Saturday, May 19, 2007

Jose Padilla

FireDogLake is again doing great work following the Jose Padilla trial. Go give this post a read for what's up to date. The short version is, as usual, the government case looks like crap and is trumped up. Perhaps there'll be more evidence later, but for now it's looking like a joke.

Just a reminder. Jose Padilla is an American citizen.


Quote of the Day

“I’d rather trade places with Jose Padilla.”
Viet Dinh, a former senior Justice official under then-Attorney General John Ashcroft, on whether he would replace Paul McNulty as deputy to Alberto Gonzales. Padilla is currently charged with aiding Islamic extremists and is facing life in prison.



Charlie Pierce has had it. Go read about it here.

Charlie? Me too.


Friday, May 18, 2007

Inside the Cave

Josh Marshall has the report of a Democratic House staffer on the state of negotiations on the Iraq war funding bill. It's a good read and gives a flavor of just how spineless careful the Democrats are being.

I know it's easy to sit at my keyboard command center and be bold. But I would think that a simple look at the polls would give Dems more backbone. I particularly agree with one point made by the staffer: the Dems have not done a good enough job laying the stalemate at Bush's doorstep. He vetoed a funding bill. He's refusing to negotiate. Every single Democrat interviewed for anything should be singing that song with a megaphone.

Bottom line is that it appears touch and go at this point. Not a bad time to let Congresscritters know how you feel ..... again.


Quote of the Day

A news report on the Bush/Blair new conference:

"It was a grayer Blair and a silver-maned Bush who walked from the Oval Office yesterday. Even the Rose Garden appeared uncharacteristically worn: Paint was chipping and peeling above the colonnade, and a couple of the shrubs had turned brown. Even the normal protocol was lacking. Several American reporters wore sunglasses -- a no-no in Bush world. The front row of British reporters didn't even rise with the crowd when the two leaders approached."


Holy Socks!

Thanks to reader Thom Thori who reminds us of this image as we say farewell to Wolfie:

Word is that World Bank staff were dancing and cheering in the hallways when he announced his departure. Maybe with that severance package, Wolfie can go get some new socks? Better yet, I'm sure some happy staffers would gladly pitch in for some.


No Confidence II

Blog reader priscianus jr. points us to a post at FireDogLake on the importance of a no-confidence vote on Abu Gonzales. I encourage you to give it a read.

I'm not sure I completely agree with the post. Yes, a vote will be a "dry run" for on-the-record support for confronting the President. It certainly gives some kind of indication of the ability of the Senate to get rid of Abu. To the degree that it forces everyone to go on the record, perhaps it has some use. But the vote is non-binding on any real action and to think it will influence Bush to dump Abu is naive. If anything, it would simply make Bush support Abu even more. I predict Abu only goes if forced out through legal action by Congress, i.e impeaching him and convicting him. Abu is too important to protect the Bush family right now.

Where I disagree with the FireDogLake post is that a no-confidence vote is a dry-run at impeaching the President. Going after a disgraced attorney-general is one thing. Going after a the President is another. I suspect that many Republicans willing to vote to have no confidence in Abu certainly would not vote to impeach/convict the President. It's apples and oranges.

Finally, I frankly don't think anything significant (barring a dramatic change in Iraq either way) is going to change on the political landscape until fall at the earliest. At that time, Republicans who face re-election will feel genuine urgency to take a look at their prospects given the polls, the war, and the Preznit's approval. I'm not convinced that Republicans (and conservative Democrats for that matter) still won't be willing to go over the cliff with the Bush administration. But until then, the tribal loyalties are too strong, the investment in protecting a losing position too strong, to see any real change in the landscape.


One Party System

You’re forgetting it’s not about the two parties. Vote theft is mainly a racial issue in America, and it’s a class issue. The white caucus is a lot bigger than the black caucus. They don’t call the Congress a millionaire’s club for nothing. There aren’t many guys in there -- or women -- who are not millionaires. So it’s the millionaires versus us. It’s the white caucus versus the black caucus, which is of great concern. So the vote is along racial class and economic lines, not along party lines. Party lines are pretty much meaningless. There’s pretty much one party -- the party of the cash. But I’m not one of these people that says there’s no difference between the Democratic and Republican Party. The question is: is the difference meaningful? That’s all. When it comes down to voter issues, remember that the Democrats in power there were elected under the racist, broken, classist system. If you fix the voting system, a third of those Democrats could never win a primary. The last thing that they want is poor people to vote.
Greg Palast, author of Armed Madhouse

This entire interview is deeply disturbing. Palast talks about black soldiers' votes being discarded in the last elections. And the Democrats aren't going to save anyone.


Mixed Signals

Yesterday I put a post up indicating that (out of his own mouth) Senator Reid was caving in on negotiations with the White House over the Iraq war spending bill.

Today we get this:

The meeting between Dem Congressional leaders and the White House over how to resolve the Iraq war spending standoff has just ended, and it looks like things are at a serious impasse.

Dem leaders just said at their post-meeting press availability that the White House's negotiators rejected everything that Dems offered. A Dem offer of a war timetable that the President could actually waive -- that is, not follow? Rejected. A Dem offer to get rid of the pork in the supplemental? Also rejected.
It appears as if the Dems are trying to cave-in (at least from my viewpoint) and Bush will have none of it. I agree with Atrios:
Since the decider guy will not engage in any genuine negotiation or compromise, it's time for Democrats to flip things around. I don't know why they let Bush get away with claiming that the Democrats refused to fund the troops after he vetoed the bill with those funds. Just keep sending him the same bill over and over again.
Yep, lather, rinse, repeat. The Preznit is the one on the hot seat despite the feeling among conservative Dems that they are.


The Media

I'm often critical of the voting public. I think that a Republic gets the politicians it deserves. But in order for voters to do their jobs, they need information. I have the time and inclination to seek out information. But most people are busy leading lives and just don't have as much time to devote to citizenship. That's why stories like this one are so disturbing:

Media Matters notes, “ABC and CBS still have not reported — on either their evening news or morning news broadcasts — former deputy attorney general James B. Comey’s account of what NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams May 15 called a rare glimpse of a high-level, late-night power struggle over the National Security Agency’s warrantless domestic wiretapping program.”
The Comey testimony is likely the biggest story of the week if not the year. It's a direct eyewitness testimony of the committing of a felony by the President of the United States. And where is ABC and CBS? Probably covering heavyweight subjects like a reunification of Joey Buttafuco and Amy Fisher (I kid you not, check the link). The media will say that they give viewers what they want, which may be true. I say the airwaves are owned by the public and granted to broadcasters based on the agreement that they would use some portion of those airwaves for public good. Beside, I'd like large media outlets like ABC, CBS and large newspapers to show me how their movement towards tabloidism has improved their ratings.

ABC, CBS ... it's time to get better at doing your duty. The die-hard viewers are who you want, not the capricious casual viewers who will be gone in a moments notice.


Gouging Note

I've read several blogs today about gas gouging. Apparently consumers are beginning to put the wood to legislators to do something about gasoline prices. The blogs I've read are essentially saying that charges of price gouging are nonsense. Read the link above for an example.

I don't believe that there is much price gouging, meaning that those in the supply chain are increasing prices faster than wholesale costs to them. Sure, there are some examples, but I'm not a believer in a conspiracy of gouging in this way, on the upside.

Where I believe gouging occurs is on the downside. When wholesale prices go up, prices throughout the supply chain go up immediately. When wholesale prices go down, it can take weeks or months for those changes to be reflected in the retail price. That is price gouging and I think it does occur on a widespread basis, thus the huge profit increases for oil companies when prices rise. But I also think it's human nature and I'm not sure that regulation can do much about it.

Whenever we go through another adaptation process of higher gasoline prices due to the fundamental depletion of the resource, we have legislators who want to investigate and legislate. Then nothing happens. That's not all bad except I would be in favor of a windfall profits tax. This way incentives to maintain excessive pricing in the system are diminished, and if those profits do arise the wealth is shared with taxpayers.

Another legislative change I've been in favor of for some time is increasing gasoline taxes. I'd propose a $.20 per gal increase in gasoline prices every six months until prices begin to reflect reality (ask Europe about real gasoline prices). I would also propose that any tax collected be used to develop non-petroleum alternative energy sources. By taxing, we as a people take a proactive stance in reducing petroleum use and encouraging innovation, rather than allowing the inevitable market disruptions to "encourage us" to change. But alas, I've been speaking into a void on this issue for years and suspect the same will continue into the future.


Blowing Chinese Bubbles

The Chinese central bankers are making some moves to stop the Chinese bubble. Their stock market is up a whopping 55% this year and is showing all the signs of a gold rush.

The Chinese economy and stock market have been booming, going up in a virtual straight-up fashion. Investment money is pouring into their markets at a breakneck pace and inflation is at unacceptably high rates. The above link outlines some significant steps they've taken today to slow things down.

Why should we care?

Because to a large extent the Chinese boom is powering the international economic boom. It was a Chinese "correction" in February that was blamed for tanking the U.S. stock market. As I write this, our markets are not showing any signs of distress. But today is an expiration day (nevermind) which tends to create a lot of "noise" in the stock market. Next week should be very interesting.


Immigration Bill

One of the big news stories yesterday was the "compromise" on the immigration bill. It didn't look like too much of a compromise to me.

As Republican nutbar Tom Tancredo said (paraphrasing), you can put lipstick on a pig but it's still a pig, and this compromise is amnesty no matter what else you call it.

For one of the rare occasion, I agree with him.

Bush has cooperated with the Dems to rename and repackage an illegal immigrant amnesty bill. And the Republican right is squealing like pigs (which proves it must be a good thing, eh?). Dems are saying things like "oh well, it's the best we could get" and such statements as that ... lukewarm displeasure. But the Republican right is screaming bloody murder. This looks like a clear victory for Dems to me.

You can read details of the compromise here. I see little to be displeased with. Illegals can get legal by jumping through a few hoops and paying a fine over a reasonable amount of time. And the security measures like building a longer bigger wall, will fail like they always do. The new border security measures will please the minute men for a few minutes but will not be effective due to the miles of economic disparities between the few miles separating Tijuana and San Diego. And in ten years, it'll be time for another amnesty bill!

I'm not positive the bill will easily pass the House. We shall see. Bush is doing what he can to try and have a "signature legacy" other than Iraq. Few people will remember or care about this portion of Bush's legacy in the long run as Iraq will dominate any ink spilled over the boy king (along side of loss of civil liberties). So, good job Dems. You've played this one well and the country will benefit.


Park It

This is interesting:

USA Today leads with an analysis of federal highway data showing that, for the first time in 26 years, drivers in America have started clocking "substantially fewer miles." The price of gas is one reason, but there are also other factors, such as an aging population and a growing trend that has resulted in many people moving out of suburbs and into cities.
I wonder if this is the start of reverse suburbanization? As the petroleum economy becomes less viable, and as technology improves things like telecommuting, you've got to wonder.


What Has Happened to Our Country?

An excerpt from The Assault on Reason:

It is too easy—and too partisan—to simply place the blame on the policies of President George W. Bush. We are all responsible for the decisions our country makes. We have a Congress. We have an independent judiciary. We have checks and balances. We are a nation of laws. We have free speech. We have a free press. Have they all failed us? Why has America's public discourse become less focused and clear, less reasoned? Faith in the power of reason—the belief that free citizens can govern themselves wisely and fairly by resorting to logical debate on the basis of the best evidence available, instead of raw power—remains the central premise of American democracy. This premise is now under assault.

This is one book I'll be reading.


Thursday, May 17, 2007


Isn't Rudy Guiliani one of the most reptilian types guys you've ever seen?

The more I learn about him the less I like him. And I never liked him much. He's more cunning than Bush and likely not as stupid. And now we know his feelings on torturing suspects:

Do whatever you want.

Nice thing for an American leader to be saying, particularly when U.S. soldiers are being held hostage somewhere.

It's conniving wacko's like Guiliani that only gather a following during the times of dictators.


No Confidence

So the Senate is going to hold a "no confidence" vote on Abu Gonzales?


It's great optics and perhaps good politics. But does anyone actually believe it will have an effect on tearing down the biggest firewall between Senate investigators and Rove/Bush? I, for one, will be shocked if it has any impact.



Purloined from Blondesense:

There is but one conclusion you can draw from the astonishing (albeit fitful, bittersweet) pro-environment sea change now happening in the culture and (reluctantly, nervously) in the halls of power in D.C., one thing we must all acknowledge in our wary, jaded, globally warmed universe: The hippies had it right all along. Oh yes they did.

You know it's true. All this hot enthusiasm for healing the planet and eating whole foods and avoiding chemicals and working with nature and developing the self? Came from the hippies. Alternative health? Hippies. Green cotton? Hippies. Reclaimed wood? Recycling? Humane treatment of animals? Medical pot? Alternative energy? Natural childbirth? Non-GMO seeds? It came from the granola types (who, of course, absorbed much of it from ancient cultures), from the alternative worldviews, from the underground and the sidelines and from far off the goddamn grid and it's about time the media, the politicians, the culture as a whole sent out a big, wet, hemp-covered apology.



More Comey

Digby continues the speculation today. It's a good read. Personally, I'm still astounded by it and reading the transcripts just doesn't do it justice.

The Frontline on the governments wiretapping programs the other night hit on the same point. Abu's testimony in front of the Senate in 2006 is so obviously parsed that you'd have to be deaf, dumb and blind not to see it. Equally obvious, Senators couldn't call him on it due to security considerations. So we have this odd Abu testimony that's like a (yet another) kabuki dance going on around the truth.

I agree with Digby's comment made in 2006 and today. I think Comey, Ashcroft and the entire DOJ leadership was prepared to resign because there were political elements involved in the illegal wiretapping. Remember, the events that Comey describe take place before the 2004 election.

When the truth finally comes out, I think it'll make Nixon look like a civil libertarian. What's really interesting is that you know that many Senate Republicans know the truth, having been briefed, and yet they continue to support Bush. That, alone, ought to give you some insight into the values, norms, and practices of the GOP these days as compared to the days of Nixon when the GOP still had some semblance of a soul.


Non-Denial Denial

Bush twice today ducked an important question:

During a press conference today, President Bush was confronted about recent accusations made by former Deputy Attorney General James Comey regarding the White House’s shocking efforts to seek legal sanction for its warrantless wiretapping program. According to Comey, Bush personally directed a White House effort to bypass Comey’s authority and seek approval from John Ashcroft, who was then hospitalized and in intensive care.
Bush's response to the questions? The short versions:
I think we can safely assume that his response is a confirmation of Comey's testimony. That puts Bush directly in the felony loop.

Update: Right from the horse's mouth:


Get Ready For A Cave In

The Dems are going to give in on Iraq war funding:

After the vote, [Feingold-Reid] Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader and a co-sponsor of the Feingold plan, said he was committed to delivering legislation acceptable to Mr. Bush by the end of next week. He conceded that the compromise was likely to disappoint war opponents who had pushed Congress to set a pull-out date.
I'm disappointed but not surprised. The Kabuki dance continues. War opponents will be outraged (rightly so) and the pressure will hopefully grow on conservatives.

The Democratic leadership has made a calculus that to stop war funding through a stand-off is a political loser with a likely backlash. The vote on Feingold-Reid showed lukewarm support in the Senate for a get-tough stand with Bush, even among conservative Dems. So what choice is left?

Given the polling, I'm not sure that the strategy is correct. I suspect voters would be more tolerant of Congress in standing up to Bush. But then again, the 19 Democratic Senators who voted against Feingold-Reid must be in touch with their constituents who may be ready to give it until September. Until Reid gets more support from conservative Dems, he thinks he has a weak hand. I'm sure they'll review again this summer and see if there's been movement.

It would seem that conservatives have been successful in buying time. Given the Friedman Unit generator, it will be interesting to see what happens this summer. I think there's little doubt that Iraq will still be a mess (or worse) and as in the post referenced above, Petraeus will waffle along with Bush. Thus, all these cowardly Congresscritters will be faced with the same decision ..... again.

In the meantime, more death and destruction go on in Iraq.


Inflation View

Barry Ritholtz has done a couple of posts on inflation. He has the opinion, (of which I share), that the government is grossly understating inflation. By stripping out food and energy while massaging the other measures, the government reports no longer reflect real life, understating inflation.

In an attempt to understand a more accurate inflation picture, Barry suggests this:

One way to actually measure how absurd the US core inflation measure is to look at what has happened to the spread between headline CPI and Core CPI. If Core CPI is understating inflation, than the spread should be widening. If it is accurate, the overall ratio between the two should be relatively steady.
Historically the Fed has stripped out food and energy because they were "volatile", meaning wide swings up and down. The "core" rate was supposed to give a clearer picture of the underlying pattern of inflation. But what happens if those volatile measures have an upward trend? It seems to me that, even though volatile, a trend upward suggests a bunch of inflation.

This chart provided via Barry shows the percentage spread between the Fed's core inflation and the overall "headline" number:

As I think is clearly shown by the chart, the spread between the core rate and the overall rate is on a steady march upwards and nearing levels not seen since the 1970's.

Other countries are starting to look at inflation in different terms ..... and starting to worry about it. I wonder how long it will take the Fed to recognize that there's a problem? The motivation to continue to ignore inflation is strong, i.e. they don't want to have to raise interest rates while the economy is slowing. But unless inflation is gotten under control, the defacto taxation of inflation will result in much worse economic consequences than a temporary recession.


Palast is Right

Journalist Greg Palast has nailed it:

Were they really worried about terrorists, the guys who terrorized Ashcroft?
The truth is, the power they sought was not for hunting al Qaeda; after all, wiretaps on Osama’s pen-pals have never been challenged.
The key here is the contract. The US Constitution prohibits the government spying on us. So they contracted it out. No-bid billions to ChoicePoint Inc. and other “data mining” outfits.

What won’t come out in the hearings is that this was just one tentacle of a program to create an American KGB, a system of mass snooping which, in the end, didn’t catch any bad guys — but will be very useful indeed in creating the purge lists that will ensure the re-election of the regime in 2008.


Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Cranking Up The Friedman Generator

I told ya:

Baghdad – Three months into the job, General David Petraeus says it is difficult to predict how well the surge of troops in Baghdad will succeed before the full number of troops arrive and that he would not have a definitive answer about prospects for stability by September, when he is to report back to Congress.

“I think generally is is still early days. We are literally still just setting the footprint if you will to do what we intend to achieve but until we get all those forces in and have really worked with them for a while I think it’s difficult to see what’s going to happen,” he told me in an interview Tuesday evening.



There's a lot of popcorn popping over this announcement:

Rove's former assistant, Susan Ralston, is currently seeking immunity to testify before Waxman's committee. Ralston is a former assistant to Jack Abramoff, the disgraced Washington super-lobbyist and Republican fund-raiser. As Rove's gatekeeper, she became special assistant to the President and the highest-ranking Filipino-American in the administration. For Waxman, she is a link between Abramoff and Rove. Ralston was deposed behind closed doors prior to her request for immunity. According to her friends, she has nothing to say that would cause problems for Rove. Her request for immunity was forwarded to the Justice Department, whose recommendation may or may not be followed by Congress.
Frankly I'm not sure what the biggie is if she's not going to flip on Rove. Then again, perhaps everyone is hoping that she will flip once given immunity and asked the right questions. Who knows. Along with Monica Goodling, Ralston likely has the info needed for more evidence of felonies committed by the White House. The real question is this though. If she (or Goodling) deliver the goods (like Comey has), will anything be done?

I'm simply aghast at what these guys are getting away with in the midst of the evidence (not just tinfoil hat accusations).


I'm Pissed .... Again

Abu no shows Congress today and refuses to honor a subpoena. Comey testifies about the White House attempts to strong arm a sick Ashcroft into illegal wiretaps that even he couldn't support. The list goes on and continues to grow. Now this:

NEW YORK What's going on? Gallup reports today a sudden plunge in its regular "satisfaction" index. Only 25% of Americans now say they satisfied with the state of their country -- down 8% in just one month -- and one of the lowest ever measured.
Bloggers are openly analyzing the political fallout/pros/cons of Bush declaring himself dictator and refusing to step down in 2008. What's interesting about this post is the matter-of-fact way it's written, as if he were discussing the ins/outs of a mailing campaign.

When the hell is Congress going to really do something? I'm lookin' at you Republicans! I think Dems are doing what they can do by revealing the dirt and by proposing legislation. But anyone who watches Congress knows that if the houses are closely divided, it's easy for the minority party to block legislation. That's why I'm lookin' at Republicans. Have they no shame? Have they decided that the direction we're going is correct? And how about that 40% of moderates? Do they realize that to the degree they support Republicans, they're killing the country?

Once again I'm afraid we're left to hope that the 2008 election is a watershed. I'm pessimistic that Republicans will come around. If they won't hold anyone accountable, we can only hope that voters move them out in unprecedented numbers as a mechanism to restore the Republic.


Wolfie By-bye

Paul Wolfowitz to resign later today. He has to finish negotiating his "exit deal" (I think I hear a cash register somewhere).

Can anyone point to a senior level Bushie who has had a successful, proud tenure?


History Lesson

I didn't know this:

The religious right's creation myth holds that Roe v Wade so outraged the faithful that they could no longer sit passively on their pews. As the Columbia University historian Randall Balmer has shown, this is nonsense. The Southern Baptist Convention, Falwell's denomination, was officially pro-choice throughout the 1970s; anti-abortion activism was seen as the province of Catholics, a group then widely despised by fundamentalist Protestants. No, what really galvanized the religious right were Supreme Court rulings stripping whites-only Christian academies, like the one Falwell founded in 1966, of their tax-exempt status. Fervent opposition to abortion, which eventually cemented the alliance between conservative Protestant and Catholics, came later.
I was aware of Catholic activism against abortion but did not know that the Baptists were pro-choice in 1970's. Isn't it interesting to note that the thing that got the Protestants all fired up was money? Figures.


Kangaroo Leather

I'm an avid animal lover. I just became aware of an incredibly barbaric practice and legislation that is up for a vote in California. The PETA blog has details but the short story is this.

S.B. 880 will make it legal to sell kangaroo skins in California. This practice has been banned since 1970. The California Senate Natural Resources and Wildlife Committee passed the bill on May 8, allowing it to move forward to voting by the full Senate. Please help stop SB 880 and protect kangaroos by signing the petition: Let the California Chamber of Commerce know that you oppose SB 880 and will leave California out of your future travel plans if this bill is passed.

If you need any inspiration, the PETA blog has video of a kangaroo being killed (almost), the joey ripped from her pouch and stepped on, and the kangaroo being hung on the side of a truck, still alive. It took my breath away. I couldn't finish watching it.

If you are a resident of California please make your voice heard.


Must Read

This is a must read piece by Glenn Greenwald on Comey's testimony. In an era where the unbelieveable is commonplace, this story is extraordinary.


Net Neutrality

The continuing saga of the battle over net neutrality.

If the FCC doesn’t act now to protect Net Neutrality, the freedom and innovation of the Internet will be lost forever. Send a message to the FCC before the public comment period on Net Neutrality closes on June 15th, 2007!
What is Net Neutrality?
Major telephone and cable companies have a plan to control the Internet. They want their content and services – and those of companies that pay steep fees – to travel quickly along a “fast lane.” Everything else, from personal blogs to nonprofit and small business websites – would be stuck in a “slow lane.”
Click through and sign the thing. This is important, people. Corporate media ownership has shrunk drastically in the past 50 years. We need to keep the internet fair as long as possible. Sometimes, it is the only venue for the truth.


Must Watch Video

This is the video of the dramatic Comey testimony about how the White House committed a Felony:

This story is astounding and gaining steam. A knowledgeable reader from Josh Marshall's site says this:

Trust the Washington press corps to lunge for the process story, and ignore the substance.

When the warrantless wiretap surveillance program came up for review in March of 2004, it had been running for two and a half years. We still don't know precisely what form the program took in that period, although some details have been leaked. But we now know, courtesy of Comey, that the program was so odious, so thoroughly at odds with any conception of constitutional liberties, that not a single senior official in the Bush administration's own Department of Justice was willing to sign off on it. In fact, Comey reveals, the entire top echelon of the Justice Department was prepared to resign rather than see the program reauthorized, even if its approval wasn't required. They just didn't want to be part of an administration that was running such a program.

This wasn't an emergency program; more than two years had elapsed, ample time to correct any initial deficiencies. It wasn’t a last minute crisis; Ashcroft and Comey had both been saying, for weeks, that they would withhold
approval. But at the eleventh hour, the President made one final push, dispatching his most senior aides to try to secure approval for a continuation of the program, unaltered.

I think it’s safe to assume that whatever they were fighting over, it was a matter of substance. When John Ashcroft is prepared to resign, and risk bringing down a Republican administration in the process, he’s not doing it for kicks. Similarly, when the President sends his aides to coerce a signature out of a desperately ill man, and only backs down when the senior leadership of a cabinet department threatens to depart en masse, he’s not just being stubborn.
That top escelon included John Ashcroft, not known as a bastion of civil liberties, who told Comey through his chief of staff that he didn't want to be "left behind" when Comey resigned.

I don't give a good goddamned how long Bush has left in office. It's time for Congress to move forward with some accountability of these clowns. Someone like Abu, Cheney, Rove and Bush need to be removed and held criminally liable. Without it, the weakness of the Constitution is affirmed and the violence done to American government will be very difficult to every recapture.


Go To Bed Without Dinner

Apparently Abu ignored a Senatorial subpoena to provide documents. Well, this has made Senators really really mad:

“You ignored the subpoena, did not come forward today, did not produce the documents and did not even offer an explanation for your noncompliance,” the senators wrote in a lettter to Alberto Gonzales today. “Your action today is in defiance of the Committee’s subpoena without explanation of any legal basis for doing so.”
So what did they do in response to the fickle finger of fate?
The senators set a new deadline, this Friday at May 18, 10 AM. If the Justice Department does not respond to the subpoena, the senators ask that they at least explain why they're not responding "so that the Chairman and the Committee can assess any objections to the subpoena or privileges claimed by the Department."
They also withdrew his dinner and sent him to bed early.

Seriously, when is the Senate going to get serious about holding someone, anyone, accountable for ignoring the rule of law?


Middle East - Irrelevent?

I ran across this very interesting article on the Middle East. The premise is simply that the Middle East is largely irrelevent, and not worthy of all the attention it gets.

I think I can agree with most of the article:

Strategically, the Arab-Israeli conflict has been almost irrelevant since the end of the cold war. And as for the impact of the conflict on oil prices, it was powerful in 1973 when the Saudis declared embargoes and cut production, but that was the first and last time that the "oil weapon" was wielded. For decades now, the largest Arab oil producers have publicly foresworn any linkage between politics and pricing, and an embargo would be a disaster for their oil-revenue dependent economies. In any case, the relationship between turmoil in the middle east and oil prices is far from straightforward. As Philip Auerswald recently noted in the American Interest, between 1981 and 1999—a period when a fundamentalist regime consolidated power in Iran, Iran and Iraq fought an eight-year war within view of oil and gas installations, the Gulf war came and went and the first Palestinian intifada raged—oil prices, adjusted for inflation, actually fell. And global dependence on middle eastern oil is declining: today the region produces under 30 per cent of the world's crude oil, compared to almost 40 per cent in 1974-75. In 2005 17 per cent of American oil imports came from the Gulf, compared to 28 per cent in 1975, and President Bush used his 2006 state of the union address to announce his intention of cutting US oil imports from the middle east by three quarters by 2025.
It is true that oil producers are reluctant to use oil as a weapon now having increased their dependence on petro-dollars. The exception would be Iran, but they don't provide oil to the U.S. anyway. And it is also true that more oil is coming from non-Middle Eastern regions, albeit not necessarily stable areas themselves.

Reducing our dependence on the petroleum economy would be a good thing for many many reasons. Doing so would make the arguments made in this article even more true.

An area of disagreement I do have is the economic impact of disruptions in the area. Whether justified or not, disruptions in oil producing countries cause economic problems in the U.S. But it is also true that once the disruption is put into perspective (and adapted to), prices usually moderate.

The operational mistake that middle east experts keep making is the failure to recognise that backward societies must be left alone, as the French now wisely leave Corsica to its own devices, as the Italians quietly learned to do in Sicily, once they recognised that maxi-trials merely handed over control to a newer and smarter mafia of doctors and lawyers. With neither invasions nor friendly engagements, the peoples of the middle east should finally be allowed to have their own history—the one thing that middle east experts of all stripes seem determined to deny them.
Certainly some interesting food for thought.



The vote failed 29-67 (as expected).

It did force everyone to go on the record and forced, at least in small measure, the hands of the Dem presidential candidates. Just another notch in the belt for the future Dem Presidential candidate.

Update: The vote tally is here. Interestingly, Collins, Snow, Hagel and Specter all voted against it. Once again a case of all bluster and bullshit, and no guts. Obama and Clinton voted for it. Like I said, it's just another bit of the record on the war.

Update II: Here's a handy dandy list of Democrats who voted against it. Remember them.



Well, the Frontline last night was as advertised.

Clearly there are continuing programs of secret data mining where wholesale amounts of private database information are searched by the government for "bad guys". We're supposed to "trust them" that civil liberties are being protected. Yeah .... right.

If you haven't read the testimony of James Comey yesterday, it's a suggested read. His testimony offers insight into just how crazy the administration folks are.


Forgotten Legacy

I fear Americans have forgotten the true horrors of war.

Wilfred Burchett decided to strike out on his own. He was determined to see for himself what this nuclear bomb had done, to understand what this vaunted new weapon was all about. So he boarded a train and traveled for thirty hours to the city of Hiroshima in defiance of General MacArthur's orders.

Burchett emerged from the train into a nightmare world. The devastation that confronted him was unlike any he had ever seen during the war. The city of Hiroshima, with a population of 350,000, had been razed. Multistory buildings were reduced to charred posts. He saw people's shadows seared into walls and sidewalks. He met people with their skin melting off. In the hospital, he saw patients with purple skin hemorrhages, gangrene, fever, and rapid hair loss. Burchett was among the first to witness and describe radiation sickness.

We would do well to remember the consequences of all of this American saber-rattling, especially now that Bush's ire is now directed at Iran. Stories like this are especially important with the continued extensive military blackouts of news and the corporate media's complacency. Censorship has always gone hand in hand with the military but it seems so much worse right now.


Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Illegal Wiretaps

There's a bunch of buzz in the blogosphere about James Comey's testimony before the Senate today. In that testimony, he concluded:

Comey testified as follows:

(i) that he, OLC and the AG concluded that the NSA program was not legally defensible, i.e., that it violated FISA and that the Article II argument OLC had previously approved was not an adequate justification (a conclusion prompted by the New AAG, Jack Goldsmith, having undertaken a systematic review of OLC's previous legal opinions regarding the Commander in Chief's powers);

(ii) that the White House nevertheless continued with the program anyway, despite DOJ's judgment that it was unlawful;

(iii) that Comey, Ashcroft, the head of the FBI (Robert Mueller) and several other DOJ officials therefore threatened to resign;

(iv) that the White House accordingly -- one day later -- asked DOJ to figure out a way the program could be changed to bring it into compliance with the law (presumably on the AUMF authorizaton theory); and

(v) that OLC thereafter did develop proposed amendments to the program over the subsequent two or three weeks, which were eventually implemented.
Yeah. So?

No, seriously. This is all old news. The fact that it's testimony before Senate gives it a bigger megaphone but it's certainly not new news. I agree that it's a serious (and impeachable) offense, but to date no one has shown the balls to do anything about it. Why should they now?

On a related front, PBS has a Frontline tonight on illegal wiretapping. I'm sure it will cover the same territory plus more. And I'm sure it will make the case that the government illegally wiretapped. The question remains. When will someone be held accountable?


Crazies in the Box

A few days ago, I wrote about the predictions of an attack on Iraq. In that post I speculated that either a) there never was a plan for an attack and a bunch of reporters got it wrong or b) there was a plan for attack and it was stopped.

Now there appears to be some (albeit weak) confirmation that there may have been an attack and it was stopped by the new Centcom commander:

Fallon, who was scheduled to become the CENTCOM chief Mar. 16, responded to the proposed plan [overlapping three carriers in the Persian Gulf, allowing an aerial bombardment of Iran] by sending a strongly-worded message to the Defence Department in mid-February opposing any further U.S. naval buildup in the Persian Gulf as unwarranted.

"He asked why another aircraft carrier was needed in the Gulf and insisted there was no military requirement for it," says the source, who obtained the gist of Fallon's message from a Pentagon official who had read it.

Fallon's refusal to support a further naval buildup in the Gulf reflected his firm opposition to an attack on Iran and an apparent readiness to put his career on the line to prevent it. A source who met privately with Fallon around the time of his confirmation hearing and who insists on anonymity quoted Fallon as saying that an attack on Iran "will not happen on my watch".

Asked how he could be sure, the source says, Fallon replied, "You know what choices I have. I'm a professional." Fallon said that he was not alone, according to the source, adding, "There are several of us trying to put the crazies back in the box." [emphasis mine]
If true, thank god an adult finally got into a credible position to rein in the idiots who've been running the war.


War Czar

Despite having a Sec Defense, a National Security advisor, a Sec State and a President, we now have a "war czar"

After a frustrating search for a new "war czar" to oversee the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, ABC News has learned that President Bush has chosen the Pentagon's director of operations, Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute, for the role.
What a bunch of crap.

As Atrios mentioned, he'll have to go through Senate confirmation which gives everyone a chance to reboot the Friedman Unit machine (hey! we've got a new war czar! give em' a chance!). If Dems confirm him it will also be a bit of a support for ongoing operations.



The amendment requiring immediate withdrawal will come before the Senate tomorrow.

It will be very interesting to watch how the vote turns out. For Dems, who has the guts to follow the will of the people? Which Dem candidates will vote for/against? For Republicans, how strong is the lizard brain desire to go off the cliff with Bush? We shall know manana.


Need to Know

This is one of those things I think everyone needs to know about, especially if you have pets.

The Humane Society of the United States estimates that every year middlemen known as "Class B" animal dealers round up about 18,000 dogs and cats through flea markets and free-to-good-home ads, and then sell them to laboratories and university research labs.

In the process, it says lost pets are rounded up, too.

Now that Congress has undergone a change in leadership, the animal advocacy group hopes lawmakers will make it illegal for "Class B" dealers to sell "random source" cats and dogs to research labs.


First Impressions

I've been Youtubing a lot lately but this is too good not to share. A powerful short film.


RIP Falwell

I didn't agree with him on virtually anything, but I never wished him dead. Too bad.


Awash In Terrorists

One of the chief meme's of those who support the Iraq war is the idea that if we leave Iraq, it will become awash in terrorist. The latest is an terrorist "expert" who claims Iraq will become a terrorist Disneyland if we leave.

Does this really make any sense?

Iraq has a long history of secularization. The Shiites hate al Qaeda as do the Kurds. Insurgent Sunni's have had ongoing battles with al Qaeda types inside Sunni territories. So what would make anyone think that Iraq becomes a terrorist haven? Even with Iranian influence in Iraq, does anyone really think that Iranians want a rogue terrorist nation next door? Iran is a fundamentalist nation. Yet even they have only used "terrorism" as a military tactic in their war with Israel, hardly a "disneyland for terrorist" nation and hardly al Qaeda. And how about Syria, Egypt and Saudi Arabia? Do they really want instability in the form of a terrorist-Afghan-like country in the heart of the Middle East?

This thinking occurs when talking heads become the victim of their own spin. The need to have Iraq and terrorism closely related for electoral reasons has permeated strategic thinking. The war in Iraq is not about fighting terrorism. The war in Iraq is about 1) fighting an occupation and 2) a civil war between factions fighting for control of the country and it's oil. These factions are institutionalists who want to derive benefit from controlling a stable country and economy. Note the word "stable". That's who providing the insurgents, weaponry and money for the war. Those who are "terrorists" are merely exploiting the situation of profound anarchy that exists. It would seem to me that the second group to go (after the Americans) would be those other factions on the fringe who destabilize the competing parties.

As with Vietnam where we were incorrectly told that with the communists taking over Vietnam there would be a dominoe effect throughout the region and world, conservatives are wrong in their prognostications about the impact of a U.S. withdrawal. The sooner we get our heads screwed on straight, the sooner we stop bleeding into Iraq. And the sooner the competing factions do what they need to do, even if it's a civil war, to decide who is going to be the stable ruling faction in Iraq. It's a big prize for the regional powers, but has little to do with sponsoring terrorism that is promoted by small bands of nutbars who are little more than sociopaths with a cause.


Inflation Watch

Another report today on inflation that essentially says "there's no inflation except in things that are inflating". Take out energy and food and inflation is "tame". With food and energy, inflation is increasing. And remember, these inflation numbers include deflation in housing.

I guess it's a glass half full/half empty discussion that is mostly academic. It feels inflationy in my life. But where it matters is in how it affects people's behavior. If folks start to pull in their shopping horns due to economic pressure, the economy tanks. It's really that simple.


Monday, May 14, 2007

Iraq War Senate Vote

I understand that there was some nashing of teeth about whether to bring the Feingold-Reid get-out-of-Iraq-now amendment up for a vote. It has now been decided to put it up for a vote.

I think it's excellent on a policy level and a political level. It's time, again, for Senators to have to go on the record as supporting the war, or not. I continue to believe that Congress should continue to put bill after bill up for a vote requiring everyone to go on the record, particularly the Republicans (and conservative Dems). That's like putting them in a vice and squeezing. And it certainly doesn't hurt to present the boy-king with further bills to veto.


Paul McNulty Gone

Looks like Abu Gonzales has thrown another aide to the wolves.

I wonder what it's like to be a firewall for the firewall?


Counting Peas

This is the most ridiculous, among a lot of ridiculousnees, of stories about Bush:

"President Bush and his consigliere Karl Rove bet on who had read the most books in a year," reports UPI. "Mike McConnell, the director of national intelligence, told friends Rove won with 117 books and Bush was a close second with 104 books."

"Unhappy over his loss to his close confidant, Bush asked for a recount -- in words. And the president won by 1.7 percent."
That takes the cake. First off, I don't believe the SOB reads anything and these books he's "read" are books attributed to him as having been read. Second, for the Preznit to make such a stupid bet is nuts. Finally, to insist on winning like a small child throwing a tantrum until mommy finds away to placate him is purely infantile.

We truly have a baby-king in office.



This guy is too funny!



This post is just a brief observation on the post below about Michael Barone's article on demographic changes in the voting public.

I had occasion several weeks ago to travel from the San Francisco Bay Area to the Central Valley very early in the morning .... around 5 a.m. In crossing the Altamont pass, which divides the bay area from the valley, I happened to notice the traffic. In reality, you couldn't not notice it. There was a four lane freeway (I 580) packed as far as the eye could see with cars, commuters, coming from the less expensive valley into the Bay Area to work. At 5 a.m. Who knows at what time this commute begins or ends, but it was a steady stream of thousands of cars. And mind you, this commute would have to be a minimum of one hour and as much as three hours one way. It was amazing to see how cheap petroleum has affected our living and working patterns. It also makes you wonder how long it can continue until/unless we solve the energy problem.


Love Child

And quote of the day. Rick Perlstein:

Now that Padilla's finally going on trial - an eventuality the government worked very, very hard to render impossible - the restrictions on reporters are unprecedented. Washington claims security concerns. Almost certainly, what they're really afraid of is embarrasment. If Geoge Orwell and Franz Kafka had a love child, it would look like the Padilla case. God forbid it should be exposed to the light of day.
Discussing the nonsense that is the Jose "dirty bomber" Padilla case.


Wrong Way

Labor Department data shows the U.S. Gini Coefficient is rising. If the current trend continues, then the American income gap will resemble that of Mexico by year 2043.
I figure by 2043 the "illegal immigrant" debate will be over.


The Monica Show

Just in case you missed it, the way is now fully paved for Monica Goodling to testify with immunity in front of Congress. Her testimony has the potential of being a "John Dean" moment or being a dud.


Investigative Journalism

Both parties are winking and nodding and giggling behind your back that the way to save jobs is to change the value of China’s money. It’s a brilliant cover for the bi-partisan banging the American worker received with the one-two punch of NAFTA and ‘Most Favored Nation’ trade status for China. There are 700 Wal-Mart plants in China — zero in the USA. Hillary Clinton was on the board of Wal-Mart when that shift went into full swing. No wonder she’s joining George Bush in talking about baloney like “exchange rates.”

This whole interview is interesting.


The New Demographics

A coworker sent a link to an interesting Wall Street Journal opinion piece. Worth a read.

The result is that these Coastal Megalopolises are increasingly a two-tiered society, with large affluent populations happily contemplating (at least until recently) their rapidly rising housing values, and a large, mostly immigrant working class working at low wages and struggling to move up the economic ladder. The economic divide in New York and Los Angeles is starting to look like the economic divide in Mexico City and São Paulo.


Blog Find

Sustainable Middle Class is a good blog. Check it out.