Friday, June 29, 2007


Go read the real story about the LONDON BOMBING THREAT!!!!!

This story will unravel like a cheap tent. Watching ABC news tonight, you'd have thought they found a 10 megaton nuclear device.


You Go Liz

Speaking very slowly, she explains why Ann Coulter is a bitch.


Oh. That's Better

Of course, and by all means:

Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, U.S. special operations became a “giant killing machine,” according to former Army colonel Douglas Macgregor, who anticipates a change when Navy Vice Adm. Eric Olson takes the helm of the operations. “The emphasis will be on, ‘If you have to kill someone, then for God’s sakes, kill the right people,’” Macgregor said. “That’s been lost over the last several years.”
We certainly don't want to lose sight of values like individual rights, freedom and due process now would we? And after all, having given away the family jewels, it's time to make some more.


And Then There Were Three

Well, that third air craft carrier is entering the Persian Gulf. It has been predicted that when there are three carrier groups there, an attack on Iran can commence. The above poster on Kos adds up the public statements made by Cheney's shills, including goading Israel into attacking, and puts that information together with the third carrier group and gets the start of a war.

The Pentagon has said that the third carrier is to replace one of the existing carriers who will be returning home.

I guess we'll soon find out!



This is the first blog post, news story or .... anything .... I've seen discussing a point that seems all too obvious to me.


London Bomb!


Watching the CNN coverage of the thwarted car bombing in London I'm struck by how the coverage makes something that didn't happen thousands of miles away sound like something around the block. You know, foiled bomb plot in London! Terrorists crawling up through your toilet!
Let me add the usual caveats about the media's reporting. This may very well be an al Qaeda plot hatched by Osama bin Laden directly, with a conspiracy stretching across the globe for daily bombings everywhere! Or it could be a single, disaffected, sociopath, moron who wants headlines. I'll wait for the details before evaluating it's level of seriousness.

Update: Here's some more details.


Non-Steno Reporting

I've often been critical of news reporting these days. One of many complaints is the tendency of reports to lazily report whatever is fed to them by the administration (or anyone for that matter).

Via Atrios, we find an example of what quality reporting looks like. It's comes from McClatchy, naturally:

WASHINGTON — Facing eroding support for his Iraq policy, even among Republicans, President Bush on Thursday called al Qaida "the main enemy" in Iraq, an assertion rejected by his administration's senior intelligence analysts.

The reference, in a major speech at the Naval War College that referred to al Qaida at least 27 times, seemed calculated to use lingering outrage over the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, to bolster support for the current buildup of U.S. troops in Iraq, despite evidence that sending more troops hasn't reduced the violence or sped Iraqi government action on key issues.

Bush called al Qaida in Iraq the perpetrator of the worst violence racking that country and said it was the same group that had carried out the Sept. 11 attacks in New York and Washington.

"Al Qaida is the main enemy for Shia, Sunni and Kurds alike," Bush asserted. "Al Qaida's responsible for the most sensational killings in Iraq. They're responsible for the sensational killings on U.S. soil."

U.S. military and intelligence officials, however, say that Iraqis with ties to al Qaida are only a small fraction of the threat to American troops. The group known as al Qaida in Iraq didn't exist before the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, didn't pledge its loyalty to al Qaida leader Osama bin Laden until October 2004 and isn't controlled by bin Laden or his top aides.
Ok, NY Times, WaPo, CNN, MSNBC and others, see how easy it is to actually report and fact check? With practice, it can be done as easily as walking and chewing gum.


Approval Proof

As regular readers know, recent polls have show Congress to be immensely unpopular. Conservatives point to it as a sign of support for conservative policies. Liberals say it's a sign of disapproval of Republicans blocking legislation and unhappiness about Dems not more forcibly pushing for an end to the Iraq war.

Well, how about this?

The Democratic leadership in Congress "has lost some support among Americans -- but not so much that the public wants Republicans back in charge," according to a new CNN/Opinion Research Poll.

While 49% say they "disapproved of what Democratic leaders in Congress have done since taking over in January," some 57% "said they believe Democratic control of Congress is good for the country."
That would seem to settle the question wouldn't it?


More Charts

More in the series of charts that compare various factors during recent Presidencies. This chart shows the numbers of official charged with corruption through various administrations (click to enlarge):

Those Republicans sure are an honest bunch. It's a wonder that the current administration doesn't have more. Of course, it's difficult to actually "charge" anyone when the fox is watching the henhouse.


Thursday, June 28, 2007

Friedman Watch

Atrios has been doing great work job keeping track of all the Friedman worshippers:

Joe Klein on 6/18/06:

In fact, the responsible path is the Democrats' only politically plausible choice: they will have to give yet another new Iraqi government one last shot to succeed. This time, U.S. military sources say, the measure of success is simple: Operation Forward Together, the massive joint military effort launched last week to finally try to secure Baghdad, has to work. If Baghdad isn't stabilized, the war is lost. "I know it's the cliche of the war," an Army counterinsurgency specialist told me last week. "But we'll know in the next six months—and this time, it'll be the last next six months we get."

Joe Klein, over two Friedmans [this month] later:

It is, indeed, a moment of truth in Iraq. "This is a decisive phase," a member of Petraeus' staff told me and began to laugh. "That's one of our favorite jokes. It's always a decisive phase. But this time, I guess you'd have to say, it actually is." Operation Phantom Thunder, the nationwide offensive launched by U.S. and Iraqi troops in mid-June, may well be the last major U.S-led offensive of the war. "We couldn't really call it what it is, Operation Last Chance," says a senior military official. There is widespread awareness among the military and diplomatic players in Baghdad that, with patience dwindling in Washington, they have only until September — when Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker are due to give Congress a progress report — to show significant gains in taming the jihadist insurgency and in arresting the country's descent into civil war.
Is there no shame for these folks? The military even knows it's a joke. But not ole' steno Joe Klein who slobbered along behind Petraeus and carefully took notes. And all this talk about Washington pulling the plug is an even bigger joke.


If There's Any Justice

This will happen:


I Didn't Think It Possible

Did you?

Is it possible for our President, George W. Bush, to make a more stupid, moronic, idiotic statement than this:

"Our success in Iraq must not be measured by the enemy's ability to get a car bombing in the evening news," he said. "No matter how good the security, terrorists will always be able to explode a bomb on a crowded street."

He suggested Israel as a model.

There, Bush said, "Terrorists have taken innocent human life for years in suicide attacks. The difference is that Israel is a functioning democracy and it's not prevented from carrying out its responsibilities. And that's a good indicator of success that we're looking for in Iraq."
Oh. My. Gawd. Let that sink in a second.

Whoever was left, and I admit their numbers are likely few, who might support the U.S. (nevermind our moronic Preznit) in the Arab world is either a) right now loading a machine gun to head to Iraq to make sure it never becomes an Israel or b) laughing so hard that they might be stroking out.

HEY! Maybe that's the secret plan! Say something so stupid that our adversaries laugh themselves to death! I ask you. Is that any stupider than the Pentagon developing a gay bomb? Well? Is it?


Dealing With Nutbars

John at Americablog explores exactly why idiots like Ann Coulter cannot be ignored. She sounds like the latest flap with the Edwards' is just about to send her to a basket-weaving class. Letting her flap her gums, unchecked, gives her credibility. Causing her to go bats#@t proves she's just what she appears to be.


Toxic Joe

I think I like that better than Boltin' Joe Lieberman.

Anyway, here's a great post on Lieberman's toxic effect on Susan Collin's campaign. If you haven't been following it, Lieberman has been stumping with/for the Republican Collins in Maine. Thus far, his involvement has brought in more money for Collins' opponent than for Collins.

Lieberman’s fundraiser for Collins brought together lots of K-Street prostitutes who love him for his consistent willingness to sell out his constituents’ most basic interests. Collins’ campaign claims that Lieberman helped her raise between $120,000 and $150,000. Between MoveOn and half a dozen blogs raising money for progressive Congressman Tom Allen, Lieberman’s efforts were not just countered, but turned upside down. Grassroots and netroots contributions to Tom Allen last week out-raised Lieberman and Collins by between $100,000 and $120,000.
I think we should offer a secret fund to send Joe to every competitive Republican state this next year. It would be a guaranteed landslide.

Is there any more pathetic figure than Joe Lieberman?


Political Landscape

I added an update to a post below. But I'm sufficiently ticked off to want to "amplify" on the issue here.

The Supreme Court this session has made a number of decisions this term, all 5-4, that have been quite conservative. Up to today, those decisions have been surrounding issues of corporations, or non-issues (added: boy am I wrong about this last statement). And all that's bad enough. But today they've essentially repealed Brown vs. The Board of Education which outlawed desegregation in public schools. This would put the law right back to the 1940's in terms of treatment of poor and minority school children. And make no mistake, it's not rich white parents trying to get their kids into poor minority dominated schools.

So now we have a showdown between Congress and the President over executive priviledge. If, and likely when, a case goes before the Supreme Court arguing the merits of Bush's claims of executive priviledge, does anyone really think that Scalia, Roberts, Alito, Thomas and Kennedy will uphold the Constitutional separation of powers doctrines? If they can stretch legal logic to overturn a milestone case like Brown, it's shooting fish in a barrel to protect executive priviledge.

Don't get me wrong. Congress still needs to fight this tooth and nail right up to the Supreme Conservative Tribunal Court to drive it home to the nation the importance of Presidential elections. The final cleansing of the damage done by terrorist on 911 won't take place until there is, again, a moderate-liberal majority on the court which may take generations, not just election cycles.

Update: David Corn thinks so too:

With Democrats comparing Bush to Nixon--which is not Nixon (he was never as imaginative in his constitutional interpretations as Cheney)--these constitutional confrontations are probably heading toward the Supreme Court. Which means Bush could end his presidency much like he began it: being saved by justices appointed by him or his father.


Fed Statement

As regular readers know, I watch economics and the Federal Reserve pretty closely. One of my bigger criticisms has been the Fed's reliance on "core" inflation measures, which exclude food and energy vs. real life inflation.The Fed announced today that short term interest rates would stay the same. But they added this to their statement:

"Readings on core inflation have improved modestly in recent months. However, a sustained moderation in inflation pressures has yet to be convincingly demonstrated. Moreover, the high level of resource utilization has the potential to sustain those pressures."
Here's my question. If the core inflation rate is the real deal and has improved modestly, and it's under control, why aren't they giving the economy a little pick-me-up with an interest rate cut?

I think the answer is clear. The Fed folks aren't stupid. They routinely use the "core" number for propoganda purposes while they know that those pesky "inflation pressures" really do mean something. My take-away is that the Fed is inching closer to the stagflation conundrum: a slowing economy with excessive increases in prices. If you choke inflation by tighter money you further kill the economy. If you loosen money to help a faltering economy inflation is merely exacerbated.

Glad I'm not Bernanke inheriting the Mess That Greenspan Made.



I normally try to not subject readers to this moron. But as Josh Marshall said, this guy looks like someone knocked the wind out of em':


Senate Elections

It's awfully early yet, but this gave me a boost. Josh Marshall:

We'll probably have more on this at Election Central later today. But this is a very telling little nugget from the ARG poll about how the senate looks in 2008 and particularly the striking and on-going transformation of New Hampshire politics.

According to the just-released ARG poll, Jeanne Shaheen -- who I don't think is even an announced candidate yet -- is beating Sen. Sununu by 57% to 29%. Tellingly, Shaheen is pulling 30% of the self-identified Republican vote.

That would be a rematch of what I can personally testify was a heart-breaking race back in 2002 in which Sununu pulled it out in the end.

I mean, a sitting senator polling 29% against a named candidate. That's real bad.
I'm afraid to hope. In the past several elections, my vote prognostication device has failed miserably. Failed to the point of being afraid to predict anything against the corrupt, illegal, vote stealing, lying Republicans. But if the trends we currently see stay in place, 2008 is going to be quite ugly for Republicans.

And it should be.


SCOTUS Ends Desegregation

Read about it all here.

Those predictions of the last Presidential election being key to the future of the Supreme Court have come true in spades.


Quote Of The Day

"Why would I spend $5 billion for something in order to wreck it? When the Journal gets its Page 3 girls, we'll make sure they have MBAs."
Rupert "sleezebag" Murdoch talking about purchasing the Wall Street Journal.

It's too late for him to harm the editorial section, it's already hosed. But the Wall Street Journals reporting has been the best in the nation.


Immigration Reform ... Dead Again

Jeff Sessions is dancing a jig. Note that in this excerpt and indeed the entire article, the term "filibuster" never shows up:

However, supporters needed 60 votes in the 100-member Senate to keep the bill alive. Aligned against it were conservatives who derided the legislation as a grant of amnesty for illegal behavior and some Democrats who said it would leave a new group of temporary workers vulnerable to exploitation.
Update, check out this quote:
The tally is a turnaround of 18 votes from two days earlier. Six Democrats and 12 Republicans changed their votes to no from a Tuesday vote that allowed the Senate to take up amendments on the bill.
Care to guess what the lede will be in the media? How about: "Democrats Fail to Pass Immigration" or "Democrats Block Immigration Reform".



Here is a series of Headlines:

Consumers feel they are entitled to low gasoline prices….

Gasoline demand has grown independent of changes in prices…

Consumers are upset about high gas prices….

Food and energy inflation is high and getting higher….

There isn’t enough refining capacity….

There is too much dependence on foreign energy sources….

Consumers expect the government to provide subsidies to keep gas prices low….
Care to guess what country they're from?


Homicide Rate

I thought this interesting. Don't really have a comment. How about you (click to enlarge)?


No News ... On The Surface Anyway

Ok, let's do some speculation for a change. I know, I know. That would be something reaaaaallly different. Right?

How about this story:

The Los Angeles Times leads with word that U.S. troops will be focusing on rooting out al-Qaida in Iraq during their upcoming offensive operations this summer. U.S. commanders say this shift in strategy, which takes emphasis away from the initial stated goal of targeting Shiite militias and death squads in Baghdad, is in preparation for the withdrawal timeline that they see coming from Congress in the next few months.
I hadn't really considered this until just as I was reading the story. Has the Pentagon decided that it's over in Iraq and we'd better take our last best shots? Targeting "al Qaeda" strongholds would seem to be in the U.S. interest prior to a withdrawal.

Unfortunately, as with most U.S. policy under Bush, it's doomed to fail simply because of the same problems that have been resident in Iraq since the beginning, i.e. not enough troops, too much geography, too much popular support and being an occupier. But the story is nevertheless interesting as it may be an indicator of the perceptions in the Pentagon.
U.S. officials in Iraq are increasingly becoming convinced that militias are likely to reduce their attacks once a withdrawal timeline is established, [no shit sherlock!] but the opposite will be true for al-Qaida in Iraq. So, while insisting that Shiite militias are still a priority, U.S. troops will focus more on al-Qaida in Iraq and other Sunni militias. Notably, officials don't seem to be expecting any miracles, and instead say their goal is to create enough stability so that Iraqi forces can have some hope of success once the number of U.S. troops begins to decrease. The LAT gets extra credit today for noting something that might be obvious but is often lost in the coverage: "Despite its name, the extent of [al-Qaida in Iraq's] link to Osama bin Laden is unclear."
You can see the flaws. Hoping for a new pony in the form of Iraqi cooperation to create enough stability so a political solution can be reached is proof of a continuing lack of understanding of the conditions on the ground. Al Qaeda is not the problem and will go away once the civil war is resolved. The treatment of the Baathists is the problem, and it also will not go away without a political solution.


Great Story

This is a terrific wine story, and lesson, for all we wine snobs in the world:

"Two-Buck Chuck" is used to beating competitors in price, but now it appears it has beaten rivals in taste, winning bragging rights to best California chardonnay at the state fair's commercial wine competition.

While full results from this year's competition aren't available yet, wine industry sources confirm the 2005 Charles Shaw vintage was the highest-scoring chardonnay in a blind tasting by judges who reviewed wines without regard to price.
It beat 350 other Chardonnay's.

Wine competitions and wine judging are by all estimations pretty subjective. But they do tend to separate good from bad wine. Clearly Charles Shaw, a product of the Franzia empire, is a good wine. I'm not sure I would give it an award over higher priced Chardonnay's, but who knows? Perhaps I should do a blind tasting myself. It might save me some serious $$$$.



Ok Congress, now the balls in your court to do something different:

WASHINGTON - President Bush, moving toward a constitutional showdown with Congress, asserted executive privilege Thursday and rejected lawmakers' demands for documents that could shed light on the firings of federal prosecutors.

Bush's attorney told Congress the White House would not turn over subpoenaed documents for former presidential counsel Harriet Miers and former political director Sara Taylor. Congressional panels want the documents for their investigations of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' stewardship of the Justice Department.
Of course Bush is just running out the clock. And on a practical side, it's probably doesn't matter because he can successfully run out the clock. But from a moral and political dimension, it's time for Congress to fight like hell!

Update: Given the recent SCOTUS decisions, does anyone really think that Bush will be compelled to comply with Congressional subpoenas? The GOP plan is complete with a conservative dominated court that may now create precedents for Bush's power grab. The problems of Bush are now a multi-generational problem, not simply George Bush.


Wednesday, June 27, 2007


The Dems in the Senate have put out a fact sheet about the Republicans obstructing legislation in this session. It turns out that the Republicans have blocked twice the number of bills that have been block in the past two Senate sessions. It really is a nifty fact sheet. It has all kinds of cool small print, bullets, bill numbers and statistics. It's a classic Democratic policy statement. And it will go nowhere in terms of public awareness. Instead of a position paper, why aren't Dems out screaming bloody murder all over the media?

A couple of things strike me about this. First, I'm not sure if that's good for Dems or bad. Does it suggest that Dems should have been blocking more in the past two sessions? Dems have a reputation for being unwilling to "obstruct". Is it factually been proven?

The other thing is the entire filibuster issue. Have you heard anyone say "filibuster" lately? Yet that is exactly the tactic being used by Republicans on an almost daily basis. By requiring a defacto two-thirds votes to pass a bill, it's become virtually impossible to move legislation through Congress. Even legislation that Bush would sign, i.e. the immigration bill, is going nowhere because of the filibuster. So where's the hue and cry over obstructionism in the media? Why aren't Dems all over the tube threatening to eliminate the filibuster?

I've always claimed that getting rid of the filibuster works in favor of Democrats. Back when the Republicans were threatening to do it, I thought the Dems should have called their bluff. Likely the Republicans would have folded like a cheap tent because they know that they're usually in the minority in Congress due to the nations tendency to be inherently progressive. But suppose Republicans actually did vote to eliminate the filibuster? Would the nation be in any worse shape now as a result of the past Republican Congresses? And would Democrats be having an easier time passing legislation that puts Bush's feet to the fire, putting the political pressure on him rather than on a generic "Congressional" failure?



Here's a terrific graph showing the poverty rate in the U.S. during various Presidencies (click to enlarge):

Remember that little ole' "war on poverty" thing that started during the early 60's? Poverty rates historically ran around 30% until FDR. But Kennedy and Johnson really had an impact cutting it by half to two-thirds. Since then, it's been meandering with business-cycles. Bush is certainly showing an upswing which you wouldn't expect during a "boom" economy.

Does this chart also suggest that Americans have given up on trying to eliminate poverty? John Edwards thinks so and this chart would suggest that a poverty rate between 10% and 15% is perfectly acceptable to politicians and, ultimately, voters.

Just to put in real numbers, 13% of the population living in poverty would be somewhere around 40 million people. That's a huge hunk of social problems brewing . I would guess that today's numbers of individuals in poverty is close to the numbers of individuals in poverty back before LBJ. And you know that an awful lot of these numbers are children.


What Digby Said

A must read. It's a post dealing with an inside report from the National Review annual cruise. Excerpt:

It nearly impossible to believe that these are the people who have been running the world for the last six years --- and they are. These are Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld's people. We put a bunch of rich, deluded, paranoid racists in charge of the most powerful nation on earth. It's a miracle we're still alive.


Compassionate Conservative

And really really good at crisis management!

Before beginning the drive, Mitt Romney put Seamus, the family's hulking Irish setter, in a dog carrier and attached it to the station wagon's roof rack. He'd built a windshield for the carrier, to make the ride more comfortable for the dog.


As the oldest son, Tagg Romney commandeered the way-back of the wagon, keeping his eyes fixed out the rear window, where he glimpsed the first sign of trouble. ''Dad!'' he yelled. ''Gross!'' A brown liquid was dripping down the back window, payback from an Irish setter who'd been riding on the roof in the wind for hours.

As the rest of the boys joined in the howls of disgust, Romney coolly pulled off the highway and into a service station. There, he borrowed a hose, washed down Seamus and the car, then hopped back onto the highway. It was a tiny preview of a trait he would grow famous for in business: emotion-free crisis management.
Shows good judgement, effective problem solving under fire. Yep. Yes he does.


Subprime Primer

WSJ (via The Big Picture) has a great graphic that simply explains the how mortgages are financed. By understanding it, you can then understand the subprime meltdown (click to enlarge):

With the subprime portion of the market, the borrowers are high risk and that risk is simply pushed right up to the investors. Everyone else along the way makes fees, investors get higher than normal returns with reassurances from "rating agencies" that the bonds are "relatively safe" and all is hunky dunky.


Lenders default. When the money stops coming in, the fallout goes right up the ladder: borrowers lose their home, lenders go out of business, brokers go out of business, investment banks eat losses and the investors hold junk pieces of paper. When those investors, usually the "big boys", start screaming all hell breaks loose. So before those folks get mad, or Congress starts to investigate, the old-school connections kick in to stop the bleeding. That is, until the bleeding comes from an artery that's too big for even them to stop. Then we turn to unkie Bernanke to print more dollars and/or taxpayers get sent a bill.

Just a note. One of the key loans of the subprime market is the adjustable rate mortgage. I've read elsewhere, and seen charts, that of the loans made during the bubble, we're still right at the beginning of those adjustment periods. And when all this was starting, unkie Al Greenspan said, "don't worry, be happy"!


More Cheney

Here's the next installment by WaPo on Cheney, number 4.


Pathetic River Of Shame

Environmental news they can use:

“Iraqis used to love fried river fish, but are afraid to eat anything caught in the Tigris nowadays, since there are so many dead bodies floating in the river.” They were dumped there “during the sectarian blood-letting that has divided the capital.”
We've liberated them alright.



Cheney is part of the Executive Branch!!!!

Rahm Emanuel plans to continue trying to defund the V.P.'s office until/unless they comply with the archives laws, which began the entire B.S.

I may not be Rahm's biggest fan, but I sure like the way he's been handling Cheney. Maybe it takes one to know one?


Iraq Guide

If only the U.S. military read their own military guide on dealing with Iraq ....... written for WWII.


Fiat Money

Trotsky is writing a great series on fiat money. Fiat money is money created by governments out of thin air, not backed by any tangible asset like gold. This installment is particularly good at showing the history of the creation of fiat money, and hinting at some of the consequences.

So what's wrong with fiat money? It can be answered in one chart (click to enlarge):

This chart shows, over time, just how many of each item it takes to buy "something". Put another way, it displays the loss in purchasing power of different currencies vs. gold. That in itself is not a huge problem as long as a person's income grows at an equivalent rate and at the same time. Moving decimels points is not a problem, as long as it's done evenly across the board.


Of course it's not. The price of things always moves ahead of income representing a defacto tax. The higher the rate of inflation (the real rate, not the one reported by government) the higher the tax, and the greater the loss in personal buying power.

One other interesting sidenote. In the history of fiat money, it seems that major failures in the system have historically occurred when countries used fiat money, and more fiat money, to finance wars. Sound familiar?


Ancient History

Everyone. I mean EVERYONE knows that this is all just a bunch of ancient history ...... right?

USA Today leads with, and everyone fronts, a look at the hundreds of pages of documents, known as the "family jewels," the CIA released yesterday that detail the agency's illegal activities from the 1950s to the early 1970s. Although many portions of the documents were blacked out, they detail how the CIA tried to carry out assassination plots against foreign leaders, illegally spied on Americans, and carried out medical experiments.
You mean government intelligence agencies used to spy on U.S. citizens, assassinate foreigners, hold prisoners indefinitely without due process and do Mengele-like experiements on humans? Wow. That's really hard to believe!

There have been big changes since then. New laws. Oversight. Checks and balances. And the Pentagon intelligence services now entering the fray.



The newspapers are all atwitter today over Richard Lugar's call to "get out of Iraq". Unfortunately, Lugar said no such thing:

However, he warned against a total withdrawal from Iraq. A "sustainable military posture" would reduce U.S. forces into a support role to help the Iraqi army, he said. Similarly, Voinovich called for "responsible military disengagement" from Iraq. "It is absolutely critical that we avoid being drawn into a precipitous withdrawal," he said in a strategy paper that accompanied his letter to Bush.
They still don't get it. Since before the first Gulf War, there has been a perfect correlation between the proximity of U.S. forces to Iraq, and the amount and degree of the Arab street's hate (and terrorist recruiting abilities) for the U.S. Like it or not, the fundamentalists arguments about the devil American's rings true on the Arab street, and our military presence is a particularly potent proof of those assertions.

While Republicans may be "inching", and I mean inching, away from Bush's position, don't be fooled into thinking it's much of a change. As I mentioned before, permanent bases in Iraq have always been on the agenda backed by the belief that in some way the U.S. can influence outcomes. Perhaps at some reputation improved future date the U.S. can help shape solutions. But the U.S. cannot influence outcomes in the middle east with military force. Period. Until U.S. politicians get that, the war continues.

Update: Swope explains why Lugar's announcement is a good thing. He make some good points.


Supporting the Troops

"This is the worst cover-up in the history of the military," said an unidentified military health officer who fears for his job.A shot from a syringe is leaving some U.S. servicemen and women on the brink of death.
"When the issue, I believe, of the use of the vaccine comes out, I believe it will make the Walter Reed scandal pale in comparison," said the health officer.Lance Corporal David Fey, 20, has dialysis three days a week. His kidneys are failing, his military career is over, and he feels like his country abandoned him.

When a country combines government with corporations the interests of the "shareholders" far exceeds the interests of the citizens and the soldiers. I'm so passed outrage.


Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Cat Fight

Well, only one cat getting chewed on by a bulldog.

Go check out Ann Coulter getting her ears pinned back by Elizabeth Edwards. Why in the world did MSNBC and ABC even have this witch on?


Housing Market

Here's a great map of the seven states really affected by the housing market meltdown:


Turning The Corner

There's a new conventional wisdom bubbling up in the media. E.J. Dionne, who I respect alot, spells it out (via Froomkin):

"It's not about whether the United States should pull out troops. That is now inevitable. The real challenge is to figure out the right timetable for withdrawal, whether a residual force should be left there and which American objectives can still be salvaged."
I disagree. On a couple of fronts. First of all, has there ever been a question that we would ultimately withdraw? Sure, some said it could be generations, some said months, but I don't think anyone thought we would be there forever. Well, maybe no one except Cheney. And hasn't the question of having permanent bases a residual force left in Iraq an old question as well? I don't see anything real new in this assessment.

My larger disagreement is with the thinking that Bush might flex on the issue of withdrawal. I don't believe it will happen. At best, I think Bush will want to kick the problem over to the next President who can then own the loss. Bush cares not about public opinion, effective strategy, people's lives or the politics. He's got nothing to lose except his own self-esteem. And he'll do anything to stop from losing that. The only way our troops will be out of Iraq before 2008 is if Congress (meaning the Republican watch group) forces him out via funding. Any of this media speculation is, at best, the moaning of Bush underlings who have less skin in the game than Bush, wishing for a new pony at Xmas, that their boss will come to his senses.



Today's WaPo installment on the real President.


A Good Point

Ok, so Cheney is arguing that he's not part of the executive branch.


In front of the Supreme Court, he argued that he was part of the executive branch and was protected from disclosing the participants in the energy task force. Remember that?

Ok Dick. Just who was at that energy task force meeting?



Charlie's at it again:

If the elite political class in Washington had shown any sign of breathing in the past seven years, I'd call the ongoing Washington Post series on the malignancy that is Dick Cheney breathtaking. Part One, in which the president was demonstrated to be a barely functional non-entity, and in which other members of his administration -- like Colin Powell, who can probably now take off the toga for good -- were demonstrated to such a vast collection of useless tools it's a surprise they weren't all found rusting in a barn in Nebraska, was bad enough. (How many times a day do they have to water Alberto Gonzales, by the way?) Today's installment, in which officials of what is said to be history's greatest experiment in enlightened self-government are shown parsing the difference between "cruelty" and "torture" is so much worse that Parts Three and Four fill me with encompassing dread. Is there anything worthwhile about this country and its ideals that these guys didn't use for a pen-wiper? Is there anything worthwhile about this country and its ideals that they remotely understand?


Israel Bias?

Romunov has a very interesting YouTube video on America and Israel.



I usually start my morning reading financial news. In the many years I've been doing this, I don't think I've ever read so much negativity in one day from the reports, articles and blogs on the state of the current world economy. The housing thing has really gotten everyone down. Let's all hope they're just being cranky.


Peak Oil

The Oil Drum has a very nicely done article on peak oil. It's done in a question/answer format and is for someone who is new to the discussion. It's a really great place to get some objective info on just what is peak oil, the possibilities are for the future, and many resources for further information.


Kudos To The Kids

Pretty gutsy, at least compared to the Washington couture class:

WASHINGTON -- President Bush was presented with a letter Monday signed by 50 high school seniors in the Presidential Scholars program urging a halt to "violations of the human rights" of terror suspects held by the United States.

The White House said Bush had not expected the letter but took a moment to read it and talk with a young woman who handed it to him.

"The president enjoyed a visit with the students, accepted the letter and upon reading it let the student know that the United States does not torture and that we value human rights," deputy press secretary Dana Perino said.
Right. I'm sure the kids walked away convinced by Bush that we don't torture. These kids are, indeed, scholars of the first order.


Does the FBI Bug You?

Joe over at Hard-boiled Dreams of the World has an interesting post about cell phones. I didn't know I was carrying a bugging device. Someone might discover what a truly boring person I am.


Monday, June 25, 2007

Tribal ..... Millionaires!

Remember those Sunni tribal types that the U.S. was "encouraging" to join the fight against "al Qaeda"? It seems that some have taken the money and run:

This story from al-Malaf is currently the talk of the forums: Sitar Abu Risha, head of the Anbar Salvation Council, has allegedly fled Iraq with $75 million that the Americans had given him to fight al-Qaeda. The story links his flight to the near-collapse of the Anbar Salvation Council over infighting among its leadership [and] claims that he simply never distributed the American cash to the fighters, who are now threatening to go on strike if they don't get paid. Seeing as how the Anbar Salvation Council has for months now been portrayed as the great American hope in the battle against al-Qaeda, if this story turns out to be true - a big if, given the shaky sourcing to this point - then it would be a rather embarrassing fiasco.
The story is still yet to be confirmed. But if true, it would indeed be embarrassing and a fiasco. And yet somehow, it's also business as usual.


The Cost of War

If this doesn't break your heart you don't have one.



Laura Rozen wrote an interesting post yesterday on the WaPo Cheney article. The short version is that the article was probably held until the "dead time" of summer and that it had an editorial hatchet taken to it as well.

If you go read it I think you'll see what she's talking about. There are parts of the story that seem to be seriously contradictory to the rest. The first time I read it (before see Rozen's piece), I had to reread a couple of paragraphs because they just didn't seem to make sense. Give it a read and see if you notice it.

Here's a sample of the disconnect:

Cheney is not, by nearly every inside account, the shadow president of popular lore. Bush has set his own course, not always in directions Cheney preferred. The president seized the helm when his No. 2 steered toward trouble, as Bush did, in time, on military commissions. Their one-on-one relationship is opaque, a vital unknown in assessing Cheney's impact on events. The two men speak of it seldom, if ever, with others. But officials who see them together often, not all of them admirers of the vice president, detect a strong sense of mutual confidence that Cheney is serving Bush's aims.
This graf is not only incomprehensible, it's completely contradicts the rest of the story. When I first read it, I remember scratching my head and then ignoring it (before having read Rozen's suspicions). Do you think there is a bit of a war going on between reporters and editors?


Big Magilla Morphs

The big magilla has turned into the little boy and the dyke, and I'm not feeling too good myself.

Juan Cole's piece today summarizes what is happening with the big offensive offensive in Diyala. Brig. Gen. Mick Bednarak today admitted that Iraqi troops are not capable of "holding" the area's "cleared" in Diyala:

BAQOUBA, Iraq - The U.S. commander of a new offensive north of Baghdad, reclaiming insurgent territory day by day, said yesterday his Iraqi partners may be too weak to hold onto the gains made.

The Iraqi military does not even have enough ammunition, said Brig. Gen. Mick Bednarek: "They're not quite up to the job yet." His counterpart south of Baghdad seemed to agree, saying U.S. troops are too few to garrison the districts in the capital newly rid of insurgents. "It can't be coalition [U.S.] forces. We have what we have. There's got to be more Iraqi security forces," said Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch.

The two commanders spoke after a deadly day for the U.S. military in Iraq. At least 12 soldiers were killed on Saturday from roadside bombings and other causes, raising the U.S. toll for the past week to at least 32.
So what's been the point? Are they saying they didn't know this going in? Has this "offensive" been a political gambit for domestic U.S. consumption using American soldiers to make a point?

As Juan points out, Diyala has 300,000 people with 60% of them Sunni, being ruled by Shiite's and Kurds, and attacked by U.S. forces. In short, they're fed up. Diyala is now the latest recruting station for insurgents.

Here's Juan's sum-up:
So after 6 days of hard fighting, in which US troops were killed and wounded, what do we have?

A sullen, defiant Sunni Arab urban population.

A guerrilla leadership that slipped away.

An Iraqi army unable actually to hold the 'cleared' neighborhoods, which are likely to throw up more guerrilla leaders and campaigns.

A continued dominance of Sunni Arabs in Diyala by a Shiite government completely unacceptable to them.

A US commitment to upholding the Shiite ("Iraqi") government.

So I am angry because this looks to me like we sent our guys to fight and die for a piece of political quicksand in which the entire endeavor is likely to sink.

It is not right.
No. It's not right. It's immoral.


Reverse It

Some time ago, I wrote an post criticizing reverse mortgages. A reverse mortgage is where a homeowner essentially puts the equity in their home up as collateral for a loan that is repaid when they die or sell the house. It's sold as a way to "tap into the savings in your home". Since my last post, these loans have become even more popular.

Tim Iacono notices a piece in the LA Times and also notices something else:

As with all loans, reverse mortgages have fees and charge interest. For example, a 78-year-old borrower whose home is worth $200,000 might end up with a reverse mortgage of $123,000, based on his age, interest rate levels and other factors. In this case, the borrower might pay about $13,000 in upfront fees — including a $4,000 loan origination fee, $4,000 in mortgage insurance and a $4,000 "set-aside" to cover servicing costs for the life of the loan, according to Fannie Mae, the federally chartered lender.

Based on recent interest rates, such a loan might come with an adjustable interest rate of about 6%, with interest charges compounding during the life of the mortgage.
A reverse mortgage is not necessarily a bad idea on it's face. A senior can still live in their home while getting some cash, hopefully needed cash, for living expenses. But as the excerpt above shows, the rates and fees for these loans are astronmical. A reverse mortgage is a very secure loan, likely more secure than a mortgage. But lenders are raping older people as they provide this "service". The fees and interests rates are usury and should be stopped.

If the time comes where I might need cash from my home, I'll sell it. That may represent a stress. But I'd rather deal with that stress than the feeling that someone like Countrywide Home Loans is bending me over.



Part two of the WaPo piece on Cheney is up. Give it a read and see how Cheney runs the country.


Librarian Terrorists

Life in an FBI muzzle is no fun. Two Connecticut librarians on Sunday described what it was like to be slapped with an FBI national security letter and accompanying gag order. It sounded like a spy movie or, gulp, something that happens under a repressive foreign government. Peter Chase and Barbara Bailey, librarians in Plainville, Connecticut, received an NSL to turn over computer records in their library on July 13, 2005. Unlike a suspected thousands of other people around the country, Chase, Bailey and two of their colleagues stood up to the Man and refused to comply, convinced that the feds had no right to intrude on anyone's privacy without a court order (NSLs don't require a judge's approval). That's when things turned ugly.

The four librarians under the gag order weren't allowed to talk to each other by phone. So they e-mailed. Later, they weren't allowed to e-mail.

After the ACLU took on the case and it went to court in Bridgeport, the librarians were not allowed to attend their own hearing. Instead, they had to watch it on closed circuit TV from a locked courtroom in Hartford, 60 miles away. "Our presence in the courtroom was declared a threat to national security," Chase said.

A threat to national security? It should be clear now that anyone...anyone... who defies and disagrees with this government will be labeled a "terrorist". The government eventually backed off (and in doing so withdrew the case from scrutiny) but as you read this keep in mind that the president has the authority to label any American a "terrorist" and treat them accordingly.

As an aside, please note that it is the ACLU defending these people... and you. I hear people bitch about the ACLU often but they don't seem to realize how much effort these people put into protecting all of us.


Sunday, June 24, 2007


It's stuff like this that makes me want to pull my hair out:

Newsweek poll: "Even today, more than four years into the war in Iraq, as many as four in ten Americans (41 percent) still believe Saddam Hussein’s regime was directly involved in financing, planning or carrying out the terrorist attacks on 9/11, even though no evidence has surfaced to support a connection. A majority of Americans were similarly unable to pick Saudi Arabia in a multiple-choice question about the country where most of the 9/11 hijackers were born. Just 43 percent got it right -- and a full 20 percent thought most came from Iraq."
Karl Rove, and Lee Atwater before him, recognized that the American public is ignorant. And I don't mean that as a demeaning term. I literally mean ignorant as in purposefully uninformed. Our media hasn't helped, but the buck really stops with the American people.

The constitution doesn't guarantee democracy. Our system of governance doesn't guarantee freedom. Our system guarantees that the people get the government they deserve. And by astutely observing the human landscape in America, Rove recognized that you could lie, cheat, steal, and create a dictatorship without real opposition by simply properly marketing your brand. Like any popular cereal, a box full of air with a very large ad campaign and pretty pictures on the front, Rove has been able to make his brand popular .... until now.

The only remaining question is will the American people "right" themselves in pursuit of what our founding fathers meant by creating America. That's an open question at this point. I suspect it's always been an open question.


Sunday Reading

Want to take some time and do some reading on the Bush crack-up?

Ok. How about Sidney Blumenthal's piece on how the administrations claims of executive power are being slowly, but systematically dismantled. Or how about Marcy Wheelers speculation on who Blumenthal is talking about when he discussed "high administration officials" who are admitting that they've likely acted illegally. Finally, there's this piece on how the above pieces fit together in the battle to keep Scooter Libby out of jail. Digby speculates that given the Scootsters role in all of this, he has a considerable amount of "leverage" if he should choose to use it.

Update: Wow. More Sunday reading for your enjoyment. Excerpt from the opening graf:

Just past the Oval Office, in the private dining room overlooking the South Lawn, Vice President Cheney joined President Bush at a round parquet table they shared once a week. Cheney brought a four-page text, written in strict secrecy by his lawyer. He carried it back out with him after lunch.

In less than an hour, the document traversed a West Wing circuit that gave its words the power of command. It changed hands four times, according to witnesses, with emphatic instructions to bypass staff review. When it returned to the Oval Office, in a blue portfolio embossed with the presidential seal, Bush pulled a felt-tip pen from his pocket and signed without sitting down. Almost no one else had seen the text.

Cheney's proposal had become a military order from the commander in chief. Foreign terrorism suspects held by the United States were stripped of access to any court -- civilian or military, domestic or foreign. They could be confined indefinitely without charges and would be tried, if at all, in closed "military commissions."

"What the hell just happened?" Secretary of State Colin L. Powell demanded, a witness said, when CNN announced the order that evening, Nov. 13, 2001. National security adviser Condoleezza Rice, incensed, sent an aide to find out. Even witnesses to the Oval Office signing said they did not know the vice president had played any part.
and Digby's take on the article:
This is exactly the kind of manipulation that is made possible by a weak and stupid president. Reagan was not particularly bright, but he gathered people around him who were not insane, had known him forever and shared his goals. Bush is a child whose agenda was whatever the last person he spoke with told him it was.

I know that I sound like a character in an Oliver Stone movie, ("one pristine bullet? That dog don't hunt!" ) but I have never been sanguine about the fact that all the big money boyz and all the power brokers in the GOP traipsed down to Austin to meet that grinning moron and came away thinking he was the right choice to run the most powerful nation on earth. It makes far more sense to me that they wanted to install Cheney from the beginning (remember the energy task force?) and they needed an empty suit with a winning personality to actually run for the office. Maybe it really was a quiet coup, who knows?
Kudos to the WaPo for doing this series (this is the first).


Hard, Cold Data

Digby, Atrios and virtually the entire liberal blogosphere have been having some fun with one of Atrios's "wankers of the day". In this case, the issue is a column written by Melinda Henneberger lecturing Democrats on why their stance on abortion is killing the party. Others have written why what Henneberger has to say is B.S. and properly labeling her a "concern troll", so I'm not going there. Rather, this statement by Digby struck me:

Give me cold poll numbers any day --- and if somebody wants to follow up with interviews of a sample of that sample for an article in the paper, then fine. But the notion that DC pundits have some special way of talking to strangers that translates into something meaningful about the population at large is ridiculous.
It is ridiculous.

I don't watch much of the teevee in the way of punditry anymore. But on Sundays, if the timing is right, I'll sometimes watch a bit of "This Week". Today I noticed that Tori Clarke said on more than one occasion "what I'm hearing is" and "people are getting tired of" and "voters will never" kind of language. And she wasn't alone in doing this. I was thinking, who said that? What people? Where?

Because Walter Cronkite (who is now ignored btw) was considered the most credible person in the country at one time, an entire industry has been developed in his wake. Punditry has been living off the legacy of credible reporters from the 50's and 60's for a long long time. But real data, real studies, real research, have shown over and over again (just go visit Media Matters for a wealth of data) that punditry ..... all punditry .... is mostly a bunch of ordinary people with supposed "connections" who are talking through their rear-ends. The is never more true than when pundits pretend to understand the American citizen, the "people", the "heartland" or "voters".

I don't want censorship. I just wish that enough viewers would complain and enough pressure brought to bear to force some sort of accountability for a stations punditry. Other industries do it, i.e. on financial channels who interview market "pundits", market observers are often tracked on performance of the stocks they've recommended. If a political pundit says "xyz", let there be a scorecard that shows whether xyz prediction/opinion came true, is backed by solid data, or is just BS. And obviously, if someone is usually wrong (which are most of the current crop), then they should not be rewarded with the admiration of viewers simply because they are likeable, have a familiar name and face, and we like what they are saying.

I'm not so naive as to think that anything will materially change in the near future. But maybe, just maybe, with the internets and bloggers (on both sides) doing fact checking and gaining readership, such accountability is evolving and will largely come to pass. Certainly ratings for many of these shows are suffering. Maybe the teevee execs will get a clue. I hope.

*sigh* Update:

Here we have a poster-child example of what I said above:
"Well, the Democrats have taken the position that they now will do with the nation's business. And if they're not doing that business, and clearly the immigration issue is very much on people's mind, I think they will suffer the same consequences that the Republicans suffered a year ago. People are fed up with seeing Washington bickering, fighting, infighting and never dealing with the issue."
That's the "dean" of the Washington Press Corpse David Broder on Press the Meat today. How many ways is this statement ridiculous?

1) What evidence does Broder have that "immigration is on people's mind"? I haven't seen a single person mention it personally. Do the voters really care about this issue at this point as compared to, oh, say the Iraq war, or health care, the economy, or gasoline prices, or or or or or ..... ?

2) Why would the Democrats suffer? A full 85% of Senate Dems voted for the immigration compromise while 80% of Republicans voted against it. It's not Harry Reid holding things up, it's numbskulls like Jeff Sessions. To the degree that voters give a rip, they're likely paying close attention to the roadblocks. And they're likely Rush Limbaugh listeners in Alabama who are cheering Jeff Sessions and would never support Democrats no matter what they did.

3) Who says "people are fed up with seeing Washington bickering, fighting, infighting and never dealing with the issue". The polls show low approval ratings, and being "fed up", with everyone because the Iraq war continues and continues and ...... Again, please tell me ole' dean David, why is it continuing?

4) People want it "fixed". Oh yeah? Fixed how? Broder seems to be saying "do anything" and it's a "fix". Except of course that what Jeff Sessions wants for a fix is dramatically different than what I might want. But nevermind, let's just spew out a vapid (I love that term, h/t Josh Marshall) analysis of the immigration "situation. Sheesh.

Broder, a self-labeled moderate, seems to feel he has the pulse of Amurika. The evidence suggests he's waaaay off. Yet will he be held accountable, or continue to be paid mucho dinero and respect to spew out his garbage logic, prejudices and 1960's musings?


Short Vacation

Juan Cole is reporting that the Iraq parliament managed to dig up (maybe a poor use of terms) enough members to get a quorum, not an easy task, at which time they decided to stay in session for another month. The purpose of the extended session is to reach the necessary political comprises necessary to end the violence.

The Iraqi spokesman, who likely took lessons from Tony Snow, announced optimism that the parliament would be able to reach agreement on issues that they could not agree to over the past four years.

The fact is that the Iraq government is not even working. Key players are either not in the parliament having boycotted the elections, are not able to participate due to fear, or have withdrawn out of disagreement.


More Housing

Here's what we're up against in the housing slowdown (click to enlarge):

As you can easily see, unsold inventories are skyrocketing by historical standards. For comparison, note that that last housing "bust" was in 1990. It took three years to work off the excess inventory that time.

Housing starts are beginning to slow, but it's going to take some time to get rid of that excess housing. Given that interest rates are relatively higher and lending standards are (finally) getting more stringent, it may be awhile. Quite awhile.