Friday, June 20, 2008

What We're Going To See

This is a cartoon from Pat Oliphant (click to enlarge):



Here's is a description of Pat Oliphant's creds:

No one is safe from the acid brush of Pat Oliphant, acknowledged by many as the nation’s most influential political cartoonist. A master of what he calls "confrontational art," Oliphant spares neither the liberal nor conservative, sinner nor saint. As the most widely syndicated political cartoonist in the world and a winner of the Pulitzer, he produces work that is as visually stunning as it is metaphorically powerful.
We're going to see just exactly how much racism is alive and well in America.

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What Obama's Up Against.

Take just a second and go read this.

When you've finished, then watch this big wet kiss from the author of that piece.



Now. If you're any kind of a citizen who cares about the press doing it's job, you should need to go take a bath.

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Cave

Looks like the Dems have finally caved on telecom immunity and expanding the Preznit's surveillance abilities.

The WSJ highlights that the agreement "was driven largely by the realities of election-year politics" as Democrats facing re-election in more conservative parts of the country worried about appearing soft on national security. Obama is now in the unenviable position of having to decide whether to anger the Democratic base by supporting the measure or risk losing the support of independent voters if he speaks up against it. Ultimately, "the surveillance powers may end up being a rare survivor of the administration's post-9/11 redrawing of national-security law," the WSJ deftly points out.
Frankly I'm surprised they didn't cave earlier. But I still think it's wrong, both morally and politically. The moral arguments make themselves. But politically, how can anyone think that with Bush's approval where it is, and with Americans overwhelmingly suspicious of government, that ratifying the Bush surveillance is politically smart?

I hate to put on my tinfoil hat, but I think there's more to this. Whether it's to protect serious misdeeds by the administration or to get political donations from big telecom .... I don't know. But something of this sort would be the only reason for Dems to go along as far as I can tell.

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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Stop Digging

As I'm sure you know, there's an old saying that if you're in a deep hole, stop digging. Well John McCain thinks we need to keep on diggin'.

Set aside the facts of global warming due to petroleum burning, and set aside the fact that new oil drilling takes years to have any impact on prices, let's take a look at the impact of bringing our largest proposed oil field on stream:

See that itsy bitsy bump in supply at the bottom that occurs in about ten years? That's the impact of drilling in the Artic. Meanwhile, in terms of demand, the hole just gets deeper and deeper unless we do something to realign our economy away from petroleum.

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A Moment Of Truth

This woman has been doing fantastic work in Iraq. But she is a reporter, not an editor:

It makes me sad to hear.

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How It'll Go

This is from Josh Marshall:

Nate at FiveThirtyEight has a good analysis of the broad swath of recent polls and particularly these polls out this morning from Quinnipiac showing Barack Obama with leads in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Florida. It's only one poll. But this is the first poll that has shown Obama ahead in Florida against either McCain or Clinton. Most models for an Obama win don't include Florida, though Obama's campaign certainly seem intent on contesting it. But that's McCain's firewall. If he can't win Florida, the electoral map starts to look very bleak. Even having to fight for it would put McCain in a hole.
Now, I know that polls this early in the game are pretty stupid. And I don't put much veracity in this one. So why put it up? Because I think this comment by Marshall is prescient.* I think Obama will win many states he's "not supposed to win". With the Bush albatross and his own fumbling/bumbling, McCain will go down in history as the worst Presidential candidate in history, even surpassing .... what's his name?


*assumes no attack on and war with Iran. Even with that, I think Obama wins.

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Wow

Remember Gen. Anthony Taguba, the two star general that led the investigation of torture at Abu Grahib? Here's what he has to say today:

The new report, he [Taguba] writes, "tells the largely untold human story of what happened to detainees in our custody when the Commander-in-Chief and those under him authorized a systematic regime of torture. This story is not only written in words: It is scrawled for the rest of these individual's lives on their bodies and minds. Our national honor is stained by the indignity and inhumane treatment these men received from their captors.

"The profiles of these eleven former detainees, none of whom were ever charged with a crime or told why they were detained, are tragic and brutal rebuttals to those who claim that torture is ever justified. Through the experiences of these men in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo Bay, we can see the full-scope of the damage this illegal and unsound policy has inflicted --both on America's institutions and our nation's founding values, which the military, intelligence services, and our justice system are duty-bound to defend.

"In order for these individuals to suffer the wanton cruelty to which they were subjected, a government policy was promulgated to the field whereby the Geneva Conventions and the Uniform Code of Military Justice were disregarded. The UN Convention Against Torture was indiscriminately ignored. . . .

"After years of disclosures by government investigations, media accounts, and reports from human rights organizations, there is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration has committed war crimes. The only question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account."
Held accountable indeed.

I'm not sure if I'm a member of this administration, and I'm someone who had anything to do with the legal opinions or chain of command involved with the torturers, if I'm going to be using my passport anytime soon. If Congress won't do anything, someone in the international community just might.

And I'd support them all the way.

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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

On Sale Now!

What GOP'ers are wearing for their convention!

But we know that race won't be an issue because the Sunday gasbags have told us so!

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Monday, June 16, 2008

He Still Brings In Cash

The McCain campaign is flopping around all over the place. First they scheduled an event with a nutbar for fundraising, then cancelled because he's a nutbar, then held it anyway.

And just who is this nutbar? This guy:

[Clayton] Williams, a prominent Texas Republican, said during his 1990 gubernatorial campaign that rape is like the weather: “As long as it’s inevitable, you might as well lie back and enjoy it.” More recently, Williams has helped raise more than $300,000 for McCain and was scheduled to host a fundraiser for him this week.

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Good To Go

Digby discusses the latest and greatest technologies in "non-lethal" control of individuals by the police state law enforcement personnel.

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Back

I've sorta been out. Went to a Sheryl Crow concert (she was fabulous) and have been generally laying low.

I did want to comment on the passing of Tim Russert. He was too young and my condolences to his family and friends.

But.

I know I've said this before. When the media loses a member of their family, you'd think Jesus Christ himself died. I have no idea of what kind of man Tim Russert was, but I do know that he was a mediocre interview who completely pandered to the kool kidz. He violated the ethics of journalism on many occasions, most notoriously in his handling of his part in the Valerie Plame outing.

And finally, the media's incessant narcissism. There are great people who die every day, including American soldiers in Iraq. But you rarely see much of anything done to talk about their deaths and the circumstances of why they were in Iraq. There's a bit of image reinforcement when the media goes ga-ga at the death of a colleague while ignoring their duties as the "fourth estate". They are, after all, the center of the universe.

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Thursday, June 12, 2008

Ferchristsakes

I hesitate to even spill pixels on this. But we must stay informed!

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Images

Somehow this image conjures up more than the author intended ....

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OUT!

Some folks are speculating that Bush's attempt to get permanent bases in Iraq might backfire:

Ned Parker of the LAT reports that some in the al-Maliki government--and senior members of the Islamic Mission (Da'wa) Party and the United Iraqi Alliance coalition of which it is a part-- are seriously considering asking US troops to leave the country. They believe they can now handle security on their own, and that the Bush administration's demands that they surrender a great deal of national sovereignty in the proposed Status of Forces agreement are unacceptable.
Maybe.

But I doubt it. The Iraqi controlling interests may want the U.S. out, but they also value their necks. With the Iranians next door, the continued domestic Shiite Islamic fundamentalist movement, and with the Sunni's just waiting for an opportunity, the Shiites ability to keep the lid on is questionable. And if the lid is removed, it's likely their necks that go first. Thus the parliament will hem and haw, and maybe even avoid an permanent agreement for the time being. But anyway you cut it, the next President will be the one to decide the next move in Iraq for the U.S.

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A Good Hypocrite

I ran across this excerpt of a news story today:

Cindy LaBeff, 46, drives 70 miles a day from the small town of McLoud to her job at a data processing center in Oklahoma City. Until a few months ago, she spent $40 on gas for her work week. These days it's $60 a work week - and $80 if she wants to go to church on the weekend.

She decided she can't afford the higher prices. With no public transportation in her area, she went online to form a carpool. LaBeff has been ridesharing for a week now, and she hopes to add two new members to her car. "That way, it's just a dollar a gallon," she said.

If our governor or mayor would help set up carpooling, if they would push it better, then people would think about it," she said. "But there has been nothing."
Sheeesh. Let me count the ways that this ticks me off.

Poor old Cindy. Cindy, who did you vote for in the last ten elections? If you're like any of your neighbors it was for Republicans. Cindy, do you know the stance that Republicans have taken on energy? And especially Oklahoma Republicans? And now that things are getting dicey, you want gov'mut to step in and set up carpools?

That's mighty liberal of ya.

I know it's human nature. And I call it a good hypocrite because at least Cindy is starting to think like a rational person addicted to petroleum. While it's painful, the recent price increases are apparently what it takes to get people to really deal with the problem. Unfortunately it has to be painful.

My only fear at this point is that demand destruction, increased supply (if that's even possible which is getting more doubtful) and price manipulations will bring prices "down" to a new adaptive level and ole' Cindy will simply pay the $80 to fill up her car for the stupid commute due to living in a society based on cheap fuel.

Added: Ole' Cindy isn't alone out there in the outback (click to enlarge)
:

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You Know You're Off When ....

When even the Supreme Court thinks you're violating civil rights, you know you're way off base:

WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that foreign terrorism suspects held at Guantanamo Bay have rights under the Constitution to challenge their detention in U.S. civilian courts.

The justices handed the Bush administration its third setback at the high court since 2004 over its treatment of prisoners who are being held indefinitely and without charges at the U.S. naval base in Cuba. The vote was 5-4, with the court's liberal justices in the majority.
What's particularly interesting is that it may not matter. Thus far Bush has pretty much ignored the rule of law in the situation. Does anyone really think this decision will change things now?

Also, this was another 5-4 decision. I don't even have to know the vote tally to know that a President McCain will move the court into full fascism with court appointments.

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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Gaffeman

There's a bunch of buzz on the internets about yet another McCain gaffe. Apparently he said that it's "not that important" when the troops come home from Iraq. Of course his campaign is claiming he was taken out of context and all the usual nonsense. Josh Marshall makes total sense out of this latest foot-in-mouth moment for McCain:

Sometimes these references by McCain are treated as gaffes but they're not. This is what McCain believes: that we should have a long-term troop presence in Iraq to guarantee the survival of a pro-U.S. government and assert power in the region. That's not a crazy position. That's the position of the current administration. That's why we're currently trying to secure an agreement with the Iraqis to ratify that goal. The problem isn't that McCain's position is incomprehensible. It's just not popular. Most Americans think reducing casualties is important too. But they'd like to do both -- reduce casualties and leave too.

The problem for the McCain campaign is that he keeps stumbling into clear statements of his actual policy, which is close to lethal since the vast majority of Americans disagree with his policy and Iraq is virtually the only thing he's running on. The context the McCain campaign keeps trying to put forward after the fact is what they wished he'd said rather than what he did. And even that, when you push deep, isn't that different from McCain's actual policy, which is that he doesn't think we should be leaving Iraq for years to come, most likely decades.
Precisely. The GOP is going to have to work quite hard to put lipstick on that pig*

*assumes no attack on Iran.

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The Trend

As the old saying goes, one picture is worth a thousand words. If you ever wonder why we're in Iraq, here's the answer (click to enlarge):

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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Vindicated

(h/t Digby, as usual)

Remember this?


I guess McCain is resurrecting images of Carter to slime Obama. And most of the gasbags seem to be on the bandwagon that Carter was a terrible President. But really. Was he?

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Veepstakes

I agree with Kevin that Sebelius is a good looking possibility. Aside from not being a Senator (Dems need all they can get), she's a she which neutralizes the Hillary situation and from a region that can swing either way. Even if it's not Sebelius, I wouldn't be surprised if it's a governor.

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More Evidence

Steve Clemons, who is very far from a left-wing nutbar, writes today that it looks like the Cheney faction in the White House in ascending again, and that Iran conflict is growing in possibility.

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Ari .... Baby .....

Since Scott McClellan's mia culpa book came out criticizing the press for it's lousy Iraq war coverage, the media has been doing the usual hand-wringing about it's coverage. Via Froomkin, we have this jewel from Ari Fleischer who claims that the press did a plenty good job!

Not surprisingly, Fleischer was able to fish out a few examples of aggressive questioning from the voluminous press-briefing archives for his Washington Post op-ed on Sunday. But his argument ultimately boils down to an unpersuasive exercise in self-pity.

Fleischer cites McClellan's charge that the press "failed to aggressively question the rationale for war," and responds: "As someone whose duty it was to assume the position of a human piƱata every day in the briefing room, I only wish Scott were right. . . .

"At the risk of agreeing with one of my toughest protagonists in the briefing room -- NBC's David Gregory-- the press was tough, plenty tough. I have the scars -- and the transcripts -- to prove it. . . .

"'I often returned to my office beaten down from the clashes in the briefing room.'"

Poor Ari. He doesn't seem to understand the fundamental difference between a reporters questions and the coverage that takes place in the actual outlet. Sure David Gregory can ask some tough questions, but does it make it into the news broadcast in any meaningful way? If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a noise?

Come on Ari. Don't be so conservatively literal. It's why I've contended that the White House briefings are meaningless. The press secretary's job is to get on the podium and lie spin in response to wet kisses tough questions from the media. Helen Thomas is a poster child for this dynamic. Thomas used to be typical, part of a crowd and a institutional apparatus designed to represent The People. Now she's been marginalized into a clown-like figure of fringe government skepticism.

Even when questions and skepticism abounds, the filtering by editors, producers and talking heads is so profound as to make any real reporting from the front end meaningless. That is the essence of "corporate" media. It's not that reporters don't "do their jobs", they often do. It's that the powers that be above them refuse to do the fourth estate's job out of fear and greed. It's much safer to do a hatchet job on the latests white woman kidnapper than the President.

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Monday, June 9, 2008

Never Wiser

I've heard this before, but it has never been more relevant than today:

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Awesome News

Looks like Elizabeth Edwards is joining Obama to work on healthcare reform!

If you'll recall, Edwards was not exactly a fan of Obama's health care plan. Personally, I think Edwards approach to health care reform is superior to Obama's. This could be an awesome change. Obama's looking better all the time.

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Good Enough For Clinton ....

.... then it's good enough for McCain. Here's a piece on McCain's first marriage and it's ignominious end. Excerpt:

She was the woman McCain dreamed of during his long incarceration and torture in Vietnam’s infamous ‘Hanoi Hilton’ prison and the woman who faithfully stayed at home looking after the children and waiting anxiously for news.

But when McCain returned to America in 1973 to a fanfare of publicity and a handshake from Richard Nixon, he discovered his wife had been disfigured in a terrible car crash three years earlier. Her car had skidded on icy roads into a telegraph pole on Christmas Eve, 1969. Her pelvis and one arm were shattered by the impact and she suffered massive internal injuries.

When Carol was discharged from hospital after six months of life-saving surgery, the prognosis was bleak. In order to save her legs, surgeons had been forced to cut away huge sections of shattered bone, taking with it her tall, willowy figure. She was confined to a wheelchair and was forced to use a catheter.

Through sheer hard work, Carol learned to walk again. But when John McCain came home from Vietnam, she had gained a lot of weight and bore little resemblance to her old self.

Today, she stands at just 5ft4in and still walks awkwardly, with a pronounced limp. Her body is held together by screws and metal plates and, at 70, her face is worn by wrinkles that speak of decades of silent suffering.

...

My marriage ended because John McCain didn’t want to be 40, he wanted to be 25. You know that happens...it just does.’

Some of McCain’s acquaintances are less forgiving, however. They portray the politician as a self-centred womaniser who effectively abandoned his crippled wife to ‘play the field’. They accuse him of finally settling on Cindy, a former rodeo beauty queen, for financial reasons.

McCain was then earning little more than £25,000 a year as a naval officer, while his new father-in-law, Jim Hensley, was a multi-millionaire who had impeccable political connections.
Whooooaaa! Tell me it isn't so! I wonder if John McCain is related to Newt Gingrich somehow ..... Is John McCain a maverick or some kind of stallion (or at least thinks he is)?

At least he remarried a pure and upstanding woman.

Ooooops!

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Gnashing

Lots of gnashing to and fro on why Hillary lost.

Let me add my gnashing. It's quite simple. She bet wrong on the Iraq war.

EOD.

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Have A Shot In The Foot

This is so painfully ironic I can't stand it:

While high gas prices are causing economic strain in household budgets across the country, those living in rural areas are being affected most by the increases, the New York Times says in its lead story. People in rural areas usually drive longer distances in vehicles that eat up more gas while making less money, which means gasoline is taking up a bigger chunk of the family budget and is competing with other necessities such as food and housing.
It's very very difficult for me to work up much sympathy. Rural areas overwhelmingly vote Republican, and overwhelmingly have avoided dealing with issues like petroleum dependence, global warming, and energy corporation abuses. It's a "you reap what you sow" moment and a case of people needing to be hit upasidethehead sometimes in order to figure things out.

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Sunday, June 8, 2008

Too True

I think this is very well said:

Chuck Todd says Sen. Hillary Clinton's first setback on the road the White House was the election of former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean as party chairman.

"Dean's election was a clear break from the Clinton way of running the DNC. In hindsight, it was malpractice for a political family who believes it controlled the Democratic Party to have allowed Dean and his grass-roots followers to take over."
And now, Dean has set the stage (with his 50 state strategy) for this:
WASHINGTON — Senator Barack Obama’s general election plan calls for broadening the electoral map by challenging Senator John McCain in typically Republican states — from North Carolina to Missouri to Montana — as Mr. Obama seeks to take advantage of voter turnout operations built in nearly 50 states in the long Democratic nomination battle, aides said.

On Monday, Mr. Obama will travel to North Carolina — a state that has not voted for a Democratic presidential candidate in 32 years — to start a two-week tour of speeches, town hall forums and other appearances intended to highlight differences with Mr. McCain on the economy. From there, he heads to Missouri, which last voted for a Democrat in 1996. His first campaign swing after securing the Democratic presidential nomination last week was to Virginia, which last voted Democratic in 1964.
Gosh, do you think Howard Dean may have been right?

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More On Iran

I know I'm a bit obsessed with this. But I think we all should be given the likely fallout from such an action. More evidence:

Ben-Eliezer insisted he was not advocating a preventive military strike on Iran but said "Iran should know the price it will have to pay when it begins to think concretely about attacking Israel."

The minister's remarks came a day after an Israeli deputy prime minister warned that Iran would face attack if it pursues what he said was its nuclear weapons programme.

"If Iran continues its nuclear weapons programme, we will attack it," said Shaul Mofaz, who is also transportation minister.

"Other options are disappearing. The sanctions are not effective. There will be no alternative but to attack Iran in order to stop the Iranian nuclear programme," Mofaz told the Yediot Aharonot daily.

He stressed such an operation could only be conducted with US support.

A former defence minister and armed forces chief of staff, Mofaz hopes to replace embattled Ehud Olmert as prime minister and at the helm of the Kadima party.
I don't care what the quote says, this guy is advocating a preemptive attack on Iran. Israel is unlikely to get the needed support from Obama. McCain is likely to lose. That leaves an attack before Bush leaves office.

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Another Consequence

Here's another consequence of higher oil prices:

I had estimated that if oil averaged $115 for the year, the Gulf would add roughly $400 billion to the coffers of its sovereign funds and central banks. Just to be clear, this is money that is invested abroad; the various domestic investments of the big Gulf countries aren’t counted — even if they are done by a sovereign fund or a subsidiary of a sovereign fund. Overall official assets of the oil exporting economies might increase by something like $800 billion.

That would be roughly twice my estimate for the increase in their assets — excluding capital gains — in 2007. And $400 for the Gulf and $800 for all the oil exporters now looks like an underestimate. $450b and $900b look more likely now …

What this means is that the U.S. is exporting tons of cash to the oil exporters. TONS. So not only are we spending billions per month on Iraq, were shipping billions to various bad actors in the region .... all so pretty blondes can drive gianormous SUV's while talking on their cell phones.

The old saying, nothing exceeds like excess fits here (yes, I know that's not the old saying). Using the principle of reverting to the mean, the U.S. is in for an equally painful period of pullback at some time. The only question is how quickly and sharply the pain will come. So far it's been pretty quick. Whether we'll get a reprieve and a slow down in the pain ..... we'll see!

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Why Is Oil High?

While our intrepid news media is trumpeting the new all-time high oil price, they are not reporting the likely reason:

The biggest puzzle is why oil prices keep on going higher and higher while the economy is clearly contracting and US oil demand is starting to fall. One simple explanation is the risk of a stagflationary supply side shock in the event of an Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities. This forum reported a week ago the views of Joschka Fischer – the former foreign minister of Germany – that such an Israeli strike is highly likely before the end of the Bush administration. Those allegations got reinforced this week by several additional factors: the Israeli deputy prime minister Shaul Mofaz (and likely future PM) stating categorically that “attacking Iran, in order to stop its nuclear plans, will be unavoidable”; the DEBKAfile report of June 3rd stating that “Limited US attack on Iranian Revolutionary Guards bases in sight”’; all these confirming the headline in the May 20th Jerusalem Post that “Bush intends to attack Iran before the end of its term”).
If you've been reading this blog, you already know all about this. As oil prices were dropping last week I was right at the edge of my buy price for oil. I, too, am anticipating an attack on Iran and wanted to participate in the wild ride if such an attack occurred. But alas, I just barely missed out.

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Thursday, June 5, 2008

A Go Read

Rick Perlstein has written a fantastic post giving us some historical perspective on Obama as nominee from Illinois, and the predicate for the upsurge of Republicanism after 1966. It's full of all kinds of amazing ironies .......

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Irrelevance Watch

Atrios:

Broder's boy surges all the way to 25%.

President Bush's approval rating is at its lowest level to date. Just 25 percent of Americans approve of the overall job Mr. Bush is doing as President, an all-time low for him and among the lowest approval ratings ever recorded for a President.

Sixty-seven percent disapprove of the job Bush is doing - the highest such figure in CBS News polls since he assumed office.
Worst. Ever.

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Typical Bush

Remember all those proclamations that we would never have permanent bases in Iraq? Froomkin:

Despite opposition from both the Iraqi and American people, President Bush appears to be forging ahead on a multi-year security agreement with the Iraqi government that would lock in the occupation status quo.

A British newspaper reports new details about the ongoing secret negotiations: Bush wants to retain the use of more than 50 military bases in Iraq and is insisting on immunity from Iraqi law for U.S. troops and contractors, as well as a free hand to carry out military activities without consulting the Baghdad government. The pact, which Bush has said he does not intend to submit for Congressional approval, would take effect shortly before he leaves office. Reversing it, while possible, would force a future president to break an international commitment.

Iraqi's don't want it. American's don't want it. So who does? Two people: al Maliki and Bush. Bush because he's an narcissist oilman and al Maliki because he values his neck.

A new President Obama breaking a treaty negotiated with al Maliki might be a bit tricky. But on the other hand, both are so unpopular domestically and internationally that it may not be that difficult to repudiate such a deal. I suspect the international community would simply pretend such a deal never happened, and after the November election* I suspect Congress would easily support a disengagement move.

*all assumes there is no October surprise attack on Iran.

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Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Night Of The Living FISA

Like the zombies in Night of the Living Dead, the FISA getoutofjailfree bill for the telecommunications companies is back yet again!

As Digby has said all along, something really really bad happened and Dems are being tempted to help Republicans cover it up. My best guess is that electronic surveillance was done for political purposes outside of FISA approval. And, yet again like a zombie, it looks like it's going to take a very strong grass-roots effort to kill a compromise ..... again.

Dday is suggesting Obama could put the kaboosh on it now if he wanted to. Maybe. I'm not sure if it's related or not, but Obama did sorta act like he was going to kick Lieberman's ass today:

Roll Call reports that during a Senate vote today, Sen. Barack Obama "dragged" Sen. Joe Lieberman "by the hand to a far corner of the Senate chamber and engaged in what appeared to reporters in the gallery as an intense, three-minute conversation."

"While it was unclear what the two were discussing, the body language suggested that Obama was trying to convince Lieberman of something and his stance appeared slightly intimidating."

"Using forceful, but not angry, hand gestures, Obama literally backed up Lieberman against the wall, leaned in very close at times, and appeared to be trying to dominate the conversation, as the two talked over each other in a few instances."

"Still, Obama and Lieberman seemed to be trying to keep the back-and-forth congenial as they both patted each other on the back during and after the exchange. Afterwards, Obama smiled and pointed up at reporters peering over the edge of the press gallery for a better glimpse of their interaction."
I really really hope Obama will kick Lieberman's ass.

Added: More on Obama/Lieberman is here. Apparently Obama was taking issue with Lieberman being the GOP attack dog on Iran.

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The Evidence Continues To Mount

This from Froomkin:

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is expected to use his White House visit today to push President Bush to take a more aggressive approach toward Iran -- and there are some signs that he'll have a receptive audience.

Both Olmert and Bush are badly wounded and looking for salvation. Olmert is facing corruption allegations that could drive him from office. Bush is wildly unpopular, desperate to salvage his legacy and fighting irrelevance as the general election begins in earnest -- with even the Republican candidate trying to keep him at a distance.

It's in this environment that the Jewish Telegraph Agency reports: "Ehud Olmert will urge President Bush to prepare an attack on Iran, an Israeli newspaper reported.

"Citing sources close to the Israeli prime minister, Yediot Achronot reported on its front page Wednesday that Olmert, who is due to hold closed-door talks with Bush in Washington, will say that 'time is running out' on diplomatic efforts to curb Iran's nuclear program.

"The United States should therefore prepare to attack Iran, Olmert will tell Bush, according to Yediot."

Really, can anyone tell me exactly why Bush wouldn't attack Iran? The only one I come up with is a moral argument.

Yes, there would be a large oil shock but the U.S. doesn't import any oil from Iran anyway. Thus any shock would be to supplies elsewhere. Yes, prices would go up but oil would remain plentiful in the U.S. and Bush would bank on any shock being temporary and justified. So what I'm left with is the concept that the only reason Bush would not attack is because he thinks it's "wrong".

And we all know how important that is to the boy king. We also know that the little birdie known as Big Dick Cheney is continuously ready to whistle in Bush's ear that it's time to pull the trigger .....

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SEE!

I told you. I knew it:

Red wine may be much more potent than was thought in extending human lifespan, researchers say in a new report that is likely to give impetus to the rapidly growing search for longevity drugs.

The study is based on dosing mice with resveratrol, an ingredient of some red wines. Some scientists are already taking resveratrol in capsule form, but others believe it is far too early to take the drug, especially using wine as its source, until there is better data on its safety and effectiveness.

The report is part of a new wave of interest in drugs that may enhance longevity. On Monday, Sirtris, a startup founded in 2004 to develop drugs with the same effects as resveratrol, completed its sale to GlaxoSmithKline for $720 million.

Sirtris is seeking to develop drugs that activate protein agents known in people as sirtuins.

“The upside is so huge that if we are right, the company that dominates the sirtuin space could dominate the pharmaceutical industry and change medicine,” Dr. David Sinclair of the Harvard Medical School, a co-founder of the company, said Tuesday.
I guess I'm officially considered a pharmaceutical manufacturer! To quote Jan's dad, "throw the water down the sink everybody have a drink! (of Red Wine that is).

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Congrats Obama

It's now official. We've known it for some time, but now we can officially say Obama is the Democratic nominee for President.

The media seems somewhat astounded that a Jr. Senator beat the "Clinton machine". It's really not so astounding if you are paying attention to the situation in America (which the media doesn't despite thinking they do). By most objective measures, Bush has driven the U.S. into the ground. Not irreparably, but not insignificant either. While Bill Clinton's administration was seen as prosperous, "the Clinton's" are painted with the taint of Bush and the "old guard".

Maybe for once I'm somewhat in the mainstream. I'm not totally sure about Obama. But I'm interested in something new and different .... taking a risk in the direction that Obama just might be the real deal. I know he'll be closer to the deal I'm looking for than either Hillary Clinton or John McCain.

Next up? Who will be VP. Hillary is working really really hard to get the job. I sense Obama has been hoping she wouldn't. There are many fine arguments in either direction. I used to think it would be a litmus test for Obama whether he would "cave" to Hillary's demanding the VP slot. I'm now convinced that if Obama chooses her or not is not that significant.

Other than the fact we'd be saddled with Bill for years ........

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Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Corporate Taxes

This, my friends, is a chart that is to be kept handy for those cocktail party discussions with your nutbar conservative buddies:


Of course you'll get all kinds of caveats about double taxation and other B.S. Fact is, corporations have been getting a big-assed free ride on paying their fair share for maintaining this country in which they are enriched.

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Oh My

Via Barry. Lest you doubt that the country and economy have been in a very serious crisis, take a look at this chart of the money lending to financial institutions over time:


The shaded areas are recessions. You may have to click to enlarge the chart to really see it. But the chart on the right hand side goes straight up!

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Doldrums

I get a sense the summer doldrums are setting in. The political season is calming down and it seems as if the news is going on vacation. It's probably time for a missing white girl story or shark attack. Anyway, my blogging energy is low low low.

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More Evidence

The former foreign minister of Germany thinks there will be an attack on Iran before the end of the Bush administration.

I'm still waiting for oil to come down just a bit more. If there is an attack, I want to be holding some oil futures as prices spike to over $200 per barrel.

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Sunday, June 1, 2008

Cold Snap In Hell

For once, Dick Cheney and I agree on something.

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Got It?

Has Hillary now, FINALLY, figured out that she's lost?

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Friday, May 30, 2008

The Final Number One?

Interesting headline story:

The Washington Post leads with an interview with CIA Director Michael Hayden, who provided a "strikingly upbeat assessment" on the fight against al-Qaida. Even though the CIA had previously warned that the Iraq war had provided an opportunity for al-Qaida to grow, Hayden now says great progress has been made, and al-Qaida is struggling to survive in Iraq and Saudi Arabia.
How is it possible that a decentralized group of people, driven by ideology, fueled by the social, political and economic unrest that is the Middle East be "struggling to survive"? These people can't seem to get out of the cold war era when it was nation against nation. Al-Qaida on it's best day is barely and "organization" much less one that's on the run.

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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Nirvana

Did you know that we live in Nirvana? We have solved so many of our problems in the U.S. that only the most minor infractions require our attention. That's the only explanation I can come up with for this little gem:

The LAT reports that a small brewery in Weed, Calif., has come under the sights of the federal government because it decided to print the words Try Legal Weed on the bottle caps of Weed Ales. The U.S. Treasury Department says the marketing ploy can't be used because it alludes to using marijuana, and it's "false and misleading" because a buyer could be confused about what's inside the bottle. "They sell Bud. We sell Weed," the brewery's owner said. "What's the difference?"

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Who To Believe?

This was an interesting announcement yesterday:

Dow Chemicals said it is being forced to carry out an across-the-board price hike due to increasing energy costs. The move is particularly significant because Dow Chemicals is one of the world's largest chemical manufacturers, and its products are used to make a wide variety of consumer goods. Dow's CEO issued a statement where he squarely put the blame on Washington for failing to deal with "rising energy costs and, as a result, the country now faces a true energy crisis, one that is causing serious harm."
Let's add it up. Govument says inflation is at a 4% rate. Dow says they need to raise prices 20%. Who do you believe? Unfortunately (and as I wrote about the other day), the bond market continues to think that Dow is right. Interest rates are rising, which will be very bad news for the housing bidness.

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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Ah huh

File this under the "I'll believe it when I see it" file.

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) said that the House Judiciary Committee would be willing to arrest Karl Rove if the former White House official doesn't testify about his role in the firing of nine U.S. attorneys in 2006.

Wasserman Schultz, in an interview on MSNBC Tuesday, echoed the demand of House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-Mich.) that Rove would not be allowed to invoke executive privilege to avoid testifying. Rove could not invoke the privilege since he said he did not have conversations with the president about the attorneys' firing, Wasserman Schultz said.

Asked by MSNBC host Dan Abrams if the committee would go far as having Rove arrested, Wasserman said it would.
Debbie? I promise you that it will be necessary.

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Interest-ing

I keep reading in various obscure places stories about the bond market being "flooded" with new government bonds. It seems that U.S. government debt is not slowing down at all.

Why does this matter?

Over the past 8 years or so, there has been a whole lot of cash sloshing around in the world that gladly bought U.S. debt. But what happens if that stops? It's simple supply and demand. If you have too much debt/too many bonds and not enough buyers, bond "prices" go down until someone will buy them.

Why do you care?

Because when bond prices fall to encourage people to buy them, yields (read: interest rates) go up inversely. No matter what the Fed does. And recently that has been happening. So far the increase has been slight, not enough to get the media's attention. But if it keeps up, it may be the beginning of inflation fears showing up as significantly higher interest rates.

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Why High?

Oil prices are sure all over the media.

This is the best explanation for why oil prices are skyrocketing. It's very technical, but it's all there. Here is the conclusion:

We are now in the early stages of a full blown energy crisis that was predictable if not wholly avoidable. Politicians are awaking to the crisis now that escalating energy costs make its existence plain to see. It is highly unlikely that politicians will now grasp the gravity of the situation that the OECD and rest of the world faces and the responses will likely be ineffectual and too little too late.

The principal reason for current high oil price is the proximity of a peak in global oil production. Politicians must understand this and then grasp that natural gas and coal supplies will follow oil down by mid century. Reducing taxes on energy consumption right now is the wrong thing to do. Taxation structure needs to be adjusted to oblige energy producing companies to re-invest wind fall profits in alternative energy sources on a truly massive scale.

Energy efficiency should be the guiding beacon of all policy decisions and this must apply equally to energy production and energy consumption.

I completely agree. Well, not completely. I think the fundamentals on oil are going to dictate continuing higher prices until alternative energies reduce demand.

But.

Nothing goes straight up (weekly oil prices):


And that's what oil is doing right now. A portion of the recent run-up is speculation imo. This mini-bubble will eventually burst and oil will come "down". I put that in quotes because I don't think we'll ever see sub-$3.00 per gallon gasoline again. What we will see is continuing higher highs, and higher lows in prices until everyone gets it through their thick skulls (it's taken over 30 years so far) that cheap oil is over.

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SCOTUS With A Conscience?

So, everyone's all abuzz with the Supreme Court decisions yesterday:

The New York Times and Washington Post lead with the Supreme Court ruling that federal civil rights laws that protect workers against discrimination also cover those who faced retaliation for complaining about bias in the workplace. The Los Angeles Times devotes its top nonlocal spot to the twin decisions that said workers, including federal employees, are protected from retaliation, even if the federal laws don't explicitly say so. The majority in the 7-2 and 6-3 decisions emphasized that the justices relied on Supreme Court precedent that had previously found an implied right to sue for retaliation. The decisions don't really change the broad outlines of employment law, but they were somewhat surprising coming from a Supreme Court that had been keeping itself busy by issuing a series of pro-business rulings and limiting the rights of workers.
Aside from the decision itself, which appears to be blatant common sense on the face, the buzz is that it wasn't a 5-4 decision or worse. Gee, I wonder who the dissenters were?

Roberts sided with the majority to protect workers. Yes, this is decidedly different from his past opinions. But folks, don't bet the farm on this being any kind of harbinger of future decisions. Like a stopped watch that is right twice a day, even a pro-business conservative will throw the poor working schmucks a bone once in awhile.

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Rats

There have been any number of rats that have served a full stint in the Bush administration and then written a "tell all" book blasting said administration. Scotty boy McClelland is the latest. I'm not going to honor the SOB with any "revelations" that are hot in the news media and blogosphere just now. From what I've seen, it's nothing that anyone who pays any attention doesn't already know.

To be honest, I'm sick of these guys. They are even a bit lower than Rove or Bush. They've served as loyal servants in the most corrupt and illegally driven administration evah, and then they write the book. At least someone like Rove, as nutso as he may be, has the courage of his convictions and is consistently nutso. It's like these book is meant as a cleansing exercise to show the village that they really do have a conscience .... or something like that (think $$$$$). So Scotty, I hope you don't sell any books and you just disappear into obscurity where you and your backbone belong.

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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Village Idiots

Go read Digby.

I normally really like Rich Hertzberg. But I gotta agree with digby on this one.

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Uncork It

video

But what if there's wine in it?

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Monday, May 26, 2008

Roll Em' Johnny

Has John McCain pulled a Bob Bennett?

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Yeah. Real Funny

What do you expect from Faux?

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QOTD

"This is not an energy policy. This is money laundering: we borrow money from China and ship it to Saudi Arabia and take a little cut for ourselves as it goes through our gas tanks."

- Thomas Friedman

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Saturday, May 24, 2008

Oil Prices

I'm a regular reader of John Mauldin and his investing insights. Today's newsletter was on oil prices, asking if we are in a bubble or if supply is being outstripped by demand. Go read the whole thing for some really good insights on the subject.

The short version of his article is that oil is in a speculative bubble right now. He makes a good case for a significant drop in oil prices over the next six months. He also makes the case (and has in the past) that the longer term trend in oil prices will remain up.

I happen to totally agree with Mauldin. While I'm perfectly happy to see oil prices rise (it seems to be the only way to get folks to wake up!), I think the recent parabolic rises are unsustainable and not supported by the fundamentals. Some pundits are suggesting oil will go to $150 or $200 per barrel this year. And maybe it will. But at some point the speculation portion of the recent runup in prices will pop and oil will fall precipitously. However, when it does fall like a rock, I feel it will "hit bottom" at around $100 per barrel, still significantly higher than the previous bottom. But as usual, when gasoline falls to around $3.00 to $3.50 per gallon, consumers will breathe a sigh of relief at the "lower prices" and the adaptation process will continue.

The fact remains that oil prices are on a long term trend line up, and will continue so until alternative energy sources are more widely utilized.

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Friday, May 23, 2008

Moving Beyond Toast

Hillary is now past being toast and is quickly approaching pure carbon:


I guess there's been a lot of buzz that Hillary would want the second slot betting that Obama would get knocked off during his run/Presidency. While I think I understand what she was trying to say, it could be interpreted as in really bad taste. Such is the life of a politician. It's the reason I work for politicians rather than being one.

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Getting Through

Is it possible, maybe just a little itsy bitsy possible that folks are finally getting the picture?

WASHINGTON -- Americans drove less in March 2008, continuing a trend that began last November, according to estimates released today from the Federal Highway Administration.

“That Americans are driving less underscores the challenges facing the Highway Trust Fund and its reliance on the federal gasoline excise tax,” said Acting Federal Highway Administrator Jim Ray.

The FHWA’s “Traffic Volume Trends” report, produced monthly since 1942, shows that estimated vehicle miles traveled (VMT) on all U.S. public roads for March 2008 fell 4.3 percent as compared with March 2007 travel. This is the first time estimated March travel on public roads fell since 1979. At 11 billion miles less in March 2008 than in the previous March, this is the sharpest yearly drop for any month in FHWA history.

Though February 2008 showed a modest 1 billion mile increase over February 2007, cumulative VMT has fallen by 17.3 billion miles since November 2006. Total VMT in the United States for 2006, the most recent year for which such data are available, topped 3 trillion miles.

Additionally, the U.S. Department of Transportation estimated that greenhouse gas emissions fell by an estimated 9 million metric tons for the first quarter of 2008.
This proves that a gasoline tax would have worked. Had the U.S. government instituted an progressively painful gas tax back in 1975, we could have accomplished the needed result much sooner and with far less pain to working people.

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A Billion Here, A Billion There ....

More proof that U.S. taxpayer dollars were pocketed by Iraqi's. They're probably padding their Swiss accounts against a rainy day.

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A Chip Off The Ol' Block

Kathy Hilton on her daughter Paris:

Kathy Hilton doesn't care if you think she's a bad mother. In an interview promoting her latest venture, a beauty line, Paris' mommy dearest spoke about the dark days of her daughter's jail sentence. Mrs. Hilton was horrified by her daughter's jail term, she said, and felt that the punishment was excessive.

During Paris' time in the slammer, Mrs. Hilton added, "People were even throwing excrement at the window of her cell." Paris was also subjected to wearing a scratchy, unflattering jumpsuit, which Mrs. Hilton found upon her release. "When I felt how rough it was—that thing was like sandpaper—I threw it away," she said tearfully. But Hilton says her kid's incarceration did have an upside: "I lost so much weight."

Damned those unfashionable scratchy prison uniforms! Perhaps they could have called in Yves St. Laurent to design something more appropriate?

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Fatwa Explained

The prominent cleric al-Sistani in Iraq is reappearing in the news. Yesterday word leaked that he is privately issuing fatwa's against the U.S. occupation.

Juan Cole provides possible explanations for why this is happening, and why it's happening now. The short version is that the longer the U.S. stays and the more successful the anti-insurgency, the more likely Sunni's will regain power (that's what happen when the British were in Iraq in the 1920's). Al-Sistani does is also Iranian born and fears increased U.S. sabre rattling against Iran. If al-Sistani decides to actively and openly oppose the occupation, things could heat up considerably.

Added: Here's another great analysis of the situation. It's not good for the U.S.

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Factoid

Did you know that the U.S. military consumes 1.5% of all oil used by the U.S.?

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Thursday, May 22, 2008

Fed Up?

Has al Sistani lost his patience?

Iraq's most influential Shiite cleric has been quietly issuing religious edicts declaring that armed resistance against U.S.-led foreign troops is permissible — a potentially significant shift by a key supporter of the Washington-backed government in Baghdad.

....So far, al-Sistani's fatwas have been limited to a handful of people. They also were issued verbally and in private — rather than a blanket proclamation to the general Shiite population — according to three prominent Shiite officials in regular contact with al-Sistani....Between 10 and 15 people are believed to have received the new fatwas in recent months, the Shiite officials told the AP.

....It is impossible to determine whether those who received the edicts acted on them. Most attacks — except some by al-Qaida in Iraq — are carried out without claims of responsibility.

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Payback

ACTIVISTS JUDGES, ACTIVISTS JUDGES!!!!

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Transparency

Yeah right.

The McCain campaign has announced that they will release grandpa's medical records tomorrow. That's on a Friday of a holiday weekend. They're claiming that he's fit as a fiddle. My question is that if he's so fit, why the games with the timing of the release? They are also limiting the actually viewing of records to a few news organizations. Why?

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Think Again

Think the situation in Iraq is calming down? If you listen to the American media that parrots the Preznit, you might.

But think again.

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No Wonder Congress Gets Low Marks

After years of kissing Bush's butt, Congress finally gets up the stones to override a veto. Yep. They overrode the veto of the farm bill.

But guess what. Due to a "glitch", the bill sent to Bush for veto was improperly drafted. Thus, the bill and the entire process must be redone.

My sausage making processes are cleaner than this.

Added: Looks like they've also passed the GI Bill with a veto proof vote. Many intrepid Senators changed their votes from no to yes once they saw that there were 60 votes to pass. Do you think that Senate Republicans that are up for election are nervous?

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A Picture Tells The Story

It's a simple picture that really answers the question of why oil prices are skyrocketing (click to enlarge):


Gee, who could've predicted it?

Added: OPEC is coming out today and saying there's nothing they can do about supply. Translated: We're topped out in production. OPEC claims Saudi Arabia has some more capacity but is enjoying the cash flow too much. As I've said before, I don't think Saudi Arabia can do any more either but they don't want the world to know it.

The American public has been trained to simply weather these price storms, enjoy a pullback, then adjust to the new level of gasoline prices. What happens if prices don't level and just continually rise? If what OPEC and peak oilers are saying is true, it's not until demand falls substantially that prices will stabilize. And with a couple billion Indians and Chinese now demanding petroleum, American consumption may not be able to affect prices the way it once did. Maybe Americans will finally have to think about alternative energy and alternative transportation? But hey. What's the hurry?

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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

So It's War For NBC?

This crap is incredible:

There is more to the White House's unprecedented attack on NBC News yesterday than meets the eye.

The blistering letter to NBC from White House Counselor Ed Gillespie ostensibly focuses on the way President Bush's interview with NBC chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel was edited for presentation on Sunday's Nightly News.

But NBC's handling of the interview was not atypical for a tightly-edited broadcast and did not violate any journalistic norms. The White House may believe that news outlets are obliged to reproduce all of Bush's non-answers in their rambling entirety, but that's not the way the news business works.

Here's a link to the interview in question.

As Froomkin later points out in the above article, the Preznit seemed to be getting more and more pissed as the interview went on. It wasn't the editing that was a problem, it was the fact that he was confronted with pointed and challenging questions. The village idiot is so used to wet kiss questions that he usually gets he got miffed when facing a, you know, real journalist.

It looks to me like the White House is joining in on the Faux war against NBC. These are classic Republican pushback tactics to try and put the media back in the box anytime they do their jobs. Let's hope NBC/MSNBC keeps their balls and do the job they are charged with doing.

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Good Idea

I think this is a great idea:

In the WP's op-ed page, James Andrew Miller writes that a good way to "foster party unity" among the Democrats after a bitterly long nomination fight could be for Obama to promise Clinton that he will appoint her to the Supreme Court if a justice decides to retire during his presidency. The contenders pretty much agree on every major issue, so it's likely that Obama would be pleased with Clinton's votes in the court. The move would also motivate her supporters to back Obama since she could play a much more consequential role in the country's future than if she were to be his vice president. "Clinton's gumption and determination might make her one of the most powerful forces ever on the court, particularly when it comes to swaying other justices when the court is closely divided."
Except I wouldn't make it public.

I'm of the opinion that when push comes to shove, Clinton supporters will not vote for McCain. In fact, without an October surprise, I'm not sure anyone will vote for McBush other than that core 30% of nutbars that would vote for my schnauzer if he was a Republican. But promising Hillary a SCOTUS position would be a very dignified way to getting her out of the race, get her full support for the campaign and put her in a governmental role in which she could really shine.

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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

So Sorry

Poor old Ted. A liberal icon on the ropes.

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Iran Surprise

Some of you may know that I have a permanent tinfoil hat when it comes to Bush attacking Iran. But then stuff like this keeps bubbling up:

The official claimed that a senior member of the president's entourage, which concluded a trip to Israel last week, said during a closed meeting that Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney were of the opinion that military action [against Iran] was called for.

However, the official continued, "the hesitancy of Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice" was preventing the administration from deciding to launch such an attack on the Islamic Republic, for the time being.

The report stated that according to assessments in Israel, recent turmoil in Lebanon, where Hizbullah de facto established control of the country, was advancing an American attack.
Of course the White House adamantly denies that attacks are "imminent". Of course you and I know they could launch attacks next week or around oh, say, October and still be truthful in the "imminent" proclamation.

At a minimum the White House wants to keep the saber rattling by leaking such stories. At worst, someone inside the administration leaked to try and prevent these idiots from bombing Iran.

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Shape Up

Want your 6 year old daughter to grow up to be the modern woman? Buy her a pole dancing kit! And when she gets the hang of it, makes sure she dresses appropriately and looks just right!

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Oil Is Cheap

You think oil is expensive now, just wait:

Mexico provides about 14% of the oil the US imports. On any given day that makes it either the #2 or #3 leading source for US oil imports after Canada and Saudi Arabia. Given that the US currently imports close to 70% of its oil needs, the Mexican oil is critical.

But here's the thing. Using straightforward ELM calculations, Jeffrey Brown is confident that Mexico will ship its last barrel of oil to the United States -- or anywhere else, for that matter -- about 6 years from now, in 2014. In a recent interview with Brown, I asked about this forecast.
And this there this evaluation of the global supply:
"Global production peaked in 2005, and we're now into the third year of decline. And the critical point to keep in mind is, our model and case histories show that the decline rate accelerates, year by year. Using the Lower 48 in the United States as an example, you can see the annual declines going 2%, 3%, 5%, 7%, 10%, 15%, 20, on and on. So it's an accelerating decline rate."

Underscoring Brown's concerns:

On April 15, 2008 the Russians, the world's second largest oil exporter, announced that their oil production appeared to have peaked, with production in the first quarter of this year declining for the first time in a decade. If they have indeed peaked then, based on the ELM, the world could lose Russia's current ~7 million barrels a day in exports within 6 to 9 years.

Echoing the baseline premise of the ELM, Herman Franssen, president of International Energy Associates, projects that Iran, the world's fifth largest exporter, may consume an amount equal to their exports by 2015. A prominent oil analyst, the late Dr. Ali Samsam Bakhtiari, estimated that Iran is either at or near peak.

Most concerning, this April Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah announced they were not going to raise oil production above 12.5 million barrels a day. Commenting on the news, Tom Petrie, vice president of Merrill Lynch, said

"King Abdullah's quote speaks to the fast-emerging reality of what I call 'practical peak oil.' The Saudis and other exporters are placing a new emphasis on elongating the petroleum exploitation and depletion cycle. This stems from a growing awareness of the challenges of conventional resource maturity, as well as rising resource nationalism. This is likely to result in an earlier occurrence of global peak oil output than many consumers yet recognize."
Summing it up, Brown told me that "The reality is that this thing is coming so much faster and so much harder than even most pessimists were expecting."
These are from John Mauldin's newsletter in a piece written by the oil analyst David Galland. Galland's take on Saudi Arabia is the most optimistic. I personally think that the Saudi's are hiding the fact that they are at, or very near, peak oil themselves. Then, add this to the equation:

"If you look at the situation in US presidential terms, looking at fossil fuels plus nuclear, the world burned through the equivalent of 10% of all oil ever consumed in Bush's first 4-year term. And, in our model, we're going to burn 10% of all remaining conventional crude in the second 4 years of Bush's term.

Whoa! That's some incredible increase in consumption!

You may have read such analysis before. But you will not often read it coming from a highly mainstream, very conservative market analysts.

If you like $4.00/gal oil, you're going to absolutely love $10/gal oil.

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Monday, May 19, 2008

Peel, Stick, Click

.... and walk away ... energy independent:

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I'm Back

Well it's been a helluva couple of weeks. I was diagnosed with a bunch of allergies a few months ago. As a result I've had to change several medications, all of which contained an allergen for me: corn. I made the change and then began to develop hives .... all over the place. I've been a mess every since (going on about 3 weeks now) and am going through a process to find the culprit/s. Needless to say that when you exist in a chronic, moderate stage of anapylaxis , the energy level to blog falls.

In the news, things have been kinda of quiet. Seems as if we're preparing for summer which can be much more quiet. Bush is dead meat for all intents and purposes, the Dem primary is de facto over still, the war is status quo. However, two things did stand out this morning:

First this:

USA Today leads with an analysis that says the federal government's "long-term financial obligations" increased by $2.5 trillion last year. In order to cover the benefits of everyone who is eligible for government programs, including Medicare and Social Security, "taxpayers are on the hook for a record $57.3 trillion," a figure that translates into almost $500,000 per household. The number is much higher than the $162 billion the government reported as last year's deficit because it doesn't follow accounting standards that are the norm in the corporate world and fails to count future financial obligations.
Do you notice a little problem in this reporting? That humongeous number of $57 trillion is over what period of time? And how much tax revenue will come in over an equivalent time? This is a common scare tactic .... you look at the obligation for the next 50 years, add up the amount and then scare the beejesus out of everyone. It's like deciding to have a child after looking at a lifelong cost of several million bucks. As has been said many many times before, Social Security income vs. expenses is not a big problem. Medicare is much more of a problem but can be resolved.

The other story that caught my attention was this:
The WP's Howard Kurtz fronts a look at Fox News personality Bill O'Reilly's "extraordinary televised assault on the chief executive of General Electric," and says it has escalated after high-level executives from Fox failed to persuade the heads of NBC, a GE subsidiary, to tone down the attacks of MSNBC host Keith Olbermann. Apparently the chairman of Fox News, Roger Ailes, warned the heads of NBC and General Electric that if Olbermann continued to attack Fox, O'Reilly, combined with the New York Post, would proceed to launch a campaign against NBC. In recent weeks, O'Reilly has stepped up his attacks against the head of GE and criticized the company for its presence in Iran. ("If my child were killed in Iraq, I would blame the likes of Jeffrey Immelt," the head of GE, O'Reilly recently said.) Fox vehemently denies there ever was talk about a "quid pro quo" deal, but it seems clear that what started out as an entertaining feud between two cable news hosts has hurt the sensibilities of some of the media world's most powerful people.
What corporate media indeed.

Good for NBC to stay away from the low-life Faux's business-as-usual mettling.

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Thursday, May 15, 2008

Oooops


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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Slight Hiatus

I've been entertaining a lot, having some crummy health issues and generally been overwhelmed. Regular blogging to return soon.

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Sunday, May 11, 2008

Another Way Of Thinking

Few people actually think of this, but the cost of driving your own automobile is prohibitive:

LOS ANGELES, CA--(Marketwire - April 4, 2008) - The Automobile Club of Southern California's 2008 edition of "Your Driving Costs" shows the cost of driving a passenger vehicle in the United States has increased 1.9 cents per mile in the last year and now averages 54.1 cents per mile.

"While the cost of some driving expenses declined since the start of 2007, higher gasoline prices have more than offset these savings and pushed the overall cost of vehicle ownership and operation higher this year," said the Auto Club's Automotive Research Center Manager Steve Mazor. In 2008, AAA estimates it will cost $8,121 to own and operate a new passenger car driven 15,000 miles per year. This compares to $7,823 per year in 2007; or 52.2 cents per mile.

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Vice President Clinton

Yep, it's being floated more and more. It appears that Hillary would be open to the idea.

Would Obama? Would you if you were Obama?

Looks like the first major political test of Obama will be what to do about Hillary.

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The Quagmire

Thomas Powers has written a fine piece on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He gives a fine overview of the wars, how we got into them, how we screwed them up and how the U.S. has shifted from international diplomacy to military intervention.

I found this to be a frightening assessment on Afghanistan:

The CIA officer Anthony Arnold, who was stationed in Kabul before the Russian invasion, thinks the penalty of failure [for the Russians after they invaded Afghanistan] went beyond immediate losses and humiliation to include the actual collapse of the Soviet state itself. They were weaker than they knew, Arnold thinks, but the Russians did not give in easily: they killed more than a million Afghans, bombed villages to rubble, machine-gunned herds of sheep from the air, and drove as many as a fifth of all Afghans out of the country, across the border into the safe haven of Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas. Nothing worked and the war ended when the last Russian troops and trucks drove back across the Friendship Bridge into Tajikistan in 1989. It is true that the mujahideen got plenty of material help from Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the United States, but it was the Afghans who fought the Russians to exhausted frustration, and have gone right on fighting among themselves ever since.
This is the nut the U.S. is up against in Afghanistan.

The real point of Powers review is that we're in a quagmire that seems to dictate one of two solutions, without much in between:
We are committed in Afghanistan. We are not ready to leave Iraq. In both countries our friends are in trouble. The pride of American arms is at stake. The world is watching. To me the logic of events seems inescapable. Unless something quite unexpected happens, four years from now the presidential candidates will be arguing about two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, one going into its ninth year, the other into its eleventh. The choice will be the one Americans hate most—get out or fight on.
Ugly huh? I think he's right. The next President will be faced with cleaning up Bush's mess, and enduring consequences put into motion by Bush. Like everything else in George Bush's life, someone else will have to be the adult and clean up after the brat. If it's President McCain, I think the outcome is precisely as Powers describes. The remaining question is will President Obama have the guts to get out?

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Iraq

You may (or given our media, may not) have heard that there has been a major battle going on inside Baghdad. U.S. troops ... and oh yeah, Iraq military ... have "surrounded" Sadr City and have been attacking regularly inflicting a whole lot of casualties among the 2+ million residents.

It appears the Iraqi government and al Sadr have reached a new "agreement" for a ceasefire. Juan Cole summarizes:

The al-Maliki government and the Sadrists pulled back from the brink in Sadr City on Saturday. PM Nuri al-Maliki had demanded that the Mahdi Army militia that serves as the Sadrist paramilitary give up its arms and dissolve itself. The compromise simply states that the Iraqi security forces would be allowed in to Sadr City to search for suspected medium and heavy weapons. The implication is that the Mahdi Army may continue to exist and may keep its light weapons (e.g. AK-47s), though it has to pledge not to walk with them in public.

The siege of Sadr City is to be lifted and the major roads in and out of it are to be unblocked, according to the agreement.
Ok. I'm sure the Mahdi militiamen will all hand over their large weapons. Right.

But this is the key graf in Cole's description:
Reading news about Iraq is like watching Bill Murray's 'Groundhog Day' in which you have to live through the same day over and over again. So the US and Iraqi governments have announced a new campaign against Sunni radicals in Ninevah province, especially Mosul. Take a look at this article, published late last January: "Thousands of Iraqi army soldiers reached the northern city of Mosul on Sunday in preparation for what the government said would be a major offensive there against Al-Qaeda in Iraq, along with other Sunni militants."

You have a sinking feeling that al-Maliki is recycling old announcements in a futile attempt to distract the public from his climb-down in Sadr City. Al-Maliki left for Mosul Saturday along with a few cabinet members and close advisers. Curfews have been announced in some Mosul neighborhoods.
Or rather as I like to say, lather, rinse, repeat. And the war goes on and on and on.

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Friday, May 9, 2008

Never In My Life

I have never, NEVER, seen anyone run for Vice President this hard.

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QOTD

Atrios on the impending resignation of Vito:

MSNBC tells me Vito Fossella (R-NY) will likely resign soon, presumably so he can spend more time with his families.

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I Didn't Know

I didn't know that John McCain has had four bouts of malignant melanoma? Did you? I thought his face was messed up (the area on the side of his face above his jaw) because of torture or something. Turns out these are scars from past radical surgeries to remove the cancers.

I think a question like the one asked today on Dr. Dean Edell's radio show is relevant: what are the odds of John McCain dying in the next four years, and how about releasing those medical records?

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Hill's Difficult Weekend

She's about to have one:

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Barack Obama all but erased Hillary Rodham Clinton's once-imposing lead among national convention superdelegates on Friday and won fresh labor backing as elements of the Democratic Party began coalescing around the Illinois senator for the fall campaign.

Obama picked up the backing of nine superdelegates, including Rep. Donald Payne of New Jersey, a member of the Congressional Black Caucus who had been a Clinton supporter.

A big ouch to the ongoing fight. Is the cascade building steam?

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The Usual Lies

Your U.S. government in action.

As Kevin Drum points out, this quote comes from a LA Times journalist blog, not a news report. Wonder if we would have heard about it otherwise?

There was something interesting missing from Maj. Gen. Kevin Bergner's introductory remarks to journalists at his regular news briefing in Baghdad on Wednesday: the word "Iran," or any form of it. It was especially striking as Bergner, the U.S. military spokesman here, announced the extraordinary list of weapons and munitions that have been uncovered in recent weeks since fighting erupted between Iraqi and U.S. security forces and Shiite militiamen.

....A plan to show some alleged Iranian-supplied explosives to journalists last week in Karbala and then destroy them was canceled after the United States realized none of them was from Iran. A U.S. military spokesman attributed the confusion to a misunderstanding that emerged after an Iraqi Army general in Karbala erroneously reported the items were of Iranian origin.

When U.S. explosives experts went to investigate, they discovered they were not Iranian after all.

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Down But Not Out

You go Val!

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Prius

I would have purchased a Toyota Prius if they weren't so damned ugly. We ended up buying a hybrid Camry which is performing beautifully.

But take a look at the new Prius and it's features. Lookin' good!

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Big News On Housing

Wow. It looks like the falling prices in housing are actually bottoming. How would I know this? Because, like Barry, I believe in contrary indictators:

Economist David Lereah was once the housing market's biggest cheerleader. Now he says the bust isn't near over, and home prices still have a long way to fall.

"We're not at the bottom," he says. "[People] want it to be near the bottom, but we're not there yet. The leading indicators are still very bad. Pending home sales are still in bad shape. Mortgage applications are low … There's still supply out there in abundance … This thing is going to get worse before it gets better."
This guy is the economist for the National Association of Realtors. He's been wrong in every prognostication on housing for years. So to me, this is proof that the bottom is very near if not in.*


*Barry cites that Lereah is still recommending people buy now and that obviates the bottom call. I disagree. I think Lereah would be fired if he didn't say now is a good time to buy. His statement is about as close to the edge of termination that he could get.

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Done Deal

I never really thought of it this way, but isn't this true?

The LAT's Joel Stein sets out to buy some medical marijuana and finds the whole process surprisingly simple. "I always wondered what would happen if marijuana were legalized for anyone over 18," Stein writes. "It seems it already has been, and nothing happened."
I mean, other than the justice system and prisons being clogged up by those cases that are brought against marijuana dealers/users, aren't all the purported "bad effects" of marijuana legalization already ingrained in our country? Doesn't look to bad to me.

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Just Another Land Deal

What good is it to be a Senator if you can't help your constituents?

The WP fronts a look at how Sen. John McCain pushed a land swap deal through Congress that will "directly benefit" one of his top fundraisers. After approval of the legislation, which will allow an Arizona businessman to exchange remote land for valuable property owned by the federal government, SunCor Development was hired to build thousands of homes in the area. SunCor Development is run by Steven Betts, a longtime McCain supporter who has raised more than $100,000 for the Arizona Republican's presidential race. Betts denies he ever talked to McCain about it, but besides that connection, there are plenty of other eyebrow-raising aspects to the deal. McCain wasn't very eager to support the swap at first, but that all appeared to change after the businessman who owned the remote land hired a group of lobbyists that included several people who once worked for McCain.
We. Desperately. Need. Public. Financing.

Period.

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Burma

The humanitarian situation in Burma is a mess. The government there seems to be really unreasonable in not allowing aid into the country. Yet at the same time, isn't there such a thing as sovereignty? I really haven't a clue of just what should be done beyond diplomatic efforts and international public pressure to allow aid to come in.

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Because One Isn't Enough

Because no self-respecting blogger can have just one blog, I'm in two. My lovely wife Jan and I have started a culinary/hobby-like blog about our self-indulgences living in the Sonoma County wine country. Please feel free to drop by anytime and above all, comment!

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Thursday, May 8, 2008

More On The Real Votes

You've got to wonder if Hillary stays in the race as a way of doing a big fundraiser. Either way, she's up against a big number:

U.S. News and World Report: "Experts disagree on whether or not Clinton will actually stick in the fight until the Democratic National Convention in August. But the date looms large for another reason -- at least, if she hopes to recoup any of the millions she has sunk into the campaign. Thanks to a little-known provision in 2002's McCain-Feingold campaign-finance reform bill, a campaign must repay the loan to a candidate before Election Day. In this case, that's the nominating convention. After the election has passed, a bankrupt campaign is limited to gathering just $250,000 from contributors, which means that modest sum is all it can give back to a candidate. In short, Clinton stands to lose $11,150,000."

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