Friday, April 4, 2008

School Of Missed Opportunities

Just thought you all might enjoy knowing that the guy who registered, for $20 in 1994 no less, the domain name just sold it for $2.6 million. Just stop and think of the stuff you could have registered for nuthin' back in 1994.



On this, the anniversary of Martin Luther King's assassination, I can't think of better done tribute than this one.


In The Tank

If you ever doubted that the media is biased, give this a read. The media has two standards .... one for Republicans and one for Democrats. And yet, newspapers and teevee news outlets wonder why their readership/viewership is disappearing?


Quote Of The Day

Charlie Pierce on John Yoo, the infamous author of the legal justifications for Bush to do whatever he wanted:

He should be kept away from the law for the same reason we keep Charlie Manson out of the cutlery drawer. He should have been the story [in themedia this week] but, of course, Barack Obama went bowling.
Go read the whole thing.


Foreclosure Stay

Unless you've been in a cave, you know that home foreclosures have been going through the roof (no pun intended). But in reality, it's worse than reported:

Some banks are letting people stay in their houses ... through foreclosure and beyond. One distressed mortgage buyer said people have been staying in their home "Until someone comes to kick them out . . . Sometimes no one comes to kick them out.''
There's a real incentive to work to keep a house.

On the other hand, banks aren't equipped to handled the numbers of bad loans and the numbers of borrowers who'll just leave the keys on the counter. Swell times we live in.


Flip Side

The monthly jobs report came out today. No one was expecting a good one, but it positively stunk up the place. But Bonddad makes a very good, glass half full type point. The Bush boom produced the fewest new jobs of any recovery since WWII (I've written about this over and over again). So on the downside, job losses will be less because there are fewer employed people to be removed!!!



For the last three days many newspapers have been trying to sort out just exactly how many Iraq soldiers and policeman deserted during the Basra battle. The numbers are all over the place. It's apparent that no one really knows, including the Iraqi government.

It seems to me that the fact they don't know is just about as telling as the number that deserted. The Iraq government appears to be as incompetent as the U.S. government and has no idea of it's strength force or has any real command and control of the military.

In the meantime, Maliki seems to be continuing a covert war against al Sadr, and al Sadr is getting tired of it.


Don't Fly Me

If you've been watching the news, you've likely heard of the FAA's recent failures at insuring the safety of commercial airplanes. I particularly found this appalling:

USAT highlights what was probably the most startling testimony at the congressional hearing. One of the two whistle-blowers who initially raised concerns about Southwest choked up as he told the story of how a manager came into his office and all but threatened him while he was working on a document detailing the problems with the inspection of Southwest planes. "You have a good job here, and your wife has a good job [at the FAA]," the manager told him while holding a picture of the inspector's family. "I'd hate to see you jeopardize your and her careers." The inspectors also talked about orders to shred documents so they wouldn't get to Congress, and they emphasized that the lax attitude toward Southwest stemmed from the close relationship their supervisor in Dallas had with the airline's managers. The manager still works for the FAA, although the agency insists he doesn't have responsibility for safety decisions. "What do you have to do to get fired there?" Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson asked.
I can answer Rep. Johnson's question about how to get fired. Do a good job.

Isn't a hallmark of the Bush administration that competence is rewarded by being called a traitor, and incompetence (or more precisely, protecting corporations) is met with reward?


Thursday, April 3, 2008

The Tribes

Digby posts today offering her view of why McCain is trotting out his military ancestors so prominently of late. She excerpts this piece by Michael Lind explaining the genesis of American politics:

In the aftermath of the US election, the pattern of Democratic blue and Republican red on the electoral map is baffling, unless you know how to read it. Ideology does not help much. "Left" and "right" are irrelevant terms from 19th and 20th-century Europe. Geographic dichotomies--big states versus small states, interior versus coasts--merely supply questions, not answers.

The clue to the US electoral map lies in ethnography. As the historian David Hackett Fischer and the commentator Kevin Phillips (among others) have demonstrated, ideology and region are surrogates for race and ethnicity in the US. American politics is, and always has been, a struggle for power between two coalitions of tribes. Two coalitions, instead of three or four, because the US inherited the "plurality" or first-past-the-post voting system from early modern Britain. Plurality systems ensure that third-party votes are wasted and so give countries relatively stable two-party democracy.

In most periods from 1789 to the present, the US has had two dominant national parties competing to control government: Federalists vs Republicans (1790s-1810s), National Republicans vs Democratic Republicans (1810s-1830s), Whigs vs Democrats (1830s-1850s), Republicans vs Democrats (1850s-present). Despite the changing names, the underlying coalitions have been remarkably stable. In effect, there have been only two main parties in American history: the northern party and the southern party.

The core of the northern party (originally Federalists, Whigs and Republicans, and now Democrats) has been citizens of New England and the "greater New England" region settled by the descendants of colonial-era New Englanders, an enormous area which includes the great lakes, the upper prairie and the Pacific north-west. The culture of these "Yankees" originated in 17th-century English Puritanism. Its legacy remains in a distinct New England Yankee culture which values moral rectitude and social reform.

The historic rivals to the greater New England Yankees in US politics have been the coastal southerners of Virginia, South Carolina, and the Gulf coast region, which they settled from the Florida panhandle to east Texas. Royalist refugees from Cromwell's Puritan dictatorship--the so-called "Cavaliers"--created a hierarchical, traditional, aristocratic society based on a plantation economy. They have always dominated the southern party (originally Jeffersonian Republicans, then Jacksonian and Rooseveltian Democrats, and now Republicans).

On opposite sides in the English civil war, and then in the US civil war, the Yankees and Cavaliers have always been on opposite sides in US politics.
The "Cavaliers" worry that McCain isn't one of them. And he isn't any more than Reagan or either Bush was. So McCain's prepping his image to fit into the tribal norm that he needs to win by doing his best Cavalier imitation.

Here, also via Digby, is the classic orientation film for a brand new Cavalier. It's guaranteed to make Chris Matthew's little soldier stand at attention!



I agree with Atrios. One person's earmark is another person's important project.



Hey, maybe he can hook up with Nader and share expenses?

Though he recently said he was considering a Libertarian bid for president, former Rep. Bob Barr (R-GA) will run as an independent, according to a New Republic report.


The Votes That Matter

Ultimately, this is what will determine the Democratic nominee:

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama raised more than $40 million in campaign contributions in March, his staff said on Thursday.

That followed a record $55 million the Illinois senator hauled in during February.
My guess is that Hillary's numbers will be anemic. The writing's on the wall. Wonder when HillBill will be able to read it?


As You Were

Apparently the U.S. is perfectly content to return to it's delusion "it's fine" mindset in Iraq. Despite the recent paroxysm of violence in Iraq (effective nullifying any argument that the U.S. "surge" is doing anything of consequence), Maliki having his ass handed to him, Iran displaying it's regional muscle, and the U.S. sitting around saying "what the fu ....!", here's Ambassador Ryan Crockers conclusion:

Overall, though, Crocker, who is set to testify before Congress next week, insists the situation in Iraq has improved and says he expects the "political and economic progress" to continue.
From my perspective there's been only one outcome from the beginning. It was baked into the cake during the colonial middle eastern period and has to play out.

Whether we removed Hussein or he was finally knocked off by the Shiites, Iraq was/is going to go through a civil war. The outcome of that war will be bloody and highly disturbing to the region with the Shiites (and team Iran) likely strengthened leading to increased tensions between regional Sunni's, Shiites and Israel . Ultimately these groups will have to figure out how to live with each other. The only relevant question to the U.S. has been how many Americans, and how much money, would we spend in our impotent attempts to use our military to be a regional player. The U.S. can stay in Iraq another 10 years and the outcome will still be the same.

Added: And let's not forget that little Turkish/Kurd problem in northern Iraq ...... Ditto.


Ketsup Treatment

Will John McCain receive the John Kerry treatment by the press?

The McCains' marriage has mixed business and politics from the beginning, according to an expansive review by The Associated Press of thousands of pages of campaign, personal finance, real estate and property records nationwide. The paperwork chronicles the McCains' ascent from Arizona newlyweds to political power couple on the national stage.

As heiress to her father's stake in Hensley & Co. of Phoenix, Cindy McCain is an executive whose worth may exceed $100 million. Her beer earnings have afforded the GOP presidential nominee a wealthy lifestyle with a private jet and vacation homes at his disposal, and her connections helped him launch his political career — even if the millions remain in her name alone. Yet the arm's-length distance between McCain and his wife's assets also has helped shield him from conflict-of-interest problems.

Nearly 30 years before John McCain became the Republican presidential nominee, he worked in public relations at his wife's family company.
Kudos to AP for doing a story on McCain's financial background and his wife's fortune. Go read the whole thing for a great backgrounder on McCain.

Oh. And there's more about that ginormous "rustic" McCain retreat where our intrepid mediawhores media was bought off entertained recently:
John McCain held a barbecue recently for reporters at a two-story cabin near Sedona, Ariz., that sits on 15 acres owned by his wife's family trust and a real estate partnership in her name. The property includes four single-family homes and is worth nearly $1.8 million.

It's clear the rustic retreat is considered family property. The cabin features artwork by the McCain children and editorial cartoons depicting McCain. A doormat reads: "GEEZER (formerly known as `Stud Muffin') Lives Here." The amenities include a soda fountain and, of course, a Budweiser beer tap.


Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Quote Of The Day

Without comment. The idiocy stands on it's own: (remember this oldie but goodie?)

"This year I was really a player," Feith said, thinking back on 2002 and relishing the memory. I asked him whether, in the end, he was at all concerned that the Geneva decision might have diminished America's moral authority. He was not. "The problem with moral authority," he said, was "people who should know better, like yourself, siding with the assholes, to put it crudely."


Pass The Clorox

As Atrios says, "who could have predicted"?

ORLANDO, Fla. -- A recent survey that found some Florida teens believe drinking a cap of bleach will prevent HIV and a shot of Mountain Dew will stop pregnancy has prompted lawmakers to push for an overhaul of sex education in the state.

The survey showed that Florida teens also believe that smoking marijuana will prevent a person from getting pregnant.

State lawmakers said the myths are spreading because of Florida's abstinence-only sex education, Local 6 reported


Poster Boy

Karl Rove discussing real patriotism:

In a recent interview with GQ, former Bush adviser Karl Rove criticized Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) for “not wearing a flag lapel pin,” saying that “to a lot of ordinary people, putting that flag lapel pin on is true patriotism.”
Real patriotism = wearing a lapel pin? Unfortunately Rove is correct. Judging by the polls, I'd guess that about 30% of the public thinks that true patriotism lies in wearing a flag lapel pin. They may be driving a car that gets 2 mpg, in debt up to their eyeballs, loyal Faux watchers, bigoted as all-get-out, but they've got that pin on!

But wait. The kicker? Wait for it ........

in the interview, Rove didn't have a flag lapel pin on .....

Doesn't that just perfectly sum up Rovian politics?


Too Funny

Attaturk at Rising Hegemon really is a hoot.


For The Record

Just for the record, the media (and John McCain) have it wrong .... again .... still.

In the recent Shiite dust-up in Iraq, it was Maliki subordinates who undermined Maliki and sued for peace, via Iran, with al Sadr. McCain and the media are incorrectly claiming that al Sadr sought the ceasefire.

It really is astounding that with hundreds of thousands of lives and trillions of dollars on the line, our intrepid media is clueless about the politics of the middle east. Simply using google would clear up a lot of errors. But then they might not get invited for those delicious cocktail weenie parties.



Atrios makes an excellent point today. He postulates that Americans don't support mass transit because most Americans really have no idea what quality rapid transit is like.


The Fall of Bill Clinton

Bill Clinton, despite his Presidential "indiscretions" had the opportunity to retire with a decent reputation among liberals. He was off to a good start making a career as a relatively young man in international politics. But then Hillary ran for President:

Bill Clinton had "one of his famous meltdowns" at a weekend meeting with 15 superdelegates, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, "blasting away at former presidential contender Bill Richardson for having endorsed Obama, the media and the entire nomination process."

Said one attendee: "It was one of the worst political meetings I have ever attended."

When asked about Richardson, "it was as if someone pulled the pin from a grenade... The former president then went on a tirade that ran from the media's unfair treatment of Hillary to questions about the fairness of the votes in state caucuses that voted for Obama. It ended with him asking delegates to imagine what the reaction would be if Obama was trailing by just 1 percent and people were telling him to drop out."
Clearly Bill Clinton's guilt vis a vis Hillary Clinton is monumental.

The destruction of Bill Clinton's reputation is on it's way to completion. Conservatives always vilified him and now liberals have reason to see his avarice for the White House in full stunning color.

Too bad. It's hard to watch someone you once respected go down the drain this way.


Problem Solved?

Whoa .....

Illinois Sen. Barack Obama is surging in Pennsylvania, according to several new polls. In one survey, released by Public Policy Polling this morning, Obama is now leading New York Sen. Hillary Clinton for the first time, 45 percent to 43 percent. That represents a closing of a 26-percentage-point Clinton advantage from only two and a half weeks ago.
Now the disclaimers. I have no idea of the track record of this poll and the lead is certainly within the margin of error. Other polls show Clinton maintaining a lead.

The CW is that Clinton will win Pennsylvania. A shadowy CW is that if Obama makes it close, the pressure will be immense for Clinton to quit. I suspect that if Obama actually wins, that might push Clinton over the edge to actually bow out. But I would also venture to guess that the odds of Obama winning are slim. But an Obama win would sure solve some problems wouldn't it?



The infamous memo written by John Yoo justifying the President ordering torture has finally been released. Here's a key graf:

"If a government defendant were to harm an enemy combatant during an interrogation in a manner that might arguably violate a criminal prohibition, he would be doing so in order to prevent further attacks on the United States by the al Qaeda terrorist network. … In that case, we believe that he could argue that the executive branch's constitutional authority to protect the nation from attack justified his actions."
So, even if it's criminal, the Preznit can do whatever he wants if he feels threatened enough.

The appalling nature of this memo is clear on the face. But what's even more appalling is that right out of the chute Bush abused this so-called authority. When the full truth is revealed, it will be confirmed that torture was used on subjects who were clearly of no apparent threat to the U.S.

Some people, myself included, have a word for this type of action: felony.


Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Now They've Got It

Please, much more like this:

Democrats Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama slammed potential White House opponent John McCain on the economy on Tuesday, accusing the Republican of favoring the wealthy and turning his back on struggling workers and middle-class families.

The Democratic presidential contenders, campaigning in Pennsylvania ahead of their April 22 showdown, took a break from attacking each other to portray the Arizona senator as uncertain and untested on economic issues.


Truer Words

.... were never spoken. This quote is taken from a financial newsletter and is talking about the American financial system. But as you read it, think willingness to pay taxes, sacrifice on energy policy, live modest lifestyles, and on and on and on:

We all know Adam Smith as the author of the bible of capitalism, The Wealth of Nations (1776). But he first wrote what is arguably a far more important book, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, from which the quote that heads this month's newsletter is drawn. America is rushing headlong into the 21st century without a proper understanding of what economic policies and financial tools are going to be required to prosper in a changing world. For more than two decades, the United States economy has favored financial speculation over production. Over the past century, our legal system had developed an increasingly outmoded concept of fiduciary duty that privileges short-term, single-firm interests over the kind of long-term, society-wide interests that could lead to prolonged prosperity [my emphasis]. The current meltdown in the financial markets is a symptom of a serious disease that is eating away at the stability of our most important institutions. What we are witnessing might well be the end of American financial hegemony, which is the result of a burgeoning global economy.
The writer, Michael Lewitt goes on to offer a solution that, if I didn't know better, could have been written by an FDR appointee in 1931. On top of it all, the article appears in a very financially and politically conservative newsletter, albeit in the "Outside the Box" segment.

The so-called Reagan revolution has led to a multi-generation exaggeration of the rewards of greed without the fear of risk. The U.S. is headed down a correction of sorts where these "imbalances" will have to be corrected one way or the other. Without correction, we will be a second rate culture, a second rate society and go the way of the Roman and British empires.


Right the F#@K ON!

Just go read the sizzle.


Bush's Best Friend

This is incredibly ironic.

Iran pulls Bush's fat out of the fire and saves the progress of his "surge" by calming the battle between waring Shiite factions (Maliki and al Sadr). Of course to the Iranians, relative peace will likely lead to a withdrawal of American troops. But interestingly, Iran has done nothing to stop the elimination of the Sunni "al Qaeda" in Iraq group.

Gee. I wonder why Iran would do that? You've got to wonder what Saudi Arabia thinks of such a move by Iran and what pressure (oil anyone?) will be brought to bear on the U.S. to permanently stay in Iraq? If Iran continues to be successful in mediating the Shiite civil war, look to the Sunni's to gain increased funding from the Saudi's.

Added: Needlenose makes a very good point about the recent dust-up noting that the brief skirmish was an Iranian field test:

Al-Sadr ordered his Mahdi Army to stand down seven months ago — earning him praise from U.S. commanders and officials. That cease-fire, in theory at least, remains in force. Militia commanders, however, say it was aggressively used by al-Sadr and his top aides to restructure and better arm and train militiamen.

The commanders, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the information, said they have recently been taking delivery of new weapons from Iran, including rockets, roadside bombs and mortars. They have also received an infusion of cash and sent militiamen to Iran for training.

"It is a clever ploy," a militia commander in Baghdad's Sadr City district, the Mahdi Army's largest stronghold, said last week. "We can take on anyone in Iraq now."
Who in their right mind would have ever thought that the recent decline in violence was merely an opportunity to reload?


Seals the Deal

I think that anyone who knows the Bush administration would already have figured this, but now it's official:

CNBC's Steve Liesman reports on a letter from Treasury Secretary Paulson to New York Fed President Tim Geithner. In the letter, Treasury agrees that the Fed can bill Treasury for any losses from the Bear Stearns deal.
That's right. Any losses in JP Morgan buying Bear Stearns will be covered by taxpayers the Treasury.


ARM Resets

As you likely know, the housing crisis is based on sleezy loans made to, often, unqualified borrowers and speculators. There have been charts floating around showing the huge mountain of adjustable rate mortgage (ARM) resets that are occurring, and will occur. Correspondingly, there is a whole lot of fear amongst lenders, investors and recent borrowers that they'll get caught with huge payment increases.

Except ....

Mish, in this post, makes the point that the future likelihood is that resets and mortgage payments will go down. I won't go into the details (you can read his post), but the key point is that the FED, through pumping money into the banking system and lower short term interest rates is finally impacting the benchmark upon which mortgage rates are based. Thus, mortgage interest rates are dropping at the same time that housing prices having been taking a huge haircut. And if the stock market begins to stabilize (and I think it will), long term interest rates will likely fall more. Thus, future ARM resets may actually be lower, not higher.

So why isn't this a good thing? In the short term it is a good thing that will rescue the housing market. With an unlimited money printing press and with the swish of a hand, the FED has likely been able to ease the pain. But. There will be cost in terms of the potential to ignite another bubble. I don't know about you, but I'm noticing a lot of stories in the news about speculators picking up foreclosures. But the larger risk is inflation. By cheapening the dollar with such low interest rates, commodity prices (although correcting in the short term) will inevitably rise. In essence, inflation will be the tax we all pay to get out of the last mess, and the bubblicious tendency of the FED will set the stage for the next mess.


Monday, March 31, 2008

Iran Steps In, Bush Irrelevent

This is the de facto situation in Iraq. The U.S. is irrelevant in Iraq, and Iran is highly influential having brokered the current stand-down in fighting. Maliki's party (not Maliki btw who was undermined by his own buddies) sure had easy access to Iran for being a U.S. ally now didn't they?

Added: Tristero's comment on this development:

Think about that. Four thousand plus American lives have been sacrificed, countless Iraqis have also died, at a financial cost in the multiple trillions and the upshot is not democracy but the spread of radical Shiite islamism. There aren't words in the English language ominous enough to describe how profound a catastrophe this is.
It really is an astounding outcome ... a poster child for unintended consequences.


Sunday, March 30, 2008

Upcoming Attractions

Steven Benen notes a kurffufle that occurred this week between the Republican party and Democratic party over a McCain ad. I think he makes a good point that the RNC is helping the Dems.

But another thing I take away from it is that one of McCain's strategies will be to continuously assert an exaggerated, faux outrage whenever anyone says anything negative about McCain, who after all is a real Amurikan hero! They'll wrap him up in the flag with so much material that they think it will protect him. I don't know if it will work or not, but it will be comical to watch.



I swear our leadership is clueless. This from Huckleberry (Lindsay) Graham this morning:

Now we have a battle with militias who are operating outside the government. … We must win this fight. The militias that we are fighting are backed by Iran. So this is an effort by Iran to destabilize Iraq.
Contrast that with this and you can see what a numb skull Graham is. Hell. If anything Iran has played a huge role in re-stabilizing Iraq in the last 24 hours. And Maliki? Seems he has friends in high places:

Ray Takeyh of the Council on Foreign Relations noted the ISCI [Maliki's party] “was essentially created by Iran, and its militia, the Badr Brigade, was trained and equipped by the Revolutionary Guards” — which the Bush administration calls a “terrorist” organization.

Journalist Gareth Porter added the Badr militia is the “most pro-Iranian political-military forces in Iraq.” In fact, ISCI leader Abdul Aziz al-Hakim “met with [Iranian Revolutionary Guard] officers to be his guests in December 2006, apparently to discuss military assistance to the Badr Organisation.”

To our idiot leaders, they're all just rag heads. No seriously. I don't think Graham is spinning. I think he seriously is clueless about the actual politics of the region, lumping anyone who is "against" the U.S. automatically allied with Iran. And the scariest part (aside from being a sitting U.S. Senator) is that Graham is a huge friend and adviser to McCain.


The Hill

Hillary may be vowing to stay in the race, but the most important voters may be sending her a message:

"Sen. Hillary Clinton's cash-strapped presidential campaign has been putting off paying hundreds of bills for months -- freeing up cash for critical media buys, but also earning the campaign a reputation as something of a deadbeat in some small business circles."
Of course Hillary will vow to stay in the race to the end .... until she drops out. That's the way of it. If her funding dries up her hand may be forced a bit. After all, it's not like she has some large, decentralized small-donor base like Obama.


Your Iraq Update

The mess in Iraq continues apace. But there's been a diplomatic effort to stop the fighting. Not by the U.S. ... we like guns too much. No, Iran is calling for the fighting to stop fearing that it will delay the exit of the U.S. and weaken the Shiite hand in Iraq.

In response, Sadr has called for a pullback in his militia and Maliki is welcoming it. Given how "surprised" Maliki was at the huge resistance (see: Bush school of leadership) I'm sure Maliki welcomes an opportunity to save face and not loose his ass. Sadr in the meantime is able to declare de facto victory having survived, indeed having actually won, the confrontation.

Isn't about time to cue the Sunni's? Or perhaps a new offensive by Turkey in the north?

Added: A terrific, short, synopsis of the situation. Sadr wins strategically and tactically.