Friday, September 28, 2007

You Only Die Twice

Hey this is pretty good. Kill a dead guy:

The U.S. military announced today that it has killed a “senior leader of al Qaeda in Iraq.” Brig. Gen. Joseph Anderson “identified the man as Abu Usama al-Tunisi, a Tunisian described as a close associate and likely successor to Abu Ayyub al-Masri, Al-Qaeda in Iraq’s Egyptian leader.”


But terrorism analyst Evan Kohlman issued a “global terror alert” last year stating that al-Tunisi had died in July 2006. Kohlman’s report quotes a release from a terrorist group:

“The martyrdom of Abu Usama al-Tunisi [from Tunisia], the commander of [Al-Qaida’s] Aeisha Brigade [tasked with air defense missions]… I announce the news to the Islamic nation regarding the martyrdom of one of its heroes and true men.”

While it’s possible that there could have been two different Abu Usama al-Tunisis, it is the responsibility of news organizations to resolve these kinds of questions and double-check the facts before reporting them.

Moreover, there is reason for skepticism. In July, the U.S. command in Baghdad “ballyhooed the killing of a key al Qaeda leader but later admitted that the military had declared him dead a year ago.” Also in July, the military announced the capture of a “top leader of al Qaeda in Iraq” who had been captured weeks ago.
Isn't it bad enough that these guys seem to come out of the woodwork. Do we really need to kill them more than once?


War Without End

To all those who continue to think there is a difference between Republicans and Democrats please take a look at who voted to continue funding the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq:

The Senate (note: the only senator who voted no was Russ Feingold)
The House (note: one of only 14 congressional reps who voted no was Dennis Kucinich)

As a final note, of the presidential candidates in the House and Senate, the only two who bothered to vote were Kucinich and Paul.



Do you want to know where the next economic bubble will be?:

Via Kevin Drum:

most farmers earned between $100 and $400 an acre on their 2006 crop after expenses, depending on whether they owned or rented their land. That translates into profits of $100,000 to $400,000 on a 1,000-acre farm. The USDA predicts that net farm income will be $87.1 billion this year, up nearly 50 percent over 2006.

Iowa farmland values are up 18 percent in the past 12 months, according to Federal Reserve Board surveys, making millionaires on paper out of any farmers owning 200 acres free and clear.
Gee. I wonder why? Check out these graphs on prices:





And finally the biggie, Wheat:

But, then again, there's no inflation. Right? And the biggest irony of all is that corn and wheat are the direct result of the numbskull idea of making more ethanol, which requires more energy input than it produces while still producing greenhouse gases.

Nothing to see here, move along ....


Go Ahead, Divide

The U.S. Senate has voted to divide Iraq.

I thought that was up to the Iraqi's? (slaps himself in the face). Oh yeah, that's right, we're helping them stand up so we can stand down.


I'm Shocked

They lie as easily as they breath:

Spencer Akerman:

Over the past week, we've been reporting that U.S. government sources have disputed Mike McConnell's account to Congress that FISA Court rulings unreasonably delayed surveillance on Iraqi insurgents who kidnapped U.S. troops this spring. The sources blamed cumbersome bureaucratic hurdles for the delay, not the court, and questioned why obtaining an emergency surveillance order -- good for 72 hours before approval by a judge -- should have taken so long to acquire.
You've got to wonder what the point is of Congressional hearings if there are no consequences to bold faced lying when questioned?


Beyond Our Means

Here's a post reprinted in full. It just can't be said any better than this:

I look at that chart, I wonder how bad our economy really is. If we have so many borrowers in trouble of defaulting on their mortgages and going into foreclosure when rates are at these historically low levels, things must be really bad. I could see if we had 30-year mortgage rates at 10% or above 15% like several of the other recessions (shaded areas), but it’s tough to imagine having trouble at 6.42%. It’s easy to get focused on the subprime problem or general mortgage crisis and limit the concerns to just housing. But when I look at the historical chart, I worry more about what this means for consumers. You cannot have it both ways and say the spending data suggests the consumer is still strong while we have so many homeowners who cannot afford a 30-year mortgage at 6.42% much less a 15-year at 6.1% or a 5-year ARM at 6.15% or even a 1-year ARM 5.6%. The reality is that homeowners are in trouble with their mortgage because they are in trouble with all other aspects of their consumption. Millions of people are living from paycheck-to-paycheck and credit card-to-credit card in this economy. It’s not just the mortgage.
This is really important. Were seeing huge numbers of default yet interest rates are really very very low relatively. Why? And yet, at the same time consumers are spending like crazy even though they're earning less. What gives? I think part of the answer is inflation. Higher prices mean that people are paying a lot more for even the same amount of goods which equals "higher consumer spending". This "confounds" government economists, but that's because they don't measure inflation at anything close to reality. But second I think consumers continue to spend on credit. If not the housing ATM, then credit cards.

At some point the music will stop. When that happens, there will be a lot of economic pain and cleansing. The bazillion dollar question is when?



A U.K. economist gives us a bit of a history lesson (via TMTGM):

Here Sir Martin Wolf reminds us of what happened in the late sixties:

The big US inflation of the 1970s was set in motion in 1968. In June 1968, headline CPI crossed over 4 per cent. In September 1968, perhaps under political pressure, the Fed lowered the Fed funds rate by 25 basis points to 5.75 per cent. It reversed this by December and then started raising rates sharply, peaking the next year over 9 per cent. In hindsight, that was viewed as an irresponsibly accommodative Fed. In comparison, the 50bps cut by the Bernanke Fed is “cowboy Keynesianism”.
I wonder what the "political pressure" was that he refers to *cough*Vietnam*cough*. We had a war that was bleeding the nation dry of resources and a government spending money like a drunken sailor. Money was printed as fast as the presses could be loaded with ink.

Sound familiar?

I think the recent Fed decision to lower interest rates was a mistake, an over reaction. I think there's a good chance that in the next six months the Fed will have to reverse course due to inflation. Make no mistake, although the government numbers don't show it (thanks to a sleight of hand), we are in an growing inflationary environment that is going to get nothing but worse.


Thursday, September 27, 2007

Legislative Opportunity

Will Congress be passing a resolution condemning such outrageous behavior? Limpbaugh talking about soldiers who oppose the war:

CALLER 2: No, it’s not, and what’s really funny is, they never talk to real soldiers. They like to pull these soldiers that come up out of the blue and talk to the media.

LIMBAUGH: The phony soldiers.

CALLER 2: The phony soldiers. If you talk to a real soldier, they are proud to serve. They want to be over in Iraq. They understand their sacrifice, and they’re willing to sacrifice for their country.
My pearls are strangling me just now.


Too Cool

Ever feel like a fugue?


Home Sales

I suspect the plethora of our readers already know this, but home sales continue to tank:

As good as the housing market was, it's now bad. What effect it will ultimately have on the economy is anyone's guess. But I don't think it too much of a stretch to speculate that consumers will be affected.


Wednesday, September 26, 2007


This makes me so mad I could spit nails:

* MSNBC: “Bomb attacks killed 57 people and wounded more than 120 across Iraq on Wednesday as suspected al-Qaida militants stepped up a campaign of violence coinciding with the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. In a mainly Shiite district of southwest Baghdad, twin car bombs killed 32 people in one of the biggest attacks to hit the Iraq capital in weeks.”
Now how in the hell do they know it's al Qaeda? Talk about drinking the administrations koolaid. But it's now become common place to blame "terrorists" rather than what is most likely is, a civil war.



Anyone who claims racism is dead, or even dying, is plain nuts. Here's an excerpt from a post by Digby that demands reprint and dispersion:

Anyone claiming that racism is no longer alive and well in the United States, in addition to considering the race-driven circumstances surrounding the Jena 6, or statistics demonstrating that prosecutors are far more likely to seek the death penalty when the victim is white than when the victim is black (particularly if the defendant is black), or studies demonstrating that blacks receive harsher sentences than whites for equivalent drug crimes, or the fact that even though more whites per capita smoke marihuana than blacks, blacks are arrested and prosecuted at a far higher rate, should read a recent study by Princeton University examining employment discrimination titled “Discrimination in Low Wage Labor Markets.”

In the largest and most comprehensive project of its kind to date, 13 young male applicants, presenting the same qualifications and experience, split into teams and went on nearly 3,500 entry-level job interviews with private companies in supposedly left-leaning, "progressive", multicultural New York City, jobs ranging from restaurants to manufacturing to financial services. After recording which applicants were invited back for interviews or were offered jobs, two sociology professors looked at the hiring practices of 1,500 prospective private employers, focusing specifically on discrimination against young male minorities and ex-offenders.

Some of the study's findings are depressingly familiar. For instance, young white high school graduates were twice as likely to receive positive responses from New York employers as equally qualified black job seekers. It also reaffirmed not only that former prisoners are at a distinct disadvantage in the job market, but also that, again, black ex-prisoners are in a much worse position: positive responses from employers towards white applicants with a criminal record dipped 35 percent, while for black applicants similarly situated it plummeted 57 percent.

However, the study revealed that our society's racism extends even deeper: black applicants with no criminal record were no more likely to get a job than white applicants with criminal records just released from prison! In other words, while whites with criminal records received low rates of positive responses, such response rates were equally low for blacks without a criminal background. Further exposing the overt racism at play was the study's finding that minority employers were more accepting of minority applicants and job applicants with prison records.

Any questions?


A Trip Down Memory Lane

Joe Galloway (via Atrios), a very shrill lefty pundit, takes us on an instructive walk down memory lane and uses that info to make a prediction that is a virtual sure bet:

Once again, the Bush administration is flimflamming the hapless Democratic majority in Congress into rushing an important piece of legislation into law without serious thought or debate about the implications.

Although Congress passed a temporary extension of the FISA law in August that carries it through to February, the administration is already back demanding the immediate passage of a permanent law that permits the government to snoop on all private communications.

They’ve also requested a few “improvements” to the law, including a retroactive waiver of liability for the big telecommunications companies that gave the government unfettered warrantless access to phone calls and e-mail communications in violation of existing law.

The other “improvements” that the White House wants, and our intelligence chiefs say they need, would broaden the already bloated power of the executive branch.

This, even as one member of Congress revealed this week that the temporary extension of the snooping law was jammed through in August when administration officials stampeded legislators by revealing secret information about an alleged terrorist plot to bomb the Capitol. Which, surprise, never materialized.

That was a good one. What will they do to frighten Congress this time? Threaten to send Osama bin Laden the home addresses of every member of Congress who opposes them?
I love the line about the attack that never materialized. But there is an unlimited supply of boogeymen in the closet, so let's see who they drag out this time. Congress critters are the most easily punked group in the nation.


Weirdness Factor

Rudy Guiliani is, indeed, very weird.


Voting With Dollars

I hope this portends good things:

* According to the latest fundraising tallies, the DCCC has $22.1 million in the bank, and $3.1 million in debt, for a total of $19 million. It’s Republican counterpart, the NRCC, has $1.6 million in the bank, and $4 million in debt, for a total of negative $2.4 million. That’s just astounding. No wonder House Republicans are freaking out.


Larry Craig

Pop quiz time.

Is Larry "tapping toes" Craig still a U.S. Senator?

Yes he is. I think he's trying a new political strategy. Let everyone think he's gone and then become a stealth Senator. Maybe no one will notice?


Bed Wetter Nation?

I think.


Always A Winner

Our media. Our leaders. Everything is ok all the time ....:

From AFP:

BAGHDAD (AFP) - Iraq was on Wednesday rocked by powerful car and suicide bombings that killed 28 people, bringing the toll in a three-day surge of bloodletting across the country to about 70, officials said.

"There was an increase in violence in the past few days," US military spokesman Major General Kevin Bergner told reporters in Baghdad. "We had been expecting it."
You see? They've been expecting it. It's all just part of the process as things get better! More violence equals improvement!



The Art Of Punditry

I've been thinking a bit about punditry. Particularly, why it is that liberals aren't taken seriously ....

I was reading my usual morning fare which includes a number of economics blogs. Several are written by dyed-in-the-wool bears who often make very dire prognostications. I find myself dismissing them as Chicken Little's. But unfortunately, they're usually correct eventually.

So why is it that a thinker/writer/pundit can be both correct and dismissed? And why particularly on the progressive side?

I think the answer lies in the fact that change occurs much more slowly than the ability of people to evaluate the future. Take for example health care. I remember in the mid 80's as a newish therapists noticing the advent of "managed care". At the time, I felt (and often said) that the state of health care was in the toilet and going down the drain. Coverages for treatments were harder to get, reimbursement rates dropped, and quality of care began deteriorating. Many analysts and thinkers noted these changes and boldly predicted a health care meltdown. But in the body politic, voters confronted the news with a yawn. As progressives like Teddy Kennedy began pushing for universal health care, he was seen as "fringy" and hyperbolic as he predicted a health care meltdown.

Fast forward to today and we have had, in fact, a health care meltdown. But it's occurring so slowly that people are adapting on the way down. Thus we now just take it as normal that "xyz isn't covered" and that service stinks, that insurance companies routinely screw people. But has anyone noticed that Ted Kennedy was right? Has his reputation in the general public changed materially because he was correct?

I think it's the nature of progressives to look towards the future, desire change to improve things that they see as flawed. If you look far enough into the future, the flaws look like an avalanche of crappola that spurs progressives to end up sounding like Chicken Littles. Contrast that with conservatives who embrace the slow pace of change (and in fact often want to go backwards) and thus do not seem as often to fall victim to the reputations of being hyperbolic.

I could point out other issues like the economy, inflation, credit, civil liberties, veterans care, infrastructure and on and on. I think we're witnessing nothing short of the fall of a great nation into mediocrity. A bold statement about the present and the future that seems hyperbolic given that most people's lives are still relatively good. And if you make a similar statement, you are immediately labeled by the great middle as "fringy".

I guess it's not until a gathering of forces in the form of a storm of some sort hits that people begin to believe all the apparent hyperbolic predictions of prognosticators. And even then, real change will be slow. And while the substance of predictions comes to pass, the reputations of those who make the predictions usually sticks forever.

One last example. T. Boone Pickens, the oil barron, made a prediction awhile back that everyone thought was nuts. But because it was said by him, it got a whole bunch of press. He predicted oil would hit $80/barrel. The reaction to his prediction fell into the category of "we think T. Boone may have lost it". When interviewed the other day he wryly said something along the lines that he was going to have to now rethink that prediction. He said it with a slight smile.

Added: Want a here/now example? Read this. And while his thinking is reasoned and backed with solid data, everyone will yawn about it as long as they can drive their SUV's. And thus, valuable time is lost (more valuable time) even though the imminence of the event is apparent, including it's far reaching consequences.


Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Upcoming Fun

One thing that will make the next election particularly fun will be this:

Kevin Spacey, Laura Dern, Denis Leary, John Hurt, Tom Wilkinson, Ed Begley Jr. and Bob Balaban have been set by HBO Films to star in “Recount,” the drama about the controversial Florida results in the 2000 presidential election.

Jay Roach is directing a script written by Danny Strong.

Spacey, who hasn’t done television since the 1991 biopic “Darrow,” stars as Ron Klain, former chief of staff for vice president Al Gore and one of the lead attorneys who challenged the disputed results of voting in Florida.

Dern plays Katherine Harris, the Secretary of State of Florida who became the center of controversy when she certified that George W. Bush won the state.

Begley plays David Boies, the lawyer who appealed the results and argued for the Democrats in court. Leary plays Michael Whouley, a pollster on the Democrat side and Hurt plays Warren Christopher, a key player in the Gore camp. Wilkinson plays James Baker, brought in by the Republicans to see that the disputed results held up. Balaban plays Ben Ginsberg, the lead attorney for Bush and Dick Cheney.


Recount,” which will begin shooting shortly next month in Florida, will air during the heat of the presidential campaign in 2008.
Given who's involved, I suspect this will not be a Republican hatchet job. Get the pearls and hankey's ready for the whining Republicans though.


Quote of The Day

“Kennedy got us to the moon,George Bush’s energy policy wouldn’t get us to Cleveland.”
Rep. Jay Inslee (D-WA), who sharply criticized Bush’s decision to skip the U.N. meeting and his destructive global warming policies.


That's Two

I've read about this now in a couple of places over the last couple of days ....

Bill Sammon, adapting part of his new book, 'The Evangelical President,' for the Washington Examiner, writes: "President Bush is quietly providing back-channel advice to Hillary Rodham Clinton, urging her to modulate her rhetoric so she can effectively prosecute the war in Iraq if elected president. . . .
Of course the media is reporting this straight faced as if Bush really cared about the country or something.

Can anyone think of a reason that Bush, and the Republicans, would be annoiting Hillary Clinton as the Democratic Presidential nominee? Could it possibly be that there's a motive in coming out "for" Hillary? Could it be that they've looked at the polls and know that Edwards clobbers all the Republicans or that Guiliani matches up more favorably to Clinton?

I don't exactly why or what motivates the leaking of these revelations about Bush back channeling to Clinton. But rest assured, it's not for the reasons that are apparent and it's certainly not for the Democrats (or the nation's) good.


Live By Wank, Die By Wank

Speaks for itself:



If you watch TV, you've likely seen the IPod Nano commercial with the catchy 1234 song. The performer is Leslie Feist. Here's the original video which is pretty catchy:


Low Polls

One possible reason Kucinich and Gravel are so low in the polls: the polls aren't asking about them.


Monday, September 24, 2007

Good Point

I think this is an excellent point on how history will look back at this period of time:

Iran is a sexy story right now, and rightfully so. But when the dust of history settles on the Iraq War, I'm not sure that the unleashing of Iran will rate as its most significant adverse outcome. That honor might very well go to the deterioration of the American-Turkish strategic alliance. Because unlike Iraq or Iran, which we never really stood a chance of winning over, Turkey was already on our side. And we're in the process of losing it, at the very moment when religious Muslims have begun to dominate the Turkish political scene.
And not just Turkey, but the middle east in general as well as the developing world. The U.S. and the western world's embrace of Bush have led to a radioactivity that can't do anything but help extremists in the region.

I'm going to predict that someday, probably in my lifetime, the U.S. will be negotiating with national leaders who are current al Qaeda members.


Good News, Bad News

The good news is you'll be able to sail from Alaska to Europe year round. The bad news?

You're not supposed to and coastal communities will have lots of new beach property:

Hitting a record low on September 16, 2007, the Arctic lost half a million square miles of ice compared to its last record low just two years ago.

For all the details, check out the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) website, which notes “the Northwest Passage is still open, but is starting to refreeze. We are still on track for an ice free Arctic by 2030, decades ahead of the climate models.



Just in case you weren't aware, there are some very very serious people in the so-called thinking class who are plain nuts:

Via Froomkin:

I find Dan Friedman writing for the American Thinker: "All the damaging consequences of all the blunders the President has committed to date in Iraq are reversible in 48- to 72-hours - the time it will take to destroy Iran's fragile nuclear supply chain from the air. And since the job gets done using mostly stand-off weapons and stealth bombers, not one American soldier, sailor or airman need suffer as much as a bruised foot."

But wouldn't that backfire at least as badly as Iraq? Wouldn't the Iranians strike back?

Not at all, Friedman insists: "They would stand before mankind with their pants around their ankles, dazed, bleeding, crying, reduced to bloviating from mosques in Teheran and pounding their fists on desks at the UN. . . .

"Miracles would be seen here at home. Democratic politicians are dumbstruck, silent for a week. With one swing of his mighty bat, the President has hit a dramatic walk-off homerun. He goes from goat to national hero overnight. The elections in November are a formality. Republicans keep the White House and recapture both houses of Congress."
And we'd all be reduced to dancing in the streets, singing God Bless Amurika and buying gasoline at $.20/gal.

There are a very large number of supposedly serious people who think just like this. The pressure has to be mounting for Bush to throw a hail mary.

I love the premise of this statement. Imagine for a moment if he were talking about Germany, or England, or the U.S. No one would ever assume that all the good little white westerners would stand for such an attack. But the contempt for little brown people is palpable. We know how much the Iraqi's have been "stand[ing] before mankind with their pants around their ankles, dazed, bleeding, crying, reduced to bloviating from mosques in Teheran and pounding their fists on desks at the UN ... It's exactly this kind of psuedo muscular crappola that has us in the fix were in. If we attack Iran I expect you can see the Iraq situation but on steroids.

Added: Digby asks a good question regarding this quote:
(Can someone explain to me why right wingers always, always describe the vanquishment of their enemies as being the victims of anal rape ...pants around their ankles, dazed, bleeding, crying..?)
Makes you go hmmmmm.


Healthcare Surrender Monkeys

Ever since reading Nickel and Dimed I've been a Barbara Ehrenreich fan. One more reason why:

Bow your heads and raise the white flags. After facing down the Third Reich, the Japanese Empire, the USSR, Manuel Noriega and Saddam Hussein, the United States has met an enemy it dares not confront—the American private health insurance industry. With the courageous exception of Dennis Kucinich, the Democratic candidates have all rolled out health "reform" plans that represent total, Chamberlain-like, appeasement.

She puts into words exactly what I'm feeling. After hearing Clinton's health care plan I thought the Republicans couldn't have put together anything more favorable to corporate America. With Democrats like this, who needs Republicans?


Hey Buddy, Can I Have A Nuke

Larry Johnson has a great post up about why the moving of nuclear weapons does not happen by accident.

The short version? There's no way it was an accident and the nukes ended up at an airbase that is used for Middle East operations.


Unfortunately ... From My State

I've thought that Diane Feinstein was somewhat of a joke for a long time. I call her "Lieberman Lite".

I came to my conclusions event by event. Glenn Greenwald does a very nice job summarizing them all.


Where Are My Pearls .....

Remember the MoveOn ad about Gen. Betrayus? Wonder how our intrepid media will cover this:

This was sung at a Republican Debate to the tune of "God Bless America":

Why should God bless America?
She’s forgotten he exists
And has turned her back
On everything that made her what she is

Why should God stand beside her
Through the night with the light from his hand?
God have mercy on America
Forgive her sin and heal our land

The courts ruled prayer out of our schools
In June of ‘62
Told the children “you are your own God now
So you can make the rules”
O say can you see what that choice
Has cost us to this day
America, one nation under God, has gone astray

Why should God bless America?
Shes’s forgotten he exists
And has turned her back on everything
That made her what she is

Why should God stand beside her
Through the night with the light from his hand?
God have mercy on America
Forgive her sins and heal our land

In ‘73 the Courts said we
Could take the unborn lives
The choice is yours don’t worry now
It’s not a wrong, it’s your right

But just because they made it law
Does not change God’s command
The most that we can hope for is
God’s mercy on our land

Why should God bless America?
She’s forgotten he exists
And has turned her back on everything
That made her what she is

Why should God stand beside her
Through the night with the light from his hand?
God have mercy on America
Forgive her sins and heal our land

(Reading from 2nd Chronicles 7:14) If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and forgive their sin and heal their land

God have mercy on America forgive her sins and heal our land

Very dignified. And patriotic too using a national song to parody the left.

I doubt that the "fringe right" will be vilified by the media. After all, they're far less dangerous than those wacko lefties at MoveOn!


Do Not Touch Them

Many of you may not be old enough to remember. When I was a kid, there was a series of public service announcements featuring Willie Mays and blasting caps. Mays would point to a blasting cap on the ground, look at the camera, and seriously say "The are dangerous, do not touch them, they will hurt you"! Keep that in mind as you read this:

The Washington Post leads with word that at least some U.S. snipers in Iraq have been encouraged to set out "bait" to lure and kill suspected insurgents. The classified program calls on snipers to set out an object that they suspect an insurgent would use against U.S. or Iraqi troops, such as ammunition or plastic explosives, and then kill whoever tries to take the item.
I'll bet you a dime to donuts that they made sport out of it complete with scores and standings


Sunday, September 23, 2007


Here's a first person account of someone who ran up against Blackwater folks. It's chilling.

I've always assumed that the numbers of sociopaths in Blackwater are over-represented. After all, who would actually want to do that kind of work?



Suppose the Iraqi government decides to arrest a few Blackwater contractors and put them on trial. What do you think the U.S. would do in response? And what do you think the Iraqi's would do in response to our response?

Iraqi authorities said Saturday that they have a videotape of the shootings in Nisur Square last Sunday by Blackwater security guards, which shows that they fired without provocation. The company has maintained that its personnel were responding to incoming fire. There is now talk in Baghdad of trying the guards, though a decree by US viceroy Paul Bremer may hold the US nationals harmless.