Saturday, June 9, 2007

Good Question

John at Americablog asks a very good question:

CBS reports that GOP Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) served as active duty military recently in Iraq. This raises a very serious question of national security.

I'm sorry, but I'm not comfortable having a US Senator serve active duty in Iraq as a "colonel" when there has been persistent chatter about his sexual orientation and whether it conforms to the Don't Ask Don't Tell policy. The Republicans, and Senator Graham, can't have it both ways. Did the Pentagon investigate the rumors about Senator Graham's orientation prior to choosing to have him serve active duty? Doubtful. But the rumors are out there, and the Senator's very presence has been known to fuel such rumors, so it is not out of the realm of the possible that others with whom he served had the same questions. And once they have those questions, per Don't Ask Don't Tell, there is a threat to unit cohesion. So why did the Pentagon risk unit cohesion in this case?
Like I said, good question. You can't have it both ways Huckleberrry.


The Enemy Of My Enemy ....

Did you know that Americans have given equipment and authority to arrest, to Sunni insurgents? Yep, they have.

Meanwhile, the U.S. military, led by Bush, does what Bush does best ..... fight a strawman.



Kevin Drum:

EXTREMISTS....I just heard Charles Gibson and George Stephanopoulos chatting on the ABC Evening News about the collapse of the immigration bill. Their conclusion? It was killed by extremists on both sides: liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans overwhelmed the centrists. It just goes to show that partisan polarization has made America ungovernable.

This is ridiculous. Look at the numbers. This was a bipartisan bill sponsored by Ted Kennedy and John McCain and supported by George Bush. Democrats voted 37-11 in favor of moving forward to a final vote. Republicans voted 38-7 against it. In the end, the Democratic leadership delivered nearly 80% of its votes. Bush couldn't even get 20% of his party to go along.
Just your typical armchair discussion of by the experts in the media.


Friday, June 8, 2007

Make My Day

I want to personally thank Judge Michael Sauer for his good works in L.A. I never thought Paris Hilton could make my day, but indeed she has:

LOS ANGELES - Paris Hilton was taken from a courtroom screaming and crying Friday seconds after a judge ordered her returned to jail to serve out her entire 45-day sentence for a parole violation in a reckless driving case.

"It's not right!" shouted the weeping Hilton. "Mom!" she called out to her mother in the audience.

Hilton, who was brought to court in handcuffs in a sheriff's car, came into the courtroom disheveled and weeping. Her hair was askew and she wore a gray fuzzy sweatshirt over slacks. She wore no makeup and she cried throughout the hearing.

Her body also shook constantly as she dabbed at her eyes. Several times she turned to her parents, seated behind her in the courtroom, and mouthed, "I love you."


Hilton, appearing to be in handcuffs, cried after she was placed into a black-and-white patrol car, which sped away from her home with lights flashing as news helicopters pursued, broadcasting live TV coverage.


On Thursday, Superior Court Judge Michael T. Sauer ordered that Hilton be brought to Friday's hearing. But early Friday a court spokesman announced that she would be allowed to participate by telephone, which is common in misdemeanor cases. Then, in a reversal, the spokesman said the judge had ordered the Sheriff's Department to pick her up and bring her to court.
Sauer said that he found out via the radio on his way to work that Hilton would be allowed to appear via telephone, at which point he lost his breakfast.

Throughout this whole thing, Sauer has been willing to hold Hilton accountable despite everyone else feeling sorry for her. Her responses are classic Borderline Personality Disorder ....
Relationships with others are intense but stormy and unstable with marked shifts of feelings and difficulties in maintaining intimate, close connections. The person may manipulate others and often has difficulty with trusting others. There is also emotional instability with marked and frequent shifts to an empty lonely depression or to irritability and anxiety. There may be unpredictable and impulsive behavior which might include excessive spending, promiscuity, gambling, drug or alcohol abuse, shoplifting, overeating or physically self-damaging actions such as suicide gestures. The person may show inappropriate and intense anger or rage with temper tantrums, constant brooding and resentment, feelings of deprivation, and a loss of control or fear of loss of control over angry feelings. There are also identity disturbances with confusion and uncertainty about self-identity, sexuality, life goals and values, career choices, friendships. There is a deep-seated feeling that one is flawed, defective, damaged or bad in some way, with a tendency to go to extremes in thinking, feeling or behavior. Under extreme stress or in severe cases there can be brief psychotic episodes with loss of contact with reality or bizarre behavior or symptoms. Even in less severe instances, there is often significant disruption of relationships and work performance. The depression which accompanies this disorder can cause much suffering and can lead to serious suicide attempts. [all the empasis mine]
Don'tcha think she might meet some of this description? It's very important, for Hilton more than anyone, that she serve the full sentence even if they have to post a female deputy outside her cell to keep her from cutting on herself. Judge Sauer is showing great wisdom in being likely the first person ever to hold Hilton accountable for her behavior. Think two year old being told no.



Raleigh, NC - The families of four American security contractors who were burned, beaten, dragged through the streets of Fallujah and their decapitated bodies hung from a bridge over the Euphrates River on March 31, 2004, are reaching out to the American public to help protect themselves against the very company their loved ones were serving when killed, Blackwater Security Consulting. After Blackwater lost a series of appeals all the away to the U.S. Supreme Court, Blackwater has now changed its tactics and is suing the dead men's estates for $10 million to silence the families and keep them out of court.

Blackwater is owned by Erik Prince, a billionaire right-wing fundamentalist Christian from a powerful Michigan Republican family.
A defense fund has been established by which the public is able to donate money to assist the families with litigation costs and expenses.It will be interesting to see how many church members step up to help these families.



The kool aid edition.

Petraeus is declaring that the progress in Anbar is "almost breathtaking". I'd hate to see what the progress would look like if it was breathtaking.

Seriously, Petraeus is now completely out of the loop as a credible reporter on Iraq. He has too much at stake personally and has lost his perspective. He's now simply a mouthpiece for the administration's position of a continuing war in Iraq. Dems, I hope you're watching the CW evolve on cue. In September you'll face the same dilemma you just sidestepped, albeit with a lot more dead bodies under the bridge.


The Rest Of The Story

Here's Congressman Jefferson's explanation for the $90K in his freezer:

"Did I bribe a foreign official? Absolutely not. The $90,000 was the FBI's money. The FBI gave it to me as part of their plan that I would give it to the Nigerian Vice President. But I did not do that. When all of the facts are understood, I trust I will be vindicated."
Given the state of our government, the Dept. of Justice and the media, I'm going to back away from my condemning attitude about William Jefferson until after the trial.


Friday Levity, Greyhair Edition

Trust me, this guy knows his dogs.


Friday Levity

The talented artist over at High Cotton has created some terrific cards. My favorites are the dog cards. Greyhair, check out the schnauzer.



"A liberal is a conservative who's been to jail"

Judge Robert Bork, one of the fathers of the modern judicial conservative movement whose nomination to the Supreme Court was rejected by the Senate, is seeking $1,000,000 in compensatory damages, plus punitive damages, after he slipped and fell at the Yale Club of New York City. Judge Bork was scheduled to give a speech at the club, but he fell when mounting the dais, and injured his head and left leg. He alleges that the Yale Club is liable for the $1m plus punitive damages because they "wantonly, willfully, and recklessly" failed to provide staging which he could climb safely.
L. M. A. O.


Interest Rate ... Again

I hate to continue to harp on arcane information like interest rates and such, but the events of yesterday and today may be very important in the long run. Here's a chart giving some historical perspective on bond yields (click to enlarge):

A twenty five year downtrend in interest rates is being challenged. It's been breached, but only time will tell if it's a change in trend. If it is (and I believe it is), then we're heading for a period of sustained higher interest rates likely due to years of excessive credit, excessive government spending, excessive deficits ..... in short ... excess. We may be facing something similar to the economics of the post-Vietnam era. Conditions sure look awfully familiar.

Added: This:

What if the predominant owners of U.S. debt - Asian Central Banks - were to find themselves with less money as a result of a slowing U.S. economy and consequently a consumer cutting back and purchasing fewer cheap (or not cheap, see yesterday's Five Things on Chinese labor) Chinese goods? Absent a new buyer of U.S. debt, the net result would be a slowing economy with rising rates, would it not?
Added: This chart, which shows the trade deficit. The blue line is the total, black is only petroleum and red is without petroleum. Note, as the line goes down the deficit is growing a vice versa.

It appears that the trade deficit may have bottomed in the second quarter. And just what does that mean? We're importing fewer things (Read: China). That means China has fewer dollars sloshing around which means fewer purchases of our debt which means .... voila': higher interest rates. Also note that this change in trade deficit correlates quite nicely with the drop in home equity loans .... Chucky's ATM.



You may or may not have heard that the Creationist museum that recently opened. That's fine I guess. There are a significant number of people who believe in the mythology of creation vs. evolution and I guess they should have a place to visit if they want. But this caught my attention as a poster child situation that is emblematic of the religious right:

In a video shown at a new [creation] museum purporting to demonstrate how God created the universe, actor Eric Linden portrays Adam breathing life's first breath.

A jaunt around the Internet shows Linden posing alongside a drag queen on an explicit Web site he owned called Bedroom Acrobat, the Associated Press reports. The Web site allows its network of members to post explicit stories and photos, AP reports.
Needless to say, the video has been removed. Linden said he did the work for the museum as an actor and doesn't necessarily believe in creationism.


Thursday, June 7, 2007

It Hurts!

Read it and weep:

Psychiatrist Charles Sophy visited [Paris] Hilton in jail yesterday and the day before. We're told after Sophy's visit yesterday, word was passed to the Sheriff that Hilton's mental state was fragile and she was at risk. The reason for releasing her had nothing to do with a rash or other physical issues. It was purely in her head.
You've. Got. To. Be. Kidding.

I really really hope there is more to the story and that the media is just wanking. I fear not.


I'm Very Confused

For those who know me, this is not an unusual state of affairs.

Earlier today I posted about rising interest rates and the bond market. International bankers are raising interest rates due to inflation fears and their strong economies. With bond prices going into the toidy today, the stock market decided to continue it's downward path of the last few days as well.

The headline explanation I'm seeing for the decline in the stock market is due to fears that, due to a "strong economy" and inflation, interest rates are more likely to go up than down in the future. But then I read this:

Sales at Macy's Inc., J.C. Penney Co. and other U.S. retailers fell in May as shoppers curbed purchases due to higher gasoline prices and a sluggish housing market.

Sales at stores open at least a year at Macy's, the second- largest U.S. department-store chain, dropped 3.3 percent, the most in 18 months. Same-store sales fell 2 percent at J.C. Penney, the third largest. Both trailed analysts' estimates.

U.S. retail sales from February through May rose at about half the pace from a year earlier as consumers reined in purchases of non-essential items such as clothing and home furnishings. The slowdown may continue into June, according to Michael Niemira, chief economist at the International Council of Shopping Centers.
So let me get this straight. The headline strong economy is causing the stock market to tank? And the headline strong economy is accompanied with stories of retail sales being down?

The current situation tells me a couple of things. First of all you have a window into how dependent the economy is on credit. If higher interest rates put a fork into a cooked stock market, it's because all those merger's and aquisitions have now become a bit more expensive. Second, if the economy is so darned strong, why are retailers struggling? Chucky (the affectionate name given to consumers by many blog writers) is two-thirds of the economy. If Chucky stops shopping, how can the economy be strong?

In standing back, it appears to me that the stagflation scenario is continuing. Some have been saying that gross domestic product bottomed last quarter. I'm not sure how that can be true if Chucky is staying home. And when you have rising interest rates to fight inflation, how can the economy be stimulated? A slowing economy + inflation = stagflation.

Added: I next ran across this handy chart that displays the amount of money being borrowed on equity in homes:

Chucky blew a mighty fine bubble is equity borrowing. Is there any question where the cash came from for all those new SUV's and plasma teevees? But it's looking like that party may be over ......


Everyone Has A Sense Of Humor Today

Digby cracks me up.

He's put up a post suggesting that Democrats do some framing around the fact that Cheney is the defacto President. He concludes with a suggested slogan:

"the Bush administration liked to say that the "grown-ups" were in charge. Well, when I'm president, the president is going to be in charge."
Then one of his commentors is able to improve on it:
"The Bush administration liked to say that the grown-ups were in charge. Well, when I'm president, the president is going to be a grown-up."
Edwards? Clinton? Obama? You guys listening?


And I Thought Mine Was Good

Yesterday, I took a few precious minutes out of my day to comment on Joe Klein's whining. I thought I did a pretty good job.

Well let me tell ya, mine takedown looks positively amateurish (perhaps because it is?) compared to the takedown in today's TPM Cafe piece by Paul Lukasiak. Lukasiak shows how, basically, there is nothing in Joe's original blog post that is correct. Nothing. Nada. He also aptly demonstrates exactly how to construct a blog post correctly.

Message to Joe. Read Lukasiak's piece to see how a quality blog piece is put together. Then spend less time at Starbucks schmooozing and more time researching.

Added: Atrios can't resist poking the animal either. What a crack up.

Added Again: Digby weighs in too.



Radar has an interesting article up today giving us some highlights of the connections between the defense industry and public officials who are needing to "spend more time with the family". It's an helpful article that shows you how you too can invest in these companies to join in the wealth of war! Here's George Tenet as the first example:

The ex-CIA director who called Iraqi WMDs a "slam dunk" has joined the British military tech firm QinetiQ (meant to connote James Bond's gadget genius, Q) which offers quirky products like exploding ink, bullet-firing robots, and a submersible device to detect terrorist scuba divers. Of course, that's in addition to a line of no-nonsense weaponry like "dense metal kinetic energy penetrators" and "electromagnetic and electrothermal chemical guns." This gig is just the latest in string that has landed Tenet $2.3 million in salary and stock since his retirement in 2004.

PROGNOSIS: A skeptical UK government audit called QinetiQ's profits "excessive." So what's their point?

TICKER: QQ (London)



It simply impossible to understand the game without a scorecard. Thankfully, Juan Cole gives us a quick update, adding the Kurdish/Turkey war the newest to flare up:

How many fronts are there in the Iraq War? The Sunni Arab guerrillas of the center, west and north are themselves fighting a four-front war. They are fighting US troops. They are fighting Shiites. They are fighting Kurds in the Kirkuk region and Ninevah and Diyala provinces. And they are fighting other Sunni Arab forces (Baathists fight Salafi fundamentalists, and both fight tribal levies gravitating to the Americans).

Then there is a muted Shiite front with two dimensions. Radical Shiites attack US forces. And, in Basra, Diwaniya and elsewhere, there is Shiite on Shiite violence as the Badr Corps paramilitary of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (often infiltrated into the Iraqi police) fights the Mahdi Army of Muqtada al-Sadr.

So that makes 6-- four Sunni Arab fronts and 2 Shiite fronts.

Then there are the Kurds. Of course they are fighting the Sunni Arabs. But they have also given haven to two terrorist groups. One is the PKK, or Kurdish Worker's Party, which operates in Turkey's eastern Anatolia, blowing things up and killing people. Some 5,000 PKK fighters are holed up in Iraqi Kurdistan, to the rage of the Turkish government in Ankara. The other is PEJAK, an Iranian-Kurdish terrorist group that launches attacks in Iran. Both Iran and Turkey have lobbed mortars and artillery shells over the border into villages of Iraqi Kurdistan as a way of lodging a complaint and making a threat against these Kurdish forces.

So in addition to the Arab-Kurdish front already counted, that makes 2 more fronts, for a grand total of 8. Not all 8 are very active at all times. But all 8 do break out into substantial violence from time to time. And we may have just seen a flare-up in no. 8.
Got it?

And guess who's smack in the middle of it all.


Interest Rates

The stock market is always an interesting phenomena to watch.

After a period of greeting all bad news as good, the market has now suddenly decided that there is an inflation problem. It might be because the rest of the world is raising interest rates because their governments actually use good data to make decisions.

The ten year bond is now, finally, recognizing that rates are likely to have to go higher to fight inflation having just crossed the 5% level.

Why does this matter? Because higher interest rates are going to be like stepping on the throat of a housing market that is laying in the gutter. This will put further pressure on consumers who have been fueling this recent "boom" by borrowing from the home ATM.

It's looking like the summer and fall are going to be interesting for more reasons than Iraq.



Here's a blog post over at the Oil Drum that tells you everything you ever needed to know about ethanol.

Here's the short version. It's a lousy way to try and relieve our dependence on gasoline.

Correction: This is a discussion of CORN based ethanol. As has been written here a number of times, sugar based ethanol is being quite successfully used in Brazil.


Not a Friend of Bill

Richardson has bagged traditional game — such as elk and turkey — and stalked the exotic. He shot an oryx, a long-horned antelope native to Africa, during a guided outing in 2005 on a New Mexico ranch owned by media mogul Ted Turner.

I wouldn't vote for Richardson if he was the only candidate running. Oh, and that ranch... it's a canned hunt. This sentiment will get me in trouble, but I believe there is something psychologically wrong with anyone who derives joy from killing.



I defy anyone can read this post and tell me with a straight face that this is not a fascist nation.

If you think you are represented in our government, regardless of whether you are conservative or liberal, you are mistaken. The only thing that matters is money.


Making Up Is Hard To Do

Unless you really need to steal some technology:

Russian President Vladimir Putin, bitterly opposed to a U.S. missile shield in Europe, told President Bush on Thursday that Moscow would drop its objections if the radar-based system were installed in Azerbaijan.

Putin told Bush he would not seek to retarget Russian missiles on Europe if the United States agreed to put the system in the central Asian nation of Azerbaijan, a former Soviet republic.
Sure. It just happens that Puty has a Russian facility in Azerbaijan all prepped and ready to go for missle defense. How fortuitious!

The stupid missle shield doesn't work, but I'll bet there's a pretty fair amount of technology that the Ruskie's would love to get their hands on. And of course we know that it would be safe to let them have it because Bush looked Putin in the eyes and declared him a good guy! It's so nice to see the boys getting along again.


Screwing the American

CSI found that the number of vehicle models sold in the United States that achieve combined gas mileage of at least 40 miles per gallon actually has dropped from five in 2005 to just two in 2007 — the Honda Civic hybrid and the Toyota Prius hybrid.

Overseas, primarily in Europe, there are 113 vehicles for sale that get a combined 40 mpg, up from 86 in 2005. Combined gas mileage is the average of a vehicle’s city and highway mpg numbers.

Adding insult to injury is the fact that nearly two-thirds of the 113 highly fuel-efficient models that are unavailable to American consumers are either made by U.S.-based automobile manufacturers or by foreign manufacturers with substantial U.S. sales operations, such as Nissan and Toyota.

This is the result of allowing corporations to control the government. We are being screwed. Big time.


Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Poor Joe Klein

He writes today about having to endur the slings and arrows of the rabid left blogosphere. I found this particularly interesting. After saying that there are many fine left-wing blog sites, he notes:

But the smart stuff is being drowned out by a fierce, bullying, often witless tone of intolerance that has overtaken the left-wing sector of the blogosphere. Anyone who doesn't move in lockstep with the most extreme voices is savaged and ridiculed—especially people like me who often agree with the liberal position but sometimes disagree and are therefore considered traitorously unreliable.
I'm afraid Joe still just doesn't understand. He plays the blog game just like the old (and increasingly under pressure) journalist game of insisting on nicey nicey while ducking accountability. Ok. I can understand wanting civil. But here's my question to Joe:

What the hell are you talking about?

One of the beauties of blogging on the internets is the ability to instantly reference, link, and provide proof for claims. Personally, I try not to assert anything that I can't link to with some evidence beyond having just pulled it out of my ass. But look at Joe's comment above.
But the smart stuff is being drowned out by a fierce, bullying, often witless tone of intolerance
Ok, as them thar professionals say, who?, what?, when? where? I am absolutely positive that in a blog (there are around 10,000 new ones per day) someone has been rude to Joe. Who? Is it anyone that is read? If so, provide a quote/link/reference/proof of some kind rather than just pissing in the wind all over a strawman. And what proof is there that the good stuff is being "drowned out". And good based on who's valuation?
Anyone who doesn't move in lockstep with the most extreme voices is savaged and ridiculed
See above comment. Whaaaaaaa!
especially people like me who often agree with the liberal position but sometimes disagree and are therefore considered traitorously unreliable
Again, same comment as above. And Joe, I got news for you. You are not liberal. You may think you are. Fellow journalists may be willing to accept that moniker on you but I don't. Nor do an awful lot of real liberals who are growing in strength and influence. And that seems to be at the heart of most of the problems I've seen with your writing. The fact is you are labeled as the liberal while the liberal position goes wanting and unreported. I'm sorry to deflate your ego by reporting that it's this skewing of the political spectrum in the media is the larger problem, more so than you.

I read Atrios regularly and most of the other bloggers that I suspect he's referencing (although we'd never know by his strawman comments). Yes, many including moi' have been very critical of Joe. And you know what? Sometimes it's been entertainingly personal. But usually it's referenced, linked and proven that whatever Joe has said is .... well .... wankery! And unlike your comments in your blog post, comments directed at you are usually linked and referenced with some .... wait for it ..... real data! And Joe. Should you like examples, I'll provide them. (Joe, here's one that took me about 2 minutes to find on google)

Joe also makes some comparisons between what he has had to endur and right wing radio. I won't even go into what nonsense this is right now. Maybe later. On the other hand, I'm sure someone else will detail how it's crap and I'll be able to simple link/quote from that research (that's how it works Joe!).

I know it's been a very long time, if ever, that Joe has had to undergo scrutiny for what he writes in any kind of real public dialog. I also understand that he's not used to accountability .... giving or receiving. But the pundit aristocrisy needs to understand that the information world is changing. Some of it may be unpleasant, i.e. personal attacks by some. But a lot of it is good, hopefully increasing the quality and accountability of those opinion makers in our midst.


All Eyes on Darfur

The site is up as of today. Satellite images of towns that are threatened with Janjaweed attacks. With the world watching, will it make a difference?


Pardon Me

Froomkin, a fantastic journalist and observer of the Washington scene is still a little bit naive (in my opinon) regarding Bush. In today's column he discusses a pardon of Libby and the political consequences for Bush, of which there are few. He concludes:

And pardoning Libby -- a lawbreaker who may have been acting under orders from his superiors -- would finally and fully associate Bush in the public's mind with the one transgression that has forced a president out of office in the modern age: A cover up.
Does Bush really give much of a s*#t about his legacy?

I suspect that as long as Bush has *1) plenty of money, 2) lots of brush to clear and a bike to ride, 3) plenty of beer drinkin' buddies and 4) a good piece of .... well, let's just say getting his biological needs met (note, it doesn't even have to be Laura) I suspect he really doesn't care much about his legacy. I predict Bush will disappear into the landscape at the end of his Presidency, confident that he "did right" despite historical conclusions.

Which brings us back to the pardon. Despite all the talk about the legal requirements for a pardon and the politics of a pardon, if Bush thinks it the loyal, god-given correct thing to do, Libby will walk. He'll charge Rover with the messaging which will go something like "Libby has been a selfless public servant for years and should be let off because he's such a good guy". Bush will sink a bit further in the polls, but not much because only the nutbars, who also want Libby freed, still support him anyway. The Dems will all cry about it but do nothing. And the beat will go on and on .....

I know I've said it like ten thousand times before, but here it goes again. It's astounding to me how many of the wise-old men of the Washington punditry and press corpse still don't understand that under Bush, we're not playing by the normal rules. "Pressure", meaning disapproving looks, low polls, bad press, negative op-eds/columns, Congressional investigations, and disparging remarks on the cocktail weenie circuit mean nothing to Bush. He holds them all in contempt anyway, a proxy for his own father. The only things that move him are his own base needs*.



Quote of the Day

I haven't discussed the debates. Any of them. It's too early and I'm tuned out.

But Digby watched the Republicans last night. I think his summary is likely all you need to know:

Same old shit, different election. reagan, reagan, family, taxes, Jesus, reagan, offense, defense, taxes, reagan, Jesus.


Business As Usual

Stories like this make me wonder if J. Edgar Hoover isn't alive somewhere in a hidden location within the government:

When U.S. Attorney Roslynn Mauskopf described the alleged terror plot to blow up Kennedy Airport as "one of the most chilling plots imaginable," which might have caused "unthinkable" devastation, one law enforcement official said he cringed.

The plot, he knew, was never operational. The public had never been at risk. And the notion of blowing up the airport, let alone the borough of Queens, by exploding a fuel tank was in all likelihood a technical impossibility.

And now, with a portrait emerging of alleged mastermind Russell Defreitas as hapless and episodically homeless, and of co-conspirator Abdel Nur as a drug addict, Mauskopf's initial characterizations seem more questionable -- some go so far as to say hyped.
Never. Believe. Anything. They. Say.


Happy Friedman Unit Day!

Atrios has a number of posts up today celebrating various Friedman Unit expirations. He's really done a marvelous job keeping track of all of them and reminding us when they expire. Here's one (reprinting the entire post because it's too good not too) that is particularly hactacular:

Happy FU, ISG!

It was six months ago today that the all-important Iraq Study Group report was released. For a meditation on its importance, I give you Dean Broder:
Whatever the final impact of the Iraq Study Group report being issued today, for the 10 commission members this was an exhilarating experience, a demonstration of genuine bipartisanship that they hope will serve as an example to the broader political world.
He later wrote:
Bush will reject it at his peril.
And then after Bush rejected it, wrote:
It may seem perverse to suggest that, at the very moment the House of Representatives is repudiating his policy in Iraq, President Bush is poised for a political comeback. But don't be astonished if that is the case.
Since its release, approximately 585 US troops have died.
If it all wasn't so tragic it would be funny. This post, by itself, is a summary of the mendacity of the media, the inside the beltway crowd, the Bush administration and the terror of this war. All in a nice little nutshell.


When Is Good News Not?

When I first read this, I thought it was nice to see someone in Iraq reaching a political solution. Then I saw who the players are:

DUBAI (Reuters) - An Iraqi militant group said on Wednesday it has reached a ceasefire deal with Iraq's wing of al Qaeda to end clashes between the two Sunni insurgent groups waging a violent campaign against U.S.-led forces in

"A deal has been reached between the Islamic Army in Iraq and al Qaeda in Iraq that stipulates an immediate end to all military operation between the two sides in all sectors including capture operation," the Islamis Army in Iraq said in a statement on a Web site used by militants including al Qaeda.
I wonder what unifies them?


Juan Cole Makes a Funny

He describes the Republicans as "Hubert Humphreys of the Right".

Funny that. And true too.


I Couldn't Agree More

........ with this.


Printing Money

Via Tim Iacono, we have this chart on money supply.

A little background. Back in 2006, the Federal Reserve decided that they no longer needed to keep track of the amount of growth in money supply. Why? I have no idea as everyone else in the world of any significance still does. Anyway, the chart above is made up of official government numbers and a continuing measure done by private parties. The black line is the inferred measures.

A growing economy needs an growing money supply to some degree. Thus, the fact that the green/black line is going up is not necessarily a bad thing. What's interesting in this chart is the rate of growth (blue line). Beginning in 2005, that rate began to climb and has been climbing ever since. Money growth now hovers around 10-12%.

So what happens when you make more of something? It gets cheaper. If you make more dollars, each one is worth-less. We call this inflation. This growth in money supply is the consequence of crappy administration policies (i.e. fighting a war without tax increases, huge budget deficits) supported by a complicit Federal Reserve (Greenspan -> Bernanke pumping money into the economy). It's also why (along with the Chinese purchasing America) in the midst of all these economic pressures, interest rates have stayed relatively low when they should be rising.

History tells us this cannont end well. The only real question is will it end with a "bang" of a "slow bleed". Inflation is inevitable and ultimately interest rates will have to rise, government spending contract, or taxes increase. If taxes don't go up, inflation will be the defacto tax.

Europe and the rest of the developed world are getting it. Wonder how long until the U.S. gets it?

Added: More evidence. I remember stuff like this from the 70's and 80's before the severe recession that finally got inflation "under control".

As Jeff Cooper pointed out recently, the rich are feeling richer, and falling all over each other to get rid of paper and buy tangibles.

He mentioned Mark Rothko’s “White Center,” which became the most expensive piece of postwar art sold at auction after selling for $72.8 million, crushing a presale estimate of $40 million.

“Money has no meaning,” Angela Westwater of New York gallery Sperone Westwater told a Bloomberg reporter after the Rothko sold. “It’s a good work, but the whole marketplace is crazy.”

The painting had previously been owned by David Rockefeller.

“While it’s a spectacular painting, it’s clear the allure of having David Rockefeller’s painting in your house is going way beyond what you might otherwise consider reasonable,” said New York dealer Marc Glimcher of PaceWildenstein gallery. “That kind of thing is becoming irresistible to people.”
I've seen a number of such stories on various type of items lately.


Like It Wasn't Bad Enough

Now Turkey is fighting in Iraq too:

ANKARA, Turkey - Several thousand Turkish troops crossed into northern Iraq early Wednesday to chase Kurdish guerrillas who operate from bases there, Turkish security officials told The Associated Press.

Two senior security officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media, said the raid was limited in scope and that it did not constitute the kind of large incursion that Turkish leaders have been discussing in recent weeks.

"It is not a major offensive and the number of troops is not in the tens of thousands," one of the officials told the AP by telephone. The official is based in southeast Turkey, where the military has been battling separatist Kurdish rebels since they took up arms in 1984.
Update: For the record, the State Dept. says this isn't true. I'll let you be the judge.


Pimp Ain't Gettin' No Respect

This is the sound of a pimp who's addict is considering rehab:

Opec on Tuesday warned western countries that their efforts to develop biofuels as an alternative energy source to combat climate change risked driving the price of oil “through the roof”.

Abdalla El-Badri, secretary-general of the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, said the powerful cartel was considering cutting its investment in new oil production in response to moves by the developed world to use more biofuels.

The warning from Opec, which controls about 40 per cent of global oil production, comes as the group of eight leading industrialised nations meets on Wednesday with climate change at the top of its agenda. The US and Europe want to use biofuels to combat global warming and to strengthen energy security.
Cut away. Raise the price. I wish you would. The higher the price, the more movement we'll have away from oil dependence.

This story is the very first public indication I've seen that OPEC is losing pricing control. Historically they could increase/decrease production to maintain oil in a comfortably painful area ... higher than anyone wants to pay but not so high that anyone does anything about it. Now, for reasons that may include peak oil as well as non-OPEC sources, they may not have the ability to manage production like they used to in the heyday's of the 80's and 90's.

All in all, a very good news story.


Tuesday, June 5, 2007


Weee is what Atrios says about new lows for "Broder's Boy" in the polls:

Wow. A new poll released this afternoon by Pew Research has President Bush's job approval at all-time low of 29% — and it gets worse. The number who disapprove of Bush is more than double the number who approve of his performance
It's not a surprise given that Bush actively went out of his way to piss off his remaining 30% of nutbars over immigration last week.


Vote To Vote For Withdrawal

This is very interesting:

Voices of Iraq reports that Iraqi Parliament voted on Tuesday to approve a decision that gives it the upper hand in deciding any future extension of the presence of foreign troops in Iraq, according to Sadrist MP Nassar Al-Rubai'i.

Al-Rubai'i said that 85 legislators, out of 144 present, voted in support of the bill. "The vote came after a bill submitted by the Sadrist Bloc to the parliament, which stated that all decisions to extend the presence of the occupying forces in Iraq should be referred to the parliament," al-Rubaie told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI).

Some Iraqi parliamentarians, most notably Kurdish MP Mahmoud Othman, had stated weeks ago that the vote would be regarded as a non-binding petition rather than a law that would require withdrawal. Sadrist MPs intended to set a timetable for eventual U.S. withdrawal, while others mainly wanted Iraqi parliament to have a role in the final decision.
Of course the Kurds want us to stay.

This is not a vote to remove the U.S. It's a vote that authorizes the parliament to have the authority to vote the U.S. off the island. Whether they'll actually vote us out or not is questionable. Given this vote, it appears there's profound support for such a resolution.

Will the U.S. honor an "invitation" to leave? Bush says he will. But then Bush says a lot of things.


Stray Thoughts On Bush Putin

I find it very interesting that Bush is willing to screw up Soviet/American relations over the missle defense system.

Bill Plante reports for CBS News that "the missile defense standoff has set back American relations with Moscow like nothing else in years," and "that no matter how much Mr. Bush tells Putin the defense system is not aimed at Russia, Russia is likely to believe that it is."
Ok, I'm not surprised. But isn't it just another example of Bush's boneheaded leadership?

The missle defense system has been a consistent loser in terms of technology, and has yet to even be proven possible. And as William Arkin points out, it's not even needed in Europe. In fact, installation of such a system is a tacit acceptance that Iran will 1) be a nuclear power and 2) have the missle capabilities to deliver such weapons. But yet Bush, in the weakest position of any international leader in a long time, is willing to reinstate a cold war?

The boy king is going to leave an enormous mess in his wake.

But then, you already knew that.


Stray Libby Thoughts

Ok, let's suppose that Judge Walton denies Libby's request to stay out of jail on appeal.

The pressure on Bush to pardon him would grow. A lot. And so then we have a test of Bush's loyalty and political skill. Will he be willing to endure the public outcry of a brazen act of using his office to protect a lawfully prosecuted and convicted liar in order to fulfill his John Wayne notion of loyalty? Or will he bow to good political sense and, at a minimum, wait until the final days he's in office?

I know what all the Republican Presidential candidates are hoping. Personally, I think Bush could give a shit about any of them, or what anyone thinks, including his own party. I wouldn't be surprised to see him immediately grant clemency or a pardon.

Update: Atrios asks a very good question. Just what kind of man let's his good friend take the rap for him?


I Was Wondering How Long It Would Take

And it didn't take long.

As you may know, Dick Armey (R-Nutbar) has been guest blogging on Time Mag's blog. I read his first post which was a bunch of nonsense platitudes on freedom, justice, and the Amurkan way!

Anonymous Liberal took a minute today to document what happened then, and it's not pretty. The internets aren't the House floor or CNN. Commentors have been eating Armey for lunch, quite easily actually. It almost makes you feel sorry for the guy. Alsmost.

Wonder how much longer he'll last?



The Scoot-ster got 30 months.

WASHINGTON - Former White House aide I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby was sentenced to 2 ½ years in prison Tuesday for lying and obstructing the CIA leak investigation.

Libby, the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, stood calmly before a packed courtroom as a federal judge said the evidence overwhelmingly proved his guilt.

“People who occupy these types of positions, where they have the welfare and security of nation in their hands, have a special obligation to not do anything that might create a problem,” U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton said.
That would be on the high end of the sentencing recommendations. Of course he'll serve at club fed, and Walton still hasn't ruled on whether Libby can remain free pending appeal.

I do believe this is the first example of any kind of real accoutability directed at the Bush administration.

Sure feels good.

Now you've gotta wonder if this will motivate Libby to talk, or does he have a pardon/clemency in the bag, or does he just go down like a good firewall/soldier should?

Update: Marcy Wheeler, who has been following the case closely has told Atrios that she doesn't think Libby will be allowed freedom on appeal. Also, here are the "love letters" by all of those who wrote to support Libby, mostly the usual suspects. One was notable. As Atrios notes, "nice signature James Carville". Can you believe it?


Escalation Update

A large piece of news yesterday was that the escalation in Iraq isn't working. Via Juan Cole, a CNN correspondents summary of the Pentagon report just released:

' A top U.S. commander tells CNN that three quarters of Baghdad simply is not under the control of U.S. or Iraqi security forces. Brigadier General Vincent Brooks says just one quarter of Baghdad is in a controlled state. Brooks said control means U.S. and Iraqi forces are able to maintain physical influence over a specific area, preventing its use by the enemy.

It's been three months since the security crackdown began. More than 20,000 U.S. troops have poured into the city. But Brooks says there is still a crucial problem -- the lack of qualified Iraqi police.

In some areas, they are still loyal to death squads and militias. In other areas, there just aren't enough police. In neighborhoods such as Amiriyia and West Rashid, U.S. troops are still having to go back into those areas that they had cleared.

Attacks against U.S. troops in Baghdad are on the rise. Military intelligence officials are analyzing this video from the Islamic State of Iraq claiming to show Russian grenades being thrown at U.S. troops. Analysts say these grenades may be designed to burst into high temperature fires on impact. One official calls it a new threat. '
There's really no surprise here. We, the brilliant, genius and well-trained civilian military analysts could have told you this.

Seriously, Juan Cole points out the interesting fact that now Russians are being blamed for arms sent to Iraq. Funny that this comes on the heals of Putin and Bush's playground scruffle over missles in Europe.


Monday, June 4, 2007

Congressional Dem Approval

Whaddya know. The approval rating for the Congressional Democrats has plunged in the last week.

Funny that. I wonder why?


U.S. Fatalities

A map I'd rather not have to put up (click to enlarge):



I'm a huge Sopranos fan. I don't watch them live, but rather wait for them on DVD so I can then obsessively watch the episodes end to end. Thus, I've only seen part one of the last season.

Anyway, the General has made a prediction, a prediction I made last year:

Tony Soprano joins the witness protection program in the last episode.
Since the beginning of the show, Tony Soprano has been moving in one direction .... towards actually have a conscience. Since the show can really only end in one of three ways*, this one seems to make sense.

*1) Tony goes to witness protection, 2) Tony goes to prison, or 3) Tony is killed.



You've really got to wonder just how long Turkey will restrain itself:

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) - Kurdish rebels fired rockets and grenades at a Turkish military outpost Monday, killing seven soldiers in an attack that heightened tension at a time when Ankara has threatened military action against the rebels in northern Iraq.

The army sent helicopter gunships and reinforcements to Tunceli province in southeastern Turkey after guerrillas rammed a vehicle into the military post and opened fire with automatic weapons and rockets, local media reported.

Soldiers returned fire, killing the driver, the military said.

The attack came as Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul told European Union officials visiting Ankara that ``we have every right to take measures against terrorist activities directed at us from northern Iraq.''
Ironically Bush is calling for more restraint by the Turks. You've got to wonder just how much restraint Bush would exercise in the same situation. If Turkey moves into Iraq things could get even more dicey.



I know I keep yapping about inflation. But it's an insidious economic fact of life given our nation's economic policies. Consider this:

Even at today's reportedly modest rate of inflation, the damage adds up as the years pass. Consider that what cost $100 in 2000 now, on average, sets one back to the tune of $120, according to the inflation calculator on the Bureau of Labor Statistic's website. In other words, a dollar's worth 20% less today than it was just seven years previous. That disturbing state of affairs has unfolded during what officially hailed as a triumphant suppression of inflationary forces!
Wow. As mentioned, this inflationary period is based on 1) the government's statistics which are suspect at best and 2) a period of time when inflation was under control! In seven short years, a 20% increase in prices. That's astounding. No wonder gold and commodities are a good investment as it appears that the Feds inflationary policies are likely to continue indefinitely.


Time's Army

Can you believe this:

Former House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-TX) will be a new contributor to Time magazine’s blog Swampland (to balance its cadre of liberals like Joe Klein and Jay Carney).
Swampland indeed.

You've got to be kidding me. The kindest thing I might be able to say about Joe Klein and Jay Carney is that they are right wing moderates. To need Dick Armey, who's about as far right as you can get, to provide "balance" is a huge joke. Is the media ever going to understand that the "liberal media" isn't and that there are true liberals who are fine writers?


It's About Time

"Federal prosecutors are seeking an indictment today against Rep. William J. Jefferson (D-LA) in a longstanding FBI corruption probe centering on allegations that he took bribes to promote high-tech business ventures in Africa," the Washington Post reports.

"If filed, the indictment would cap a long and tumultuous investigation that was stalled for months because of a legal battle over the constitutionality of an FBI raid on Jefferson's office last May. The raid came after the FBI found $90,000 in the freezer of his Capitol Hill home."


Real Unemployment

Ever wonder why the economy can have tepid jobs growth but have a relatively low "unemployment" rate?

Barry gives us an explanation today. It has to do with the so-called participation rate. This statistic measures the number of people who are employable, want to work, and are actively pursuing jobs. The inverse question is how many people are employable, want to work and have stopped looking for a job, i.e. given up for now? Here's what that participation rate looks like:

As you can see, it peaked during the Clinton administration and has been falling through the Bush administration. It had begun to climb, but the most recent report showed a dramatic drop in the participation rate.

Why does this matter? Because folks who don't "participate" don't get counted as unemployed:

It has since started heading lower again. They do not count in the "official" Unemployment Rate statistics. However, BLS actually does measure these folks in their "augmented unemployment rate" -- the jobless people who aren't counted among the officially unemployed. That measure is 7.4%.
So the real unemployment rate is actually 7.4%, not the headline 4.5% or so. That's how you can have lousy jobs growth and a good headline employment number .... you simply don't count a bunch of the unemployed!


Unintended Consequences

This is amazing.

You remember at time as a kid when a thermometer broke and you would play with the mercury? The mercury would slide around, break into pieces and then reform again. No matter what you did, it always found a way to maintain it's integrity. Sounds to me like the Israeli's need to play with some mercury a bit:

The LAT off-leads with the second part of a three-part series on Jerusalem, this installment on the unintended consequences of the wall Israel is building. Described as a "security fence," the wall threatens to cut Palestinians off from Jerusalem and disrupt economic activity. So for both financial and nationalistic reasons, thousands of Palestinians are moving into Jerusalem instead of staying put, as they likely would have done were the wall never built. It is expected to be complete early next year.
Americans would do well to pay attention to this little lesson in the Middle East and Mexico as well. People are passionate, ingenious and dauntless. Walls are stupid and simply do not work. If mountains, rivers and oceans haven't been able to stop migration, what makes anyone think a little bit of concrete will do anything.


Sunday, June 3, 2007

Keystone Cops

You know, it's bad enough that the international standing of the U.S. has fallen dramatically during Bush because of his policies. But can you imagine how the U.S. must look with crap like this going on as well?

The same top Bush administration neoconservatives who leap-frogged Washington's foreign policy establishment to topple Saddam Hussein nearly pulled off a similar coup in U.S.-China relations -- creating the potential of a nuclear war over Taiwan, a top aide to former Secretary of State Colin Powell says.

Lawrence B. Wilkerson, the U.S. Army colonel who was Powell's chief of staff through two administrations, said in little-noted remarks early last month that "neocons" in the top rungs of the administration quietly encouraged Taiwanese politicians to move toward a declaration of independence from mainland China -- an act that the communist regime has repeatedly warned would provoke a military strike.

The top U.S. diplomat in Taiwan at the time, Douglas Paal, backs up Wilkerson's account, which is being hotly disputed by key former defense officials.
Ok, this is typical risky/craziness advocated by the neocons nuts. But then check out this comment by Steve Benen:
As CQ's Jeff Stein reported, there was an awkward Keystone Kops routine playing out during the early years of Bush's first term. "The Defense Department, with Feith, Cambone, Wolfowitz [and] Rumsfeld, was dispatching a person to Taiwan every week, essentially to tell the Taiwanese that the alliance was back on," Wilkerson said, "essentially to tell Chen Shui-bian, whose entire power in Taiwan rested on the independence movement, that independence was a good thing."

In turn, Powell would dispatch his own envoy "right behind that guy, every time they sent somebody, to disabuse the entire Taiwanese national security apparatus of what they'd been told by the Defense Department."
Keystone cops indeed. As more information comes out we are continually getting verification that no one has been driving the bus. Bush is incurious, lazy and easily manipulated. The government has reflected the chaos that is his personality and style.


Go Read Digby

Digby does a nice job outlining some of the lies spin that Karl Rove has pushed about a growing Republican majority. Karl contends that America is getting more religious and entrepreneurial which he claims works in the favor of Republicans. If it is true, it *might* help Republicans .... or not .... who knows.

But then there's the rest of the story ......

Unlike the media (in this case Jeffrey Goldberg of The New Yorker) who routinely swallows Karl's bilge with glee, Digby proves that it's just that .... bilge. Personally, I was particularly interested in the stats about religion. Given all the media hype since the 2000 election you'd think Americans are all becoming Aimee Semple McPherson. It's actually quite the opposite.


Gasoline Updates

I have periodically put up this chart of gasoline supplies in the U.S.:

As you can see from the latest chart, supplies are finally increasing, which is normal for this time of year. However, what's interesting is how low the inventory is, and that much of the increase in inventory is due to gasoline imports. It's bad enough that we import oil, but now we also are importing gasoline like crazy. Talk about gasoline gluttons.

I would look for gasoline prices to become flat for awhile, barring some international disaster or hurricane.


Some Perspective

Just so you know, there's this about the possibility of blowing up a whole city via it's fuel pumping station:

Yesterday evening TPM Reader PD wrote in a note that, in addition to a more detailed technical explanation, "An explosion at a jet fuel terminal, which is a pumping station, would have no effect on the fuel "artery," no more than lighting your stove has any effect on your natural gas pipeline."
Obviously blowing up a pumping station would not be a good thing, but it would not be catastrophic like Wolfie and cableies would like you to believe. And in this case, it's looks about as likely as me sprouting wings and flying .......



In honor of Mr. Talabani, I present you this:


Pacified Baghdad

You can't have an escalation without someone getting hurt:

“An Interior Ministry official, who did not want to be named because he was not authorised to release the figures, said 1,944 civilians were killed in May, a 29 percent hike over April. At least 174 soldiers and policemen were killed in the same period. … Mortar attacks in the capital are becoming deadlier and car bombs remain common.”
And you know that these figures are lowballed. There are a lot of bodies that simply "disappear".


Under The Radar

I haven't written about it in awhile, but the tensions in northern Iraq continue apace. The Turks are threatening to pursue Kurdish insurgents in northern Iraq, Sunni Arabs and Kurds are tense with each other, and (as usual) the U.S. is trying to stop the whole thing from blowing up.

An example of these tensions of the destruction of a major bridge from Baghdad into Kurdistan yesterday:

The killing and the bridge bombing reflected rising tensions in the oil-rich area between Kurds and Sunni insurgents who oppose Kurdish plans to make the area part of the north’s Kurdish-controlled region.

The Iraqi Constitution calls for a referendum on the issue this year and Iraqi and American officials have predicted that violence will increase before the vote.

Increasing attacks are likely to heighten tensions with Iraq’s northern neighbor, Turkey, which has complained bitterly in recent weeks that Iraq has done nothing to control a Kurdish militant group, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, in southern Turkey. Turkey says that the United States, its NATO ally, should do more to force Iraq to control the Kurds.

Kurdish leaders have rejected the demands. On Saturday, Masood Barzani, president of Iraq’s Kurdish area, said, “Turkey does not have the right to interfere” in Kirkuk.
Let's hope this area keeps the pot merely simmering. A boil over would be devastating.



This is what happens when you spend too much time listening to DLC political consultants:

According to the Post, Hillary Clinton is looking to emphasize her Midwestern roots—and her love of jalapeƱo pizza—as she strives to find a common touch to back up her solid lead in the polls.
Sure. This type of strategy worked really really well for Michael Dukakis, Al Gore and John Kerry. Republicans easily fall for crap like this, but most of the country sees right through it.


Going After Mahdi

Two bits of news this morning in Iraq. First, the U.S./Iraqi forces launched a large offensive against Moqtada al Sadr. Since he's the largest and most autonomous oppositional force, and ostensibly an ally of al Maliki, you have to wonder about the wisdom of such an offensive. It seems to me that there's quite enough problems with Sunni insurgents without picking a fight with a very very large group of well armed and well organized Sadr followers. This would be an on-the-ground example of how military solutions don't solve political problems.

But the second part of the story was quite interesting. Buried down in the story was this tidbit:

The clashes in Diwaniyah erupted Saturday evening after Iraqi soldiers and police cordoned off a market in search of two senior Mahdi Army figures wanted by U.S.-led coalition forces in connection with sectarian killings.

Maj. Gen. Othman Ali, commander of the Iraq army's 8th Division, said his forces captured one of the men, but he escaped when fellow militiamen came to his aid.
Is that a Mahdi miliaman who came to his aid or an Iraqi army member? You know what my guess would be.

Imagine the frustration for American forces (and the families of the dead and wounded) to implement a major operation and have the targets be apprehended and then "escape".

Just another FUBAR day in Iraq.