent on America, more dependent on themselves and interdependent on each other.

Let's take China. As China has purchased the U.S. debt (in large amounts), their leverage has been mitigated based on the knowledge that they needed our markets as much as we needed them to buy our debt. But what would happen if China grows less dependent on the U.S., namely the American consumer? That's a whale of a lot of leverage for one country to have over another without any counter balance.


Death Penalty

This is all it should take for reasonable people to agree that we must outlaw the death penalty:

USA Today leads with a grim milestone as a man who spent 25 years in prison for a rape he didn't commit is scheduled to become the 200th person exonerated by DNA evidence today.
Of course, not everyone is all that reasonable over the issue.


Sunday, April 22, 2007

Over There


BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- Gunmen in northern Iraq stopped a bus filled with Christians and members of a tiny Kurdish religious sect, separating out the groups and taking 23 of the passengers away to be shot.
Bu ... but ... It didn't happen in Baghdad now did it?


Republican Hypocrisy

Go read Digby.

I used to think hypocrisy was an equally dispersed phenomena among politicians. But I have to admit that Digby makes the case that there is a institutionalized overrepresentative amount of hypocrisy in the Republican party. We've seen these stories over, and over and over again, overly represented by Republicans.



Once you get past Tony Snow ..... (h/t Atrios)


I'll Believe It, When I See It

"Friends of Al Gore have secretly started assembling a campaign team in preparation for the former American vice-president to make a fresh bid for the White House," reports the Sunday Telegraph.


Bitch Slapping Rover

My favorite entertainer, Sheryl Crow, and Laurie David got into it with Karl Rove at the White House Correspondents dinner last night.



Concensus Building?

There appears to be a concensus building on passing a bill to fund the war. The current bill will be vetoed by Bush. John Murtha is putting together a "2 month bill" that would continue funding for two months without restrictions. Bush won't like that but I suspect he'd have to sign it. A bill of this type is a de facto timeline in that it firmly keeps Congress's fingers in the Iraq war pie.

Another piece of conventional wisdom is that by summer we'll assuredly know how well things are going in Iraq and be able to have a concensus judgement on the war. I'm going to make a prediction right now. By September, anti-war folks will continue to scream about how bad it's going in Iraq and conservatives will point to anecdotal evidence of improvement, using their point of view as justification to ask for another Friedman Unit of two (the Pentagon is already planning to extend the escalation). The popularity of the war can't get much lower in the polls, but that won't stop Bush from claiming "progress". As I've said before, the wildcard will be Republicans who are getting closer to election time.

And the beat will go on.

Personally, I don't think it will matter if the security situation "improves" or not. Since we've abandoned the idea of turning security over to Iraqi's, the U.S. is responsible for security which begins an open-ended committment. An "improved" security situation, which may mean that there 50% fewer suicide bombings or that violence is outside Baghdad, will still be a horrible situation by any civilized standard. And like a misbehaving child, control will only stay resident as long as the American security pressure is resident.

The Iraq war can only end with a political reconciliation between all the different conflicting parties. The real question to be answered is, can that occur with an American presence? Pro-war advocates say it can. Anti-war proponents say it cannot. And the real problem is that those who advocate continuing the war will always point to the hopeful horizon for evidence to support their view, while those of us who see the situation as unreconcilable with a U.S. presence will continue to point to recent history for evidence that our continued occupation is futile.

Again, the swing will be the Republicans .... how long they hold out. On a purely political level, I hope they hold out a long time. It will destroy the neoconservative movement. Of course, I would welcome a Republican revolt tomorrow that would get us out now. Just remember this. Bush is a jackass. The harder you push, the more he resists. Republicans will have to figuratively shoot that jackass and move him out of the way. If they don't. Voters will make them pay.