Saturday, July 14, 2007

Inflation Watch

We all know that energy and food are going up. Food is now increasing at an 8% inflation rate. Funny, everyone cheered when WalMart's sales went up 2.4%. But if you put that inflation number into the mix, they seem to actually have sold less.

But I digress. I ran across this bit of information that hasn't been spoken of much as an inflation generator .....

From John Mauldin's e-newsletter (you must do a free subscription to see the link)

But another currency is slowly wending its way up. Take a look at the chart below. The Chinese yuan is up against the dollar from 8.28 to 7.57 to the dollar over the last two years. That is an increase of almost 9%. The movement in the last month has been particularly fast. I wrote over two years ago that the Chinese would slowly allow their currency to appreciate, and would move at their own pace, despite the screams from the US Senate to do it all at once.

In 2-3 years, the yuan will be down another 10-15% from where it is today, and the Chinese will be close to allowing the yuan to float. Should this be a cause for rejoicing in the US? Maybe for a few select companies, but consumers will not be as happy that (as noted above) prices are slated to rise.
Consider all the products that we import from China. By China allowing the currency to eventually float against the dollar, Chinese goods will continue to get more expensive (9% over the last two years with another 10-15% yet to come). Sure, it will make our exports more attractive to China, but just think of the costs of everything you see at a Costco or WalMart increase a minimum of 5%/year simply based on currency changes.


A Huge Amen Moment


Standing Up

One of the big goals that Bush has been pushing, for years, is the training of Iraqi troops. Well, he's in for some bad news:


WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The number of Iraqi army battalions that operate independently, with no assistance from U.S. forces, has dropped from 10 to six over the last two months, the top U.S. general said on Friday.

But Marine Corps Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, downplayed the figure's importance, saying the decline was driven by casualties, worn-out equipment and the need to pull units from battle so they can be resupplied.

"The fact that a number may be changing in a very narrow band shouldn't be overly a concern," Pace told reporters.
What's astounding is the numbers. A battlion is like around 500 soldiers. Not only are they losing ground (despite Pace's spin), but the overall numbers are miniscule. After years of building the army. Years. And even among those that do operate independently, who knows how many are loyal and just how much infiltration has occurred by various factions.


Associated With Americans

Here's an excerpt from an obviously anonymous Iraqi blogger. This gentleman works for McClatchey in Iraq. His post gives you some idea of the dangers of even being associated with Americans. He was stopped going through one of the many checkpoints he has to go through:

He took my papers and walked to the parked pickup vehicles a few meters away. It looked as if he were discussing the matter with his colleagues.

I looked up at the sky, the abode of the mighty Creator and prayed and prayed, and prayed.

If any digging was to take place into my identity and my profession, then I was dead anyway. NOT a doctor, no, a correspondent for an AMERICAN news agency!!

I was left there waiting to hear my sentence for more than twenty of the longest minutes of my life, when another vehicle arrived and stopped. Do not doubt it, these people held many a life in their slippery fingertips.

Someone dismounted. My tormentor went straight to him with my papers and they seemed to be debating the small matter of my fate. Their voices raised a little, but still I could understand nothing. They seemed not to agree, the younger man, who thought me a doctor was getting very angry and red in the face.

The newcomer, holding my papers in his hand, turned and walked towards me, reached me, handed me my papers and said one word, "Go."
This was one, just one, of about sixteen checkpoints this guy went through. He left .... quickly .... and will never go that route again. He also has no doubt that the checkpoint person who seemed to be eager to kill him will never forget his face.


Friday, July 13, 2007

Keep Hammering

The Anonymous Liberal explains why it's so important (via Glenn Greenwald) for all of us to keep hammering away at the government and press atrocities, despite the tiresomeness of it all.



I've mentioned here any number of times the ridiculousness of the Iraqi Parliament taking off August for vacation. Today, Tony Snow tells us why it's ok for them to .....

Ohhhhh. Ok. Now I understand. First, it's hot and we don't want those oooofficaials to get overheated. And besides, given how similar Iraq and the U.S. are, it's ok because the U.S. Congress takes August off.

Now I understand. I hope the families of the soldiers who die over the next several months will understand as well. I wonder how hot it is in hell?


Read The Fine Print

The Republicans are going to try and get a whole lot of mileage out of this. Just be sure to read the fine print ....

Such as this:

Sens. Richard Lugar (R-IN) and John Warner (R-VA) “said today that President Bush should seek a new war authorization and present a plan to Congress by Oct. 16 outlining contingency plans in Iraq. Those plans, which would include reducing American forces, should begin by the end of the year.” Their measure will be “considered next week when the Iraq war debate resumes.”
So the big move by these Republicans is to a) reduce troop numbers ... translation ... return to the pre-surge tactics and b) not ask it to be done until October. By that time the almighty Petraeus will come forward and bless the escalation. And the music will continue to play.

I know I'm supposed to be grateful that these nutbars are "coming around". But it's certainly too little and way too late. The too little part is the most important thing for now. Republicans will continue to try and peel away slices of Democrats from a withdrawal plan. They are merely carrying out Bush's play-out-the-clock strategy.

Added: Funny, I went from posting this to this from Atrios:
There will come a point where all of the very serious members of Congress (the wanker caucus) will come together on some bill or another which will pretend to force Bush to do something about Iraq but which won't actually force him to do anything. David Broder will applaud, the media will praise the president for not vetoing it, and only us dirty fucking hippie bloggers will point out that it doesn't change a damn thing.


Mr. President .....

There's always Utah .....

Click to enlarge:


Quick To Criticize, Now It's Time To Praise

Looks like Michael Gordon and the NY Times got an article right, doing actual ... like ... journalism! Glenn Greenwald has the story here.

I'll just add that Michael Gordon has recently been in Iraq. Maybe he got a dose of reality there. In his on camera reports, he looked quite spooked. There's nothing like being shot-at to clarify the issue.


Republican Watch

I picked up this bit of wisdom from David Brooks via TalkLeft .....

**cough,cough** bullshit **cough,cough**

David Brooks, as always an apologist for the GOP, writes:

To simplify a bit, roughly 20 senators, led by John McCain and Joe Lieberman, believe in Gen. David Petraeus and the surge. There are roughly 30 Republicans, led by Dick Lugar, John Warner and Lamar Alexander, who believe that the U.S. should scale back its mission and adopt the Iraq Study Group’s recommendations. There are roughly 30 Democrats, led by Carl Levin and Jack Reed, who also want to scale back and adopt the study group’s approach. And finally, there are roughly 20 Democrats, led by Ted Kennedy and Russ Feingold, who just want to get out as quickly as possible.
No votee, no believee

TalkLeft tells us the real plan and why the Democrats need to push vote after vote regarding withdrawal:
The plan is to kick the can to Petraeus, who will plead for a few more Friedman Units, which the GOP will demand he be given, until Bush is no longer President. In then in 2009, the game of 'who lost Iraq?' will be used to intimidate the next President into 'fighting them there . .
Or to blame the sitting Democratic President for having "lost Iraq".


Iraqi Soldiers Killing More Americans

I was going to just add this to the post below, but I think it deserves it's own little soapbox. Remember the attacks by "Iranians" on soldiers in Karbala a few weeks back? As usual, it turns out to have been something quite different, much more along these lines:

According to a U.S. Army investigation, the Iraqi Police assisted a brazen January assault on U.S. troops in the southern city of Karbala -- an attack that a U.S. military spokesman tied to Iranian operatives earlier this month.

USA Today obtained a copy of the Army's February 27 report. The report found that the Karbala policemen exploited "a level of trust" that U.S. commanders placed with them to provide security for a provincial headquarters where a contingent of soldiers were stationed. In the assault, one of the most sophisticated on U.S. troops to date, gunmen passed themselves off as part of a U.S. security team and entered the compound past police checkpoints, eventually killing five soldiers.

USA Today reports that in advance of the attack, Iraqi police abandoned their stations, as did Iraqi civilian employees of the compound's PX. The gunmen exhibited signs of knowing how U.S. forces would defend themselves under attack, and used that apparent knowledge to pin down and abduct soldiers and officers.

How're'ya liken' those Alamo's these days?

This is wrong on so many levels. The fact the media took the stenograph of the administrations version of events (Iran did it!), the fact we keep arming and training the insurgency, and the fact we keep putting Americans in harms way. It's immoral and criminal. But as long as Republicans continue to not have a backbone in dealing with their President, we're screwed.


Filibuster Non-Coverage

Josh Marshall catches a great headline today out of the ever-reliable NY Times that gives a demonstration of just how the media is ignoring the term "filibuster"

Senate Narrowly Backs Bush in Rejecting Debate on Increasing Time Between Deployments, July 12, 2007

Democrats Block a Vote on Bolton for the Second Time, June 21, 2005
You see, when the Republicans doing they're doing something positive, "backing" the Preznit. When Dems do it, they're "blocking".

Subtle. And very powerful.


Tied Hands

I'm curious about something. I can understand, in a sick sorta way, why Bush would throw down the gauntlet on legislation threatening his adventure in Iraq. But why would he specifically also include Iran in such a discussion? Not "foreign policy" or commander-in-chief prerogatives, but specifically regarding Iran?

Gee, I wonder .......

Spencer Akerman, via Digby

It's official: President Bush will veto any and all measures put forth by Congressional Dems to halt the Iraq War, according to a little-noticed letter from the White House to Carl Levin (D-MI), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

The letter also says that the White House will veto any measure that would tie its hands on Iran -- including on military action inside that country.

That Bush will veto any such measures was expected, and isn't surprising. Nonetheless, the letter makes it official that Congressional Dems face the daunting prospect of having to muster a veto-proof majority on any Iraq or Iran measures. ............

The Iran section of the letter is particularly interesting. It says the White House will veto any Congressional effort to either "direct or prohibit" any military, intelligence or diplomatic action regarding Iran. While the emphasis is clearly on possible restrictions to the president's ability to go after the Iranians, the most prominent amendment on Iran is Sen. Joe Lieberman's (ID-CT) successful effort to get the Senate to "confront" Iran for alleged attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. It'll be interesting to see if that effort, which passed the Senate yesterday on a 97-0 vote, spurs Bush's veto pen.
Added: KargoX reminds us that Bush has promised to not just "veto" legislative interference in his wars, but to "defy" legislation limiting his wars. Now tell me, would that really surprise anyone? Suppose Congress, with Republican cooperation, overrides a Presidential veto and the President just ignores the whole thing, acting as commander-in-chief under some Abu Gonzales originated Mickey Mouse Law School bullshit. Then what?


Disordered Discharge

I really felt a need to comment on this story. Last night, ABC News carried an investigative piece on how the military is denying benefits to soldiers upon discharge because of pre-existing "Personality Disorders".

ABC News:

“Since 2001, more than 22,000 servicemen and women from all branches of the military have been separated under the personality disorder discharge.” ABC News explains, “This diagnosis means the personality disorder existed before military service, and therefore medical care and disability payments are not the military’s responsibility.”
This is so blatantly ridiculous on the surface that it nearly bears no further discussion.

But please, allow me.

As a former practicing psychotherapist I can tell you something about Personality Disorders. These are so-called "Axis II" disorders, meaning they are descriptors of an individual's long-term functioning, and not readily amendable to treatment. In other words, it's largely just who you are, in the past, now and in the future. But it's also important to note that no-one is without, at a minimum, symptoms of a personality disorder. The criteria for each disorder are quite subjective, easily misinterpreted, highly disputed and often misused. Medical insurance plans will not reimburse for treatment of a personality disorder due to the problems in it's diagnosis and treatment. The diagnosis is often used more as a short-hand descriptor of an individuals approach to the world, rather than any recognized "illness" in our third party payor treatment world. Mind you, there are practictioners who specialize in treating certain personality disorders, but it's treatment reserved for the rich who can afford indefinite treatment (Paris Hilton anyone?).

This should make it readily apparent that the military can, at it's discretion, declare virtually any soldier as suffering from a personality disorder. Want to cut costs? Send a memo to the military psychiatrists laying out loose protocols for diagnosis of these disorders and voila', costs get cut.

I also want to note this. By definition, people will "high-grade" themselves based on profession. So in stereotypical terms, just who in the world do you think would join the military with the desire to see the world and kill people? Yes, I realize that's a broad brush statement, but statistically it happens to be true. Therefore, a very young person (borderline personality disorder) joins the military to fight (anti-social personality disorder) because of fear the terrorists will attack us (paranoid personality disorder), because he thinks it's his country "right or wrong" (obsessive compulsive personality disorder) and because he/she may not have any other job options (dependent personality disorder) and because he/she is comfortable knowing how to deal with oppressive controlling bosses (passive/aggressive personality disorder). I could go on in this same vein throughout the entire spectrum of disorders.

It's simply ridiculous for our military to treat soldiers, who have fulfilled their end of the bargain, benefits based on such nonsense and junk science. It's yet another sign of our times and the rotting out of the inside of our government by Republicans.


Read More Awake Now

They changed the code and didn't tell me ......

Workie now again.


The Rich Get .....

Yep ....

This story is a classic example of why Tiffany's is doing quite well thank-you-very-much while WalMart sales are (ex-inflation) flat:

The NYT fronts word that, through the power of loopholes, partners at the Blackstone Group will avoid paying taxes on $3.7 billion of the $4.75 billion the company made during its initial public offering last month. Although the partners will pay $533 million in taxes, they will get it back in the long run and, in fact, receive $200 million more from the government. "These guys have figured out how to turn paying taxes into an annuity," a tax lawyer tells the paper, and adds that this is a perfect example of why the current debate in Washington over "what tax rate to pay misses the big picture."


Contrary Headlines

Our "Read More" switch seems to be having a bad morning. Until it wakes up ....

Remember yesterday's stock market party based (or so the headlines said) on WalMart having such wonderful sales? Well, here's today's headline story:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. retail sales posted their biggest monthly decline in nearly two years during June, according to government data issued on Friday, indicating the housing market slump and soaring gasoline prices are depressing consumer spending.

Sales for June dropped 0.9 percent where economists had looked for a 0.1 percent gain, far outweighing small upward revisions to the figures for May, according to Commerce Department data.
The market seems to be taking it well so far. Can you say slowing economy anyone?


Accurate Fire

Now we are openly having to fight the Iraq police ..... too?

BAGHDAD - U.S. forces battled Iraqi police and gunmen Friday, killing six policemen, after an American raid captured a police lieutenant accused of leading an Iranian-backed militia cell, the military said.

Seven gunmen also died in the fight, a rare open street battle between American troops and policemen. Washington has demanded the government purge its police force of militants, and U.S. and Iraqi authorities have arrested officers in the past for militia links. But the Bush administration said in an assessment Thursday that progress on that front was "unsatisfactory."

The lieutenant was captured before dawn in eastern Baghdad, but the soldiers came under "heavy and accurate fire" from a nearby Iraqi police checkpoint, as well as intense fire from rooftops and a church, the military said in a statement.
Of course the fire was "heavy and accurate". They were armed with the best America has to offer, and given excellent training.

Frankly I suspect this kind of thing goes on all the time.



Haven't posted in a while. Been slammed at work. Meanwhile, boycott Amazon. Here's why.


Thursday, July 12, 2007

Quote Of The Day

Joe Biden on Iraq progress report:

"This progress report is like the guy who’s falling from a 100-story building and says half-way down that ‘everything’s fine.’"



Suppose Abu refuses to prosecute a Congressional contempt citation. What then? I posed that question below and this post seems to explain the possibilities. One in particular intrigued me:

Number 2:

Second, Congress can itself prosecute the contumacious official(s) to coerce them to comply -- a power that the Supreme Court has affirmed. See Jurney v. MacCracken, 294 U.S. 125 (1935); Anderson v. Dunn, 19 U.S. (6 Wheat.) 204 (1821); see also Groppi v. Leslie, 404 U.S. 496, 499 (1972). As Justice Scalia explained in Young v. U.S. ex rel. Vuitton et Fils, S.A., 481 U.S. at 820, this legislative prosecution authority is a constitutional anomaly of sorts -- a "limited power of self-defense" for Congress, permissible because "any other course 'leads to the total annihilation of the power of the House of Representatives to guard itself from contempts, and leaves it exposed to every indignity and interruption that rudeness, caprice, or even conspiracy, may meditate against it'" (quoting Anderson).

How would such self-help work? Well, believe it or not, the Sergeant-at-Arms of the Senate or House would personally arrest the officials and detain them in the Capitol jail or guardhouse (assuming such a facility still exists). (One of my students last semester noticed this gem on the website of the current Senate Sergeant-at-Arms, Terrance Gainer: "The Sergeant at Arms is authorized to arrest and detain any person violating Senate rules, including the President of the United States." We wondered in class: What could possibly have motivated Mr. Gainer or his staff to post that provocation?) The person would then be tried by the legislative house and, if found guilty (of civil contempt), could be detained until compliance with the subpoena or until the session of Congress ends, Anderson, 19 U.S. at 231, whichever comes first.

Congress has not invoked this authority since 1935 and, as far as I know, has never used it against a current or former government official. (The closest case was probably the contempt at issue in McGrain v. Daugherty, 273 U.S. 135 (1927), which was imposed against Mally Daugherty, a bank president and the brother of resigned and disgraced Attorney General Harry Daugherty, who Congress was investigating in connection with the Teapot Dome scandal.)
My my. This is getting close to a kinda "tanks in the street" scenario. There was another option that was more likely, number 3. I'll let you read it if you're interested. Basically it's a civil action that Congress can institute directly. Less dramatic, more likely, and I would suspect it's right where we're headed.

I read earlier that most Presidents and Congresses have resisted these kind of showdowns out of fear of codifying a loss of power for a particular branch. But that was all before George Freakin' W. Bush. Ironically, and if we're all lucky, Bush's overreach will result in a weaker President, not a stronger one.


Solid Nixon Territory

The big question now is, will Bush surpass Nixon? I'm betting he will:

President Bush's approval level slipped to 26% in the most recent Harris Interactive survey. The rating is the lowest of his presidency and matches President Richard Nixon's lowest approval rating in Harris polls taken during the height of the Watergate scandal.


We Agree!

George Bush said something in today's press conference that I whole-heartedly agree with:
Via Froomkin:

"Sometimes the debate over Iraq is cast as a disagreement between those who want to keep our troops in Iraq and those who want to bring our troops home," he said. "And this is not the real debate. I don't know anyone who doesn't want to see the day when our brave service men and women can start coming home. . . .

"The real debate over Iraq is between those who think the fight is lost or not worth the cost and those who believe the fight can be won, and that, as difficult as the fight is, the costs of defeat would be far higher."
It's true. I'll give the Preznit the benefit of the doubt that he would like to bring the boys home too. It's the cost-benefit relationship that is the basic issue.

Of course, this is where I (and everyone else except a few nutbars) disagree with the President. And I think the recent revelations, whether it be al Qaeda still in Afghanistan, the failures in Iraq, the lack of political solutions by Iraq leaders, continued terrorist attacks by now home-grown terrorists in Europe, all point to the undeniable fact that Bush's strategy has failed. Miserably.

So yes Mr. President. We all want the boys home. And none of us wants a terrorist attack. The question is this. Do we continue the insane policy (never forget the definition of "insane") of continuing to use aggressive military power to achieve those goals or do we try something else now?


Retail Sales

The stock market is having a party today. Apparently traders are happy about WalMarts better-than-expected retail sales! Chucky isn't dead! Party on! Except .....

You can always count on Barry Ritholtz to perform due diligence throw cold water on the party.

Turns out that WalMart reported their earnings without including the sales of gasoline. They exclude gasoline because it's highly volatile (pun intended) in price and could distort their sales. But guess what? They don't remove food, which has been going up in price like a skyrocket. So how much of WalMart's sales increase is due to increased sales, and how much of it is due to increased food pricing? I'll let you take a guess, but here's a hint. Other retailers that don't sell food have had very disappointing results.


A Quick Rant

Republicans have filibustered everything. They've filibustered two bills this week. The media seems uninterested, which is bad enough. But I think Josh has it just right, it's not the media's fault. Where are the Democrats? Why aren't they screaming in front of every microphone about the obstructionist Republicans? Everyone knows the media likes good theatre, so why aren't Dems giving them some with some Claude Rains-like rants?


Interesting Wrinkle If You Like Dictators

What if Congress held Miers in contempt, and you then had a Federal court contempt hearing and no one showed up?

Harriet Miers, the former White House counsel, refused to appear before Congress. The current White House counsel said Miers had "absolute immunity" from testifying and the president told her not to show up. The LAT emphasizes the Justice Department's legal opinion that says Miers, and possibly other senior officials, don't have to answer the subpoenas, which puts into question whether it would prosecute any officials if Congress were to hold them in contempt.
I didn't realize it, but I guess Congress depends on the Department of Justice to carry the legal water whenever they pass a contempt resolution. So what happens if the DOJ refuses? It may be a "you scratch my back I'll scratch yours" with Abu Gonzales now covering Bush's back. Do you think this may play a small part in Bush keeping Abu in his job?

It looks to me like Congress is going to have to pass legislation to remove the DOJ from the executive branch. As an independent agency, it could then uphold the law. But what are the odds of that happening, particularly in the short term? Bush has a great "play out the clock" game going. My personal Republican watch continues. Just how much small pieces will Republicans allow Bush to tear the Constitution and our government traditions?

Finally, the more events unfold the clearer it is that the only way to stop Bush will be impeachment. And even then I'm not sure he'll stop unless he's also convicted and forcibly removed from office. I warned long ago about the dangers of cornering a narcissist. I'm sad to say that I was right about Bush, his narcissism, and the lengths he'll go to take care of himself without any sense of conscience.

Update: As usual, Digby says it better than I. But surprisingly Digby still misses the key point. If the Federal prosecutor refuses to take Congresses contempt case to court, what does Congress do then?


The Report

As promised, the interim report on Iraq has been released. As expected, none of the benchmarks have been met. And also as expected, the spin coming from the White House will make you dizzy. This report is just a sneak preview of coming events in September when Petraeus gives his sermon on the mount ....

Even in areas where the White House will refer to positive developments, officials were quick to emphasize that none of the benchmarks have been fully met. But administration officials were in damage control mode and insisted the report will "not conclude, as it has been characterized, that this is a colossal failure," as one tells the NYT. Most of the benchmarks reporting progress were in military areas, while there was little advancement in issues dealing with Iraqi politics. The NYT has the most complete details of what is in the report, and even includes a handy chart. Administration officials who talked to the NYT seemed to view this interim report as a sort of report card for the Iraqi government, and although there is some pointed criticism of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government they didn't want to be too negative in order to give them an incentive "to improve their grades."
That'll do it. Be nice in the report and all those Iraqi politicians will suddenly get around the camp fire for a reprise of kumbaya.

I love that line "the benchmarks reporting progress were in military areas". The political benchmarks are a total failure, and who in their right minds believes the Pentagon's assessment of the military situation? Especially given stories like this (from the same link):
USA Today leads with a previously unreleased Army investigation that says Iraqi police cooperated with the insurgents who carried out the daring January attack in Karbala that killed five U.S. service members. Among its findings, the investigation concluded that Iraqi police disappeared from the scene before the attack, and insurgents had inside information because they knew how the Americans would defend themselves as well as where to find U.S. officers. In case anyone needed it, the report served as a stark reminder of how militants have been able to infiltrate Iraqi security forces.
The reality is that Iraq continues to fail. The Iraqi insurgents have more patients and more time to succeed because they have home field advantage. The U.S., despite the nutbars claims, continues to postpone the inevitable at a very high cost to the U.S.


Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Larry Flynt, On The Case

Ole' Larry is still investigating his tips from the D.C. madam list. He says he's got a whole lot more to look at ....

Larry Flynt, the porn-industry magnate who first linked Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) to the escort service of the “D.C. Madam,” said Wednesday that his investigators are tracking more than 20 leads on alleged congressional sex scandals.

As Vitter remained missing in action for two Senate votes on defense policy, Flynt insisted that he exposed the conservative lawmaker’s sexual indiscretions only because they contradicted Vitter’s longtime defense of the “sanctity of marriage.”

“If someone’s living a life contrary to the way they’re advocating ... then they become fair game,” Flynt told reporters. “I don’t want a man like that legislating for me, especially in the area of morality.”
Go get em' Lar. And I totally agree with his standard. It's the hypocrisy, not the sex.


It's both.


What The ...... ????

While everyone seems to be focusing on Chertoff's "gut" comment about an al Qaeda attack, I thought his concern about training bases in Afghanistan was the real story. Well, now we know where his "gut" problem comes from and someone is finally getting to my concerns:

WASHINGTON - U.S. intelligence analysts have concluded al-Qaida has rebuilt its operating capability to a level not seen since just before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, The Associated Press has learned.

The conclusion suggests that the group that launched the most devastating terror attack on the United States has been able to rebuild despite nearly six years of bombings, war and other tactics aimed at crippling it.


The new threat assessment puts particular focus on Pakistan, as did Kringen.

"Sooner or later you have to quit permitting them to have a safe haven" along the Afghan-Pakistani border, he told the House committee. "At the end of the day, when we have had success, it is when you've been able to get them worried about who was informing on them, get them worried about who was coming after them."
As I mentioned yesterday, didn't we fight a war to prevent this? Isn't this proof of an abject failure in the great war on terra! Wasn't Bush always able to claim "cleaning up Afghanistan" as a semi-victory? It appears to me like we're now looking at total failure, aren't we?


Miers To The Slammer

Today, Harriet Miers refused a subpoena to even appear before Congress tomorrow. She is not protected by executive privilege as she does not work for the White House. Will John Conyers follow through and hold her in contempt?

Conyers to the White House:

We are aware of absolutely no court decision that supports the notion that a former White House official has the option of refusing to even appear in response to a Congressional subpoena. To the contrary, the courts have made clear that no present or former government official – even the President – is above the law and may completely disregard a legal directive such as the Committee’s subpoena. In fact, both present and former White House officials have testified before Congress numerous times, including both then-serving and former White House counsel.


A refusal to appear before the Subcommittee tomorrow could subject Ms. Miers to contempt proceedings, including but not limited to proceedings under 2 U.S.C. § 194 and under the inherent contempt authority of the House of Representatives.

We are prepared at the hearing tomorrow to consider and rule on any specific assertions of privilege in response to specific questions. We strongly urge you to reconsider, and to advise your client to appear before the Subcommittee tomorrow pursuant to her legal obligations. The Subcommittee will convene as scheduled and expects Ms. Miers to appear as required by her subpoena.
The question isn't will she or won't she appear. The question is will Congress actually vote out a contempt resolution and send the whole thing to court?

Of course, even if a Federal Court upholds a contempt citation, Bush can always just pardon her.

Watching the Senators today with Sara Taylor, the blatant lying now going on was worthy of some very wry smiles, head shakes and guffaws. I still want to know when they take action?



I understand that the Preznit is an idiot. But is it just coincidence that none of his administration has a memory either?

In her testimony, [Sara] Taylor is demonstrating a memory worthy of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who “uttered the phrase ‘I don’t recall’ and its variants (’I have no recollection,’ ‘I have no memory’) 64 times” while testifying before Congress about the attorney scandal. She has joined the long list of administration officials with supposedly faulty memories when called to testify about their actions in office.


Another Day .....

..... Another filibuster. I won't even comment on it as it's become so common .....

Remember when a filibuster used to be a BIG story?


Mr. Sensitive

Think Progress:

Yesterday at his town hall event in Cleveland, Jessica Hackerd, a “13-year old blonde-headed girl,” asked Bush what his “next step with the immigration bill” will be. “Mr. Bush’s sarcastic reply — a wry ‘yeah, thanks’ — drew laughter from the crowd of 400. But the attention caused young Jessica…to immediately tear up. ‘No, it’s a great question. No, I appreciate that,’ Mr. Bush said, as he saw Jessica’s reaction.”


Financial News

While I'm on the subject (post below), I thought I would take a moment and comment on what's going on with the economy and stock market.

In case you didn't notice, the market tanked yesterday and isn't so hot today. The reason is that all those subprime mortgages are being reevaluated. As defaults rise, and defaults are rising significantly, the value of the bonds that back the mortgages are losing value.

Why does that matter?

This is where it gets interesting. The rating agencies, those that rate the risk/quality of the bond, had rated these bonds as lower risk than they really were (a whole story unto itself as you can imagine). Yesterday Standard and Poors, one of the key rating agencies, downgraded an whole bunch of those bonds, many of them to "junk" status.

Why does that matter?

Many money managers, insurance companies and portfolio managers can only own bonds that are above junk status. If a bond is re-rated downward to junk, they have to get rid of it. Problem is, there's zero market for these bonds at anything than cents on the dollar. That means big losses for these managers.

Why does that matter?

If you own shares of, oh say, Prudential Insurance and it owns a lot of subprime bonds (CDO's is the technical name) and they suffer large losses because of those bonds, their stock price goes down. And if portfolio mutual funds own Prudential shares that are falling, their shares go down in value. And so goes the merry-go-round. It's a lot like a polygamous husband having an affair and bringing a veneral disease into the family.

This is exactly how something like a problem in the mortgage market can become a "contagion" to the rest of the market. The negativity of the situation is not reassuring, but the losses reintroduce risk into the equation, something that has been significantly missing now for several years.

How far will the contagion spread? That is a (literally) million dollar question. Maybe billion or even trillion dollar question. The suspicion right now is that Bernanke and Paulson will put their heads together soon and add another shift to the government money printing presses to forestall any real damage.

Can you say inflation anyone?


It's Everwhare .....

Lest you think the media is only ridiculous when it comes to politics, check out this post excerpt discussing the financial news:

Please try to remember all the brainiacs that told you subprime mortgages were not a problem before the housing bubble cracked, then told you that HSBC’s early writeoffs were isolated to that one company, then told you subprime was a small part of the overall mortgage market, then told you that subprime woes were being overblown, then told you they were contained and investment banks like BSC had hedged the risk away, then told you the subprime component was a small risk to CDOs….

All right, I am getting tired of recounting all of this and I am sure you are too. But I really want to point out that the same morons that spouted all this wisdom are often called upon to address the current subprime fiasco and they will likely be asked to provide their “expert” testimony next time around. Please take the time to evaluate the quality of any commentators past thoughts on this and any other topic. Many of them have an agenda and are putting on a bullish spin to keep this market propped up.
Unless you're interested, don't pay attention to the content of that excerpt. Just look at the tone. CNBC and the financial media do the same thing that CNN, CBS, ABC et. al do. The lazy reporters develop relationships with the same pundits and call on them all the time, with no accountability. Same shit, different subject.


The Real Deal

Unlike some of the other Republican Congressional weenies who have "broken with Bush" over Iraq, this is the real deal:

WASHINGTON - Sen. Olympia Snowe on Wednesday became the second Republican to embrace a bill ordering troops out of Iraq as President Bush's national security adviser tried to stop defections from the White House war policy.

Snowe, R-Maine, joined Sen. Gordon Smith, R-Ore., in co-sponsoring a bill that would require troops to start leaving in 120 days. The bill also would end combat by April 30, 2008.
That's one. Now we only need about fifteen more Senators from the GOP to be as definitive.

Update: Atrios reminds me to be skeptical. Signing on to one bill doesn't mean a thing unless you're willing to work at as many bills as it takes. If "that" bill goes down in flames, will she support other bills that seek withdrawal? We'll see.


Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Snark Post of The Day

A post shamelessly stolen from Anonymous Liberal:

Via Andrew Sullivan, I came across this gem of a post by Mark Levin at The Corner:
So, the Iraqi government reportedly hasn't met any of its targets . Has the Democrat Congress met any of its targets?
That's the entirety of the post. No doubt an attempt at a snappy one liner. But let's run with that analogy.

Why hasn't the Democratic Congress been able to accomplish its goals this term? The primary culprits are obstructionist Republicans in the Senate and a stubborn president. So if the Democrats are the Iraqi government, what does that make the Senate Republicans and the President? Al Qaeda? Or maybe they're what Donald Rumsfeld once referred to as "pockets of dead-enders."
I really really wish I was that quick on my feet. I saw the quote by Sullivan earlier this morning and gave it the usual wanker sneer. Anonymous Liberal did a much MUCH better job of it.


The Ole' Be Afraid Gambit

Chertoff is out telling everyone that summer is a dangerous time for an al Qaeda attack! That's not news .... now is it? But check out the reasoning ......

WASHINGTON - U.S. counterterror officials are warning of an increased risk of an attack this summer, given al-Qaida‘s apparent interest in summertime strikes and increased al-Qaida training in the Afghan-Pakistani border region.
Now just wait a minute. Excuse me, and correct me if I'm wrong. But didn't we fight a war and occupy a country so there wouldn't be an "increased al-Qaida training in the Afghan-Pakistani border regions"? I mean, it seems to me that we still have troops there don't we? Why should we fear increased training of terrorist in an area that we've cleaned out? Isn't Chertoff's statement a bold-faced admission of failure in the Great War On Terra?


Bonus Quote

And it's a good one. From a profile in 2004 (via Rising Hegemon) done on now-outed D.C. Madam patron Senator David Vitter's wife:

Asked by an interviewer in 2000 whether she could forgive her husband if she learned he'd had an extramarital affair, as Hillary Clinton and Bob Livingston's wife had done, Wendy Vitter told the Times-Picayune: "I'm a lot more like Lorena Bobbitt than Hillary. If he does some thing like that, I'm walking away with one thing, and it's not alimony, trust me."
I wonder if Vitter removed the knives in the house before telling ole' Wendy?


Quote of the Day

AmericaBlog on John McCain's recent campaign meltdown .....

Ironic. In 2000, the Bush team destroyed McCain's presidential aspirations by running a fiercely negative campaign against him. In 2008, the Bush team destroyed McCain's presidential aspirations because the Senator remained fiercely loyal to the failed policies of the failed presidency of George Bush. George Bush is primary reason John McCain will never be President. Although, John McCain himself deserves a lot of credit, too.


Credit Float

Ok, so the home equity ATM is closed. So what should a consumer do?

WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) -- A surge in credit-card debt in May pushed outstanding U.S. consumer debt up at a 6.4% annual rate, or $12.9 billion, to $2.44 trillion, the Federal Reserve reported Monday.

Credit-card debts rose at a 9.8% annual rate in May, the most in six months after a revised 0.2% gain in April. Earlier, April's credit-card debt was originally reported as a 0.5% decline. Read the full government report.

The average interest rate on credit-card accounts rose to 13.46%, the highest in five years.


Message Alert

Froomkin reminds us of the likely future White House strategy for dealing with the Iraq freefall. If you're being attacked, co-opt the attackers!

Faced with potential political disaster, Rove never plays defense, he doesn't change course, he attacks the problem head on -- and tries to co-opt the opposition's position.

So it should come as no great surprise that, confronted with a tide of anti-war sentiment and a growing number of defecting Republican lawmakers, the White House is changing not its policy on Iraq, but its message.

Enter the new White House talking point: You want out? We want out, too!

It's a message that has the potential to deflate the growing public frenzy against President Bush's Iraq policy, except for one small problem: It's just talk.
I guess we could call it the sympathy attack. Poor President Bush. He's long suffering as a Preznit of war. And of course he wants the boys home to the bossum of their mommies as soon as possible! (wipes tear from his cheek).

Get ready cause here it comes!



Here is an example of a Republican Senator who has "bolted" from Bush ..... except he hasn't.

This is a classic example of what I wrote about yesterday:

This morning on CNN, Alexander undercut his own stated desire to change course. While announcing his support for an amendment that would adopt the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group, Alexander said, “The surge can be within this larger strategy of the Iraq Study Group.”


Madam Records

The DC Madam's records are now online.

Those nasty netrooters will be combing them. As they say. Developing .....


That's one. Senator David Vitter of Louisiana (R). He's also Rudy southern chairman. Boy, that Rudy knows how to pick em'.

Two? Rumor alert. Dick Cheney used the madam when at Halliburton? His office at Halliburton used her services to "entertain" dignitaries?


Regional War Anyone?

We've heard these types of threats before. Hopefully it's all just saber rattling ....

WASHINGTON, July 9 (UPI) -- Well-informed sources in Washington fear a confrontation between Syria and Israel may happen this summer. The sources say that Syrian intelligence is abuzz with activity reports of an imminent Israeli attack across the Golan Heights, while others believe it is Syria that is gearing up for war.

Dennis Ross, a former senior U.S. Middle East peace negotiator, was quoted by an Israeli newspaper as saying he thinks "there is a risk of war" between Syria and Israel in the summer. Ross told YnetNews, Yedioth Ahronoth's Internet edition, that "no one has made any decisions, but the Syrians are positioning themselves for war."

According to the former U.S. State Department official, "Syria has rearmed Hezbollah to the teeth -- there should be a price to pay for that." Ross added that the Bush administration should aim to "squeeze the Syrian economy" by using "sticks before carrots" in dealing with Damascus.


Friedman Time!

It's very clear that we simply need a couple of more Friedman's to get this straightened out:

WASHINGTON - A draft report to Congress on the war will conclude that the U.S.-backed government in Iraq has met none of its targets for political, economic and other reform, speeding up the Bush administration's reckoning on what to do next, a U.S. official said Monday.


A draft version of the report, expected to be presented to Congress on Thursday or Friday, circulated among various government agencies in Washington on Monday.

"The facts are not in question," the official told The Associated Press, speaking on condition of anonymity because the draft is still under discussion. "The real question is how the White House proceeds with a post-surge strategy in light of the report."
I can answer that. More Friedmans!
The official said it is highly unlikely that Bush will withhold or suspend some aid to the Iraqis based on the report, as he can do under the law.
Highly unlikely may be a bit of understatement. How about something about hell hitting 32'F.



Well, they've said it was coming. The news is reporting that the USS Enterprise is entering the Gulf. The Pentagon says it will swap out with an existing carrier, leaving two carrier groups. "Some" have suggested that three will stay as a prelude to an attack on Iran.

We shall soon see!


Iraq Conundrum .... Still

Bush doesn't know what to do. Iraq leaders are scared to death that they'll have that Mussolini moment. Turkey, with 140,000 troops on the border ready to attack the Kurds. Iran to the east supporting Shiite militias. Saudi's supporting Sunni militias and threatening the U.S. if they withdraw.

I thought this would be a good time for a musical interlude .......


Monday, July 9, 2007

Ever Seen A Wolf Get His Butt Kicked ...? Updated

Michael Moore kicks Wuff' Blitzers butt for all of us right here. Be sure and view this satisfying bit of video.

Update: As promised, Moore did a fact check on the story done by CNN. He is now claiming CNN libeled him.


Iraq Study Group

Joe Conason makes the classic case for why a Republican embrace of the Iraq Study Groups conclusions would result in a real break with the President. And clearly Conason is correct. Except for .......

Joe misses a key point. But he's not alone. I was listening to "Big Eddie" Schultz today on the radio and he is making the same error. And it's the error that Republicans want everyone to make.

That error is this. There is a very large difference between following the Iraq Study Groups recommendations (Conason correctly points out that the report is over 100 pages long) and saying you're implementing the ISG recommendations. Since the report was released, it has been widely misinterpreted by both the left and the right, acting as a sort of rorschach test of your position on the war. An example? Conason:

This too was predictable, especially because the Senate Democrats lacked the wit to adopt the bipartisan ISG recommendations for regional diplomacy and negotiated withdrawal and against military escalation.
However, the ISG report authorizes short term escalations to enforce security. Did they mean 20,000 troops? Did they mean more troops to guard convoys on the way out? What exactly does it mean? Here's another example from Conason:
The report explicitly demands that the U.S. and Iraqi governments sit down with their armed opponents to discuss all relevant issues -- most notably including a date for the withdrawal of American troops. Among its most startling recommendations for the steps the Bush administration can take to assist in Iraq's reconciliation is a negotiated approach to the redeployment of American forces.
Do you see an withdrawal date there? Some Iraqi's want us out today. Some, most notably the current government doesn't ever want us out. And do you see a location for "redeployment"? This "negotiation" component is merely taking the civil war to the negotiation table, assuming they'll all go and assuming anyone can agree. What if they don't?

In the ISG recommendations, the left saw withdrawal, the right saw redeployment. The left saw negotiations with Syria and Iran, the right saw a surge of troops prior to redeployment. In fact Bush has often argued, and I think correctly, that without specifically announcing it, he is following the ISG recommendations.

Remember, none of the Republican defectors thus far have said to withdraw. They've all said to redeploy to permanent bases, an essential return to the Bush policies prior to the recent escalation. Conason may or may not be technically correct that a call for following the ISG recommendations means a break from Bush policy. But he misses the key point that the devil's in the details of the reading of those recommendations and their implementation. And that's no minor detail. Conason's final graf:
Of course, the ISG report is not a blueprint for immediate redeployment, as many Democrats would wish. When the report was issued last winter, however, it represented a useful bipartisan alternative to the continuing escalation and permanent war policies of the Bush administration -- and it would have led inexorably to the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq. It still does, and it still would.
Maybe Joe. When you read the report there are a whole lot of maybe's. Maybe the U.S. could begin to negotiate with Syria, Iran, al Sistani and al Sadr. But what if they don't want to? What if negotiations break down? As the now old saying goes, what is plan B? And again, "redeploy" where? Permanent Iraqi bases outside the cities? Kuwait? Saudi Arabia? A bunch of aircraft carriers in the gulf? That's a whole lot of where's now isn't it? And Conason seems to think that somehow redeployment translates into withdrawal. I got news for ya Joe .......

I see Conason's piece, and the emerging conventional wisdom, as merely setting the clock back to before escalation, and an attempt to maintain the denial structure to the reality that we've lost. The same dangers and impossibilities exist that existed then when Bush felt he needed a "new approach" and when the ISG made their recommendations. A wholesale embrace of the ISG recommendations is merely, again, giving Republicans cover to continue the war, and a continuing waste of American lives.


Sara Taylor

As you may know Sara Taylor, the former Rove aid, is scheduled to testify before Congress this week. She has said she'd be glad to testify. Bush is claiming executive priviledge. But can Bush stop Taylor, a former aide, from talking?


Actually, Ms. Taylor has no LEGAL choice in the matter. Executive privilege is not hers to assert. If the White House wishes to assert executive privilege, it must seek a court order quashing the Congressional subpoena on such grounds. The President has NO LEGAL POWER over Ms. Taylor. A Congressional subpoena is binding on Ms. Taylor unless quashed. To coin a phrase, Ms. Taylor has no STANDING to claim executive privilege.
Didn't stop Bush from claiming priviledge. But Pat Leahy has his number and is saying that the claim of priviledge won't stop any testimony. It's now up to Bush to go to court, to get the subpoena quashed via making the case about why Taylor should not be compelled to testify.

Stay tuned. The courts might finally get to weigh in on the whole Congress/President showdown.



Did you know that John McCain has less money in the bank for his Pres. candidacy than Ron Paul? That, and his current trip to Iraq, is spurring speculation that McCain is about to flip-flop on Iraq. I'll believe when I see. And if I see, I don't think it'll mean much.


Remember The Alamo

It appears a few soldiers are unhappy at being stationed in Alamo's throughout Iraq.

BAGHDAD — The neighborhood outposts that the U.S. military launched with great fanfare in Baghdad early this year were supposed to put more American patrols on the streets and make residents feel safer. But some soldiers stationed at the posts and Iraqis who live nearby say they are doing the opposite.

The outposts, along with joint U.S.-Iraqi security stations, form a cornerstone of the current Iraq strategy. Following a classic counterinsurgency tenet, military planners are trying to take U.S. forces out of their distant, sprawling military bases and into the day-to-day lives of Iraqis.

Although senior U.S. commanders and mid-level officers say they believe the bases are starting to work, many soldiers stationed at the outposts are doubtful, arguing that the burden of protecting the bases means they spend less time on the streets.

"They say we are spending more time 'in sector,' which we are doing — we live here," said Spc. Tyrone Richardson, 24, a member of Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 8th Cavalry, that operates in the east Baghdad neighborhood of Ubaidi, outside Sadr City. "But we aren't spending the time patrolling."

Iraqis who live nearby say they feel less safe now, because many of the bases have quickly become magnets for rocket and mortar attacks. When attacks miss the troops, they often hit Iraqi civilians.
But hey. Who in their right minds could have predicted such a development?


This Is Why

Why is our President so stupid? Check out this headline:

Via Juan Cole:

The "Islamic State in Iraq" led by Abu Umar al-Bagdadi, has theatened to target Iran unless it ceases its support for Shiite groups in Iraq.
Now let's review the bidding. A Sunni radical group in Iraq ..... a vastly majority Shiite Iraq that is friendly to Iran .... is threatening Iran.

Gee. Do you think Iraqi Shiites might have something to say about that? But hey, why should they break a sweat when American soldiers will do the fighting for them.



PCE and Mew

I'm a chart person. And this one is interesting:

(Click to enlarge)

First, a few definitions. PCE (the blue line) = Personal Consumption Expenditures, aka Chucky, aka consumer spending. MEW (the red line) = Mortgage Equity Withdrawal aka the home ATM.

What really surprises me is that despite heavy heavy withdrawals of cash from home equities, consumer spending wasn't much higher! You'd think with all that cash withdrawal, the PCE number would have gone up more dramatically. Is this simply a function of baby boomers retiring early and using reverse mortgages?

The economy is completely and totally being floated by consumers and their spending. You have to wonder that, without the Home ATM, would we be in a very serious recession already, and are we headed for one now that the Home ATM is drying up? And if it is boomers draining their house savings, what do they do when it dries up? Like most economic matters, more questions than answers.


Dontcha Loveit

Did you know that if the U.S. withdraws from Iraq, that it could blow up into a civil war? REAlly ...

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraqi leaders warned on Monday that an early U.S. troop withdrawal could tip Iraq into all-out civil war after the New York Times said debate was growing in the White House over a gradual draw-down of forces.

The stark comments from politicians across the sectarian divide followed a wave of bombings and shootings in Iraq at the weekend that killed 250 people.
Fascinating. Do you think that these "Iraqi Leaders" have vested interest in keeping an American occupation in place to prevent a Mussolini moment for each of them?

Seriously. If Iraqi leaders have to actually contend with their country without an American presence, perhaps negotiations can really take place. But just how serious do I have to be as an Iraq statesman if I have a Bradley tank behind me?


One More Nail

If you thought that U.S. auto manufacturing was in trouble. Just wait .....

Angry Bear:

Chrysler, in the midst of a private equity buyout, has done a deal with a Chinese manufacturer to manufacture cars for the US market.

Neither the Big 2+1 or the foreign brands (Toyota, Honda, etc.) will be able to compete with labor which will likely cost $10 - $20 per worker per day.

This will not be an overnight phenomena, but I fear this is one more nail in the coffin of US manufacturing in general, not just the auto sector.
Ouch. In time, there'll be no auto manufacturing in the U.S .... that is unless energy costs become prohibitive and counterbalance the labor savings. And that is possible. The international redistribution of wealth is completely dependent on cheap energy. But as long as we can ship water in little petroleum bottles all over the place, this trend of globalization will certainly continue.


Pure Speculation

Is pressure really building on Bush to change course in Iraq?

From Slate:

The New York Times leads with the growing debate within the White House over whether President Bush should announce a plan to start gradually withdrawing troops from Iraq in order to avoid more Republicans from speaking up against the war. Although administration officials were hoping to avoid this kind of talk until the much-anticipated progress report in September, waiting no longer seems to be an option. "Sept. 15 now looks like an end point for debate, not a starting point," one official tells the paper.
Who's debating? Where did they get this information on the "debate"? It appears to me that administration "officials" are trying to influence Cheney Bush. And we know how well that works.

And how about this:
Four more Republican senators have recently declared that they can no longer support Mr. Bush’s strategy, including senior lawmakers who until now had expressed their doubts only privately. As a result, some aides are now telling Mr. Bush that if he wants to forestall more defections, it would be wiser to announce plans for a far more narrowly defined mission for American troops that would allow for a staged pullback, a strategy that he rejected in December as a prescription for defeat when it was proposed by the bipartisan Iraq Study Group.
First of all, it would almost appear as a great political strategy. Do a "surge" escalating the war dramatically so that a "pullback" position of permanent occupation of Iraq looks like a "shift" in policy. What a joke. This is like one big (pardon my french) circle jerk in which staffers are trying to influence Bush via the media, the media swallowing the story whole making it appear as a "shift", and a continuing occupation of Iraq.

As I've contended many times, the war will continue in earnest as long as American soliders and contractors are in Iraq. Any "redeployment" within the country will be seen as a continued occupation. The war in Iraq will not end during Bush's term until and unless serious Republicans come out against any further occupation. And given the strength of Republican backbones in Congress, they'll continue to make P.R. announcements which look like a "change in policy on Iraq" but which in fact are full of hot air.


Very Pentagonian

You just can't make it up:

The LAT notes some in the military are concerned soldiers deployed in Iraq are eating too many fattening foods, which is resulting in weight gain and general health problems, such as high cholesterol.
Glad they've got their priorities right. They'll probably solve the problem by hiring McDonalds as a contractor.


Sunday, July 8, 2007

Zero Confidence

Looks like al Maliki is facing a no-confidence vote in the Iraqi parliament. A group of representatives called "The Iraq Project" is leading the effort, and they claim they have the votes .....

(CBS) For four years, Iraqis have been waiting in lines at gas stations in Baghdad, waiting for their lives to get better. But, as CBS News chief foreign correspondent Lara Logan reports, the situation has gotten worse and their government is now in crisis.

That has led senior Iraqi leaders to demand drastic change. CBS News has learned that on July 15, they plan to ask for a no-confidence vote in the Iraqi parliament as the first step to bringing down the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

Even those closest to the Iraqi prime minister, from his own party, admit the political situation is desperate.

"I feel there is no strategy, so the people become hopeless," said Faliy al Fayadh, an MP from the Dawa Party. "You can live without petrol, without electricity, but you can't live without hope."

Iraq's prime minister is facing his most serious challenge yet. The no-confidence vote will be requested by the largest block of Sunni politicians, who are part of a broad political alliance called the Iraq Project. What they want is a new government run by ministers who are appointed for their expertise, not their party loyalty.
If he loses, will he step down? What will the U.S. do given that they still, at least publically, support him? And just who is the "Iraq Project" and are they more amenable to negotiating with Sunni's insurgents?


Faux News

If you're interested, and if you can stomach it, go take a look at this YouTube piece on Lesbian Gangs going wild! Did you know that Lesbians and "Dykes" are all over the country, a secret underground terrorist group that is going to destroy the country!? Yep, they are!


Fitzgerald to Testify?

Will the Senate call Patrick Fitzgerald to testify? According to Chuck Schumer, they're considering it.


"Dumb As Hell"

More on Fred Thompson as Nixon's mole on the Senate Watergate panel.

Via Digby:

Those tapes show Thompson played a behind-the-scenes role that was very different from his public image three decades ago. He comes across as a partisan willing to cooperate with the Nixon White House's effort to discredit the committee's star witness.

It was Thompson who tipped off the White House that the Senate committee knew about the tapes. They eventually cinched Nixon's downfall in the scandal resulting from the break-in at Democratic headquarters in the Watergate complex in Washington and the subsequent White House cover-up.

Thompson, then 30, was appointed counsel by his political mentor, Tennessee Sen. Howard Baker, the top Republican on the Senate investigative committee. Thompson had been an assistant U.S. attorney in Nashville, Tenn., and had managed Baker's re-election campaign. Thompson later was a senator himself.

Nixon was disappointed with the selection of Thompson, whom he called "dumb as hell." The president did not think Thompson was skilled enough to interrogate unfriendly witnesses and would be outsmarted by the committee's Democratic counsel.

This assessment comes from audio tapes of White House conversations recently reviewed by The Associated Press at the National Archives in College Park, Md., and transcripts of those discussions that are published in "Abuse of Power: The New Watergate Tapes," by historian Stanley Kutler.

"Oh s---, that kid," Nixon said when told by his chief of staff, H.R. Haldeman, of Thompson's appointment on Feb. 22, 1973.

"Well, we're stuck with him," Haldeman said.

In a meeting later that day in the Old Executive Office Building, Baker assured Nixon that Thompson was up to the task. "He's tough. He's six feet five inches, a big mean fella," the senator told Nixon.

Publicly, Baker and Thompson presented themselves as dedicated to uncovering the truth. But Baker had secret meetings and conversations with Nixon and his top aides, while Thompson worked cooperatively with the White House and accepted coaching from Nixon's lawyer, J. Fred Buzhardt, the tapes and transcripts show.
That's interesting to know.


A Great Suggestion

Via Digby.

Shouldn't all Pres. candidates, most particularly the Republican candidates, be asked about their positions on birth control? Wouldn't such questions really expose' the nutbars? Questions below:

1. Do you support the right to use contraception?

2. Would you support legislations that requires pharmacies to both stock and fill prescriptions for birth control pills including Plan B emergency contraception?

3. As President (Senator/Congresswoman) would you support continued funding of Title X, which provides contraception and related reproductive health care services to low-income women?

4. Would you support legislation that require hospitals to offer information and prescriptions of emergency contraception to victims of sexual assault?

5. Would you support legislation requiring schools to include information about contraception as part of any sex ed curriculum?

6. Would you support legislation requiring health insurance providers to cover oral contraceptives in their prescription plans?


Colin Come Lately

Colin Powell is out trying to resurrect his reputation again.

Former Secretary of State Colin Powel revealed that he spent 2.5 hours “vainly trying to persuade President George W. Bush not to invade Iraq and believes today’s conflict cannot be resolved by U.S. forces. ‘I tried to avoid this war,’ Powell said at the Aspen Ideas Festival in Colorado. ‘I took him through the consequences of going into an Arab country and becoming the occupiers.’” In terms of the current situation in Iraq, Powell said: “It is not a civil war that can be put down or solved by the armed forces of the United States.”
This isn't big news. And many other officials have said much the same kind of thing. But for some reason Colin Powell's attempts to clear his air really piss me off.

I think I might be particularly angry with Powell because it's possible that he may have been the only one who could have stopped the war. His performance at the U.N. gave unprecedented credibility to Bush's claims about Iraq. Had Powell resigned in protest and made his arguments public, it may .... I repeat may ... have stopped the momentum for war. Of course we'll never know, but I can't think of anyone else who was in that position who had their head on relatively straight.



There was a huge bomb that went off north of Baghdad. It's killed well over a hundred a couple of hundred people, a lot of them women and children. They don't know the exact death toll because of the tradition of immediate burial in Iraq. Why is this important? Because the Sunni's were sending a message ......

Juan Cole translates the blast into English for us:

First, even 160,000 US troops cannot provide security to the whole country. The guerrillas are announcing that if they are prevented from operating in the Karrada neighborhood of Baghdad, they will just shift operations to Samarra (an hour's drive due north of Baghdad) or Tuz Khurmato.

Moreover, they are saying that they are just as capable of waving a read flag in front of the Shiite bull even if they aren't in Baghdad. Thus, they hit a sacred Shiite shrine again at Samarra. And Tuz Khurmato is a largely Shiite Turkmen city of some 63,000, surrounded by villages with a similar composition, like the one that was blown up Saturday. Although Turkmen Shiites had in earlier decades been removed from the formal, clerically-dominated Shiism of Najaf, practicing instead a folk religion, in the 1990s Ayatollah Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr reached out to them and brought many of them into orthodox Twelver Shiism. Arab Shiites now feel solidarity with them, and on occasion young cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has sent Mahdi Army fighters up to protect them. The Badr Corps of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council has also attempted to attract their loyalty. Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki denounced the bombing as the work of Sunni extremists who declare that Shiite Muslims are actually infidels.
The war goes on. And they'll keep sending "messages" until someone listens.