Friday, January 11, 2008

Rolling Down Hill

Where's Huckleberry Graham when you need him?

It's official. No one but the grunts have been held accountable for Abu Ghraid. The last officer was let off the hook yesterday.



The U.S. Navy, the American government and the Republican candidates all look like a bunch of wankers as the entire story of the Navy's brush with Iranian speedboats unravels. Could the U.S. be doing any more to support radical Islam these days?



If you ever wanted to get a peek into our priorities, all you have to do is look at what's going on with the telecoms.

You've likely heard that companies such as AT&T pulled the plug on the government's spying operations because of unpaid bills. The situation is thick with irony in that the companies will take a stand for the money and not civil liberties. I guess right now, the biggest protection of civil liberties is a combination of greed and government incompetence!


And The Rich .......

You may be hearing the news that Bank Of America is buying out Countrywide financial. But unless you are paying very close attention, here's a couple of things you may not know:

The CEO of Countrywide, the guy who ran the company into the ground, is slated to get a severance package of $115 million.

Though it's not confirmed, it is rumored that the Fed is providing some sort of guarantee/support to Bank of America in taking on the mortgage mess of Countrywide ..... essentially insuring BofA against the risk.

Before the announcement of the buyout deal, there was a substantial amount of "suspicious" market activity. In other words, inside trading netted some players a substantial amount of money on the deal.

And then these same Republican business types turn their fire on poor people who try to survive gaming government benefits. It's makes me sick. And why the voting populace puts up with this level of inequity .... and hypocrisy .... is beyond me.


Thursday, January 10, 2008


In a time when you really can believe very little from our government, this takes it to a new level. It turns out that the Navy is now admitting that the threatening exchange they had with Iranian naval speedboats might have been hacked.

Just two days after the U.S. Navy released the eerie video of Iranian speedboats swarming around American warships, which featured a chilling threat in English, the Navy is saying that the voice on the tape could have come from the shore or from another ship.

The near-clash occurred over the weekend in the Strait of Hormuz. On the U.S.-released recording, a voice can be heard saying to the Americans, "I am coming to you. You will explode after a few minutes."

The Navy never said specifically where the voices came from, but many were left with the impression they had come from the speedboats because of the way the Navy footage was edited.

Today, the spokesperson for the U.S. admiral in charge of the Fifth Fleet clarified to ABC News that the threat may have come from the Iranian boats, or it may have come from somewhere else.
You'd think the U.S. Navy could have it's shit together before creating an international incident and further making the U.S. look like a bunch of fools.

Oh, I forgot.

The U.S. is currently under the control of a bunch of fools.


Heating Up

I've been suspecting that Iraq is about to heat up again. Recent stories of offensives, casualties and rhetoric seem to support this contention.

One thing that no one is mentioning anymore, probably out of pure fatigue, is the lying terminology still being used by the Pentagon, assisted by the media:

BAGHDAD (AFP) - A US commander on Wednesday said the number of "spectacular" assaults by Al-Qaeda in Iraq has increased although the overall number of attacks was down and 20 key militants have been killed or caught.
They don't know if these folks are "al Qaeda". And what's the difference between Sunni's insurgents and al Qaeda? But that doesn't keep the Pentagon from continuing to try to use the nomenclature of fear to maintain support for the occupation.

In any case, the war continues in the Whack-a-mole mode.


Surge Anniversary

Well, the escalation of American's into Iraq is now a year old.

So, just how well have we done in achieving the goals of the escalation?


Shhhhh ... Don't Tell Anyone

A respected economics writer is blogging today about a conversation he had with a "respected" insider who is saying that the U.S. banking system is on life support and that plans are being made for a quasi-nationaliztion of the banking system to avoid meltdown:

Unfortunately, I can't use many of the specifics he conveyed, but he is a very upbeat sort by temperament but also has been studying the banking/credit mess. He sees us going down the Japan path. Banks will not be technically bankrupt, but will have so many bad assets on their balance sheets, and will have taken hits to their equity bases, that 18 months from now they will be unable to make new loans. They will be quasi nationalized. BTW he said this in a completely evenhanded fashion, as if he was giving a weather report.

This, mind you, comes from someone who has written frequently for the American Enterprise Institute and tells me the Treasury and the (sic)Feds are working on this scenario now. This is far more dire than any forecast either yours truly, a constitutional skeptic, or even uberbears like Nouriel Roubini, have been putting forward.
Let this be an unfounded rumor.


Second Could Win It

Brad DeLong explains here that Mitt Romney can keep coming in second and still win the nomination. Because there are so many candidates, and so many different possible winners in different regions, all Romney has to do is keep consistently coming in second to win the delegates he needs.

That possibility, along with a still-remote-but-growing possibility of brokered Democratic convention actually is making primary season unusually interesting.


Two Lessons

I come away from the New Hampshire Democratic dust-up with two lessons:

1. Support for the Democratic candidates is thin. In this case, the media gets it right. Democratic voters could basically live with any of the top three candidates. In fact, Democratic candidates could live with a salamander as the candidate as long as it's not Bush or a Republican.

2. You can't count on young voters. Despite the polls having been accurate in predicting Obama's numbers, a surge by young people just didn't occur as it did in Iowa. If Obama wants to win, he needs support of the old foggies like me.

For once, I have to agree with something Karl Rove wrote:

"The dirty secret is it is hard to accurately poll a primary. The unpredictability of who will turn out and what the mix of voters will be makes polling a primary election like reading chicken entrails–ugly, smelly and not very enlightening."
The media is writing an obit for John Edwards. I figure that Edwards is in it for awhile. What's he got to lose? If he doesn't win in South Carolina, then at worst he has some playing cards for the convention. The only reason I can see that he might get out earlier is to torpedo Hillary, if he should choose to do so. Plus, playing a kingmaker role would put him in a great position down the road.


Wednesday, January 9, 2008


This is ridiculous.

As Eric Alterman said today, news punditry is the only business that is consistently wrong, delivery a crappy product, and rewarded for it. Exhibit A, Tweety:

Matthews: I think the Hillary appeal has always been about the mix of toughness and sympathy. Let’s not forget, and I’ll be brutal, the reason she’s a US Senator, the reason she’s a candidate for President, the reason she may be a front runner, is that her husband messed around. […]

That’s how she got to be a Senator from New York. We keep forgetting it. She didn’t win it on her merit, she won because everybody felt, “My God, this woman stood up under humiliation,” right? That’s what happened.

Added: Exhibits B and C:


I Confess

In my predictions about the outcome of the NH primary, I fell in a trap. It's a common trap of which you'd think I'd be aware. I fell for the media's conventional wisdom based on flawed polls that Clinton would lose.


Now the big CW is that Clinton staged a "comeback". Keith Olberman (the only one of the gasbags worth a dime) asked the question, "can someone who has been the front-runner and presumed nominee "comeback""? Only if you believe the media hype.

My theory is that Clinton "held on". She's had a large lead in NH previously. With the time between New Hampshire and Iowa so short, I simply think the libertarian based voting public saw Obama as a threat and too liberal with most of the crossover vote from conservatives going to Clinton. Also women in NH, perhaps a bit more feminist than in Iowa, went with a woman candidate.

No matter the punditry and opinions, the fact is the media got it totally wrong .... again. I haven't really watched much of the cable news coverage for a long time, but watching them last night was like having your fingernails torn out. The likes of Timmah Russert gasbagging away made me want to gag, particularly when he looked like he was going to have an orgasm over the whole horserace thing. And the topper was Tweety Matthews opining that NH was the result of the "Bradley effect" whereby white folk simply can't bring themselves to vote for a black man (I have images in my mind of a Dr. Strangelove situation where a white guy fights with his hand as he tries to pull the lever for Obama). These folks don't know any more than yours truly (and you) about what's going on in the electorate. I'd have been better off putting on an old movie.

Well, now it's onward and upward to the next primaries. Ironically, a system designed to have a nominee early may actually end up with a floor fight at the convention.


Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Surging Candidate

If I said to you, there's a Democratic candidate for President who is really surging right now, who would you say that is?

Read it and weep:

Isn't there a story held in this chart?


A Day In The Life

Just another day in paradise for the Iraqi's:

After I made sure that my daughter was only shocked and dazed, but unhurt, I leaned back to take a breath.

Her transport had to take his car to the fitter for some minor repairs and I was giving her a lift to school. One checkpoint after another all the way to a central main road where we could relax a little from the bumper-to-bumper lines of cars. As we sped along (50km/hr) feeling the freedom, suddenly an American convoy emerged from a side street at full speed. Terrified of getting too close, the first car braked so hard it swirved; the second slammed into it; I was the third ... and there were two more.

There we stood, each driver with a look of frustration on his face - who to blame?? Who to shout at to relieve the tention?? Who to haggle with for repair money?

We looked at each other, and at our smashed cars - and started laughing uncontrollably until the tears started to flow, "Alhamdu lillah assalama (thank God for your safety)" was all we could manage to say.

By that time the convoy was long gone.


If It's Not Covered, Did It Happen?

I've not seen anything about this story in the U.S. media. It likely got a short blurb, but it certainly hasn't gotten the attention that it deserves:

BAGHDAD - The recent killing of two U.S. soldiers by their Iraqi colleague has raised disturbing questions about U.S. military relations with Iraqi forces.

On Dec. 26, an Iraqi soldier opened fire on U.S. soldiers accompanying him during a joint military patrol in the northern Iraqi city Mosul. He killed the U.S. captain and another sergeant, and wounded three others, including an Iraqi interpreter.

Conflicting versions of the killing have arisen. Col. Hazim al-Juboory, uncle of the attacker, Kaissar Saady al-Juboory, told IPS that his nephew at first watched the U.S. soldiers beat up an Iraqi woman. When he asked them to stop, they refused, so he opened fire.
I don't even have to read what the Pentagon is saying, or the right-wing noise machine. And who knows what the truth really is in the situation.

But it doesn't really matter.

The perception by Iraqi's is that this guy was a hero for protecting Iraqi women. And it's just something like this that could spark the entire country to violently turn against Americans.


Meanwhile, Over There

Things seem to be heating up a bit:

In a further sign of a determined new year's counter-attack by the radical Salafis and/or neo-Baathists, a wave of bombings and kidnappings swept Iraq on Monday, leaving 24 dead, dozens wounded.
Don't expect to hear about it in our media until/unless a lot of Americans start to die. They're too busy watching Britney, Hillary and (fill in the blank with Republican).


New Hampshuuuur

My predictions for tonight:

Dems: Obama wins by a relatively comfortable margin. Hillary and Edwards are close and all three stay in the race. Obama is going to have to beat Hillary on Super Tuesday to knock her out. Edwards is young and will, despite losing in 2008, be proven correct and ultimately will be President.

Repubs: McCain wins, Romney comes in an anemic second and Huckabee might as well have saved his time and money. Huckabee will now fade away, back to where he started. McCain and Romney will continue to do battle and it may get very close. In the end, Republicans won't like whoever they end up with.


A Pretty Good Argument

Via Barry Ritholtz (click to enlarge):

That's a pretty good argument.

I would contend that even if we're in a recession, it's a mild one so far and likely to remain mild. An unemployment rate of 5% (6% used to be considered "full employment) is not that bad and not a big incentive for consumers to stop spending. Put another way, there's just not much fear in the public right now.

Added: Remember when the economy was kinda sorta strong and we needed tax cuts? Now that the economy is weaker guess what. That's right, we need more tax cuts!


Monday, January 7, 2008

Phoney Politicing

There's only one problem with this kind of faux personal moment ..... it works with a lot of voters who are stupid enough to think it's genuine:

HENNIKER, NH -- The Clintons had a reverse Rudy-Judi moment this morning.

During a meeting with some local undecided voters, a cellphone starting ringing. "Is that mine?" Bill Clinton said, realizing it was. "It's probably her." He answered, but found no one there. "Only Hillary has my number, it couldn't be anyone else."

Sure enough, the phone rang again. "I'm at your meeting here," he explained, causing the crowd gathered at a local restaurant to roar. Clinton appeared to be listening intently, then said: "I'll tell them that. Okay, I love you."

Earlier, Clinton told the crowed that this election promises a choice for them. "Hillary doesn't think she's entitled to the presidency," he said. "She just wants you to make a choice, a knowing choice."



Many of the "in the know" policy wonks who discuss Pakistan often cite that it's highly unlikely that Pakistan would become an Islamic state. I wonder if they've seen this?

WASHINGTON, Jan 6 (Reuters) - Most Pakistanis want their country to be a democratic Islamic state but are deeply distrustful of the United States and its war on terrorism, according to a poll released on Sunday.

Funded by the U.S. Institute of Peace, or USIP, the poll was taken in the nuclear-armed nation before President Pervez Musharraf's six-week state of emergency and the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto last month.

The results, released about six weeks before elections scheduled for Feb. 18, show that a large majority of Pakistanis see democracy as fully compatible with Islam, the pollsters said. Democracy ranked especially high among the 60 percent of respondents who wanted Muslim-based Sharia law to play a larger role in legal affairs.

"It shows there is no major Western-oriented secular sub-group in Pakistan. People want more Islam. They don't think Pakistan is pious enough or that Islamic values are adequately expressed in daily life," said Steven Kull, director of, a non-profit group affiliated with the University of Maryland that conducted the poll for USIP.