Friday, October 19, 2007


It's stuff like this that can get a guy elected. Email from Chris Dodd:

Are you willing to go to the mat to restore the Constitution?

Just last night, we heard there are plans to disregard Senator Dodd's intention to place a hold on a FISA bill that includes amnesty for telecommunications companies.

That would be a pretty extraordinary move, but Chris Dodd has pledged to stop this horrible bill any way he can.

So if the hold is not honored, he is prepared to go to the Senate floor and filibuster.

Rolling back the Bush Administration assault on the rule of law has been a major focus of Chris Dodd's work in the Senate -- and it's also a centerpiece in his campaign for President
A filibuster by a Democrat against the Democratic majority would certainly be interesting. It would also put the Democratic leadership and Congresspeople on the line in a vote. Can't you just picture a bunch of insurgent Democrat progessive candidate primary ads featuring a vote to immunize the telecoms?

The war between Democrats for the soul of the future progressive movement is going to get hotter as time moves forward. Think McCarthy vs. Humphrey. It's too bad it must go that way, but if it must it must.

On a related note:
Sens. Russ Feingold (D-WI) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) were the only two no votes on the FISA bill that came out of the Senate intelligence committee late last night.



Mark Danner has written a fine article in the New Yorker about Bush's push for war with Iraq. The article focuses on conversations between Bush and former Spainish Prime Minister José Marìa Aznar.

The short version? Bush comes off every bit the stupid ass we know him to be.



The bombing attack on Benazir Bhutto yesterday has all the foreign policy types all abuzz. The conventional wisdom is that the attacks were carried out by "al Qaeda" and/or Taliban. William Arkin makes a good point that it could have been any number of terrorists groups and that Pakistan/Afghanistan have simply become a single large battle ground (think Warziristan right smack in the middle of the two countries).

Maybe I've been around Bush and Rove too long, but my first thought was that this attack was carried out by President Pervez Musharraf. He's struggling to stay in control. Does he really want to have a very popular moderate competitor in country? And he's needed a good excuse to get tough anyway. So why not have his crack intelligence thugs stage a bombing?


Thursday, October 18, 2007

No Way

The Iraq government has told the U.S. that there will be no permanent military bases in Iraq.

We'll see.



There's an ill wind blowing.


Get What You Pay For

Barry Ritholtz is talking about international taxes. He puts up this comparison chart:

Barry concludes that our taxes, relatively speaking aren't that bad. And I would agree. But I'd take it step further. There's a reason why our country is literally falling apart, and it has to do with the mentality sold by conservatives that we can have it all without paying for it, aka a "free lunch". The rest of the world knows better. I'd much rather have a society like the top 10 in this list, than the bottom 10.



Ask, and ye shall receive. From the esteemed Senator Chris Dodd:

It's been a busy day, but I wanted take a moment and let you know that I have decided to place a "hold" on legislation in the Senate that includes amnesty for telecommunications companies that enabled the President's assault on the Constitution by providing personal information on their customers without judicial authorization.

I said that I would do everything I could to stop this bill from passing, and I have.
Good job Chris. You deserve a second look. Visit Chris Dodd's web site and consider giving him some love. Good behavior deserves rewards.

Update: Here's a good primer on Senate holds.


The Bush Effect

I've been observing a trend for several weeks now in the oil markets. Below is a chart of the amount of oil in U.S. inventory:

As is readily apparent, there is no shortage of available oil. So why have prices continued to do this:

One word explains it all. Bush. Oil continues to climb because of international tension. Speculators continue to drive the price up in anticipation of something blowing up in the middle east.


Here Comes The Turks!

Here's a quick summary of the potential problems of a Turkish attack in Iraq. William Arkin

Consider this scenario: Turkey crosses the Iraqi border to pursue its Kurdish enemy and protect its borders. Syria and Iran, which also have disgruntled Kurdish minorities pressing for independence, are encouraged to launch strikes, too. The American military in Iraq goes on alert. Israel prepares. NATO awakens. The Gulf States panic.

For now, a Turkish incursion seems unlikely. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said he won't order an immediate attack. Still, there is a danger that events could conspire to create a situation where everyone, simultaneously, makes bad choices.
Arkin goes on to say he thinks it's an unlikely possibility but that events could spiral out of control.


Cheney's Law

If you missed PBS's very good documentary on Cheney, "Cheney's Law" the other night, it's now online here. It's well worth a watch.


Cave In Part Deux

I'm having a bad Democrat morning.

Please, more and better Democrats:

Elizabeth Williamson writes in The Washington Post: "Chances for a U.S. resolution calling the mass killings of Armenians that began in 1915 genocide eroded dramatically last night, as sponsors dropped off in droves and senior Democrats urged House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to abandon her support. . . .
This "we're going to piss off Turkey" argument is such nonsense. Turkey is going to do what Turkey is going to do to preserve it's own self-interest. That includes attacking Iraq and continuing an alliance with the U.S. with or without some meaningless resolution.



Well, the Dems caved on demanding documents from the White House before holding hearings on Attorney General nominee Mukasey, so the hearings have begun.

He's saying all the right things. But then they always do. I don't think anyone will know anything real about this guy until he's in office. What we do know is the guy was acceptable to Bush, which suggests that there's a three-card-monty game going on in front of the Senate.

Count me as skeptical. January 2009 can't come soon enough.


Bullshit Part Deux

I'm really sick of this crap. This time it's regarding FISA and telecom immunity.

Please. More, better Democrats:

News of the agreement came after Republicans in the House managed to use parliamentary tactics to delay a vote on a surveillance bill that would have placed more restrictions on the administration. There was a lot of partisan bickering, but it all ended when Democrats pulled their bill after Republicans introduced a measure "that on its face asked lawmakers to declare where they stood on stopping Osama bin Laden," notes the NYT. Democrats feared they'd be labeled soft on terror (what else is new?), so the leadership pulled a major bill before a scheduled vote for the first time since taking control of Congress. As the Post makes clear, it all amounted to a victory for Bush and an embarrassment for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
The Congressional Democratic leadership continues to grab it's ankles for the Republicans.

Update: Maybe Chris Dodd can break out with this issue? It would certainly cause me to give the guy a second look.

Update II: How to Legislate Like A Seven Year Old.


Wednesday, October 17, 2007


Well, we have the two big scare stories of the week.

The first one is the "maneating" staph bacteria that is GOING TO INFECT YOU! Nevermind that this thing has been around for over 50 years, routinely lives on about 1/3 of all human bodies naturally, and is as likely to kill you as getting hit by a meteor, it still led off the ABC News tonight ..... again.

The other is the internet predator things. Alicia whatever her last name is was the "victim" of an internet predator. Ok, now I don't like that there are criminals posing on the internet to prey on people, and I think they should be prosecuted. But this woman (she was 13 at the time) had an ongoing internet relationship with this guy for 9 months, then voluntarily walked out of her house and into his car when he came by to meet her. Here's the grab-line from today's testimony:

"The boogey man is real. And he lives on the Net. He lived in my computer -- and he lives in yours," she said, looking at the lawmakers. "While you are sitting here, he is at home with your children."
Where were her parents? Why did a 13 year old feel the need to have, and keep, a relationship with someone on the internet a secret? Aren't there criminals types around us all the time, i.e. at the shopping mall?

My point is that the internet is a public place. Don't people have some responsibility in protecting themselves in public? And if they don't, should the general public suffer with civil liberty restrictions because some people don't use common sense? And above all, is this really a national story any more than the numerous child abductions that take place every week?

Fear baby. It sells. And it will sell us right down the drain eventually.


More Troops

The Pentagon is saying that this is part of a normal rotation which will result in fewer troops ultimately. I don't believe them:

WASHINGTON - The Pentagon is preparing to alert eight National Guard units that they should be ready to go to Iraq or Afghanistan beginning late next summer, The Associated Press learned Wednesday.

The U.S. military is reaching out to more Guard units in an effort to maintain needed troop levels, ease some of the strain on the active duty Army and provide security for ports, convoys and other installations.

According to defense officials, seven of the units would deploy to Iraq and one to Afghanistan. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the orders had not yet been signed and the announcement is not expected until the end of this week.
These new troops are being used as part of a plan to cover southern Iraq where the Brits are leaving. We will have more troops covering less area by the time they are deployed. Does anyone really believe that when the time comes for others to come home that 1) there'll be less violence or 2) the Iraqi's will be ready to take over? If you believe that, I've got this bridge ......


A Tie!

Bush is now tied with the all-time Nixon low of 24%! I wonder who he's lost now, the nazi's or the KKK.

Good job Bushie.


Inflation News

This month, Bonddad gives us the update on how we have no inflation .... except for inflation:

So -- why am I focusing on these two paragraphs rather than the headline number? I am personally having a really difficult time believing the "headline" inflation number largely because my personal experience just isn't jibing with an "inflation is benign" scenario. Here's why. I go shopping every 4-5 days. Over the last year or so I have seen chicken increase from about $4-$5 to $7-$8. Milk is now almost $4/gallon when it use to be $2.99/gallon. Simply put, the numbers just aren't adding up. While I don't know what is wrong exactly with the BLS' calculations and/or methodology, it simply isn't tracking what I am seeing at the retail level. Now I realize that the prices above are for food which isn't part of "core" inflation. This also illustrates how incredibly stupid the Fed's reliance on "core" inflation is. Core inflation is a great measure if you don't consume food or energy. For that small minority of the population that actually does consume food and energy, total inflation is a hell of a lot more relevant to daily life.
That's pretty much my experience. The only, and I mean ONLY thing I can think of that has gone down in price at all is car insurance in California. Something to remember when watching the news tonight when broadcasters trumpet the "inflation is under control" message of the administration.


Second Guessing Turkey

It looks like the House support for a resolution condemning the Ottoman Empire for genocide against the Armenians is falling. Right now Pelosi may not even have a majority as members fall for the "Turkey won't like it" argument.

What's really interesting is Turkey's reaction. Does anyone really think it will change Turkey's plans to continue their quiet little war in northern Iraq?


Tuesday, October 16, 2007

But .... Will They Go?

The Iraqi government has completed it's investigation and is officially asking Blackwater to leave Iraq.

It's hard to keep track of all the different Blackwater probes. But the government of Nouri al-Maliki says that its own investigation of the September 16 Nisour Square shootings has concluded, and it found that Blackwater committed "unprovoked and random killings," CNN reports. Its stance on Blackwater, which the State Department is apparently no longer challenging, is that the private-security firm has to leave Iraq

Your move Condi.


Rats, Sinking Ships

Says it all:

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-TX) won't seek re-election in 2012 and may bow out early to run for governor in 2010.


Hillary Said What

This is news unless she's just wanking:

What I do know, is that I heard her [Hillary Clinton] say that she would end the Iraq war immediately upon taking office. Lots of heads snapped up when she said that (and there was plenty of applause, even a little whooping) and the very politically plugged in person sitting next to me remarked that the statement was “completely new”. She went on to say that the troops had already done everything they had been asked to do: got rid of Saddam, created a situation where elections could take place, surged to create political stability so the elected Iraqi government could do some legislating and work out a political solution (which she said they have not done) and that it was unfair to ask our troops to stay in Iraq and “play referee to an Iraqi civil war.” She said there is no military solution.

I’m not a Hillary watcher, so somebody in the comments may want to contradict that, but it certainly is the first time I’ve heard that and is very different than what I heard her say in the last debate.
I want some confirmation. But if true, this would represent a real change.


Dissident Voice

Discover the Dissident Voice. They spare no one.


Two Stories

In my usual romping around the net, I ran across two separate stories that are significantly related. It appears that as the U.S. is poised to sell more Treasury bonds (debt), foreigners are starting to be unwilling buyers:

Story numero uno:

Oct. 15 (Bloomberg) -- Sales of Treasuries may increase for the first time since 2004 as the U.S. federal budget deficit expands, jeopardizing the biggest bond rally in five years.

Government auctions of bills, notes and bonds in the fiscal year that started this month may rise more than 50 percent to $220 billion, according to UBS Securities LLC, one of the 21 primary dealers that underwrite Treasury auctions. The first decline in corporate tax revenue since 2003 increased the shortfall by 12 percent to $162.8 billion for the year ended in September, from $144.8 billion in the 12 months through April.
Shorthand? A slowing economy is reducing tax revenues. That, along with a couple of little problems called Bush and Iraq, the U.S. continues to spend money like a drunken sailor.

Story numero dos:
Total holdings of equities, notes and bonds fell a net $69.3 billion after an increase of $19.2 billion in July, the Treasury Department said today in Washington. Including short- term securities such as Treasury bills, foreigners sold a net $163 billion, compared with a gain in the previous month.

Demand for U.S. stocks overseas declined as the deepening housing recession and credit-market rout threatened investment, hiring and consumer spending. The drop in purchases was the first since August 1998, when Russia defaulted on its debt.
Wouldn't it be nice to have the trillion bucks blown on Iraq about now?

Shorthand? Foreigners aren't buying our debt. Perhaps the dollars free fall has something to do with that?

What all this means to you and me is rising prices on everything and rising interest rates. Since the war is not ending any time soon, and spending is not cutting back any time soon, and taxes aren't going up any time soon, debt will continue to need to be bought. The only way to do that is to raise interest rates to attract buyers, which hurts you and me. In fact you can see it happening already. The new high in oil is partially due to the weaker dollar. Be prepared for gasoline to begin rising again soon.


Oily Situation

You may have heard that oil hit a new high yesterday at $86/barrel. Fortunately, or unfortunately (depending on you point of view), this is likely just this beginning. The IEA (International Energy Agency) has just released it's annual forecast for worldwide production. Note, when reading this quote, the IEA is known for being highly optimistic as it's forecasts are based on projections provided by producers. And producers routinely lie:

World total liquids production (Fig 1) remains on a peak plateau since 2006 and is forecast to fall off this peak plateau in the middle of 2009. According to the IEA, the current peak production of 86.13 mbd occurred on July 2006 and only one year later, June 2007 total liquids production fell to an unexpectedly low 84.50 mbd. A good increase up to 85.10 mbd occurred for September 2007. As long as demand continues increasing then prices will also continue increasing.
Did you see it? Total liquids production is still at the 2006 peak and is forecast to fall off the peak in 2009.

Doesn't that sound like peak oil to you?


Monday, October 15, 2007

The Real Rudy


Softening Up, Or Reprisals?

Juan Cole:

Turkey shelled Iraqi Kurdish villages along the two countries' mutual border on Sunday, saying it was a reprisal for PKK radical guerrilla attacks on Turkish troops last week.


War Crime

It all depends on who writes the history books:

Under international agreements, people who are not part of a country's military can carry weapons and defend themselves. But some are wondering whether the legal status of security contractors is compromised because of the increasing number of reports that these private guards are actually involved in a significant amount of offensive operations. Besides bringing international scrutiny, this could turn out to be particularly embarrassing for the administration because it has said that those being held in Guantanamo are unlawful combatants since they aren't part of a nation's military. "If we hire people and direct them to perform activities that are direct participation in hostilities, then at least by the Guantanamo standard, that is a war crime," an expert said.


Quote Of The Day

"You've got more vacancies now than a hotel in hurricane season,"
Paul Light, a federal bureaucracy expert discussing the vacancies in the Bush administration.


Government Brainiacs In Action

I think this may be one of the stupider policy considerations I've heard yet:

The Washington Post leads with word that a debate has broken out among U.S. officials on whether victory should be declared over al-Qaida in Iraq. Some in the U.S. military are advocating the move, saying al-Qaida in Iraq has been so badly decimated in recent months that there's little chance it could stage a comeback, but others warn the move might be premature and caution against making assumptions about a group that has "shown great resilience in the past."
Perhaps it's just an excuse to put pressure on the administration to leave Iraq. But to actually consider having "won" against al Qaeda is like declaring a victory over ants. The only way al Qaeda is beat is if 1) they lose popular support and 2) if major powers stop giving them so much credibility with attention. It's legitimately estimated that the numbers of these "terrarist" is in the hundreds, likely less than the number of mafia in the U.S. This notion of "declaring victory" is just so much policy posturing nonsense.


Very Interesting

We all know the Bush regime wants to spy on Americans. What we didn't know is how soon they started.

The phone company Qwest Communications refused a proposal from the National Security Agency that the company’s lawyers considered illegal in February 2001, nearly seven months before the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, the former head of the company contends in newly unsealed court filings.


Sunday, October 14, 2007

Erosion Under Your Feet

Don't look now, but it appears that Shiite fundamentalists, aided by Iran, are banning together in an anti-American coalition.

This could be just another intercine move in the Iraqi political landscape. But these moves are consistent with what I think will be the ultimate outcome in Iraq. With a population that is two-thirds Shiite and with Iran as a neighbor on a long border, most of Iraq is bound to end up under the influence of Iran. This will upset the regional Sunni's who may fight it. But proximity is much of the equation and Iraq is more Iranian than Saudi Arabian. The only question, in my view, is how long will Sunni's (and Americans) fight this inevitability, and how long until decent relations are restored with the "boogieman" Iran?



Only a military man would reach this conclusion.

Former General Ricardo Sanchez is out now blasting anyone (but himself) about the Iraq war. It's the administration's fault, the Pentagon's fault, the news media's fault, and the American people's fault. But like his brethren Colin Powell, it's a "now he tells us situation".

But as alluded to above, his conclusion is the kicker:

Sanchez said the war in Iraq is "a nightmare with no end in sight," adding America has no choice but to continue fighting or the country will sink into chaos, which will spread throughout the Middle East. America will be there "for the foreseeable future," he said.
What? He outlines how the whole thing has been one big-assed mistake, but we shouldn't leave? Sounds like he's gone to the George Bush school of beauty to me.

What an idiot.


Good Times On The Farm

Well maybe.

I've been reading an awful lot lately about how higher prices for ag products is boosting the income of farmers. But this suggests that costs are also skyrocketing, setting the stage for a food inflationary spiral:

Soaring prices for agricultural commodities this year have left the impression that farmers and ranchers are getting rich.

A close examination of the cost side of the ledger reveals that is not the case.

And, when commodity prices drop, there will be no commensurate decline in production input costs, setting the stage for an agricultural inflation trap like the one that created havoc in rural America through the 1980s.

That scenario is suggested by a recent U.S. Department of Agriculture analysis of farm sector income and costs and is corroborated by local input suppliers: sellers of feed, seed, fertilizer, pesticides and chemical fallow, fuel and operating loans.
Remember back when we had the cultural event of the fall of the prairie farmers? We're setting the stage again. As commodity prices rise, farmers plant more (and more get into farming) to reap the higher prices. The greater production causes gluts and falling prices. Yet, production costs remain static causing widespread farming failures and foreclosures. So here we go again!


Oil Visual

This is an astounding pictorial demonstration of just how much oil is produced each year:

That tiny thing on the right is the Eiffel Tower. Through 2006, enough oil has been produced to fill 1/3 of Lake Erie. No wonder the planet is warming and peak oil is looming.



This has the potential to be a rather large story:

The WP goes up top with the Bush administration's frantic attempts to remind Turkey that it shares long-term interests with the U.S.. But that isn't convincing Turks, who are in what can best be described as a post- September 11 mood. Kurdish terrorist attacks killed 30 Turks in the past two weeks and newspapers are fronting full page photos of dead soldiers with Turkish flags. Now the Turks want to invade Iraq: Prime Minister Erdogan says parliament should unanimously "declare a mobilization" against the Iraqi Kurds, who haven't been restrained by the U.S.

The Armenian genocide resolution looks like it came at just the wrong time; the Turks are calling it the "last straw." TP also saw reports this evening from Al-Jazeera, via, that Turkish artillery are already shelling Kurdish positions inside Iraq.
The Turks are trying to blame the House resolution on Armenian genocide. But anyone who's been following the situation knows that Turkey and the Kurds have been at each other's throats for some time. It would appear that the resolution will simply be a convenient excuse to satisfy a plan to attack Iraq that has been brewing for some time, and likely would have happened anyway as Kurdistan emerges.